This is the story of a girl, who five years ago couldn’t do a set of 10 push-ups on her toes, let alone a pull-up. Let alone multiple pull-ups. Let alone multiple pull-ups while people were watching and cheering. Let alone multiple pull-ups while people were watching and cheering and she felt confident about it.
And now, after competing in this, she gets to wear this beauty around her neck.
Because somehow, some way, the planets aligned for her to show up at the right time, at the right place and dare greatly after years and years of hard work, grit, determination and — most of all — consistency.
This is my recap of the 2016 Fit Pit Throwdown. And so much more …
It All Started Back in 2011 …
My journey to co-founding Fit Bottomed Girls in 2008 and breaking up with yo-yo dieting and embracing a better body image is well documented. And I am SO proud of that. But like anything, growth is an on-going process. You don’t just stop. There’s always somewhere new to go, some new mountain to climb. And, like a lot of Type A peeps, I like setting goals and reaching them. But, from time to time, perfectionism would creep in — as would the fear of failing or flat-out looking stupid.
I knew that “getting out of your comfort zone” was important. So I did take risks. I ran a marathon in 2010. I quit my full-time job to pursue FBG full-time. I co-authored two books. And, honestly, the other big life-changing/self-growth thing I ever did was take my first class at The Fit Pit — even though I was damn terrified of the workouts. And, thankfully, I took video of that day.
Five years later, I may have a few more laugh lines, but I also am two sizes down and have a level of fitness that I never thought possible for me. I was the slow runner in school — the one who DREADED the day you had to run the mile in P.E. I had no self control with ice cream (still don’t) and shied away from competition. I liked being the center of attention if and only if I was 100 percent prepared, practiced and ready for it.
That first workout at the Fit Pit I couldn’t even begin to contemplate doing a pull-up or climbing a rope or flipping a heavy tire. It seemed as if I was a mere mortal surrounded by superheroes. I mean, really nice superheroes, but still. Let’s be honest: freaks of nature. I fit in a lot of places but this was not one of them.
Until — unlike any other workout I’d ever reviewed for FBG — I kept coming back. Time and time again. There was something about attempting something so out of my comfort zone that I began to feel brave. Bad-ass even.
And you know what’s fun? FEELING BAD-ASS.
So even though I may have been the weakest or most out of breath at the gym, I kept going. The owner (and now my dear friend, professional colleague and fitness spirit animal) Sheryl gave me modifications and pep talks and specific things to work on. It took me almost a full year to be able to even go the Fit Pit three times a week without feeling like soreness was going to destroy me. It took another year to be able to do kipping pull-ups and then strict pull-ups. The first time I climbed the rope was a big freakin’ deal.
The gym gave me an outlet during failed fertility treatments. And it kept me healthy when I finally did get pregnant. It has been essential to me as a new mom as well, helping me to define myself not just as a mother, but also as an individual. It’s taught me that I can always do more than I think I can — and that there is always someone who has my back. The Fit Pit has been my fit community and my tribe, second only to FBG.
Breaking Out of My Comfort Zone, Over and Over Again
The Fit Pit has had a way of not just taking me out of my comfort zone, but actively making me face, head on, what is my comfort zone over and over again. Sometimes, in a not-so pleasant way. After all, facing your fears isn’t exactly fun. But the growth from it is powerful. Case in point: The Throwdown, every year that I’ve done it.
The first year of The Throwdown in 2012, I was a “complete,” meaning I did all the workouts but couldn’t do them unmodified. (Those 70 burpees still haunt me.) The next year, I qualified to “compete” (meaning no modifications — bad-ass!) only to get a stress fracture in my foot and have to move to complete. (Lesson learned: don’t overdo it at the gym or with running.) In 2014, I qualified to compete again, but found out I was pregnant just weeks before, so I decided to volunteer and be a judge instead of participate. Last year, my daughter was only three months and no way in hell was I in any shape to throw down. (Unless it was time to throw down and sleep, in which case … night-night!)
Which brings us to 2016. After a year of regular Fit Pit workouts and building back up to full strength (plus a little more — thanks for all the additional weight-training, Gwen), I qualified to compete again. And with no injuries and no restrictions, I for the first time stood toe-to-toe with those superheroes. The people I looked up to — the people that seemed so far away five years ago with their pull-ups and their handstand push-ups. I didn’t feel like one of them exactly, but I was competing with them. That alone was enough to make me proud.
Now, I will admit, some of the gym’s best athletes couldn’t be there for various reasons, but as my dear friend Tina and fellow Fit Pitter says (she’s one of those “best athletes” who didn’t do The Throwdown because of another bad-ass event, by the way): “You gotta show up to win.” And she’s right. I showed up, nerves and all. And, OMG, was I nervous.
