Originally written by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on her blog The Sweet Life.

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I’ve heard criticism from serious runners about using CrossFit to train or become stronger. But I’m not really a “serious” runner. That being said, CrossFit has really helped me become a better runner and here’s why.

Why Cutting Back Helped

I didn’t plan on this but it happened. Before CrossFit, the extent of my strength training was…sometimes lifting free weights and doing push ups. There was no leg work to be spoken of.

I figured I was doing so much running, my legs would be strong enough from that. But building strong leg muscles takes more than just running. Obviously, that helps. But to be a better runner, you need stronger legs, stronger core and even upper body.

When I jumped into CF, I cut down my running — by a lot. I focused on hitting the box and got in 1-3 miles a couple times a week running to and from.

The Test

When it came time to train for the fall marathon season, I was worried. My running had been so infrequent – would I be able to get back to where I was?

Surprisingly, I had no problem. And — even better — I had no nagging aches and pains. Previously, when the heavy running kicked in, I always always always ended up with knee problems, weak ankles, etc. After spending six months on strength training at CF, those things simply didn’t appear.

My newly found muscle protected my body and made running, better, faster, stronger. In fact, it was right after that I achieved a sub-4 marathon, a goal I’d had for over 2 years. Then, I did it again  3 weeks later at another marathon.

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I know that CrossFit played a huge part in helping me reach my goals and become a stronger runner. This year, I’m giving it another test. I’ll continue to CrossFit while training for the marathon and rely on much less mileage than I normally would during a training season.

After hearing so many CFers do it successfully, I’m curious to try it out for myself. I’ll report back!

Originally written by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on her blog The Sweet Life.

Back in action!

People say to me sometimes, “Man, you really like CrossFit, don’t you?” If you are asking me that question, it’s obviously true. But what is it about CrossFit that’s so lovable?

I’ve always enjoyed being active — and running marathons has been a major passion of mine since 2010 — but CrossFit is a different animal. With running, it’s during and after that I love — not thinking about it (actually often dreading it) beforehand. But with CrossFit, I am excited to go — and a little sad when class is over!

When I started going to CrossFit 2.5 years ago, a feeling of childhood pleasure came back to me in a way I never expected to experience again. I absolutely loved gymnastics as a kid — loved it so much I would practice at home every single day, attend open gyms, stay after class to work on skills and give it my everything. I watched every second of the Olympics and stopped anything I was doing if a competition appeared on TV (you hardly ever see those, it’s always ice skating — ever notice? I hated that!)

The thing was — I didn’t actually have any natural talent. I wasn’t good enough to make the competition team at my local gym. I never mastered a kip, an aerial or a full vault by myself.

But I worked like I was going for the gold. I loved it so much that it didn’t matter that I’d never place in a competition, I just wanted to work harder and get better. I was on my own level and wanted to complete what I could — which never went further back tucks and fly aways (and not very good ones.) I’d have never been able to whip out four backhandsprings in a row without working my butt off for years.

Looking back, backhandsprings and fly aways and backwalkovers on the high beam seem like insane feats that I could NOT complete now but in reality, they were very low level moves int he gymnastics community as a whole.

That being said, I feel similarly about CrossFit. I know I’m never going to finish all the Open workouts. I know I will probably never be able to do a muscle-up or back squat 200 pounds. I may never be able to do those cool kipping pull-ups all in a row, either.

But everyday, I’m a little excited, a little nervous, a little ready to see what I can do on THIS day. I sometimes like to hang from the bar like I did as a kid on the jungle gym and flip off with my legs. I love it when we do cartwheels and handstands — and the thrill of rope climbing is awesome (also because I have an excuse to wear my cool, CrossFit socks that *certain people [you know who you are!] make fun of me for wearing!

After 6 months of forced break from CrossFit, I’m so excited to be back — and really glad to have that childhood feeling of anticipation back too. There are very few things that can make you feel like a kid again — and that’s just one reason I really love CrossFit.

Originally written by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on her blog The Sweet Life.

Trident members Kelly Shannon and Haofeng Xu.

CrossFit has received a lot of criticism lately and well, you know how I feel about some of that. But what about doing CrossFit (or weight lifting) while pregnant — not just a few months along — but nearly 9 months? One woman was recently criticized for a photo showing her doing just that.

