Anxiety and CrossFit

Written By: Lisa Bilbao

I was diagnosed as having anxiety when I turned 40.  For some reason, forty was my magic number.  I did have a few episodes when I was in college, but there was an explanation to my anxiety back then; I was a married mom of two young girls and trying to juggle my responsibilities of being a wife, a mom, and a full-time college student.  The solution, at least from my doctor’s perspective, was for me to take time for myself and try to reduce my anxiety by taking a pill. 

Even back then, I knew I didn’t want to medicate myself for something that I felt there was a solution for.  I mean, I wasn’t born with anxiety. Something had to happen for me to get to that point and I needed to find out what it was.  Needless to say, I graduated and crossed that off of my “list” and the anxiety was gone.

Fast forward to 40 years old and the anxiety and panic was back.  This time it hit me hard, so hard that I really thought that I was going to die.  I felt that I was going to have a heart attack at any moment.  I cried for “no reason” and I didn’t want my children to leave my side. I would lay in the fetal position just wishing this feeling would go away.  My heart and mind were at war with each other.  My brain and the logical part of me were telling me that I have nothing to worry about, so why?  Why was I so worried?  There had to be a trigger, right?  I was a healthy forty year old woman who had no previous health issues and no family history of anxiety.  Looking back, I realize that I was a stay at home mom for 18 years with no outlet.  I put everyone in my house and life ahead of me.  I didn’t have a hobby and I limited time with my friends because my family was my life. I didn’t want to focus on myself because I always viewed it as being selfish. 

One day my daughter, Julia, told me that a CrossFit place had opened up near our house.  I told her, “CrossFit is too expensive and there are plenty of gyms around us. If you really want to start working out I will look into those places.”  She was persistent and adamant about CrossFit, so I took her to try it out. There we met Coach Francisco and Coach Dylan, the head trainers and owners of Humble CrossFit.  While Julia worked out, Coach Fran started talking to me about the health benefits of CrossFit and explained in very good detail, The Wellness Curve.  I remember telling him as I was watching Julia from the sidelines, “Nah, me and weights don’t get along.” Coach Fran didn’t know about the secret I was carrying.  He didn’t know that I was not confident enough in myself to pick up a barbell (I didn’t even know it was called a barbell).  He didn’t know that I carried my invisible friend anxiety around either.  Finally, on Julia’s third day at CrossFit I told myself, “You can definitely do this.”  I saw other women who looked to be around my age in there doing the same things that my 16 year old was doing.  Challenge accepted!  Fine, Fran, you convinced me! Or, was it that I was searching for something that my soul needed to keep in balance? 

One week into working out at Humble CrossFit and I fell in love with it. I was sore all the time, but I loved it.  I did not even finish my first workout, but I couldn’t stop talking to people about it. That first workout by the way, just so happened to be “Annie” – 50-40-30-20-10 reps of double unders and sit ups. That chick kicked my butt!

Here’s the thing that CrossFit does to you as soon as you walk in the door.  It scares you because it pushes you not only physically, but mentally as well.  We as humans are designed to work. We are designed to keep moving.  We are intelligent creatures who require challenges in order to succeed.  Booker T. Washington said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

I have not overcome anxiety, but I have pushed it further and further back from where it was before.  I understand what it feels like and I know what triggers it, for the most part.  However, once I walk into the “box,” it’s like my mind calms down.  Once that happens, then the rest of me has no other choice but to put her big girl pants on and kick the days WOD where it hurts. 

CrossFit is a community of people who constantly encourage each other.  We all want to see each other succeed and do well.  Quitting is not an option.  There is a goal and your mind is set on completing that goal to feel that sense of accomplishment again. That need to succeed, that need to overcome, it’s there in all of us.  My story is a different story from yours; we all have something, a story, a background, a history.  And, that’s OK.  CrossFit is my outlet, my medication to my ailment, my “happy hour.” If you’re teetering on the edge and need a new channel to heal or cope, I challenge you to find a community like mine.  What do you have to lose?    

Athlete of the Month November: Daniel Saenz!

Getting Daniel to join CrossFit was a process. His wife and cousins were long time members and I knew Daniel would excel just like his family. Daniel joined us officially this summer and has quickly become a pilar in our community through his constant encouragement, positive attitude, and eagerness to learn. We're proud of you, Daniel!  

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Daniel Saenz.  I am an IT consultant with Nieto Technology Partners.  I have been in the IT industry for 18+ years.  I find joy in helping businesses solve problems.

