Interview with Laura, my pregnant sister

I hope to make interviews with strong women a regular feature on Muscles on a Lady. If you’d like to be interviewed, let me know in the comments! To kick off the interview series, I talked with my older sister, Laura. My questions are in bold. 

Hello darling sister! You are more than 8 months pregnant and you lift heavy things! How heavy is the weight you are overhead squatting in this picture? 

laura

A CrossFit friend took those pictures during a 5RM OHS wod. I have 78# on the bar in the picture which is as much as I lifted that day.

What are some of the ways you’ve modified your workouts in the past 9 months, and why did you modify?

During the first trimester I didn’t modify much at all. I was feeling pretty sick for a while so I was forced to skip my workouts some days and work out at a lower intensity on other days. My midwife was not concerned about my level of activity but warned me about getting overheated or dehydrated. It wasn’t very hot during my first trimester so I wasn’t too worried about overheating but I did drink way more water during wods than I used to. I did the 2013 Open during my first trimester and didn’t need to modify at all – I just wished I wasn’t so sick!

During the second trimester I read that I should start scaling. I was feeling great and hadn’t gained enough weight to really impact my balance so I didn’t modify much at first. Part way through my second trimester I started making modifications based off how I was feeling. One day my body told me that rope-climbs and handstands were not really the best idea so I stopped doing them. I also started stepping down after box jumps to reduce impact and eventually started doing step-ups. When lifting, I avoided any grunty-intense efforts. I was told not to lie on by back so I substituted toes to bar in any wods with situps. Some people talk about keeping your intensity at a place where you can carry out a conversation when working out. My body is used to pushing hard so I made up my own rule. I decided to keep my intensity at a place where I never needed to sit or lie down after a wod. For the most part I was still able to RX most wods during my second trimester.

My third trimester started in July when it was starting to get pretty hot out. I fought the heat by drinking a lot of water and by working out with a cold, wet cloth around my neck. I also took breaks during some wods to wet my head to cool off. I am pretty big and moving slower now so I approach each wod differently. Some days I feel great and get an awesome wod in and other days I just go through the movements. I continue to workout at least 4 times/week because I think it is good for my health, good preparation for labor and because the people at my gym make me happy. One thing I have noticed in my third trimester is that I haven’t lost very much strength. I think carrying around all this extra weight is even making me stronger in some areas!

You’re a strong athlete and as your sister, I can say that you are very competitive. If I imagine being pregnant and having to slow down, I know that I would be really sad being beat by people that I know I could easily beat, sans-fetus. Is it sometimes hard on your competitive nature to have to slow down?

Good question Lis! This has been very hard for me. I am super competitive and love to PR. This is embarrassing to admit but I cried after a bunch of wods earlier on when I felt like I had to hold myself back from doing well. (Can I blame my hormones?) One I got bigger this was not such a big problem. These days I don’t feel very competitive but I do like to think about my “comeback” 🙂

A cool thing about your gym (Rocket Crossfit) is that there are a whole bunch of pregnant Crossfitters right now. How do you think training while pregnant has been different for you, given all your pregnant Crossfit friends, compared to somebody who is the only pregnant woman at her gym?

It has been SO great to have so many pregnant women at our gym. Our trainers are now all experts at xfit for pregnant women and have no problem modifying wods for us when needed. The entire gym has been very supportive of all of us and still view us as equal athletes. It turns out people love cheering for pregnant women and I love hearing people yell things like “your baby loves burpees” and “your baby will have muscle ups from birth!”

There are lots of outdated ideas about what pregnant women can’t or shouldn’t do. What are some dumb things that people have said to you when they see you working out?

This is a tricky question. No one wants to do anything to hurt their baby. I really think people need to talk to their healthcare provider about their exercise and make a plan that works for them. It is a personal decision which is why it is so annoying when a random person tells you what you can and cannot do!

