Tag Archives: Personal Training

Stayin’ Alive


View from the gym. Makes it easier to play through the pain when you’re looking at this.

Yes! More than halfway through my CrossFit ‘experiment’ and I’m still standing.

I’m really enjoying the class and am learning quite a bit about CrossFit. Mostly I’m learning that it really IS as hard as it looks and that I really like working out with only ladies. There is something so liberating about showing up at the gym and knowing that nobody is going to be impatiently waiting for me to relinquish the barbell or be silently judging the (lack of) weight I’m lifting; these ladies, like me, have nothing to prove. I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed by others in our group; we’d all like to continue with the ‘ole XFit (is that a thing? like Xtina?), but we’d like to continue with just ladies. Can it be ladies night every night, please?

This CrossFit program has us meeting three or four days a week for an hour long estrogen-fueled sweat sesh. Most days, we start with a short run to warm-up (ahem, I ran my fastest mile on Saturday, 7:35, no big deal [brushes off shoulders]) which everybody but me seems to dread, but I like it because it’s the only part of the class where I feel like I know what I’m doing. Then, we move on to going over the day’s class goal which is usually learning some new movement, like a clean or toes to bar, etc., and we finish the day with a Workout of the Day (WOD for short, CrossFit is so hip that even the workouts get nicknames) that focuses on whatever the day’s skill was. It’s a pretty simple format.

We’re learning the correct form for lots of types of lifts and movements; they all look pretty straightforward when I watch the coaches demonstrate, but, man, I’ve never felt so uncoordinated as when I’m trying to follow their lead. It’s kind of like dancing, which I’m also not very good at, but I don’t let my lack of natural talent stop me from enjoying myself. So far we’ve learned how to jerk, snatch, clean, squat, toes to bar, pull-up, and burpee. Soooooo….many…..burpeeeeesssss.

We burpee if we show up to class late. We burpee if someone misses class. We burpee if we forget someone’s name. We burpee if we row under or over our rowing goal. We burpee if we’re bored. We burpee if we’re tired. We burpee if we’re hungry. Essentially, we burpee for the heck of it. It seems that, much like my parents’ telling me to “go play outside” whenever I started to annoy them as a child, the coaches instruct us to burpee as a diversion technique. I will admit it is pretty effective and they say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I’m not sure if “they” ever did a burpee.

I’m not supposed to eat this.

Part of this program focuses on our diet. We are supposed to be eliminating processed sugar (even maple syrup,  which, since I’m from VT, is essentially a food group) and eating more protein and healthy fats. While I haven’t cut out sugar completely, I have almost done so (as an aside, tea without honey is hardly worth drinking), and I am surprised by the difference I see and feel. Swapping sugars for more protein and healthy fats has made me less inclined to snack throughout the day, and I feel like I have more energy in general. I’ll admit that, as a vegetarian, I’ve found it nearly impossible to completely forgo bread and I’m probably eating more starchy grains, like rice, than I’m supposed to be eating, but, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to maintain her sanity

The first week of the program, I cut sugar out completely, and, after a mini-meltdown when Don asked if I wanted to grab lunch at our favorite restaurant, which serves mainly sandwiches, decided that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to both completely eliminate sugar and maintain my status as a functioning member of society. By the end of the week, tired of hard boiled eggs and avocados, I found myself spinning around the kitchen like a whirling dervish trying to find an afternoon snack, cursing my vegetarianism as I imagined my classmates eating grilled chicken. I was probably one paleo recipe away from spending my afternoons crying into a bag of marshmallows; at Don’s recommendation, I began to allow myself the simple luxury of bread and feel much better now.

So far, this has been a great experience, and I’d like to continue pursuing my dreams of CrossFit competency after the New You program ends. I get a good vibe from the other gym goers and the coaching staff is friendly, knowledgeable and chill. My personal favorite is a gal named Coach Tiff because her whole “thang” is essentially my life goal. She seems really happy to be at the gym, even if she is spending much of her time helping a bunch of sweaty newbies adjust their form, and she is so fit that she looks like how I imagine look when I’m dreaming. That level of fitness takes a lot of dedication, and I admire that. I’m sure, since I’m doing this program and all, that I’ll look like Coach Tiff in a few weeks; thats how this fitness thing works, right?


Analysis, or, The Time I Asked People to Judge Me by Weight, Body Fat and Athletic Ability and Tried Really Hard Not to Feel Awkward

A fantastic opportunity recently presented itself to me, and I had to step a little bit out of my comfort zone and dip a toe in the waters of full-blown Fitness Freakdom in order to not let this chance pass me by. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the good fortune to undergo free fitness and metabolic testing.  I’ve often heard of people being in the right place at the right time, and this was an occasion when I was that lucky person.

A quick search on Google showed me how fortunate I actually was; it seems that a metabolic test costs about $150 and a fitness test with VO2 Max can run between $140-$350 depending on where you go for your testing. Don’t let the prices scare you away because (and I know it’s easy for me to say because it didn’t cost me a damn penny, but I’m gonna say it anyway), I think these tests will prove to be quite useful for anybody who is either looking to be more fit as an athlete or trying to slim down in a healthy and sustainable way. photo 1-12 The tests are divided between two days. The first day, I underwent fitness testing and to prepare for this, I had to fast for one hour (no snacks, for one hour!) and not exercise on the morning of the test.

