The post below was originally published in 2011, and it's been updated each year to reflect where I am in my life and the new...Read More
Valuable Lessons Learned
Today is the three-year anniversary of my first CrossFit workout!
I started with bootcamp 3X a week on October 1, 2007, then “graduated” to bootcamp plus an indoor class until I finally made the leap to 100% inside the box. Throughout that time, I also evolved from 3X a week to training six days a week – occasionally even doing a double workout day just for fun – and eventually added running into the mix…
In July 2009, I transitioned from grain-free Zone to dino-chow for my diet…
Taking all that into account and using my very questionable math skills, I estimate that since 2007, I’ve completed somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 workouts and eaten approximately 2750 dino-chow meals and snacks.
With that in mind, I made the deliberate decision to throw away all my rules during my time in Prague. I gave myself permission to workout only when I wanted to and to eat whatever and whenever I desired – trusting that my body would tell me when I needed to move more and when I needed to eat less.
So how did it go?
As an experiment, it was illuminating.
As an experience in self-care, it was a mixed bag.
As a vacation, it was fantastic.
Here are some of the things I learned about myself, my body, food, indulgence, and discipline in the beautiful Czech Republic.
|[The terrace café at DOX Center for Contemporary Art in Prague]|
I still love food.
All food. Healthy food. Special treats. Exquisite, fussy food. Hearty peasant food. On a plate. Standing up. Eaten like an animal. Leisurely with good conversation. I love it all. And I especially love it in an appropriate environment: cheese and baguette on the banks of the Vltata… schnitzel and potato salad in a biergarten… coffee and candy bars looking out the window of a train… duck, dumplings, and cold Staropramen in a cozy Czech restaurace…
Despite my ability to manage my cravings and appetite in my “real life” – and to mostly prefer good-for-me food that’s eaten for health and energy – I la-la-love to eat delicious food purely for pleasure. Still.
And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It just needs to be an “only sometimes” thing.
Riding the sugar train can be fun. Getting off is very, very, very hard.
I’m only mildly embarrassed to admit that I ate chocolate almost every day of our trip – and I have very firm opinions about my favorite Czech candy bars. Developing a viewpoint like that requires plenty of research, and I do love the scientific method! I also indulged in baguettes and pound cake at breakfast, dessert after dinner if the spirit moved, and even a little sugar (and cream) in my coffee. Also dumplings. And schnitzel.
It was delightful – even though it required me to feed the sugar monster quite frequently. As long as I kept a slight but steady flow of sugar going throughout the day, my energy and mood were awesome. (I should also note that I wasn’t training. If workouts had been demanding, I’m sure I would have felt the ill effects. But it turns out, cake is fine fuel for viewing castles and getting lost among cobblestone alleys.)
Back here at home, it’s a different story.
Two days ago, I went cold-turkey on caffeine and sugar. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was pretty hellish… and continues to be. My energy is flat. My cravings are off the charts. And I’ve had a headache for roughly 72 hours now.
I know the only option is to ride it out, and that’s what I’m doing. While gnashing my teeth, I’m also remembering how much I enjoyed my trip and recognizing, as gently as possible, that I have only myself to blame for my current misery. It was a choice; I’m living with the consequences. Yay for adulthood.
Re-boarding the workout train is very, very, very hard.
Dave and I went on three ridiculously fun and invigorating runs in Prague. The air was cool, the scenery was breathtaking, and our pace was recreational. That kind of running is the very best that running can be: pure celebration.
We also walked everywhere. All. day. long. As I mentioned the other day, my feet are shredded, sore, tired, calloused, blistered, and spent.
What we did not do is a ‘real’ workout… the ones with a plan and a timer and some semblance of ego on the line. I did 10 pushups after a run one day – and a perfect chest-to-floor pushup in the apartment looking for something under the couch, but it’s insulting to CrossFitters everywhere to even hint that I did – or thought of doing – a CrossFit workout on vacation.
But now it’s time. Monday morning at 6:30 a.m., my sorry butt will be at CrossFit Austin. “Dread” might describe what I’m feeling – but also “optimism.” When I started CrossFit three years ago on this very day (!), I was pretty unfit, but the challenge and routine whipped me into shape fairly quickly – with a huge emotional boost as a free-with-purchase. I’m super excited to feel that again!
So now that the grand experiment is over, I have a few conclusions:
1. The real energy of eating clean is way, way better than the faux energy provided by caffeine and sugar fuel. Ninety percent of the time, meat, vegetables, quality fats, and a little fruit are definitely the way to go (and the other 10%, make the indulgences the absolute best they can be).
2. Discipline for the sake of discipline doesn’t appeal to me much anymore. There was a time when being really hard on myself felt really good. That time has passed. It took a significant amount of mental and physical work to reverse a lifetime of bad habits. But I have good habits now, and the days of demanding that I do everything the hard way, all the time, are over. Three times a week I’m going to give it my all in my CrossFit class; the rest of the time, I’m going to be really, super-duper nice to myself.
3. The freedom to indulge is fantastic. And allowing myself that freedom – on very, very special occasions – is what makes it possible for me to choose to eat clean the rest of the time. The 2700+ dino-chow meals that lead up to 16 days of indulgence in dumplings are what made me able to enjoy the dumplings. As the Moxy-Boss told me once, “You make deposits in the good health bank so you can make withdrawals later.” I have zero problem with making deposits in my good health account throughout the year so that when a delicious opportunity arises, I can take full advantage of every bite.