Let’s go back.
Way back. To just before I found out my whole life was about to change.
2013 was going to be my year:
- It was the first time since I started roller derby that I finally felt like I was strong enough to avoid re-injury.
- My league was preparing to build a badass travel team (that would later end up ranked 88 in the WFTDA standings) and I felt confident that I could make the roster.
- I started cross training consistently to prepare myself for travel team tryouts.
- I was improving my skating skills every time that I stepped on the track.
- I won a USARS silver medal and the possibilities seemed endless.
Then, depending on your opinion, the worst/best thing happened to me: I tested positive. For pregnancy.
This story isn’t actually about my pregnancy. It’s not even really a story of having the “9 month injury” after thinking that I was finally in the clear to play derby for a good, long time. (I’m sure that story will come later.)
It’s a story about how I was forced to adopt an intelligent cross training mindset because my life’s priorities had changed. Kind of.
Come listen to a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, to tell you how I became the Queen of Intelligent Cross Training.
Sorry. I couldn’t resist. The pop culture reference game is strong today.
DISCLAIMER: Anything I say in reference to how I exercised or returned to cross training and derby postpartum is not meant to be taken as a suggestion. In fact, if I had it to do all over again, I would do it much, much differently.
Fast Forward to Fall 2014
Holy shit. I’m a mom.
And I was desperate not to be one of those moms that never played derby again. I’m not really cut out to be a mom and I knew that. Unless I could continue playing roller derby, everyone would suffer for it.
My first couple of practices back on skates were awful. I couldn’t get my body to do what I wanted. It was 2 hours of constant thoughts like this: I remember being able to plow stop much quicker than this, what’s happening?
This was when my fervent devotion to intense cross training started.
I attended every practice that my team offered (between 6-8 hours per week) and when I wasn’t at practice, I was cross training. Usually 6 times a week for about 45 minutes to an hour at a time.
My schedule looked something like this:
- MONDAY — Practice (3.5-4 hours)
- TUESDAY — Strength Training (1 hour)
- WEDNESDAY — Interval Training/Cardio (45 minutes)
- THURSDAY — Strength Training (1 hour) + Practice (2 hours)
- FRIDAY — Interval Training/Cardio (45 minutes)
- SATURDAY — Practice (2 hours)
- SUNDAY — Strength Training (1 hour)
When I look back at that schedule, I cringe. Really? I was doing that? That’s crazy.
Yes. It’s especially crazy for someone getting very little sleep and trying to breastfeed, but really that’s too much for anyone.
If I were a professional athlete and that’s all I had to do all day, then maybe I could work with that. But I wasn’t. I was a stay-at-home mom recovering from a c-section who was stressed out about breastfeeding and dealing with a colicky child that never stopped crying.
But I stuck with this schedule for months. Nearly an entire season, in fact.
This is the part — as the above self-named “Queen of Intelligent Cross Training” — where I’m supposed to tell you that all that intense cross training didn’t work and I was left a wasted shell on the floor.
THAT’S. NOT. TRUE.
Intense cross training WORKED. I lost a ton of babyweight (don’t even get me started on how I feel about that phrase). I significantly increased my strength. I was faster and more agile while skating. I was in practically the best shape of my life. And, I was skating better than I ever had.
It was great! From a derby perspective.
From a life perspective? Not so much.
I was always tired, like sooooooo tired. I was constantly cranky, which didn’t show up very much anywhere but at home where I would jump down my husband’s throat at the slightest provocation. I regretted all the time I had to spend with my son. Mostly because I wanted to be sleeping. And when I couldn’t get in my workout for some reason or other (believe me, there are a lot when you have a young kid), everything got turned up to 11.
Basically, I was a nightmare.
The tipping point came when I hurt my back. At first, I thought it was a hip flexor strain. It wasn’t, it was actually a bulged disc in my lower back (that was partially due to pregnancy hormones…still).
And I was put on bed rest.
I mean, not REALLY bed rest, but the roller derby equivalent of it. Which is to say that I couldn’t skate. Even worse? I couldn’t cross train.
As I sat at home, being a mom and washing insane amounts of laundry, it hit me. You see, I hadn’t realized that I was tired or cranky. I didn’t notice how frequently I was jumping down my husband’s throat. I didn’t feel like I regretted my son. Until I started getting some sleep and my body started recovering, I just thought that was business as usual.
Seriously? Business as usual? Who wants to be that person?
I made a promise to myself that once I was able to cross train again, I wouldn’t workout more than 3 days per week.
And Intelligent Cross Training was born. I like to joke that it’s Autotot’s brother because I really don’t ever want to be pregnant again.
Here are the things that I’ve been able to do now that I limit my cross training (& implement the other big rocks):
- Start this blog. You’re welcome.
- Increase my squat PR by 65lbs
- Increase my bench PR by 20lbs
- Increase my deadlift PR by 70lbs
- Increase my speed on skates
- Increase the power of my hits
- Be actually present at practice, which means I can work harder
- Spend less time yelling at my husband
- Spend more time enjoying my son (although he can still be a real jerk)
- Say “no” to cross training when I need to
- Spend more time focusing on recovery and mobility
- Stop beating myself up when/if I miss a day or my workout doesn’t go as planned
- Continue to do insane amounts laundry. Where does it all come from?
This list could be longer, but I don’t want to bore you any more than I already have.
Intense Cross Training, especially if you’ve never cross trained before or don’t do it regularly, WILL get you results.
But the same is true for Intelligent Cross Training.
And Intelligent Cross Training is often less stressful because you control what you do instead of the other way around. (I wasn’t joking when I said that I used to feel guilty and/or on edge if I couldn’t get my workout in.)
Now my schedule looks something like this:
- MONDAY — Strength Training (45 minutes) + Practice (2 hours)
- TUESDAY — Active Recovery (20 minutes) + Practice (2 hours)
- WEDNESDAY — Strength Training (45 minutes) OR Practice (1.5 hours)
- THURSDAY — Strength Training (45 minutes) OR Active Recovery (20 minutes)
- FRIDAY — Rest
- SATURDAY — Interval Training (30 minutes)
- SUNDAY — Yoga (15 minutes)
Due to the schedule of my team practices, every other week my strength training gets moved from Wednesday to Thursday (or sometimes Friday) because I have an additional practice on Wednesday nights.
My active recovery and yoga is usually something I can do with my son: we go for a leisure walk or try to hold yoga poses together or he plays with one foam roller while I use another.
And this schedule is subject to change. Some weeks I might prioritize strength training while other weeks I might prioritize increasing my cardio endurance. If I have a particularly brutal schedule coming up, I might lighten up my cross training load considerably and just do enough to maintain my current fitness level.
That’s my favorite part of Intelligent Cross Training: the flexibility.
That’s why it can work for everyone.
That’s why I’m on a mission to make sure everyone knows about.
If you’re interested in more exclusive content, access to my FREE resource library, and the slightly weird workings of my inner mind, you can sign up for the Iron Octopus Fitness email list HERE. Wherein I harass you weekly with all things intelligent cross training, mindset, and…other.