This title is a little dramatic, don’t you think? But I really don’t know what else to say about it.
Last week I talked about body image, confidence, making good lifestyle choices, and how far I’ve come with not just accepting the way I look, but being proud of the way I look–all by by making choices every day to make myself the best I can be. If you missed it, you can read it here.
This is kind of like a part 2 from last week, if you will.
Here’s what you need to know. Strength training and lifting heavy weights has changed my life, my health, and my body — for the better. More specifically, CrossFit has helped me to change the way I think about my body and treat my body – how I workout, how much I eat, what I eat, and my mentality about food and exercise.
See, your body is a gift. You only get one shot. It’s God given. That’s grace. You may think you deserve it, but you’re wrong. You don’t. So, what are you going to do to take care of it? Well, part of taking care of your body is how you view yourself. And how you view yourself affects the choices you make or don’t make to better your health.
Here’s what you need to know about me…I used to be terrified of calories, and food in general. If I ate too many calories, I would do whatever possible to burn those calories. I did this by putting myself through excessive cardio – thinking I could run, elliptical, or stairmaster off what I just consumed. My diet was a trainwreck. I would go a whole day without eating, and then binge on Mexican food at night. Then, I would punish myself by hitting the gym first thing in the morning to burn off the calories I ate the night before. The worst the meal, the more intense the run or workout would be. I did this whole cardio binge thing while in college and then for the first year or so of marriage, living in South Carolina.
I deprived myself. If you ask my college roommates what I ate, they would tell you that I ate….weird stuff. Like birdseed trail mix and dry cereal and popcorn. However, I wasn’t scared to binge eat with them. But when I did, it was always followed up with excessive cardio to try and burn away those calories. I’m not going to sit here and type out some sob story about how I had an eating disorder- but there was a problem…obviously. And I do need to throw the facts out there. This was me. But in the midst of this, I wasn’t skinny. It was a terrible cycle that got me nowhere and left me not enjoying life because I was so caught up and consumed with the way I looked.
Things didn’t change much after I got married. We joined the YMCA, and I still punished myself on the treadmill, elliptical, or stairmaster there if I ate something “bad.” My workouts were limited to this type of cardio, as well as classes at the Y – but the classes had to be cardio driven – (like aerobics and step) without weight training because I didn’t want to bulk up and get “too big.” LOL. Even dumbbells had to be like 5-8 pounds or less.
And in the midst of this cycle through college and in the first year or so of marriage, I started to pass out. I had episodes where I would pass out because my heart would get thrown out of rhythm. After we got married, I had to see a specialist who told me to quit all the cardio binging for 2 weeks. While most docs tell their patients to exercise more, mine had to tell me I was doing it all wrong and I needed to give my body a rest…or I would be in big trouble. I tried to listen, but I was terrified of gaining weight. Daniel hid our scale, and I tried my hardest to listen to the doc, but I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even make 2 weeks before hunting down our scale and sneaking in runs.
See, obviously I had a problem. I wanted to be as skinny as possible, and weigh as less as possible, and long runs, interval running on a treadmill, the elliptical, and the stairmaster all weren’t solving it. Weighing myself every day, and figuring out calories and burning them off was making me hate myself.
Until several years ago, I was terrified of muscle. I was scared it would make me BIG. or Fat.
And the problem with running was that what I was doing everyday would be satisfying and enough for awhile..then, I needed more, and more, and more. I had to keep upping the intensity and the duration to see results – which is what made me sick. I didn’t do it to stay active. I did it to be skinny.
So, Daniel and I wanted to change our workout routine up, so about a year and a half into being married- at the start of 2013- we got talked into doing CrossFit at CrossFit Electric City. And we were hooked. We loved the community and the feeling of setting goals and then being able to meet those goals. Butttttt……it wasn’t enough. I was so scared of getting “big” from lifting heavy weights(which really weren’t that heavy…at all) that I would go for these crazy long runs after doing CrossFit workouts, or at the end of the day. I always said that I would do it to just clear my mind – like I had a crazy stressful life or something ( I’m rolling my eyes because I wasn’t stressed). I did it to balance out this new weight training I was doing, and to try my best to be skinny.
During this time, what I needed was to focus on the foundations in CrossFit, work on my form and technique, and get to a place where I could start lifting heavy, and stop allllllll the long runs in addition to CrossFit. My coaches told me to cut it out and stop being cardio queen, but I didn’t listen.
Then, in May 2014, I ruptured my achilles tendon. And I wasn’t able to run, much less walk, for 6 months, but I didn’t let it stop me from working out – mostly because I just wanted to be around my friends in the gym. I didn’t overdo it, but I still tried to make it to class every day, and find some way to do the workout. I got stronger through that. I didn’t overdo it. I just showed up, did CrossFit, and did what I could do with one leg.
God taught me a lot during that period of time. I also noticed how my body started changing – from not running. Crazy, right? How could I tone up, get smaller, and leaner from not obsessing over workouts and going on these long runs? Turns out all these long runs were doing for me was burning up muscle. Weight training is what I needed. Running wasn’t giving me the muscle I needed. I was having to try harder and harder to see the effects of it. More muscle leads to a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR) – which could potentially lead to more fat loss because your BMR is responsible for the total amt of calories you expend on a normal day. More muscle = more energy your body expends just to survive= higher metabolism.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve slowly backed off the long, obsessive runs. I used to run after work at least 4-5 days/week, but now I only run one day a week, and I do it to get some active recovery in, and it’s more like therapy. I don’t do it to burn fat, lose weight, or get skinny, like I used to.
