Fitness

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

“I not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. I’m really good at suffering.”

Amelia Boone (The Michael Jordan of OCR).

Way before I began serious training, I had to work on my mental toughness. I read many books, listened to podcasts and talked to a lot of people who have accomplished incredible events including two of my closest friends who have completed the Death Race.

I had so many doubts about my ability to take on the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy. I have never considered myself the type of person who could take on such an event. So why the hell did I sign up?

My sister and I were visiting my parents who live in Fayetteville. I grew up at Ft. Bragg. I was trying to convince my sister to register for a Tough that was taking place where we both live now, in Tallahassee, FL. She was on the computer looking at events and then said there is one at Ft. Bragg and that we should sign up and stay with my parents. We were both so excited about the opportunity to do an event on the hallowed grounds that my dad trained on for so many years. We registered AND THEN read about what the event entailed. I was terrified and immediately began my typical doubts in my ability and my mental strength.

This was in June and I figured I had plenty of time to train. At this time I had done a GORUCK Tough and a Light. My second Tough was the following month.

The first Tough I did several years earlier, I hated. I was in way over my head and wanted to quit many times. I even thought about falling off a curb and breaking my own ankle to get out of it. Yes, I was that miserable. Seven of us finished and I was one of them. I came home and threw my patch in a drawer and swore I would never do one again.

The following year a bunch of my friends and clients (I am a personal trainer and own my own gym) signed up for a Light so I got suckered into doing it. It was a great event and soon I forgot how traumatized I was about the Tough I had done.

I signed up for the Tallahassee Tough against my better judgment, but again, my friends and a few of my clients were doing it. I succumbed to  peer pressure.

I never work on conditioning and I hate cardio. I had spent the last couple of years training and competing in powerlifting. Anything over five reps was enough cardio for me.

I finished the Tough along with our whole group and not once did I think about breaking my own ankle. Although it was very challenging, I was hooked.

With 7 months until the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy, I figured I had plenty of time to train.

I downloaded a few different programs online and began to focus on becoming an endurance and cardio girl.

I soon found out I was not good at rucking longer distances. One of the first things required for a Heavy was a 12 mile ruck in under 3 ½ hours. My sister, an endurance athlete had no trouble. I on the other hand was dying. I was slow and had all kinds of pain in my feet. My mind began to work against me. I’ve never had much self-confidence and training for and failing the simple task of fast rucking only made things worse.

From the very start, I was thinking about how I could back out.

After screwing around for a couple of months and not getting any better, I hired a coach, Flo Zurkinden who had done many endurance events including the JWBH and several Death Races.

The first few workouts sucked. I was taking a lot of breaks and left gasping for air. The doubt really set in. I made sure that everyone who knew I was signed up, knew I wasn’t sure I had the mental strength to finish. My doubts, my lack of confidence and my fears permeated every part of my life. I became a loser before I even started.

My workouts included running and I hate running. Many times I be out on the trail and as soon as I started getting out of breath and uncomfortable, I quit.

It took a couple of months before I started getting some endurance. I still couldn’t ruck fast even when I added spurts of running. The thing that scared me the most was being last and left behind.

I finally started working on my mindset. I even met with a sports psychologist, things were that bad. We came up with several techniques, the first being to quit telling every one that I lacked mental toughness.

I started training my mind. One of the best things I did, although weird was to read and copy Mark Klemm’s (number 35 in selection) quotes. I had one quote put on a bracelet that I never took off. I had the quote as my screen saver and had a copy in my car. I had my friends and family write personal letters which I laminated and kept in my pack. The other important thing that one of my friends wrote for me was to focus on the task at hand and don’t give any thought to what might be next. That became my mantra.

I covered my weight plate with a picture of my dad receiving his Silver Star after a heroic event he performed in Vietnam. My dad, who served 35 years and is a retired SGM was my inspiration. He spent so much time training at Camp Mackall and I wanted to be there.

Finally everything came together. I was at a place that I was confident in my physical abilities and I began to believe that I could finish. I would finish no matter what.

My sister and I arrived in Fayetteville on the Wednesday before the event. My mom was sick and my sister decided to spend the time with her and not to do the Heavy with me.

My dad is currently in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. We spent the afternoons and evenings visiting with him. Most of the time he doesn’t quite know who I am. Sometimes with coaching, he knows I’m his daughter but doesn’t remember my name.

