September: Month of Crossfit and Paleo

It has been a whirlwind of a summer (hence why I have been completely MIA). 7 visitors, 4 countries (including multiple trips to some countries), and 4 months later, we said goodbye to our last visitor yesterday (until my dad visits in November).

To say the past four months were “fun” would be an understatement. I had the opportunity to hang out with my cousin G and explore Amsterdam a bit more, travel to Paris with C and make memories that will last a lifetime, visit London, Dublin, and Paris with my sisters, explore London a bit more with A and J (as well as spend a day in Brussels), and finally show my grandma around both Paris and London. See a theme here? Everyone wanted to visit Paris and/or London! Both fine by me!

Although we had an amazing summer, D and I were both feeling a little “off” with our food choices and our workouts. With traveling so much, it’s difficult to always choose the healthiest option when eating (who wants to pass up Parisian food?) and even more difficult to stay on a specific workout routine. It was definitely easier some weeks than others – C and I enjoyed many fun workouts together and I can’t wait to continue that when I move back! But, overall, we felt like we could use a little refresher in both the exercise and nutrition realm.

And thus was born D’s idea of a month of Crossfit WODs and Paleo meals.

If you’ve read any of my past blog posts, you will know that lifting is a HUGE part of my life. I love creating our workouts, lifting heavy, and pushing myself to new PR’s. Lifting also happens to play a huge role in my recovery. So, the idea of switching up our normal routine from heavy, strictly lifting workouts to more functional based Crossfit workouts scared me a bit. Honestly, I didn’t really understand Crossfit. D and I had been to a box before, but the workouts always felt a little thrown together, off the cuff, go do 40 deadlifts and call it a day type workouts. But, I committed to this and I was determined to learn as much as I could so that I could give it my best. I have learned so much!

After a lot of research, I created our workout schedule for the entire month. 3 days on, 1 day off. We start each 3 day cycle focusing on 1 modality (metabolic conditioning, gymnastics/body weight, or weightlifting/powerlifting) during our WOD, then increase to 2 on day 2, and finally 3 on day 3. Each day starts with a warm-up (in our case it’s usually a run with our pup who is full of energy and needs the exercise), then we move on to a specific skill (this is where my personal training/love of heavy lifting plays a role – these are usually pyramids of a core lift such as bench, squat, or deadlift, OR some bicep/tricep work), and finally we finish with the WOD and stretching.

The other part of this month’s changes was our diets. We generally eat very healthy/clean. Lots of fruits and veggies, high protein, low sugar, etc. But, we decided to go all in and give paleo a try. Full disclosure – I refused to give up my protein pancakes for breakfast, so we aren’t doing this 100%, but we are doing our best. I’ve really enjoyed trying many new paleo recipes and making sure we are eating nutritionally sound foods.

So, I say all of that to preface this:

9 Things I’ve Learned From A Month of Crossfit and Paleo

1 – It’s okay to not be “all or nothing.”

This has been huge in both our workouts and our diets. I enjoy doing the heavy lifts, so I still include them occasionally, alongside our WOD. But, this has mainly played out with nutrition. I’ve learned that we can still be committed to eating paleo AND I can still enjoy my protein pancake. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We’ve had quinoa or brown rice with some of our meals, we’ve had some non-paleo foods when we are out and there is nothing else to eat, and that’s okay. After this month, we are taking a trip to Italy, and then taking a trip home to the states 2 weeks later. I’m sure we will eat whatever we want to on either trip, paleo or not. We want to do the best we can at eating whole and nutritious foods, but we also are going to keep a percentage available to just live. This is where we will fully rely on the 80/20 rule with paleo. 80% of the time we will try to eat foods that align with paleo, while the other 20% we will eat foods that wouldn’t necessarily fall into the paleo category. This helps alleviate that “all or nothing” mentality that I sometimes fall into. 🙂

2 – I’m hungry ALL of the time (and that’s okay).

