My Love/Hate Relationship

Competitions and I have a love/hate relationship. I love them because they give me a reason to train every day, bring together lots of talented individuals and of course, provide for some great photo ops. And I hate them because of the nerves, the pain and the inevitable realization that I am never going to win.

Let’s start with that last one. Every competition that I have done has started with a max lift of some sort. I know this is not going to be my strong suit. Not only am I a new lifter, I also weigh 120lbs on a “heavy” day and I know I’m not going to put up the same weights as bigger, stronger girls. But that’s the beauty of CrossFit, right? You don’t need to be great at any one thing, you just need to be pretty good at everything! And throwing around massive amounts of weight doesn’t necessarily transfer over into being good at pull-ups, handstand push-ups, or burpees. However, I’ve noticed at each competition that I’ve gone to, even the smaller girls seem to be immensely strong, putting up some huge numbers, and they are ALSO great at the bodyweight movements.

58508041-2015-2-14-06305

This is the moment when I start to battle with that demon known as self-esteem. Why do I work so damn hard every day if I’m only going to be mediocre? Seriously, what’s the point? And what can I change to get better? Stay more on top of my nutrition? Get more sleep? Take more supplements? Spend more time in the gym? Spend less time in the gym? Follow different programming? Hire a coach? The list goes on. I have flash backs to my middle school and high school days, where I pretty much quit every sport that I ever played if I didn’t feel like I was one of the best. Gymnastics, soccer, volleyball. I was way too competitive and hard on myself to settle for being mediocre, so I would just take the easy way out and quit.

Yesterday I competed in a team competition called Flex in the City. Team competitions aren’t so bad because you’re all in it together. You can’t get too down on yourself if you don’t do as well as you had hoped, because you know it was a group effort. However, I still found it hard to get out of my own head. Rather than looking around at all of the strong athletes and being inspired, all I could think about was how I’m never going to be as good as them. A terrible attitude, I know!

So how do I make myself feel better? How do I get myself back in the gym to train on Monday and not feel like I’m wasting my time? I remind myself of the reason that I fell in love with the sport of exercise. It’s having fun while you’re training and doing what you love with the people you love.

58508042-2015-2-14-05905

It’s inspiring others not with your ability to win, but with your passion and no-quit attitude.

10974390_891324580918415_1588706520131020218_o

It’s setting goals and looking at how far you’ve come. Over the past year, I’ve added 23lbs to my snatch, 20lbs to my clean, 30lbs to my overhead squat and 15lbs to my back squat. I’ve gone from not being able to do one muscle up to stringing 3 together in a workout. To being able to do strict handstand push-ups and chest to bar pull-ups. And I’m not going to let one competition make me forget that.

So will I do another competition? Of course. Will I go through the same internal battle of thinking I suck? Without a doubt. But will I continue to push myself to get better? You bet your ass I will. And I know that one day it will all pay off.

58507997-2015-2-14-04950

Advertisements

Wonder Thighs and Bulging Bi’s (and banana muffins)

Howdy folks. Long time no chat. I’m sure y’all were sitting on the edge of your seats for the past 6 weeks, wondering, “OMGEEEEE WHEN IS AVERAGE2ATHLETE GOING TO WRITE ANOTHER BLOG POST?!?!?!” Well, not to worry because here it is!

It’s actually been a crazy month for me. A few weeks ago, I started as an Assistant Instructor at a place called The Fhitting Room, a boutique studio here in NYC that offers small group circuit training classes – think TRX, kettlebells, dumbbells, rowers, bodyweight exercises and burpees , lots of burpees.

Studio

I’ll go into the studio itself and all of the awesome people there in more detail in a later post, but basically I’m teaching anywhere from 5-10 classes/week – on top of my current job – before work, after work, on the weekends, you name it. I actually wasn’t sure how I would feel about teaching classes, but it turns out that I ABSOLUTELY love it. It’s exhausting, yes. You have to be completely on ALL THE TIME. Especially in such a small studio (classes are 12 people max), clients pick up on every little thing you do.

He changed the music too much, she looked out the window one time, he let the clock run for 50 seconds instead of 45. Woof.

I’m still trying to get the hang of my schedule – balancing 9+ hour days at work, teaching classes and finding time to fit in my own workouts. But when I’m in that room and class starts, that hour flies by and I somehow muster up every last drop of energy I have to scream and jump around. Plus I’m getting to work with some amazing instructors that I’m learning so much from already. It really is a blast. For anyone in the NYC area, I’ll be posting my class schedule here on a weekly basis in case you want to drop for some fun.