I don’t want to get into this too much but it’s hard to see my dad, my hero, so vulnerable. I never know what to say to him because he can’t communicate very well anymore. I wanted to tell him what I was about to do but wasn’t sure he would understand.

The afternoon before the event, I asked him if he remembered, Camp Mackall. His face lit up and he said, yes. I told him I was about to do training there. I don’t think he understood that. I wanted so bad to talk to him, ask him questions and share this experience with him but I couldn’t.

I went to War Stories that night. It was great to meet so many people that I only knew from Facebook. I was thrilled to meet, Mark Klemm ie, number 35 from GORUCK’S hardest event, Selection. I wore my, “I finished the day I signed up” shirt. It was a statement he made during Selection that stuck with me. Of course, I got a picture taken with him.

I also took a huge risk by trying to bribe Cadre Dan with a handful of Dons, the official money of Pineland. I figured he’d either think it was funny or he’d make me regret it the next day. Thank God, he thought it was funny.

Bribery

Friday was a blur. I packed and unpacked my ruck several times. I started to panic. I was worried about bringing the right clothes, the right food and the right gear. My sister helped me weed out the contents of my ruck so it wouldn’t end up weighing 100 pounds.

We had one last visit with my dad before we headed to Southern Pines. I met up with a couple of ladies I knew from FB and had met the night before at War Stories. We made plans to stick together.

At 5:00, everyone was ordered to get in line. It was go time.

Stay tuned for Part Two, Joe Warner Bragg Heavy AAR (after action report)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Set Backs and Come Backs

July 26th 2015, I competed in my second powerlifting meet. I was the leanest I had been in years. I was strong and I was physically prepared. My numbers weren’t the best. In fact, the weights I was lifting the weeks prior to the meet were much higher. I let myself feel disappointed, but not for long. I knew that that was the last meet I would do. It was a goal and it required a lot of time and hard work, but I was ready to move on.

I actually didn’t want to compete because of the very specific training I had to do which interfered with other goals I wanted to accomplish. I mainly did it because my youngest son, Nigel was competing in his first meet and I wanted to do it together. It was a great bonding experience.

The week I got back, I had much needed surgery on my thumb. I had put it off for a year while I was training and endured a lot of pain. My cartilage was gone and my bones were wearing down from chronic arthritis.

The procedure is Carpel Metacarpal Arthroplasty. They shave down the bones or remove the more deteriorated bone and use the forearm tendon to replace the cartilage. It was pretty invasive surgery. Full recovery can take up to a year. Of course, I knew or rather thought that would not apply to me.

I devised a workout program that I could do to work around my hand. I was quite proud of myself. I busted my ass in the gym despite my disability. Little did I realize that even though I avoided using my hand, that my workouts were stalling my recovery. When the pain didn’t subside and sometimes got worse, my doctor explained that I was still contracting the joint. It was time to take off and focus on recovery.

My lack of consistent exercise soon turned into eating junk and weight gain. It was depressing to see the scale and my body fat go up, yet it didn’t stop me. I ate junk, felt bad and so I ate more junk.

In October of that year, I was slowly working out again but with modifications and then I broke my foot. I spent the next six weeks in a cast. Almost immediately after getting my cast off, I had to have kidney surgery to remove a huge stone and with that came a stint and more time off. Shortly after that, I hurt my back because I rushed back into working out instead of focusing on regaining quality movement and mobility.

Basically, I was injured or recovering from injuries from July through December. Physically, mentally and emotionally, it was one of the lowest points of my life. I ended up completely out of shape and weighing the most I’ve ever weighed in my life.

I was ashamed of my body and felt like a failure as a fitness instructor. Who is going to listen to me when I can’t even get my own crap together?

Last month, after starting and failing more times than I can count, I decided I needed help. Left to my own devices, I will sit on the couch and drown my sorrows in Oreos while watching a Cops marathon. I finally decide to get help. I hired a team of professionals to help me not only with the physical aspects of my life but with the emotional part, which for me is a huge piece of the puzzle.

I got myself a trainer, Beth Andrews,who is helping me reach my next performance goals. I hired a dietitian, Jon Allen to help me relearn to eat healthy and lose this excess fat and I hired a health coach , Carol Donahoe to help me get back on track in all areas of my life.

