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As part of the current paleo challenge I’m participating in, they are awarding bonus points for writing about your experience. Well, since I had to write about it and submit it to them, I thought I might as well just copy/paste what I wrote into the blog so that all of you can get a quick update on how Lurong is going (or, if you really don’t care, then you can wait for Meg to post something much more interesting). Here you go!

I am in the final week of the 2013 Lurong Living Paleo Challenge. I am a member of Flower City CrossFit, and this is my second year performing in this challenge.

I am in a much different point in my fitness journey this year compared to last year. Last year, during the 2012 Lurong Living Paleo Challenge, I got under 200 pounds for the first time in my adult life. It was at the tail end of an 18 month weight loss journey that saw me lose over 100 pounds. The challenge helped me, but in hindsight I was just heading in the same trajectory for the 9 weeks during that challenge that I had been heading in for the previous 18 months. The challenge was important to me, and I learned a lot, but I believe I would have still lost the weight even without the challenge.

This year was different. Since the end of the challenge last year I have been trying to figure out what maintenance looks like. My weight has fluctuated as much as 20 pounds throughout the last 12 months. I have been up and down in weight all year long, and learning how to live and eat in a manner that is sustainable has been a struggle. I do think I found the key for me though – I have found the most success when I am strict paleo with 1-2 cheat meals a week.

Enter the 2013 Lurong Living Paleo Challenge. Honestly, I wasn’t going to sign up for this one. I felt good, was performing at a high level (for me, that is), and for the first time in my life (no exaggeration) I was feeling like I had my weight under control. But then I started to think about the challenge last year. Flower City CrossFit finished in third place in the country last year. While I did everything I could last year, the performance aspect was my biggest weakness. I did most of the workouts scaled, and I did not score many points off of workouts. In fact, it was demoralizing to see several “0’s” for points when I gave it everything in a workout, but still ended up in the bottom percentile bracket, and therefore rewarded with no points.

So, this year, I decided to sign up again. I knew I had a lot of people from last year’s team joining, along with a crowd of new faces to join the Flower City CrossFit team. And I am also a better athlete than I was a year ago. I wanted some redemption for all of those performance points I left on the table.

What I didn’t know was that psychologically this was going to affect me before the challenge started. Even though I had been eating strict paleo with only 1-2 cheat meals a week all summer long, about 3 weeks before the challenge I started to get too loose with my diet. I think in the back of my mind the shadow of 8 weeks of strict paleo, with no cheats, was affecting my decisions. I cheated much more often than 1-2 times per week, and I gained weight and felt terrible. So, by the start of the challenge, I definitely needed the 8 weeks of detox to get my butt back in gear!

The first three WODs were as you would expect: not great. I did all three at Level 3 (the highest level), so I felt really good about that. But I didn’t finish the first two under the time cap, and finished the third one with just 16 seconds to spare. But as the challenge went on, I felt better and better. I forgot how good you feel in general when your diet is dialed in. And I also forgot how much it impacts your performance! I just finished doing the final benchmark workout (although I might do one or two of them again just to see if another week helps), and here are my results:

Benchmark 1

Beginning of Challenge: 18:12 (18 minute time cap, 12 reps uncompleted)

End of Challenge: 12:50

Improvement: 5:22 (29%)

Benchmark 2

Beginning of Challenge: 12:47 (12 minute time cap, 47 reps uncompleted)

End of Challenge: 12:19 (12 minute time cap, 19 reps uncompleted)

Improvement: 0:28 (4%) – but all 28 extra reps completed were burpees!

Benchmark 3

Beginning of Challenge: 4:44

End of Challenge: 3:29

Improvement: 1:15 (26%)

I proud of these improvements, but I am also proud of my performance scores all year long – I was able to consistently get a decent amount of points for me and for the team – much, much better than how I performed last year.

Not only that, but I’ve lost 17 pounds so far this challenge. I weigh a few pounds more now than when I finished the challenge last year – but those are good pounds! I have put on some muscle over the last year, and I believe the last several weeks have contributed to that also. I had a 20 pound PR on my front squats, and I have PR’ed on several other lifts as well during this challenge.

