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Training with Intention

We already know that living your life with intention will make you so much more fulfilled and happier. Living life with intention means getting off the autopilot, not just going with the flow and performing daily habits like a robot. Living with intention means having a purpose, a goal, or a plan for how you want your life to be.

I want to focus on discussing training with intention or being an intentional athlete.

Do you just show up to training with no goal and no purpose? Do you perform your workouts just to get it done, without a plan to be better? Do you make statements when you aren’t giving effort in training that “it wasn’t a good workout”, or “it’s too difficult”, and just fall back on those excuses when things get tough? Are you settling for an okay performance just to go with the flow or out of comfort?

Did you know that you could choose how you train, how you develop, and how fast you can progress? You can choose to be an intentional athlete and that will make you better.

First step is deciding what it is you want. This first step is important. It needs to be a clear goal that you actually care about and see yourself committing to. Then you need to figure out your daily actions that you need to do to work towards it.

Before your next workout, ask yourself what you intend to do that day and why. What are you expecting of yourself for todays training and what is it that you want to be able to achieve. How will you go about tackling any challenges you might face? Is there something you need to do to prepare physically or mentally? How will your actions today help you get closer to your goals?

Just like anything worthwhile in life, being intentional will require extra effort. But the benefits will make it worth it. Because it's the meaningful choices that you make everyday that will determine your success.

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“I will break up todays reps so that I can be consistent.”

“I intend to lift heavier than I did the last time I trained this movement.”

“I will perform my post workout stretches with intent so that I can benefit from them and not just hold the positions without any body-mind connection.”

“I will check how many reps of unbroken pull-ups I was able to do last time and work on increasing that number today.”

“I will do my best for today even though I am feeling tired. I will not let that be an excuse for not giving full effort. But I will not be comparing myself”

“I am not afraid of failure and will continue to push harder during the workout. I can set a plan and if it doesn’t work, then move on to plan B. But I will not quit.”

“I intend to be better than I was yesterday.”

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Get in the Zone

Everyone is stressed about something in their life; whether you’re a student, a parent, an employee, a business owner, an athlete, a husband or wife, or all of the above! When you are stressed it’s hard to focus on other aspects of your life. It becomes difficult to switch off your mind from the stress and try to deal with other activities that you want to do in your day, like training. But this blog post isn't about dealing with stress. This is about getting in the zone for training. But how are you supposed to do that?

Let’s learn how to get in the zone!

1. Make sure that you actually love training! It’s so much easier to get in the zone of doing something that you are passionate about. If you are training because you ‘have’ to, then it becomes even more difficult to give your full effort. Either change your type of training, or try to revisit your reasons for starting. Because if it’s important to you and it makes you happy, you’ll find a way to do it.

2. Prepare yourself mentally before training. Before even entering your gym, while you’re driving, or as soon as you put on your workout clothes, start preparing your mind for training. Visualize yourself killing the workout and performing well. Visualize yourself enjoying your time while training. If you have a workout plan, go through it and mentally prepare yourself for the exercises that you will be doing.

3. Focus on the present and don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Get in the zone for training by keeping your thoughts focused on what you have to do for today to reach your final goal. Don’t let the pressure of achieving that final goal get to you though. By focusing only on the steps you have to do for that day it helps get you in the zone (keeping in mind that having a plan makes this possible, without one it’s hard to reach a specific goal).

4. And finally for the fun stuff! Have some caffeine if necessary. You can stick to regular coffee or sip on your favorite pre-workout supplement to give you that extra boost. Listen to your favorite songs that get you pumped. Watch videos from YouTube of your favorite athletes and visualize yourself training just as hard as them. Or even browse the photos of your favorite social media accounts with motivational quotes or inspiring photos that get you ready to hit the gym.

I personally do ALL of the above before training. Having a very full schedule, a never ending to-do list, and feeling restless all day… I have to put in the extra effort everyday to get in the mood for training. But that’s okay! Because I love it and it’s worth it. Find what works for you and get in the zone!

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Experience The Open

The 2017 Open is about to start and it’s the biggest worldwide event for the CrossFit community. This will not be a blog post about what the Open is, you can find everything you need here. This post is for the affiliate members, the regular CrossFitters who don’t have competition as a goal. You, especially, should sign up for the Open.