At the start, my blood pressure, resting heart rate, height and weight were recorded, then, I was hooked up to some sensors on my right hand and foot that sent a message to a machine and calculated my body fat percentage. Next, my grip and back strengths were assessed with some small pieces of equipment that measure the amount of force exerted. My cardio-respiratory fitness (VO2 max) was measured by wearing a face mask hooked up to another machine while I ran on a treadmill for less than ten minutes at various speeds. This test started at a walk and increased to a medium-paced jog. Other versions of this test take you up to your maximum ability to run, but I think because I told the testers that I was generally pretty slow and ran without dreams of races and simply for the sake of not being on the elliptical every day they decided the maximum test wouldn’t be necessary. After the VO2 test, my flexibility (or lack thereof) was measured.

In total, the testing took a little over an hour and I left with some interesting information. My flexibility, even though it has improved greatly over the last year, is still pretty terrible, I was pleased to find my body fat percentage in the normal range, but I’d still like for it to be lower, and my muscular fitness (grip and back strength) and resting heart rates were pretty good. What I was surprised to discover is that my cardio-respiratory fitness is EXCELLENT. And when I say excellent I’m not talking just barely made it out of the ‘good’ and into the ‘excellent range’, I’m talking 1 and 3/10ths of a point away from being in the ‘superior’ range. photo 2-11Imagine my surprise when, after all the complaining I do about huffing and puffing when I run, I find that I’m actually doing less huffing and puffing than most people. When I expressed my surprise to the man who was administering the test, he explained to me that half of a person’s VO2 fitness is determined by good luck- more specifically good genetics- and the other half is determined by the exercise you do to strengthen your cardio-respiratory system. I’d like to take a moment to thank my parents for blessing me with an excellent-verging-on-superior central VO2 system (heart and lungs), and I’d like to also thank Jamie Eason for giving me the kick in the pants needed to strengthen my peripheral VO2 system (all of the vessels).

The man running the test said that people are often surprised by these results and gave me the example of a guy he had tested earlier that morning who was a competitive athlete in very good overall shape who scored in the ‘poor’ range. Most likely, that guy doesn’t have a very good central cardio-respiratory system but is getting by because he has worked to strengthen the peripheral system. Once again, thanks Mom and Dad for making my life easier.

I had a chance to talk with the people running the test about my lifestyle and my typical workout schedule so that they could calculate those factors into their recommendations for me. Not really knowing what to expect, I had brought my workout journal along with me and it proved to be quite helpful. I was able to show them exactly what I had been doing at the gym, and I got a nice pat on the back for my workout regime. It was awesome to hear that what I had been doing was good, and I left with some guidance to go back to doing more strength training for a few weeks (I have recently been focused on doing a lot of circuits) and do more sets of fewer repetitions with heavier weights with the goal of challenging myself to become even stronger and take that new strength back into my circuit training so that I can do more (I’m looking at you Mr. Tough Mudder Interval Workout…) and do it better.It was also suggested that I find a personal trainer to get some tips on form and movement across the planes (i.e. moving up and down, side to side, or on the diagonal).

It was hard not to feel a little bit like a racehorse at an auction being poked, prodded and measured, and it was hard, too, to not bring along a photo of the 24-year-old version of myself and say “See? I have potential!”. As awkward as it was, It wasn’t nearly as awkward as I had guessed it would be. I prefer to go through life as inconspicuously as possible and this fitness test was the opposite of inconspicuous with all of the attention diverted to the things that make me the most self conscious (my athletic ability and my body composition). Thankfully, the people doing the testing were very professional (I didn’t feel like they were judging me in a personal way, just a science-related way) and the information was so interesting that it was easy to separate my fears of being a less-than-perfect physical specimen from my desire to learn all the fun science-y things.

I have yet to make an appointment with a personal trainer (although I fully intend to), but I’ve focused more on the weights (except for this weekend which I spent hiking) and am feeling the burn. When I get the results from the metabolic test, I will have a better idea of how much to eat for healthy weight loss. I’m really excited to have some new goals to work toward and to know that these are good goals because they have been set for me by professionals. Generally, I think the hardest part about starting a fitness program is knowing whether or not it is a program that is going to work for me, but, since this one is based on the information my body gave to those who are designing it, I know that it will work.

The sun sets behind the Bavarian Alps. An image from my hiking weekend.
The sun sets behind the Bavarian Alps. An image from my hiking weekend.

This is my first post! Welcome!

Before I introduce myself, I need for you to know one thing: I am not a fitness freak.

I have family and good friends who are fitness freaks; they eat paleo, do CrossFit, and look great in a bathing suit, but I am not one of them. I am a normal person. I eat pizza, and do casual, recreational, unintentional exercise, and I look sort of doughy in a bathing suit.

My name is Liz, and I am embarking on a physical journey to better health and fitness, and I’m hoping your support will help me toward my goals. Perhaps you have goals for better health and fitness you would like to work toward? Great! We can support each other, here, through this blog.

I’m happy that you have found me here on the world wide web. There are sooooooo maaaaany fitness blogs, websites, programs and whatever out there, but they can be pretty intimidating. This one is a friendly blog. It’s an ‘It’s-ok if we don’t know what that weird machine with the handles and the cables and the metal sticky-outie-thingys in the corner of the gym by the mirrors-is’ blog. Its a ‘we’d rather have a glass of wine than a protein shake’ blog. Its a blog for us, the people who want to occasionally eat fried food, have a beer and spend less than an hour a day thinking about (and doing) exercise.

This is my first post, so, welcome and thank you. In my next posts, I will be outlining my two sets of goals and detailing some of the programs and gadgets I will be using to help me out. Hope to see you there!