Archive | July, 2013

“Our Elders”… aka Masters Athletes

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Mary Beth Litsheim, one of the most bubbly women I’ll ever meet. Perfect personality to teach CrossFit kids, mixed with the determination of a champion.

Even twenty-somethings like me feel out of place when we walk into a family
gathering or public event or grocery store even with our crazy workout attires, eating habits, long socks, and huge quads. I can’t imagine how people in their 40’s  50’s and 60’s can explain to their close friends their new-found love for fitness that extends all the way into making it an entire lifestyle. Simply put, most of the time if seen from the neck down you couldn’t guess the age of the muscley owner, it’s not until you look at the white hair or facial features that you realize they’re a absolutely a ‘life-experienced’ product of CrossFit.

Year after year I have been just as excited to watch the CrossFit Games Athletes as I have been to watch the Individuals. To see the different age groups and fans and families that are wildly supporting their box “elders” that wait after qualifying through the Open to kick other people’s old butts at the CrossFit Games is truly special! It is a rare experience that you must see if you get the chance; your definition of courage will be redefined. We’re  not even just talking about Games athletes though, let’s give it up for that member at your box that is working their tale off that mastered the rebound in the jumping pullup and PRd their push press at 55 lbs! Every single person that works out and conditions their heart and lungs (in CrossFit standards over 45, next year soon to be over 40), is an athlete, and we have so many astounding ones at that. Personal triumphs in CrossFit are all equally important, doesn’t matter what level,
modification, or workout, they’re all victories.

Louise Green, in her 60's and competes in CrossFit regularly

Louise Green, in her 60’s and regularly learns new skills and competes in CrossFit

Here in Southern California there’s a local gym owned by Bill Grundler, a 44 year old man still competing by choice in Individuals with the twenty-somethings getting 12th at Regionals this year, 5th in 2012, and 6th in 2011.  If that doesn’t speak volumes, lets put it into baseball card stats and also mention he has a 2:14 Fran and 285 lb Clean & Jerk, and well-known in the CrossFit community as the man that seems immune to aging.

When I first started CrossFit three years ago, I tried to get my college Track & Field teammates to join with me. I couldn’t convince anyone and was anxious to start, and when I got there, my friend’s mother was in the Intro class with me. Just like many intro-class friendships, we became accountability partners, and pretty soon I found myself spending most my time meeting up for class with my 50 year old friend that I instantly became competitive with. I found out she had a past of being a body builder when she had been cheering at a  Track meet years before, clapping away and I used to stare at her jacked shoulders and arms. I was like….”Steph…. what the heck is up with your mom…..?”  I competed locally in Grand Junction, Colorado until I moved to California saying goodbye to her and our tight knit group of friends, moving to chase my dreams. By this time, 936262_532073790161129_136030207_nMary Beth Litsheim had already out-Dead-Lifted me at 305 lbs, could out-muscle-up me stringing multiple together, and was practicing free-standing strict HSPU as she smiled at me and tried to help me do them with 2 ab-mats. Long story short, when I made it to the 2011 Games with a team shortly after I moved, she qualified too. She went on to get 1st place in the entire world (50-55) and as she was given her gold medal I was grinning ear to ear with tears in my eyes knowing I watched her earn that spot on the podium from the very beginning.

I would say I can’t imagine what it would be like to pursue fitness for so long after all the dynamics of life and children and gran- babies and
aches and pains wear through and still, at the end of the day, not being
satisfied until that last rep happens… the coveted PR… the approving
nod of your coach after you take a cue and ‘fix it.’  But of course not only
can I imagine it, I can’t picture my life going any other way. I can only
hope that I continue to grow with the sport and have many decades of
competing left in me, and even when I get married and have children
and a gym of my own I never grow out of it.   I take care of my body so
that I hopefully have a chance to always take part in the competition I
love, the glue that keeps everything of  importance together.

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“I pray to be like the ocean, with soft currents, maybe waves at times. More and more, I want the consistency rather than the highs and the lows.”
-Drew Barrymore

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Reality TV & Filming ‘Biggest Loser’

Moving to Hollywood, California to teach CrossFit, I was naive to how many opportunities I’d have in the industry once I got settled in. It seems when most people move here and are auditioning and taking classes and trying like crazy and they’re not getting any bites. However when you do the opposite, (ie.close yourself off in small confined gyms, don’t try to network but deal with clients and teaching, and say no to most photo shoots and interviews because you’re ‘shy’)… opportunities arise.

