The balance of two great loves

For whatever reason, this post has sat in my drafts folder for the past six weeks.  WordPress tells me I’ve revised the post 25 times over those six weeks.  Today’s the day though, and I’m ready to share what I’ve been up to lately…

For the past five weeks (well, actually, since the blog’s inception), Peanut Butter Kait has been full of crossfit, crossfit, and more crossfit.  But behind the scenes, I’ve been working a bit on the yin to the yang (or something like that.)

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, or know me in person, you definitely know that I’m a crossfit junkie. I’m at my happiest and strongest when I’m at CrossFit Sunalta four or five times a week.  I love the workouts, I love how it makes me feel, and I love the community and the friends I’ve made – basically crossfit can do no wrong.

Now here’s the surprising part: I also love yoga, probably equally as much. So you’re probably wondering why the hell haven’t I blogged about it before!?

Well grab your cup of coffee and let’s sit down for a 900 word visit.


I started doing yoga probably nine years ago.  My cousin Vicky brought me to a class her friend, who was new to yoga teaching, was offering.  She played good music and I learned a few things, like not to wear socks while doing yoga as well as an introduction to the postures.  When summer rolled around, we did classes outside in the park.  For me, then, yoga was a workout to do with friends.

When I moved to Calgary to go to university, I immediately signed up for yoga and spin classes at the university rec center.  I’ll be honest that I started prioritizing the spin, and skipping the yoga.

Eventually in my third year of university, two things happened that were influential in my pursuit of health.  Firstly, I started working with a personal trainer who designed crossfit-style workouts for me, and secondly, she invited me to go to hot yoga with her.

That first hot yoga class was everything: exhilarating, sweaty, rewarding, and also completely shocking.  I was hooked.  When I graduated from Mount Royal and had my first job, I bought an annual pass for a hot yoga studio and took as many classes as I could.  Again, yoga for me was about the workout and the sweat!

Notably, with my poor diet and lack of other forms of exercise, I didn’t become the smoothly muscled, lithe yoga body type that I aspired to at the time.  I got chunky.  But I felt pretty dang good about myself, so that was an interesting combination.

Right about that time [five-ish years ago], Dana and I got married, and then a few months later, I started drinking the HIIT/crossfit koolaid at 2110 Fitness, and then CrossFit Sunalta.  I lost a bunch of the weight I’d packed on, and instead put on some muscle.  But it wasn’t about weight gain or loss anymore, I went because I loved the fitness!

But what about yoga?  I did a handful of classes over the years, but it wasn’t a central element in my life anymore because with both the cost of a crossfit membership and limited time, I couldn’t prioritize both fitness loves.

But I kept thinking about yoga.  How I felt after a sweaty flow class.  How focused I was when I was on my mat.  How great it made me feel about myself and what my body was capable of.

Around the end of December 2016, Meg and I talked about having an epic day of awesome together.  We knew that day would include crossfit (duh), brunch out, a pedicure, and a chickflick with loads of popcorn.  I had been missing hot yoga so much by this point that I said we should crossfit first, then head to a hot yoga class with one of my favorite instructors.

We had an epic day!  The hot yoga class was so amazing that we both bought one month passes and agreed we needed to fit more yoga in our lives.  The weekly yoga ritual throughout January added value to my life in so many ways: time with a friend, flexibility, sweat, happiness, and so many other positives.

It turns out, my old friend yoga was right where I left her.

Because of the happiness and mindfulness I’d recognized since I’d returned to my mat on a regular basis, and conversations my therapist and I had this year, I was finally able to vocalize something I’ve mulled over internally for a very long time: I wanted to take a yoga teacher training course!

I did my research and picked a school in Calgary to attend.  Conveniently the school offers a few public yoga classes every week, so I’ve really enjoyed taking restorative classes there.  Although I do love hot sweaty flow classes still, I have really started to appreciate the benefits of slower, gentler yoga on my crossfit-weary joints and muscles.

My adventure started March 29 at the Alberta Yoga College here in Calgary.  It’s a Yoga Alliance-certified 200 hour teacher training spread out over Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons for three months straight.


