The Weight of Expectation
from Tabata Times
Ever since my initiation into the world of CrossFit a couple of years ago I’ve seen, heard and read about so many incredible transformations. Men and women who, after battling body issues for years—trying this gym, that diet, or perhaps slothing around trying nothing at all—found the holy grail of weight loss, muscle gain and mental strength inside the walls of a CrossFit box.
Are these stories inspiring? Absolutely. Am I happy for every ‘was-once-a-fatty’ who has carved out a new physical and often spiritual self? Of course. Sharing in the triumphs of the people we train with is part of what makes the CrossFit community so unique, and so awesome.
BUT, what happens when you’re the person who wants those results, and who works hard to get them…but they just don’t come? Or at least they sure as hell don’t seem to come as rapidly as other peoples’ results, transforming you into a shredded lifting machine in just a few months. For the past year this has been my frustration, and I admit, has caused me to get pretty down on myself at times.
Don’t take this to mean that I’m disillusioned with CrossFit, I love it and I believe in everything it stands for. I hope I’ll still be CrossFitting at 70—bones and bladder permitting. It’s just that my personal journey back to health and fitness has been a slow limp rather than the Usain Bolt-like sprint I had expected. I’ve personally seen big transformations at my own box and I’m forever seeing these ‘look at me now’ stories online, and I’ve struggled coming to terms with the fact that my progression has not been that same type of metamorphosis.
I thought I’d share my journey because I can’t be (well at least I really hope not!) the only CrossFitter in the world who has struggled with this, and everyone finds a level of comfort in knowing that they’re not alone in their battles. Amidst those triumphant tales of massive change I’m here to tell you that slow progress, sometimes painfully slow, is normal and most definitely not a reason to throw in that sweat-drenched towel. As females especially, we can be incredibly hard on ourselves—self-esteem is so often measured by a number on the scales and frustrations are dulled by chocolate and tears, and more chocolate.
My husband first introduced me to CrossFit and I’d been doing it for about eight months or so before I fell pregnant with our second son. My intentions of being a preggie CrossFitter were quickly crushed when this 10lb baby (granted he wasn’t 10lbs at the time), decided to make the next nine months of my life fairly unpleasant. I’ve forgiven him now. But during that time I was a shadow of my formerly active self, the odd walk or swim was about it. And my diet? Well let’s just say it wasn’t Paleo.
Eight weeks post-baby I was climbing the walls to get back into exercise and CrossFit was the only thing on my radar. I was about four or five kilos over my pre-baby weight, and considering I’d gone from being a pregnant lay-about to suddenly CrossFitting, breast-feeding and clean eating again I figured this would be relatively easy to lose. I was wrong.
Despite the inevitable sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn and a toddler in the house I was committed to getting to the box three or four times a week and I felt sure that this dedication would pay off. I was realistic about the fact that I would have to ease myself back into things too—I distinctly remember that one of my first WODs was Karen, and any new mum will tell you that wall balls and post-baby bodies are not friends.
Despite my perseverance however, I was totally puzzled by the fact that rather than losing weight my body seemed to be clinging onto it for dear life. And I don’t just mean weight on the scales, I mean bulges that absolutely refused to move. In fact, six months later, on two separate occasions at the box I had people ask me whether I was expecting. In case you’re wondering, yes I went home and cried. A full six months of hard work, commitment and sugar deprivation, and apparently I still looked pregnant!
At around the same time one of our coaches asked me how my strength was coming along. He’d read reports, and had also coached women whose strength had come back with a vengeance post-partum. I informed him that clearly my body was trying to discredit those reports. My cardio fitness was picking up pretty well, but as I’d been a distance swimmer in a former life that was fairly unsurprising. In every other area I was basically a brand new CrossFitter again. I had totally lost my mojo for double unders, pull ups, sit ups (obviously), and just about all lifting due to having traded my core strength for a giant baby pouch.
In desperation I turned to google (I know, I know), and found some information around the idea that some breast-feeding mothers who are exercising find that they don’t lose weight. I’m no expert in this area so I won’t try to regurgitate the science behind it, however I latched onto the theory (excuse the pun) and decided this was my problem. Hooray, so as soon as I stopped breast-feeding I’d look like Camille Leblanc-Bazinet! Wrong again.
Months later, very slowly I began to see a little muscle definition emerging in my arms and shoulders, but otherwise (in my eyes) I could just have easily been a couch potato and no one would know the difference. For the amount of effort I was putting in I just couldn’t believe my lack of results, not only aesthetically but strength-wise too. And I know unreservedly that had I been a member of a normal gym I would have given up out of frustration. CrossFit though, as we all know is not a normal gym. Quitting has never crossed my mind, partly because I’m addicted to those WODs, partly because of the incredible support network at our box and partly because I don’t want to be a mum who, five years from now is still moaning about the baby weight she can’t lose.
Fast forward another six months and we’ve just celebrated our son’s first birthday—that same week I made our leaderboard for 1km row and 1km run. It’s not earth shattering I know, but I’m stoked because I can finally see that I’m turning a corner. I’m now able to string a bunch of double unders together again, I can do two minutes’ worth of sit ups without wanting cry or vomit and I’ve just started to PR my cleans. These are such small victories. Such incremental little improvements that have taken me almost a full year to achieve. But they feel so damn good.
Do you want to know how much weight I’ve lost? I couldn’t tell you. I stopped weighing myself months ago when it finally sunk in that scales, particularly if you’re lifting weights, don’t tell you the truth about yourself. I know I’m wearing a smaller size of clothes now and I know I can get a few kipping pull ups done without a band, so that’s what I measure myself by.
I have finally come to the understanding that I am a long term work in progress, not an overnight sensation. And despite those 12 week ‘before and after’ selfies that have saturated the online world, I’m pretty sure that my type of progress is the norm not the exception. These small, hard-earned gains show me that I am actually improving, and that’s what keeps me rolling out of bed at 5.30 every morning.
People say that life is about focusing on the future, but I think with body changes you NEED to look backwards. Have a goal, yes of course. But, if you’re a bit of a transformation snail like me, don’t berate yourself for not being there yet, celebrate where you are today compared with where you started. That weight of expectation to achieve our ‘ultimate self’ by next week will derail us if we allow it to. Let’s measure our successes not by how far we’ve got to go, but by how far we’ve come already—because each day, each WOD, each rep inches us that little bit closer to getting there.
Strength: Squat 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5+
5 Rounds for time:
Row 400m as fast as possible
Rest 2 mins
All times must be recorded and any time that is not within 5 seconds results in a 200m run penalty for each time you go above 5 sec on times…. score is the slowest row time!
Don’t sand bag the row!!!! If coaches feel there is sand bagging occurring athlete will automatically have to run 3 200’s!