In 2011 I was trying to raise money to open a gym and got on Fear Factor with a partner, just shy of winning $100k. We actually got picked up for the audition at 2011 Regionals, and filmed right after our team placed 5th in the world at the Games that year.

In that same year I ended up doing a friend a favor and being on ‘Shark Tank’ with him as a model for his invention of underwear /shorts with clips for your shirt so a dress shirt could stay tucked. When I was on the show I dropped a pencil and had to pick it up and one of the millionaires on the show said, “Now she has seen a squat rack before. Where did you find this girl..??”

In the beginning of 2012 I had the flu and got up to teach the 6:30 am CrossFit class in West Hollywood and with no makeup on and an awkward side ponytail.  The show ‘House Hunters’  full camera crew unloaded and apparently two of our members were on the show and they were filming their day to day activities which included coming to our class. So I coughed into microphones while I taught a ball slam- thruster workout while thinking… ‘I didn’t sign up for this….. ‘

Finally, I’ve formed a great relationship with Bob Harper since his first few days starting CrossFit. I was one of his coaches for about a year before I left the gym he trains at, and got to see all of his firsts. I remember the days when he was so shocked he didn’t “Rx the chest to bar workouts” because he was “right there!” and I had to remind him that ‘right there doesn’t mean he touched his chest.’ (love you Bob! had to put that in there!)

Now I see all the progress he’s been making as an athlete working his strength, gymnastics, and endurance constantly. He is a perfect application of what the LOVE of CrossFit can do and how many lives you can touch by showing passion for fitness. As he’s taught CrossFit on The Biggest Loser I’ve enjoyed watching him grow as a trainer and teach his contestants how to box jump and do wall balls and thrusters and even long hellish workouts that some of athletes in our sport would not want to partake in!

This season there is going to be a special surprise contestant… someone that we really look up to in our community. America’s favorite trainer-motivator-painbringer,’Trainer Bob’, invited me and a group of friends to the Biggest Loser ranch to film an episode. I have never been there, and can’t wait to see what it’s like. We will be honoring this surprise contestant on the show by maxing out our snatches. Friends and fans have probably noticed I’ve been posting a lot about snatching recently. I actually just counted in my training log and have snatched 14 out of the last 16 days of training. I hit an all-time PR of 68kg/150lb Snatch on Sunday…. practice makes perf…. PRs. This contestant has already had amazing accomplishments in sport. I am so excited to meet and get the chance to train this athlete. It will really be an experience that I never forget. As you may have seen before on the show, Bob does a lot of CrossFit workouts. We’re coming on to show the contestants that strength can come in all different sizes.

The new season of The Biggest Loser premiers on October 8th. Tune in!

Have to be a “little crazy….” to CrossFit

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CrossFit provides a version of craziness that takes a specific kind of person. This kind of training is not for the rationalized, reality-driven, think inside the box kind of athlete. The gyms are filled with A-type people that are willing to risk, willing to lose, willing to win… willing to fight, but most of all, we have to be … a little… out of our minds.

On the way back the downhill seemed just as hard! Switching off every 80-100 reps we tried staying consistent.

On the way there it was uphill, thank God we did that one first!


It’s like when people go to Vegas and at first they agree to have a drink, then since they had that drink then they have 4, then since they’re already there they’ll dance. Then they meet someone and take fifty pictures. Once they’re already at this point, they’ll bar hop until 7am spending G’s with a bunch of strangers until they wake up with a tiger in the bathroom… (borrowed example) it all makes sense until… they look back and go…, ‘have I lost it…? How did I get here!

CrossFit is exactly like that! It starts with simple body weight movements  and then balancing some light barbells and learning gymnastics into finally adding intensity and getting the rush of satisfaction that comes post-wod. Once you get a taste, you’re already there, so you keep pushing the limits a little bit further day by day until you’re like…’ Ok, what is too far?’ Where do we go from here… where are my limits again?