Earlier on I had people ask me when I was going to stop and if it was actually safe to be doing what I was doing. Although these are just simple questions they imply that I was maybe doing something harmful to my baby. I have also had people tell me that weight training is not safe for pregnant women. I think everyone that knows me has figured out that I am not stopping so I don’t get many comments now. Most comments I got were coming from people who don’t work out at all. For these people the thought of doing pulls up while not pregnant is crazy so they simply cannot believe a pregnant woman could/should be doing them!

Jeremiah (Laura’s husband) got you a shirt that says “lifting for two” which is about the best gift a husband can give his pregnant wife, if you ask me. Do you have anything cute or lovey-dovey to say about him?

Jeremiah got the me the shirt as a surprise during the time in my pregnancy when I was feeling chubby rather than pregnant. I had started wearing baggy shirts to workouts rather than my usual gear and he wanted me to embrace my belly! (Thanks Jeremiah!) Overall he has been super encouraging for the past nine months. He still views me as being very capable and pushes me to safe level during each wod. He also loves to brag about his pregnant wife beating people (which is awesome to hear when you have gained 30lbs are are not feeling the best about your body!)

I think it will be very cool for your daughter to eventually see pictures and videos of you doing cool stuff while pregnant. You’ve been filming yourself doing max pull-ups every few months (while wearing the aforementioned “lifting for two” shirt). I guess this one isn’t a question, but I just want you to know that I think you are VERY COOOOOOL. Also I love you. Anyway, Do you have any advice for other pregnant Crossfitters out there?

Thanks Lis! Our baby will definitely be a CrossFit baby and I am excited to raise her around so many strong women. My advice for other pregnant Crossfitters is to find a care-provider that supports your decision to be active, have lots of conversations with your trainers about what you can and can’t do and listen to your body (it will talk to you at some point!). If you are like me and CrossFit is something that makes you happy, don’t give it up!

Thanks for doing this interview, Lo! I can’t wait to meet your baby! Kiss kiss!

You’re welcome Lis. This baby wants to meet you too! xoxoxo

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The ’99ers

Friends, if you haven’t had a chance to watch the Nine for IX series’ The ’99ers, I highly suggest you get on it! You can watch the livestream (with a free account) here. I cried several times!

I don’t have much commentary, but I recommend this post over at Fit and Feminist.

Muscles, and Are They Pretty?

The amount of effort being put into promoting the idea that “strong is the new skinny” is enormous. It’s a Facebook group with 110k likes. CBC News calls it a trend. It’s on tank tops everywhere. It’s a slogan that is used to sell protein powder.

Protein powder or anti-diarrheal?

This slogan could be great if, say, it were used to encourage women to work their way up to being able to deadlift 2x their body weight. But the problem is that the focus  seems to be on adding “skinny with no muscle” to the already very long list of types of women’s bodies upon which are are supposed to frown. “Strong”, in the opinion of the many pinterest and tumblr users who repeat the slogan,  actually refers not to strength and the ability to lift heavy things, but to thin, conventionally attractive bodies gasconading a bit of tricep. If we were talking about promoting strength, the attribute, rather than the physical appearance of slight muscle definition on thin bodies, then:

Crossfit is certainly not innocent: First of all, this video is horrifying. The camera angles are straight-up lecherous. “I have an idea, let’s open with a scantily clad woman doing double unders, face not necessary, and, ACTION”. A good rule of thumb is that if you are filming a woman, be sure her face is at least in the shot.

It’s just such a problematic video. I mean, specious reasoning abounds, like I don’t think Andrea Ager has much clout in asserting that Crossfit won’t make you bulky. Or when she’s like, “Hard work and the way that your body looks go so hand-in-hand, but I think people either want to do one or the other.” What? Anyway, maybe the editing was weird or something and there were a few positive moments in the video such as, “I’m not working out to look good. I’m working out to be strong, to be fit” so let’s forgive individual quotes and look at the clip at large. The thing that drives me crazy is that this video seems to intend to empower women. Let’s think about that!

  • Being anti-thin bodies does not empower women
  • Being anti-fat bodies does not empower women
  • Permitting certain behaviours in women based on the reasoning that “guy friends like it” does not empower women
  • “Muscle enhances a woman’s looks” does not empower women
  • Promoting the idea that the way a woman looks is the most important thing about her, or even an important thing about her, does not empower women!

