Okay, so it's been a little over a month since I started following The Outlaw Way at my CrossFit gym. Time for an update!
The short update: I pretty much love it.
The long update: Oh, where to start?
I can't remember if I really explained why I wanted to try The Outlaw Way, so I'll (re) explain it now. A few months ago, the coaches at my gym started following Outlaw programming, and decided to bring it to the gym as an alternative to the regular CF programming and offer it to anyone who was interested in trying something a bit. . . more, I guess.
The primary reason I decided to give it a try is that there is weightlifting each and every session. Lifting is my favorite part of CrossFit, and I disliked having to choose between a lifting WOD or a met-con (our gym gives us the WOD and a couple of alternates). For better or worse, Outlaw means lifting AND a met-con (or two). So the lifting is what sold me. If I wasn't doing CrossFit, I'd be signed up for a powerlifting and/or Oly lifting program somewhere. I like the lifting that much, and I'm really fairly strong.
The first couple of weeks were pretty rough, getting acclimated to the increased workload AND an extra day per week. Prior to Outlaw, I was going to CrossFit either four times a week or three times plus one non-CF active day (running or hiking). Everyone told me there would be an adjustment period, and they were right. But now I can say I'm pretty much adjusted to the extra work and frequency, which is good, because I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to for various reasons.
Things I have learned so far:
When you dramatically increase how much exercise you're doing, it's best to eat more. One of the mistakes I made in those first couple of weeks was not increasing my calorie intake. I was SO tired, lethargic, and sleepy in those first couple of weeks. It almost felt like early pregnancy.
Then I figured out that I should be consuming more calories to keep up with my new calorie output. Once I started eating a bit more, suddenly I had all the energy in the world! I think the reason I was so tired is that my body was trying to conserve energy during my non-workout times. (Check my logic on this, Monica, or anyone else who probably knows more about this than I really do, please.)
It was also a (very unintended) good demonstration to me of the failure of the ubiquitous and overly simplistic "eat less; exercise more" weight loss advice that you always hear. During those first two weeks, I was exercising TONS more and pretty much eating the same amount of calories I'd been eating. According to "eat less; exercise more" wisdom, I should have been losing some weight during that time. Instead I felt exhausted and did not lose or gain a single pound. I still have fat to lose, so you'd think that ELEM (as I'm now going to always abbreviate it) would have done SOMETHING.
And, interestingly, I haven't gained any weight since I added more calories into my daily diet. Yup, I'm exactly the same place (+/- 3 pounds, my usual variation) since January 14. I'm okay with that, though, because I've been tracking my body fat % using my scale. I know those aren't wildly accurate, but I'm hoping it's at least internally valid. I missed the body fat water tank peopleguy who visited my gym, so this is the best I can do. Anyway, that has dropped a bit, and even more objectively--my pants are looser and I actually fit into size 8 jeans last week. They are still tight, but they did fit. This is, really, the achievement of a lifetime--single digit size (even though, yes, there is vanity sizing, and I also know that size 8 is still considered "plus size" according to magazines and whatnot, eyeroll). What part of this is Outlaw and what part is diet, there's no way to say. But I think part of this is Outlaw because . . .
. . . I am stronger. Certainly, I'm stronger than I was six months ago. But even, I think, since I started Outlaw. I've had a few PRs and some recent work on the bench press compared to a benchmark I did a month ago has me thinking I could best that benchmark if I did it today. I'm really planning to give Outlaw a good six months, though, before I can truly say it's made me stronger. But I think it will.
I can endure more than I'd imagined. One thing I started doing shortly after beginning Outlaw was logging my activity on Fitocracy. (You can find me after you join--I'm, shockingly, 'rationaljenn.' And if you need an invitation, email me.) It's not exactly set up to take CrossFit-style WODs, but I am generally able to get all of my activities into Fitocracy. And when it's all written out like that (check out what I endured last Saturday, for example), it's really kind of impressive, in a kick-ass way.
I am learning SO much. All of this practice with the lifting means I'm getting stronger, and it also means that I'm getting that much better at the technically challenging Olympic lifts. In fact, I had a mental breakthrough the other day during a WOD which included squat clean thrusters. FINALLY, I figured out how to coordinate the hip motion with the shrug in a very efficient way, and that bar just went flying up there! Oly lifts are lots of fun (and somewhat scary, too), and the better I'm getting at them, the more I am beginning to realize how much more there is to learn. I am starting to understand why people who pursue this at the elite level work on only those lifts--they are really really challenging to do correctly. And I can't WAIT to watch the Olympics this year!
