Flying high in Colorado Springs

It’s been almost six years since I visited Colorado for a destination wedding in Breckenridge. My brother and his girlfriend moved to Colorado Springs in January so I was excited to check out a different part of the state and his new (for the indefinite future) home.

I had some time to explore my first two days while Greg worked. On the first day, I met up with a former coworker in Manitou Springs for a delicious breakfast at Good Karma Cafe before setting off for Garden of the Gods. The rock formations were stunning, but the trails were super packed (even midday on a Thursday…) making it hard to fully appreciate the views. After walking almost every trail in the park — which doesn’t take long — I popped into Colorado Mountain Brewery for some refreshing local beer.

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Normally the next day I would have sought out some more hiking, but my trip happened to fall during the Crossfit Open and I didn’t want to tax my body too much before tackling 18.3. Instead I borrowed Greg’s bike and rode downtown to check out some local shops and breweries. I’ve had Oskar Blues before but never visited one of their tasting rooms so that was fun. Phantom Canyon had a selection that catered to my tastes better though and I really enjoyed my flight there.

At this point, you may be wondering why I felt okay drinking a bunch of beer before 18.3 but not hiking. Or more realistically you’re wondering why I would even bother doing crossfit while on vacation (that’s a post for another day). This workout happened to include pull ups, which I’ve never been able to do, despite crossfitting for over five years. A little liquid courage couldn’t hurt while flailing my body at a rig for 12 minutes and hoping for the best.

Before my trip, I contacted Crossfit SoCo about dropping in. I hopped in the first heat of their Friday Night Lights style event and asked for a patient judge who would hold me strict to the standards. I really appreciated that they paired me with one of their coaches. I got through the first three movements then stared at the rig. After several failed attempts where I didn’t even get close, I told my judge Rob I should probably just give up. He took me to a lower rig and had me do some drills to work on my swing and build some confidence.

I stepped back up to the main rig, gave it all I had, and dropped down feeling defeated. But then he told me it was a good rep and I immediately started crying, having just got my first pull up ever. I ended up getting two more before the time cap. It was an incredible feeling and I will forever be grateful for the hospitality Crossfit SoCo showed me (and the awkward photos Greg captured). We celebrated after with a tasty meal at Front Range BBQ.

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On Saturday, we considered taking on the Manitou Incline (next time!) but opted for driving up Pikes Peak instead. The steep, curvy, narrow drive was more nerve-wracking than I expected but the views from the top were totally worth it. And there are donuts. Which was so random but perfect.

We capped off the day with a ridiculous meal at The Rabbit Hole. Honestly they could have served me carrots and I would have been happy (but not really because carrots are the worst). We sat in a section under the stairs surrounded by books and string lights. Is there anything more Melanie in this world??

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The elephant-shaped edible in the room
My personal experience with marijuana has been very, very limited. I hate smoking and I’m not good at it. I’ve had one brownie and didn’t know what I was doing. In short, I’m a total noob.

I was very interested to learn more about the dispensaries in Colorado and the laws are a little more nuanced than I realized. At the shop we visited, you essentially get a concierge service with a guy behind the counter explaining one on one what everything is, how much is in each product, the intended effect, etc. He wasn’t judging or condescending, just super knowledgeable and friendly. I purchased some peanut butter cups which were delicious and effective.

Overall it was a super positive experience and I appreciated knowing more about what I was putting into my body going into it. Also, they had some sleep aid products that I would have loved to try since I’m a super insomniac. Indiana just got Sunday alcohol sales though so we’re a long way off from ever seeing marijuana legalized here at home.

I’m sure I’ll get back to CO Springs at some point (#siblingsgiving) so let me know what else I missed!

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Rowing is the new running

Confession: I’ve only ran a couple time since that one thing happened in November. A bit of burnout is to be expected after four months of dedicated training. But it’s also been nice to shift my focus back to crossfit. So, here’s an update on what’s been going on since the marathon.

