Hello my name is Anna, and I’m addicted to…

I’m addicted. I know this because I constantly feel a deep-seated yearning for the thing I am addicted to. When I don’t indulge in my addiction I can become unhappy, grumpy, sluggish, easily frustrated and annoyed. But the moment I satiate the addiction I am better able to function, am much more enjoyable to be around, and generally a better person.

My addiction? Exercise.

Thankfully I’ve always been addicted to fitness. My mother tells me I was doing push-ups within weeks of arriving on the planet. I spent most of my formative years participating in gymnastics. From the time I was four years old for about a decade I was attending classes multiple times a week and even got to a level where I was competing consistently. I have always found joy and happiness through running. I participated in track and field in middle school, and cross-country in high school.

One of my career choices, the Army, has forced me to maintain a particular level of physical readiness. Luckily, I really enjoy exercising, so maintaining a level of fitness has never been a problem for me.

Gratitude For Who I Am

I know that I am blessed with the ability to exercise. I am eternally grateful that I have instilled in me a desire to run, push my body to its physical limits, and recover quickly. I am also very thankful that for the duration of my pregnancy I was able to continue to exercise through attending CrossFit classes an average of three times a week.

Per the advice of my doctor, I had to allow my body to recover from labor and delivery for, technically, six weeks. At a little over five weeks post-natal, I couldn’t wait any longer! I had felt good for weeks, strong, ready to get back into a level of fitness that would satisfy my addiction. I indulged in a few short runs and many long walks while recovering, but had reached the point where that wasn’t enough.

Modify as Possible

Being a new mom, essentially attached to and utterly responsible for the welfare of a tiny human leaves less options for exercise than pre-baby. Sure, I can do some yoga while she naps, hold her while doing weighted sit-ups with she as my weight grinning as I hoist her overhead, push-ups while kissing her soft cheeks each time I lower myself to the ground where she’s looking up at me. But to really quench the burning desire of my exercise addiction I need to be able to focus on the repetition at hand, to lift the bar with both hands and perform a full squat or watch the clock tick off the seconds to the next work session of a tabata.

Healthy Addictions

Addiction does not necessarily always constitute a bad thing in my opinion. People can be addicted to a healthy lifestyle. People can be addicted to very unhealthy habits. Both of these can cause some sort of chemical reaction in the brain. I can identify very real physical and mental and emotional changes in myself when I am exercising and when I am not exercising.

I am very thankful for the ability to live a healthy life that includes exercise, and for the innate need to engage in physical activity. Like many other addictions, I must keep myself in check; making sure I do not overdo the physical activity to a point where I am unable to engage in exercise again the following day. Moderation in all things.

But damn it feels great to be back in the Box!

The advice for new mothers I wish I’d been told

advice for new momThe roller-coaster ride of being a new mother contains more highs and lows than any man-made amusement ride in existence. Trust me. At 4.5 weeks into this journey I’ve found much of the advice I’d received from well-meaning friends, family and co-workers while I was pregnant doesn’t even scrape the surface of what I should have been told.

So here it goes – the advice you really need while preparing to bring a new life into this chaotic world.

“Sleep when she’s sleeping.”

Sure, it’s somewhat helpful advice to sleep when the newborn is sleeping. However, my newborn slept for a few hours at a time during the day for only the first couple weeks. She is now quite alert most of the day. Forget about sleeping at night! By the time I get her back to sleep after a midnight breastfeeding session, given myself a much-needed restroom break, filled up and drained a couple glasses of water, forced myself to stop listening to her soft contented breathing through the baby monitor, and allowed my husband’s snoring to fade to the background…it’s time to get up and feed her again.

Even when she was taking naps during the day I found myself needing to use that time to shower, to fix and eat food before she awoke, to take ten minutes to attempt to check email and catch up on world news so I’m not completely in the dark about the goings-on outside my front door. My husband kept me well-fed the first two weeks of our daughter’s life which allowed me to focus on me while she was sleeping. Such an invaluable blessing!