I first heard about the controversy on Jezebel and loved their response to it. Then, I thought about the handful of pregnant women I’d seen working out at Trident recently.

At Trident CrossFit (my box) on the wall, there is a poster specifically talking about the precautions to take while CrossFitting pregnant. As someone who plans to workout at least in some capacity when I become pregnant, I’m definitely quick to be defensive of women doing so.

I took the opportunity to interview my friend, fellow CrossFitter Kelly Shannon. She’s still at it with a due date of October 25th! Kelly is full of energy and I’ve noticed how careful she’s been to not over do it. Take a look at this interview and judge for yourself.

An Interview with Kelly, Pregnant CrossFitter

1. When did you start CF? What do you like about it?
I started in July 2011, and quickly learned the benefits of working out in the morning verses the afternoon (DC summers are really hot and humid when there’s no AC at the box)! Once I made the switch, I came to really love working out in the morning — though I still have my days of hating the alarm clock when it buzzes so early.

2. Do you follow any kind of diet? How did that change when you became pregnant?
I do not follow any kind of diet, except I do apply the rule of “everything in moderation” (well, at least most of the time). I love CF because I can eat what I want — and because I love how working out and completing the WODs makes me feel.

3. Did you ever consider stopping CF while pregnant?
My plan was always to continue if my body and my doctor allowed it. If there had been any medical reason to do so, I would have stopped immediately.

4. Many have concerns for pregnant women doing weightlifting, etc. — what do you say to the skeptics?
I think everyone’s body reacts differently to various stimuli. For some pregnant women, continuing exercise at a certain level is reasonable. For others, it’s not.

I certainly have a number of friends whose pregnancies were not as easy as mine (I didn’t have morning sickness,  food aversions, minimal leg cramps or swelling/edema, etc.). They listened to their bodies about how much exercise or activity they were willing to do.

Also, everyone’s viewpoints are colored in part by their experience and exposure. For those who have seen pregnant women struggle through basic activities, or who have been put on bed rest — I could see where they might find the idea of me lifting weights throughout my pregnancy appalling.

There’s also been a recent shift in the medical community about exercise during pregnancy. A growing body of research that suggests that exercise is safe, even significantly beneficial, throughout pregnancy.  Consider that medical guidance in the 1980s was that pregnant women shouldn’t lift over a 25 lbs, but modern medicine has revised that guidance

5. When is your due date? How long will you continue to workout?
My due date is October 25th. I plan to workout until there is a medical reason not to do so. I’ve been lucky and have had a very easy pregnancy, relatively speaking. I’ve definitely had to take things down a notch in the last week or two (weeks 35 and 36 of my pregnancy) as my belly has gotten bigger and I can feel my joints loosening (due to the hormone Relaxin, which softens the joints in preparation for delivery).

6. How is doing CF different now than before? What precautions do you take?
I spoke with my doctors about doing CF and got their input. I’ve played soccer almost all my life and was still playing when I got pregnant. My doctors ruled out soccer immediately, largely because I had previously had a surprise pregnancy in 2012 that had resulted in a miscarriage almost as soon as I discovered was pregnant.

My doctor’s were fine with my continuing CF, provided I avoided running or jumping in the first trimester (again, based on an abundance of caution due to the previous miscarriage) – so I did a lot of rowing.

Once I got through the first trimester, I was cleared for running and jumping (and I was very happy to take a break from rowing)!  I was also a bit more conservative in my weightlifting during my first trimester and monitored my intensity by keeping aware of my body temperature and breathing to ensure I wasn’t getting too warm or too far out of breath.

I also used Crossfitmom.com as a reference/guide, and was lucky that Trident CrossFit also put up a Crossfitmom.com poster with trimester-based guidelines right around the time I announced my pregnancy.

7. Do you know others who have continued CF while pregnant? What did you learn from them?
There are a number of women at Trident CrossFit who inspired me as I watched their progression through pregnancy prior to my own. I’ve also been lucky to be pregnant at the same time as several other women at Trident, and we share experiences and recommendations.

8. Your husband does CF too right? What did he think about your decision to continue working out?Yes, he was very supportive of me continuing to workout throughout my pregnancy. We had one disagreement about my continuing to do box jumps around my 6th or 7th month.  I did the 31 Heroes WOD at 28 weeks, and while I switched from running to rowing in them middle, I had no problems box jumping the entire WOD.  While I definitely acknowledge that his concerns were valid, I still felt very confident doing box jumps and continued to do them until starting to scale to step-ups at around 33 or 34 weeks.