I am glad I participated this year. Will I participate next year? I hope not. The reason I say “I hope not” is because I am hoping to have finally figured out what sustainable eating looks like for me. I’m hoping that between these two challenges I have learned the skills I need to maintain my weight, continue to improve my performance, and feel good all year long. I hope that I don’t NEED the challenge next year. I’m definitely glad I did it, and I don’t regret doing the challenge either this year or last year. I would actually recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried to eat strict paleo for an extended period of time.

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I am one week into my current paleo challenge, and it has already been a thousand times easier than the last challenge. It’s not that this challenge is structured any easier, but I feel like I already have a leg up since I understand what needs to happen to make the appropriate changes. Other people have been asking me how I’ve been doing so far with the challenge, and I feel almost guilty to say that I’m not having any problems. But my early success has been very encouraging for me. I fell off the wagon pretty bad over the holidays, and last week when we did our initial weigh in for the challenge I was exactly 10 pounds heavier than when I finished the Lurong challenge in mid-November. And that hurt my self-esteem and my confidence. A lot.

But being able to jump back onto the wagon, and how easy the transition has been gives me hope. It affirms that I haven’t forgotten everything I’ve learned. It reminds me that this style of eating can be a lifestyle, and not merely a fad diet like I had feared. And I remember that I don’t NEED that other food. I feel full, and satiated, without the 20+ grams of sugar from a cookie. I don’t need dessert or something sweet after every meal (no offense Meg!). And this is really the best diet for my body – I am already noticing improvements in my daily energy, sleep, and performance. Simply put: this is the way I should always be eating!

Today was my one week weigh-in, and I already lost 7 pounds. That still leaves me with 3 more pounds to lose to get back to my pre-holidays weight, but it made me very happy to see such progress in my first week. I was surprised at how high it was, but it was a relief to get close to my mid-November weight again, and it meant that my total weight loss was over 100 pounds again (after the holidays the 10 extra pounds pushed me back under the 100 total pounds lost milestone).

All of this to say: I am reflecting today on the journey that is fitness. And I know it’s cliché to use the word “journey” like that, but I feel like too often I treat it like an event. Like a goal with a single defining measurable outcome. Whenever I think about my weight loss or my fitness I think about that point in time when I arrive. That point when I hit all of my goals and I am just fit. And when I envision this, I don’t envision anything after it – it’s just where I want to be. And I am starting to understand that this isn’t a healthy way to approach fitness!

Staying paleo is easy with amazing dinners like this! This is my plate from last night - roasted chicken, mashed sweet potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts (and my challenge-allowed 6 oz of red wine)! Check out Meg's post from yesterday for the recipe.

Staying paleo is easy with amazing dinners like this! This is my plate from last night – roasted chicken, mashed sweet potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts (and my challenge-allowed 6 oz of red wine)! Check out Meg’s post from yesterday for the recipe.

Fitness is ongoing. It is not something singular that can be achieved like an event, but rather it is a never ending endeavor. You can’t just stop with your fitness routine once you feel fit – that is the easiest way to fall back out of it! And I got a small taste of that first hand these holidays. I allowed myself to get comfortable with my progress, and maybe a bit too proud, and I took the emphasis off of watching what I was eating, and allowed my days to be filled with more sedentary activities, and more sugar, and more alcohol, and more over-indulging, I lost control and therefore quickly lost some of the progress I had made.

And I think part of the reason that happened is because I thought I was close to my goal weight. I was close to where I wanted to be, and I neglected to see it as just a step along the journey. Instead I treated it like the destination itself. But that destination will never be reached. It’s a little discouraging for me to think about it like that at first – that I will never be “done” with my fitness, that it will never be something that is just attained and then I can stop, but it is something that I will always have to work for. But that’s the truth of the matter.

Maybe I’m late to the party on this one. Maybe everyone else already knows this. Meg figured this out a while ago, and even though I read her thoughts of it in her aptly titled part of this blog “Meg’s Journey,” I don’t think I fully understood it. As I’ve been thinking about this lately, and slowly starting to understand it, I was aided by another blog. Joe Davis has lost almost 140 pounds and is still in the middle of his journey, which he talks about on his blog Raiding Life. He wrote a post the other day that really helped me wrap my mind around what I was thinking and feeling. You can read it here.