Row’d Royalty
Last year Crossfit Naptown participated in Row’d Royalty and placed first worldwide. They encouraged everyone to sign up this year to test their fitness and help defend our title (top four male and female scores count for the team). We did the first workout in class, a 2k row for time, and I finished in 7:51:10. I didn’t think much of it but later in the day they posted that I was one of the top four females (up to that point).

I’ve been going to crossfit for three years and while I’ve made a lot of #gainz, there’s still so much I can’t do. Placing that high on a workout felt pretty badass, especially since the top females in our gym include an Olympic rower and an Olympian-in-training (pictured with me below). I signed up that day and pushed myself hard through five more workouts.

Rowing with olympians

I don’t think any of my scores ended up being good enough to count for our team, but I had a ton of fun going after it. Overall, I placed 34th out of over 200 females in the tall division (5’6” and up). And our team placed first again!

Rowd Royalty final

Naptown Triple Crown
Last year’s Naptown Smackdown expanded into this year’s Naptown Triple Crown, with each day at a different location. Members could sign up for one day or multiple days and I chose all three.

Day 1 – Monon location
I started my day knocking out the final Row’d Royalty workout in the morning to give myself some recovery time before the evening’s events.

Event 1-2

I was first off the bike in my heat but struggled hardcore (again…) on the backward jumps. For the second event, I made a strategic decision to go for the row since it was scored separately from the shuttle runs. It paid off and I ended up winning the rowing portion of the event with 1321 meters! My score was actually good enough to place fifth among the guys. Such an awesome feeling!! On the flip side, my shuttle run score was super low. Overall, I placed 11th out of 18 for day one.

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Day 2 – Delaware location

Event 3-5

The one rep max event was set up so only three people lifted at once, making it an “all eyes on you” atmosphere. I hit a 10# PR at 155#! If the second event looks brutal, that’s because it was. But it was a great example of how I’m capable of more than I think and how the competition atmosphere can push you harder. I did so much better than I thought I would, finishing in 12:09 (8th out of 22)!

The final event was one of my favorite styles: Barbell complex. We did the same rep scheme each round but went up in weight. My goal was to get as far in the 105# round as I could and I ended at 7 hang power cleans before the time cap. All in all a very successful day two with an overall placing of 7th out of 22!

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Day 3 – Capitol location

Event 6 - 8

The balance test was kind of hilarious to watch. Several people impressively made it all 3:00 on each leg but I stumbled at 1:31 (right) and 1:03 (left) – crushing my dream to be on Survivor. The second event was a shot at redemption for me. We did this WOD in class a week ago and I finished a minute over the time cap. This time I snuck in just under at 9:56! The final event was interesting since we had to see how far we could get through the workout in 2:00, then 5:00. I finished the day 15th out of 23.

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This weekend was the epitome of why I love my gym so much. It was awesome meeting members of the other locations and watching everyone kick ass and push themselves. Our community is the most supportive, encouraging group of people I’ve ever been around. And personally, I was super proud of surviving nine workouts over three days, and even winning one! It was equally exhausting and energizing. I’m so grateful for this place that challenges me to believe in myself, try harder, and be kind to others.

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So, what’s next?
I will have to start running again soon since I signed up for a couple shorter races and have the Derby half in April. Luckily half training isn’t as intense so I can hopefully keep up my consistent crossfit schedule of late. Also around the corner is the Crossfit Open which kicks off the 2016 Crossfit Games season!

Naptown Smackdown recap

This weekend I competed in my first crossfit competition, Naptown Smackdown, hosted by my gym Crossfit Naptown (CFNT). I’ve been doing crossfit for over two years but have never signed up for a competition because there are still some moves I can’t Rx (perform as prescribed without scaling) that tend to show up in competition programming, like unassisted pull ups.

CFNT hosts the Naptown Smackdown each year to give all its members a chance to experience the competition environment regardless of their skill level. Athletes can scale the workouts as needed but only those who Rx can advance to the finals. This was the perfect the opportunity for me to get exposed to the competition setting and push myself to Rx as much as I could.

When they announced the workouts the night before, I was super excited because it was all moves I can Rx! They were going to be tough workouts but at least I had a chance to see what I could do.

