Monday, October 19, 2009


I am 100% ready to return to my regularly scheduled blog-writing here at UGD, but first, a little insight as to why my personal posts have been few and far between lately. See, up until recently, my life has been pretty steady. My days looked a lot the same – I do enjoy a bit of the Groundhog Day, so I tend to find a routine and stick with it. Wake, gym, my 9-5 job, coaching or writing for the blog or 603 site, early to bed, get up again the next morning and do it all over again. I liked my routine, and it afforded me the ability to eat well, sleep as much as I needed to and train five days a week, without fail.

This summer, my Fitness Train derailed when Life Stuff hurled itself across my tracks. I found myself skipping meals, missing workouts, sleeping nowhere near enough. Once I realized my tracks weren’t going to clear anytime soon, I did the best I could to run my own Health and Fitness trauma center. I triaged Life factors carefully, knowing most would survive, but accepting there would be some casualties along the way. Sleep and food came first. If I didn’t eat enough, I at least ate well. If I didn’t sleep enough, I at least took naps. Training only happened when I was well fed and well rested. Those days were sparse, but if I didn’t train at all, I at least kept moving.

As of today, my casualties are high. I haven’t trained consistently since July. I’ve lost a ridiculous amount of hard-earned strength, a ton of met-con capacity and, based on yesterday’s snatch grip deadlifts, most of my kinesthetic awareness for movements that I used to be able to perform in my sleep. My deadlift is down by almost 30#, my front squat is back where it was at the beginning of the year and I’ve lost a couple of dead hang pull-ups.

It was a Fitness train derailment of the most spectacular fashion, and there’s not a damn thing I could have done about it.

If you’re like me, health and fitness is one of the most important efforts in your life. You’ll do anything for the sake of your diet, exercise and sleep - working out while on vacation, bringing your own food to business meetings, cutting out of social occasions early because you’re training the next morning. But no matter how bad you want it, no matter how hard you try… sometimes Life Stuff hurls itself across your tracks. You get sick, your kid gets sick, work blows up, school blows up, families have crises and friends need help. It happens, and the only thing you can do is ride it out as best as you can, generating as few casualties as possible.

So how do you manage around a Fitness Train derailment, and how do you get moving again when your tracks are finally clear? Here’s my best advice, based on my own recent experience. First, when Life Stuff comes up, do your best to maintain your normal routine for as long as you can. You can juggle a lot for short periods of time, so if you can already see light at the end of the tunnel, suck it up, abandon extraneous activities and just stick to the basics. Deal with Life, eat well, sleep well and train. Narrow your scope for a few days to preserve what's important until the crisis passes.

In it for the long haul? Here’s where you have to triage – and listen to me carefully. Eating well and sleeping enough come first. Just focus on that, and if that’s all you can do, that’s okay. Eat only Good Food, sleep as much as you can, and supplement for cortisol management. Those are your top priorities, and if you can keep those up, you’ll maintain an awful lot of your general “health”.

If you’re eating and sleeping well, get to the gym when you can. Here, you’ve got two options. If you’re feeling good and up for training with some intensity, then get to it… but make those workouts count. Screw the Filthy Fifty – your only priority is maintaining strength. Met-con capacity is cheap and dirty – it goes fast and comes back faster, so save your "cardio" for better days. Instead, deadlift. Press. Squat. Do some clean and jerks. Hit the big stuff hard and heavy. But what if you're not feeling up for deadlifts? Mat Lalonde reminded me of a very important point a few weeks ago. Exercise, even at a slow and easy pace, is extremely effective in helping to manage stress and cortisol. So if you’re not able to train with your normal intensity, just do something. Walk your dog, swing a kettlebell or play with your kids. If nothing else, keep moving, because in terms of triage it’s better than nothing.

