Time to get STRONG

Got out of my advising appointment a lot quicker than I had anticipated, so I figured instead of spending my precious time on homework with due dates, I would grace your eyes/ears with more of my ramblings. I do wish I had headphones because the conversations I am eavesdropping on are killing my brain cells… But I just can’t stop listening.

Ok, back to fitness.

Last Friday we hosted a Halloween party and post-Whole Life Challenge celebration at CrossFit Alaska, complete with beer pong, lots of ridiculous costumes, and a drinking WOD. I’ve never been a fan of Halloween, but after this year I found myself inspired for H-ween 2014. Oh, maybe I should tell you what I was for Halloween this year… It’s kind of a “you have to be there” on a daily basis type of costume.. So if you’re totally confused, that’s ok. Don’t worry about it:


On Sunday, I taught a little Bench and Deadlift clinic during Open Gym at CrossFit Alaska to 6 athletes and I saw some average bench pressers turn into BENCH PRESSERS right before my eyes. In the session, I briefly explained the significance of an arch, and showed a way to set your arch without a huge backbend. However, one of the athletes, Dillon, really wanted to implement a full-on backbend bench press set-up (similar to mine, if you’ve ever seen it). First, I was impressed by the flexibility of his spine! It seems like most men don’t have as flexible spines as females.. Secondly, he maintained that same exact set-up throughout the entire clinic and worked up to a 1 rep max of 265-lbs (easily, with commands) at a bodyweight of 165. For a CrossFitter, that’s good! And he’s only going to improve now that he has proper technique. Another moment of success was getting Karen to actually push with her legs while pressing. Not only did she learn to push with her legs, she thrusted her hips so high in the air that we probably could have stacked 2 AbMats under her butt… So, a little much, but now we can work to find a happy medium of driving with her legs, but keeping her butt on the bench 🙂 I can’t wait to have this crew compete at the USA Powerlifting Southside Winter Classic on December 7th. We are going to have a ball.

This weekend (Saturday), I’m assisting Rob in putting on a Powerlifting 101 Clinic at CrossFit Anchorage. We are going to teach CrossFitters in Alaska how to get real strong so that they can: do 1,000 Wallballs without stopping, never get stuck in the bottom of a Clean, and so many other cool things. Wouldn’t it be cool if you were so strong that RX-ing the weight in a workout was never a concern? We are going to tell you how to get THAT strong. (Hint: it may involve creatine and squats)

Hold tight, because I will have CANNONBALL t-shirts for sale soon as a fundraiser so that I do not starve to death before going to the Arnold in February.

Here is my heavy Bench session from this week:

Oh and this article really sums up how I feel about Sumo Deadlift High Pulls: http://breakingmuscle.com/crossfit/the-sumo-deadlift-high-pull-is-stupid

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” – Margaret Drabble

Game-time decisions

Being a CrossFit coach, I hear from clients all too often, “I want to Squat 3 plates” or “My goal is to Bench 300-pounds”. My first response to these aspirations is for the athlete to stop chasing numbers. Chase progress, personal growth. Occasionally we need to take the time to step back and look at our personal starting point, how far we have come, and think about why we are putting in the hours every day, every week. If the reason an athlete wants to Bench 300-pounds is to sound like a bad ass to others, I can’t help.. Sorry.

My gym PR for Bench Press with a pause is 195-lbs, my meet PR is 193-lbs, but that doesn’t mean much to me right now, considering my circumstances. At Raw Nationals, I missed my 2nd and 3rd Bench Press attempts (186-lbs or so) after I had hit all my training lifts leading up to the meet. Same thing happened in September at the Top of the World Meet in Fairbanks… I nailed all my lifts in training and then when it was game time, I stuck with my plan even though it might have been smarter to take a more conservative approach. Sure, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and want that PR so bad that you can taste it… But is that PR worth a miss? Missed attempts come with all kinds of mental baggage for many athletes (myself included).

This past weekend at AFX, I had my attempt plan set at 77.5-kg/170-lbs – 82.5-kg/181-lbs – 87.5-kg/193-lbs. My first attempt felt great, but I noticed that our “Press” command (the pause) was delayed. Going into my 2nd attempt, that’s all I was thinking about… When I realized 82.5-kg/181-lbs wasn’t as smooth as it normally is, I made my first big game-time decision. Instead of taking 87.5-kg/193-lbs as my third attempt, I swallowed my pride and went for 85-kg/187-lbs. A less experienced Natalie would have likely stuck with the original plan. The intent of my participation in so many meets this Fall was to gain competition experience in my new sport. I am proud to say that the decision I made on the stage, under the spotlights, with hundreds of people watching at AFX was a showcase of my mental growth as a Powerlifter.

