Since the time you were in your Mother’s belly, breathing is key. Without oxygen your brain, lungs and body would not have developed. Now that you are grown up and have learned a lifetime of skills, habits, and behaviors it can be easy to forget about your breath. Think about it – you breathe even when you are not focused on it. This is a good thing and it allows you to breathe while you sleep, involuntarily. Just like your heart beats, your breath continues.
Stopping to take a breath
However, throughout different times in my life I was reminded just how important it is to not just breathe, but to breathe deeply. If you have ever experienced a panic attack, hyperventilated, or choked on something you know how wonderful it feels to be able to draw air down deep into your lungs. As we go through life we can forget how to breathe deeply. Have you ever heard someone talk about shallow breathing or describe someone as a chest breather? That is when you only allow the top part of your lungs to expand. You probably don’t realize you are doing it but you are doing yourself a big disservice but not breathing fully.
When I have a headache or am working out I have learned to go deep inside myself when it gets hard. What does this mean? I connect with my body, listen and give it what it needs – more oxygen. As much as it is important to breathe in it is just as important to dispel all the stale air. Try it. Next time you are anxious, nervous, working out or stressed take a deep breath in for the count of 4 seconds. If you can, hold it for 7 to 8 seconds then let it out for 4 seconds. Do that 3 times and check in with yourself. How do you feel? Let me know in the comments. When you don’t know what to do, remember that breathing is key!
I will be the first person to tell you, “You Can Do This!” I will also be the first person to say if anything doesn’t feel right to STOP immediately. Over the past 10 years when I first found out I was pregnant until now I have found that I have become much more in tune with my being and now fully embrace how important it is to listen to your body. This doesn’t just apply to exercise but eating as well.
Your Body Speaks to You
I have become a more intuitive eater over the last 8 months. This means listening to my body and giving it what it needs. I’m not talking about giving in to emotional cravings. (That will be another post). That is completely different, and yes, sometimes you need to give yourself permission to do that. What I am talking about is a feeling deep down that you need to eat a certain food.
I will give you an example. This summer when we were vacationing in Colorado I got a really bad headache as soon as we got off the plane in Denver. I have been there before and know all too well how my body responds to high altitudes. It just doesn’t like it. This comes from living at sea level year round. I had hydrated really well the day before flying and continued to drink lots of water. I even had himalayan salt to help balance my electrolytes. The next day I still had a pounding headache and were planning to go even higher up in the mountains. It was so bad that I asked my husband if he would stop and see if I could get some portable oxygen.
We decided that we would stop for lunch and then go to the sporting goods store in search of oxygen. It was hard for me to admit that I might need it since I am physically fit. On the way to lunch I saw a natural grocery store and wanted to pop in and get a couple specialty items in case I couldn’t find them later. When I walked in the store I saw some bananas and I was drawn to them. The voice inside my head said, “Kerry, what are you doing? You don’t eat bananas!” They usually taste really good but I feel bad in about an hour. I moved on and did my shopping. I headed to the register and there were the bananas – again – calling to me. This time I thought, “maybe the kids will eat some bananas.” Duh! When was I going to listen to my intuition?
Are You Listening to your Body?
Well, I got in the car and they were just calling to me. Sometimes you have to hit me over the head until I listen. With my head still pounding I finally said, “I think I should just eat a banana.” It was like magic. About 30 seconds after I ate the banana my headache completely disappeared. I was shocked but it didn’t surprise me. It just confirmed to me how smart our bodies are and how they know what we need. The trick is learning to listen. Now when something comes up in my body I ask myself, “Where am I now? What do I need?” and I wait for the answer. Do I make mistakes? Yes and I move on and learn from it. Remember that it is much easier to give yourself a tune up than to wait until you break down completely. Be proactive in your approach to your health and mindful of what you eat.
What about Exercise?