Once you put the Life Stuff behind you, now it’s time to get back into your routine. I am just this week ready and able to start fresh – and I’ll be the first to tell you it’s not easy. I did the best I could with what I was working with, but I hate that I had to let so much go in the process. I feel weak, uncoordinated, more tired than I should. And I’m so far off my routine that I’m having a hard time climbing back on board. So here’s what I’m doing to get back on the train to Dieselville.

First, I spent my first ten minutes in the gym yesterday doing nothing but complaining. “My deadlift feels awful. I’ve pulled way more than that with better form. I can’t remember how to snatch at all. My pull-ups are way too hard. Everything is sore, and I’m breathing too hard, and this totally sucks.” As unproductive as that might sound, I needed to get that out. I mean, come on… it DOES suck. Being as fit as you were and then having to start even a little bit over SHOULD make you want to pitch a tantrum of exit-gate-at-Disney-at-6PM proportions. So it's okay to complain. Take a few minutes and let it all out, because once you’re done - you’re DONE. Not one more word out of you on the subject of “used to” or “should be” or any other brand of self-pity, anger or bitterness. You simply leave all that behind and GET GOING.

Find your routine again. Make fitness your top priority for a few weeks. Get to the gym at all costs, eat good food no matter what it takes, kill your TV to get that nine hours of sleep. Get yourself back to that place where this is just what you do, where it doesn’t feel forced (even if you have to force it at first).

In terms of training bang for your buck, get your muscles back. I can't afford to care about my met-con just yet – what I need right now is STRENGTH. Dallas is starting me back on Day One of the 603 PTP program, deadlifting and pressing four days a week for the next eight weeks. Follow along if you like – there are hybrid met-cons, skill days and the occasional track day to break up the programming, but if you’re just starting out again and want to get stronger faster, this is the way to do it.

Don’t try to do everything all at once, either. The temptation may be to pile strength day upon skill day upon met-con upon “extra” cardio to get back in shape even faster. Uh, that won’t work. You’re probably still over-stressed, your body isn’t in peak physical condition as it is and if you push it too hard, too fast, you’ll end up over-trained, or worse, injured. Don’t be greedy – remember that it will take time to get back to previously enjoyed levels of health and fitness. Be patient, choose a program (whether it’s the 603 PTP, Catalyst Athletics workouts or the CrossFit Main Page) and just stick with it. Make each workout count, but make each rest and recovery period count just as much.

Finally, take your ego out of the picture. Yesterday, part of my complaining included the low deadlift numbers on my whiteboard. Dallas responded, “I don’t care what the number is, I just want them to be HARD. Are they hard?” Uh, yeah. They were hard. And we moved on. The lesson is, don’t spend any time thinking about where you SHOULD be, because that doesn’t make a lick of difference. This is where you ARE, so suck it up, stay in the moment, make your training sessions hard and stick with it. Rewards will come fast, and provide their own motivation to continue.

I’ll keep you posted here as to how my own training is progressing. I’m not a total lost cause – I’ve still got a bunch of dead hangs, my back squats are coming back fast and I pulled a 100# hang clean last weekend that practically flew up. But I’m checking my ego at this very public door in an effort to remind you that you are more than the sum of your one rep maxes… and that no matter how long Life Stuff gets in the way, it’s never too late to start fresh.

Are you stuck in Life Stuff right now, just coming back from a training hiatus or “fully recovered” from your last health and fitness break? Post thoughts and your best tips to comments.


Melicious said...

1. I love you. And not in that air-kiss, love-you-mean-it, just-flew-in-from-the-coast way. You are made of all the right stuff, and I love you.

So there.

2. My Life Stuff hasn't been anything major... just lots of little hiccups for almost three months: a weekend trip here and a rough work week there... and now I'm feeling unbalanced and discouraged and ANGRY.

But it's a new day. I, too, wrote a blog post today about my "fresh start." ( You're a huge part of that fresh start, so thanks for the inspiration, the generous advice, the tough love when I need it, and the camaraderie when I'm behaving myself.