9. Why do you think there is so much controversy about women weightlifting while pregnant?
Probably because the previous medical guidance for pregnant women was to avoid picking up anything over a certain weight (e.g. 30lbs).  However, I think that the medical community has progressed in its understanding of how pregnancy affects the female body . The medical guidance has certainly matured to recognize that if a woman was active before, she can continue to be so in a similar manner while pregnant (with certain limitations/precautions).  I was CFing for over a year and a half before I got pregnant, so I felt confident continuing with appropriate modifications.

10.  Any moves you simply don’t do right now? What is the biggest challenge?
I generally followed the Crossfitmom.com trimester-by-trimester guidance, but I also listened to my body. For example, I kept doing deadlifts instead of subbing sumo deadlift high-pulls (SDHPs) well into my third trimester by putting the weighted barbell up on two 45lb plates. I also did not pursue any PRs (personal records) after my first trimester.

In addition, between my 12th and 13th weeks, I definitely noticed when my abs separated (yep – that’s what happens during pregnancy, your abs actually separate). I didn’t feel anything, per se, but I definitely noticed the difference when I went through my mental/physical set up for a lift – when I went to tighten my core, something didn’t feel right.  It took me a minute to realize that while my back was as stable as it normally was, I couldn’t engage my abs!

Also, after the first trimester, pregnant women are advised to avoid laying on their backs (this is due to the potential of putting the weight of the baby/pressure on a vein – the Vena Cava – that runs along the left side of the body under the uterus), so I haven’t done any fully prone bench press since my first trimester.

Thankfully the coaches at Trident helped me come up with a modified bench press where I prop myself up on a med ball and use dumb bells to get a similar stimulus. In general, I’ve been more conservative in my third trimester, going lighter on the weight as my pregnancy has progressed and as I feel my joints loosening.

11.  What are your favorite WODs/moves normally? While pregnant?
Oddly enough, even before pregnancy my favorite exercises would rotate a bit depending on the weather and how I was feeling in a certain time period. I’m probably better at process of elimination – so I’ll start with what I don’t like much at present: I’m definitely tired of doing K2E (aka N2K), since that’s the only available sub-out for any ab-related exercises. I’m now looking forward to running instead of rowing, and I’ve never been much of a runner if there’s not a soccer ball in front of me.

I miss the olympic lifts I can’t do right now, such as power cleans and snatches, since I’ve always enjoyed the technical aspects of those lifts.

12.  How about energy level? How has that affected your workouts?
There have been very few days where I’ve felt really tired throughout the day. Sure, in my 1st and 3rd trimesters I fell asleep on the couch around 9-9:30pm quite a bit, but during the mornings and the daytime, I’ve usually felt pretty good and had decent energy. However, I definitely have more energy on the days I go to CF in the mornings than when I don’t (and that was true prior to pregnancy, too).

13.  Will you come back to CF after your baby is born?
Absolutely!  Of course, that will be after my body recovers from delivery and I get the doctor’s ok to return to working out.

Thanks to Kelly for answering my nosy questions about CrossFitting while pregnant!

Originally written by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on her blog The Sweet Life.

This weekend I had the chance to volunteer at DC SuperFit — a competition hosted at my own box, Trident CrossFit. I was excited to volunteer and be a part of the competition even though I wouldn’t actually be competing myself.

I arrived at 7am to help with check-in and other activities. I got my own volunteer shirt and was ready to roll. The fun part of check-in was hearing all the team names. A few favorites:

  • A Jerk and a Snatch
  • Beast Mode: On
  • Big Booty Judys
  • WODKillaz 
  • Blonde-acious
  • Will Lift for Bacon (something like that)

There were a ton of really funny ones that I can’t remember but I loved making people have to say their team names, ha ha.

Just signing people in, I was in awe of those that compete. Anyone could sign up for this competition and they had Rx and Scaled versions of Male/Male, Male/Female, Female/Female.

One thing I love about these competitions are all the strength inspired clothing, socks, and of course, tattoos. Tats are big time in CF and it made me seriously crave another one!

Best socks ever? Batman with capes!