The Open is so much more than just a competition or test of fitness. If competition is something that you aren’t interested in or it scares you, see it as participating in something that is much bigger than that. The five weeks of the Open, is a time to experience the power of the CrossFit community. You will not forget how you felt during an Open workout. It’s not like doing a regular, any other day workout. You would be sharing that workout, those emotions, that experience with the CrossFit community around the world. It’s a powerful thing.

Last year at CrossFit Q8, the girls who participated in the Open created new and stronger friendships. They challenged themselves to try the Open and boy did they surprise themselves with their performance. For them, it wasn't about the leaderboard, it wasn’t about the score, it was about that moment in a workout when you realize you had just broke past the limits you set for yourself. Most of the girls who participated last year got many ‘firsts’. First double-unders, first snatch, first pull-up, first toes to bar. The Open was an experience that allowed the girls to understand CrossFit even more. Seeing people in other gyms, their friends, their coaches, athletes on social media, and people around the world experiencing the same thing at the same time made them realize that they were part of something special. It made them appreciate the sport even more. The Open is more than just a competition; it’s an experience.

Get pumped about the Open and stay up to date with all the excitement within the CrossFit community by checking CrossFit HQ YouTube page, Instagram, and the Games website.

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No Pain, No Gain? When You Should Stop Pushing Through The Pain

When you start to feel pain somewhere in your body during training, it’s your brain trying to send you signals that something needs to change. Every time you ignore that signal, the body will increase the pain until you listen. When you completely ignore and don’t take care of your body, that’s when you are asking for an injury to happen.

There is much to be said about pain, injuries, pain after injuries, pain from stress, and the list goes on. It’s a very complex topic. But let’s keep it simple. Here are a few tips to help you decide how to deal with pain:

1. As soon as you feel pain, stop what you are doing.

2. Try to do the same movement again, but slowly. It there’s no pain then continue the movement at the same slowed down pace. If there is still pain then…

3. Decrease the weight in the movement. If there’s no pain then continue with the lighter load. If there is still pain then…

4. Change the movement completely to something that won’t cause pain but allow you to continue training.

5. If any movement you do still causes pain, then stop. It's okay. Take the time off that you need to heal. Take care of your recovery. And you will get back to training in no time. 

There’s a difference between feeling ‘pain’ from a workout because it’s tough and your muscles are getting fatigued; and pain that might lead to an injury. That’s why it’s so important to train smart and learn to understand your body. No one can understand your body and the way it reacts other than yourself. Communicating with your coach is also key. When something just doesn’t feel right, don’t push even harder and have to regret it later.

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PROTEIN!

The Power of Protein: “Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. They play a part in many functions of the body, such as blood production and maintain healthy organs, hair, nails and bones. When combined with exercise, protein promotes muscle building and maintenance.” (Working Against Gravity)

There are so many benefits to eating enough protein in your diet. But you might not realize that it not only aids in performance and building muscle, but a higher protein diet can also give you a leaner body composition which means less body fat!

Some protein sources:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lean beef
  • Fish
  • Lentils
  • Dairy products
  • Protein powders and bars

Some vegetarian protein sources:

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Vegan protein powder

It’s hard at first to get used to eating a diet high in protein, but you will get used to it. The changes you will see in your performance and body will make it worth it.

If you’re interested in diving in a little deeper into the importance and benefits of protein and how much you really need, give this in depth article a read -> Girls Gone Strong: Protein

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Number One Goal: Be Consistent

Make "being consistent" your most important goal.

This relates to anything you are trying to reach in life, learning something new, transforming your body composition, reaching your athletic goals…

"Consistent: always acting or behaving in the same way; of the same quality; continuing to happen or develop in the same way."

So why is being consistent so hard?

1. Progress takes a lot longer than you think it does. Understanding that and accepting that will be very helpful and allow you to have realistic expectations. Know that fitness is a journey not something with a deadline. When you realize this, the journey will be a lot easier and enjoyable.