I was pouting the other day about how my workouts "used to be fun" and how now they "feel like punishment." Then I remembered that when I started CrossFit, it wasn't fun. It was hard and scary and uncomfortable... but I kept at it and then it was fun. And then it stopped changing my body.

So now it's not fun again 'cause I'm doing new things -- but it is valuable -- and I'm ready for it to start changing my body.

Congratulations on getting back on the train. We can keep chuggin' together.

ablue623 said...

I've been reading your blog for a long time! Your posts are always informative, funny, and best of all, TOTALLY TRUE!

I've been on a roller coaster myself this past year..sometimes overtraining to de-stress, missing sleep, not eating properly. It's hard.

My favorite part of your post is:"The lesson is, don’t spend any time thinking about where you SHOULD be, because that doesn’t make a lick of difference."

This is with that in strong...lean on the ones who love you...take care of yourself...and know everything will be ok!

Web Smith said...


Heck of a post. Whatever adversity you are going through right now, know that there is always a better way to shoulder that burden. Thank you for your honesty and good luck with the come back!

Lindsey and I will be rooting for you!

CrossFit Chronicles: The Smith Family

georgia said...

This Life Stuff must be more contagious than H1N1. I swear, everyone's got a case of it these days! Myself included. Thank you for being so honest about your journey and sharing it with us.

David said...

Man, I wish I had this post a year ago. I had my life derailed by the brutal ending of a four-year+ relationship about 13 months ago, and I think I learned all these lessons the hard way.

Sleep is absolutely the most important. I prioritized training, because that's "what keeps me sane". All I wound up doing was forcing myself into the gym on multiple sleepless night and a few hundred kcals/day from crappy food. Burned out real quick, and I'm still trying to recapture the fitness I had before all of that.

For those of you going through a trial, read up and pay attention. This is the absolute truth.


Kevin said...

Great post. I've only been reading your blog for a week or so and this is the best post yet. Sometimes when you have life stuff happening you think that everyone else is perfectly paleo, are putting up PRs 3 on 1 off and sleeping like a log every night. It is easy to forget that no one is immune. It's nice to see how you coped and came through thee other side. Good life lessons and you can never get too many of them.


Robbie said...

Great post Melissa. I totally hear you. I'm coming off a back injury at a CF Challenge in mid September and was off work for a week....I had no choice but to work my way back into fighting shape with met cons. It took til last week to pull some significant deads and to get my confidence back to squat heavy-ish again. You'll bounce back quicker than you think!

Glad you're posting again! :)

Team CS said...

I really enjoyed your post and I know it really reached my girlfriend as well. I completely agree with met-con being fleeting. I've been on "Starting Strength" for almost three weeks now and the gains I've seen are insane. And I honestly think Back Squatting in itself gets my heart pumping pretty hard. My fitness train is constantly derailed by the Army and I think after reading this I can do a better job of "triaging" (is that a word? I don't know I'm not a doctor) life factors. Thanks for the motivating post. Also...Melicious Mel is awesome. I know this to be fact, not opinion.

Strong Lil Pony! said...

Melissa- I started reading your blog after checking out your Zone Gone Bad article, a belated thanks for that. Thank you for sharing this insight- I was recently derailed and it helped more than you know to read this- it was just what I needed. Thank you for all that you do- I can tell it comes from your heart.

Sully said...

What Dallas told you about your DL numbers sums up your ENTIRE, wonderful post today: 'Are they hard?'
Joe (Sully) "B.C" (before Crossfit)
Would have have been derailed and wallowed in the easy state of excuse making, and not put in any effort to get back on track-'cause that would be 'easy'--
Thanks for the wonderful post-I am getting back into my strength after an illness and your posting today really inspires me to embrace the 'Hard' of it all!

Steve said...


You are one of the great writers of the blog world. Your stuff is always a must read, because your stuff is so real and true to the heart. It takes guts to write the way you do.