I went 6 for 6 in the Bench & Deadlift Invitational at AFX and I set a lifetime Deadlift PR of 157.5-kg/347-lbs. It was exactly what I needed to launch me into the Southside Winter Classic on December 7th.


Hangin’ with the legendary Brad Gillingham, who was a side-judge, after the meet:





See it to believe it

Wrapping up an awesome weekend in the Twin Cities, posting from MSP Airport. As I mentioned in my previous post, thanks to my brother I was able to train in the state-of-the-art U of M athletes’ weight room on Friday and again this morning before heading to the airport. That opportunity in itself was really cool, but it doesn’t compare to my training on Saturday.

Fortunately, I have a mentor who takes incredible care of me. When I mentioned to Rob that I would be in Minnesota over this weekend, he contacted Nick Tylutki to find out if we could train together. For those who are not familiar with the powerlifting phenom, Nick made the world team at the age of 19 (hopefully I get all this correct, I’m writing from memory) and then several times after that. This was when powerlifting was primarily (or all) geared. I read somewhere that at one point, he had a geared total over 2000-lbs (best squat + best bench + best deadlift = total) at a bodyweight of 100-kg/220-lbs. Unreal. In recent years, Raw Powerlifting (that’s what I do – just knee sleeves, wrist wraps, and a belt) became its own recognized sport and many formerly geared lifters switched over, including Nick. As a 2-time Raw National Champion, he qualified for Worlds in Russia this year and South Africa for 2014. In the past few months, I’ve trained with some seriously strong men.. There’s something about seeing it in person, informally, that gives you an entirely different appreciation. Prior to this weekend, I had a rough idea of Nick’s strength, but watching him load the bar with over 500 pounds and then do multiple reps was incredible:

Similar to all the other strong people I have had the opportunity to lift with, I can’t really wrap my mind around it until it is right in front of me. I made a joke the other day about how  I don’t do much besides lift when I train with these guys, and it remains true. 45-pound plates get tossed around like they are plastic toys no matter if you’re in Alaska or Minnesota. And if any of you guys are reading this, wishing I WOULD help more, just tell me 🙂

I’m on my way back to Alaska feeling inspired and so very fortunate. I can’t thank my support system enough. Everyone I have met thus far on my journey has helped fuel my fire.

Five days until AFX and I can hardly wait!!


Roaming powerlifter

After doing some slight rearranging last week, I got to do my last heavy bench before AFX with the big dawgs, Rob and Baller. One is an American Record holder and the other is a self-proclaimed contender for GQ’s “Sexiest Man Alive”:


They dwarf the weight I lift. Also, I don’t have to do much of anything besides lift my weight because what purpose would I serve handing off, spotting, or even loading red plate after red plate when these two are around? I worked up to 2 singles at 191-lbs/82.5-kg, so I did get to play with the big reds.

Following this training session in Rob’s little slice of heaven of a basement, I packed up my suitcase and got on a plane at 5 the next morning headed for Minneapolis. This weekend was the best option for a quick weekend trip to visit my brother. He will be in-season for the rest of the year, pretty much… Not that that has stopped me from visiting before. Anyway, because he as an athlete for the University of Minnesota, I have a fortunate hook-up: the U of M athletic complex weight room. Yes puh-leeeease.


Yesterday I benched several sets of triples at 145-lbs alongside female throwers for the Track & Field team.. Mostly big, tall human beings. I throw like a girl and I’m short, otherwise I would ponder my potential in the sport.

Last night my brother’s roommate made breakfast for dinner (read: pancakes from scratch). Yes, I’ll deduct my Whole Life Challenge points.

Training today is going to be going down somewhere even COOLER than the photo above. Hang tight!

“The only thing standing between what you are and what you want to be is what you do.”

Deadlift battle

At the Alaska State Powerlifting Meet in April of this year, my final Deadlift was 336-lbs/152.5-kg and at the time, it was a PR by 13-pounds, but it was clear that I had more in me. Leading up to Raw Nationals, I trained off that 336-pound Deadlift and in competition in Orlando I missed it on my 2nd attempt, but made it on my 3rd. By this point, I didn’t realize I was about to be at war with a barbell that was twice my bodyweight. In training leading up to the Top of the World Powerlifting Meet, my plan for a couple weeks out from the meet was to hit 335-lbs for 2 singles. I made it the first lift and missed it on my 2nd.