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WOD 1
This was a burner! I watched some YouTube videos for tips on getting in and out of the clips quickly but it all went out the window during the WOD. My main strategy was just to keep moving and ignore the fact that my lungs were on fire. I would probably tackle the burpees differently if I did this one again since I got a little dizzy with my spin move action.
Score: 69 calories

WOD 2
This is one of those workouts where strategy becomes crucial. Breaking up reps early, doing push jerk even if you can press it to save energy, taking a few extra seconds to make sure you are set before you attempt to go overhead…there are so many small, quick decisions that can dramatically affect how well you do in a WOD like this.

My goal was to get through the set of 85# and have time to attempt the next weight up. Unfortunately I didn’t do a lot of the things I mentioned above. I rushed through the lighter weight. I stayed with push press at 65# even though doing push jerk would have conserved some energy. I wasted a couple attempts overhead at 85# because I didn’t take a moment to breath first. I will definitely try this one again and remind myself that 7:00 is longer than you think so chill out and be smart!
Score: 80 reps

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WOD 3
To quote my dad’s commentary in the video, I was struggling early on with the jump rope. While warming up, I did them unbroken but just got too excited or nervous at 3-2-1-go. I made up some time in the other movements luckily and was pretty happy with my pacing overall. My legs were total jello by the time I got back to the jump rope though.
Score: 260 reps

Lessons learned/takeaways
I wasn’t really sure how to mentally prep for this versus a race. Similar to picturing each mile on the course the night before, I walked myself through each WOD and tried to strategize.

I also wasn’t sure how to fuel for this versus a race. Doing three WODs in one morning is a totally different animal. A few people told me to eat right after each WOD even if I wasn’t hungry and drink lots of water of course. I followed that advice with a KIND bar after the first WOD and a Clif bar after the second. I felt like my energy held up relatively well throughout the morning.

If I do another competition, I need to do a better job of calming down between WODs. I had a lot of nervous energy before the first one and was just super excited to cheer everyone else on and be part of the whole thing. I don’t even remember sitting down much.

We don’t have mirrors in the gym so it’s interesting (and super weird) to watch these videos and see these pictures. I definitely have some room for improvement on my form. But it was kind of cool to see myself doing the same weights and moves as everyone else. I’ve been trying to push myself to Rx more in class and stop doubting myself and selling myself short. I may not be able to do an unassisted pull up, but there’s a lot I can do and this was a nice reminder of how far I’ve come in the last two years.

It was great to have my dad there cheering me on! He got to experience firsthand why I love this community so much and get a glimpse into the crossfit world and what we do during workouts. He’s a runner so we always talk about my training for races but this was a foreign world to him.

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Overall Naptown Smackdown was an awesome experience! I learned a lot, pushed myself and had a blast. I would definitely recommend all CFNT members sign up next year!

Have you done a crossfit competition before? What tips do you have for rookies? If you participated in Naptown Smackdown, what was your favorite part? What would you say to other CFNT members to get them to sign up? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

What makes a good crossfit partner?

I’ve been doing crossfit for over a year now and one of the things I love about it is the community aspect. My gym, Crossfit Naptown, has cultivated an environment where everyone is encouraging, motivating and supportive, especially during the WOD (workout of the day). I realize not everyone likes this type of atmosphere but I feel like it’s kept me accountable and made me push myself harder.

One example of this is when we partner during a WOD. Typically, one person is completing the workout and the other is counting repetitions and/or rounds and making sure standards are met for each movement. You are essentially coaching each other through the WOD. If you have a good partner, this format can really help you power through and maintain good form.

But what makes a good partner? Everyone is different and what works to push you might not be the same for who you’re paired up with. And every WOD is different so what motivates you on one type of WOD may be completely different than another. Having a quick conversation before the workout can go a long way to make sure you are helping your partner perform their best.