I too have life getting in the way of my training. Being an involved dad, a loving husband, the head of a World Wide Medical Device Service Department and running for Township Committee this election cycle will make it easy to skip training. I need to restart my training right now because I am down 41 pounds from that Change Your Life in 30 Days thingie and I think I could make some real improvement in my WODs.

I doubt my current life stuff is as hard as your current life stuff. So if you are back training, then I am back doing my training too.

David X said...


I havent checked the blog in a while and I'm sorry to see that things have changed for you the way they have, although, as temporary as things my be, these turbulant moments can certainly throw the good old training routine for a loop.

I hope your able to get back on rack soon, and all the other sterssors eventuallt work themselves out soon!


Melissa Urban said...

You are all extremely generous in your comments. Thanks for reading, and for sharing your own stories.

@David, AMEN. Sorry you had to learn the hard way, but the lesson will stay with you.

@Sean, while I don't think "triaging" is a word, I don't care because it works. "Triage" has become one of our favorite words - you'll see more of that as the 603 site morphs into our consulting practice.

@Sully, Dallas has a way of condensing a 10 minute rationale into just a few words. "I don't care" is another one of my personal favorites - that usually comes after I say something like "I don't like to be upside-down" or "The last time I did those, they didn't go so well".

@Steve, it's always a pleasure to hear from you. But now I think we need a better handle than "The 30 Day Thingy". :) Maybe I'll pull this topic main page... you've inspired me. Thanks!

Thor! said...

My advice for anyone's training when life starts to hand you shit sammies, is to dumb down your training to the squat and deadlift. Thats what I do. So much can be accomplished with those 2 movements. After my wife was laid off and found out that her father had cancer, thats what I had her and myself do. Now she has a 300 lb. BS and her deadlift is better than ever, and working back in her metcons now arent too much of a big deal. Sure she is slow as hell, but when you work your ass off squatting and deadlifting, nothing seems to be quite as difficult.

And don't worry Urban, that cold ass pull-up bar is always waiting for you in Brooklyn.

Kevin Daigle said...

Mox, when these things happen...its important to remember that "you" are not just your physical capacities. "You" are a conglomeration of your physical AND mental/emotional capacities. That being said, de-railing your fitness as such because of life (and that happens, life that is) tests you mentally instead. You're just used to being tested physically. Because of that, you experience extreme discomfort just like you would in the middle of Eva, only for different reasons.

Whats important is how you come out the other side of the gauntlet. Your nerve will be reinforced with a steely new resolve, and you'll be that much more prepared to cut the rudder to keep yourself on an even keel next time. Hit a PR at life to get through it.....then the PR's at workouts will surely come just as before, and even bigger.

Like in Fight Club (I know its a much overused comparison) it seems with CF, the volume of everything else gets turned way down. For me at least, it's made it much easier to deal with things....even things that hurt my ability to do what I want, which IS CF. Keep it up Mox...

"If you're going through Hell....Keep going"

-Winston Churchill

ruth said...

Melissa, this post was a lifesaver. Been going through the Life Stuff too, but ironically it's all from affiliating and going through the CrossFit Pain of trying to transition from park to box. My training has suffered greatly in the last couple of months and it's hard to juggle the diet, sleep, met-con, and strength. Thanks for putting it in perspective and giving me the proverbial snap-out-of-it slap to get my ass back in gear.

Danni said...

Yup, life happens. Sucks. But it sounds like you have a tremendous attitude and the head on your shoulders to weather any storm.

Beth said...

Melissa thanks so much for posting this. I wanted to cry when I read it! I've worked fairly hard over the last year with Kim Wilkes at CrossFit St. Charles and loved where I was going. And have found myself COMPLETELY 'Life Stuff' derailed for about 6 weeks now. And its killing me. I feel weak and out of sorts and I can't stand it. But I'm working hard to get my life stuff on track and find the time to get that strength back. Having this happen has really made it so clear to me just how important this is. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and making me feel that I'm definitely not alone. And even the best have these moments! Thanks Melissa!

