Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Giving Up

It really is easy to give up.

Don't do it!

How often have you had the following conversations with yourself?

  "If this happens one more time, I'm going to lose it"

  "I can't do this anymore, it's too hard"

  "I have to stop, I just can't"

  "There is no end in sight, I'm giving up"

Stepping in to do a workout, you already have in your mind how you think it's going to go.  Sometimes you know how you're going to break everything up, so that you can finish without too much pain.

Most of the time, you know that as soon as you get the slightest out of breath or the teensiest bit sore, you are going to stop, slow down, and you tell yourself "it's too hard".

Stop selling yourself short.  The mind is powerful and a force that CAN be reckoned with.  You control your mind-YOU can stop yourself from giving up.

Sometimes it helps to have people cheering you on- when you hear your name and some other stuff, it makes you keep going.  But, what about the times when you don't hear someone else cheering you on.  This is where YOU come in.  This is where you train yourself to NEVER GIVE UP.

You have a voice inside your head, use it to cheer yourself on right to the finish.  You have the ability to tell yourself "No, keep going",  "One more rep before the rest",  "You can do it",  "Don't quit".

Sometimes, that inner voice of yours can even speak out loud and help keep you pushing- trust me, I know! I often scream loudly during a lift, which has in fact resulted in many PR's.

Start your workouts with a good attitude- "I can do this", "I am going to surpass my expectations".  When things get tough, dig deep and get another rep.  Strength isn't just about the numbers you can pick up on a bar, it's about that extra rep or that extra round you put in.  You have the capability, you have to train yourself to push past the boundaries you have drawn for yourself.

If you come in and say I'll get to ten and take a rest, I challenge you to go to 11.  If you get tired and think I can't possibly do one more, I challenge you to do one more before the break.  If you are tired and worried you can't possibly keep moving, I challenge you to keep moving.

We all have tolerances, we all have boundaries- but if you start stretching them a little at a time, before you know it, you will be in that next round.

Yes, that workout was hard, but so was yesterday's, and so will tomorrow's.  Here's the thing, you keep coming back for more, so you know you aren't giving up on the workout.  Now it's time to stop giving up in the workout.  You will be surprised how the body will follow when the mind is leading.

Never give up and fight for every last rep!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweet and Salty Brownies

I keep accidentally opening a folder on my computer that has pictures of these brownies that I took about one year ago.  I didn't like think the pictures looked good, so I wasn't going to post them, but every time, I accidentally scroll over them (like everyday)-- I want to make them and I love the pictures a tiny bit more.

Yesterday, I was so excited to find my new favorite baking chocolate, Scharffen Berger, at Target.  In honor of the score, I'm making brownies and posting this recipe.  I refuse to make brownies anymore unless it's with good chocolate.  To me, using bad chocolate is like using margarine instead of butter.

This recipe is definitely my go to brownie recipe and you won't be disappointed either.  If you are looking for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dessert, you should make these (and eat them all!)
Sweet and Salty Brownies:

1 cup sugar
1 TBSP corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 TBSP butter

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, chopped (60-72% chocolate)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
5 eggs, room temp (important!)
2 tsp vanilla

1) Make the caramel.  Measure out heavy cream, and set aside, place butter and salt in small bowl, set aside.  In medium saucepan- preferably metal- combine sugar, corn syrup, and water- stir carefully- don't splash onto sides, it can wreck the caramel later.  Cook over medium high heat until it reaches 350' or a dark amber color (like beer)- it will take a while to turn amber, but once it does, it can get brown fast and burn.  You don't need to stir while it is heating up, maybe swirl the pan once or twice.

Once it reaches the amber color, turn off heat and slowly add cream and salt and butter- be careful because it will release a LOT of steam, the caramel may even seem to harden, just keep whisking it until smooth.  Set aside to cool while you mix the brownies.

2) Preheat the oven to 350'.

3) Grease a 9x13 baking pan.  You can also choose to line it front to back and side to side with parchment paper- I never have done this and my brownies have never stuck in the pan.

4) In a bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, and salt- set aside.