1-Burpee baby

It’s fun to torture train people other than myself.

Long story short, life has been busy. In a good way.

Ok, this is where this post is going to get a little random…this is what happens when I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about body image, and why we have it so engrained in our heads that we have to be so damn THIN. I know the whole mindset now is supposed to be, “strong is the new skinny,” but I still don’t think that the majority of thinking has shifted. And even if it has, when people say “strong” are they really thinking about the amount they can squat? Or are they really thinking “toned,” in which case, the issue is still about body image.

motivational-fitness-quotes-strong-is-the-new-skinny

Pretty sure there’s some airbrushing going on in this picture.

I get caught up in it myself. I preach about focusing on performance goals instead of weight or pant size, but at the same time, I have days where I hate my body, feel like my arms and legs are huge (even if they are muscle) and wish that I could fit into skinny jeans better. I look at pictures and feel like my arms look so much bigger than everyone else’s. I beg my legs to get more definition, my hips to get smaller, my abs to show more.

So what do I do when that happens? Do I hop on the treadmill or the elliptical for hours, trying to burn fat and consequentially burn off the muscle that I worked so hard to gain? Do I drastically cut calories in an effort to lose weight and inevitably screw up my metabolism?

The old me may have done that. But not now. No way. I take a step back, give myself a little slap in the face and tell myself to STOP ACTING LIKE A CRAZY PERSON! I remind myself why I train and why I love it. It’s not to see my legs get smaller or the number on the scale drop. It’s to squat heavier, to do more pull-ups, to jump higher, to run faster. Because those are the things that ultimately make me happy and have and will continue to make me a stronger, more confident person. What is not going to make me happy is trying to fit someone else’s unrealistic standards.

This post from Elisabeth Akinwale sums it up perfectly. She also references the book Bossy Pants, in which Tina Fey spouts out a list of attributes that every girl is supposed to have:

Caucasian blue eyes
Full Spanish lips
A classic button nose
Hairless Asian skin with a California tan
A Jamaican dance hall ass
Long Swedish legs
Small Japanese feet
The abs of a lesbian gym owner
The hips of a nine year old boy
The arms of Michelle Obama
And doll tits

We totally have all those things, right?!

Point is, no more trying to achieve and maintain a body type that is not meant for me. So my legs aren’t as long and lean as I’d like them to be, so what? They’ve gotten me through some tough ass workouts and races and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to show my “wonder thighs” some love! And as for my arms? Well I’ll take the ability to bang out pull-ups and push-ups with the big boys over skinny arms any day!

thighs

We all have those days where we look in the mirror and just don’t like what we see. It happens to everyone. So take a deep breathe and don’t get too caught up in the whole being skinny thing. There are bigger and better things to focus on that will make you a heck of a lot happier.

On that note, I’m going to leave you with a recipe so that you at least walk away feeling like you’ve gotten some useful information out of this post. I made these muffins a couple of weeks ago, thinking they would be a great on-the-go snack for when I need a quick energy fix in between work and teaching class. Well, I forget that when I post baked goods on Instagram, people ask to try them and I have a hard time saying no and the 12 muffins that I made were gone in a day. Needless to say, I’ll be making these again soon…and I will not be posting pictures!

Grain-free Banana Protein Muffins

Makes 12

2 (very) ripe medium bananas
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (I used Oxy-elite Vanilla Icecream)
1 tbsp chia seeds
4 eggs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (2%)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon/vanilla to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix wet ingredients in blender. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and pour in wet mixture.

photo 1

Spray muffin tin with coconut oil and pour batter into tin.

photo 2

Lick bowl.

photo 3

Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. I would remove these from the muffin pan before they cool all the way because otherwise they’ll continue baking in the pan and can get dried out.

photo 4

Note: Amazing when slathered in almond butter.

Enjoy!


photo 5

I Work Out Because __________ .

Why do you exercise?

Is it because you feel like you have to or because you actually enjoy it? Do you have goals? What are they? Aesthetic goals? Health goals? Performance goals?

The reason I ask, other than my general nosiness curiosity, is because the reasons that you choose to exercise can play a huge role in whether or not you stick with it in the long run, and ultimately, it can either prevent you from or enable you to reach your goals.