2. Comparing your progress to others can be the biggest reason for you to be demotivated. Know that some things you see on social media are deceptive. Know that some people have only recently become well known or "insta-famous" but have been working on their fitness for years. Know that you don't know anyone's story and the struggles they might be facing. People don't always share everything, you only see what they want you to see. Focus on yourself and your own progress. This will keep you motivated to stay consistent.

3. Don't wait for the perfect situation to continue to work towards your goal. It will never come. Being consistent doesn't mean it's going to be smooth sailing and no challenges as you work on yourself to reach your goal. The road to success is a bumpy one with ups and downs. What's important is you understand this and keep pushing through the tough days. Completely stopping will only derail you and stop your progress, causing your goal to drift further away. Stay consistent even on the tough days. Being consistent is more important than having a perfect situation every single day, because that's not going to happen.

4. Not tracking your progress. When you don't track your progress, you might be having a bad day or week and all your negative thoughts will make you think that your progress has stopped. People who feel this way will usually give up or decide they need to change their plan because it is not working. But if you check back on your work, you will realize that there is progress being made you just might have not realized. Progress isn't only huge PRs or dropping 5kg. Progress can be being able to do 5 unbroken clean and jerks at a weight you usually do singles with. Progress can be realizing you have been eating healthy for a whole week with no cheats when usually you don't last 3 or 4 days.

The most important point of being consistent is pushing past the struggles and sticking to your program. You need to motivate yourself to stay consistent for as long as you can, until eventually your new routine becomes your regular routine. You will continue to develop and get closer to your goal every day, even if you can't see it YET. 

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Finding your why and staying motivated

Sometimes we can get a few weeks or even months of questioning why we are doing something. Even though it is something we love, you can’t seem to get out of a slump. That’s when you need to find your why. What does that mean exactly? Finding your why? Whatever journey you are currently on it’s important to understand why you want to do what it is that you are doing. This question should be asked not only within fitness but also in any other aspect of your life. I want to continue CrossFitting for as long as I can. How can I keep myself motivated to do that? I’ll go through this with you using myself as an example.

Why do I CrossFit?

I CrossFit because…

1. I want to compete at Regionals (again).

2. I want to get strong.

3. I want to join competitions.

They are all great reasons and can serve to be someone’s “why”. But they don’t work well for me as my main reason for CrossFitting. I need a better WHY. Because sometimes, things get in the way, you face obstacles, struggles, hardships, and other priorities come up. Sometimes the reasons I listed above don’t help to keep me motivated. Let me explain.

1. I want to compete at Regionals:

My first reason is to compete at Regionals. Qualifying and competing in Korea in 2013 was such a great experience and I want to experience that again (except now it’s in Copenhagen). But I haven’t been able to qualify to Regionals since 2013. Every year it gets harder. I did take almost a year off when I got pregnant, but that’s beyond the point. Every year I have to train harder and compete against hundreds of other athletes who also have the same goal. What happens if I don’t make it next year or the year after? How will I keep myself motivated if my only reason to CrossFit is Regionals?

2. I want to get strong.

My second reason is to get strong. Getting strong is such an empowering feeling, especially for a woman. I didn’t do any weightlifting before CrossFit, so the feeling I got lifting was something new and I loved it. But I will get some days where the weight feels extra heavy, where I can’t lift my usual numbers. I will get days where I’m too tired, too lazy, too unmotivated to lift heavy. What if other athletes start getting stronger faster than me? What if I can’t reach the level of strength I had set in my mind? What if getting strong takes years and years? How will I keep myself motivated if my only reason to CrossFit is to get strong?

3. I want to join competitions.

My third reason is to compete. But the truth is I was never a competitive person growing up. Actually I hated any sort of competition. I didn’t like to play monopoly, I didn’t like to play sports, and I hated the confrontations a competitive atmosphere would bring. I eventually developed my own competitive nature through CrossFit. What if I one day lose that competitive drive? What if I decide I don’t like competitions anymore? How will I keep myself motivated to continue CrossFit if my only reason is joining competitions?

All three points that I listed above are goals that I have set for myself, but on days when I am questioning everything I am doing and not feeling so good, thinking about them does not help keep me motivated. I need a reason that will remind me WHY I started CrossFit in the first place.

That’s when I realized my real WHY.

I CrossFit because it’s fun!

