Not easy, but worth it!
By: Michelle Hulsey
“It will be easy.”
That’s what everyone told me about getting back into shape, after delivering my baby, almost 18 months ago. After all, I took very good care of myself during pregnancy. I ate well, stretched often, and walked daily. I even continued doing CrossFit the entirety of those nine months. I actually was in the gym, the day before I went into labor, doing the WOD – rowing, kettlebell swings, and double-unders (shh…don’t tell Jeremy). So, hearing time-and-time again “it will be easy” seemed reasonable to me.
And to many, I might have made it look a little easy. I delivered my baby girl on Sunday, February 22 and was back in the gym 8 days later. The rowing machine became my best friend, as I waited to be cleared by the midwife to return to CrossFit (I am pretty sure that I have done every rowing WOD known to man, by now). Six weeks later, I was given the clearance to return to CrossFit but given orders to “take it easy.”
The mistake I made was not listening to those orders. I was too ready to get back to where I had left off ten months ago. I was ready to lift heavy weight, climb ropes, swing on the bar, and jump on boxes. I was ready to Rx. I was ready to be back at the top of the scoreboard. I was ready to ring that PR bell again. Mentally, I was ready for all of these things. Physically, I was not.
I will spare you a lot of the details, and just tell you that I struggled for the next nine months. Everything was harder now, than it was even during my pregnancy. Weights that used to be easy for me to lift were now impossible. Movements that I once enjoyed were now very painful. The thought of doing benchmark and hero WODs that I had once loved, made me nauseous. And, I’m not even going to lie, I purposely skipped a few (yes, I “cherry-picked”).
I eventually reached a point where I no longer enjoyed doing CrossFit. Workouts were painful. I couldn’t RX anything. I wasn’t getting any better. The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over-and-over and expecting different results.” Nine months, after returning to CrossFit, I had a decision to make. Keep doing the same thing I was doing, and live with my current level of fitness, or make some changes.
I decided it was time to stop pouting, complaining, and just going through the motions. It was time to stop hurting and dreading WODs. It was time to stop thinking I would never be as good as I used to be. It was time to do some work. Are you in that position, right now? Maybe you are recovering from an injury, and think you will never be the same. Maybe you have hit a plateau that you believe you will never push past. Or, maybe you are new to this whole CrossFit thing and think you will never be able to do what those around you are doing. If any of this sounds like you, I want you to know that you are wrong. There are things you can do now, but I must warn you that they will not be easy.
Jumping back into CrossFit, full-force, obviously wasn’t working for me. I was very conditioned, but I was lacking strength – particularly, in my core. I sat down with one of our head trainers, Brandon Conner. I told him my goals, and he wrote me a personalized program. I went from doing WODs 5-6 times each week, down to 2-3 times each week, and added 2 days of strictly working on strength & Olympic lifts with him.
It wasn’t easy. I had to give up doing WODs that I loved. I had to train when I thought I was too sore. I had to be willing to lift weight that scared me. I had to listen to a coach. No – none of this was easy, but it has all been worth it. When I returned to CrossFit, in April 2015, my goal was to be just as good as when I left. Instead, I have gotten even better. My WOD times are faster. I have increased anywhere from 5-35 pounds on all of my lifts. I got my first muscle-up in this year’s CrossFit Open and finished the season with the highest female score in the gym.
2–Dial in Your Diet
If you know me at all, you know that I take my diet very seriously. Ever since I began CrossFit, in 2012, I have been a pretty strict follower of the Paleo diet. Even during my pregnancy, I stuck to this way of eating (for the most part). I just had to eat a lot more, and allow myself more “treat” meals than usual, which was pretty fun.
Within a month of delivering my daughter, I lost all of my pregnancy weight. I was losing fat, but I wasn’t really gaining any muscle. I had little energy and was having a difficult time recovering from one workout to the next. The problem obviously wasn’t what I was eating. The problem was I wasn’t eating enough, at the right times. I needed a new way of thinking. I sat down with Brandon again, and he prescribed a diet that I followed exactly. The keyword here is, “exactly.”
It definitely wasn’t easy. I had to spend a few hours each Sunday afternoon prepping my meals for the upcoming week. I had to measure my food and clean a lot of dishes. I had to give up eating sweet potatoes 2-3 times a day and skip my weekly “treat” meals. Easy, no, but it sure has been worth it! I am now 20 pounds lighter than I was BEFORE I even got pregnant and have still been able to gain back the muscle I lost.
3–Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
I have stopped comparing myself to others. Okay, that’s a lie, but I am trying to get better at this one. No one is exactly like me. My body has still not completely recovered from giving birth – I still have some weakness in my core, and I struggle with some pelvic rotation that creates all types of instability for me. This means that sometimes I can’t lift as heavy, go as fast, or do the movements that other people around me are doing. I have to be okay with this. I have to be proud of my own accomplishments and concentrate on being the best possible version of myself – not someone else. I am learning that when I focus on my own performance and not on others, that is when I make my greatest gains.
Keeping this perspective has not been easy for me. I am a very competitive person, and I honestly can’t stand not being at the top of the scoreboard each day. But, I have more than just myself to think about now. I want to be awesome at CrossFit, but more importantly I want to be able hold my daughter and chase her around every day. That is worth far more to me than being injured because I was trying to beat someone else’s weight or time. This doesn’t mean that I can’t strive to hit the same numbers, as my workout buddies, but I have to be willing to be in the work to get there — not be stupid, and rush my body to do things it’s not ready to do.
Just a few weeks after I started training with Brandon, I got a 20# PR on my snatch. He looked at me and said, “Kinda’ makes you wish you had started doing this a lot sooner, huh?” Wow, what a gut punch! In that moment, I realized that I had literally just wasted nine months waiting on things to get easier. My final piece of advice to you – don’t keep waiting on it to get easier. We have so many great coaches who would love to help you. Get to work now! It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!