This week we talk about how we live a fit life with a host of other shit to do on a daily basis. We also talk about fitness plateaus- both physical and mental- and working through them with a little bit of grace and style.
Because we zip through a lot of subjects really quickly, and because I know that some of you will want little reminders after listening to the podcast, I thought it wise to type up a sort of cliff notes version of what we said to keep you both informed and linked up. I hope you enjoy!
First and foremost, neither Holly nor I are immune to stalls in our progress. In the past couple of weeks I have been dealing with some mental battles around my fitness, and it’s definitely shown up in my attitude from time to time. My training has been fun, yet aimless (The Barbell WOD is really a training program for the Crossfit Games, which I’m going to be honest, I don’t give a shit about competing in) and physically I have had moments of working my ass off but not being able to feel or see what I consider to be “enough” change. HUGE BUMMER.
BUT! Somewhere in the past week or so I had this thought: My eyes are fucking broken sometimes. When I feel down on my body that probably has more to do with my stress levels than my physicality. I both lift and look pretty fucking great, even without cheese grater abs. I can like myself no matter my fitness, and I can also redouble my efforts around finding a program that meets my needs in terms of goals if I want to. OR I can accept that I enjoy 90 minutes of cleans, jerks, and snatches three times a week and that my form has DRASTICALLY improved since starting the program that I’m on. MY HEART WILL GO ON. Done and done.
Holly has been dealing with her own stalls in training, and it was awesome to volley some ideas back and forth around how one might soothe the beast that is the little asshole inside your brain that says you suck. A few things we came up with were:
– Joining a gratitude list google group for community around the process (feel free to ask to join mine or start your own!)
After verbally high fiving one another Holly and I moved on to the question we get asked more than any other thing: “How do you manage to live that fitness life?”
Both of us agree that there is no greater tool than a calendar in the game of time prioritization. I use a giant paper calendar and map out my day by the hour, and Holly uses a google calendar doc. We both log our food, our exercise, our social time, our work, and our rest and meditation pretty much religiously. There isn’t a lot of room for spontaneity when one is running a business, prioritizing a training schedule, and cooking most of their own meals, which is both unfortunate and honest- but never fear! Both Holly and I write in our calendar one essentially blank day to hang with our loved ones and relax around our food and training. That one day a week is a sanity-saver and a game changer and reminds both of us that we are humans that exist in the real live open cool world.
In terms of food specifically, we both agree that a food prep day is basically vital for keeping to a healthy eating plan. Holly cooks all of her meals on one day of the week, divides them into tupperwares, and color codes those bad-boys with post-its. (!!!) I tend to either comb through my Pinterest bulletin board and make 3-4 recipes on a Sunday to enjoy throughout the week, or compartment cook (chop veggies, marinade tempeh, make a crockpot of beans, roast sweet potatoes etc.) and mix and match my meals day to day. Both of us tend to plan out our entire food week and eat similarly day-to-day with weekly changes to mix things up.
Making space for the actual lifting is not always the easiest thing to do, but for me it is one of the most positive aspects of my life, so I clear space for it like my happiness depends on it. I set alarms to make it happen, I recruit friends to lift with me, I work with a coach, I pop on a podcast that I have been dying to clear space to listen to and I get to it. There is no easy way to climb over a mountain of fear, fatigue, and general business and behind a barbell but I do it for my peace of mind. Maintaining peace of mind is a primary job of mine, and I believe that it should be for you, too. (Also P-fucking-S, lifting weights totally might not be the way YOU maintain peace of mind, and that’s completely 100% okay. I’m just saying, if you have an interest in fitness, getting involved in it can change your entire perception of self. It’s worth an early wake up!)
Holly said something really powerful to me about this subject that I keep replaying in my head: “We make reasons why we can’t and it is time to start making reasons why we can.” Fitness to me starts entirely with the attitude that I am worthwhile, and every time I feel stuck or sad PRing a lift reminds me that I am one that perserveres. I am a person that overcomes obstacles. Wellness is a gift I absolutely deserve.
I think you deserve it, too.
Last but not least, this week debuted a new section of the podcast, called One Rep Snax.
One Rep Snax are foods that fuel our body to build muscle, achieve ultimate bad-ass status, and revel in a little bit of flavor. Holly’s choice was Beyond Meat Grilled Chicken Strips, which she likes to dip in hummus and wrap in spinach leaves for a cook bit of fuel. Mine was Nuzest’s Clean Lean Protein in Creamy Strawberry flavor, which I like to mix with ice and peanut butter in my Vitamix to make a PB&J flavored protein ice cream.
What’s fueling your body and mind lately? How are you getting through your plateaus?
