I joined Crossfit Stamford last December because I decided that one of my goals for 2017 was to get back into a more athletic shape. I can’t say all of the Crossfit exercises struck a chord with me from the very beginning; I’ve always enjoyed the more HIIT-focused workouts but many times I got frustrated with my limited capabilities in the Olympic lifting-focused WODs.
This past May I decided I was going to take it up a notch and began focusing more on my nutrition, quit drinking (only for a month though) and began focusing on improving my strength and endurance in the WODs. This decision was a game changer for me and the combination of these changes led to noticeable improvements in my strength, reduction in bodyfat and an overall improvement in my flexibility.
Participating in the 30 Day Challenge has really helped me accelerate these fitness and nutrition goals. Since I’ve always tended to eat pretty healthy during the week I actually didn’t find the food restrictions to be that significant of a change for me and I decided since the Challenge was only 30 days I would be extremely strict with the nutrition portion and never ended up having a cheat meal or drink. I definitely think the increased focus on eating a balanced, fruit, vegetable and protein rich diet continuously (as opposed to just the weekdays) has been the biggest driver of the gains I’ve made in reducing body fat.
I think the biggest surprise from the Challenge has been the improvement I’ve seen in my sleep. I love my job but it can be pretty stressful and a lot of the time that stress tends to pile up right when I get in bed which can lead to some restless nights. These past 30 days however I have found myself falling asleep much faster and staying asleep throughout most of the night. This has been very beneficial because I find myself with a higher level of energy the next day which has helped me be more productive at work and life.
The other part of the Challenge that I have found very rewarding is seeing the gains I’ve made in both endurance and strength over the past month. It has had the effect of creating a positive feedback loop because the better I’ve gotten in the workouts the more workouts I’ve come to and I find myself working out now 5 days a week vs my previous 3 to 4. I also think working out more has helped me find a consistent way to decompress from work which is really important for me. Being a very competitive person by nature, the fact that I find myself able to keep up with some of the really impressive Crossfit members in the WODs has also served as a huge motivating factor for me.
With the Challenge wrapping up, I am more motivated now to build off of my recent gains and use this roadmap to continue to improve my strength, endurance, nutrition and health.
I decided to take part in the CrossFit Challenge with two goals in mind: 1) of getting back on track with a basic paleo meal plan and 2) being able to participate in the daily WODs at the RX level. For the most part I have achieved both of these goals and am really happy to have participated in this fun CrossFit Community event.
What have you learned?
I have been eating 80/20 Paleo (with the exception of wine) since January of this year. Since that time, I have lost 18 Lbs. The Paleo lifestyle definitely is something that works well for me. I don’t feel deprived not having dairy, legumes or processed carbs. I have learned that the below apply to me:
I have a mild intolerance to dairy. Being half-Japanese, this really doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Dairy tends to cause inflammation for me and stomach discomfort.
I also have learned that my headaches/migraines seem to be directly related to my wine consumption. Shocking realization (joking). But good to know as I thought they were hormonal.
Cheat meals are a slippery slope and definitely reduce my will-power. On the days following my cheat meals, I definitely craved “non-paleo” foods and was lethargic.
I have a hard time with my workouts if I do not have some form of carbohydrates in the morning. I tend to try to add potatoes to my morning eggs on hard days.
Were there significant moments?
My most significant moment occurred at the ending WOD re-test. I didn’t hit my score for the Hang Power Clean and I was pissed! It made me think about why I had decided to take part in the challenge. Should I just give up then and there? Should I try and re-test to get a better score? Why wasn’t I able to lift the same amount? Over the weekend, I thought about these questions, the factors that go into a good workout (e.g. sleep, nutrition, etc.) and about the goals I had set for myself. I realized that just thinking about these factors was an achievement in and of itself.
Secondly, I was surprise when I had my body fat re-test and learned that I had loss 5.8 Lbs. of Fat Mass. I did not think that much change was occurring to my body, since I did not have the dramatic weight loss that is experienced when you first begin a Paleo diet. But this made me feel that the work I had put into the challenge (increasing my workouts to 4x a week and not drinking) had actually been worthwhile.
How have your habits changed?
My “paleo” meal plan pretty much went out the window over the summer with vacations and BBQs. I have been able to get back on track just in time to face the holiday season. Luckily eating this way is now pretty much a habit and not overly difficult.
I did however find it difficult to always get 8-hours of sleep. I realized is directly correlated to my energy levels and basic feeling of wellbeing the following day. I will certainly try harder to get 8+ hour of sleep each night going forward.
Additionally, I had never really given much thought to rolling-out at home or additional stretching. Before starting CrossFit, I mostly did Pilates. I think some of my flexibility has decreased, so I will definitely continue these additional minutes of manipulation at home.