The main argument of the video is that Crossfit will help you LOOK a certain way, rather than Crossfit will have you be able to DO certain things, and that’s what is most disappointing. The women in this video are so capable! Let’s celebrate that, instead of leering at sweat drip down their sternums.

I should note that my experience with Crossfit has shown this attitude of “looking strong is the new looking skinny” is not the norm. I really never hear people talk about working out for the sake of appearance at my gym or at any of the gyms I’ve visited. We get really pumped for each other when we hit new PRs but it’s never in a “now boys will like you!” kind of way. Honestly, if it weren’t for stupid promotional videos such as this one serving as counter examples, I would probably argue that Crossfit is inherently empowering to women. At my gym, instead of “strong is the new skinny”, we’re more of a “doing your best and improving is the new caring about how you look”, but I doubt we’ll see that printed on a t-shirt any time soon. To close, I will leave you with this much more positive video, a response to the question “why can’t women do pull ups?”: (Interested readers can also read this)

Callous Shaver in Pink

After a few weeks of doing Crossfit, I started noticing some callouses start to build up on my hands. They got bigger and bigger until one day, after about 30 pull-ups, one ripped. From then on, my hands would rip or re-rip in all sorts of locations during pull-ups. For the past couple of months, I’ve had hands that look like this:

From when I tried to do the Hundreds Event from Regionals... I only got through 100 wall balls and 74 pull-ups.

From when I tried to do the Hundreds Event from Regionals… I only got through 100 wall balls and 74 pull-ups.

My hands just got worse and worse. I tried taping up to protect my hands, which helped a bit (especially this method) but I was still going through bandaids like nobody’s business. Callous tears heal quickly enough, but I’d also do callous-tearing pull-ups or toes-to-bar often enough that they never got to heal all the way. Now that I’m focusing on lifting instead of Crossfit for the past week and the next month (and therefore avoiding any kipping movements), my hands have finally healed all the way and I feel like I’ve got a fresh start at taking care of my hands properly. New leaf!

My coach recommended I buy a callous shaver. They’re helpful tools for maintaining callouses so that they never get too big, but they also give you enough control that it’s difficult to over do it. I’ve been searching around town all week trying to find one (it always makes me a little sad to have to go into an aisle called “foot care” to look for something for my hands) but to no avail until I went to Sephora tonight and found this little guy:

$16 at Sephora

$16 at Sephora

It’s exactly the tool I need and it’s bright pink.

My experience with weightlifting has shown that not many companies think about women at all. I’ve never seen a gym (other than a Crossfit gym) carry women’s barbells. Weightlifting shoes basically only come in men’s sizes, and even then it’s hard to find them in small men’s sizes to fit my feet.  Competition singlets are unisex at best. So, I must say that I rather enjoy the fact that the only callous shaver that seems to be for sale in all of Edmonton is hot pink.

Half-Marathon Row

One of the Crossfit Games events this year was a half-marathon row on the Concept 2 indoor row machines (sometimes called “ergs”). This is a crazy distance! Everybody knows that sometimes even 1km can feel like an eternity. The farthest distance I had ever gone was 2kk, and a half marathon is  over 21km.

A Facebook thread with some women at the gym escalated rather quickly from “A half-marathon row is insane” to “Therefore we must do it”  and next thing I knew, the five of us had agreed to do it.

teamsmall

L to R: Sierra, me, Kaila, Kelsey, Amanda

We met last weekend and I showed up with a plan B for any scenario. I had plenty of water, I had snacks of all kinds, I had an extra pair of shoes in case my first pair started to rub and give me a blister, and you know we had A League of Their Own projecting onto the wall in front of us. I wore my favourite headband, the one that keeps both bangs and sweat out of my eyes. I was feeling nervous about my knee, which had been feeling a big wiggling lately, and I promised myself that if it started bothering me, I would take stretch breaks or drop out of the “race” entirely.

Rowers ready to go

Rowers ready to go. Those bags contain all my snacks.