My friend Amy was there volunteering as a judge — which I was too scared to do! I didn’t want to judge because I’m too afraid of someone getting mad at me calling a “no rep!” Silly but I’ve also never done it so maybe another time 🙂

I also ran into my blog friend, Stephanie (check out her great CF blog, Strong Figure)who I met at CrossFit Regionals earlier this year. I had no idea she was competing but I was excited to know someone in on the real action.

Of course lots of Trident folks were also competing. I tried to get a few extra pics to represent! I strolled around snapping photos for about 5 hours — it was hard to narrow these down actually. But Trident was packed with excitement and I was having a blast.

Here’s how the scene was (from my Instagram video):

Some Trident peeps:

Since the competition literally lasts all day, people camp out and tailgate just like a football game. There were tents, vans, coolers — I loved it. I only wish I had my own people to hang with but I didn’t know anyone doing that!

There were plenty of kids running around in mini-CF shirts and I saw lots of moms and dads participating in the competition.

I can’t imagine how intimidating it would be to be in such a confined space performing in front of everyone. Would it be easier or harder to get all the way down in that squat and come back up? Would the thought of humiliation be a great motivator than when you are by yourself? I’m not sure but I have a feeling it wouldn’t be for me. I guess I’ll never know unless I try though… 🙂One more video for you: 

That being said, it was great to see people of all shapes, sizes and ages competing in SuperFit. As usual, there was camaraderie and positivity in the atmosphere. It’s nice to win but CrossFit on a smaller scale is often more about team work and a shared love of something like this.

I wish I could have stayed all day to watch but I couldn’t so I got what I could. It really just made me want to come do some CrossFit and lift some heavy things. Of course, I can’t do that right now no matter how much I want to. This back has to recover and there’s no speeding it up. More updates on recovery later this week.

As always, I have to give a big shout out to Chriss and Andrea (Trident owners) for always bringing the energy and leadership it takes to make these things work. They truly love the gym and always make everyone feel welcome — knowing names and catering to people specifically. Anywhere I’ve gone in the CF world, people always know these two and Trident — and have amazing things to say. I’m so lucky Trident happened to be the box closest to my home when I started doing CrossFit.

This blog post was originally posted by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on MizFitOnline.com as a guest post.

Rocking the Trident shirt and overheads squats.

Most of the time, when I tell people I do CrossFit (that’s kind of a lot with me!), people respond with curiosity, surprise and actually — a level of respect I never expected.

I’m automatically labeled “hardcore” in some way or another. Oh, you’re one of those people? You like to climb up walls and flip tires and hit sledgehammers for no reason — stuff like that.

They’ve heard it’s hard. Painful. Sweaty. I always say, “You should do it!” and get crazy eyes back with a general response of “Um, no thanks, I’ll leave that to you.”

But I’m here to tell you, convince you, that you do not have to be some kind of Army ninja to do CrossFit — to enjoy CrossFit, to fall in love with it.

For some reason, CrossFit has become a very polarizing subject on the Internets of fitness. Please disregard the madness and take it from someone who loves two sports equally (running!) — CrossFit isn’t a cult, it’s just a fun place to go get your fitness on. More fun than any place I’ve ever gone to do so.

Oh and me? Hardcore. Not so much. You know I still can’t do a strict pull up right? It’s been a year and a half. You are NOT expected to be a strongman when you walk into that gym — or when you walk about 2 years. Your supposed to go in, do your best, push yourself and come out feeling stronger, better, inspired.

6 Reasons CrossFit Works for Regular People

1. 45-minute classes. You aren’t running 10 miles here, it’s a 45 minute class, including a warm-up and stretching time afterward. Your main workout will be 8-25 minutes depending on the day. You DO got time for that. And you can push yourself hard for a short period of time, feel awesome and not spend “hours at the gym.”

2. Scale Your Weight. If you’ve ever been to a spin class, you know you can “cheat” on how much pressure you are putting on the bike. Same here. No one cares if you don’t use the recommended weight during your workout. You do you. Your hard is your hard, their hard is theirs. Beginners should start easy to get used to the movements anyway. Just scale down and go. You don’t have to kill yourself.

3. Movie Music. You know when you are watching an inspiring movie scene and the perfect song comes up as they are running, boxing, jumping or whatever? Being at CrossFit makes you feel like you are IN that movie. The music is super loud, you are super sweaty, you are in the moment, you are feeling on top of the world. Who doesn’t love that feeling?

