1. How did you get started with Academy of Lions?
I've been coming to the Academy for almost 4 years now.
I'd always worked out in a more traditional way, with a focus on calories in/calories out, and I had been steadily gaining weight for a decade despite more stringent dieting and hours of cardio. I found one of my workout journals a while back - it was a masterpiece of What Not To Do. 2 hours of dragonboat practice plus 3 hours of biking, traditional large hypertrophy sets but done with a low weight. I wasn't losing a pound, but my inflammation was doing just fine. Eventually I went to a doctor at a local teaching hospital.
The moment she walked in I knew it was going to be bad. She weighed substantially more than I did and I was immediately anxious about discussing my weight with her. I had my meticulous, compulsive food and exercise diary with me. I offered it to her kind of gingerly and said "This is what I'm doing, and I'm still gaining weight, I don't understand". She flipped through it without reading it, handed it back to me and said "Yeah well. Sometimes we make excuses for ourselves".
I just about fell over. I took my book and said "Yeah well, its not about you, Poodle." and walked the hell out.
On the advice of a friend, I went to an evidence-based naturopath who figured out I was lactose intolerant, vitamin B12 and D3 deficient and I changed my diet accordingly. Within a week I was feeling substantially better.
Then I saw an article about Crossfit in the Star, I think. It sounded like the gnarliest possible workout. So I contacted Academy of Lions and another Crossfit gym via email. I included my age, my currently level of fitness and my weight.
AoL got back to me immediately. The other one never did, and I'm glad.
Getting healthy was an uphill battle for me and I don't think I could have managed it anywhere else. I still have a mortifying/hilarious memory of two of my classmates helping me do a wall walk by holding my legs up and keeping them on the wall. There was no judgment, only a desire to help me succeed. Having been The Fat Girl at a regular gym for years, believe me, I know the difference.
2. What was your physical background prior to CrossFit?
My dad was a bodybuilder, so there was always a weight rack in the house and I knew how to use it. I'd been working out in some way or another since I was 15.
My focus was always on appearances.
I was obsessed with getting the "Grecian ideal" which meant that thigh and waist measurements were the same, hip and chest, bicep and calf etc. That's a very simplified way of explaining it, there are more specific ways to calculate that, but its a terrible thing to do to yourself so I won't expand on it here. Suffice it to say I was obsessed with Julliette Bergman and cried when my thigh and waist measurements differed by more than an inch. That superficial focus made my apparently uncontrollable weight gain almost impossible to adapt to. I developed exercise bulimia and completely broke my metabolism.
It's funny, when I was creeping up to 250lbs lbs and running myself ragged, underrating and working out 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, I would get approval and much condescending head-patting. Now that I'm a healthy weight, I work out 5-6 hours a week, people call me obsessed and tell me they heard CrossFit is a cult.
The lesson there is, do what works for you. Sometimes that means walking away from people. One of the things I love about CrossFit is that the emphasis is on what your body can do, not what it looks like.
Show up, put in the work, eat well and your body will make the changes while you sleep.
3. Could you please share your weight loss journey with us?
As I mentioned, the first step to getting myself sorted was getting pissed off by a regular doctor.
When I started at AoL, I weighed 235lbs at 5'6", 48% bodyfat. I was severely inflamed due to the food allergies and high cortisol levels. My sleep was a mess, my brain was foggy and I generally felt like shit. My intro class was terrifying. I was surrounded by slim yoga/runner bodies and I felt really self-conscious. When the trainer asked if everyone had signed the waiver - they looked directly at me, smiled... and it was on.
I was the only person out of that free class that came back the next week.
I jiggled my way through that class and countless others. ;) to an 80lb fat loss.
There is such a wide and deep set of knowledge available at the gym - through the trainers themselves and the broader community. I got incredible advice on nutrition, gut flora and inflammation control and most importantly, how to fix my metabolism.
I had been working out like a maniac and eating 800 calories a day. At one point - during what I call my rehab - I was eating 4000 calories a day and still losing fat. I was packing on muscle like crazy. My body changed so much in a short period of time that a rumour started at work that I had undergone gastric surgery.
I put a stop to that pretty quickly...
The most important thing has been that I am allowed to modify certain exercises to accommodate pre-existing injuries. I have achilles tendinosis on both sides, so I can't skip or do box jumps. The coaches are always really good about suggesting an alternate exercise.
4. You mentioned being a pet lover?
I have two. One is 15, cranky and sings in the bathtub at 4am. The other is diabetic and requires insulin twice a day.
He repays me with hairballs and the foulest litterbox imaginable.
5. Has Crossfit had a positive impact on your life?
Yes. In just about every possible way. One of the many problems I had while being fat (yes I use that word. Its a description, not the moral judgment people use it as) was that I was depressed. I didn't know I was depressed until I wasn't any more.
At the time, I just felt unhappy, frustrated and my body hurt all the time.
I make jokes that I self-medicate with crossfit, because I'm cranky if I miss more than 3 days. It's more true than I would like to admit, so I'm willing to give up a lot of standard social interaction to take of myself.
My social life used to involve a lot more drinking, eating and shenanigans. Now I'm reluctant to drink on the weekend because it messes up my performance during the week. If someone wants to meet for dinner during the week, it has to be later than 8pm, because I'll be working out between 6:30pm and 7:30pm.
I'm a graphic designer, so I sit for most of the day, if I don't do a WOD, I feel it the next day.
So because of that, the gym has become the focus of much of my social life. If I say I don't want to drink, they know why and I don't have to explain myself! And they never, ever ask "Are you going to eat ALL THAT??!"
Fortunately, the people here are kind of amazing... and I say that as an intransigent misanthropic introvert of the highest order.
6. As you are a huge TV/ComicBook/Novel/Film/Etc Geek, what had you become so enthralled in this culture?
See above re: hating people. Books were always much more interesting to me. Lord of the Rings was very important to me in my childhood, and from there I moved on to Arthur C. Clark, Asimov etc. Then one of my brothers gave me his comic books and I loved them. I don't buy many any more, but every so often I'll buy a graphic novel and avoid tv for a while. Neil Gaiman's Sandman showed me that comics could be literary too, and I enjoy all genres and styles of comic books.
7. Could you tell us about the Secret Loves of Geek Girls?
yeah... that was a weird one.
Basically one of my Facebook friends, Hope Nicholson, said "I love your posts, do you write prose at all?" and the next thing I knew I was published alongside Margaret Atwood in an anthology. The Kickstarter was incredibly successful, and the first run of it was very well received. Then Dark Horse picked it up for distribution worldwide. Its been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal twice and made their most anticipated fall books. So yeah. That happened. LOL
8. Do you have any gym goals set for the next year?
Yes. Muscle ups of some variety, and I want that 300lb back squat. I've been stuck at 295 forever and I want to get my deadlift up to 375, beltless. That's 10lbs from my current belted max.
9. Please tell something about you that we may not know?
Seeing as people apparently wonder, my "background" is a mix of Chinese, Black and Caucasian (1/4,1/4,1/2), and my right armpit sweats more than my left. Nobody has asked about that, their loss. It's fascinating.
10. Anything you have on the bucket list that you would like to achieve?
I attempted Kilimanjaro back before I started Crossfit. I didn't summit, but I made it to the high camp. I'd like to try it again and see how I do.
Maybe for my 50th birthday.