Advice for new member signing up for next season’s challenge?
Just sign-up – regardless of if you think you have the will power or not. This is a great opportunity to make friends with other gym goers and coaches. Anytime you challenge yourself in a new way, and place yourself in an uncomfortable position with other people, bonds are made. This will only make your CrossFit experience that much more meaningful and enhance your commitment to bettering yourself. I, for one, am no longer intimidated to attend the noon class (instead of the ladies’ class). This feels like a battle won!
I never thought I’d ever see myself signing up to do The Challenge, and here I am writing my essay at the end of week 4. I started at Crossfit Stamford in May 2016. I saw results within the first three weeks of May, and soon became obsessed with bettering myself physically. I remember going to the gym 6, if not 7 days a week (which didn’t last too long), and obsessing over everything I was eating. I was so set on improving and seeing results, but I never took the time to understand that there was more than one way to do so. \
Before starting the challenge, I always watched my diet during the week, and was much more relaxed about my eating habits on the weekends. No part of me was planning to sign up for the challenge. As a college student, I enjoy spending my weekends out with my friends. I knew if I signed up, I’d be saying goodbye to my social life, aka, going out to the bars and coming home late eating everything in sight. Part of me kept saying, “you’re so young, enjoy the food and drinks while your body can handle it”, but the other part of me really wanted to give it a shot. So I signed up the last possible day I could…procrastinator.
I totally consider myself a foodie. I love traveling to new places and trying new things. The thing is, my stomach is a bottomless pit and I can eat just about anything (it’s a blessing and a curse). The first meeting was super informative and I learned so much from it. I have never tried doing a paleo diet, so the first week was mostly a lot of research. The first week was by far the hardest because not only was I still learning about the diet itself, but I had just moved into a new home that didn’t have kitchen appliances yet. Most of my meals were spent at The Granola Bar (they’re super accommodating to diet restrictions), and Dig Inn. Lunch and dinner was always hard for me because of my crazy class schedule, this is where Kettlebell Kitchen saved the day. I wouldn’t get home from class until sometimes 9:30pm; by this time I was starving. I always carried around RX bars, Epic bars, and avocados for snacking. My dad was extremely helpful throughout this month, cooking challenge-friendly dinners that were ready for me on the stove by the time I got home (best dad ever).
The hardest part for me this month was avoiding sweets. Luckily, we don’t have any around the house, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t crave it! I kind of get a little crazy when I don’t have my chocolate, so I knew that would be difficult for me to avoid. I tried many recipes to satisfy my sweet tooth that were challenge-friendly, such as coconut ice cream and coconut cookies. Almond butter became my best friend, I think I just imagined it was Nutella the whole time and kind of ran with it. Something else I weirdly struggled with was having to drink water first thing in the morning. I’ve have always been well hydrated, drinking water all throughout the day. Something about chugging a full glass of room temperature water every morning was not something I looked forward to, it made me kind of nauseous, but hey I still did it every day!
For the past couple of months, I’ve been sticking to the same workout schedule. I attend the gym every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, while Thursday and Sunday are dedicated to rest days. I’ve learned this works for my body and my schedule. By the second week, I started to notice a difference in the mirror. I was less bloated and felt overall healthier. I found myself tackling more sport workouts using the rx weight, which is a big deal for me! I was more motivated this month to try and perform better at the gym, always challenging myself. Sleep was never an issue for me. I almost always get 8+ hours of sleep, now I was just excited that I got to give myself points for sleeping like a baby.
My goal for this month wasn’t really the cash prize at the end. It was more to learn about what works for me. I have decided that I am going to continue these eating habits, but add a few more things back into my diet, like plain greek yogurt and my overnight oats that I’ve missed so much! I saw more results this past month than I have in the past year, which is definitely why I want to continue. I improved on my WOD retest and am more than happy with the results.
After going through the Spring Challenge the past 30 days, I can honestly say that I had an awesome experience. My physical results were better than I had expected, but I think the most important thing for me was how much better I feel mentally and physiologically. Being a strength coach leads itself to having to be selfless and willing to sacrifice a lot for my athletes. Working long hours, having a ton of responsibility and trying to balance life outside of work left me with very little time to actually take care of myself and focus on my own personal wellbeing. This challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to lock in on my personal goals for physical and mental health, physique and athletic performance.
I was able to really give back to myself, allowing 8 hours of sleep a night, 30 minutes of foam rolling/stretching a day, scheduling in the time to work out from an hour to and hour and a half (sometime even twice) a day, making sure not to skip meals just so I could get more work done. All this has contributed to me being leaner, stronger, more focused and energized than I’ve ever been.