4. Help is on the way. CrossFit classes have multiple coaches there to help you get your form right. And dont’ worry about that, it has taken be a full 16 months to understand how to do a correct deadlift, you are not alone! The coaches want to help you and all you gotta do is ask. That’s what they are there for.

5. This is NOT boot camp. If you really don’t want to do something, you don’t have to do it. If you are afraid of rope climbs, you can do a scaled down exercise. If you are aren’t ready for a box jump, you can step up. No one forces you do to anything and it’s totally not disrespected if you do your own thing.

6. Everyone does not look like Rocky. The majority of people in your CrossFit class are going to be average joes. I’ve got everyone from toothpick like girls without an ounce of muscle to extremely overweight guys that literally cannot even jog because they are so heavy. I’ve got plenty of people in their 40s and 50s as well as lots in their 20s and 30s. I’ve even met an 80-year-old CrossFitter! There is NO body type requirement and no need to feel self-conscious. Yes, there are some super buff people there but like I said, not the majority. I see these places as way less judgmental than the gym. People see you as a person and they respect you for trying something like CrossFit.

I’m constantly hearing that people need motivation for working out. This has been the ultimate motivation for me for the past 16 months.

Rarely do I ever say, “I don’t want to go!” CrossFit has given me a new love for fitness. As someone who never really strength trained in my life, I can honestly say this was the answer.

This blog post was originally posted by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on her site sweetlifeericka.com. She got back a few days ago and she’s still TIRE-D.

Me shaking hands with Christmas pre-workout

Ericka’s other Games posts: 

Kind of. So — pause in our regular coverage today to spotlight a really cool event I got to participate in yesterday. Christmas Abbott is as cute and muscularly compact as she looks — but also super sweet.

Not only is she a great Crossfit competitor, but she also works on a NASCAR pit crew, changing tires in the heat of the moment — fast.

Reebok set us up with our own personal training session with Christmas — very cool. She showed us how you sit and then how you use the gun to screw up off the screws really fast. The point, of course, is to lose as few seconds as possible for the cars on the track.

Marissa & Jaclyn getting ready to roll! 

We were at the Crossfit Games so we couldn’t NOT include a WOD with this thing, right? So Christmas turned it into one. Here’s how it went:

For Time:
10 burpees
5 tire flip jump throughs
1 more burpee
Change the tire

It was pretty cool. We put on knee pads, ear plugs and plastic glasses for protection. I was up against Tina for time. I was nervous because there was a crowd watching and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to pull the lug nuts off.

Anne, me, Christmas, TinaGina

I also got the chance to do a short interview with Christmas after the workout. I find it so interesting to know how really fit people like her fuel their bodies. Sometimes I wish I could just watch and see how much and of what they really do eat. Super enlightening. Here’s the interview video:

Christmas and a friend showed us what we’d be doing. A little intimidating but they made it look fun and obviously, I had to try it!

Here we go…Burpees:

Tire Flips:

Changing tires!:

And it’s OFF:

With the whole Reebok media crew:

By the time we were finished there was a line winding around the area for photo ops with Christmas. She’s got an awesome personality and it’s clear this is her jam. I’m not sure why she was not competing in the Games this year but obviously she has a rockin’ bod and she can pump some serious Crossfit iron.

Thanks to Reebok for hooking us up with this cool opportunity. I definitely never thought I would drill lug nuts off the side of a real live NASCAR!

This blog post was originally posted by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on her site sweetlifeericka.com. She’s always on the run.

My pose running partner & I (pink power!)

Two weekends ago I had the awesome experience of attending a Crossfit running and rowing workshop at Trident Crossfit.

I was pretty excited when I saw it was being offered because they planned to go over principles of Crossfit Endurance — something I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around.

I wasn’t too concerned with rowing but figured learning technique couldn’t be a bad idea. Mike and Emily Porterfield — staff at Trident — taught the class. Both of them have a professional background in coaching rowing and running, respectively.

Crossfit Endurance v. Traditional Marathon Training
  • Crossfit Endurance order of priority: Skill, Drills, Volume (miles per week)
  • Traditional Marathon Training order of priority: Volume (MPW), Drills, Skill

I’ve heard over and over that CFE marathon training lets you do WAY less miles and still be prepared for a marathon. I am well aware that many marathon runners do not believe in this technique (Hi, Glenn!)