And so off we went!

rowstart

21097m to go!

My goal time was set firmly at “under 2.5hrs, actually, whatever, just finish however long it takes” with a whispered, “and maybe if everything goes well I can hit around 2 hours but actually probably not, just aim for 2.5”. I started slowly, holding about a 4:00/500m pace for the first 500m or so as I did some arms only, arms-and-back, arms-back-half-slide warm ups at the start. I wanted to hold around a 2:45 for the first 5k, which I did, hitting “16,097m to go” after about 27.5 minutes (slowing down for water breaks and once to fix the laptop). I did the next 5k a little bit faster and had 10k left to go after almost exactly one hour. At this point I finally started to think it would be possible to finish in 2 hours, and I picked up the pace a little bit.

Around this 5k, I noticed I had stopped sweating entirely (the lack of sweat was making my armpits chafe!) so I made sure to slow for water every 15 minutes or so. I also grabbed a dried mango slice right after every water break to keep my energy up. I find it hard to intake energy while running since almost everything makes me nauseated, but the steadiness of the row really helped and I was able to eat as much dried fruit as I wanted.

At half way you think, “oh, I am halfway done” but NO YOU ARE NOT. IT IS JUST BEGINNING. I started playing mental games to get me through the metres.  A few kms in, I realized how weary it made me feel to think about the entire distance still remaining, so I started treating it kilometer-by-kilometer, telling myself that I don’t have to get from 17,000 down to 0, I just have to get from 17,000 down to 16,000. Watching only the final 3 digits made it more manageable, mentally. Our bums also started hurting, and we started to need to take breaks to chalk up our blistering hands.

One stroke pulls me about 10m, so I started playing games like, “just do 100 good strong strokes to get through this kilometer”. That’s how I got from 14,000 down to 13,000, and from 8,000 down to 7,000. It really made the time pass quickly, and my focus on form during these 100 strokes helped pick my pace up to about 2:30/500m. It took me about 26 minutes to get from 10km left down to 5km left.

With 5km left, I decided to try to get in under 1 hour and 55 minutes, keeping my pace around 2:30. I had run out of dried mango but I was starting to get weird cold sweats, so I started eating dried apple rings. I started reciting, “Legs-back-arms, arms-back-legs” as a mantra, remembering to push through my heels, squeeze with my shoulders, and not rush the recovery.  Kelsey and I were both rowing about 20 strokes per minute, so we pulled in time with each other every so often as a way to keep pace. Legs-back-arms, arms-back-legs. I could see from Kaila’s display that she was about 800m in front of me, so I picked up my pace to about 2:20/500m  to see if I could reduce her lead. Really, just for something to DO, something else to think about. Mentally, it was exhausting. Legs-back-arms, arms-back-legs.

I found a kick somewhere in me and was able to sprint the final half kilometer for a finishing time of 1:51:14, almost 9 minutes faster than my secret dream goal.

Row final time

The pictures make it seem like it turned from midday to dead-of-night during our row, but I promise it is just due to flash settings

We all finished much, much sooner than 2 and a half hours. Amanda’s husband took Before and After shots, but we looked pretty much the same in both photos. I mean, it was difficult to stand for a minute after finishing, but otherwise none of us were very sore at all. It is just so cool to me that we’re all about to up and row a half marathon without any particular prep. We were challenged just by the thought of completing the distance; who would have thought we could do it with near ease?

Something that I have found to be the case again and again and again at Crossfit is that I have spent my entire life underestimating my body’s capabilities, and I think that’s true for a lot of people. We say, “oh, I’m just not that fast” or “oh, I just have a weak upper body” but none of that has to be true. I laughed during Fundamentals when they told us to do a pull-up, because a pull-up seemed like such a comically unachievable feat. Now I can do basically as many as I want, or until my hands start to bleed. Yes, that’s correct, I am able to do pull-ups until my hands start to bleed, and I used to not be able to do a single one!