So, my challenge to myself is to start treating my weight loss and my fitness as a journey and not just as a task to be completed. And that is my challenge to you too. Maybe you’ve already realized this, and this isn’t monumental news to you. Or maybe you’re like me, and have always thought about “that one day when I’ll be fit,” or “that one day when I will weigh a normal weight.” And maybe you treat this as the end of the journey rather than just a milestone along the way. If that’s the case, join me in redefining for ourselves what it means to be healthy.

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I just got my t-shirt a few weeks ago for finishing the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge. And I really like the design of it, and the phrase they have on it.

“Without Challenge There Is No Change”

It is obviously appropriate, because it was from a challenge, but it got me thinking. I always find my best success in making changes in my life when I am participating in a challenge. It doesn’t have to be an organized, external challenge, per se, but just some form of a challenge. I challenged myself to run the 3.5 miles for the Chase Corporate Challenge last May without stopping, and I was able to accomplish this. I challenged myself to lose 100 pounds, and I was able to do that too.

My t-shirt with the gratuitious addition of Stanley!
My t-shirt with the gratuitous addition of Stanley!

I’ve talked before about how goal driven I am, and how when I set goals I usually get the best results, so it should be no surprise that challenges act the same way. In many ways my goals are challenges. But, for me, it goes further than just goal setting or challenging myself. I really like the structures, rules, and external motivation an organized challenge brings. And it’s not just food, it can be anything – I am still not an expert at double unders, but I went from barely being able to do one to being able to consistently get over 20 because I signed up to do a 30 day double under challenge.

But, more so than that, I have found that without challenge I find very little change and even negative change. Since the paleo challenge, I am embarrassed to report that I have gained 10 pounds. Is some of that weight muscle? Probably (I sure hope so at least!). And part of that weight was inevitable, especially with my philosophy on how I was going to tackle (or more appropriately: two hand touch) the holidays. Besides, I lost almost double of what I have since gained (19 pounds) on the previous challenge, so it’s probably not as bad as it sounds.

But, it is still movement in the wrong direction, and I want to get back into gear. So, naturally, I joined a challenge to help me perform at my best. Flower City CrossFit is hosting a Fitness and Nutrition challenge that is similar to the one we did for Lurong. At first I wasn’t going to compete in it, because I just got done with Lurong and I decided afterward that I wanted to monitor this on my own. But I have found that I have a very difficult time eating well and managing my food without some external encouragement. I thrive with the accountability that rules and other people bring. It’s not just a matter of challenging myself, but it’s a matter of challenging myself while other people around me are doing the same thing. I find that the most change comes through challenge.

And I’m looking for change. I’m looking to jumpstart my diet back into true paleo so that I feel better, look better, and perform better. And I’m looking forward to how challenging this is going to be. It’s tough to eat well consistently. It’s hard to change your routine, your mindset, and your habits. But it’s a little easier, for me at least, when I have other people around me doing the same thing and helping me and encouraging me to get through it.

So, today marks the first day of clean eating for the next 8 weeks. I’ll be reporting back to you on how I am doing and my successes and struggles throughout the 8 weeks. Just wanted to give you a primer on my newest adventure and something you’re sure to hear more about.

Challenges aren’t for everyone. Meg is going to provide a counter point to this post tomorrow (she refuses to participate in challenges like this, and still finds success). But, for me, there truly is no change without challenge.

On a related topic: we are going to be in Jamaica for a week of this challenge at an all-inclusive. No, I do not plan on staying paleo that week. No, I do not feel conflicted about that at all!

How do you perform with challenges? Do you find you have better or worse success with them? If better, what is keeping you from joining one?

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Tomorrow is technically the last day of the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge, but I did all of my measurements today so I’m basically done with the challenge except I just need to make sure to eat clean today and tomorrow. Just a refresher: it was 9 weeks of eating strict paleo. In a nutshell that means only lean meats, eggs, vegetables, some fattier meats in moderation (think steak or bacon – not McDonald’s), some fruit, and nuts/seeds. It means no: grains, dairy, sugar, honey, maple syrup, baking soda, artificial sweeteners, beans, and basically anything else that isn’t meats, veggies, fruit or nuts.

