The Upper Echelon

The other day, before I ended Precision Nutrition, I got really triggered by an email they sent out about their finalists for the women's Lean Eating program.  You can see the content here: Women's Lean Eating Finalists

What I found so triggering about this email was the Before and After pictures.  I felt profoundly disappointed that I hadn't achieved such radical transformation during my own PN journey.  I felt like I'd failed.

Even though we all know Before and After pictures are bullshit, and even though I know my goals ended up changing during the challenge, I still felt like I "should" have lost a bunch of weight, gotten super toned and tan, and had amazing After shots.

The "shoulds" really plague me you guys.  Not just about this PN thing, but in a lot of other stuff.  Lately, it's been coming up around CrossFit and not being part of "the upper echelon". 

Photo courtesy of Kris Bates at Grassroots CrossFit

Photo courtesy of Kris Bates at Grassroots CrossFit

In my box, we have a wide range of ability, from those just starting CrossFit with no athletic background, to athletes looking for more crosstraining, to intermediate CrossFitters, and then those who are looking to compete in CrossFit competitions.  When I started CrossFit, the gaps weren't so wide.  We had folks across the spectrum in the everyday classes, and I got to know some of them pretty well and enjoyed working out with them.  Now, because of Team Training, there's more of a divide, and I realized the other day that I'd been feeling envious of what the upper level athletes could do, and left behind, sad that I couldn't keep up.

But here's the thing: I was never at that level to begin with.  And even those who started at my level and worked really hard to get better are different than I am, because we are are fundamentally different from one another.  What works for those bodies may not work for my body, and vice versa.

My friend Lacy often tells me, "You have to realize that healthy comes in many different types of bodies."  And she's right. 

I'm doing what's right for me.  I know myself well enough to know that I try really hard.  It may not be obvious to everyone around me, and if the "proof" of health is killer 6-pack abs, then my fitness is probably not obvious to anyone.  But so what?  I know how exhausted I am at the end of a CrossFit WOD.  I know that I've been crushing my upper body and core workout 2x/week, plus a bunch of recovery work as I heal from my injury

I could be one of the upper echelon at CrossFit if I worked out 5-6 days a week (maybe even multiple times a day), ate a totally clean diet, and pushed myself constantly to get to competition level. 

I could be one of the Precision Nutrition finalists if:

  1. I'd made it my only goal for the year
  2. I was willing to sacrifice my relationships and mental health in the pursuit of weight loss, and
  3. if I'd had worse health to start out with

Because here's the thing about amazing Before and After photos: you have to look pretty out of shape in the Before picture to have a dramatic After photo.  True fact.  And I was in pretty damn decent shape before Precision Nutrition, so my After photo wasn't going to be off-the-hook incredible anyway.

But the truth of the matter is that I am doing everything I am willing to do to have a fit body, and I am healthier for it.

Juli Bauer, one of my favorite bloggers, writes in PaleOMG about how she's changed her perspective on how to train because of a similar realization:

My body is different than every single other person in this world. Completely different. I could workout the exact same, eat the same, sleep the same and do everything the same as one of my jacked competitive CrossFit friends, and I would look nothing like her. That’s because my body is different. And my goals are now different than they were. Before, I wanted to compete. That’s it. I did that and then I changed my mind so I could live a happier lifestyle. I didn’t think I would ever stop training and stop competing, but I did. Have you ever thought you wanted something and changed your mind along the way? If you haven’t, you’re boring.

I eat a healthy, whole foods-based diet, I work out multiple times a week at CrossFit, I go to yoga when I can, and I exercise sometimes for the sheer joy of moving my body.  I meditate every day.  I make time for my friends and loved ones, and I try not to stress too much about moderate indulgences from time to time.

That's what health looks like to me.  And I've determined that as much as I envy the upper echelon sometimes, it's not really worth the sacrifices I'd have to make - the strained relationships with friends and partners when they want to go out and I don't because I'm afraid of lack of restrictive eating choices, the scheduling everything around my gym time, the mental gymnastics of when to eat and how much and how to structure training. 

I'm sure people that are really committed to competition love figuring out all that.  To them, it must seem like a really awesome puzzle to work out.  And as a Type A overachiever with an analytical, problem-solving side, I kinda get that.  But I tried doing it for a year and it didn't work for me. 

I'm someone who loves creativity and spontaneity, and ultimately, balance.  I'm not willing to make training and/or weight loss my life.  So I'm focusing on what's real and achievable for me.  And the nice thing about that?  I don't resent the upper echelon any more.  They're doing them, and I'm doing me.  And that feels pretty damn great.