Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I don't know what the chances are that you read my Year In Review post, or how likely it is you'll read this, but if you did or are, I hope that my YIR read like you were hearing me talk about my year to someone else. Like it was overheard at the table behind you, because that's the perspective I tried to keep. I toyed with the idea of talking to you directly like this. On one hand, I don't want to because it's not the healthiest communication pattern, but on the other hand, it's an established one, and in some ways I feel like it's safe for both of us.

I didn't want it to feel like I was speaking to you subliminally, because even though my YIR contained you, it wasn't about you or sending you a message indirectly. And even now this is directly indirect. I don't have much to say, but for some reason I cannot get this out of my head:
Looking back lately, I can't stop thinking about November 2012, and when you told me that you might not come home for Thanksgiving. I remember being angry--like you were purposefully not coming home, like it was something you didn't want to do, and I remember taking the disappointment personally.

I wish I would've validated for you how hard that must have been for you. To potentially not go home and see the family and friends you love and missed so much after moving to a new city and feeling very lonely in it; To be struggling to find a job, and to be dealing with money issues yourself and with your roommates because living in that city is so expensive. I wish I would've told you that I would be really sad if I couldn't see you then, but that I supported you no matter how it worked out and that I hoped the job at AMC would make you feel better about living in your new city and that I hoped the sacrifice of not seeing everyone would be worth it--if you had to.

I would've validated, knowing now what I know, that it must have been really hard to follow a dream but also feeling trapped in it. To need roommates to cover the bills, and to have plans for your life that you wanted to change some aspects or the timing of, but seemingly couldn't. I can only imagine how hard that was for you, to have me and someone else in your life. It must have been, and could still be, very confusing for you. I wish I could've taken this outlook and approach so much sooner, it would've saved both of us a lot of heartache. I think this perspective, and this validating approach applies to every messy situation we have been in since that point in time.

There were many times in therapy that Diane said to me "YOU SAID WHAT TO HER?!" I have wronged you on many accounts with my words, and we both know the power of words. But when your mom did a legitimate double take seeing me Sunday (which I didn't think was possible after meeting a person once) and at many points while talking to your sister, I realized that I have been so wrong about you on so many accounts. I think I was important to you, and I think I have been more difficult for you than I have ever previously imagined. Diane tried to tell me this, and I understood it, but it really hit home on another level Sunday.

While we were talking, she also mentioned the courage it took for her to approach me and have that conversation, and that wrung in my ears as loudly as when she said all we can do is work on ourselves. More than anything, if I had to seemingly defend myself, I feel that I've worked on myself a lot this year. And when I think of you, I wish for you to also have courage. I remember you once said you don't know yourself, and if you grow to know anyone over the next year, I hope it's you that you discover. If I had to venture a guess, I would bet several beers that you're an INFP on the Myer's Briggs test. And I wish for you to love and be loved fully and passionately, and to have the courage to pursue those feelings if you are not; I know I've told you that before, but it still stands now that the words are flowing from my fingertips. In the interest of keeping this short, I'll end this here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

CrossFit, Women, The Bible and Defining Sexy

In light of the New Year, many people will be flocking to gyms nationwide in an attempt to "lose weight" get "more lean" or "fit" or any number of other health-related resolutions. Particularly, many women everywhere will be attempting to transform their bodies into a version that the majority of society will accept as "attractive." Before I throw my two-cents into what I personally think these resolution-achievers should do, I want to share my story with you.

I'd like to open this by acknowledging that I am incredibly hesitant, slightly uncomfortable, and extremely nervous to share the following words with you. I am leaving myself and my story open to ridicule and discussion from whatever opinion you develop after having read it. That being said, any opinions regarding what I could've done differently does not change what I did, and what did happen to me. It's what I lived, what I felt, and any thoughts about how it could've gone differently doesn't change what did happen. But first, an introduction.

My name is Jess and I'm a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, and I had a Biblical-prodigal son-religious type of experience with CrossFit.

The Marine 2nd Lieutenant part almost didn't happen. The CrossFit part is why it did.