This is exactly what happened to me and a group of friends. I had just gotten back from my trip and was so happy to not be living out of a suitcase. I might even go as far to say I missed the city, I missed the people, the cars, I missed the chaos of Los Angeles. We trained throughout the morning, and after feeling beat and run-down our plan was to go to the beach. We talked about rides and beach plans until all the sudden; it immediately turned into a challenge and a battle to drag the prowlers across the biggest bridge in Downtown LA. We were already so far into this plan… and had already made teams, and were already challenging eachother who could win and how they’d have to modify the weights for me and for whoever was going to be my partner….. before I knew it we had packed the prowlers and weights and were  scoping out bridges to see which was the longest… and after measuring turned out to be 6th Street Bridge.

On the way there it was uphill. Thank God we did that one first!

On the way back the downhill seemed just as hard! Switching off every 80-100 steps we tried staying consistent.

We were already this far from our original trip of heading to the beach and relaxing, so what else? How much crazier could we get? It seemed this was the normal dare and we went on as if  it were a typical, accepted-by-society workout. Zacq and David were going to be partners and switching off pulling the sled while they each pulled 185 lbs and had to put on and take off 50 lbs and carry it if they weren’t the ones pulling. This was all because of me and Ronnie being partners and since I had ‘girl weight’ he carried my 50 lb difference while I did 135. We were on the left, they were on the right. All the way across the curving bridge that covered a river and multiple highways was .6 miles, so making it there and back was 1.2 miles working straight up a hill.

Looking back I have no regrets. Well, almost; maybe we would have brought water if we knew it was going to take both teams over an hour!! We went through some hilarious moments like when a car passed us and literally stopped in the middle of the street to park and video tape while we were trudging along, dialing in on that little bit of crazy they saw as they got closer. A film crew tried to stop us at one point because they were closing the bridge for a high speed car chase scene (only in LA..) and asked what our ETA was. As if we knew! We were busy playing mind games and seeing mirages in the hot sun and mentally pretending we were drinking the whole river that was floating hundreds of feet below us, and they wanted to know if we could hurry up! Another person stopped us after to ask how long it took us. “An hour and 5 minutes… and for them an hour and 20 minutes…” when in exchange he reminded us that “it would have taken you a lot less if you hadn’t been carrying all that s**t!” …. duh Sir.

To sum it up: The normal group of friends would have just gone to the beach. The normal, slightly more sane group might not have spent all morning training, and certainly wouldn’t have thought up and accepted this challenge as the only option. I’m glad that I’m in this deep even though it’s hard to understand and explain!

Dreamers… double-doggy-darers… risk takers… ya I’ll stay on this side.

 

Teaching in Paradise

Traveling to guest coach at different gyms is exciting because I never know what to expect! Starting this year I’ve had a surprising amount of gyms contact me to travel to them to teach a workshop. It honestly was nothing I pictured myself ever having the opportunity to do, but it’s opened my eyes to possibilities! It helps prepare me for being an HQ Trainer because I need that experience of working hands on with athletes I’ve never seen move before. Lots of head coaches either coach a lot or have another job, or own a gym that isn’t easy to get away from. Even though I have a lot of clients and teach classes and train, I figure I might as well take advantage of this time when I don’t have the major responsibilities of owning a gym or taking care of a family with a husband…. yet. Looking forward to that time when it come, but right now I’m taking advantage of my freedom!

I recently had a great opportunity to visit a box in Maui when my friend Andrew from high school contacted me about a dedicated gym on Maui that was taken over by a local Christian couple after the owner passed away. When Kehau and Frank, both competitors on the island, went on about the details of the box and came up with fun ideas to coach for the 4th of July weekend, I was sold! We booked it, and throughout the summer I’ve been looking forward to teach “AgerBomb & Fireworks,” a workshop on one day, and ‘hanging loose’ and training for the remainder of the mini vacation days!