I’m not sold on it myself — BUT because I would like to stay in Crossfit this training season and NOT devote my life to double workouts everyday to train for my fall marathon — I’m giving this a try. Also, I don’t have my heart set on a big PR this year. I’m more than happy to give it a try and see what happens!


In short, CFE is all about the skill and technique of running not overall miles. I’ll still get long runs in but perfecting the technique combined with strengthening my entire body (legs, core especially) with traditionally WODs 5x/week, I’ll be in good shape to run 26.2 come November.

As I mentioned last year — I had NO pain or injuries during training (traditional) for the first time ever — and I credit the strength I gained from Crossfit for that.

Pose Running

I had hear of “pose running” before but didn’t know what it was. It’s a simple running technique based on the idea of running with a fall forward motion, a straight core, neutral head and pulling your leg up rather than down. Here are four things to remember about pose running:

  1. Weight is on ball of standing foot; foot stays flat on ground.
  2. Knee is bent on standing leg.
  3. Ankle of lifted foot is under hip, ankle & foot relaxed.
  4. Upper body is in alignment: ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over ankles.

We started with a description and then ran through some great drills to get us going. Emily kept saying when you start pose running it feels like “wearing someone else’s underwear” – ha ha — so, it feels weird. And it does! But the drills we learned will be really helpful in learning how to make it work.

First, learn how to just pull your leg up and down from the ground with the opposite leg bent. You need to get used to pulling your leg up — instead of slamming it into the ground.

Second, learn to run leaning forward with a straight-lined body. Keep your head netural and run towards the balls of your feet. For sprinting, it should all be exaggerated. For long distance, it’s less exaggerated.

This video does an excellent job of explaining it:

Those who use the pose method usually favor minimalist shoes as well. It’s simply a natural choice because you are working to be so in tune with your body’s natural function of running — and barefoot/minimal shoes allow your body to feel the ground more naturally.

I got a great foundation for pose running and began to better understand the foundations of Crossfit Endurance. Trident is offering a CFE class really soon — and I’m going to join so I can really give this thing a shot. I’m planning on practicing these drills before I run from now and seeing if I can’t perhaps get a little speedier. Of course, you also have to combine this with tempo runs, sprints, and mile repeats. It’s still a lot of hard work.

Rowing Skills

One can always learn how to row more efficiently. I certainly had no formal training in it so learning from a real rowing coach was helpful. When you first start rowing, you don’t think of it like other power lifting exercises — but it’s actually very similar to a deadlift. Here’s how Crossfit Journal explains it:

The rowing stroke is very similar to a deadlift. In the drive (work) phase, the legs initiate the power, and arms remain straight. Then the hip flexors and torso muscles maintain the power through the leg and hip drive. Finally, the arms finish the stroke with an accelerating pull toward the torso that completes the smooth handoff of power from lower body to torso to upper body.

It doesn’t feel natural when you start doing it right but it will definitely get you faster and more efficient with your energy supply. If you are rowing correctly, your legs are going to feel it. If your arms are doing the work — you’ve got it wrong.

This says “crossfit rowers” but it applies to anyone who regularly uses a rowing machine to work out. We practiced by breaking it up into sections and getting each down well before putting it together.

After lots of practice and learning, we settled back in for a recap. I was mostly concerned with how Crossfit Endurance would work for marathon training.

  • How often should you run? —-> 2-3x per week
  • How often should you do the WOD? —-> 4-6x/week
  • How long do you need to run?  —–> You don’t “need” to run long. I didn’t get a mileage # here but mostly, the long running is for your own comfort level.
  • What makes the difference? —-> technique! (see: pose running)

That’s just a nutshell –– there’s plenty more I will learn & have questions about in the future no doubt. But this class was definitely worth my time to learn some new basic stuff and get on the bandwagon for my fall marathon training.

This blog post was originally posted by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on her site sweetlifeericka.com. She’ll be attending the upcoming CrossFit games and blogging about her experience.

Yours truly — I’m getting muscle finally!

A few weeks ago at the Crossfit Games regionalsI caught myself almost tearing up. What?! I was watching people dart up ropes, grunt and lift and sweat and curse. I was screaming for them to keep on keepin’ on! I was living through the power in their legs and the determination in their minds.