I've been dieting since I was ten years old. I've generally erred on the 'slightly heavy side' of the body type scale, and for as long as I can remember, my mother and I have been experimenting with ways to lose weight. So, I have 15 years of experience with the "battle with the bulge" as I like to call it. When I turned 17, I was inspired to change my mind about becoming an artist and felt compelled to become a United States Marine. From there, I enlisted in the Delayed Entry Program. Because I've loved airplanes and flying since I was 7, my NJROTC Commander, USN and Master Chief, USN, suggested that I apply for an NROTC scholarship so that I could one day become a Marine Officer, and then a Marine Aviator. If I wanted to be a Marine, I needed to do two things: Pull ups, and run three miles in under 27 minutes. I wanted to run it in under 21 minutes, a perfect score. So in my senior year of high school, I joined Cross Country and Track, in addition to my NJROTC physical team activities, in order to achieve those goals. Pull ups were not required of women at the time (2007), but I knew they would help at bootcamp with climbing a rope.

Halfway through my college education, I tore all of the tendons and ligaments in my right ankle after falling while attempting to catch a rebound during a game of basketball. I can't say anything regarding the events that occurred after this, other than I did not allow the injury to heal properly, and that I gained a substantial amount of weight. When it came time for me to leave for OCS the summer before my senior year of college, I failed my 3 mile run portion of my PFT. I was also severely out of height and weight standards for the Marine Corps. As a result, I did not go to OCS that summer and was then sent before a board to determine whether or not my scholarship should be taken away. I was retained in the program so long as I did not again fail a height/ weight and/ or a PFT. Three months after this occurred, I failed both and in December of 2010, I was subsequently disenrolled from the NROTC program and had my scholarship revoked.

I have always accepted full responsibility for my failures here. I did not meet the standard, and therefore I was not fit to be a Marine, much less a Marine Officer. But this is not because I didn't try. I cannot stress how hard I tried. I did everything I thought I could do, at that time, to succeed. I adjusted my diet, I worked out regularly, yet nothing seemed to work. Prior to this I, like anyone else who wants to get in shape, bought all of the women's or men's fitness magazines about what exercises to do in the gym. I looked up workouts online, I went on three, four, or six mile runs weekly. I even ran a marathon in the fall of 2008. Yet after I broke my ankle, every attempt I made at regaining my fitness utterly failed.

I cannot express how distraught I was after being disenrolled. I saw all of my dreams disappear, and it was my fault. I had tried, but my attempts were not good enough to get me to where I needed to be. The sadness was genuinely crushing, and when I say that breathing was the last thing I wanted to do, it really was the last thing I wanted to do. I now owed the government the money they spent on my education (over $100,000), and I still had one semester to go to graduate. I did not see how I was going to graduate, or become a Marine Officer like I had dreamed of being since I was 17.

I had been CrossFitting the last few months with my friend Melissa Kiel out of her garage. She was planning on opening a gym, but needed a little bit of help on the side to help her get her business, East Ormond Beach CrossFit, up and running. I was officially disenrolled on Wednesday, and that Saturday, I was scheduled to attend the CrossFit Level 1 Certification in Jacksonville, FL. I did not want to go. I was overweight, I was out of shape, and I was depressed. I was mentally in no state to go work out with a bunch of really fit people who were looking to become professional trainers in their respective gyms. Yet I had already paid the money, and my friend was out of the country, so I couldn't call her to cancel and say "Sorry, I'm not the help you need." So I went and I learned about cues, proper squat technique, how to clean, jerk, and snatch. I learned about how to create workouts and workout plans, and I learned about the definitions of fitness, work capacity, and power and how they apply to the goal of any given workout. At the end of the day I did a very, very scaled version of Fran (normally 21-15-9 thrusters at 95lbs for men, 65lbs for women, followed by pull ups). We took the group photo and I did my best to hide in the crowd because I was so embarrassed to be there. Yet, I managed to have a good time while I was there and all of the people I talked to were wonderfully nice and supportive, which in the last year and a half of my life while being overweight, was a rare thing. My friend would be there on Sunday to re-certify her certificate, and I had already endured one day, so I figured "why not" and studied for the exam and showed up the next day. She and I both passed, and it was the first time in a year and a half that I felt optimistic.