Having accountability to each of these people is what drives me to succeed. I just started recently and can already see changes in my life. After almost 10 months of being lost, out of control and depressed, I now have a plan of action and a purpose. Although progress is slow since I am just starting with getting my strength back and my eating under control, I feel hope and I feel empowered.

Maybe the last ten months have been a blessing. I now know that if I want to succeed and be the best I can be, I need help. It was a hard lesson to learn but that’s ok because I made the decision to change and I’ve surrounded myself with the right people to help me.

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You Can Start Your New Year Anytime

It’s January 31st and by now many people have already reverted back to old habits and behaviors and their New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Does this sound like you?

January 1st is just another day. There is nothing magical about this day but somehow it’s become the day when it seems everyone is making resolutions to lose weight, join a gym, quit smoking and make other abrupt changes in their lives. The problem with this is that many people set these goals without a clear plan of action of steps to take and plans for backsliding.

Starting out on new goals and behaviors is exciting but what do you do when that initial motivation begins to wane? What actions and plans do you have in place when getting to the gym or doing exercise becomes a chore? What about plans for backsliding? This is when many people give up. Then the target day to change becomes Mondays, or the beginning of the month or God forbid, on the first day of the following new year.

The good news is that you can start over anytime. You can start your day over anytime. The point is, never give up. Accept that you may have blown your resolve. Get over it fast and pick yourself back up. Changing is not easy. It may take many attempts and many failures but do not give up.

Get a notebook and write down very specific goals. Put a deadline to each goal. Most importantly, write specific things you will do each day to reach your goals AND write some action steps to take when you feel yourself falling by the wayside.

Believe me, I have to pick myself back up many times. I have never claimed, nor will I ever claim to be one of those fitness professionals that always eats clean, works out every day and never struggles with body image. I’ve had a life time of bad habits, low self-esteem and disordered eating and it’s not going to change over night. I just refuse to give up. I certainly get down on myself, but I always manage to get right back on track.

Part of my success in not throwing in the towel and giving up completely is writing. I keep a journal. I write down goals, both personal and professional. I set deadlines. I write action steps and I get help if needed from people who have more experience in areas than I do. I work with a trainer and a business coach. I surround myself with people who are goal oriented, successful and like-minded. When I get off track, lose focus or begin to doubt, they are there to set me straight and get me on task.

If you feel lost or have given up, do yourself a favor and find mentors. Find people who emulate the kind of life you want to live and who are the kind of people you want to be like. Start keeping a journal. Set goals. Expect there to be ups and downs but have a plan in place to deal with them so you can get back on track fast.

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Oh How I Love My Data

I am a data freak! I admit, I am one of those obnoxious runners that take five minutes to set my heart rate monitor,  MapMyRun app, my Round Timer and the perfect playlist. Thankfully, my running partners do the same. I love the data. I want to see my heart rate, how many calories I burn, how far I ran and how fast (slow) I went. The same goes for my weight lifting and gym workouts.

Although I haven’t done a bodybuilding competition in almost 20 years; I still have my workout and food journals. I knew every workout, weights lifted, sets done, how I felt and every morsel of food that went in my mouth. Yes, I was obsessive, but I had to be. I had to know where I was in order to get where I was going.

Setting goals, which I am adamant about and which I blog frequently about are one of the most important things you can do on your fitness journey. Once a goal is set, there needs to be a specific plan. It’s like taking a road trip. You have a destination (your goal) and your plug that into your GPS and follow directions. Next thing you know, you’ve arrived at your destination.

The best way to follow the map to reach your goal is by collecting and keeping data. Obviously, you don’t have to be as obsessive as I am, but you do need to figure out a way to track your progress that works for you.

The easiest way I find is with a good old-fashion training log. My personal favorite is the Convict Conditioning Training Log which you can see below.

My Favorite Training Log

 

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Super Fun Workout

I’ve recently let the guys from Tallahassee Strongman use my gym for their training. I decided to join them when I could between my other workouts.

These workouts are tough but so much fun. I leave feeling empowered and proud that this almost 51 year old grandmother can accomplish amazing feats of strength. I know that many women and men my age feel that it’s time to slow down. They are afraid that hard challenging workouts are not in their cards anymore. I’m here to tell you that it’s not true.

With proper progression and a solid program that includes joint mobility and movement prep along with recovery, almost anything is possible.