What is your athletic background? 
Considering that I lacked hand eye coordination in my youth, I would not have considered myself an athlete at all. I played sports, but was never any good.  I played so poorly, that if I did score a point everyone, including the opposite team cheered. You know the kid that always gets picked last? Well that was Steve…I was the one they picked when Steve was out sick : (

What made you join Humble CrossFit?
First are the challenges the WODs (Work Out of the Day) set for you. I began weightlifting about 2 years ago and was happy with my progress, but time after time CrossFitters always showed me up with their functional movements and overall stamina.  I wanted to be like that, not just all muscle looking dude.
Second, the coaching and camaraderie with my fellow CrossFitters.  The people are what makes the difference at this gym.  They will bleed with you, cry with you and in the end cheer you on as you try to finish a crazy hard WOD.

What does CrossFit mean to you and how do you stay motivated?
Functional Movement…..To realize what your body can do when you use your entire body the way it is supposed to move is AMAZING!!!
Motivation for me comes from the coaching / CrossFitters and knowing that I am doing things I never thought I could do or even want to do.  
My wife Lili, she motivates me.  Of course, she does motivate me in all aspects of my life.

What is your favorite CrossFit movement?
Muscle Ups….now I will admit that I can’t do one yet, but knowing everything that it takes to complete one is just the coolest thing to me.  This is on my bucket list of things to accomplish. 

What is your least favorite movement?
None really….I figure if I don’t like something it’s only because I don’t really know it, so why not learn how to do it?  OK, maybe BURPEES, but just maybe.

What are your goals for the next year?
Muscle Up….but like a lot of them in a row!!!  And learning enough to help others.

What was your favorite moment/accomplishment so far at Humble CrossFit?
Coming back from my injury.  Earlier this month I suffered my first injury.  I sprained my left hip joint….OUCH!!!!  I really believed that it was the end of my CrossFit journey.  Coach Francisco did not let me quit.  He worked with me and my injury, he helped me learn to stretch and warm up properly before work outs (mind you, he had already instructed me properly, but like most men I think I know better and rushed my warm up).  Within 2 weeks I was right back doing amazing WODS.  Handstand kipping push-ups, chest to bars, rope climbs, wall balls, you get the drift all the cool things CrossFitters do. 

What is your favorite cheat meal?
Spanky’s Pizza baby!!!!....One large pepperoni please…oh and a margarita por favor!!!

Do you have any advice for people hesitant to try CrossFit or for those struggling with their fitness goals?
Yes, one day at a time.  Take everything one day at a time.  Rome was not built in a day and neither was your body.  Understand that CrossFit is not a “run it” and “do it” work out.  It is training your body to do true functional movements that, over time, will show you what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are.  Stick with it and you will find out just how amazing you really are.

In Burgener We Trust

When it comes to teaching the correct form for the Snatch and the Clean every CrossFit athlete at some point (I hope) has been introduced to the Burgener Warm-up. Mike Burgener is a level five Senior International Weightlifting coach, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, as well as the CrossFit Weightlifting coach. The Burgener Warm-up goes through the major key elements that build on creating the proper weightlifting technique. For more on the Burgener Warm-up watch this video:

Even before I became a CrossFit Trainer I had been practicing this warm-up and have found much improvement in my technique just by repeating it day after day. As a trainer, I too teach my athletes this warm up so that they get an understanding on not only how to do a Snatch/Clean, but also to appreciate WHAT a Snatch/Clean is. In my years of training I have come across many different issues when it comes to these movements. We like to do the Burgener Warm-up before we focus on our weightlifting class and even then I find that their issues have not improved or the athlete just doesn’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. By no means am I saying that the Burgener Warm-up doesn’t work, because without it I would have never been able to teach the way I do, but my only explanation is that the athlete has not spent enough time practicing the movements and positions to understand what they mean and why they are important. I have taken this warm-up and created my little spin to it. I would like to take this moment to state that I do not think this is better than the Burgener Warm-up, but these are things that helped me teach my athletes who don’t practice weightlifting in their daily training.

Hopefully, by explaining the movements and offering slight modifications, coaches will be able to teach their athletes the WHY behind the Burgener warm up and athletes will be able to take mental cues when running through the warm up in class or on their own.