I know the CrossFit certification program frequently gets ragged on because it certifies "trainers" in two days, but I will say that in my experience, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. For me personally, I did not feel adequate to be at that certification. I had casually been CrossFitting off and on prior to for about two years, I was overweight, and I was 21 years old. But for me, the life-changing part of that weekend was the fact that the Certification instructors were nice to me. For the last 21 years, I had experienced that if you were "fat" you didn't deserve to have people be nice to you. I had yo-yo-ed with my weight enough to have reason to believe this was true. People were nice when I was skinny, they were out-right cruel when I was not. So for a group of people who were incredibly fit, that I respected, to be nice to me, completely changed my life. In particular, Chris Russel of CrossFit Jax was a trainer that weekend. I had known of him through the CrossFitters I worked with in the local South East region. He was an enlisted man in the Navy and opened CrossFit Jax with his wife while he was stationed there. I couldn't have been more ashamed of myself than that weekend: Here I am, a young Marine Officer hopeful, who wants to someday lead enlisted Sailors and Marines like Chris, yet I cannot maintain standards? Who am I to someday lead a man like this? I felt like I wasn't worthy, and I would've felt completely justified had he looked at me as though I wasn't; but he was nice to me. He taught me to say "armpits forward" when you do an Overhead Squat. His kindness had a profound impact on my life that I will never be able to fully thank him for. After that weekend, I inhaled every CrossFit Journal article I could. I wanted to learn everything I could about CrossFit and exercise and fitness. If the CrossFit Certification didn't make me a trainer, it made me hungry to learn how to be one.

To keep an incredibly long story short and to the point, I lost 20lbs and shaved 6 minutes off of my 3 mile run time. I went from no pull-ups, to kipping pull-ups, to dead-hang/ strict pull-ups. I finished college, and a year after I graduated I went to OCS. The rest, is history, and I'm currently in the middle of flight school.

So what does this have to do with women and New Years resolutions? Well, for the many years before I started CrossFit, when I was on the search for the elusive pull up, I frequented my local globo gym. If you walk into your normal gym at any given hour, you'll notice that there tends to be a "female" side with the ellipticals, and a "male" side with the bench press benches. Even in the military, when I workout on base, the women rarely touch the weights. Why? Because it's generally an incredibly intimidating thing for a woman to do: workout next to a 200lb muscle man, who will either ignore her, hit on her, eye-ball her, or look at her as if she doesn't know what she is doing and to please get away so he can do presses in the squat rack. This is not the case for every woman, but the female friends I have typically tell me that they try to stay away from that area of the gym and just do their cardio.

Today, more so than ever, women's bodies are frequently under attack. Regardless of your political beliefs or affiliations, you have an opinion about what a woman can or cannot do with her body, and 50% of you are not women. Women today are either too skinny, or too fat, or too muscular. They are never enough for any given person. Being a woman in today's society, where you are constantly visually accosted with an "ideal body image" in the media, and you are shamed if you do not fit that criteria, creates a slew of insecurities. For a woman to be 100% comfortable in her own skin is the rarest sort of confidence, and I want to help change that.

I cannot think of a globo gym where my 50 year old mother will be celebrated for being there. Where she will be cheered on after she finishes her workout, where she finds community and reward by belonging to a group of individuals who are wildly different from her, yet support her wholeheartedly. Despite her age, her level of fitness when she started, or any other judgements you can make about a person by just looking at them, she has love and friendship in River Market CrossFit, the gym I trained in prior to leaving for OCS. My 50 year old mother is more confident in her body today and has more self confidence than she has ever had in her life. I respect all forms of exercise, and have many friends who respectfully enjoy their globo gym, or their 50k runs, or their yoga, and they are all fit and wonderful and happy in their bodies. But I want to address the women (or men) who aren't there yet, have tried this gym and that gym, or have gone running but then lost interest, and are still not 100% happy with themselves or their bodies. For these people, I suggest CrossFit. I am completely biased when I say that I think it will change your life. Though if after 30 days it isn't for you, at least you can say you tried the Kool-Aid. But for the majority of you who want to make a change, and want to stick with it, and want to feel confident in yourself, and your body image, I implore you to find a local gym, and just show up.