5) Put chocolate and butter in a double boiler- set this over a pan of boiling water- stir until the chocolate and butter have melted and are smooth.  **(If you do not have a double boiler- put chocolate and butter in microwave safe bowl and microwave in 20 second increments, take out and stir each time- longer increments can result in the chocolate burning and drying out. )

6) Keep double boiler over pot of water, turn off the burner.  Add the sugar and brown sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

7) Transfer chocolate mixture to a large bowl- use a scraper to get it all out.  Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined (do not over mix here- this is the difference between gooey fudge brownies or dense cake ones).  Add the last two eggs and mix until just combined.

8) Add vanilla and whisk until combined.

9) Sprinkle flour mixture on top of chocolate mixture- fold in with a spatula or wooden spoon.  There may be small amounts of flour mixture that aren't mixed in, that is ok-Remember over mixing will result in denser brownies.

10) Pour half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan.  Spread about 1/2-3/4 cup of the caramel sauce around the top of the batter- stay about 1/2 " away from the edge of the batter.  Drop the rest of the batter on top of the caramel layer and use a spatula to carefully spread it out.

11) Bake the brownies for about 40-45 minutes total.  After 20 minutes of baking, rotate the pan halfway to ensure even baking.  After 35 minutes of baking, you can insert a toothpick into the center of the brownies to check for doneness- a few sticky crumbs will come out on the pick, but should not be dredged in batter.  Remember, there is caramel in there, so it will be a littly sticky-but when in doubt cook a little longer- I have made these before and taken out when they weren't done and it is hard to finish cooking a half baked batch once you realize you under baked them.

12) Remove from oven and sprinkle the top with sea salt or another coarse salt.

Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations
Caramel recipe from Bakingdom blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Born Again CrossFitter

Some of you have seen this before in an email a few months ago, but some of you haven't, and I think it's a good read.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the phrase “born again”. 

Well, for the first time, publicly, I’d like to admit that I am a born again crossfitter.

When I started crossfit, I was a competitive runner and just a competitive person in general.  I tried to push my weights, wanted to “RX” everything, wanted to be the first one done in my class.

Then, about 10 months in, I got a shoulder injury.  At that moment in time when the MRI came back with a partial tear in my supraspinatus- I actually think time stopped for a minute.  All I could think was “ how am I going to do pull ups, how am I going to do snatch?”

With the help of an awesome PT and a LOT of patience and modifications, I never had to stop crossfitting.  I had to take 6 weeks off from many lifts and used many many bands to do pullups, but I was still able to WOD and sweat profusely every day.  You know what, you can get a damn good work out using the PVC!

I was still able to crossfit and that’s what counted.  

I was basically starting again with all the upper body lifts.  Looking back, that’s when I had an epiphany and became a new crossfitter, a better crossfitter.  

Some people look at modifications like the plague, I look at them as a learning experience.  I look at them as an opportunity to be humble and realistic that I want to be better and sometimes that means doing something different.

I became a born again crossfitter.  I still wanted to be good, but focused more on being good at my form instead of my time.  As my form gets better, so does my ability to handle more weights.  My body is getting stronger because I’m building up a strong base layer of strength.  

Instead of focusing on my time (I don’t look at the clock until I’m done)- I focus on my form.  I focus on having fun.  If you can’t have fun with it, it becomes a chore.  

Have you heard of the phrase “crossfit puts the fun back in functional”?  Well for me, being a born again crossfitter, I have fun all the time- even when I’m being tortured doing 5 million walking lunges.

I love everything just as much as I did when I started crossfit over two years ago-probably even more.  I still get nervous before doing a WOD I’ve done many times before, I still plan my day around fitting that WOD in.  For me, crossfit is an essential part of my life, I need food, water, air, sleep, and crossfit to survive. 

The only thing that changed for me over these two years, is my focus.  I went from wanting to be competitive and fast to wanting to have fun and be a more awesome person.  With my shift of focus, I’ll tell you what, my times have gone down and lifts have gone up.  

After two years, there’s a lot of things I am not good at yet, but I’m way better now than I was before I started.  I am only 38, I have plenty of time to do all the work I need to do.  I’m not going to rush to the top of the mountain without enjoying the scenery because once I get to the top, then what??

I often hear people express a struggle for motivation or that they are sad to modify.  Maybe you need to shift your focus too.  I’ve got two words for you:  “HAVE FUN”. 