For the beginning of this exercise we will begin without a PVC pipe: (NOTE: All movements and positions should be repeated 3-5 repetitions)

o   Athlete will start by having their feet parallel underneath their hips

o   Athlete dips by pushing knees diagonally forward and out (knees shouldn’t be over the feet)

o   By straightening out the knees and hips in a quick and exaggerated manner the athlete should have and understanding that this is where we get our power from (Power Position)

Next, we add the PVC pipe:

o   Snatch grip begins with bar (PVC) on the hip crease, hands are wide set causing the arms to be completely straight with hook grip (thumb around the bar, fingers over the thumb.)

o   Athlete will begin with the dip, straightening out the body (extension), and finishing by shrugging the shoulders up towards the ears.

o   Scarecrow- Dip, extension, shoulder shrug, and finish by pulling elbow up and back while keeping the bar close

o   Muscle Snatch- Dip, extension, shoulder shrug, elbows high and outside and finish up by externally rotating the elbows and pressing upwards (all while keeping the bar close)

We’ll then have the athlete bring the bar behind their neck while hands are still in Snatch width position.

o   Athlete performs 3 Push Press (Dip, drive through the heels and extend arms)

o   Overhead Squats (Maintaining vertical torso and elbows completely locked out)

o   Pressing Snatch Balance (Bar stays at the same height while athlete presses themselves down to Overhead Squat position then finish movement by standing with bar still overhead)

For this next exercise, we set aside the bar and focus on hips beginning in closed position extending to open and closing again. Many athletes have trouble understanding how to perform these positions or just don’t know if they’re doing it right because they don’t know what to feel.

o   Feet begin parallel underneath hips, dip (hips CLOSED), then by thrusting hips forward and allowing shoulders to go up and back we get into the full extension (hips OPEN). This should cause the body to come off the ground enough for the feet to shoot out to Squat Stance (feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly pointed out).

o   As the feet touch down the hips should begin to re-bend to finish in the dip Position.

Now that the athlete has an understanding for how to open and close the hips we can introduce the PVC pipe back behind the neck with hands gripped at snatch width. We will go through and perform snatch balances at different heights simply because it is essential to practice catching the bar in different depths of your squat positioning.

Snatch Balance Exercises:

o   2” Drop – Dip, hip extension, shoulder shrug, elbows high and outside (Scarecrow), as the elbows externally rotate and we press the bar to extend the elbows, the athlete will land in Squat Stance and re-bend the hips to land back into the dip position (or 2” drop).

o   4” Drop – Same as the 2” drop except that the hips should be caught at a 4” drop from extended hips (I like to call this the ¼ squat for queuing purposes)

o   6” Drop – Same as the 4” drop but obviously, the hips will be caught at about a 6” drop or where the line of the hips to knees are parallel to the floor. NOTE: It is common to see athletes have a hard time performing this, whether from lack of confidence or experience.

o   Full Depth – Same prior movements but we try to catch in the full depth position, meaning the bottom of your squat.

For the final exercise, we return to the Snatch grip positions with the bar on the hip crease.

o   Full Snatch from the Power Position – The difference between this and the Full Depth Snatch Balance is that we add the bar traveling from Power Position to Overhead while the hips begin in the dip (Power Position), extend, and retract back into a Full Squat.


Those Aren't Real Pull-ups!

We’ve all heard it, “THAT’S NOT A REAL PULLUP!” as you post your latest insta video of a sweet set of unbroken kipping chest to bars.

I’ve been around and around with this conversation/argument/fight. For someone who loves gymnastics and anything bar related, I find myself in this situation a lot and I have a few things to say about it (surprise, surprise).

1.     Strict (“real”) pull ups and kipping pull ups are two VERY different things. When people tell me a kipping pull up is not a real pull up my response is 9/10… “No Shit.” It is like comparing grapefruits to oranges. They’re both citrus fruits, but they’re just not the same thing.

2.     The goals of each are different. Strict pull ups are for strength. Kipping pull ups are for speed and body control. We program and practice both for this reason. No skill is left untrained and we all need to learn how to do them both.

3.     Kipping pull ups are very important in that they teach explosiveness in the hips. Do you know what else requires explosive hips? Almost everything. Seriously, cleans, snatches, burpees, muscle ups, deadlifts… they all require strong and controlled hips, which is what a kipping pull up teaches.

4.     In the CrossFit culture, kipping is a milestone. Learn it. Be proud of it. Don’t let anyone rain on your parade.

A lot of people also suggest that kipping is hard on your shoulders and this may be true for someone who has a preexisting injury or who has weak shoulders. Would we try to teach someone to kip on day one? Absolutely not! Kipping comes after a lot of training to learn control and technique. A general rule of thumb is that kipping pull ups are learned only after an athlete has enough strength to raise and support their body on their own, meaning a strict pull up has already been achieved.

In the grand scheme of things, I get it. I have been guilty more than once of saying “I did 100 pull ups today!” Meaning kipping pull ups, not strict, which is what the general public regards as a “real” pull up. I understand the argument, but I also give myself credit in that kipping pull ups are hard and it is an achievement to be able to learn and train this skill. If you already have it or are working towards it, pat yourself on the back. Kipping lives matter and you are doing a fantastic job. Keep kipping away and let the real pull up fanatics remain haters. 


