self-experiment: CrossFit

I kid you not!

CrossFit and MS seem like a horrible match and some people still think I’ve completely lost it but let me tell you, the past 4 weeks were great. Lots of sweat and tears but I’m  convinced this is my way forward and I just signed up for a 3 months UNLIMITED WOD membership as I want to continue this experiment and dig really, really deep.

Yes, I have officially joined the CrossFit cult 🙂

CrossFit can be quite intimidating at first. I have friends doing CrossFit for years and yes, talking about it non-stop ( this is me now, lol) but I never gave it a real chance as I thought, hm, I have MS and CrossFitters seem like the complete opposite, they are like superhumans. Watching the CrossFit Games online or just recently the Netflix  “Fittest on Earth” documentary didn’t really help.

But then a friend shared this video of “adaptive” CrossFit athletes and I thought, hell yeah, I can do this, too!

 

Luckily I found a great box ( CrossFit term for the place you workout, in my case an old warehouse) here in Amsterdam that offers an 8 hour “on ramp course” where you’ll learn most of the movements from weightlifting to rope climbing. I think it’s essential and in my box even mandatory to follow such a course as CrossFit can cause many injuries if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m glad I did quite a bit of weightlifting and kettlebell training the past 12 months as I’m familiar with the technique.

Then – the biggest surprise during our first lesson! We learned that the MOST important part of CrossFit is – REST. HA! Sounds like the perfect sport to me as I’m a world-class rester 🙂

After completing the course we got 3 weeks of unlimited testing which I did – to the max!

First of all – SURPRISE, there are mainly “normal” people training, all fitness levels,sizes and ages. The average Joe and Jane and we all share one goal – to get and be fit for life, both physically and mentally. It’s the mix between strength training, cardio and gymnastics that makes it very appealing to most people. At the same time it’s also a great mental strengths training as you’ll get pushed to your own limits and are constantly trying to overcome them. It really is for everyBODY as you can scale every single exercise during a workout in many different ways and make it work for you. For example, I can’t do pull ups ( yet 😉 ) so I do jumping pull ups instead and am also using less weights etc.

I was really concerned about the, ok, MY competitive side but notice each time I only compete against myself and don’t compare myself to others. To me  it’s more about overcoming my own limitations that I still set myself mentally. “I have MS, I can’t sprint, can’t do this, can’t do that”. But turns out  – I CAN. Up until now I actually didn’t notice any difference between me and other beginners. I feel more self-confident and surprise myself in almost every workout with what I can do as I’m still limiting myself mentally with the fact that I have MS.

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What?!?! You want me to lift this 42kg atlas stone to my shoulder?  I can’t try because I have MS!  Overcame my fear and tried!

CrossFit has several neurological benefits, especially olympic weightlifting. I can feel my CNS working really hard each time and trying to get these 4-5 movements together looks very easy but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. How I can tell? I had to take a three-hour siesta after the first olympic weightlifting session and my mind felt like a blank space, it kind of shut down to process this new information 😉 This is exactly what I want as I know my brain builds new connections. Neuroplasticity is so important, not only for people living with MS or other neurological disorders but for everyone. You can only rewire your brain if you give it new input, make new experiences or learn a new skill. With CrossFit, you get it all without traveling places.

I noticed quite a few changes the past 4 weeks and it’s not only that I feel hungry all the time, lol. Even on a bad day (doing physically well but kind of in a weird funky mood for weeks as I’m getting more aware of cognitive issues like my 1 second attention span and that’s just so frustrating. Sorry for the distraction from the main post but this is pretty much how my brain works for me, it’s all over the place at the same time and it’s just overwhelming at times, so I take time outs and hide)  I try to make it to a WOD at least every other day as I feel so much better afterwards, have more energy and less fatigue as I’m adjusting to these new movements and activities.

I finally started to push my limits little by little and lift heavier each week as, well,  it needs to hurt a little. No pain, no gain.  In the past I stuck to my workout plan and didn’t dare to leave the edge of my comfort zone but as we all know, the magic happens only outside our comfort zone. Thanks to the great community there’s a lot of magic happening as you always have people cheer for you if you’re about to give up and we all celebrate our own successes at the end of the workout with a round of high fives 🙂 It’s a very social sport as you get to meet many new people and that’s so important to me. It’s not like in the gym where most people wear earphones and focus on their own workout. You do quite a few of buddy or team exercises and even if it’s a workout without, your neighbors will support and cheer for you if they notice you struggle.

The only tiny issue is my core temperature – but I also found a solution for that 🙂

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I got myself even more ( 8 xxl)  cooling packs , now half of my freezer is occupied with other things than ice cubes and veggies 😉 . When I feel my temperature rise, I just put one cooling pack in my back/ neck area, held in place by my racerback sports bra, and add more to my shoulders and chest if needed. I also drink ice-cold water and it really works! Thanks to this trick I have hardly any  symptoms anymore when working out, just the vision in my left eye is a bit off but I must say it’s been like that for weeks, even without working out. I blame it on the late summer here in the Netherlands as we’ll also hit 26 degrees today which is a no-no for my workout. For the rest – even my right leg feels “normal” for the first time all summer!

So, that’s it for today, I might even start an entire “CrossFit with MS” sub-menu on my blog but we shall see. Here it is again, distraction and my brain is already somewhere else 😉

Thank you for this great experience  coaches and buddies, looking forward to the next 3 months with you!

 

4 thoughts on “self-experiment: CrossFit

  1. Wow! This it great to hear! I was diagnosed with MS going on two years now and have just started- literally Tuesday- working out again. (Pilates) before diagnosis I was doing bootcamps, etc and am scared to try it again for the same reasons you listed. I Thanks for the post!

    1. Great to hear! Just take it easy and listen to your body 🙂 I didn’t work out for the first 2 years after my dx and slowly got back to it with swimming and a bit of gym. It’s hard to motivate yourself with all these issues and fatigue but it’ll get easier. Let me know how it works out for you and please feel free to reach out anytime! Enjoy your workout 🙂

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