Member Spotlight: Rebecca Adler-Stratford
Name: Rebecca Adler-Stratford
Occupation: Financial Engineer II at Fannie Mae
Balance Location: Glover Park
Member Since: 2010
How often do you come to the gym?
I used to come 6-7 days a week sometimes twice a day. I got my yoga certification this fall and that took a lot of time away from my regular gym routine. I still went, but it was far less frequently and mostly for Olympic Lifting or additional yoga classes. It’s been hard getting back into my old routine, but this last month I have been successful at making it 4-6 times a week (and twice a day when my favorite yoga teachers are there). I wouldn’t say I am 100% active all those days, everyone needs rest. But I will go to just to cheer people on or to get a massage. I love the massage membership.
What kinds of workouts were you doing before CrossFit?
I was lucky that before I started CrossFit there was intro to CrossFit at my gym, because when I started I would elliptical and maybe do crunches and stretch. I’d never done weight training before, since as a kid I mostly did ballet and some gymnastics. I had no idea what to do. There were several months where I would just do cardio and some core work, stretch, and then go off to work. And that was good for me at the time, especially since I never belonged to a gym before we joined Balance… anything was better than nothing.
Why did you decide to start doing CrossFit?
I started doing CrossFit because I was invited by the trainer teaching the intro class to join them. I was the only other person in the gym and I was just ellipting and watching TV. So I did it. And then I was sore for 5 days after that. It was kind of addictive. I was incredibly shy, so it took a lot for me to attend the classes, but my self esteem went up the stronger I got. The more I connected with other people at the gym and made friends the more it became part of daily life. I started to do the BootCamps and all the intro classes I could. It completely opened another world. And since everyone was just starting, it was a safe space. I started saying yes to more activities outside the gym as well that I otherwise would have been too timid to try, like rock climbing or hiking.
What do you like most about CrossFit? Why should other people try it?
There are so many things I like. I like getting stronger. The weight on the bar is more important than the weight on the scale, but never as important as my safety. I like the shared suffering of a hard work out. The camaraderie. I like that when I go to the gym I get to see my friends and catch up. That our activities together aren’t limited to happy hours. We can be healthy and productive together, so I don’t have to choose between my friends and getting a workout in. I like that there are body weight activities and skills. There is always something to improve on. Something I like at our gym that I don’t know if you see everywhere, is that there is more focus on form than there is on getting a PR. No one wants you to injure yourself. When I do CrossFit, I do more than I would on my own. I definitely have bad days and am too hard on myself. After grad school I was at a point in my life where things were no longer marked out for me. You have graduated from school and then you wonder, “What can I achieve next?”I think other people should try it because what is better than getting strong with a group of people that become close friends? The hardest part about the beginning is starting. Being sore all the time was an adjustment. Knowing how to scale appropriately is still hard for me. The best part is that everyday you see improvements. Your form gets better, your numbers get higher, more people smile at you as you walk in the door.I’ve heard people tell me they don’t want to try CrossFit because they aren’t strong. I couldn’t press a 45-pound bar over my head. I remember it hovered at my eye level. I vividly remember the frustration. We didn’t have training bars so the only bar I had to work with at the time was a regular bar. The day that I pressed it over my head (which was several months in), I was ecstatic. You don’t start CrossFit because you are strong or in great shape. You start it and that stuff comes. Some people start it after doing other activities and that’s good for them. I was not one of them.
What advice do you have for people that are new to CrossFit, or to working out?
My advice is the same I have to myself: Show up. Be ready to learn, try your hardest, forget about who you used to be, and listen to your body.
My biggest problem whenever I am coming back from being sick or working too hard at my job or taking a vacation is when I don’t show up. I listen to the voices in my head that tell me to sleep in, or that I should work out on my own until I get my cardio level back or I will totally practice squats tomorrow and when I am strong and ready I will return. That doesn’t work for me. I have to show up. I have to check my ego, and I have to be happy that I am there and try my best. My best might not be what it was 6 months ago, yesterday, or what it will be tomorrow.