What I wish someone would have advised is to allow yourself as a new mother to take the cues of your little one. Do not try to fill any kind of time with anything. Rather do what feels right at that particular time. I laid on the couch, eyes wide, too exhausted to sleep during some of her early days’ naps. I baked cookies once while she was napping. Well almost finished making the cookies before she woke up. I admit I did very little house cleaning which is crazy for me. But my sister came over multiple times each week and spent her time cleaning for us. Again, an invaluable blessing to have her close by and willing to perform those menial tasks. She also cooked dinners for my husband and me when he returned to work allowing us to focus on our fresh roles.

“An immediate feeling of unconditional, all-encompassing love like no other.”

Well-meaning advisers also said you’ll feel this immediate love like you’ve never felt before for another living thing! That’s a true statement. advice for new momsWhat they didn’t follow up with however is how incredibly frustrated I would get when our daughter began to get spells of inconsolable crying in the late evening when just days before she was content to sleep at the same time of day. The feeling of not being able to “fix the problem” is achingly atrocious. Listening to her cries, attempting every conceivable way to hold her, filling her tiny perfect ears with white noise, covering her beautiful face with kisses and soft words, changing her diaper for the umpteenth time that day, offering her a breast to fill her ever-expanding belly, and yet none of that making a dent for her uncomfortable mood is the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced! Heartbreaking.

Those advisers tell me now that’s just the way babies are, it’ll get better, she’ll outgrow it as her newborn organs and digestive system mature. OK, great! Sounds wonderful! But…ummmmm…how to endure the current state of affairs without suffering a broken heart for the long-term? A mantra to be chanted over and over to oneself while she’s crying so hard she can’t barely breathe? Watching tears caused by the throes of agony mar her angelic face – what to do then? The answer is to hold her. Keep talking to her, offering comforting words of love and future calm nights. I can’t sing, but I’m told she doesn’t mind if I can’t hold a tune. The only power I have as a mother to “fix the problem” is to continue to pour all the love I have inside of me on her when she needs to cry herself to sleep as well as when she is locking eyes with me and grinning ear to ear, her smile retainers straining with the joy.

“Allow others to do everything for you.”

Another piece of advice I received is to accept all the help that’s offered. Well…that may work really well for some people. This is written by me, about me and only applies to me as a mother. But, news flash helpful people – you cannot feed my daughter in the first weeks of her life. An exclusively breastfed baby must have her mother within reach. I truly appreciate all the offers of “I’ll watch your baby while you go do x, y, z.” Very kind gesture, selfless, much cherished. But until I felt she was established enough with breastfeeding that I could pump and store milk for another trusted family-member to feed to her, it just wasn’t possible for me to leave her and go do whatever I wanted. Now that she is in her fifth week of life she has begun to take a bottle. Thus far only once, while I was with her to ensure she was eating enough.

Even as I write this, it’s the first time in 4.5 weeks I’m physically away from my daughter for more than a half hour. But trust me, I’m tethered to my phone, texting my mother and sister for updates on my daughter’s status. And they are all doing just splendidly. My daughter is exercising some tummy time and, while she’s held her head up since birth, she’s already incredibly close to doing push-ups…she’s a few weeks ahead of me with that ability. My mom says I was about two months old when I started doing full-on push-ups. Like mother like daughter (insert huge grin from me here).advice for new moms

“Kidnap been-there done-that experts.”

Which brings us to another piece of advice I wish more people would have told me. Find those who have successfully raised children themselves, capture them, hold them captive in your home (or invade theirs) and squeeze them for every ounce of knowledge and current situation ideas they can muster.

My husband and I are brand new at this parent thing. We are told we are doing great. But we are absolutely willing to seek out and appreciate the advice we get from friends and family. We implement that which is applicable for us and our daughter. We nod and smile and ignore the tips that aren’t our style or that we’ve tried and haven’t worked for our little one.

