All posts by Nikole Gessler

nikole@crossfitrecursive.com

What Is Your Why?

“Do you live for the applause? Live the way that you cheer and scream for me.” – Lady Gaga, Applause

Why do you do it? Why do you get out of bed every morning at 5am and head to the gym? Why do you spend your lunch hour at the gym? Why do you stop at the gym on the way home from work? Why do you get up on the weekends and make your way to the gym instead of sleeping in for a few hours?

Why do you tolerate the fish oil burps and drink Hard Apple Cider instead of Guinness? Why do you opt for grass fed beef patties with farm fresh veggies over the convenience of a $5 pizza or frozen meal?

You need to know your why. There will be days when you won’t want to do it. But you need to know your why and in those times you need to remember why you work as hard as you do. Why you push yourself to your limits and then go past them. Why you take care of your body so that it will take care of you for a long time.

Knowing your why will be very important as working out becomes a part of your life. Remembering your why will be integral as you take on the challenge of the workouts every day. When you are in the middle of that tough workout and you want to quit – and you will want to quit – you need to remember why you push yourself to do the things you do. Remember them. And then use them to drive you forward to that next rep, that next minute, that next round.

Why do I do it? I have no ambitions to ever make it to the CrossFit Games. I am of the age that I could compete in the Masters Division. I admire all of those woman, and all of them would quite handedly kick my butt.

I have 3 young kids, and I would like to teach them to take some chances in life. Show them it’s OK to show up and participate and compete even if you have no chance of winning. Show them that even when we think we are failing, we aren’t. As long as we are trying our hardest and learning something each time, we are not failing. Teach them the value of competition, sportsmanship, camaraderie, and hard work. To show them how to take chances.

I would also like to get over myself and my fear of feeling inadequate. To actually push myself harder than I think I can. To challenge myself physically and mentally. The applause I am seeking is only from inside myself at doing something I didn’t think I could.

Why do you do it? Is it for the thrill of competition? Is it just to say that you did it? Is it to prove to yourself and maybe others that you can? Is it to be in the ring with others simply to support and cheer them on? Is it to set a good example for your kids? Is it simply for the love of working out?

What is your why?

It’s the Little Things

My life has changed a lot this past year. Maybe it was turning 41. I was completely prepared to turn 40, it didn’t bother me, but I never looked past that to realize I would keep aging and things didn’t stop at 40. Turning 41 was much harder for me than I expected. Maybe it was realizing my oldest only has a few years of high school left and will be driving soon. Maybe it was realizing that my “baby” is in third grade and growing more and more independent. Maybe it was realizing my middle son will be in high school soon.

This past year I have learned to do and appreciate the little things. Life isn’t about all these really big huge, life altering events. It’s all about the little stuff. Holding the door open for someone. Smiling at people. Holding hands with someone you care about.

It’s also about the little changes we can make in our lives that have profound affects. Cutting out sugary coffee drinks was one that I did. I also decided to stick to Zone eating for longer than a month. It was a big change the first time I did Zone, but after I got used to it, it became an easy thing to do. Sticking to it really was a small change. I am eating anyway, why not just be sure it’s a healthy, balanced meal. Over the course of 6 months, I even ended losing some weight I had been carrying around since my first child was born almost 16 years ago.

I also took a look at some of my weaknesses in the gym. My list included a lot of bodyweight movements, specifically shoulder-intensive movements. Pull ups, push ups, dips, and handstands were high on my list of weaknesses, and something I never thought I could do or even wanted to do, a muscle up. I know many of you see me at the gym every day doing a couple reps of each of those. I can’t spend hours working on those things each day, my muscles fatigue far too quickly for that. But I can spend a few minutes every day working on those things. And a few minutes a day adds up to an hour a week, and an hour a week adds up to several hours a months. And after 3 months of doing those things, my strength and confidence have greatly improved!

We need to do these things with our mindset as well. Find many small bits of happiness each day rather than looking for a giant event. Smile at small children, notice the way the fresh air smells, appreciate the beauty in nature, compliment a stranger, buy a cup of coffee for a co-worker. You will surely find yourself feeling good after those things. It would be great if we could get flowers delivered to our desk or a raise at work every day, but those are special things that need to remain special because of their scarcity. In between those times, you need to find happiness in the little things.