Here are a few questions you can ask before the clock starts:

  1. What’s your goal? Are they aiming for a certain number of reps or a specific time? Are they focusing on decreasing their scale and getting closer to Rx-ing a movement? Do they want to have really clean reps every time?
  1. Do you have a strategy? Are they breaking up reps/rounds into smaller sets? If they rest, do they want to keep it to a certain number of seconds before getting back into it?
  1. How do you want to be pushed? Some people want you to yell at them to pick up the bar and go. Some people don’t want you to comment and they will start back up when they’re ready. Some people love the rah rah cheerleading and others hate it.
  1. How should I update you on your progress? Do they want to know how many rounds they have left, how much time is left or what percentage of the workout they are through? Or do they just want to churn it out and not think about it until the clock stops?
  1. What are your scales for this WOD? “Relative intensity” is an important crossfit term. It basically means that you need to scale workouts appropriately based on a variety of factors: skill level, injuries, mental/emotional state that particular day, etc. For example, if the workout has push ups, you shouldn’t no rep someone for doing knee-style push ups if that’s their scale. 
  1. Do you want me to take pictures of you in beast mode? Half kidding 🙂

How your partner answers each question will give you guidelines for coaching them. This is especially helpful if you’re paired up with someone you’ve not worked out with before at the gym. It’s better to be upfront about each other’s needs than be annoyed during an entire workout because your styles are different.

For my fellow cultfitters, how do you like to be coached during a WOD? Are there other questions a good partner should ask? Share your thoughts by commenting below! 

Barbells for Boobs

Admit it: You’re a little over the “turn everything pink during October” craze and wonder how much it’s really doing to impact the fight against breast cancer. Or you wonder how far your donation to breast cancer “research” really goes. I’m in that boat. This is a cause close to my heart but I’m always searching for ways to have more of a direct impact.

I found that opportunity through the Barbells for Boobs fundraiser Crossfit Naptown participated in this month. This event is the crossfit community’s way of coming together to raise funds for Mammograms in Action, which provides mammograms regardless of one’s ability to pay. Every $80 raised funds one mammogram.

Thanks to some amazing family, friends and coworkers, I raised $2,000, or 25 mammograms. The Indianapolis crossfit community as a whole has raised $17,461 to date, or 218 mammograms. Think about that for a second. That’s 218 people who wouldn’t be able to afford a mammogram otherwise. 218 people who will have a better chance at fighting breast cancer, should they be diagnosed with it, because of early detection through a mammogram. 

Amazing.

Our fundraising efforts culminated in an event on Saturday, Oct. 26, in the Old National Centre parking lot. We braved cold temperatures to complete the workout Grace: 30 clean and jerks. The heats were timed but this event wasn’t about competing or being the fastest. It was about coming together as a community to lift up people affected by breast cancer.

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During my 65# scaled heat, I was lifting up three women in particular: my grandmother Janice, high school friend Lauren and coworker Jennie. You can read more about these inspiring survivors on my fundraising page (where you can also conveniently still donate *wink wink*). One woman in my heat was a survivor herself. She spoke after about the importance of doing self-examinations and getting checked out if you feel anything suspicious.  

The event was really special and I would encourage anyone in the Indianapolis crossfit community who didn’t participate to sign up next year. We turned a lot pink on Saturday. But, more importantly, we helped make a direct impact in the fight against breast cancer and that’s something I’m really proud to be part of.

Below are a few pics from the event and you can also watch a video of me doing Grace here. Be sure to check out Crossfit Naptown’s Facebook album from the event too!

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Here we go again: Monumental training update

When you’ve tackled the seemingly impossible once, doing it again should be nothing, right?

I’m less than a month out from running my second half marathon, the Monumental here in Indianapolis. When I signed up for the race last year, I wasn’t a runner. The thought of 13.1 miles was overwhelming and intimidating. Each week I was running a distance I never had before and crossing the finish line on race day was an incredible experience

I signed up for the 2013 race as soon as registration opened up but I was burned out from training. In December, I took a break from running and started crossfit. I ran a marathon relay and volunteered at a marathon in the spring but didn’t really do much else. When August rolled around, I had to get serious again. During the first week, I really regretted not running more throughout the year as I was basically starting from scratch.

Training plan

Kids Voice Indiana 5kMy first few runs were slow. I was annoyed with my pace but trudged on. August included the Kids Voice Indiana 5k and a couple super hilly runs while on vacation in Portland and Seattle. And I battled the ridiculous late summer heat and all the sweat that came with it.