My tip, “Rely on and endure the highs and lows with your co-parent.”

That said, there is no way on God’s green Earth that I could do this new mom thing without my husband.advice for new mothers He is my strength, my partner in crime, the additional set of arms to place our crying child in when everything I’ve done has resulted in no change. He is the man who turned into a puddle, heart melted, upon first sight of the life we created together. He is the man who insists on using a diaper wipe warmer, who researches and implements the best way to change a diaper for the fragile structure of a newborn, who holds her long-limbed body in his CrossFit strengthened arms smoothing her soft hair while telling her about surfing in his heart-home of Hawaii.

I came across a quote while in the last weeks of pregnancy that says something akin to, “I never knew how I much I loved your father until I saw how much he loved you.” That piece of advice is spot on.

This musing is not meant to deter anyone from offering advice to soon-to-be and new-moms. It’s simply my personal experience with what I wish I had been told. Then again, I’m the kind of person who wants the truth no matter how hard it is to swallow. I prefer the reality. I can create the fantasy. Honestly the reality is that motherhood is truly the greatest challenge I’ve ever faced. It’s exhilarating and utterly exhausting. It’s ridiculously frustrating and painfully simple. It’s something you cannot fully prepare for no matter how much advice you take in. You must allow yourself grow into the role, day by day. And for this impatient individual, it is the most monumental lesson in patience one could ever endure. But I wouldn’t trade it for a single fathomable thing.

Cheers to motherhood!

Pregnancy and Crossfit – Two Peas in a Pod

Exercise devotee managed seven months of pregnancy sans workout modification

But it finally happened. I needed to modify a crossfit workout. For the most part I had been able to perform the WOD (workout of the day) with a lighter weight than the prescribed amount for the workouts. But it’s evident that I am now at the point in this pregnancy that a couple movements need to be modified to accommodate not only the growing baby bump but also the plethora of physical changes that go with it.

(Photo by Jessica Schroeder, CrossFit Sandstorm Coach)

(Photo by Jessica Schroeder, CrossFit Sandstorm Coach)

I guess I lasted pretty long though; seven months of pregnancy without needing to alter a body-weight or barbell or kettle bell weighted exercise. The coaches and I chose to change one exercise at a time to identify what the cause of my discomfort may be from.

The movement we began with an alternate for was kettle bell swings.  A few days prior we completed a kettle bell swing, 400m run and double under jump rope conditioning workout. Today was a kettle bell swing, goblet squat and 400m run workout. Coach Jim modified the kettle bell swings to sumo dead lifts. This was a new lift for me in terms of hand position and feet position but by no means a foreign movement for my body or muscles. Following this workout I didn’t have all of the same recovery aches as I had with the kettle bell swings. Modify as needed.

I’m an incredibly competitive individual; both internally and with those around me. I don’t want to need to modify; but I’m glad to know there are adaptations in crossfit so in order for everyone of every ability level to exercise together and get something great out of it. I may not be going as hard and heavy and pushing myself as much as I usually do, but that’s because I have baby on the brain and in the belly!

First and foremost, I must insure she’s safe. A close second though, I need to make certain I’m not getting injured so that I can continue to exercise. Getting injured to a point where I have to stop completely, lose the momentum and lose all the benefits of exercising three to five times a week would be devastating for me.

I love to exercise! I love crossfit as a regimen! I love to run!

But overexerting myself at the expense of not being able to do another workout tomorrow is not an option. I suppose being able to alter an exercise in order to get a really good workout in is just as beneficial as pushing past your limits, potentially sustaining an injury and thus not being to exercise the next day.