FAQ’s

Kait, I didn’t know you were super flexible?!  Well, friend, I’m not!  Take that preconceived notion about all yoga teachers being bendy pretzels out of your head (don’t worry – I thought this too!), and replace it with the idea that everyone’s body is different!  Bodies can be super flexible, or super strong, or anywhere in the middle of that spectrum.  I am definitely on the strong end.  I am increasing my body’s mobility with yoga; however, my body type is more prone to muscle and I’m cool with that.

So you use props?  One of my favorite aspects of my yoga college is that they embrace the concept that everyone is capable of yoga, no matter how flexible or inflexible their bodies are.  As a result, I’ve really embraced using props (which previously I mentally put in the category of “must be for beginners.”)  I was wrong – props can help yogis at any level get into yoga postures with healthy alignment.

Does this mean I want to teach yoga?   Very possibly!  I have a few ideas rolling around in my head about where yoga could take me.  At the very least, I’m learning a ton about myself and my own yoga practice.

Does this mean I love crossfit any less?  Of course not!  If anything, I think pursuing my yoga passion will only make me a stronger, less injury-prone, more focused crossfit athlete.  And as I’ve been busier with school and apprenticing, I haven’t been able to attend crossfit as frequently, and miss class and my crossfit pals unbelievably much!  Distance really does make the heart grow fonder.


I’ve been learning so many wonderful and interesting things over the past month and a bit, and I’m excited to learn more about myself, my yoga, and yoga itself.  Although settling into being a part-time student with a full-time job has been a balancing act of its own, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to explore one of my passions in depth.  Thanks for reading!

Tips & Tricks: Open 17.5

The last CrossFit Open WOD of 2017 is upon us.  17.5 is here!  I’m feeling a mix of relief, anxiety, and excitement – it’s a weird feeling I assure you, although for those doing the Open, I’m sure many can relate.

17.1 brought us dumbbell snatches and burpee box jump overs.

17.2 featured dumbbells again (cleans and walking lunges), plus toes-to-bar and muscle-ups.

17.3 was snatches and chest-to-bar pull-ups.

17.4 was 16.4!  Deadlifts, wall balls, rowing for cals, and handstand push-ups.

I’m sure the majority of us were anticipating thrusters for 17.5, as they’ve been known to pop up in the last Open workout the past couple years.  And surprise! (See Alex Parker’s reaction here):

17.5

I actually am surprised that the thrusters are with a barbell, not dumbbells.  And I had heard internet whispers about double-unders (DU), which would make sense given that we hadn’t seen them yet in the 2017 Open, but I was also praying that they wouldn’t show their face.

pike meme

I digress.

I can do double-unders, but they sure as hell aren’t pretty.  Worse yet, my parents are down visiting this weekend so I’ve got to perform (just kidding… kind of).

440 reps.  The thruster part I’m reasonably happy about due to my short stature and quadzilla legs.  The double-unders are the liability portion of the workout.  Once my heart rate gets uncomfortable, I have no stamina for double-unders and the dreaded piking/tripping/swearing starts.

Some mantras I will be focusing on during the double-unders:

  • Breath
  • Relax
  • Toes <– mentally, this cue helps me stay upright (not piked)

Since the pros took just under 7 minutes-ish, I’m not sure what to aim for.  Goal: keep heart rate under control.  Finish in under 20 minutes. 

I’m going to try a 5/4 rep scheme for the thrusters with the aim to keep my heart rate manageable.  And for the DU, perhaps a 18/17 split?  We shall see if it’s a good or bad double-under day when I get there (which may change my strategy).

Nagging Reminders (from the 17.5 Standards):

  • Your skipping rope has to stay on the ground while you do thrusters.  Not on an elevated box.  Not hanging from the rig.  Not handed to you by a friend.
  • The official time cap is 40:00.

Advice from the Wise Gurus of the Internets

For the athlete who is [much] stronger and faster than me, you might appreciate CrossFit Games’ Nicole Carroll’s tips:

  • Main strategy: find a pace that allows you to do the thrusters and DU unbroken.
  • Don’t waste time transitioning.