There are certainly a series of big events in everyone’s lives – weddings, home buying, children, deaths, career changes and more, but we need to focus on living a happy daily life. Enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning. Relax for a few minutes before bed and read something for pleasure. Celebrate things at the gym – getting that first double under, finishing under the time cap, pushing yourself hard in a workout, smiling while suffering, offering encouragement to others. These are the things that will truly bring you happiness on a day to day basis.

Practice taking time each and every day to focus on something positive. To find something you enjoy. If you can’t, bring joy to someone else – their smile will be contagious. Life is tough. No one gets out alive anyway, as they say.

Taking Control

We started taking gymnastics classes again this week. We had taken them a few years ago when we first opened the gym (and we were coaching all of the classes all day every day 7 days a week.) It has been a few years, but we decided it was time once again to work on some of our weaknesses. At 6′ and 6’4″ you can imagine that gymnastics aren’t something we are built for or that comes naturally for either of us.

So, that is why we do personal training with a gymnastics coach. I was a bit nervous to be honest, it had been a long time and I wasn’t sure what I would retain. Turns out, it’s much like riding a bike. It didn’t take long to get back into it and get upside down again.

But here’s the funny thing that happened. Previously when we went and were working on handstands, I didn’t have either the strength or confidence or knowledge or control that I needed to be successful. I was nervous about getting to that inverted position and so I just flung myself as hard and fast as I could. It’s hard to stop where you need to this way. But this time around instead of panicking and flinging myself upside down, I focused on strength and control.

And you know what? Something amazing happened! I was able to be slow and steady and controlled and find my center of gravity to be able to stick and hold a handstand position. And then you know what happened? The Coach challenged me to try handstand walks.

Now this is something was never even on my list of things I wanted to accomplish someday. I just always thought handstand walks were something I would never be strong enough or coordinated enough to do. I thought I was too tall and my shoulders were too weak and there were other things I would work on. And then I slowly kicked up under control, found my balance point and took 4 steps!

We can take control of things in our lives in this same way – small and large. Slow and steady and under control and we have the power to look at situations in a better light. Life does not always go the way we planned. We can work to control what we can, and work to control the way to think about and react to the things we can’t control.

This change in mindset is huge! It isn’t easy to put this into practice every day, and it is something that you need to work on each day. You may even need to find a coach of some sort to help. If you can control your thoughts and reactions to things, you have gained control of everything in your life!

Double Unders Tips and Tricks

Double unders got you all twisted with whip marks all over your body? They are definitely one of those movements that you can’t out-strength your way into mastering. They take time and patience and are a skill to learn.

They can be super frustrating because you can’t just pick up a rope and will your way to getting them. You also can’t just spend hours at a time working on them until you get them (trust me, I have tried that.) Your best plan of attack is a few minutes every day. Time and patience, my friends, time and patience.

When I first started CrossFit I was lucky enough to get them pretty quickly. When I workout came up with double unders, I was able to double-single-double-single my way through. I remember the first time the gym I was at did Annie (50-40-30-20-10 Double Unders and Sit Ups). I was the only woman at the time to complete it, with a time of 13:19. I could do the double unders, but they certainly weren’t efficient or fast.

From there, I never really got better at them. In fact, I just got worse. Until I could barely do them at all. I was super frustrated and vowed that summer to finally master them. I sat out in my drive way with my jump rope every night for weeks. I watched all sorts of videos, tried all sorts of techniques, tried all sorts of jump ropes, and tried all sorts of different lengths of the jump rope. I was just waiting and hoping that at some point, it would all finally click.

It never really did just magically click one day. But over time I was able to string some double unders together and then finally work to improve my consistency, speed, and efficiency.

I have struggled immensely with double unders. And now I am pretty good at helping other people get theirs. Only because I have tried and failed and tried some more, do I understand where people are at and how to get those first amazing successful double unders.

So, I have some tips and tricks for you. I see a lot of the same mistakes as I Coach athletes on these.

1. The rope movement comes from the wrist, not the shoulders. Your shoulders will get too tired too quickly. You also won’t be able to keep the rope pulling through fast enough if you aren’t spinning through your wrists.

2. We all have a strong hand and a weak hand. Try a split rope (a jump rope cut in half.) This is a great tool to work on the rope rhythm and timing of the jump without the frustration of missing all the time. You will also be able to see that one hand has it all figured out, the other one doesn’t have a clue. I try to keep my weak hand more neutral, and have my strong hand do the majority of the work in spinning the rope.