I had just finished up graduate school with a Masters in Fine Art, I was totally sick to death of the art industry, I had no inspiration, I didn’t know where I wanted to be geographically. I was throwing up because I was fucking terrified and because when it seemed that there was nothing left to do, my eating disorder (in all the shifty ways that it appeared) was extremely appealing. It was a focus, a drive. It was what I was sure of when I was unsure.
I started lifting weights, which rules, and I stopped puking in order to keep doing it, which also rules. I am not saying that the day a barbell entered my hands I got right with myself mentally, but I am saying that when I started strength training I completely ceased to purposefully spend time with my face in the toilet. That is a miracle for which I will forever be grateful.
So I lifted, and I was hungry. Like, really hungry. The kind of hungry a person is when they have been starving and binging and purging for years. I ate, kind of unabashedly, for the first time in as long as I could remember. It stressed me out, it disgusted me, it annoyed me, but I did it. I ate food, I lifted heavy, and I gained weight. A lot of weight.
I look at pictures of me from my first year in crossfit, and it’s a little surprising. Lifting and eating changed my body really slowly and non-linearly, and even now, I see myself in that first year and I notice that I had significantly more weight on my frame than is really natural for my body type. I have compassion for myself then, that person really eating for the first time in forever, but I also understand why I felt deeply uncomfortable.
When I started lifting, I could no longer scrimp on even one bite, because although my will to be whisper thin had sustained me for years, once the dam broke I was flooded with desire. Desire to taste, desire to participate in social events, desire to take my fill for all the days that I had not.
It is with great care that I say that that year was one of the most pivotal, important, terribly difficult years of my life in terms of my self-esteem. It was the year I noticed that my will to be smaller was not in line with my desire to be powerful. It was the year I didn’t trust the process but I went through it anyway. It was the year I sadly watched my body change and showed up again and again to help that change happen despite my uncertainty.
Willpower is finite. It was what I ran on for years while I struggled on the elliptical, while I avoided various food groups, while I lost weight without care or regard for my health. Innate desire is something different. It’s passion, and for me it was also honesty about what is good for both myself and other people in the world. Innate desire is survival and instinct.
I considered quitting the heavy lifts multiple times, but the idea of letting go of something I loved so that I may control my body once again sickened me. I showed up to my workouts reticent, but I showed up. This was the first time I chose what felt right over what I had decided would look right.
It was a big step.
The post script of this story is that eventually, my body evened out. I had stopped weighing myself a year before I started lifting, but I am willing to wager that I gained 30 pounds in that first year. With minor tweaks (more rest days, most notably) and a big dash of patience, my metabolism noticed that I was no longer starving and kicked in. I am still much bigger than when I started Crossfit, but its not in a way that feels uncomfortable. I lift heavy three times a week instead of six, which feels natural, and my body is great. Like, sometimes I look in the mirror with surprise, because I look strong, confident, buff, and yes- pretty lean. I’m a work in progress, in both body and mind, but showing up to the barbell taught me that if nothing else, willpower is bullshit.
My will may have been to be tiny, but my desire is to be well.
Some people are able to do both. I am not one of those people.
And that’s okay with me.
I used to feel my most beautiful when I was losing weight.
When I didn’t have to unbutton or unzip my jeans to go to the bathroom. When I drank a gallon of water a day. When I never went out because I was exhausted by dark.
I felt my most beautiful when the scale was in the double digits.
When people told me how great I looked in the beginning, and then whispered about me with concerned glances in the end.
When I ate only vegetables and had a hard time finding underwear small enough.
I felt my most beautiful when I could check every single task off the list, when I followed all of my rules.
Weighed and measured every bite of my food…check
Went on the elliptical for exactly one hour every single day…check
Rode my bike everywhere, despite rain and cold…check
I felt my most beautiful when I was too totally worked to be loud, or bossy, or assertive.
I felt my most beautiful when I was disappearing.
I feel sad for that person that felt most beautiful when she existed less.
Not because there is a damn thing wrong with being small, but because emphatically
and I never will be. Not naturally, anyway.
Things are different now.
I get to feel my most beautiful at both the bottom and the top of a heavy deadlift.
When sweat drips down the muscles of my back.
When I run and look down and see the muscles in my legs bulging.
When I notice that my thighs are big, and I know that I worked for that.
I worked to grow.
I worked to regularly PR my lifts.
To smash not only what I thought I could do, but also what I thought I could be.
When I go to the gym, I complete my workout, I eat my healthy food, and that is tiny fraction of who I am and what I do.
I feel my most beautiful when my clients tell me how they conquered their fears.
When I wake knowing I have shit to do, and that shit is much more meaningful than how I look.