As I sprinted my final 500m, I thought of this Thomas Edison quote, which pops into my head quite often during challenging workouts:

edison

espnW

I only learned about espnW recently, as their Nine for IX documentary series has been getting some press. They have a whole website of news just about female athletes. It mostly follows WNBA, soccer, tennis, golf, and softball, but has occasional stories about big Olympic names like Missy Franklin.

On one hand, FINALLY!! I would love to be able to follow professional women’s soccer! I don’t really have much of an interest in following the other sports, but it’s high time female athletes started getting serious press.

On the other hand, ESPN (not espnM or something, but the default ESPN site) has zero posts about women on the homepage, nor on all but one of the landing pages (the MMA page had a story about Fallon Fox, but it was about the fact that she’s transsexual, not really about any of her athletic accomplishments).

So, step in the right direction, but not a total victory. At least stories about female athletes get to exist somewhere, but it’s still an issue of separate and not equal.

I did find this great video, though:

The song is cheesy but the footage made me happy. It’s nice to see women and girls being promoted as athletes that get sweaty, dirty, and out of breath. And wear mouth guards! Compare it to ad campaigns like Roxy’s:

I mean, that’s horrifying. So I think we can say that espnW is at least doing some things right!

Shirts and other things I saw at the Crossfit Games other than the athletes

I saw a lot of triceps. I saw a lot of sunburns. I saw spectators dressed as if they were headed to do a workout, not watch one. I saw a lot of Reebok nanos. I saw countless ripped hands, bruised collarbones, and scabbed shins. I saw a baby wearing a shirt that said “beast mode”. I saw an unexpected number of long blonde pony tails.

I saw food trucks selling grass-fed beef hamburgers. I saw food trucks with menus sorted by paleo and paleo-ish. I saw probably a hundred thousand sweet potato fries. I saw line ups 45+ minutes for a hamburger, while the woman running the churro stand wondered why she hadn’t had a customer in hours. I saw even longer line ups to get into the official merch tent.

I saw a tired crowd get to its feet, heat after heat, to cheer on the any straggling finishers. I saw that one drink vendor in the tennis stadium who kept saying Vitamin C Water (instead of Vitamin Water) like 12 times over the course of the weekend.” Water, water, Vitamin C water!” I saw this old man, who identified as the grandpa of one of the athletes, watch what must have been his first competition. While watching the team legless, he was like, “oh holy smokes, now the girls are going to do it!!!”, totally impressed. I saw a lot of people with tattoos.

I saw a teenage girl kind of freak out after meeting her idol, Annie Thorisdottir. I saw Annie Sakamoto sitting a few rows behind me at one point and she is really beautiful.  I saw Max Greenfield just walking around and got all flustered while telling him that I hope he and Veronica Mars end up together, but he politely took a photo with me anyway.  You guys, I saw Pukie.

I saw a whole tonne of trapezii. I saw lots of neon colours and bare torsos. On the non-bare torsos, I saw many, many Crossfit-themed shirts.  Crossfit shirts are totally a thing. People love them! I mean, people really, really love wearing Crossfit shirts.

In the vendor’s village, I saw a lot of merchandise catered to women. It’s nice to be a considered a worthwhile market share! There were some booths that went with the “if you make it pink, that means its the women’s version” approach, others that printed the exact same things on men’s and women’s shirts, and others than haven’t gotten over snatch jokes yet.

Very Pink

Very Pink

I understand that we all need to get our bangs out of our eyes, yet still felt overwhelmed by the extensive headband selection.

IMG_0833

walls and walls of this!

IMG_0834

Phew, they have it in lace!

And of course, the classic Crossfit-themed thong booth (which had no line, I would like you to know).

IMG_0793

Yes, that is underwear that says “perfect snatch” and “first I clean it, then I jerk it”. There was also one that said “I lift heavier than your girl, I look better naked, and I only eat grass fed beef” [sic] which is honestly a lot of message for a little piece of cloth.

And for the girl in your life who likes to look like somebody slapped both her butt cheeks but doesn’t want to have to do the dirty work, there’s always these shorts:

IMG_0799 (2)

But let me tell you, the real story here is the shirts.

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