It’s that simple.

I started crossfitting because I was bored with my work and social life in Kuwait. I wanted to be challenged, I wanted something exciting, and I wanted to do something fun! That’s when I went out searching and found CrossFit.

Whenever I start questioning myself and I don’t feel motivated, I remind myself that I love this sport and I am doing this for fun. The first thing that happens once I am reminded of why I started, is that suddenly any pressure I had put on myself is gone. I’ll play my favorite song and get back to training. I can apply my WHY for many years to come, even when I stop competing. I CrossFit because it’s fun.

Other great WHY’s for CrossFit:

-To live a fit lifestyle

-To become part of a supportive community of likeminded people

-To grow old with a strong and healthy body

-It makes you happy

-Because lifting weights is your therapy

-So you can eat more carbs (just kidding, but no seriously.)

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Injured. Now What?

If you’re a dedicated athlete or are passionate about fitness, getting injured can seem like a nightmare. When you spend so much effort and time training and it becomes part of your lifestyle, the thought of being forced to stop is the last thing you want to do. Getting injured won’t only affect you physically by preventing you from working out but the biggest effect will probably be mentally and emotionally. So how do you deal when you’re injured? Should you continue to workout or stop completely?

If you have set goals for yourself, when you get injured its as if you suddenly see those goals disappearing and becoming out of reach. This can cause you to fall into complete sadness and feelings of hopelessness. Know that it’s okay to feel this way. Many people from professional athletes to regular fitness enthusiasts have gone through the same thing- the pain of an injury, the emotional rollercoaster, and the mental breakdown. A large number recover fully and come back stronger, while some learn to work through the injury and find value and passion with new goals.

How To Deal:

-It is okay to be sad and frustrated. But trying to find opportunity within a bad situation is a great way to help you deal with an injury emotionally and mentally. Having to stop training can help you discover other passions you might have wanted to pursue but didn’t make time for. During your time of healing, you could plan that vacation you’ve wanted to take, start a creative project, or discover a new hobby. At least until you are fully healed, staying positive and being productive with your time will make this period more bearable.

-You shouldn’t be obsessing with comparing yourself to others, and avoiding comparison while injured is even more crucial. Everyone is going through his or her own struggles, and you happen to have an injury at the moment. You will get through it and get back to working towards your goals.

-Learn to trust the process and understand what needs to be done in order to help the healing process. Some people might recover fast and others might need a longer break from training. Many professional athletes even took an entire year off but came back strong. You are going to want to get back as soon as possible, but that might only make your recovery take longer and you won’t come back feeling 100%. Accepting the time you need to spend with a doctor or physical therapist will help keep you on track towards recovery.

-Don’t assume medical doctors or therapists will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know to recover. A big part of recovery is your responsibility, so take it just as seriously as you would your training. The same way you plan your day at the gym, make a plan for any rehab exercises you should be doing. Focus and work on them just as seriously as you would in training. Set goals related to your rehab program and appreciate every accomplishment you make, as you get closer to being fully recovered.

To Workout Or Not:

If you’re constantly putting your body under a lot of stress, an injury forces you to stop and as a result give your body a much-needed rest. But some injuries are specific to one body part or muscle, for example a broken wrist or ankle so you’re wearing a cast, a shoulder injury, or a back injury. Some injuries such as these, you can work around without causing the injured area more harm. If you injured yourself and can’t do weightlifting you might be able to use this time to focus on gymnastics. You can slow down your training and focus on getting strong before adding intensity back into your workouts. It’s also okay to switch to working with machines, which have less pressure on your joints than free weights. Use this time to do more aerobic conditioning work. It has been known that this could actually help speed up the recovery process. Blood flowing to the injured area during aerobic work will promote a faster recovery. In general, it’s important to keep moving, everyday.

-Upper body injured: train your lower body, core and you can also train the other arm using dumbbells.

-Squat or Deadlift injury: stop squatting and deadlifting for a while. Focus on core work and other lower body exercises such as hip thrusts, Bulgarian split squats, or lunges.

-Lower body injury: train the upper body, core and you can also train the other leg.

-Back injury: focus on volume instead of intensity. This means lighter weight and focusing on fixing movement. You can also focus on upper body.