I’ve also learned to use food as a way to fuel me- which definitely doesn’t leave me deprived.
And since then, I’ve leaned out.
But here’s the point —
I am lean because of muscle. Lean does not equal skinny. I’ve never been skinny. I’ve never been tiny. And I probably never will be skinny. And I’m ok with that. I don’t even know what being “skinny” means. But I do know that in the past, “skinny” was a goal that was unattainable- because where I was at was never good enough.
But building muscle has done more than just help me to lean out. It’s helped me to feel more confident, and most importantly, it’s helped me to focus on being healthy, instead of wanting so badly to be skinny. I don’t pass out anymore- even after the hardest of workouts in the hot sun. Lifting weights, learning how to use my own body in workouts, and not running myself to death, has changed my perspective.
For example, I’ve never been a fan of my legs. My little brother used to call me thunder thighs, and I totally lived up to the name. But you know what’s helped me to actually love my legs? Muscle. CrossFit. I used to be scared to squat heavy because I was sure that my legs would get even bigger. But you know what helped my legs shrink and tone? My diet and lifting heavy.
I don’t deprive myself. I eat..A LOT. I don’t overeat. I watch my portion sizes, and Zone helps me do that easily and not obsessively. But the truth is, I eat a good bit of food — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a couple of snacks in between if I’m able to. Everyday isn’t perfect, and I mean…I dream of eating ice cream every single day, but I don’t do it. BUT, every now and then I treat myself to some ice cream, some mexican food, a beer, a gin and gingerale, some pizza…
I also still love to run. I’m not bashing running. Days where running is programed in our workout are actually my favorite. And I still enjoy those long runs from time to time. But the days that I feel like my heart is going to beat out of my chest is when we lift heavy weights – fast.
So, I’m about to show you some pictures. Only because pictures don’t lie. I’m not proud of them or anything, and I’m not doing this to be inappropriate, but I am in a bathing suit for the majority of them. Just a heads up. Apparently that offends people, so if it offends you, then don’t read my blog. But, like I said, pictures don’t lie. Make sure you read the captions at the bottom of each picture to see what stage of life I was in at the time.
Ok, time to wrap this up. Here are a few take aways.
The only way to get the body I want is to lift heavy weights, along with eating! No quick fix. No long runs…not even interval running on a treadmill or on a track. (Although I do think track workouts are important. In fact, I should do them more). But running will never be the focus of my training. For me, “cardio” = lifting weights fast, or using my bodyweight as resistance when working out.
Having an active lifestyle is great, and once again, I’m not bashing running. Those closest to me would tell you that I do love to run. I just don’t do it excessively and obsessively anymore. I still think being active is important. And let’s face it, running can be therapeutic. And goals are great too. If you have a goal that involves running, go for it. BUT if you want lean muscle, it may not be your best option.
Striving isn’t fun. If you’re working out to simply “get skinny,” STOP. Life is too short. Find a workout routine that you enjoy and that you see results in. Make good choices. Throw some weight around(after learning from a coach the proper way to go about that). Muscle is good. Muscle is your friend.
For me, CrossFit + Good eating works. CrossFit works because you’re always changing up your body, going through different routines every day – cardio AND lifting HEAVY weights. Your body never knows what’s coming for it.
Food…we all love it. If you don’t, then I’m sorry. I eat more now than I ever have before. But I don’t punish myself by working out to get rid of those calories. I still love working out though, and my schedule is all over the place, which allows me to even get 2 workouts a day in sometimes- but there’s a method behind the madness. And almost all of my workouts are programed by a coach. And I get to do them with my friends, so that’s an added bonus too.
I was finally able to wrap my head around food this past December/January after I went and got my Level 1 cert to be a CrossFit trainer. We talked about food, zone blocks, and fueling our bodies with the right foods to make sure they can do what we want them to do. I decided to really clean up the way I was eating because I would be training other people and because I wanted to get better in the gym.
Be patient with yourself. Leaning out the right way means that the focus is on bettering your life for the long haul, and not just getting some “quick fix’ in. Remind yourself that it takes time. But the choices you make today will play into your health now and in the future.
Set small goals. Meet them. Set more goals. A lot of small goals met eventually turns into big progress.
Getting older happens. Having babies happens. Unexpected life events happen. Busy lives happen. But you can make your life the best it can be today by not obsessing, and simply making good choices in what you eat, how much you eat, and how you exercise.
Find what works for you. For me, it is 100% CrossFit. If that ever changes, then I guess I’ll figure out something else. But CrossFit has helped change my mentality towards food and exercise. I’m not perfect, and I still have negative thoughts sometimes. But I’m growing. For the first time in my life, I’m embracing the way I look, and that’s a great mindset to be in. I’m ok with the way I look- because I work hard. And because I have muscle. And I don’t deprive myself.
Yeah, I know the title is a little dramatic. But I’m keeping it because the cycle I was in before CrossFit wasn’t getting me anywhere positive anytime soon. I’m finally at a place where I can enjoy who I am, enjoy what I get to do, and not obsess over the way I look. And for me, that has changed my life on so many levels.