Stronger. Faster. Harder.

Much like I once said I would never watch an episode of The Bachelor or let my kid play with my phone, I vowed I’d never fall for the seemingly magic phenomenon known as CrossFit.

And just like I could tell you everything that happened on the last season of The Bachelor and could show you the crack on my phone that proves I have let my phone be taken captive by grimy toddler hands, I just had to know what it was that made CrossFit so great.

I’ve always known I could be stronger. I could work harder. But I didn’t {and don’t} have what it takes to push myself to get there. The What’s Beautiful challenge that I’m doing with Under Armour & Fitfluential is what’s nudging me to get there. To me, strong is what’s beautiful, inside and out, so that’s what I’m going to be. Not want to be. WILL be.

crossfit wod

When I saw a group deal pop up for a local CrossFit box, I knew I had to do it. CrossFit is fairly new to this area and there aren’t a ton of options {although it’s growing}. I’d regretted not jumping on the only other deal I’ve seen pop up, so this time I didn’t let it slip past me.

I scheduled my mandatory fitness assessment for the next day. After driving around in circles around a sketchy looking warehouse, I finally saw a garage door propped open. I caught a glimpse of giant truck tires and pull up bars and knew I was in the right place.

Within minutes I was doing hundreds of jumping jacks, pushups, lunges, squats, and pull ups. I was exhausted and hadn’t even gotten to the notorious WOD- workout of the day.

And then it came.

For time, 7 rounds of:

  • 7 kettlebell swings
  • 7 sumo deadlift high pulls
  • 7 burpees

I made it through 5 rounds before my legs literally wouldn’t propel me up in a jump anymore.

I knew this kind of push was what I needed. I was 1 hour into it and I already knew why people get so into this. It’s intense, it’s hard, it’s exhilarating. It holds you accountable and it lets you compete against yourself. It proves you can do more than you thought.

Unfortunately this box {like most} doesn’t have childcare, doesn’t open until late in the day, and closes too early for me to make it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take the momentum from my first WOD and use it to drive my other workouts.

SHEisSTRONG

What’s Beautiful goal, here I come. #SHEisSTRONG

What are you doing to be strong?

Kettlebells 101

Kettlebell training is my latest obsession. They’ve been around forever, but recently kettle bells have become extremely popular in the fitness world. After hearing some experts talk about kettlebells and demonstrating proper moves, I’m even more excited.

What are kettlebells?

 

Kettlebells are Russian cast iron round weights with an attached handle. The unique shape offers a wider range of motion than traditional dumbbells, and the lopsided-ness of the kettlebell increases your functional strength and incorporates your core.

kettlebell collection good weights for women

The great thing about kettlebells is that pretty much anyone can use them. You can modify most things to work around an injury, you can do it whether you’re young or old, and you can even do them pregnant, as Workout Mommy demonstrated at Fitbloggin.

25 and 15 pound kettlebell

Jenn, Karen, and Lisa gave a great kettlebell demo at the Fitbloggin conference. Since they stressed the importance of learning from a trained instructor, I’m not going to attempt any kind of demo, but I do want to pass on their tips!

Tips for Using Kettlebells

 

It’s best to be barefoot or in a minimalist shoe, like cheerleading shoes, etc., that have a thin sole.

Pick a kettle bell that is all one piece- don’t use one that had the handle welded on after production, as you never know when it might decide to fall off.

Start with a decent amount of weight. Women should start around 15-20, and men 20-25. Any lighter may actually throw you off balance and disturb your form.

For most moves, you only use one kettlebell at a time, not two like when traditionally using dumbbells.

kettlebell snatch demonstration

Be sure to use proper form to prevent injuries. It’s a good idea to learn to use kettlebells from a certified trainer so you can be sure you’re doing it right. Learning off videos on the web may give you an idea, but you won’t be able to get feed back and some may even demonstrate the wrong form. {Apparently there’s a Jillian Michaels video online that shows how to do kettlebell swings incorrectly.}

Stay out of the way of the kettlebell! If you feel like you’re dropping it, get out of the way.

What do I do with a kettlebell?