A 500m row before a series of 30 wall balls. Anna in the front, husband Kevin behind. (Photo by Jessica Schroeder, CrossFit Sandstorm Coach)

A 500m row before a series of 30 wall balls. Anna in the front, husband Kevin behind. (Photo by Jessica Schroeder, CrossFit Sandstorm Coach)

I really appreciate all the coaches at CrossFit Sandstorm taking the extra time with me to modify the written workout and showing me multiple substitutes for exercises. The further I get along in this pregnancy the more I notice I have to change and alter what I usually do. That’s all okay, I understand.

I understand at this time I won’t be as limber as I was pre-pregnancy. Nor is my body as strong as it was in the same ways as it was. But I also understand that it’s doing this amazing thing on its own and all I have to do in my brain is go ahead and let it do the most natural thing of all and support it in creating this little girl. I also have to keep eating right, not overindulge my maple donut fetish, and making sure that I keep up the exercise regimen that I do have even if that means cutting back on weight, or altering movements.

I dread getting to a point where I have to sit on a couch or, heaven forbid, be on bed rest. So I will continue to attend classes at CrossFit Sandstorm. I will continue to let the coaches know when I need some sort of modification or assistance from their expertise and understanding of how the body works. I will continue to appreciate the knowledge the coaches have in being able to help all ability levels walk into the Box, do the same workout as the rest of the athletes, scaled and modified as necessary.

I love being able to walk into a Box and not be judged for being pregnant, not be put off to the side like some fragile delicate thing. At the same time, I am cared for, watched over with an extra set of eyes to make sure I’m not pushing too hard.

Here’s to continuing to perform thrice-weekly WODs (workout of the day) for the duration of the pregnancy and long after our baby girl is crawling and walking and running on her own. Cheers!

Simultaneously Excited and Apprehensive

Waves of excitement, pure unadulterated joy followed by anxiety about everything under the sun…that pretty much sums up my general state of being. I suppose that’s partially a bi-product of this pregnancy. But for me it’s also the complete shift of working for myself/my clients from home to working full-time in an office nearly an hour’s drive away.

I recently accepted a full-time position with the Army National Guard as a military technician. For this gal who’s spent the past two and half years as a solopreneur working to build a business, the shift is going to be a challenge. I have been lucky enough to be blessed in so many ways through this business journey. Continue reading

Who Designs Military Maternity Uniforms? Must be Men

After more than eleven years serving in the U.S. Army National Guard and I’m still struggling with uniform issues.I began my career during the end of the BDUs (pants and tops in the camouflage green pattern, black boots), and soft cotton sweats for physical training. After a few years, the Army transitioned to the current digital grey pattern (Army Combat Uniform or ACU) with some upgrades to the trousers and blouse. These included a zipper close on the top instead of a row of buttons, pockets galore to even include a pocket on the bottom left sleeve for writing utensils.

But they also included velcro. Velcro tabs to hold the top’s flap closed, velcro on ALL the pockets, velcro for all the interchangeable name tapes and rank. The boots changed from black to desert tan which signaled the end of spending hours each evening shining boots. (I often wondered what the Drill Sergeants replaced that discipline skill with in Basic Combat Training.) Continue reading

The Third Time I Trudged Through the Bataan Memorial Death March

This was the third time I’ve participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March. The first year I entered in the military heavy category. This meant I wore my full Army uniform, including combat boots and carried a 42 lbs ruck sack (a military issued backpack). The requirement is 35 lbs. How did I end up with 42 lbs then? Well, that’s what happens when you train with two fellow females and one shows up the morning of the march with entirely too much weight and we distribute it. Bad idea. Bring non-perishable food items instead of military issued gear so you can donate what you don’t need to make weight. Continue reading

What is failure exactly?

What exactly is failure? Is it a lack of being able to accomplish a task or reach a goal? Is it giving up even if you have the resources to finish? Is it not getting started in the first place? What is your definition of failure? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know what you think.

Take chances, make mistakes.Webster’s defines failure as an “omission of occurrence or performance” or  “lack of success”. That seems a bit too narrow in my mind. Let me first say I hate failing. Loath, despise and abominate failing! Continue reading