June 11, 2018

CrossFit Experience on the Body and Mind... from Someone "Out of Shape"

Since starting CrossFit I've gained 3lbs of muscle and lost 5% Body Fat!

I'm so glad I tracked those numbers because the scale hasn't changed much at all since starting last October/November.

I was extremely active in high school and was in a sport every season of my life, but after high school I went 5 years without doing anything... at all! It's pretty common for people leaving high school, but in addition to that, my life was in complete chaos and I experienced some life altering events that really made me lose my grip on what was healthy and I lost ALL confidence.

After meeting my husband, Eric, I started to realize the importance of health and exercise and dabbled in some workout routines here and there, but nothing long term. CrossFit crossed my mind several times, but I was too afraid to enter the gym. Afraid of judgement from being SO out of shape for a 31 year old, afraid of the movements, and the scary coaches. However, once I worked up the nerve to just DO IT, that hasn't been my experience at all.

The scaling options and coaching for all the workouts are such a blessing to someone that's been out of the fitness world for a while. As for judgement, maybe? I don't know or care. There are jerks in all areas of our life (gym, work, family, and even at church). Those people that don't know our story and make their own assumptions about us, but that's inevitable. I've learned it doesn't matter. Those people are so few that they shouldn't impact our life decisions or make us not do something because we're afraid of what they might think. As for the coaches, amazing! They are kind, judgement free, and motivating. I should mention, patient too! I'm considered an analytical thinker so I've nagged the coaches with questions over and over trying to help my brain understand what my body is doing during these intense workouts.

Obviously, my body is changing. Awesome! I've needed it for my job, more confidence, and my health. Most of all though, my mind is getting healthy. I’ve read hundreds of articles over the last few months from Harvard Medical School, doctors, and fitness experts on the changes that happen in the brain when adapting a healthy lifestyle. Some really amazing information, example: stepping into the gym, committing to learn new exercises, and being stretched beyond what you think is possible is actually helping you fight off dementia!

I also want to touch on something I’ve learned just over the last month about the power of mind. Last month I had a week where I couldn't lift weight, I had lost my kipping pull up, and was slow at everything I was doing. Keep in mind, I'm not trying to go to the games, but I was expecting to be a little better than the 80 year old working out next to me. I took a week off and really tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I went through all the possibilities of lack of nutrition, water, possible injury, but I realized it was none of that. It was all in the mind.

Before those workouts I was telling myself things like, "I suck" so guess what? I'd suck at that workout. I sat around for a week listening to podcast from the CrossFit community and from the Lewis Howes' School of Greatness show and it changed everything. I went back into the gym the following Monday and I was lifting double what I did the week before. I'd start with focusing on my breathing before even going to the gym (aka box), step up to the bar, tell myself the weight was light, and that I could do it... and guess what? I could do it!

From those podcast and articles I've gained so much knowledge. I've learned that I need to do two things to walk away from a WOD (workout of the day) and feel like it was a success. 1) I need to set a goal 2) I need to commit 100% to that goal and nobody else's goal. My goal will never be to go to regionals or the games and once I told myself that then it was easy not to compare myself to those that are* trying to go to regionals or the games. I've committed to show up 3-4x a week and be better than I was the week before. That's it! I believe for someone trying to go to the CrossFit games then they should do the same, get their mind right, go beyond the physical battle, pick their goal, and commit to it 100% ! It removes a lot of unnecessary distraction when your focus is so narrow. I've implemented this in my photography business and that's the whole reason I won Billings Best Portrait Photography within 3 years of being in business. I was so damn focused!

Lastly, I have to touch on something personal. My struggle and diagnoses with PTSD. I don't share it often, but if my vulnerability can help someone else then it would be selfish for me to keep it a secret. I believe God's mercy has tremendously improved my struggle with PTSD. His hand has been upon me from the day I was born and I've felt his protection far before I decided to start following him back on Sept. 11, 2011. In addition to the healing He has done in me there are two other things that have contributed to the ability to control my PTSD. First, is my husband, He is a man with wisdom, grace, and strength to stand by my side when I've struggled the most. Second, is my new discovery of CrossFit. Those with PTSD tend to have low brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is associated with long-term memory and learning. When you have lower levels it can effect a person's ability to learn, remember, and focus. However, improvements have been shown when a person with PTSD is engaged in CrossFit workouts and I've found that to be true in my experience too. In addition to the benefits of CrossFit on the brain it also helps with the social anxiety that comes with PTSD. I've made friends, get text when I'm gone from the gym for too long, and have joined other CrossFit activities to stretch myself out of my comfort zone to overcome some social anxiety.

The only remaining struggles I have with PTSD is the tendency to isolate and get a little anxious from time to time. I've never struggled with severe depression or self destructive behavior. The struggles I do have come on rare occasions and I'm soooo fortunate to be where I am at today. I know many people that have a greater struggle and that's the whole reason I wanted to share this piece of information as a way to encourage people to give CrossFit a shot if you've been on the fence about it. The benefits go so much farther than a good workout!

Last thing, for anyone really interested in some of the best resources I've got my hands on recently then check out The Iceman (Wim Hof) and his breathing techniques. Also, the negative effects of diet (sugar) and social media time (Dr. Rangan Chatterjee).

Advocates For Great Marriages & Simple Living