I don’t know what happened, but I think something between switching up my workout routines and eating habits changed my metabolism. Going from restricting to eating while lifting was a huge change for me – I ate so much more than I thought possible, and it was what my body needed. And that amount has jumped up again. Sometimes I get a little freaked out that eating more will cause weight gain, but I try to just focus on eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’m full, and knowing that my body knows what it is doing, while sometimes my brain (ED) might not.

3 – Rest days are important.

Before we started including Crossfit type workouts in our routine, I HATED rest days. I felt lazy, I felt like they were pointless, and I didn’t want to include them. But, now I see why they are so necessary. After 3 days on of running, lifting/accessory work, and a WOD, my body NEEDS a rest day. And rest days are just that – I don’t do anything (except my normal walks with the pup). So, appreciate your rest days – your body needs time to recover!

4 – So is stretching.

Something I hated even more than rest days – stretching. And I never did it. I am a certified personal trainer, I include stretching in ALL of the plans I write, but I refused to actually do it myself. After almost a month of struggling through overhead squats, snatches, and cleans due to lack of flexibility, I clearly see why stretching is VERY important, and I am starting to incorporate it after every workout.

5 – I can stick to a specific way of eating and NOT feel like I’m restricting.

This has been HUGE for me! Going into this month, I was concerned that removing certain foods might push on that restricting trigger and lead to more and more foods being cut out. But, I am happy to say that it hasn’t! I credit a large part of that to the 80/20 rule and staying away from the “all or nothing” thinking.

It was a little difficult in the beginning. I don’t think that I realized that my appetite might change and I may need to give my body more fuel. But, once I started relying on hunger cues, and not focusing on how much I was eating, but eating when my body said to, it became a lot easier to not feel like I was restricting. Which, leads me to my next point.

6 – Listen to your body.

This has always been one I struggled with, and I’m sure it will almost always be something I struggle with. But, it has gotten easier, with time. My body knows what it needs. It knows when it needs rest. It knows when it needs fuel. It knows when it needs sleep. On the other hand, sometimes my brain (ED) doesn’t care what my body needs – it only cares about what it wants. So, in those moments, it’s become very important to step back, separate the two, and choose to listen to my body over my brain. I’m still learning and every day is a chance to practice and choose my body and in turn, recovery.

7 – Functional lifts are just as important as main lift PR’s.

Another difficult one for me to grasp. I have always been focused on numbers. And lifting was no different – I wanted higher numbers, I wanted to be the best. So, to step back and not give those numbers power for a little while has been a little scary. I am worried that I will lose some of my strength gains. But, I also have seen improvements in so many areas. It’s awesome to PR bench press, but I also want to be able to do a snatch, and at this point, I don’t care what that PR weight is! After this month, I am looking forward to returning to the world of heavy lifting and maxing, but I am also excited to combine the best of both worlds and continue to include functional lifts alongside the big PR lifts!

8 – I am scared of handstands.

I don’t know when this happened. As a child, I loved to do cartwheels, handstands, etc. But, after trying to do handstand pushups, I realized that handstands actually terrify me and I need to find a substitute exercise (or get over my fear…).

9 – I am strong, but I will always have room to grow.

This one encompasses all aspects of my life, from physical to mental. I have shown myself my strength, and I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was. But, I always have room to grow and push myself to new and better things!

Crossfit has kicked my ass. Going from a plateau in my normal lifting routine to a Crossfit workout everyday has been a tremendous change. I am always sore after a workout. I look forward to pushing myself in new ways. Changing my diet (even though it wasn’t a huge change) has also been a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to incorporate and combine everything that I’ve learned through this past month in with my “normal” routines starting in October.

To end, I want to share Greg Glassman’s Crossfit in 100 words – this isn’t a diet, this isn’t about being skinny or looking a certain way…this is about training for life.

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.” ~Coach Greg Glassman, CrossFit Founder and CEO