Note from Kait… that was basically the least helpful advice ever.  Okay, moving on…

Actual constructive advice:

  • From the hilarious and wise Coach Eric of CrossFit Currie Barracks/CrossFit Sunalta (check the link for an extensive warm-up and tips): spend time in your warm-up actually getting warm and super mobilized, breath, have a work:rest plan, and know your capabilities.
  • From the very thorough WOD Superstore blog: “YOU DECIDE WHEN TO BREAK… DON’T LET THE WORKOUT DECIDE FOR YOU.” And have a backup plan for if things go sideways.  Don’t wear your lifters.
  • From Breaking Muscle: focus on a very reasonable pace for the first five rounds – this will ensure you have the gas in the tank to survive the next five rounds.  Don’t let missed DU reps get in your head: take a breath, and get back at it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these “Tips & Tricks” posts the past five weeks – thanks for checking in!  Keep it on the DL, but I might attempt 17.5 tonight after work… I’ll be back with a recap next week!

Enjoy 17.5 and let me know how it goes for you!

Tips & Tricks: Open 17.4

Partly I jest, but as I remember from last year what my back felt like after 16.4, I’ll be making an appointment with my friend, fellow crossfitter, and chiropractor Shawn Rennick for next week.  Calgary friends, a good person to know!

Here we are at 17.4 already – March is flying by! 17.1 and 17.2 showcased dumbbells, and I think we were all crying tears of joy to see a barbell in 17.3.  Now 17.4 brings us… 16.4!

17.4 is 16.4

We meet again, 16.4

The great thing about 16.4 is that, as a repeat workout from 2016’s CrossFit Open, the internets are full of recaps and tips.

How do I feel about it?  To quote myself from last year’s blog post (is that vanity at its finest? #YOLO):

I really felt like it was my jam, despite the rowing.  My only regret is not getting to the wall – I know I could have done a few HSPU at least.  But I never would have guessed I would finish the row, so there’s that.

row row row no

Of all the Open workouts that could be repeated, 16.4 is definitely not my worst fear.  I think I’m most pleased that I’ll actually get a good workout in on Sunday, compared to the 17.2 and 17.3 (which due to my stubbornness RX-ing were pretty low-key).

Things that worked well for me in 2016/Plan of attack for 2017

  • Deadlifts – my current one rep max (RM) is about 260#.  My coach Eric advises not attempting RX unless 155# is ~60% of your 1 RM.  Last year I had success with sets of 5, with 5 second rests in between.  Protect your back at all costs!
  • Wall balls – last year I did small sets of 5-6.  I’m hoping to do sets of 10 this year.  My lungs are slightly bigger.  🙂
  • Rowing for calories – not my strongest skill then, and not my strongest skill now. My goal is to just keep moving (I’ve been known to stop outright… like the calories will appear magically without moving the rower… pray for me…).
  • Handstand push-ups (HSPU) – I didn’t get here last year as I rowed my 55th calorie just as the timer went.  My ultimate goal for 17.4 is to get some handstand push-ups!  I can do them… I just need to have time for them (AKA don’t row for eternity).

Tips & Tricks from People Smarter Than Me

Read the workout standards from the Games website (as always) – there are pretty specific rules for HSPU.

Nicole Carroll from the CrossFit Games website offers the following wisdom:

  • Doing smaller sets with designated rests ensures that you can maintain a decent pace for the deadlifts and wall balls.
  • Rowing: make every pull count.  * ahem Kait *
  • Read her post for HSPU tips for when your shoulders are too tired to function.

Coach Eric Barber from CrossFit Currie Barracks/my second home CrossFit Sunalta has a well-rounded post including a warm-up, pacing suggestions, and general science/math awesomeness.  The guy knows what he’s talking about.

  • Have structured work:rest sets in mind for the deadlifts and wall balls.  Know your strengths when picking rep quantities.
  • For the row, focus on keeping your heart rate stable (no redlining!), and towards the last few calories, ensure your breathing is in control for the handstand push-ups.
  • HSPU: small sets from the beginning.

Are you happy to see 16.4 again?  Any lessons learned you’ll be trying out this time around?  I’ll be back next week with a recap of 17.4!