 

Some of the basic kettlebell moves include swings, snatches, and cleans.

A swing is the basic foundation of training with kettlebells. It’s a great full body strength and cardio workout. You can get your heart rate up within just minutes.

kettlebell swing from dragon door

Kettlebells are not only a good way to build strength, they’re great for functional fitness, meaning the moves you do directly translate to activities you may do in daily life, like carry groceries or picking up kids.

And hey, if nothing else interests you, mixing up your routine is a great way to bust through a plateau.

 

Do you kettlebell?!!

Pumping Up

Last month I successfully ran a 5K {which was rugged and awesome} after 10 months of being sidelined with a knee injury.

rugged maniac mud run 5k

It got me all excited that I was “back”- I could finally run again. I contemplated whether to take the plunge for an Olympic triathlon I was signed up for, but ultimately decided to stick with a sprint until I was sure I was healed.

And then I never talked about it again. Why? Because I’m still having trouble running. Sometimes I run a mile to test my knee and it feels great- I decide I’m ready to start running again and come up with a back-to-running plan in my head. Then a few days later, I try to run another mile, and I can’t make it without significant pain, and then it hurts to walk for a few days. Extremely frustrating.

So instead of continuing the pattern of run well- don’t run well, I’ve stopped focusing so much on the running. Though I’ve been doing my physical therapy exercises religiously, I realized most of my other leg muscles have atrophied away from the almost-year-off I’ve taken from running {and other weight-bearing activities}.

IT band syndrome

The many muscles in your legs all work together to protect you and support your knees and other joints. Instead of jumping back into running and risk hurting something else or prolonging this injury anymore, I’m taking a break from thinking about when I’m going to be “a runner” again.

I’ve been focusing on strength training and building back up the strength in my legs, in hope that a stronger “support” system will make my knee happier.

body pump weight lifting class

My gym’s Body Pump copy cat class, called Power X, has been my new best friend. I’ve filled in the gaps between classes I can make it to {and instructors I like} with kettlebells, which I’m completely obsessed with these days.

There was a great kettlebell session at Fitbloggin {and I won a kettlebell!}, so I’ll work on putting that info together with what I’ve been doing and do a post on it soon. Smile

kettlebells for strength training

Strength training can be a little harder to keep up with than running since it takes a little bit more effort than running out the door, and you have to modify your plan when you travel, unless lugging weights with you is your idea of a workout…

What’s your favorite way to strength train? What about when traveling and when your busy?

Zumfitjumpathon

1 mile walk

50 minutes crazy zumba dancing

25 minutes hardcore fitness challenge

50 minutes 80s style trampoline jumping

= 1 tired fitblogger

Yesterday kicked off the 2011 Fitbloggin’ conference with a bang.

fitbloggin 11

The morning started off bright and early with a 5K…that I didn’t run. I didn’t want to make my knee angry- there were trampolines to bounce on later. Instead I did a 1 mile fun walk sprinkled with wall push-ups and step-ups.

After watching a kettlebell demonstration, the sitting was over- time for some action.

Despite protests of my extreme dislike of Zumba, I decided to give it one more try. It wasn’t so bad this time around, and it was definitely a good workout. I was sweating in no time.

As soon as the dancing was over, it was time for leg blast fitness challenge with Cathe Friedrich. {Apparently a fitness workout icon that I failed to know anything about prior to this weekend, but she lived up to her hype.}

tina and cathe

{Tina with Cathe. Post pictures courtesy of Tina!}

She guided us in a quick but intense lower body workout complete with resistance bands and paper plates-turned-floor slides.

Just in case we hadn’t gotten our fill of fitness yet, as soon as we were done, JumpSport Fitness rolled in a slew of personal-sized trampolines. The kind that were popular in the 80s, but updated and cooler.

trampoline class

Trampolining may be my new favorite workout. I was nervous it was going to hurt my knee, but it was so low impact that it felt great…new physical therapy tactic maybe?

trampoline

Despite being fun and bringing out my inner child, it was a challenging workout. I could definitely see a trampoline taking up center stage in my living room…sound good husband?