This week, I encourage you to figure out how to turn a WOD you’d normally cherry pick into something fun.  You want to put in the work, you need to put in the work, make it more enjoyable and there will be endless benefits. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Underdog

The Underdog

What does this mean anyways?

noun:  a competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest

a person who has little status in society

How often have you put yourself in the position of being the underdog?
It's so easy to walk into the crossfit workout and say "I'm not good at that so I'm going to have a bad score today."

If you set yourself up in public to be the underdog, you're also training your brain and your body to be the underdog.  STOP IT!

It seems to make everything go a lot smoother when you take the pressure and expectations off and go through the workout with fluff and stuff.

Being the underdog not only causes you to have an excuse to work less, but it gives some people a sense of entitlement to complain.  

"I'm not good so no one pays attention to me."  "No one wants to be my partner."  "No one will ever choose me for their team."  "No one gives me special recognition."

You know what?  The only person who invites people to the pity party is the host- burn the invitations because nobody really wants to come- not even you!

So what if you are (or consider yourself to be) the underdog.  Use it to your advantage.

Work harder.

Train your weaknesses.

Be confident about yourself.

The only approval and praise you need to keep moving is your own.  You can cheer for yourself in your head (I do it all the time- it works!).

I think being the underdog is a huge advantage.  When your hard work pays off and you rise above, proving everyone else wrong- the victory party is going to be far greater than that small pity party you've been attending.

It's not going to happen overnight, it's going to take time and hard work- but you do not have to be the underdog.

Show up and get it done!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Get Out of the Ring

I keep finding myself at the end of a boxing match and I've been beaten myself.

I keep noticing many people doing the same thing, it's so easy to win a fight when you are beating up your own self.

Well. I stepped out of the ring.   So should you.

It's just so easy to sell yourself short, to feel like you've done wrong, that you're never going to be good enough.

Trust me, I know when I've done something I wish I did not do.  This afternoon, for example, my daughter, who is going to send me to my grave early by the way, was climbing on a stool after I said no, and in slow motion, I saw her falling down- which was followed by about 20 minutes of tears, that I just didn't want to deal with.  I got really really mad at her, then that was followed by 10 minutes of guilt.

Guilt, it's pretty much the black belt of the ring.

This morning, at crossfit, I was not going to add too much weight on my barbell, I always sell myself short- I do not want to get hurt, I'm not sure I can do that, I will play it safe-.  "Self, you've been doing this for 2 years now, that is not out of your possibility", is what I should have been saying.

That's where my friend stepped in and told me that I had to do it.  She gave me the confidence to stand up and do what I knew I could do.  Had I left without attempting what I did, I would have spent the rest of the day wondering if I could have done it or maybe even slapping myself on the cheek a couple of times for backing out of it.

Slaps on the face, no one wants them, but yet, we just keep going in for more.  Seriously- stop!

You are not a bad person.  You are human.  We are going to do things, things we regret, things that make us guilty, we are going to back away from challenges- it's just going to happen.

But it's your choice, your right, and your necessity to step out of the ring, to stop taking hits to the jaw, accept what you have or have not done and move on.

Things happen and things end- MOVE ON!  Stop talking about it, stop analyzing it, you did or didn't do it and that's a fact- next time you have the chance to do it differently.  Forgive yourself for the wrong, and encourage yourself for the challenges.

If this is hard for you, get a friend.  Friends are awesome- they do things that are wrong too and they also see things in you that you do not.

No one is perfect- but no one deserves to get their ass kicked-- from their own self.

Get out of the ring and move on!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Boomerang Effect

You are a role model, whether you believe it or not.  We all are, parents, friends, teachers, coaches, co-workers, you are being watched not only by others, but also by yourself.

I'd like to think of myself sometimes as my own role model.  Lately I've been thinking of my actions like a boomerang- what I do will come back to affect me later on, or someone close to me, like my kids for example.

When I do something, I try to consider how would this go over if I were on the outside listening in right now or how will I feel if this happens to me later.  