If you show up, you will be welcomed into the group. People will be happy to have you there. The trainers will remember your name, and you will be instructed on how to properly complete an exercise that you may not have previously known how to do. Many other things will happen to you upon showing up, but the most important thing to know is that regardless of how you look, or what kind of shape you are in, you will be welcomed, and you will complete the workout.

Showing up is the hardest part. If I can do it, so can you.

I've been incredibly lucky to have come so far, thanks to the CrossFit community. Had it not been for Melissa Kiel, Nathaniel Schrader, Tiffany & Brian Wilkerson and the friends I've made along the way, who all opened up their gyms and provided me with endless belief and support, I would not be where I am today. All I had to do was show up, and they gave me places to show up to, and support when I did. Like I said earlier, this is my story and they are my opinions and they may be different from yours and I respect that, but I felt that it was important to perhaps give the person who has toyed with the idea of joining CrossFit the last little push they needed to get in the door. The first workout is always free, and you can find a local box at the CrossFit Website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Prepping for the Open

Sweet, super long day of training today. 2 hours in the Progenex garage!

I had 6x 5min AMRAPs with 4min rest between. Went at 85%.
Tough but fun! I mentally prepped myself for what my goals in each amrap would be and I met them in all of them! Nate hit quite a few goats and strengths at the same time. I got to do 3 different amraps, hitting each twice. Push ups are definitely better, though I feel a break in my midline after I get about 20 reps. It's really valuable to know where your limits are. That's one of my other favorite aspects of Nate's programming, I'm learning where my abilities are really at and I'm no longer over or undershooting my expectations and capabilities. My DUs have finally come together! I can feel exactly where my hands need to be. It's all about where your hands are- the jump is just the jump. Working on hitting a few skill goat stuff in my warm up. Making sure I work my pull up technique, practicing handstands/ walks/ push ups. They're coming together bit by bit.

Watching the OC Throwdown updates fired me up to compete again. There's a local comp here Saturday that a lot of my friends out here are doing, and I wanted to sign up and compete awhile back but I wasn't sure I'd be able to go. So I asked coach if it'd be okay if I competed and he said: "Well, we're not very far into your training yet..." LOL loved that response! I didn't think it would be a good idea either. He also reminded me that I would have to treat it as a fun weekend and not care about my placement - he knows me so well, I would've been pissed if I didn't podium, so for the mental aspect of training he didn't think I should compete and I agreed. I said regionals was more important and he reminded me that my training focus isn't for regionals- he's training me for the open. If I make it to regionals I'll have competition test weekends to prep me for regionals. Naturally this motivates the fuck out of me to make it to regionals because I want to experience the most I can of his training! I'm really impressed how good he is for my head. I'm more motivated than ever to eat right and sleep well so I can hit his training at my very best. All of the best programming in the world doesn't mean shit if you don't show up and give it your all. I also love that the training is inspiring me to eat better and be better. It's a much better motivator than trying to "look good" or look like you're good at crossfit for the sake of appearances like what used to be my "motivation."

In the name of good health and nutrition I've been experimenting with what to eat and not eat and I have to say having lots of healthy fats- grassfed butter, coconut milk/oil and a crapton of avocados in the form of homemade guacamole has been TREMENDOUS in making me feel and look better. Tonight I experimented with my old level of paleo- allowing myself sweet potato fries and the occasional treat of peanut butter (not paleo, but okay according to some people) mixed with agave nectar -- OMFG, MISTAKE. My stomach has been grumbling ever since. I've been mentally trying to decide if I should zone my paleo to try and lose some weight and I've decided for 14 days I'm zoning with 3x the fat! Easy to achieve with the guac and butter and coconuts :) Looking forward to recording and seeing the effects and results!