Penty said...

Life Stuff and priorites couldn't have come at a better time for me, thanks.

I've been wondering what should get the attention when life gets bumpy or what to focus on I when gym visists are rare.

Ronesshia said...

Thank you for this post today. I needed it. This has been a year of ups (I got married YAY!) and downs (husband laid off most of the year)and I made the decision yesterday that while "Life Stuff" will come up at one time or another, this is still MY life and I need to take it back.

Allison Bojarski said...

Melissa, yet another great post of yours that I will most definitely be linking up on the CFNYC blog. Thanks again for writing such great stuff.

Will K. said...

Should have checked your blog yesterday. I got crazy sick over the weekend but I'm a bit of a stubborn guy, so be damned if I was going to miss a training day. Yeah, a visit from pukie and a night of cold sweats later I check the blog and everyone's favorite web-guru reminds me (YET AGAIN) to remove my ego from the situation and put sleep/food above all else. Great post, great advice. Rock on and go get your DLs back.

Jack Gayton said...

Glad to hear you're getting back at it.

The CF community needs people like you and I was worried I wouldn't get gems like "squats and milk bitches" or "healthy 'F' off scale" anymore.

Kelly said...

Feel good that you are inspiring some folks more than you know...

Katie said...

The post was great and honestly I have no witty stuff to add, except that I heart you. :)

edenchoubeta52 said...

wow-almost like you read my mind...
Just started school, and that involves a 2hr commute, both ways. That with studying, homework (I'm slowly learning that they're two different things), and my very odd schedule, I've been barely training since Sept. Used to be 3 days on 1 off, mainsite WODs-now its just daydreaming about them. Anyways, just wanted to say I can relate :). Still looking for a way to get a grip on this though...

crossfitnrv said...

Good to have you back on the training train! Stuff happens ... it did, and it probably will again at some point. You learned some valuable lessons. Thanks for passing them along. And thanks for taking the time to help me and my athletes out with your expertise!

Amy Crawford
CrossFit NRV

Kat said...

;) Glad to hear you've found your way back from the derailment.

I too, was suffering from "life stuff "trying to take over my focus . But popped in here every once in a while to regroup . Worked for the most part. I'm still gaining strength but have been dragging behind the paleo wagon for about a week.
Thanks for the post to get me back into the zone (not the "zone gone bad" kind)...........

My new challenge is clearing out the clutter, loosing all that is non essential to my being happy and healthy. May take awhile but figure it will make it easier next time 'life stuff' blocks the tracks ;;)


jilly said...

Thanks for this timely post. I've been a bit derailed by the Life Stuff as well. I tend to be a little more emotional than practical in these situations, so this helped put things in perspective. I've been hitting the gym super hard because I love the community in my affiliate and I can just turn my brain off during a wod. But then I turn to the Bad Food and stay up late because I can't sleep. Looking at it from the perspective really forces me to take a step back and focus on what really needs to be done. Thanks again, Melissa!

Jason Struck, RKC said...

Urban is Diesel

carbar said...

Couldn't have read this at a better time. Especially the line about forgetting where I "should" be. Perfect.

chef said...

My dear Mellicious Von Hotness, let's do something foodie, you and me...

How about a Paleo/Ecoganic recipe converter*?

*(read: you and yours throw recipes they love at me that dont fit into their new Paleo lifestyle and I convert them to support life, love and elite fitness?)

Let's get an archive of mouthgasmic paleo lusciousness going!

You in?

michaelchasetx said...

Wow, you all motivate me!
We were born for adversity and right attitude really does make the difference.
God, I hate it when stuff hits the fan ... that is great advice about sleep, fuel, and exercise. I am bloody sometimes, but not defeated.
ne cede malis.

jd said...