I am constantly inspired by people my age and older who do not let the aging process slow them down. I am in awe of those people doing Ironman, marathons, powerlifting and other seemingly impossible workouts.

They motivate me to continue to get stronger and more fit. My golden years are going to be my best ever!

Here is a video of Sunday’s workout with the guys. I pulled and SUV and did a 115 pound atlas stone lift. Now that was fun!

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New Adventures in Training

Recently I met with Strongman competitor, Dave Covan of Tallahassee Strongman. He was looking for a new gym to bring his crew for training. The typical gym does not think kindly of heavy deadlifts, chalk, Atlas Stones, kegs etc.

One of my goals for last year was to compete in a strongman competition. As I invited his crew to use my gym, I realize, I no longer had an excuse. At my disposal was a competent, experienced trainer, strongman equipment and a group of guys training with the same goal in mind.

I joined them on Sunday for my first strongman/woman workout. I invited my friend, Madeline who like me, enjoys doing weird, challenging workouts.

I already do online training with Brett Jones of Applied Strength, he gave me permission to add a “fun” day of Strongman training. So during the week, I work on my movement skills and do specific training to reach my other goal of doing the RKC Iron Maiden in 2013.

I love turning my training over to experienced coaches and trainers. Left to my own devices, I would probably never reach my goals and worse, I would probably end up hurting myself.

So on Sunday, I had my first taste of strongman skill training and I loved it. While the guys were doing massive farmer’s walks, Madeline and I loaded up other bars with enough weight to equal 85 pounds per hand for our carries. It was tough, but we did it. I am thankful that my nail bending and grip ball pullups have made my grip strong.

We also did our first yoke walks. This was seriously intimidating. We did our first set with no weight. The yoke weighed 135 pounds. After getting comfortable with walking with a huge contraption on our back, we added weight equalling 175 pounds. It was tough but still doable. I stopped myself from going any heavier. If I learned one thing over the last year, it’s that my injuries always occur from going too heavy too fast. I have learned to train smarter, not harder.

So, here is a quick glimpse of my first day of training.

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Super Strong Nana

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to blog more often. As you can see it’s already two week’s into 2013 and I’m just now writing my first blog of the year. Ok, so it hasn’t exactly been a priority lately. I’m responsible for another blog for The Tallahassee Democrat and that one has deadlines. Hmmm, maybe I need to make deadlines for myself.

As a person who procrastinates and is easily distracted, deadlines are important. One of the things that I do as a fitness instructor is to encourage my clients to set deadlines. Whether your goal is performance based, fat loss based, work based or any other important thing you want to accomplish, you must set a deadline if you want to succeed.

Setting a goal without a deadline is certainly a setup for failure especially if you are a procrastinator like me.

I am a very creative person. I am always coming up with really cool ideas for my business. I start the process of making things happen and then I set it aside convincing myself that I will get back to it. I never do. I then lie to myself to justify my procrastination. I convince myself that it was a dumb idea, nothing will ever come of it and that completing the goal is not worth the work that must be put into it. I do that with fitness and performance goals as well as personal and work goals.

So now that I know what the problem is, how do I change it? Deadlines.

If you aren’t already using a calendar or a planner, then it’s time to get one. Just a little FYI, I have also perfected procrastinating on this. I search and shop for the perfect planner and pen. Writing goals and deadlines on a plain pad of paper or a boring planner…Never!

Now it’s time to make things happen. Set a realistic deadline. Put it in your planner. I like to count days or weeks back and jot them down so I know that I have so much time before D-day (deadline day). It creates a sense of urgency.

You nor I are going to magically have our goals accomplished on D-day. We must have a plan of action. My performance goals require that I work out several times a week and that my workouts are specific to my goal. Those get scheduled in my planner…Ok, there are not in there right now but they will be as soon as I’m done with this blog.

I set deadlines for the small goals I want to accomplish to reach the bigger goal. One of performance goals for 2013 (and it will probably be the end of 2013) is to complete the RKC’s Iron Maiden Challenge of pressing, doing a pull up and a pistol squat with a 53 pound Kettlebell. In order to accomplish this, I have to set goals along the way. Right now I have an 8 week goal of a weighted pull up with a 10 pound bell and an easy consistant press with the 40 pound Kettlebell and a solid pistol squat.