After you show up, really be ready to learn. The most important thing to learn is good form. In an ideal world we all know how to do everything well, and we can load up the bar and do perfect deadlifts and back squats. The one I live in, however; I spend an unnatural amount of time in front of a computer slouching and took nearly a decade off from being regularly active. My body changed and it forgot how to do “natural” movements like deadlift and squat. Before anyone allowed me to lift real weight (despite the fact that I was not strong when I started), I was drilled with form. I had to relearn my body and how to do things well. If you are just starting CrossFit, listen to your coach. It’s humbling, but in the long run it is better to do it right. As much as I want to do awesome things, PR or do the work out as prescribed, I would rather still be healthy when I am older.
It’s ok to rest. When I was just starting I used to come in and foam roll every weekend just to stay in the habit of being at the gym first thing in the morning. I didn’t do anything more than stretch and foam roll and then walk home and do the laundry. Rest days are your friend and you shouldn’t feel guilty about them.
If you are starting out on your own, I would recommend doing research before you go to the gym and have a plan. Something you can commit to and is doable. Also, possibly share it with a friend. For me CrossFit already has these things built in, but if I can’t make a class I will check the blog or the CF main site and know that when I finally do make it out of the office that is what I am going to do. It not only keeps you accountable, but it saves time so you aren’t wandering around making things up and only getting better at stuff that you don’t suck at.
I am definitely still working on better form, being mindful of where my body is at, and balancing doing my best with doing what will be best for me in the long run.
How do you feel that yoga has benefited your fitness or complemented your other workouts (Also, do you take classes at Balance or somewhere else?)?
Yoga is actually a huge passion of mine. I spent 200 hours getting certified and I would do it again. I tried to take as many different kinds as I could and sometimes I catch myself talking about it incessantly. Our first CrossFit coach actually recommended it to me. Mostly because one day we disturbed the class dropping weights and it turned out that the teacher was the nicest person ever.It has helped my mobility and helps me breathe. Having someone tell you to inhale and exhale for an hour straight as someone who suffers from anxiety is possibly one of the best things ever. In CrossFit you don’t take time to catch your breath. There is no time in your metcon. You can do that after when you are laying on the ground. In yoga it’s the whole class. I think they balance each other tremendously. They are so similar and yet opposites.I hear the same thing about yoga as I do CrossFit, except it’s “But I am not flexible.” And the thing is, yoga isn’t about flexibility. You gain that, but it’s not what it’s about. Like CrossFit, you can scale everything. There is always somewhere to go, a way to take it deeper. It teaches you focus and balance and to be ok with where you are now. Something I can often lose sight of after I didn’t lift as heavy as I did the week before.As for a workout, some people might not feel like they are working out. Until you walk up a hill and feel your abs and calves burn a little. It also really depends on the kind you take. I love restorative, which after a week of CrossFit doing deep stretches and moving slowly really re-centers me. You feel a little shift in your energy and you are a little more ready to face another week than you might have been otherwise. There are kinds full of many flows that can almost leave you out of breathe if you don’t inhale and exhale when you are supposed to. Maybe throw in a core work out so that you leave sweaty. Those are great too. There are some advanced once with arm balances, and even work shops that help with handstands. A friend of mine and I do acro yoga, which is where you either base someone else and help them fly, you fly yourself, or you spot and make sure no one gets hurt. There is so much core strengthening and hamstring opening, and quad strength in acro.I could probably list 10 other types that have helped. They all have benefits. Generally I take classes at the gym (Betsy Huffman!), or at Core Power (where I also teach now), and Yoga District (the 14th Street location has acro classes). Balance gym has brought in great teachers over the years that I still keep in touch with that are at many other great locations. Since life is hard, I usually don’t go to other places during the week but definitely keep my eye out for good workshops. There are so many studios in the DC area and opportunities to learn, each week I find out I missed out on something incredible. The good news is that there is always another one coming.
Why should other people, especially CrossFitters, try yoga?