* you rock
* humble, courageous, and inspiring
* thanks for your frequent reminders on sleep

Angie said...

Moxy Boss,

Thanks for sharing your derailment. It takes courage to admit to the world that you, as a trainer/coach extraordinare, have derailed with not eating well, training irregularly, and sleeping inadequately. Even trainers/coaches are human and get caught up in the "life happens" stuff too.

I thank you too for your 30 day .. um.. er "challenge" :O) for lack of the new name. It has changed me for the better. I have since stuck with the Paleo lifestyle of eating since July. I felt better, more energetic, etc, and my digestive track loves the fact that I don't eat the junk. Everything is just moving through a little better :O)

I had a lot of inflammation in my back and that has greatly improved, if not diminished after recovering from a deadlift injury that took about 1-1/2 years to fully recover!! And remember how you gave me the tough love re: cream and splenda in the coffee? I'm over it. I do schedule treats at Starbucks once in a while to enjoy either a pumpkin spice latte or a Pike's Place with the good stuff, but otherwise, I'm over it.

I schedule in my treats usually about 1 meal per week and I can honestly say, that the pizza, nachos, etc that I enjoyed before aren't really that enjoyable to me anymore. I will say though that I haven't really noticed a weight or fat loss (not trying to lose weight though) and I'm not as energetic than when I first started. I don't track my food though so I'm not sure what I need to adjust. Its just that I would have expected to see some sort of change after giving up all the junk and I haven't. I suspect I'm not eating enough protein/fat or maybe just plain not eating enough.

Once you get this nutrition consulting underway, it would be great to have someone to consult with because I would love some help.

I also was the one that was going to email you the recipes collected from the 30 day comments. I have the collection, but haven't had the opportunity to format it 100%. I will email it to you as is and you can post it when you are ready.

Thanks so much and we look forward to reading your blog more frequently. It has been sorely missed!!


Toots said...


Thanks so much for the post. I read it the day it was posted, and have been spending some thinking time on it everyday. (Wait was that about thinking to much???) I've been derailed since June 3rd (check in date with my new command). Sleep and healthy eating, with a few workouts and fun time with my 4 legged kids, has gotten me this far and overall I feel I am doing the best I can.

Now, I've got my physical readiness test to run next week, and a lot of eyes are looking at's kind of scary thinking - will my little bit have been enough to get me a decent score?

I do have a habit of thinking others have this perfect routine in which it all fits in, leaving me feel more defeated. I even create my own little perfect routine in my head, which is definitly not good for me mentally. So, I've just got to do it. Going to get in some short runs and push-ups to make sure I'm ready for Tuesday.......then Wednesday morning, it's me and the barbell.

Melissa Urban said...

@Michael and Toots: The right attitude DOES make the difference. In fact, sometimes, it's the only thing you have going for you. :)

@Toots: You've got it - if you wait until your situation, your routine, your capacity is PERFECT, you'll never move forward at all. Just do SOMETHING. One small thing. Make one tiny improvement, so that today is better than yesterday. That's enough to get you back on track, I promise you. (Let me know how your test goes.)

@Angie: I TOTALLY remember giving you shit for the cream in your coffee. I also remember thinking, she'll NEVER come back. :) I am proud of you for sticking with it. You've been an important part of the Whole30 community from the start, and I'm glad you're still here to share your experience with others.

johannal said...

Thanks for this post. I was hit by a Life S#!t 2X4 called PCOS that has completely f*ed my hormones for the past 6 months. It was good to read this post because that is essentially what I did, scale back life to the essentials (family, my music career, good eats and good sleep) If I worked out it was strength days, and not even going for PRs, just moving the metal.
With some patience, and the help of my doc, things are getting back to normal and I'm slowly transitioning back to WODs as part of my routine, but I know I need to have patience with myself as I gain the strength back.
Thanks for your post. It's good to know that it's OK to not be all CrossFit all the time =)