Digging Deep at the 2016 Fit Pit Throwdown
Honestly, I was nervous even days before The Throwdown started. I knew who was competing — seven amazing women. And I knew that Sheryl would outdo herself yet again. (Each year the Throwdown gets more and more … what’s the right word? SURPRISING. You just never know what you’ll be asked to do.) I also knew that of any year, I had a real shot at doing well. I had done my training. I was lifting heavy. I was as quick at burpees as I’d ever been before and rowing faster than I ever had before. So I knew the possibility was there. So much so that I even reached out to Kristen and Erin multiple times just FREAKING out. Here’s a taste of that:
On that Friday, the first day of the competition, I saw the workouts, and I felt good. It’s like my body and mind shifted to a new place that I forgot I had in me (last time I saw her was in a high school tennis tournament that got really close and intense). I went into beast mode. I left it all on the line for those (WODs 1, 2 and 3). And I went home feeling great. Really, really great. Like, I-couldn’t-do-better-than-that-great.
And then, you know comparison being a you-know-what and all, I got to the beach volleyball courts on day two of the competition (told you Sheryl likes to spice things up), checked out the standings and saw that I was in sixth place.
Well, that was a fun idea while it lasted, I thought. Time to settle in and just continue to do my best and have fun.
After all, if my all-out beast-mode-plus best was sixth, well, then I was going to sit back and feel good about sixth and continue to be in total awe of those I was competing with. I mean, DAMN.
Day two was totally a blast, too. (WODs 4 and 5.) There was sand and running and atlas stones and dragging and pulling. Plus, Gwen got to play in the sand for the first time. I spent a lot of time just chatting with fellow members, applying sunscreen, drinking water and cheering everyone on.
Yet again though, I did my absolute and complete best. Later that night I get a text from Sheryl to the women competitors with an update of the standings. People, there was a THREE-WAY TIE for fourth place. Four women go to the finals on the last day. I was back in it.
Cue those nerves again. Like, big time.
The Final Day of The Throwdown
Sheryl had posted all of the workouts on the first day of the competition, so I knew what was in store for us on Sunday, the final day. And now that the standings were close, I couldn’t stop obsessing over what weights I should choose to use for the Dead Run (WOD 6). I knew I could lift heavy and run fast — although I wasn’t the strongest lifter or the fastest runner there by any means. But since both weights and speed were being scored, I knew my only way to do well was to strike the perfect balance of lifting as heavy as possible while still being able to sprint out like a mad woman on a mission. After tossing and turning all night about what to do, I decided to just leave it up to the moment.
And that allowed me to enjoy the most adorable thing ever come Sunday morning: the first-ever Diaper Dash. (There’s been quite the baby boom at my gym!)
Gwen didn’t exactly get what was going on; kind of just stood there and watched the other kiddos for a minute, but she eventually got in on the action. Taking her full moment to slowly walk down the raceway. (Cutest. Thing. Ever.)
After that, it was time to warm up and me to get real about picking a weight to lift. After lifting 135 pounds a few times, I settled on 155 pounds to start. Maybe I could have started a little heavier, but it just felt right. (And seriously, looking at pics later, I’ve got a rounded back going on, which is exactly why I didn’t want to go UBER heavy — no weight is worth injury.)
For the Dead Run I lifted 155, 165, 175 and 195 pounds — and I hustled my ass around those cones in a full-out sprint every time. I don’t think I’ve ever moved that fast (or added plates on that quickly either — you were in charge of adding all your weights, too, which added another fun and crazy element).
And I did exactly what I wanted to do with the Dead Run — I placed in the top half for both weight and time, picking myself up a lot of points before going into the final regular workout of the competition: Countdown 150 (WOD 7). For the last one, I knew the pull-ups, snatches and toes to bar favored my skill-set. To this point there hadn’t been that much upper body work and I LOVE pull-ups. I was SO proud of what I did with the Dead Run, and I really tried to carry that momentum with me into the next challenge.
Plus, just look at my adorable cheering section.
So, I ate a snack, hydrated up some more, and got my game face on again. I was able to do my 50 air squats unbroken, but totally fell apart on the 40 double unders. My legs were just toast, and I could not find a rhythm. But instead of freaking out, I took a deep breath, focused on a point in front of me, tuned out everything around me, and pushed through them. It’s all kind of a huffy puffy blur, but I think I only managed to get 9 or 10 or so in a row. The rest were short sets of 3 or 4. But I did not let it mentally defeat me. I headed over to the pull-up bar, totally out of breath (missing all of those double unders uses A LOT of energy), and hopped up and did 12 pull-ups off the bat.
Thank you, adrenaline.
Then I chunked the rest out in sets of three to five reps.
Before I knew it, I was on to the snatches. Now, I normally like snatches. These however, oh, how these sucked. After 10 reps, I truly and fully hit a wall. Like, all-out bonked. I had no gas left in the tank. We’re talking mile-20-of-a-marathon-OMG-why-am-I-doing-this suckage. At one point, I honestly thought: hey, if I don’t do well here, at least I won’t have to do the final! And then the beast part of me was all like HELL NO; you’re not going out with anything other than your best. So I dug deep, kept doing all the freakin’ snatches as quickly as I could (read: not very quickly) and then hustled back over to the pull-up bar for my final 10 toes to bar. I hopped on the bar and did six. OMG, the end was in sight. I did two more, then two more. Then ran to my finisher’s mat and DONE.