I’ll start by describing the two types of motivation that continue to drive people to the gym, track, box, studio, garage, or wherever their exercise venue of choice may be.

Motivation Hierarchy

The first is extrinsic motivation. This type of motivation is all about external goals and can include rewards, guilt, coercion and health and social benefits. It is doing things because we feel like we have to in order to achieve some sort of physical or social benefit.

Most people (including myself) begin to exercise because of extrinsic motivation – you want to lose weight for the summer, fit into your jeans, become more attractive, be thin, get abs. Your doctor may have told you that you needed to start exercising for the sake of your health. You may like the fact that exercising allows you to eat more of what you want and not feel guilty. Maybe there’s a cute guy or girl at the gym that you enjoy staring at and hope to have the courage to talk to one day. The list goes on.

You may be thinking, ok, at least I’m getting my butt to the gym. Why does the motivation part matter?

motivation t-rex

Unfortunately, extrinsic motivation does not always persist in the long-run. It may get you to the gym, for a bit, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing anything worthwhile during your time there and you may not see the results you want. Or maybe you did get results, but then the summer comes to an end, and somehow your schedule is suddenly too busy to make it to the gym anymore. The fact of the matter is that you’re much more likely to stay motivated and reach your goals if you truly love what you’re doing.

Enter: intrinsic motivation. This type of motivation is based on internal goals. It is the desire to do things because we want to, not because we feel we have to. We exercise because we truly love and enjoy it. Intrinsic motivation is usually tied to a performance goal, like mastering a skill or sport.

But how do you find it? Well, you need to find some form of exercise you actually want to do. A skill or sport that you want to master. You may not know what it is right now, but try a few things out. Work with a trainer. Try out a Crossfit box. Sign up for a Spartan Race or a half marathon or anything that requires you to train for it.

Trust me, I didn’t hop out of bed one day thinking, I want to lift heavy weights! And do double unders and handstand pushups and pull-ups and…no. I just wanted to look good and after doing a ton of cardio and not seeing any sort of change in my body, I was fortunate enough to start working with a trainer who changed my entire outlook on things by making fitness fun and literally introducing me to a whole new world. And that’s when I knew there was no turning back. I was hooked.

Sprawl box jumps

For the first time, a new level of intensity was brought to my workouts, and soon I wasn’t able to settle for anything less. I became motivated to work harder on my own. I wanted to learn new skills and to get stronger because I finally had goals. And those goals were not tied to a number on the scale or a pant size. They were performance goals. And I reached those goals. And I set new ones. And the more I continue to learn about this whole world of fitness and all of the different things I have to learn, the more excited I get to step into the gym each day.

1-deadlifts

Why do you think people are so obsessed with Crossfit? Think about it, there are always new skills to learn. New PRs (personal records) to hit. And once you hit those, you set new goals for yourself, and you go after those. You focus on your performance. And guess what? Combined with a little healthy eating, your body changes and you forget about the scale. You’re focused on your goals and one day you look in the mirror and think, “holy crap, where did these muscles come from?!”

1-Selfies

Ok, that was a little bit of an exaggeration. Apologies for the shameless selfie.

But really, I encourage you to find what you love. It might take some exploring, but you’ll never know until you try. I can’t tell you how many people think they could never be into fitness until they’re introduced to it in the right setting and with the right attitude, and then they couldn’t get enough. I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone in my life that has made it fun for me and been a key factor in finding my intrinsic motivation. And there are people, or activities, out there that could do the same for you. You just have to go out there and find them. That’s the first step. The hardest and scariest step. The rest is easy 😉

Keep Calm, Lift Heavy and Eat Turkey Burgers

In my previous post, I debunked a few of the myths around women and weight lifting. As a follow up, I wanted to dive a little deeper into the benefits of strength training and share a few tips on how to get started.

As you may have noticed from my workouts, Crossfit and HIIT (high intensity interval training) are my exercise forms of choice, and here’s why (on a completely personal level):

It feels pretty badass to be able to lift a barbell over my head while squatting, flip a tire that is 2x my body weight, jump onto a box that is more than half my height and hold my own on the pull-up bar, to name a few.

1-41

It’s an awesome feeling to watch myself getting stronger. When I think about where I was 5 years, 1 year, even 6 months ago, I’m always amazed at how far I’ve come and what my body can do.