My business and personal goal is to write a book. It’s been a goal since early last year. It’s been months since I did any work on it. So now I will set a deadline of December 31st 2013. That book is not going to write itself and of course I can’t start on December 30th. So I set aside a couple hours once a week to write and it goes in my planner..again, it’s not in there yet, but will be when I finish this blog. I told you that I am a big procrastinator.

I would love to hear about your goals and especially the steps you are taking to reach them. Post them in the comments section.

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Super Strong Nana is Bending Steel and Taking Names

This has been a super strong week for me, full of PRs (personal records) and surprise feats of strength. I also learned an important lesson about negative thinking and confidence. Both more important than PRs.

I have a lot of strong, super-fit friends that I follow on Facebook. At least once a day, I see pictures, videos or status updates on their workouts, incredible feats of strength, weight loss or another amazing accomplishment. My first thoughts are how awesome they are, my second thoughts however become self defeating.

I begin to tell myself that I can’t do that, I’m not strong enough, not good enough and just not enough. I’ve spent my entire life comparing myself to others instead of being the very best me I can be. What I am learning; slowly but surely is that my attitude about myself pretty much dictates whether I fail at a given task or not. It dictates whether I attempt something or not and it keeps me from following through on my dreams and ideas.

Last week I had the honor of having super strongman, Bud Jeffries stay with me and my family while he was passing through town. The biggest perk was spending two days at my gym training with him. Bud obviously sees something in me that I don’t see in myself and he encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. We spent a couple hours on Deadlifting. He dialed in my form and then started loading on the weight. With each increase, I kept telling him I can’t do that. He just smiled and told me to try. To my surprise, I lifted some weight that I thought would take months of training to lift. I also did partial Deadlifts with just over 300 pounds!

The next day was nail bending. Again, we worked on my form. He pointed out that I need to work on my wrist strength (which I knew). I bent a few 3/16 nails which are pretty easy for me. Then he brought in some 1/4 inch nails and a couple of 3/8th inch pieces of steel. Again, I thought he obviously had me confused with someone else.

I worked and worked on bending the 1/4 inch nail but my weak wrists prevented me from getting it. Bud put a very small bend in it and once it was started, I was able to bend it. Let me just add that nail bending is a hell of a cardiovascular and full body strength workout. I was sweating buckets and my heart rate was flying. So since I couldn’t bend the 1/4 inch without a start, I was wondering why the 3/8th. I thought maybe he was going to do something with it.

He did. He gave it to me and showed me how to use my entire body to bend it. You start by getting it started over your thigh, once you have a bend, you start placing it and using other body parts. So bending this piece, involved some crazy isometric full body moves. I bent it!!

Keep reading because that isn’t even the good part.

After some recovery, I was telling Bud that all of my friends were posting videos of themselves doing 2 finger pull ups. I told him that I felt a bit jealous and how I wished I could do that. He then asked me if I had ever tried. The answer was no. I just assumed I could never do anything like that. I had given up before I had ever started. Something I realize that I do a lot….a whole lot.

He told me to try it. We walked over to the rings. I put my first 2 fingers on the rings and all the while was thinking how I’m going to be embarrassed because I can’t do it.

Then, I just pulled myself up. Not only did I pull up, but I held myself up there for quite a while. Holy Crapola!! I couldn’t believe it. I did it again and again.

I did it for several days after to make sure it wasn’t a fluke..it wasn’t.

It was then I knew I had to do something about my negative thinking. I would never in a million years tell anyone that they can’t do something. With others I am encouraging and positive so why the heck am I so hold on myself? Finding the answer to that really doesn’t matter. Knowing why doesn’t elicit change. Changing elicits change. So where to start?

One of the things I will do first is to make friends with myself. I will treat myself as I treat others and how I would like to be treated by others. Secondly, I will act as if I am already a confident, positive person. The old, “Fake it Till You Make it”.

I have a list of affirmations next to my computer and I am redirecting negative thoughts into positive ones. Yesterday, I took things to a whole new level. Instead of putting my goal on paper, I did this.

The Iron Maiden is a major feat of strength with Kettlebells. A lady will perform a Pistol Squat, Press and Pull Up with a 24 kilo bell (53 pounds). I have a great training program and my goal is to complete this in the summer of 2013.

Me and this bell are going to become very close in the coming year.

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