I am really enjoying working out with some of the most kickass people at my gym. The thing is, I'm probably not your typical Outlaw athlete. For example, even using the word athlete to describe myself sounds strange to my own ears. I am a regular person. A regular person, who, granted, is a bit more obsessed with CrossFit and weightlifting than the average regular person, but still. I am not the type of person who is really ever going to The Games. While I am interested in competing locally some day (in a scaled or masters competition), it's something that I want to do in the same way I want to run the occasional 5K. I want to see if I can do it--that's all.
In fact, along these lines, I am signed up for the Open. :) Again, just to see what I can do. And as it happens, I'll be doing the Open WODs as part of Outlaw anyway, so I might as well get the fun of seeing my numbers up there, too.
Back to my fellow Outlaws--I am working out with people who are even more obsessed with CrossFit than I am, people who have been to The Games, or who have a real chance of getting there. And it. is. awesome. First of all, and if you didn't know this about CrossFit in general, know this now--the people are super supportive and encouraging and nice. And nobody really cares if you are the last one to finish a WOD or if you scaled the hell out of it. People help each other out with technique and decisions about how much weight to put on the bar and it's just The Way of Things--at our CrossFit gym, and from what I can tell, well-run CrossFit Affiliates the world over. In fact, I would suggest that if you are going to CF and you DON'T have this kind of culture at your gym, go find another one that does, and quickly.
Working out with people who are the next level (or two or three or infinity) beyond me is great because I get to watch their form and technique. I'm an observer-type, so watching is an integral part of the way I learn. I can see something of what I'd like to get to, and working with them, I can learn something about how I can get there, too.
Comparing my performance to that of others is simply another way of benchmarking my own performance. Don't mistake me for someone who is focused on what the others are doing, though. My focus in the gym is ME. In fact, it is some of my most selfish time of the day, the only time of the day where I am thinking only about myself and what I'm doing--such a refreshing change of pace from my day job. :)
It can be difficult to keep the proper focus on myself occasionally--it's easy to get caught up in the chase of the clock or to unconsciously begin pacing yourself with the person next to you. But rather than view this as a problem specific to CrossFit, I think letting oneself get carried away with focusing too much on the competition can happen in any sport. I use those moments where I begin to get too caught up in the competition as character-building opportunities--and refocus on my own efforts. (I should say that this problem is not really something I face very often any more--it was an issue when I first started CF, but I am pretty good now at focusing on my own stuff, and learning what I can from observing others without letting it affect my own work.)
The last thing I've learned is that I still have some struggles with the Perfectionism Monster that make me my own worst enemy. But I am overcoming it, slowly but surely. One specific thing I realized only last Saturday is that I am wrongly equating "scaling" with "cheating." I have no problem scaling a heavy weight to my own fitness level--I'm not going to try for someone else's 1RM, for example. That would be silly.
But when it comes to scaling weights (or reps) during a WOD, when it's a weight that I could normally handle if the WOD didn't call for 35 reps and/or I haven't already completed two other different workouts within that same hour (as happened this weekend), my Perfectionism Monster tells me I'm "cheating." I had a good chat with my coach about that, about how to tell if I'm scaling too much or too little or just right (I scaled that WOD pretty much just about right), so now I have some more things to think about for the future. And the main thing I'm going to tell myself is "It's scaling; not cheating." Someone else's level of scaling would be my killer workout. And my level of scaling would be someone else's killer workout. It's all part of keeping the focus on myself, and not letting what others are doing affect my decisions about what I'm doing.
Whew! So that's it, so far! Like I said, I'm planning to give Outlaw a really good try for the next few months or so and then see where I am. If you want to follow along in excruciating detail, be sure to find me on Fitocracy.
I'd also like to thank my wonderful husband and children for adjusting to my new gym schedule. It has been somewhat difficult for us as a family, and I am very grateful that they're putting up with it. At least for now.
Really, I am loving this so far, and I'm thrilled with how far I've come and looking forward to seeing how far I'll get.