Excited to train tomorrow! It's a double WOD day! :D

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Today was my last workout of my first month of Nate's programming! It was:
10x 60sec sprint HARD, 120sec walk fast
So fun! Yes, fun! I enjoyed not being out on a track, getting to attack some hills and the trail! It was pretty cold- little did I know at the time that snow was a-comin' so I'm glad I got the work done when I did. Followed it up with 100 abmat sit ups, nice and steady. Usually sit ups are my thing, so when my core was smoked around rep 30 I was surprised. Tomorrow is a rest day and I'm off of work so I'm going to spend the whole day cuddled up in bed to stay warm! Unless I'm mobilizing #suppleleopard

Nutritionally I'm adding TONS of healthy fats to my diet. Homemade guacamole, coconut milk, coconut oil and now grassfed butter! Omega 3's baby! I'm also using aqua hydrate and coconut water because I definitely can't get enough water in me like I used to. I weighed in with a body weight of 143#!!! AFTER I ate - TWICE! STOKED! I'm 8lbs away from my goal of 135# for the USMC! Totally capable of losing that weight in the next two weeks, which is my goal. A pound over the weekly limit considered "healthy." Whatever. MOAR SPINACH!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I am not who I used to be

So I said I would track training more often on here, so here we go:

3, 2, 1 Power Clean
3min rest
115#, felt a little heavy, 120#, tried 135 but missed it :( I know better than to jump more than 5# at a time, but I wanted it SO bad! 125#

3x3 Squat Clean @ 80% so 115#
2min rest
All I have to say about my cleans is thank god I have fast elbows!

5x3 CGBP @ 80% (moderately hard)
used 85#, probably could've gone a little heavier, 2min rest

5min practice handstand walk - I moved about 3 inches! Wahoo! Lol Gotta work on keeping hips over shoulders

5min AMRAP DUs - lost count. Took me 1min to get 50. Goal was to get 30 unbroken but I only got up to 26 ub.

5min farmers carry, HEAVY, for distance.
~300m. Used 52.5# dumbbells in each hand. Farmers carry makes having huge thighs annoying

400m row
10 power cleans @ 75
2x 15' rope climbs
Felt good! Wanted to get each round of power cleans unbroken but I underestimated the lung burning effect of light weight. Rope climbs felt awesome! Which I'm stoked about. What up OCS?! The row was a little slower than I wanted it to be :( But more importantly I maintained a pace from start to finish instead of gassing myself out in the beginning like I usually do.

Mental notes - I'm working on maintaining a calmer demeanor during my WODs. I'm known to get fired up and pissed off about lifts and such >:) cursing plants for breathing and whatnot, but trying to change that habit. I'm really happy with how much progress I've made in the last 6 weeks. I started working with Nate Schrader as my coach and without a doubt it has been the best decision I have ever made. I've fallen in love with training. He programmed a lot of mentally challenging WODs for me - fought quite a few demons but in the last 2 weeks I've seen all of the fruits of the labor and I'm HOOKED. All of the goals I have, I've had for a year but they've always seemed so far off - that's not the case anymore. I've always known I'm capable of great things but I didn't think it applied to the world of CrossFit and training until now. I can't wait to see what he has in store for me in month 2! Like, I'm hanging on to my computer waiting to hear the new email sound I'm so excited! We found out quite a few weaknesses that I thought were my strengths over the last few weeks and some weaknesses are now strengths (What up squat snatches?!) so I'm really, really excited.

Personally I have had some rough shit go down with me since I graduated college in May. Look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: no food, no shelter = can't focus on anything else. Not having a very good, stable job over the summer destroyed my mentality more than I realized at the time. Thus overtraining and a skewed perception of the world ensued. However, I'm very blessed to have had the best roommate in the WORLD to help me through that rough time, as well as the very best mother to support me in every way possible. Since I have gotten back on my feet I look back on all of it and truly appreciate what it is that my friends and family have done for me. Since I've moved out to the midwest I've also been blessed and fortunate enough to have continued support by the Crossfit community out here. The Progenex guys have been incredible! Aaron and Jason are so fantastic for WODing with me and letting me use the space when I need to. Tiffany and Brian of River Market CF have also been more wonderful than I could've ever hoped for. It's rare for a box owner to let you do your own WODs on your own time - so THANK YOU! I've been so humbled by all of the experiences I've had I can't express the feelings in words. I've had to let some people go, in good and bad ways, with silence or evil words, so I can get my mind right and I feel that I'm there now. I'm still pursuing my commission as an Officer in the Marine Corps which is the most important thing in my life right now and when I have gold bars on my shoulders, all of you who have supported me will be hugged, kissed, thanked, cried on and anything else I can do to say "thank you."