October Recipes

A big complaint that I hear about eating clean is that it is boring! People think that healthy options are only limited to grilled chicken and vegetables. While this is certainly an option, it is far from being the only choice out there. What better way to bring in the Fall season than with some recipes to make clean eating taste delicious? 

A big thank you to Jenna Power from Power Meals for providing two of the recipes below! Jenna is a mastermind at making meal prep taste phenomenal. Be sure to follow her meal prep social media @Power_Meals on Instagram or @JPow05. Maybe one day Jenna will produce a recipe book for those who are culinary challenged like me. *Hint Hint*

Chinese Pepper Steak
Jenna Power and New Leaf Wellness

2 Pounds of Beef Top Sirloin Steak (Fat trimmed and sliced. I used stew beef, because time). 
3 Green Bell Peppers, Sliced
2 Small Yellow Onions, Sliced
4 Cloves of Garlic
1/2 Cup of Soy Sauce (Low sodium soy sauce is a great substitute here!)
1 Tablespoon of Honey
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Add all of the contents to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Enjoy over rice or alone! If you prefer your veggies to have a crunch, you can add the green peppers in at the last 30 minutes of cooking. 
You can also freeze all of the uncooked ingredients in a ziplock bag for up to 3 months for those days where throwing a meal into the crockpot before work is the best option of the day. Just thaw overnight and start your meal in the AM! 

For those who are RP'ers, I consider this meal protein with 1/2 serving of fat for under 4 oz and a full serving of fat for 5 oz of protein or more per serving. 
For those who are macro counters, I did the work for you below! 

Serving size is 4 oz. 
Protein - 33.5 G
Carbs - 8.7 G
Fat - 8.6 G


Cool Ranch Shredded Chicken
Jenna Power and New Leaf Wellness

2 Pounds of Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons of Red Wine Vinegar
2 Packages of Dry Taco Seasoning (Reduce to 1 packet to reduce carbs/sodium)
1 Package of Dry Ranch Seasoning  
Pro Tip - You can EASILY make your own seasoning packets to make them Paleo and low sodium, however.... the premixed packages from Hidden Valley and McCormick's are so easy

Soak the chicken breast in lukewarm saltwater for 10 minutes and pat dry
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together in a large bowl
Add the chicken breast and toss to evenly coat in the mixture of spices
Add all of the ingredients, including the left over spice mixture, to a crockpot and cook on low for 4-6 hours
Shred and serve! 

This recipe can also be easily frozen and stored for up to 3 months. Just thaw the night before and throw it in the crockpot for cooking. 

For those who are RP'ers, I consider this meal protein with 1/2 serving of fat for under 4 oz and a full serving of fat for 5 oz of protein or more per serving. 
For those who are macro counters, I did the work for you below! 

Serving size is 4 oz.
Protein - 35 G
Carbs - 6.5 G
Fat - 9.3 G


Turkey Meatloaf
Charlye Hebert

2 Pounds 99% Lean Ground Turkey
3 Whole Eggs, Whisked
1⁄2 cup Almond Flour (link for purchase below)
1⁄2 Onion, Thinly Chopped
2 Bell Peppers, Any Color, Finely Chopped
10 oz Package Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Drained
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Chili Powder *
1 tsp Salt *
2 cloves Garlic, Minced *
1 tsp Oregano *
1 tsp Thyme*
1⁄2 tsp Cayenne*
*The above spices can be substituted with one package of dry Chili Mix
1⁄2 cup BBQ Sauce (You can make a Paleo version, but I prefer Sweet Baby Ray's)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Saute onions over medium heat in a saucepan using the olive oil until tender.
Add spinach, garlic, and spices to the onions and stir gently.
Remove from heat and set aside.
Place uncooked turkey into a large bowl and add the whisked eggs and almond flour.
Mix gently, being sure not to handle the meat too much.
Add the saucepan contents to the meat mixture and stir gently until well distributed.
Form the mixture into a loaf shape and place into a well-greased loaf pan. The mixture should be slightly smaller than the size of the pan.
Pour the BBQ sauce on top of the loaf, covering the sides and top.
Cook for one hour, or longer if necessary. Meat should reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees and should be white upon cutting.
Serve with additional BBQ sauce, if desired, but note additional BBQ topping is not included in the nutrition details below. 

Serving size is 4 oz. 
Protein - 31 G
Carbs - 14 G
Fat - 6 G

I hope you enjoyed these recipes! If you would like this to become a monthly post, please let us know! Be sure to tag us on social media if you try out any of these recipes @humblecrossfit