There were definitely some difficult times along the way in terms of discipline and focus. Going out with friends became challenging when forced to avoid liquor and only being able to eat from a limited number of things on the menu. But with that came the realization that everything is a decision, and the challenge helped highlight that there’s potential consequences to every decision. And it’s all about the priorities that you have and being able to focus on the big picture rather than the situation at hand.
Do I take the dessert now and doc myself a point for the day? Do I let this crappy meal choice negatively effect my goals of losing body fat? What will I regret more? Not having the drink with my friends or feeling lousy the next day from having a few too many? And that realization helped make the decisions for me, and made it much easier to adhere to the rules and allow me to progress towards my goals.
I’d say my biggest takeaway from the challenge is that if you want to talk about goals, then you need to have a plan in place if you ever want to accomplish them. I’ve been training since I was in 8th grade, and this was one of the first times that my main focus was a better physique (losing body fat) first and athletic performance second. And because of that, along with the help of the challenge guidelines, I was able to focus my nutrition, training, sleep and recovery habits towards reaching my goals, and I can honestly say that’s what I did.
I joined CrossFit Stamford back in the Fall, right after the 2016 Fall Challenge. As I was reading the essays of the three winners and seeing the amazing results of others, I thought to myself, ‟I can’t wait to sign up for the next Challenge!”
By the time March came around, and the announcement was made that the Spring Challenge would begin in April, I was already excited to start. The initial meeting with Kristie and Dr. Kurt was very informative. Not only were the rules discussed in detail, but I also gained some nutritional information I was not aware of. After the meeting, I felt pretty good about the dietary aspect of the Challenge, though I knew I was going to have to eliminate some of the foods I was currently eating. The bigger challenge was going to be giving up my supplements.
For the last decade, I have been what they call a “supplement junkie.” I have tried nearly every new product on the market. Over the course of the last two years, I had been using a brand that I thought was pretty clean, but learned that I would not be able to take it during the Challenge because it contains SUCRALOSE. This became the “dirty word” ingredient in all the supplements I had to give up for 30 days, including my go-to pre-workout drink.
The first few days were pretty tough. I don’t drink coffee, so omitting my pre-workout drink that contains caffeine was the most difficult part of the Challenge. In the second week, I started eating a small meal before working out – which I have never done before – and it actually helped a great deal. I introduced a plant-based protein instead of whey, and eventually got to a Challenge-friendly, all-natural pre-workout routine (Thanks Woo!!).
My food consumption was on point for the first two weeks, with just one slip-up (eating a protein bar that was not Challenge-friendly). My workouts and energy were definitely increasing, and the trusty mirror showed me I was doing a great job. During the third week, we were allowed one “cheat” meal, and I decided to have two slices of pizza on a Friday night. Wow, was that a mistake! Within an hour, I was sick to my stomach. It was a real eye-opener and absolutely not worth the cheat. My advice to future Challenge participants – if you want a cheat, make it something satisfying but on the lighter side.
By the start of the fourth week I was on autopilot. It was clearly the easiest week of the Challenge for me. I felt like I had made changes that I will stick to even after the Challenge is over. My measurements were all lower, body fat dropped, my WOD and Front Squat increased, and most importantly, the guy in the mirror looked significantly better than he did 30 days earlier.
For me, this 30-day Challenge was more of a permanent lifestyle change than a month-long competition. I can’t say for sure if I will go back to my pre-workout drink or not, but I can say there are many changes I have made in the last 30 days that I will continue doing every day. Thank you so much again to all the coaches and to CF Stamford for your daily support!!!
This was my third challenge, but the first time I truly committed to full compliance. I focused on getting through the first week, knowing from experience that the sugar cravings would fade from there. It wasn’t easy given the two events with open bars that I faced during that time, but I took It one day at a time. I made it through and, surprisingly, by the end of the week, the sugar cravings had faded and I’d settled into a routine.
I attempted another event during week 2 and was forced with the decision to get my 8 hours of sleep and miss my 6am WOD, or keep my perfect score. Because this year’s workout points maxed out at 3 rather than 5x per week, I opted for the sleep to keep the points, but I didn’t feel good about it. At that point, I decided [or accepted] that I had no time for anything during the week other than work, sleep, gym, stretching and foodprep. And decided I’d just have to make the most of the [sober] weekends. And, I settled into a routine surprisingly easily. Midway through week day, I couldn’t stop yawning once 9:15pm hit.
A key to my success was setting my goals and installing a support system. On the diet front, I basically kept a bag of compliant snacks with me wherever I went – almonds, larabars, bananas, and sweet potato chips were my go-tos. I also found surprising support in places like my café at work. I brought them ghee and they cooked with it! Two eggs and either chicken breast, turkey or bacon every morning was done. I also started a water challenge with my coworkers and took Kristie’s advice about keeping a glass of water next to bed. I found that first glass greatly impacted my desire for water and intake throughout the day.