It was — and always is — inspiring. Crossfit is known not for just what the first place finishers do — but what they do for the last place finishers. It’s part of what makes us us.

Found this pic on another crossfit blogger’s site — from the Games last year:

At every competition, you will see the winners, the teammates, the judges, the crowds, huddled around those in last place cheering them on like they are about the win the gold in the Olympics.

For the competitor, you might think it’s embarrassing or overwhelming, but most people find it — beautiful. No one is going to feel awesome about coming in last place but there’s something about feeling like people care that you finish that matters.

I have never competed so I can’t say for sure but…I know how it feels to fail or to come in very far behind. And I know how it feels when someone puts their arm around your shoulder and tells you how hard you worked, how great it is you had the courage to try and how that matters more than anything.

When someone puts their HEART into something, you see it, you feel it. Sometimes, crossfit WODs are only 5 minutes. Sometimes, that 5 minutes takes every bit of heart that you have. Sometimes you feel like you can’t but you tell that voice in your head to shut up and do it anyway. Sometimes one more squat feels impossible but you reach in and grab it anyway.

There’s something about laboring with someone in spirit on their last reps, in last place. It’s a human connection that you can’t get any other way. When they get a “no rep” after going all the down into the squat, it’s anguishing. But when they stand up their second try even stronger, it’s exhilirating. Then, you know you can do anything — even if you haven’t done anything at all.

That’s why the last rep from the last man makes you cry.

This blogpost was originally posted by Trident athlete Ericka Andersen on her site sweetlifeericka.com.

Deadlifts? No problem.

When I was 16, something happened to me that scarred my brain for a long time. I remember it so clearly, sitting at a friends house upstairs listening to music, just hanging out — and one of the guys said to me — “You have big arms for a girl.”

Ryan was his name and that’s the only thing I really remember about him. It stuck with me. I remember the others in the group kind of laughed and were like, Dude — you don’t say that to a girl!

Another time soon after that, I mentioned to a girlfriend that I thought my arms were “getting fat” and she said, no you just have arms like Julie (another friend.) I proceeded to tell Julie that, hoping to feel validated  like that was a good thing. She responded, “Oh god, you don’t want arms like me, their huge.”

And it was then that the hatred of my arms began. Until now.

What has changed? I have. What happened? Crossfit happened.

It’s not always about losing, sometimes it’s about building.

I’ve always been a cardio girl — from the beginnings of my unhealthy relationship with exercise all the way to when I found peace and happiness with exercise. It was run run run, cardio cardio cardio.

Then, I started crossfit at Trident.

“Instead of burning everything away, I started building everything up.”

Instead of carving out 2 hours for a long run, I went balls to the wall for 30 minutes. You don’t think 3 minutes is a long time but try doing 150 wall balls or heavy thrusters followed by rounds of pull ups. The seconds don’t move fast enough!

And while I used to attend a 45 minute step class, then jog 5 miles on the treadmill — this endless flow — that’s not possible these days. I once ran 5 miles before crossfit and said — NEVER again. I need ALL my strength and energy to conquer a class.

I always wanted “skinny arms” — dainty so I looked more feminine. I was so jealous of girls who just had that, while I felt tainted with flab.

But I’m done with skinny arm envy. I looked in the mirror the other day and thought — wow, my shoulders look bigger, my arms a little bulkier. I look…strong, athletic, the anti-dainty.

125, 126, 127…

Instead of worrying my arms would look fat in my wedding pictures, I hoped they’d look strong. And guess what? I was happy with how they looked in all of the photos!

The thing is, my muscles just don’t get “cut” easily. I’m working on it, it’s taking time. And I can’t lift a really heavy weight — some may even find my weightlifting laughable.

But I don’t care. I lift things up and I put them down — and it feels powerful, exhilirating, confidence-boosting.

I can do kipping pull ups (most of the time), I’m finally working my way to reaaaal push-ups, I climbed all the way to the top of the rope and back down!

I love my arms because they help me become stronger — mentally and physically. Did I have big arms for a girl when I was 16? Probably not. Do I have big arms for a girl now? Well, maybe. But guess what? I built them that way this time around.

Thanks to crossfit, I can appreciate real physical fitness, strength and the beauty of a hard working body.  And I have some great role models in the bad ass lady coaches at Trident who amaze me with their muscles every time I go! (Here’s to you Karen & Melanie — my morning ladies!)