The gym, CrossFit Upcountry Maui is on a rural working pineapple farm and has a ‘barn feel’ to it. There are tractors and buses around that transport the workers, and for the most part it’s on peaceful quiet rolling hills that remind the members that class is not a fancy fitness routine, it’s time to get down and dirty! When I showed up decked out in red white and blue for the holiday, I scanned the room as they sized me up. There was a young, tan crowd of about 50 athletes circling the gym, anxious to hear what the surprise workout was. After a fun ice-breaker warmup we led everyone through power snatch and full snatch drills. Working on technique with just the pvc pipe and barbell, and then finally working up to a heavy 1 rep while keeping all the focus on the fundamentals from earlier. I was surprised how people weren’t just ‘doing what they always do,’ instead they were really dialing in on getting comfortable specifically making contact with their hips to get under the bar with speed. We practiced progressions for Hand Stand Pushups, Muscle ups, then they did “Running Nate,” as a 20 minute Amrap adding a 200m run. The time flew by and next thing I knew we were  taking pictures and playing around and talking about diet, competition experience, and power lifts. The next day we took part in CrossFit for HOPE with CrossFit Lahaina and spent the day with them at the beach on paddle boards at sunset.

While visitng Maui, I learned about the “Road to Hana” a 69 mile drive with 59 bridges and 620 turns; just a little backround if you can imagine this was a long and winding drive through a thick jungle! Kehau took off work and acted as tour-guide for me, Ronnie and Andrew. Keeping the ocean on our left, we climbed up and down in elevation with tropical rainbow flowers and big sweeping branches and misty waterfalls. While taking pictures on the way, we stopped at five different typical tourist spots, and local secret spots you had to pretty much be a local to know about. Stopping at the side of the road with no turn off and walk through fences and fields and climb around bends and all the sudden be at a huge cliff. The only way to swim in the huge pond connected to the ocean was jumping, and we jumped! We dared each other on tricky jumps and hiked to new spots and swam. Stopping at fruit stands to get exotic fruits on the way kept us fueled for more hiking and adventure like finding sea slugs at Red Sand beaches, climbing windy staircases, and jumping off waterfalls at the Sacred Sevens.

I was shocked at how many different types of beaches and climates there were on one island. One second it would be thick dark green mush, the next a savannah terrain, the next a white sandy beach. Scaling a cliff by only holding onto a rope we lowered ourselves into tide pools with rocks looking like lava tubes that would scrape your skin off if given the chance! We ended the long day by meeting an entertaining semi-nuts farmer and feeding a gigantic Boar in a wooden frame at a road-side burger joint.

The gym members were about to start a 30-day Paleo challenge so one night they treated us to a pre-paleo celebration. It was complete with dancing shenanigans and crazy stories…. teaching us how to dance to Hawaiian reggae music. I tried to learn the dance moves, but I quickly gave up. Being the sober one learning to dance is always embarrassing! A big dark local with long black crazy hair started asking me if I had ever heard Pidgin and ended in me getting full rundowns and history of Hawaiian culture. Frank and everyone were jumping in with examples of the language. Pidgin began by the boiling pot of Hawaiian, Asian, Samoan, and Japanese languages and them needing one they could teach in school together that each could understand. It went all the way to describing the attitude of ‘Haoles,’ and the history and traditions of the islanders and how it set them apart from people that were new from the mainland. They taught me Pidgin slang like ‘have too much’ is ‘choked’.  ‘Grab me …dakine’ that word could mean anything they’re gesturing for and need. When someone says ‘see ya later,’ the word, ‘Shootz’ can basically mean bye, see ya later, good job. I even got the run down on the cool relaxed local way to do the shaka, which is barely even closing the fingers to the palm, (opposite of me who would stick my finger and thumb way out and close my fist like a sure tourist!).

There are many different ways to show love, one of the ways is spending time. Giving up their priorities or laundry list of things to do to dedicate time with us spoke volumes. It showed me two things about the Hawaiian ‘Aloha’ way. They show unending friendliness and hospitality and are truly genuine, and they care about the quality of life and how much you can enjoy it. Personally, living in Los Angeles I had a big take-away on the memories we share… versus the hours of hard work we put in. When I look back on my life I’m not going to be like… ‘I wish I had spent more time on my computer’!

A well-known young Pro Surfer named Isaac Stant is a member at their box, and one of their good friends. We couldn’t hear his name without someone mentioning how he surfs “Jaws”, one of the world’s best known waves breaking at the deep reef off the shore by Hana, rumored to get up to 120 feet and 30 miles an hour. On my last day a group trained early, and Isaac made a video to show how CrossFit workouts have made him fitter than ever, and prepared him to “rip the gnarliest waves brah!” Working with him that morning and trying to decide the workouts and what weights would be best, we put together a bunch of little sprints that would show a good variety of skills and heavy weight. After a few hours of constant training and coaching we were ready for a break! But we still had the other half of the deal…..