How NOT To Get Injured:

-An injury can be a wake-up call that might make you realize any mistakes you might have made. Have you been neglecting warming up properly, post workout stretches, mobility exercises, accessory work to fix imbalances, ignoring technique in favor of going harder in a workout, or not taking a rest day?

-Have you been feeling pain but ignoring it and not communicating with your trainer? Being in denial of an injury or continuing to train the area will only make it worse. It’s important to speak up or get professional medical help before making the injury even more complicated or serious.

-A good nutrition base helps your body stay healthy and recover after intense workouts. Neglecting your diet is just as bad as performing an exercise with bad technique. Consider even taking supplements to help your recovery such as fish oil and magnesium.

-Get enough sleep! It’s your best form of recovery.

Most Important Points:

Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Use this time to work on weaknesses and recover as quickly as possible. Take the recovery process as serious as training. You can continue to get strong or at least retain your strength by working around your injury. Know what caused the injury and avoid doing the same mistakes again. Then before you know it you’ll be back to training normally. Just make sure to take it easy in the beginning and work your way back up.

Stay positive, be smart, and take care of your body.

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Diet: Fix The Basics First

There is too much information out there about when to eat, what to eat, should you count your macros, should you eat no carb, how much to eat, should you take supplements, and endless other questions…

Before you dive into any of these in detail, here are some basic points that should be addressed. If you are not taking care of one of the following, then reassess your diet before stressing yourself out over the perfect timing of your meals or what supplement to take.

1. Make sure you don’t have any nutrient deficiencies. What are nutrient deficiencies? Having low calcium, vitamin D, omega 3, or protein. There are many other vitamins and nutrients that should be accounted for but I will focus on a couple only. You can get yourself assessed by a dietitian or get a test in a clinic to figure out what your body is deficient in. Most of the time, you can be doing everything right and eating healthy but you still don’t feel good or are seeing results. It could be a deficiency somewhere that isn’t allowing your body to function the way it should. Most important and common deficiencies are the need to increase protein intake in your food and to take a fish oil supplement. Water is included in this list! Don’t let your body get dehydrated.

2. Control how much food you are eating without stressing over counting calories. Don’t jump into the stress of weighing and measuring all your food if you don’t even try to just control your portions. I posted a few weeks ago HERE about portion control and how you can use your hand to determine how much food to eat.

3. Understand your body type and what works best for you. We are all built differently. Some people have lean and muscular bodies without even trying that hard in their diet and exercise. Others might have a body that is long and thin and struggles to gain weight. And some people just have a slow metabolism where their bodies don’t tolerate carbohydrates very well. Depending on how your body responds to different food, you need to learn and listen to your body. Find an eating plan that works best for you and your activity level. There is no one size fits all. Here’s a great article explaining this topic in further detail: Body Type Eating.

4. Record and track your progress to see any changes and adjust if needed.

You need to follow all these point for a long time and be consistent before deciding something isn’t working. Then you can start to consider details such as the timing of your meals, what to eat post workout or taking any extra supplements.

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Sacrifices

When you set a goal for yourself; whether it is winning a CrossFit competition, losing weight, getting your first pull-up, or running a faster 5k, it isn’t about how badly you want it. When you want to reach a goal, it is about how much work you are willing to do and what you are willing to sacrifice in order to reach it.

Most life transforming goals and things you dream of achieving require you to embrace the hard journey to reach it. There is no easy way. Of course you don’t have to sacrifice everything, I’m talking about sacrificing things that stand in the way of reaching your goal. Activities or habits that can be set aside as you work towards achieving what you truly desire.

What are you willing to sacrifice to reach your fitness goals?

Time spent with family – ordering dessert – social gatherings – putting extra time in the gym – giving up the daily Starbucks Frappuccino – using your money to buy healthy food and gym memberships instead of material things – doing the boring work in training like cardio or accessory lifts – sleeping early to help your body recover instead of staying up all night watching reruns of your favorite show…

It’s about how much you are willing to do and sacrifice in order to reach your goal. If your goal isn’t that important to you then you don’t have to give up anything, just leave that goal a distant dream and continue to live in your comfortable routine. In the end the choice is yours.

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