Something awesome happened in September – the 13th to be exact. I ran 3.1 miles and my time was 4 minutes faster than the Kids Voice Indiana 5k six weeks earlier. The next day I had the best run of my life. Seriously, it was one of those runs where everything clicked. The weather was perfect, I was well rested and coming off the high of my fast 5k time. From the first step, I knew I had it and I felt like I could keep running forever. I even had a brief moment of insanity where I thought maybe I would do a marathon one day. It was that good of a run.

There’s nothing quite like the runner’s high. I called my dad after and probably sounded like I was drugged up. Luckily he’s been running forever and could relate. My streak of solid runs continued in September and my body settled into the faster pace. I did the Back on My Feet Relay with a great group of people from Crossfit Naptown and ran the 10k race in the Corporate Challenge.

Back on My Feet Relay     Corporate Challenge 10k

This weekend I had 10 miles on the schedule. Last year, I was freaking out about that distance. This year, it was nothing. My confidence is on another level. I attribute some of that to the fact that I’ve done these distances before (albeit almost a year ago) but I also credit Crossfit Naptown. I’ve done things I never thought I could do in the last 10 months there and my progress inspires me to tackle all my goals head on.

10 miles

So here I am. Less than a month out from the half marathon and 100 percent ready to rock this race. I have one last long run on the books, which just happens to be the Tough Mudder in Kentucky on Oct. 20. After that I’ll taper and take it easy in the two weeks leading up to the race.

I’ll probably back off of crossfit too in that last week, but not before Barbells for Boobs. Every $80 I raise pays for one mammogram for someone who would not be able to afford it otherwise. Consider donating on my page and join us on Saturday, Oct. 26, when I will complete a workout called Grace: 30 clean and jerks at 65# for time.

Barbells for Boobs

What race(s) are you training for? How is it going? When was the last time you experienced the runner’s high? I want to hear all about it!

What motivates you?

When I created this blog in January 2011, I didn’t intend for it to focus so much on fitness. I did plan on writing about things going on in my life though. And coincidentally, January 2011 is when I decided to get off my ass and start losing weight. Two and a half years and 80 pounds later, my lifestyle has completely changed and exercise is obviously a huge part of that.

I’m pretty open about my weight loss journey, as chronicled in the fitness category of this blog. I’m not an expert of course, but I write about what I know: my experience losing 75 pounds in the first year, training for my first half marathon, taking things to a new level with crossfit (cultfit), etc. Because I’m open about it, I get a lot of questions about my weight loss – mainly about what motivates me to keep going.

The answer is pretty simple: Fat Melanie. If you haven’t met her, or if it’s been so long you forgot, here’s Fat Melanie in late 2010:

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For perspective, here I am more recently:

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Looking at pictures of Fat Melanie makes me incredibly sad. I don’t know how I got there but I know I don’t ever want to go back. Every day I make conscious decisions that put a little more distance between me and her. I workout a lot because I know how easy it could be to let go and end up back there. And I tweet/post about my workouts a lot because it keeps me accountable. I realize it’s probably annoying and my friends love to give me crap about it but I can take it. Losing 80 pounds requires a complete change in your lifestyle, so naturally the things you do and talk about will focus on that. It helps to surround yourself with people who share your goals, like the awesome community at Crossfit Naptown that’s been super supportive.

There are days I wake up and still see Fat Melanie in the mirror. I realize that won’t make sense to most people but there is a mental/psychological component to losing that much weight. Your brain doesn’t always catch up with your body, even after keeping the weight off for more than a year and a half. It’s hard to explain but if you’ve gone through a similar journey, you may know what I’m talking about.

So that’s what motivates me. I hesitated to post this but the question kept coming up and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I didn’t write this to fish for compliments about how I look now versus then. And I didn’t write this to come across as some expert, because I’m certainly not. I’m just someone trying to remember how far I’ve come and what it will take to keep this going as a permanent change. 

I put it all out there so now it’s your turn. What goals are you working toward, fitness or otherwise? What motivates you to keep going? Share in the comments below!