3. Keep your elbows tucked to your hips. The goal is for the rope to hit the floor each time it passes under your feet. We get excited and our arms come up and then the rope gets shorter and we are more likely to miss because we aren’t jumping high enough. One way to do that is to pick a spot a few feet in front of you on the floor and aim the rope to hit that each time.

4. Jump through your ankles, not your knees. Double unders happen super fast, the rope is spinning and you have to be able to jump fast enough to get over that rope. But you also have to prepare for the next double under, so you have to be able to rebound fast enough as well so you can keep going and string them together. Keep your knees straight and jump through your ankles. It’s less energy expenditure and faster jumps.

5. Stay on your toes. Again, you have to jump fast and rebound fast for that next rep. Keep on your toes. If you left your heels touch the ground and your weight shift, you then have to re-shift your weight – and that takes more time than that double under will allow.

The first goal is to get a few reps, even if they are double-single-double-single. The next goal is to string a few together. Don’t take too much time with that added single in between – it will only reinforce that muscle memory and make stringing them together more difficult. Then, you want to work on making the double unders consistent. Then you can work on making them more efficient.

Also remember that double unders when you are fresh are often easier. Once you get tired, things often fall apart. So be sure to be practicing them when tired. Once fatigued, you will see where the technique starts to break down.

Try these tips and tricks and see how your double unders go!

Row Row Row Your Boat – The Benefits of Rowing!

I like rowing. As a 6 foot tall female CrossFitter, it’s one of the very few movements whereI have an advantage over smaller athletes (the other 2 being wall balls and box jumps.)

Rowing is a lot like running – any one can strap on a pair of shoes and run. Anyone can strap into a rower and row. But there are certainly ways to be a more efficient rower (just like there is good form and technique to be an excellent runner.)

Rowing is a full body exercise and it keeps the heart rate elevated. Unlike a bike, which only has resistance in one direction, rowing has resistance in both directions (forward and back) making you much stronger and increasing the rate at which you burn calories.

Unlike running, which can often lead to overuse and joint issues, the rower is low impact. It’s a very natural movement and there is minimal stress applied to any part of the body. 

Did you know that the rowing movement activates over 90% of the body’s musculature AND promotes the strengthening of the smaller stabilizing muscles throughout the abdomen, back, and hips?

Strength and stability in these areas helps athletes maintain proper form and technique in all of the varied movements we do in CrossFit. Having these muscles fine-tuned can help maintain higher paces and stronger power outputs for longer periods of time.

Plus, if you’re maybe looking to drop a few pounds, rowing delivers great bang for your buck in terms of energy expenditure. Since rowing involves muscles throughout the body, caloric expenditure rises quickly.

During maximal 6-minute efforts, athletes have recorded caloric expenditures of 36 cal/min. While this may be achievable in other sports, keep in mind that the the full-body nature of rowing means you’re burning more calories at any given effort level.

Another benefit? Those monitors don’t lie. They hold you accountable for every single stroke. Unlike a barbell lift or a box jump where you don’t get to see the actual output of your efforts, the rowing monitor will know if you gave it your all that stroke or not. You can use this to your advantage to train for other movements though – the rower teaches you not only how to pace yourself, but how to go all out when you need to.

It’s getting colder in Wisconsin – which around here means we run less and row more. Much like many people need to learn to like running (or at least tolerate it), some people need to learn to love rowing. Don’t fight it – there are a lot of great advantages to that rowing machine!

The Value of a Gym Membership

Sure, you could easily spend $10 a month and have 24 access to gym equipment at a facility near you. But why do people choose to spend more on a CrossFit gym membership?

CrossFit gyms are not in the business of selling access to equipment, we are providing value through the coaching and the community. You just aren’t going to go to a 24 hour globo gym and make friends the way you do at a CrossFit gym. You don’t come to a CrossFit gym, put on head phones and isolate yourself while you do your sets of reps. Suffering through a tough workout is a very bonding experience for people.

People like the known. We like to be comfortable. If left to my own devices, it is very unlikely that I am going to tackle a workout or movements that I am not good at or don’t like doing. Having someone else tell you what to do ensures that you are going to be a more well-rounded athlete.

I also am not going to push myself as hard as I could if I was working out alone. There is definitely something to be said for having people around you doing the same workout. I am going to push myself a little harder knowing that my gym friends are right there next to me. A Coach is certainly going to help push you out of your comfort zone too, and that my friends, is where all of our personal growth happens!