Why It’s Ok Not to Exercise

I want to talk about something that doesn’t really mesh with the vibe of this blog. But I think it needs to be said.

It’s okay not to exercise.

I don’t mean it’s ok in terms of health- exercise is absolutely important in health. I mean ok more of casual, permission-granting sense.

And I say this under two very different circumstances.

[Note: This is not a PSA telling you not to exercise. It’s about giving yourself a break from the pressure. Chill. Relax. Enjoy life.]

It’s Ok Not to Exercise: Situation 1

It’s ok to not exercise in the traditional sense. You don’t need to go to the gym every day, or train for marathons or triathlons or fitness competitions. You don’t need to keep track of every mile you run or how many calories you burn, or how many days you do it.

You just need to move. I don’t care if it’s walking, lifting soup cans like weights in your living room, mowing your lawn, an on-demand yoga episode on TV, or chasing your kids all over the house. If you’re doing something, it counts for something.

Maybe it’s running just for the sake of running. Who says you have to run a marathon at the end of it all?

It’s OK Not to Exercise: Situation 2

It’s simply ok not to exercise. Sometimes. When you’re surrounded by fitness, be it magazines, TV, or blogs, you can lose perspective.

Sometimes, you just don’t have it in you. Mentally, physically, emotionally- for whatever reason, you just can’t bring yourself to lace up your running shoes or dust off your yoga mat.

And so what?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not what you need in that moment. Maybe thinking about how to cram in a trip to the gym during your lunch break or figuring out when to fit in a 2 hour run is just adding to your stress. Believe it or not, life gets in the way.

Perhaps you should cut yourself some slack. It’s ok.

Mental health is no less important than physical health.

There is no rule that says if you don’t exercise this week or this month that your chances at fitness are over.

[There’s also no rule that says if you haven’t exercised in a month (or 10) you can’t start again today.]

That being said, you have to know where to draw the line. Is taking a break from the gym really giving you a mental vacation? Or is that just an easy excuse not to go?

Are you “not exercising” or do you have a permanent seat on the couch with your name on it?

NotExercise

Maybe you don’t need a break. Maybe you just need a little breather. Maybe going to spin class a couple times a week is better suited to you this month than training for a winter marathon. Maybe you like hiking. Maybe Pilates is your thing right now. Maybe you like doing something completely different every single day.

Maybe if you take that break, it’ll be just the motivation you need to get back at it.

What do you do instead of exercising sometimes?

PS In the realm of NOT not exercising, I’m trying hot yoga again today. 🙂

PPS The blogging resources on my Favorites page are 25% off with code november25

10 Things No One Will Tell You About Hot Yoga

I finally caved.

I succumbed to the world of hot yoga.

Why, I have no idea, but I did. I’m not one for heat. Actually, I hate heat. A lot.

For the record, I totally blame peer-social-media-pressure for this one.

Good news? I survived. Did I love it? I’m not sure yet.

But I did learn a few things that nobody decided to tell me before hand:

1. You will sweat buckets. This seems obvious, but really. You will sweat your butt off- almost literally. I sweat so much the dye ran right out of my shorts.

IMG_9588

2. It’s like getting a free exfoliation treatment. Any dry or dead skin you have will rub right off. Yes, that’s gross. That’s why no one tells you.

3. Just when you think you can’t handle another second and you’re going to pass out from heat exhaustion, you get to sit down.

4. It has almost nothing to do with your physical ability. The phrase “mind over matter” is no joke in hot yoga.

5. Hot yoga would probably make for good marathon training- the mental part.

6. It takes a big chunk out of your day. Go to studio. Sweat for 90 minutes. Go home. Shower. It’s at least two hours.

7. So doing hot yoga and training for a marathon probably shouldn’t happen at the same time. 2 hours for yoga and a 3 hour training run? Good luck with your social life.

8. The shower after hot yoga might be one of the best of your life. (Second only to the shower after a 24 hour bike ride.)

9. A single slice of orange after class can be considered miracle fruit.

10. You won’t have to pee. Every ounce of liquid inside you seeps out of your skin.

I didn’t say it was pretty.

I think I’m going back…

Have you tried hot yoga? What’s your verdict?