Example:  I have said the "F" word in front of my kids and I'm not going to lie, more than once.  Sometimes I let my anger get the best of me and it just comes out.  Over the past few years, I've really taken notice when I say it and have been working hard to replace it with other things such as fudge ripple- it is a long process to cleanse my vocabulary of it, but I am trying.  I try to take notice when other people say it in public and let me tell you, it sounds down right rude and distasteful- which is helping me to want to stop using it even more.  Well, last week, I was at my son's football game (the team is 6-9 year olds), it was a big game and they lost at the last second, but it was a great game.  This one dad was so upset that the team lost, he started shouting and swearing and the "f bomb" came out like SIX TIMES in one sentence.  It was terrible- why should he care so much that they lost- the kids could have cared less- and here is this dad swearing profusely as if he lost a million dollars.

If he had been witnessing this in someone else, I wonder if it would make him think differently before using that kind of language in public again at a child's game.  Even worse, will his child get used to these outbursts and think it's acceptable and start doing that himself.
I break rules and laws every now and again- speeding is the biggest one and the occasional text while driving.  My kids are always asking me if I want to get a ticket, even when I'm going 3 mph over the limit. I usually get annoyed when they do this (don't they realize it's their practice we are late for?)- but one day it dawned on me, if it is acceptable for me to break the law, even a tiny bit, it's going to come back at me when they start driving- they too will think it's ok to go a little faster because mom does it.  I've been trying to adopt a new approach while driving- I'm not late until I'm actually late. Meaning, if the field trip is at 9:30, and it takes 45 min to get there, and I leave at 9- I'm not going to worry- fact is I left late.  At 9:30, I say to myself, OK, I'm late, but I'm almost there- it has been helpful to keep me more calm and drive slower.

The biggest boomerang effect I've noticed that I don't want to happen is technology use.  I'll use the cell phone as an example because it's my biggest distraction.  Using the cell phone whenever you have a free second is teaching your child or whoever is watching you that that is acceptable and in fact, the only way to spend your free time.  My oldest has been asking me for a phone or an iTouch relentlessly- I realized if he sees me and his dad and everyone else in the world on their devices all the time, it only makes sense that he would want one too (think in the past when ads made you think you'd be cool if you were smoking a cigarette).  Now, I've been trying to keep my phone away while my kids are home from school, and resist the urge to check a text while driving.  If one of my readers are in the car, I'll have them check my phone.  Once your kids see you texting while driving, they will think it's ok for them too- teenage drivers are scary enough, can you imagine them texting while driving too?

Attitude is a huge boomerang as well.  I have five kids, so I get frustrated easily.  There are times when I will just lose my mind.  I saw my oldest son flip out on my daughter one day- exactly how I had gotten upset at him- I didn't like that boomerang that came back at me.  I am trying very hard to be more calm and focused in these stressful situations- how I handle them is how I'm teaching them to handle them.  Treat your kids how you want to see them treating their kids.

I work as a coach.  I have to have my head in the game at all times.  I need to not only represent, but embody what I tell people.  It's easy to give out advice, but it's another to live it through.  I tell people all the time to fight through, be tough, dig deep, stay positive- as a result I noticed I will almost never let a negative thought or comment leave my mouth during a workout or about a workout.  I use good mechanics all the time, which means sometimes I'm using less weight, or moving slower- crossfit is scalable and I'm not afraid to admit that sometimes you need to scale back to move up.  Last week, my friend was over, her daughter picked up my kids' plastic barbell, pushed it overhead and dropped it on the ground- my friend panicked and told her not to drop the toy- her daughter looked at her matter of factly and said "mom, that's what YOU do at crossfit, you drop the bar".  If that's not a boomerang...

Do you ever look back at something you've done and beat yourself up about it- like you got hit with a boomerang- "I wish I did this, I should have done this.."  well, truth is you didn't, all you can do is learn from it and move forward.  Being a role model is hard and we are all far from perfect.  Each time you get hit with a boomerang or you feel one coming, learn from the sting.  Remember even when you think no one is watching or listening, someone is, even if it's you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Easy Peasy

"I hope it's going to be easy."

"Wow, that was easy!"

"I'll do it, if it's easy."

"If only it could be this easy all the time."

Easy:  adj:  1) achieved without great effort, presenting few difficulties  
2) free from worries or problems

It really is easy to take the easy way out or at least to want to, isn't it?