Even if I finish last, those same gym friends are going to be cheering me on and pushing me to finish as strong as I can. You just don’t get that working out alone or in a building with other random people doing random exercises. In fact, if you tried to cheer other people on at a globo-gym they would probably kick you out!

You get coaching expertise. You have coaches that know what you are working on and the best way to make sure you are moving correctly to avoid injury. They also know how to coach you to make sure you are being efficient and getting the full range of motion. Sure, those other gyms have mirrors, but have you ever tried to clean a barbell while checking your form in the mirror? Doesn’t work real well…

CrossFit gyms program with your long term health and goals in mind. Maybe we have an easier day one day because we want to optimize recovery time. We’re not just randomly choosing workouts we find online and throwing them together. We have a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and even life-time plans!

The old cliche, “You get what you pay for” is certainly true when choosing a gym. You could pay less and go someplace else, but the value is just not there. At a CrossFit gym you aren’t paying for access to equipment, you are valuing your health, your safety, your progress, your time, your money, and the community that you develop. Thank you for valuing yourself enough to invest in your well-being!

It’s the Little Things

My life has changed a lot this past year. Maybe it was turning 41. I was completely prepared to turn 40, it didn’t bother me, but I never looked past that to realize I would keep aging and things didn’t stop at 40. Turning 41 was much harder for me than I expected. Maybe it was realizing my oldest only has a few years of high school left and will be driving soon. Maybe it was realizing that my “baby” is in third grade and growing more and more independent. Maybe it was realizing my middle son will be in high school soon.
 
This past year I have learned to do and appreciate the little things. Life isn’t about all these really big huge, life altering events. It’s all about the little stuff. Holding the door open for someone. Smiling at people. Holding hands with someone you care about.
 
It’s also about the little changes we can make in our lives that have profound affects. Cutting out sugary coffee drinks was one that I did. I also decided to stick to Zone eating for longer than a month. It was a big change the first time I did Zone, but after I got used to it, it became an easy thing to do. Sticking to it really was a small change. I am eating anyway, why not just be sure it’s a healthy, balanced meal. Over the course of 6 months, I even ended losing some weight I had been carrying around since my first child was born almost 16 years ago.
 
I also took a look at some of my weaknesses in the gym. My list included a lot of bodyweight movements, specifically shoulder-intensive movements. Pull ups, push ups, dips, and handstands were high on my list of weaknesses, and something I never thought I could do or even wanted to do, a muscle up. I know many of you see me at the gym every day doing a couple reps of each of those. I can’t spend hours working on those things each day, my muscles fatigue far too quickly for that. But I can spend a few minutes every day working on those things. And a few minutes a day adds up to an hour a week, and an hour a week adds up to several hours a months. And after 3 months of doing those things, my strength and confidence have greatly improved!
 
We need to do these things with our mindset as well. Find many small bits of happiness each day rather than looking for a giant event. Smile at small children, notice the way the fresh air smells, appreciate the beauty in nature, compliment a stranger, buy a cup of coffee for a co-worker. You will surely find yourself feeling good after those things. It would be great if we could get flowers delivered to our desk or a raise at work every day, but those are special things that need to remain special because of their scarcity. In between those times, you need to find happiness in the little things.
 
There are certainly a series of big events in everyone’s lives – weddings, home buying, children, deaths, career changes and more, but we need to focus on living a happy daily life. Enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning. Relax for a few minutes before bed and read something for pleasure. Celebrate things at the gym – getting that first double under, finishing under the time cap, pushing yourself hard in a workout, smiling while suffering, offering encouragement to others. These are the things that will truly bring you happiness on a day to day basis.
 
Practice taking time each and every day to focus on something positive. To find something you enjoy. If you can’t, bring joy to someone else – their smile will be contagious.

Barriers to Eating Well – Meal Prep/Time

It’s hard to eat healthy. In working with as many people as I do at the gym on a weekly basis, I can tell you that most people know how to eat well, they know what they are supposed to eat, it’s just a matter of doing it. For some people, that means the meal prep, for some the perceived extra cost of eating well is a barrier, and for others it’s just the accountability of actually doing all those things.
Let’s tackle the first barrier to healthy eating – the meal prep and time involved.

We all live hectic lives these days – between work, family, and the extra tasks we take on, we often find ourselves putting ourselves and our health on the back burner. We fail to plan, and then at the end of the day when we are too tired and too hungry we make some poor choices. It’s so easy to just go through a drive through and grab a quick meal.