The few times I have been hurt while exercising it was because I ignored the signs my body was giving me. I brushed them aside. Now I know that knot in my muscle won’t just go away on its own. It is my body compensating for a bigger issue. I stop what I am doing, see if I can figure out what is going on. If I can’t I get professional help sooner rather than later when damage has occurred. I hope this helps those of you who are working on your health and fitness or even just getting through life. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Post your comments below.
Every year around February the CrossFit Open starts. It is 5 weeks of competing against any and every CrossFitter in the world who wants to compete. The reason they do it is to find the best athletes to go to the CrossFit Games that you see on TV where they compete for the title of “Fittest on Earth.” I do it just to see how I do compared to the year before, gauge my personal progress and to see how I stack up against my friends at my box (gym). I cannot believe that this year is my 5th CF Open competition. When I first did it I had no idea what it even was but my coach said I should do it, and he believed in me so I did too.
This past Friday was the second week of 5 workouts, and it was a TOUGH one. I thought the week before was bad because I had to snatch a 35-lbs. dumbbell over my head with 1 arm but this past week I had to do lunges with two 35-lbs. dumbbells and that was just the beginning. Here is a picture of the workout:
CrossFit Open 17.2 workout
Sure the lunges were enough to make me want to throw up a little in my mouth but I felt quite confident that I could use pure will and determination to get through them. I even thought that I might be able to do them quickly so I wouldn’t have to hold the dumbbells on my shoulders as long. I had visions of giving my brothers piggy back rides up the stairs and knew my short legs could take it. Next exercise… toes-to-bar… I could do that too. If I needed to break it up into smaller sets to preserve my grip strength then that is how I would approach them. Cleans with the dumbbells, ok, I can do those. Don’t get me wrong they sucked. My strategy here was to get all 8 as soon as possible and jot down my time for the tie breaker. MORE lunges next, fine! Toes-to-bar and cleans – check!
Now this is where I knew I was going to be in trouble both mentally and physically. To go into a workout where I am pretty confident I can do everything is great but when I go into a workout facing a movement that I did for 1 rep a year ago in the CF Open and haven’t even attempted since is a whole other ball game. Let me restate that… going into a workout when I know deep down in my soul that I am not going to get a bar muscle up this year. Not even one, not even close. That can mess with your head and crush you before the clock even starts.
So what did I do? I had 2 choices. I could stop trying and proceed to cheer on my friends in the same heat, basically quit OR I could keep on going to see what happened. This is the point in the workout where my plan fell into place. You see, I knew on this night that it wasn’t going to happen for me. Not only was I NOT going to finish but I was going to get to the point where I couldn’t continue because I couldn’t do the movement. It sucks to be all pumped up with adrenaline, the crowd cheering and to look at the clock with 6 more minutes and 22 seconds left and know all you have left in you is failed attempts.
Remember that plan I mentioned? Since I knew this would happen I pushed as hard as I could and went as fast as I could on the first part of the workout without draining my tank down to empty just in case. I didn’t put the weights down on rep 6 or 7 to rest like suggested so I wouldn’t have to do an extra rep when I picked them back up. I sucked it up and did all 8 reps in a row because I knew the only thing that would save me in this workout was that tie breaker time. In the event two or more athletes tie with the same number of reps completed they would look at who got to this part of the workout the fastest and that person would get more points. I kept going for the rest of the workout, and I got some chest-to-bar pull-ups while trying to get a bar muscle up. When I got done I was happy with my performance. For me this was about not losing it half way through the workout or feeling bad about myself. I was healthy, I did my best and worked my butt off. My plan worked for this week. Let’s see what next week brings.
Here is the video of my first round of lunges with the 35-lbs dumbbells and the toes-to-bar.
Many of you have been following my blog and have seen my results. I am proud of where I am today. However, I have yet to share what I was like when I started doing CrossFit so you can see how far I have come. Part of this is because I don’t like seeing my old self, and I’ve been too chicken to post it but I think it is important to share this with you. This wasn’t the beginning of my journey because I had already lost 25 lbs. of baby weight on my own. I was still breastfeeding and was very sleep deprived. The week before this video I started a new job and had to go back into an office environment again.