This was a tough challenge, and it was certainly not easy. The first few weeks were really tough, and the last week has been really tough (something about knowing that in a few days I can eat whatever I want just mentally screwed with me). But, I’m happy to report that I did not have a single cheat over the 9 weeks, and I have seen dramatic improvement.

Here are my weight loss results:

  • I lost 19 pounds (211 pounds to 192)
  • I lost 8.5 total inches: 3″ off my waist, 3.5″ around my hips/butt, 1/2″ around my chest, 3/4″ around my thigh, and 3/4 ” around my upper arm

Here are my performance improvement results:

  • 15% reduction in time – 6 minute 47  second reduction overall.
  • Randy time (75 power snatches at 75# for time): 7:07 to 6:41 (26 seconds)
  • Christine time (3 rounds of: 500m row, 12 body weight deadlifts, 21 box jumps at 24″): 17:27 to 15:01 (2:26)
  • Lurong Original (5 rounds of: 20 burpees and 20 kettlebell swings at 53#): 20:05 to 16:10 (3:55)

Here are my goal results:

  • Lose over 5 total inches: Yes
  • Lose at least 15 pounds: Yes
  • Be able to do an unassisted pull up: Yes
  • Give up all alcohol for the 9 weeks: Yes
  • Go on at least 2 dates with Meg each month: Yes

And there have been improvements in my life that are not quantifiable also. I have always known that I’m very goal-driven, but I had no idea how much it would benefit me to have concrete and specific goals. I would never have made it through the 9 weeks unless without a cheat unless I set that goal for myself. When I redid those last three workouts, having a number in mind that I was shooting for helped me work so much harder and I had some of the best performances I’ve ever had because of the goals I had set for myself. Due to this challenge I started to set more goals for myself in the rest of my life, and I’ve already seen benefits from that.

I’m happy with how I handled some failures during this challenge. I posted before about how when I redid my Randy time for the first time last week it was actually almost 2 minutes slower than the beginning of the challenge. Since we can do the workouts as often as we want to get our improvement score, I was able to do it again this week and posted the above result – a 26 second personal record, and over 2 minutes better than my try last week.

I also learned about how important community is when you’re pushing yourself. Our gym had over 20 members participating in the challenge, and the feedback, ideas, encouragement, and overall support I received from them was extremely important for me. It is hard to understate the role they all played in helping me reach all of my goals and to refrain from cheats. The support Meg gave me was just as important as she continued to meal plan and grocery shop with my limitations in diet. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.

Photo of some of the members of our team!

So what’s next long-term? I have decided that I’m going to stay pretty strict on paleo, because I just feel so good. I feel like I look the best I’ve ever looked, I feel the best I’ve ever felt, and my workouts have been stronger and faster. My mood feels more stable and generally I’ve found myself more upbeat and positive. I also have a lot more energy (except after 8pm since I’m always tired from getting up early!)

I am, however, going to cheat from time to time. My plan is to stay strict paleo (same rules as above) when it is just Meg and I. When we are out with friends or family, or over at their houses, then I plan on enjoying the company around me and not worrying about what I’m eating. Does that mean there will be a buttered dinner roll on my plate? Probably not. But if the host/hostess is making a dish with sugar in the sauce – I’m not going to refuse it. And I’m going to enjoy it!

So what’s next short-term? The challenge ends Sunday at midnight. On Monday I’m going to have a slice of pizza, a beer, and maybe a small dish of ice cream. Then I’m going to feel terrible on Tuesday. The problem with diets that militantly restrict foods is that once you’re off the diet it’s really easy to over-indulge on all of the food you’ve been deprived of, and then you end up like Ben Stiller at the end of Dodgeball. I’ll need to be very careful of that, and watch my portions and make sure that I really enjoy and savor my cheats instead of just mindlessly stuffing my face.

This was a great challenge, very difficult, but very rewarding. You don’t have to do paleo, or even a food/exercise challenge like this one, but I would encourage everyone to take part in some sort of challenge that really stretches yourself. Find other people to do it with, because the community and shared experience of everyone will help push you past where you can go by yourself. But find something that you want to improve, set up a challenge for yourself if there isn’t already a program in place, find some friends, and do it. I plan on doing some sort of challenge (maybe paleo, maybe something else) at least once a year to keep pushing myself for improvement.