So here's to continuing to train and get better!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's been awhile. What up 2012

Damn this blog is a year old and I haven't said a word since August. Shame on me. I didn't even realize I was blogging through the summer. It's pretty sweet to see the progress I've made since then; even better to see what I've overcome in the last year when I wrote my first post. Let's summarize, shall we?

2011 in review:

Jan-March: Work to get PFT 3 mi down to get into OCS. Run a 23:31 on March 9. 282/300
March-May: Games focus- just follow EOB programming and compete in the Open.
May-August: Graduate college. Go off on my own and train the hell out of myself to prep for OCS. Lose focus of what good training is and isn't. Have entirely too much time and anger on my hands. Lose weight. Run a 276 PFT for the board on July 29ish. Know it isn't good enough. Find out I didn't get into OCS. Decide not to enlist and resubmit for Summer 2012 Class. Enlist help of positive environment and work out personal issues.
August-beginning of October: Train and get a job. Lease on car is up, have to move in with mom in Kansas for the first time since I was 8 years old.
October: Train myself and follow some Outlaw programming with the brothers of Progenex. Love training with them! Get a new job.
November: Working hard. Getting nervous about resubmitting package to OCS. Overwhelmed with being in charge of my own programming. Don't want to F it up again. Believe I have until January to get my 3 mi down. Decide to hire Nate Schrader, 14th at the 2011 CrossFit Games, former elite Army Special Forces Operator because he speaks my language when I say "I got to be good at CrossFit and everything else the Marines think I need to be good at." Give him a list of goals and he says "We'll get you there!" Love it.
December: Find out they're submitting my package Dec 9. Emergency flight to FL for PFT. Run a 22:53 3 mi, PR. 288/300. Really fucking good score. Clean out all negative influences in my life. Start Nate's programming. It's mentally and physically challenging. It's relieving and exciting and motivating having someone I trust at the helm of my training.  Pay off debts.

2012 is my year. I'm no longer letting my perceptions of myself hold me back. I used to think I could never get to or maintain a body weight of 135 because I'm naturally thunderous in my thighs. F that, I'm in control of what goes in my mouth, thus what the number is on the scale. The Marines want me to weigh 135 for OCS? I'll weigh 135 for OCS. They want me to be fast; I want to be strong, so I'll be both. No more compromises. No more excuses. I've already given up everything; sacrificed everything for this. I will not shovel shit for the rest of my life because I couldn't get a little self discipline. 12 is my favorite number and this is the time to earn it all and make all of my dreams become realities.

My goal(s) this year are simple:
Ultimate: Earn my commission as a 2nd LT in the USMC on August 11, 2012.
Middle goals to get there:
Get into Summer 2012, OCS Class 210.
Qualify for the midwest regionals.
Smaller goals to get me there:
Weigh 135# for body weight
23% body fat according to the USMC
Muscle Up and improve in all other areas of CrossFit and fitness

Let's do it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I didn't get in

5min DU practice. Didn't go very well. The rope balance is off with the tape, couldn't get more than 3 together at a time.
10 CTB pull ups. Didn't always hit the chest but got it up there in singles and 3 at a time
10 pass through
10 good mornings
10 OHS @ pvc

OHS @ 65#
Toes 2 bar
Ring dips, scaled to .25" band

OHS for 21 & 9 were unbroken, dropped bar at 11 for round of 15. Toes to bar were done in sets of 5 for each round for the most part, grip strength was the biggest issue. The first set of 21 dips, even with the band really tight was an issue. My arms were just tired.

At 6pm today I found out I didn't get selected for the October class for OCS. I don't know what my next step is, I have a lot of options but I will figure it out. Not drinking away my sadness, I'm eating sweet potato fries. Today is also my 30th day of strict paleo and I love the results too much to throw them away. Moving forward.