I then waited for the other women to finish and cheered them on, confidently know that no matter what, I did my absolute best. No regrets. Final or no final, I was going to go home happy and proud.
When WOD 7 wrapped up, we all waited for the final board and numbers to be calculated. And guess what? I secured fourth place. I was going to the m-effing final with three other AMAZINGLY FIT WOMEN (like, um, they do Ironmans and stuff). It was a surreal almost dreamlike/is-this-real moment.
I sobered up pretty quickly once I saw the final workout. Oh. My. God.
I tried not to think about it. I tried to just be in the moment, enjoy it and, honestly, just get through it. The other ladies I was doing this with — Krissee, Allison and Tiffany — were all totally and completely awesome. Yes, we were competing, but we were also getting through it together, Fit-Pit style. The first 400-meter run was lighthearted, pretty easy and fun. We all knew the grind that was to come.
My pull-ups felt pretty good (unfortunately Tiffany had to bow out during the pull-ups as her hands had ripped during the previous workout and just, OWWW), as did the row. Steady as she goes, I repeated to myself over and over again.
After the row, I hit a wall that was even harder than the one I hit during the snatches. I knew I was mentally and physically exhausted — and that it was hot, like 90+ degrees and humid at 1 p.m. hot — but I don’t think I realized just HOW tapped out I was until 25 box jump overs felt like quite possibly the end of the world. I was a little dizzy, really hot and every single jump just took SO much focus and energy and grit, from like the bottom of my fit soul. This look kind of says it all …
After my double under trouble (haha) in Countdown 150, I wasn’t expecting to do well with the double unders in the final, but I did pretty well for me! I basically did sets of 19 to 20 each time. Much better than chunking them out at four at a time, let me tell ya.
Totally out of breath again, my cardio recovered a little bit on the toes to bar, but my hands started to tear in a couple spots and my overall strength just stopped … well, being strong. The 25 reps felt like 100. There were a lot of singles I did in there — and a lot of chalking up.
It’s around this point of the final when I kind of stop being aware of ANYTHING going on around me. It just felt like me and my judge Wayne surviving through this thing. I hopped on the rower, happy to be sitting again. It’s around this time that I realize that Krissee is back from her final run and climbing the rope. SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT SUPERHEROES? I look over my shoulder and cheer her on because, um, awesome.
I get through that row with about a 2:30 pace. For comparison, my first row pace of the final was 2:10. I’m hurting, like whoa. Then it’s burpees time. In which case this post comes back to haunt me. Big time. As much as I kept telling myself that I liked burpees and that I only had to do 25 of them, they took me forever. There were a lot of singles, followed by standing and trying not to lose my lunch. The jump over the rower just took these to a level that seemed extra impossible. At this point, pretty much the whole gym is counting them down for me — and I think Allison has climbed the rope and finished, too? I honestly can’t remember, but, Allison, if I was lucid and not so focused on not dying, I would have totally high-fived you. You’re a rockstar.
Somehow, some way, I get through the burpees. Running seems impossible. Everyone at the gym sees this on my face, and a handful of members join me for the final 400. Which begins as a walk, and with a pep talk from them that I can’t thank them enough for.
I didn’t have enough energy (or hydration) to cry about this at the time, but the sentiment was so overwhelming sweet and supportive and appreciated that I can barely even type or talk about it without my eyes welling up now. This is what makes the Fit Pit the Fit Pit. Without them, I may have walked the entire thing. (I mean, Krissee finished and is running another 400 just to be supportive. There aren’t enough heart emojis in the world to convey how cool that type of sportsmanship is.)
Once back from the run, there was just one thing left to do. And by the love of everything fit, I was going to climb that damn rope. So I gathered myself together as best I could, got a drink, pulled up my socks, put on my rope guard brace thingie …
And got to climbing. Exhausted and tired, I’d never been happier to ring that bell.
And that was that. I was a third-place finisher of the 2016 Fit Pit Throwdown. To sit among superheroes, with a medal around my neck, was a total and complete honor. (Note: we’re sitting here because I basically couldn’t move any more after coming down from the rope.)
Going to the final was a dream, but actually finishing it was something that I never, ever thought I’d accomplish in a million years — let alone five years ago, when I started at the gym.
And just like that I have a new story. An updated story.
It’s about overcoming setbacks. Getting totally freaked out. Embracing my weaknesses and strengths. Believing I can. Putting myself out there. Failing miserably. Trying again. Doing my absolute best no matter what. And busting the friggin’ seams off my comfort zone.
This is my story. How are you going to write yours? —Jenn