Much to my embarrassment, I have a video that shows me about 1 month after I started CrossFit. Not quite the beginning but close enough to show you that I actually am human and very similar to you. When you watch the video you will see me in the black shorts and teal sports bra. My hair is shorter because I had just donated my hair to Locks of Love.
We did this workout called MURPH as a team of 4 people. We each took turns doing our reps until it was the next person’s turn. If you watch closely you will see that I am pacing as I wait for it to be my turn. I am fidgeting with my water bottle. On the inside I am freaking out because I don’t know if I will be able to do my part and contribute to my team. I am really worried about being able to keep up. I still feel this way when I work out as part of a team. I would rather go solo and know that I am the only one affected by my performance. I don’t like to let my teammate down and am still working on this.
Here is the video. Please watch it and then continue reading.
It took a deep determination for me to commit to doing 1 to 3 CrossFit workouts a week. If I didn’t get all 3 workouts in I accepted it and moved on with a new focus for the next week. As I improved and saw the benefits of working out it was much easier to get them all in and I looked forward to going and learning new skills.
On Memorial Day 5/30/16 I redid this same workout. However, this time I did the workout by myself. I no longer needed to divide it up among 4 people because I could do it all on my own. Was it easy? No, it was very hard but I finished in 59 mins and 39 seconds.
This is MURPH:
Run 1 Mile
Run 1 mile
I hope that sharing this video and story shows you that you can do this too. I am no different than you. Let me know where you are in your fitness and how I can help.
I have a somewhat funny story to share about this photo. The title reads, “Is this really me?!”
Let me explain…I had been doing CrossFit about 8 months when I participated in my first CrossFit Open Competition. Keep in mind I quit gymnastics when I was 11 because I didn’t want to compete. Ha! That sounds funny to me now. Anyway, every time they posted the workout for the week I would sweat in anticipation and excitement just praying that I would be able to do at least 1 rep of the first movement so I wasn’t disqualified. I had finally made it to week 4 and then passed week 5. I got lucky in that they didn’t start any of the workouts with double unders.
Oh happy day! I had completed all 5 workouts without being knocked out. Mission accomplished! You gotta set goals if you want to get anywhere, right? Sometimes that goal needs to be don’t suck completely and if you do just don’t give up. In the meantime, people at the gym kept talking about a photo of me that they really liked. Of course, I wanted to see it and scoured our gym’s Facebook page and website looking for a photo of me. I DIDN’T SEE IT.What were they talking about? Was I crazy?, were they just messing with me?
I’d forget about the picture then someone would mention it again and how great it was. Really??? What was I missing? I searched again and nothing. I had clicked on this picture several times and even clicked that I liked it. I had no idea it was me though. I thought it was an amazing photo of my friend from the gym and thought to myself, “Wow, she is amazing and has come a long way from where she started.” I asked the photographer about the photo and she assured it existed.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think it was ME. What’s my point? Well, I had worked so hard to get where I was that I didn’t recognize myself when I was there. Read that again. Have you ever done that? I didn’t even think the woman in the picture looked remotely like me. Wow, right? So my epiphany for you is:
When you think you could do better but you’re doing your best – YOU ARE!
When you think if only you looked good – YOU DO!
When you think if only you’d do better – YOU DO, YOU ARE AND YOU WILL!
This is when I learned to celebrate both the little and big accomplishments. Some people say that their reward is when they meet their ultimate goal. I say the heck with that because it all counts! You know why? Because I didn’t give up!
It is happening right now my friends. Please don’t ever give up.
P.S. This photo has become one of my favorites. It was taken during the CrossFit Open 12.4 workout by Aludra Photography. I remember that workout well and was so glad that there were only 4 or 5 people in the gym when I did it. It had the dreaded double unders in it but I wasn’t worried about those. I knew my goal was to get through 150 wallballs. I didn’t do it but I came close. I got 148 reps with 12 misses (no reps).