The core group from the gym all met at Lahaina beach to surf. I had little experience and had stood up before, once, in Canada about five years ago but remember having no balance, falling constantly, and having my brain rattled with salt water. I was more than nervous to try it again… but when we got to the beach the waves looked pretty doable so we all set out to ride. Of course, this was only after many pep talks and I actually did practice pop-ups on a towel, which I decided reminded me of a burpee mixed with a split-jerk… I could do that. Isaac basically babysat me most of the day and even would spin my board in the right direction and give me a push as I started to paddle out. I never had to ask , and they were all constantly at my side watching and yelling, “Wooh Yaa Andrea!” everytime I stood up and was able to ride to shore. Not because riding a calm 3 foot wave with a huge foamy long board is impressive, but because we’re all CrossFitters, and it’s naturally embedded in us to be linked together. Greg Glassman says we should, “Regularly play and learn new sports,” but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy! Supporting each other when we are vulnerable is a part of understanding our community, and we can’t get away from it even if we tried!

In the water surfing in, I was hit by the fact I would have no connection to these people if it weren’t for the sport I’m involved in. If teaching had not given me a “trade” I could offer, then the opportunity would have simply gone to another coach. There would be no reason for this tight knit group to have included my tourist butt in their fun and let me live their lives for a few days.  After insisting I sleep in one of their beds, while they took the couch, and having a car I could use if I needed it, this was out of the ordinary; I could see the ‘family away from family’ that is CrossFit. It’s not just from our own gyms, we can be linked to anyone in any box purely because we can relate to eachother by living by the clock, and training for the unknown. Kehau showed me what ‘Aloha’ meant by saying after I got on my plane that she felt like one of her friends moved away….. If we can slow down and apply that closeness and connection to our everyday lives, our impact will be unforgettable.

CrossFit for Hope

2012 Washingon DC Hope Event

2012 Washingon DC Hope Event

Box Jump

Box Jump

CrossFit athletes with Kate Foster

CF athletes with Kate Foster

Weight belt by Unbroken Designs and my signed tank top I wore at 2013 Regionals

Weight belt by Unbroken Designs and my signed tank top I wore at 2013 Regionals

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Today is CrossFit for Hope!! A fundraiser that started last year in 2012 to raise funds and awareness for children’s illnesses. Last year at this fundraiser I went to the event in Washington DC that involved plenty of well-respected CrossFit athletes like Neil Maddox, Julie Foucher, Christmas Abbott, and Ben Smith, Christy Smith, donating their time for the cause.  We met Kate Forster, a young gifted athlete that represents the Hope organization as a 14 year old paraplegic CrossFitter.
Please DONATE what you can, and if you’ve been putting it off: NOW’s THE TIME!

Hope.CrossFit.Com:

“CrossFit, Inc. is driving hard to find cures for catastrophic childrens’ illnesses. Through the efforts of our affiliates and our athletes,the CrossFit community can be a game-changer in the fight against children’s cancer and other illnesses. Our ability to make change is infinite. Action is our responsibility.

Every cent that we raise will be used to fight catastrophic children’s illnesses. CrossFit, Inc. covers all administrative and clerical costs in this battle, which leverages your donation to its maximal effect. In this way, we’re more efficient, and we can deliver aid with high intensity and no waste. We can behave like CrossFit athletes even in our generosity.

This is ‘us,’ a movement comprised of the caring and capable, and not a faceless foundation. This is CrossFit, and this is OUR fight.

Through collaborative competition, CrossFit athletes will raise money in our Hope for Cures workout. Fundraisers will be tracked on our worldwide leaderboard; our work will be tracked in the extra days survived by sick kids. Objective, measurable, and motivating.”
LIKING or SHARING this post will not help raise money directly for these children.
DONATING what you CAN.. WILL!!

Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit
http://hope.crossfit.com/cures/video/hope-cures-lesson-be-learned

Family Event
http://hope.crossfit.com/cures/video/hope-cures-family-event

NorCal CrossFit and other athletes auction autographed Games items
http://hope.crossfit.com/cures/video/norcal-crossfit-hosts-auction-cures