What do you want to improve? Have you ever taken part in an organized challenge? What’s stopping you?

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Meg and I decided that our new Monday routine would be to go to the 5am WOD together and then be able to relax and eat breakfast together before we start our work week. This sounded like a great idea to me, but I did not want to get out of bed this morning! I had a rough night’s sleep, complete with some wacky dreams, and when the alarm clock went off at 4am I did NOT want to get up. Luckily Meg was going to CrossFit with me this morning, so the accountability of her actually getting out of bed, and her resisting my pleas to stay in bed, ended up forcing me out.

Today’s WOD was one of the benchmark WODs from the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge, and I really wanted to improve my time on this, especially due to my recent failure. The WOD this morning was “Christine,” and previously it took me 17:27 to complete it. Christine is 3 rounds of: 500 meter row, 12 bodyweight deadlifts, and 21 box jumps (24″ box).

I ended up posting a 15:01 this morning, an improvement of 2:26, or a 14% reduction in time! Some of you may have already seen this on Facebook, but there was a funny story behind my time this morning. On my last round of box jumps, with maybe 3 or 4 jumps left to finish the WOD, I rushed my jump, trying to get it over a 2.5 minute improvement. I basically didn’t jump high enough and therefore I missed the box and landed with my left shin on the corner of the box. It hurt quite a bit, and it caused me to unleash a series of profanities. After I composed myself I finished my last few box jumps and still ended up beating my time. Afterward I grabbed an ice pack and was looking at my new wound when Meg came up to me and said something along the lines of “I’m glad that you hurt yourself, because I was worried that you were swearing because you didn’t beat your time.”

Yes, it was actually a preferable outcome that I was hurt and not that I didn’t beat my time. Granted, a bruised/cut shin is a small price to pay, and I’m sure she wouldn’t have said the same thing if I was seriously injured. I still found it funny how both of our mindsets have changed. I don’t think that would be a normal thing she would say to me, but during this challenge these improvement scores have been extremely important to me.

Speaking of shins, I pretty much bang my shins at least once every single time there are box jumps in the WOD. Ironically enough I had just picked off the scab on my right shin from a few weeks ago when one of my burpee box jumps had gone awry.

Right shin – almost healed

Left shin – brand new!

I joked to one of the trainers that I’m going to start wearing shin guards during WODs with box jumps. Now I’m not quite sure that’s such a bad idea. . .

I had another angry workout today. It wasn’t just being WOD drunk angry, but I was actually angry while working out. Do you ever get like that? Where it’s a good workout, you’re beating your goals or your time, but for some reason you’re just angry. That was me this morning, and it made for a funny ride in the car back to the house. I was excited and happy about getting a good improvement in my time, but I was also still in my angry mood. Needless to say it was some interesting road rage and conversation on the way home.

My great start to my week only continued as I mixed up some green protein smoothies for Meg and I. These green protein smoothies are amazing, I think Meg got the original green smoothie idea from our friend Traci, and all we did was add some protein powder to them.

My favorite combination is:

  • A couple handfuls of kale
  • 1-2 cups of vanilla unsweetened almond milk (whatever ends up giving you the consistency you like). We’ve also just used water instead.
  • 1-2 scoops of vanilla protein powder (I like something very low in sugar, you get all the sweetness and flavor you need from the rest of the smoothie)
  • A handful of frozen strawberries

It tastes like a strawberry-vanilla milkshake!

We got ready for work and then we made some scrambled eggs with spinach, tomato, peppers, and onions, and washed it down with some delicious Godiva (paleo-friendly) coffee. We were able to enjoy our breakfast together before we set off for work for the week. I absolutely love our new Monday tradition of working out together at the 5am so we have enough time to spend quality time together afterward. I really feel like it puts me in a good spot emotionally and mentally to start my week. No “case of the Mondays” for me today!

Is there something you can change in your routine to make you actually look forward to Mondays? Why don’t you try it out this week?

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