Natalie: 3

335-pound barbell: 2

In September, at the Top of the World meet in Fairbanks, I missed 335-lbs/152.5-kg on both my SECOND and THIRD attempts. That’s right, now the score was 3 (Natalie) to 4 (335-pound barbell). Talk about discouraging.

However, yesterday I regained the lead. And as far as I’m concerned, the battle is over. You can watch this video and decide for yourself:

Onward and upward.


How is it already mid-October? We still have only had one substantial snowfall in Anchorage, but I know a full season of the white stuff is coming soon! Another good week of training in the books and another week closer to Alaska Fitness Expo (AFX) Bench and Deadlift Invitational where I will be sharing the stage with about half a dozen of STUDS, including Brad Gillingham. There is going to be a lot of  iron moved on that stage and it will be a sight to see!

My heavy Bench session on Wednesday consisted of me working up to 2 singles at 185-lbs, which is 100% of my training max and 95% of my all-time max. And then on Friday, I knocked out a 7×2 (that’s FOURTEEN reps) at 275-lbs, which has been my opener at the last 3 meets I’ve competed in: Alaska State Championship in April, Raw Nationals in July, and the Top of the World PL Challenge in September. Talk about a confidence boost!

I’ve made a few additions to my website tonight. First, I can now be found at http://www.cannonballfitness.com. Second, I added a tab to the top menu called “Support Natalie” where you’ll find a PayPal donation button. As most readers probably know, I am a student at the University of Alaska Anchorage and I coach CrossFit about 10 hours a week.. My point? Being a competitive amateur athlete is more than I can cover on my own. I will be selling t-shirts soon that will be designed by House 8 Graphics to help raise money for my trip to Columbus for the Arnold Sports Festival in February.

Happy training this week!

“Give a girl the right shoes and she will conquer the world.” – MM

Do it for YOU

Last week was rough. Suddenly I was staring down my first round of midterms in Graduate school. At this point, I don’t want training to take a back seat to school (go ahead, judge me), so I let myself fall behind on other things (i.e. blog posts, current events, grocery shopping, and socializing). Thursday afternoon I wrapped up my exhausting school week and welcomed the weekend with open arms – the first thing I did was get a power snatch PR.. Just for fun. Although I only tinker with my Olympic lifts about once a month, I am getting so much stronger that my lack of technical practice doesn’t really matter. When I deadlift 200-pounds to Clean it, the weight feels like a warm-up rep! Same with the Snatch, so on Thursday I decided to work up to a 1RM Power Snatch (didn’t want to squat the weight) and got 135-pounds. It probably wasn’t the prettiest Power Snatch, but it also felt like a feather.

Let me back up a bit, though. Like I said, my training did not fall by the wayside last week.. If anything, I use my training to put off studying an extra couple of hours. On Wednesday, my coach had programmed 8×2 Squat at 65% (200-lbs). I went into my training session with a tentative plan to work up to a heavy Squat single, but only if I was feeling good. After the 8×2, I was hungry for more so I worked up to match the PR that I hit a few weeks ago (140-kg/309-lbs). The weight came right up, so I went for more and hit 145-kg/320-lbs:

That rep looked and felt like a maximal load. I shifted back and forth between being on my heels and toes as I stood it up and worked my ass off for the rep. It was a PR by 13-pounds/5-kg from just two weeks prior. Following that Squat session, I did heavy Bench work:

Today is my 5th day of training in a row (tsk, tsk) and I worked up to a heavy Squat single this morning, matching 145-kg/320-pounds:

I thought I could get another small PR today, but 147.5-kg/325-pounds didn’t go. Part of it was probably related to attempt selection. From 140-kg, I should have jumped to 147.5-kg/325-lbs or even 150-kg/330-pounds.. But I’m still ok with matching my lifetime PR after my volume work increased so much in the last week and I haven’t had a rest day since last Tuesday. Hitting 145/320 again is a good confidence booster and it helps me get more comfy under that weight.

In the past, I have posted about beauty, working with what you got, defying stereotypes, and that sort of thing. This morning I watched an awesome video put together by CrossFit that brought tears to my eyes (that’s not an exaggeration). It falls right in line with my platform and I want every person in the world to see the video, believe it, and live by the message:

Beauty, to me, is doing something that makes ME feel powerful, strong, and accomplished. Whether or not that is perceived as “normal” cannot matter. It is what I want to do with my body, my time, my gifts, my life.