Everyone should try yoga. And then if they don’t like it, they should try a different kind of yoga. Yoga might not be for everyone, but there are so many different types and philosophies it’s likely that there is one for you.I know in CrossFit mobility is part of the foundation, but getting people to really work on it is hard. We work strength, and when you get stronger sometimes your muscles can shorten and you lose mobility. Yoga lengthen muscles, but that doesn’t make you any weaker. You get a different strength. You use your body weight to make you stronger. There are static holds in warrior poses and lunges that you start shaking in. You are forced to engage your core. You mentally have to over come and keep breathing. You rewire your brain to stay calm in the face of something you don’t want to do.Some of my lifts might not be as strong as some of the big lifters in the gym, but I strongly believe that the reason my over head squat and my front rack lunge are so much higher proportionately to my other lifts is due to yoga. I guess that more goes with the previous question. But the reasons why I think it helps me workout and my life are reasons other people should do it.I also notice that my recovery time can be faster because I keep moving. I come back and do something 10 hours later that at the time when I am holding chair pose I want to yell at the teacher “Don’t you know I did squats today?!?” But then the next day you doing burpees and you can still leave the ground. Your legs don’t feel like lead.There are definitely still days where my yoga practice and CrossFit don’t really like each other. Like, on a day I do toes to bar and then the peak pose is a forearm balance… my shoulders are cranky (this literally happened last week after 14.4). But, I will also say, I wouldn’t be able to do half the arm balances I can do if it wasn’t for CrossFit.The other thing is, yoga is on your own mat. There is no leader board. There is you, your body, your breath, and that moment. Your best happens and no one records it. Being competitive is great to make yourself better. It’s helped me be better, because I wasn’t pushing myself. But there is a balance. On days where I have limited time and I can take only one class I have asked my boyfriend, yoga or CrossFit? His response is always yoga (note: he does CrosFfit). His reason is that CrossFit might make me better and stronger. But yoga makes me a better person. I regain perspective. And you can lose that in CrossFit.Also, have you ever gotten a savasana assist? Because I don’t care how bad a class is, that will save it. I don’t know why, they are magical.
What do you like the most about participating in Balance’s community events, such as Cupid’s Undie Run?
I have gone to many events. I love how the gym celebrates everything. How silly everyone can be. It’s like a family. By far my favorite was the dodgeball competition a few years ago. My team won the loser’s division. Yeah, we are kind of awesome.
How do you fit working out into your busy schedule, particularly when you’re on the road?
In life it’s hard. I do CF in the morning except the mornings I teach yoga, and generally take yoga in the evenings. Sometimes I take yoga then go to Olympic Lifting… Saturdays I get to take whatever classes I want. Sundays I teach and I occasionally goof off and practice acro. I also walk, a lot. Farmer Carries, I call that grocery shopping. (Ok, not really for the farmer carries. Only if I buy a case of wine. Which is only when we stock up for snow.)On the road is hard. If there is a gym in the hotel, I might make it a couple times. I can usually do an hour of yoga in my room wherever I am. Some lovely body weight work outs. I check the blog, the main site. I might have a compilation of body weight work outs you can do, varying in length and time depending on the circumstances. You look at the blogs and you sub what you can. Instead of a row do a run. 50-40-30-20-10. Amraps. Small sets of things. You have to keep it varied. But it’s usually body weight. And then I walk everywhere I can. I have a fitbit. When in Paris a couple years ago I walked 7 miles in the Louvre alone. I was ok with skipping the gym that day.
How has Balance Gym helped you achieve your goals?
Balance gave me goals. I didn’t have any when I started except to keep my cholesterol under control. My father died of a heart attack and so when my cholesterol got high despite a decent diet, we joined a gym. Every other goal was built on what Balance gave me. My strength goals, like deadlifting twice my body weight, doing a hand stand push up, a dead hang pull up, even 100 burpees in 7 minutes. I would not know about these things if it wasn’t for Balance. I don’t think I would have met the friends I did and had the support to go through yoga teacher training. I don’t think I would have as much confidence when I walked into the office. I might not be where I want to be completely, as aggressive at work or as good at time management. My house might not be tidy. But each day I get better. Each day I am shown something new, and now, less frequently I think “never” and start thinking “someday”.
#BalanceLife is: finding dynamic harmony between all the opposing forces you face day to day.