It was important to me to not lose muscle during the challenge, so I added a protein supplement and committed to working out 5x/week. I had the support of veteran Fernanda , commuting to the 6am WOD together ~3xweek. When I needed the extra motivation to get up before the sun, knowing I’d be letting her down was it. I also started the hatch squat program with former challenge winner Lauren Spatz. This meant a gym arrival of 5:30am twice per week (which is really 5:50 to Lauren). That wakeup call meant that I was in bed at 9pm most nights. And it was refreshing! Other resources that I came to depend on were a certified stretcher who I met with twice a week (who knew that was a thing?!), and I treated myself to a massage every three workouts, which helped with the recovery points.
I didn’t get the easy recipe points, largely because I kept meals very boring. I ate a ton of fish, steak and burgers, with variations on sweet potatoes, asparagus and green beans. And that was basically it doe lunch and dinner throughout the entire challenge. I ended the challenge feeling healthier, stronger and energized. My weight loss really faded after week 2, but I replaced that with new PRs. I PRed my clean and jerk and squat clean and am confident that I will PR my back squat when I retest.
Thanks to the combo of the challenge and hatch squat, I added 20 pounds to my 5-rep max front squat and did them at my 1-rep max! I was disappointed that I couldn’t pick up cals in the retest, but I was able to hit the same wall-ball and KTE number across all three sets – 4 more than my highest set pre-challenge. With the massive gains seen during these four weeks, how can I not commit to having my ideal body? I’m going to add a drink allowance, but planning to stick to the rest of the challenge protocol through the fourth of July. It was really miraculous.
Challenge Essay – Meg Hildebrand
As a serial Challenger, I continue to sign myself up for these things in hopes of a shot at prize money worthy results! I’m pretty sure I’ve done AT least 3 of these, all with minimal results. However, I learn a little more about myself with each challenge and think this time around I did finally make some progress.
This Challenge I tried to pay more attention to portions and macros (which is a gigantic pain). I was not always on track and am still trying to figure out what works for me, but I’ve learned that mindless “Paleo” does NOT work. Just because it fits the paleo guidelines, doesn’t mean I need to eat it. Just because I’m not eating crackers and cheese, doesn’t mean I need seconds on paleo dinner. While medjool dates stuffed with almond butter are delicious AND within the guidelines – eating them like candy won’t help me reach any sugar reduction or fat loss goals. I’ve also learned that I have to make a conscious effort to eat a lot of vegetables, which I don’t love all the time.
Eating an adequate amount of vegetables seems to require more planning and prep work. Speaking of planning, my biggest fail happened in the first week when I failed to plan. We had a b-day party for my 4yr old and spent all morning setting up without eating anything. I managed to avoid the donuts, cake, pizza and other non-compliant snacks during the party- but once 2pm rolled around, guests had left, and I still hadn’t eaten anything all day – the leftover pizza didn’t stand a chance. I basically used myself as a garbage disposal to clean up. Gross.
Other challenges I’ve faced over the past 4 years as a CFS Challenger are similar each time, but seem easier to overcome each round. Wine and leftover kids meals are two difficult areas that stand out from the past. They really didn’t seem as much of an issue this time. Old habits die hard, but it’s possible! Overall, the more practice I have being mindful of what I eat, the easier it gets.
While I don’t have drastic physical results to use as persuasion, I would absolutely recommend this type of challenge to anyone. I love (and seem to need) the accountability factor of these Challenges. It definitely helps me stay on track vs telling myself I’m going to do it on my own for 30 days. It seems to be a slow learning curve for me, but I did find a “before” pic from one of the first Challenges I entered and am happy to see I’ve come a long way. A lot of trial and error for me (ex. birthday party binge), but I feel like I’m in a better place after each Challenge and I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last CFS Challenge 🙂
Lost 3.5lbs – gained .5lbs of muscle and frame mass decreased by 1lb (and my muscle to frame ratio is within 1lb, so I think that’s good?)
lost 1.5inches on waist and .5 inches in hips
I’ve also birthed two nearly 10lb babies and never thought I’d be able to get through the extra skin and stretch marks to find muscles – but I can see a couple now!
22 seconds faster on WOD test – which was a real struggle. Within the last week of the Challenge I PR’d Grace, which I didn’t think possible because I’ve not been lifting heavy during class. AND I Pr’d Fran by over 1 minute while just sticking to my usual ladies class a few times a week. I started Crossfit over 7yrs ago (in my 20s) and the fact that I’m still able to improve makes me feel less like a middle-aged mom and gives me hope that it doesn’t have to be all downhill from here! Thanks CFS!
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