It puts me in “the zone.” While I’m doing a workout, I’m focused on counting my reps and nothing else. Unlike long distance running or any other form of steady state exercise, your mind doesn’t have time to wander. All other stress is temporarily forgotten because you’re 100% in the moment.

photo 4

I love efficiency. We’re all busy and no one has time to spend hours on end in the gym. Well, when you combine lifting heavy weights with sprints, rowing, jump roping and burpees, you don’t need to.

I love the feeling of being so wiped out that you’re not sure if you can even make it to the shower. You just don’t get that from anything else, in my opinion.

By setting goals for myself, I never get bored. Whether it’s a new PR on a certain lift, mastering handstand push-ups or increasing my max rep pull-ups, there’s always a new challenge to work towards.

1-photo 2 (2)

It’s not the worst thing in the world to have people stop you in the grocery store and ask, “Do you do Crossfit?”  Yes, this happened to me today.

I love muscles. I think it’s a sign of hard work and dedication. How can you not respect girls who looks like this?

Christmas rings

Or this?

crossfit-girl-Laura-Plumley1

Despite my passion for Crossfit, I know it’s not the only form of effective strength training and I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s the end all be all. Everyone has different goals and preferences, and it’s important to find a type of exercise that makes you happy.

However, I am going to continue to encourage all of you to strength train. Why? You’ll gain muscle and lose fat, among many other things. You’ll also reduce your risk of injury by strengthening your bones and joints and doing full body movements that compliment each other. Your metabolism will thank you as well. At rest, muscle burns more calories than fat, so by increasing your lean muscle mass, you’re increasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories that you would burn if you were to lay down, without sleeping, for 24 hours. You’re also going to be more efficient when you workout and will not feel the need to spend at a time at the gym, sweating profusely but seeing minimal results.

To some, the thought of strength training may seem daunting because they don’t know where to begin. Well, everyone has to start somewhere. My first introduction to strength training was sitting on the weight machines and going through the prescribed circuit at my gym. I then started incorporating free weights and used magazines to learn other, more creative exercises. Finally, I was introduced to Crossfit.

So, here are a few tips I have for those new to the world of strength training:

Join a gym or create a space at home. If you are working out at home, purchase the correct equipment. I recommend Again Faster.

Know your body and be aware of any past injuries that you may have. However, don’t create an injury in your head and use it as an excuse for not doing certain exercises. Excuses will get you nowhere.

Start with the basics and learn proper form. Sign up for a few intro sessions with personal trainer, find out if your gym offers introductory kettlebell or TRX courses, take a fundamentals course at a Crossfit box or watch YouTube videos.

Start with the appropriate weight. When that becomes too easy, make it heavier. You should always feel challenged if you want to see progress. Just make sure that you’re not sacrificing your form for the heavier weight.

BREATHE.

When creating workouts, think about your full body. Create “circuits” that include legs, arms and core, rather than devoting your entire workout to one muscle group.

Don’t repeat the same thing every time you work out. Even though there are going to be some exercises that you like more than others, you will only see results if you challenge yourself. If you feel like you’re plateauing, consider changing things up.

Just remember, it doesn’t matter where you’re starting in your fitness journey. What matters is that you set goals and make a plan to reach them. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but consistently putting in the work and continuing to challenge yourself will lead to results. Just keep going!

And now and I will leave you with my turkey slider recipe…

Turkey Sliders

photo 2

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 cup spinach, chopped

½ onion

Garlic powder, pepper and rosemary to taste (sorry, I didn’t measure)

1-2 large sweet potatoes

Plain Greek yogurt

Chili pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400. Slice sweet potatoes into spheres. Line cookie sheet with foil and place potato spheres onto foil. Spray with coconut oil/olive oil or fat of choice. Place in the oven and let bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are baking, make the sliders. Combine turkey, spinach, onion and seasonings in a bowl. Heat a greased skillet over medium heat. Form small patties with your hands and place onto skillet. Once turkey is browned on the bottom, flip. Once burger is cooked all the way through, remove. Continue until you’ve used up the turkey mixture.

Place turkey patty on sweet potato sphere. Mix plain Greek yogurt with chili pepper flakes to create a “sauce.” Spread sauce onto burger and top with a second sweet potato sphere.

1-photo 1

I paired mine with a small salad of spinach, grape tomatoes, avocado and olive tapenade.

Enjoy!

~ Julia