From a parental stand point, things that would be easy:
having a baby that sleeps through the night from birth, a toddler that sits on the toilet for the first time and is potty trained, a child that is never rude, listens to every word you say, never lies, never sneaks, doesn't date until they are 18, gets straight A's, goes to Harvard, and marries the person you choose.

From an athletic point, things that would be easy:  
never having to train, never feeling tired, never feeling like you can't, never playing against a team that poses a threat.

From a life point, things that would be easy:
your body is invincible- you never get sick, you can eat whatever you want, your teeth are white no matter what, you always know the right things to say and everyone likes you, you always make the right choices, any job you interview for- you get

I could go on- but honestly, easy is boring.  Where is the challenge?  I'm not saying everything should be difficult and present an outrageous challenge, but it should not be easy everyday. 

Do you really want to float through life without effort?  If all these things were true, we could just drive around town in our battery powered chairs or scooters, eating cheese doodles and drinking coke- do you want to barf yet?

A few weeks ago, my son was being very difficult and it was quickly followed by my daughter having a fit about something, all while we were in hot weather with no shade watching 5 hours of youth football games.  There were bees everywhere too- it was not a good setting to be in.  I got really frustrated because I was trying to take pictures of the games and my threats of "you better stop or you're going to be in big trouble when we get home" were not working.   My initial reaction was "I quit- I don't want to be a mother anymore"- that was the easy solution.  To walk away, to pretend they weren't my kids and not have to deal with it.

Reality is, I am a mom and they are my kids.  My ability to deal with the situation and find a good outcome gets easier the more times I have to do it.  I could just walk away, but then I'm not growing as a parent and my kids aren't learning or understanding (I also might have to go to jail).  The quick solution was to let my son take one picture with my camera so he "wasn't bored" and allow my daughter to walk 1 mile home with my mom so she "wasn't hot".  The next weekend, I brought a small camera for my son to take pictures with and a tent for my daughter to be shaded with.  By learning from a situation that wasn't easy for me, I was able to make future ones less difficult. 

Last week at crossfit, I was doing a 20 min workout.  The first two rounds, one of the guys in the class was very close to me and every time we went for a run, I challenged myself to catch up with him.  The third, fourth, and fifth rounds, he was quite far ahead of me, so I noticed I didn't push on the run and settled in to an easier pace.  I was tired, but at least I was moving.  On my final round, there was just enough time left on the clock that if I ran as hard as I could, I would make it back before the clock ended.  I ran faster than any of the other rounds- it was not easy, but I did it.  

We all have the choice to go through the motions.  To move for the entire time of the workout or to complete all the reps.  We all feel our lungs burn and our bodies fatigue.  We know our limitations as far as what weights we can safely use and move properly- when enough is truly enough- but many times, we need to learn how to leave the easy zone and push a little harder.  Leaving easy when working out is what will take you to the next level.  When you have a PR or great achievement, especially in an area that was never easy for you, it is so much sweeter!  If crossfit were easy, I would have been bored with it a long time ago.  My favorite things to work on are the things that are not easy for me because when I finally get them, I feel incredible.

I've had many job interviews and many different types of jobs.  The easiest one, the one where I walked in and was handed the job, ended up being a job that was in the end stressful and not a good place for me to work.  The ones that I knew were going to be cutthroat interviews with many different candidates were the ones I prepared hours for, dressed the nicest for, and knew for a fact that I wanted the job.  

Working hard means you want something, you have passion, you are determined.  Most things are not going to happen overnight, they are going to take a lot of time and effort, but the results will be worth it.  

Easy isn't always bad- it can be good- "Mom the SAT's were easy because all my hard work and studying paid off", "Mom I got an easy PR in my race today from all that hard training I've been doing".  

Things aren't always easy until they are.  Then, when they become easy, you look for something else, you find something else to tackle because easy everyday is just boring.

Unfortunately, it's also easy to be too busy- don't become too busy trying to make things less difficult.    Don't spend all your time trying to make yourself better, training all your weaknesses in the gym, reading every single label, memorizing every fact, or signing your kid up for every extracurricular. 

Make sure to make quality time with family, friends, and yourself easy.  I think these days it really is easy to miss appreciating the simple things in life.  Work hard, play hard, learn hard, but also enjoy hard!