The problem with these meals is that they are rarely fresh, they contain a lot of preservatives, they are higher in sodium and bad fats, and they are definitely higher in calories, PLUS they are often pretty pricey – certainly more expensive than making a meal at home.

If you are reading this post, you have at least some interest in your health and wellness. You spend time working out either in or out of the gym. You also know that working out is only part of the health and wellness equation, what you use to fuel your body is important. To be blunt, crap in equals crap out. If you are fueling your body with unhealthy ingredients, you can’t expect your body to perform at it’s peak.

So…how do we find the time to shop and meal prep? Well, the hard truth here is that you have to be willing to MAKE the time. You have to be willing to make it a priority in your weekly schedule for your health.

Make the time to plan meals, shop for ingredients, and then meal prep. This may take a few hours on the weekend, but overall you will end up saving so much time and money. AND you’ll be eating healthy meals!

Throughout the week you can then grab a meal and heat it up when you are hungry. It’ll take just a few minutes – saving you the time of going to get food and preparing it. Throughout the day, whenever you are hungry, just grab one of the healthy meals or snacks that you prepped and you are good to go – one less decision to make each time you are hungry!

By being just a little bit organized, you can actually save yourself a lot of time and money each week. AND you ‘ll be sure to be getting great meals with the highest quality ingredients!

Are You Too Old for CrossFit?

The short answer is “No – you’re never too old to get started!”

But, as a 41 year old woman I will tell you that I understand your fears and concerns. It’s scary to try something new. It’s scary when you aren’t sure if you are going to be able to do it. It’s scary to think about failing. We all have those fears, regardless of age, in many areas of our life.

But I am here to tell you that I get it. And I understand. And the beauty of CrossFit is that it is universally scalable. All of the movements can be modified so that anybody, regardless of age or ability or past injuries, can do them and get results.

I work with many people over the age of 40 – we lovingly refer to them as our Master’s Athletes. Once you step into the gym, you are an athlete (whether you think it or not.) Our Master’s athletes are some of the favorites at the gym.

We understand the importance of feeling safe while working out. We also understand that your needs may be different than those of younger athletes or competitive athletes. We take into account age, fitness, injury state, and goals to create different coaching techniques for you.

Master’s athletes are becoming increasingly popular, and we understand the demands and how to program and train for optimal performance while minimizing age-related risks.

We understand the difference between sedentary again, which leads to a myriad of negative life outcomes, and active aging, which can be associated with great longevity and quality of life.

In fact, there was a recent article published by Inc. Magazine referencing a study showing that by performing a high level of physical activity 5 days a week can give you a biological aging advantage of nine years.

You are never too old, too slow, too out of shape, too…anything to get started.

 

Not Enough Time to Workout?

So, you think that you just don’t have enough time to workout? I respectfully disagree…

I am a mother of 3 children ages 15, 12, and 8. I take them to school, I pick them up from school, I take them to friends’ houses, I drive them to practices. I attend their events. I listen to their problems and help them with their homework.

I also take care of the household. I buy groceries and make meals. I do loads of laundry and wash dishes and do some sort of cleaning every day. I feed the dog, walk him every day, groom him, and clean up after him.

I also own a gym. The amount of daily things that go on is often times overwhelming. Being a business owner is tough. Helping people is amazing. But it takes a lot of work every day. Answering emails, coaching classes and personal training clients, keeping the gym clean (do you know how many times each day I change the toilet paper rolls?), managing staff, keeping track of inventory, all of the accounting, the list just goes on and on…

I admit that when we first opened, I would be at the gym for 15 or more hours a day. And I was too busy to work out each day. But the thing that I finally realized is that is wasn’t that I was too busy, it was that I hadn’t made myself and my health a priority. It wasn’t that I didn’t HAVE time, it was that I wasn’t MAKING time.

When you are taking care of yourself, you are so much better able to take care of those around you. You can be a better friend, spouse, parent, co-worker.

You deserve to take care of yourself. You deserve to have something that makes you feel good. You deserve to take time to take care of you. You and your health are valuable. Taking care of yourself now will actually give you more time later. You will be happier and healthier and live a better, longer life (according to science.)

How much time each day do we spend mindlessly on social media? How much time do we waste trying to find the end of the internet? A few minutes here and there throughout the day can easily add up to the hour you need to get to the gym.

You have the time each day, you just have to make sure you use it.