Friday, August 8, 2008

Byers gets Diesel

Recently, I have made a new friend through the internerd.

Her name is Melissa. I first noticed Melissa making some posts on the Crossfit Message board. She had an amusing avatar of her doing pull ups on what looked like a curtain rod. She was wearing business clothes, like a skirt suit or something, so naturally it was a pretty great photo.
I sent her a message asking her about it, and she explained that she had recently become obsessed with getting a pull up, then more pull ups. A girl after my own heart.

I was of course intrigued. I've known some women who train purely for strength, and while I respect them, and their achievements, they don't look like Melissa. I've also known women who only do cardio. I've never respected them, and again, none of them look like Melissa. Some are skinny yes, but I am not saying that as any kind of compliment.

I sent her an e-mail to ask her about her training of late, and here's some of the conversation we had;

I started CF for real in December '07, but I've been playing with KBs and CF concepts for about two and a half years.  This is how new some of this stuff is, though... I got my first dead-hang pull-up in February, I learned to DL and power clean in March and did my very first back squat in May.(All this year.)  But I can crank out pull-ups with 15#, am SO close to  1.5x BW deadlift and just recently pulled a 105# clean.  I'm working my ass off over here.  

My diet has always been really strict - paleo, no grains, no sugar, no dairy. I don't weigh/measure but I have a good idea of what I need to eat at this point. I started IF'ing about a month ago at the behest of Gant Grimes, and I love it. I fast 4-5 days a week (never on rest days). I stop eating between 6 - 8 PM, train at 6 AM the next day (while fasting) and start eating again around noon. My energy has never been better - it's far more consistently "up" than it was when I was eating every few hours. I'm still getting stronger and rocking the met-cons, and my work capacity is increasing. And I like not having to worry about carrying food around with me everywhere I go. It's really freeing. When I do eat, I eat as much as I want, as long as it's paleo. I get about 140g of protein a day, some carbs in the form of veggies and a little bit of fruit and the rest(about 50% of my overall diet) is fat. Right now I'm at about 128# and about 13% BF, but looking to put on another 5# or so.
Editorial Here: So, she can Deadlift 1.5 times bodyweight, and clean about 80+% of BW. She does weighted pullups.
Diet: If less than 50% of her diet is Protein (which it must be), in all likelyhood she eats about 140g (x4 cals per gram) of Protein and nearly as much in Carbs (let's guess 100+g). That means she gets at least ~1000cals from those two, leaving approximately the same in fat. That's 2000+ cals a day, of which at least half comes from 110+ grams of FAT a day.
Additionally, you can see here that she wants to GAIN weight now.
End Editorial

I did a kettlebell demo at an outdoor fair on Tuesdsay.  I was one-arm C&J'ing the 20K and a woman said, "Oh, those are heavy.  I don't want to get all bulky."  I just stood there like, are you kidding me?   I'm certainly not in the Nicole/Annie category, nor am I any kind of CF role model... but I am a pretty normal girl who has had some really amazing results by dialing in on my diet and CrossFitting as hard as I can.  And I am the furthest thing from big OR bulky.  I love sharing my CF experience with other women.  Dudes too.

I would love to be featured, that's pretty awesome. You can
reprint anything I've given to you, and I've dug up some pictures. I don't have a ton of "before", but I found a picture from my training at the Black Box in NYC back in March of this year.
For what it's worth, I have dropped from about 18% BF in December to 13% today. That's not that much time. I credit a program that revolves around LOTS of heavy lifting and getting super strict with my diet. It's hard to convince women to focus only on performance and results - to measure success solely by how much stronger and faster they are getting. It's even harder to convince them that the way they look WILL fall into place. But that is exactly my experience.

I'd been lurking on the CF site for a while, and was incorporating some of the CrossFit movements into my KB workouts - things like box jumps, wall-ball, dumbbell thrusters and push-ups. For two years, though, my entire program consisted solely of 45 minute met-cons with little to no weight. While my cardio capacity kicked butt, I wasn't really getting anywhere strength-wise. Of course, what was missing were (a) the big lifts and (b) moving heavier things, but I was too scared to try some of the workouts I saw posted on the main site and didn't think I could ever be strong enough for things like pull-ups. However, my progress had stalled, and I was getting really bored.
Nothing more boring than killing yourself and not getting results ;)

When I started trying some of the CF exercises (like deadlifts, pull-ups and overhead squats) it was REALLY  intimidating.   The movements felt foreign and I could barely lift the bar, let alone add any weight.  I couldn't imagine moving anything even close to 100# - in any direction. But the idea of being able to complete some of those workouts - and seeing how beautiful AND tough some of the CF ladies are - pushed me to commit myself to it.   I started really working the movements, one at a time, with a trainer... and discovered that I was a hell of a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for.  And I found I really LIKED feeling that strong!
Stepping up to the squat rack and using the "big boy bar" made me feel tough - even in my pigtails and Lululemons. So I started adding more weight, and more movements, and eventually progressed into the program I have now - primarily focused on heavy strength days, with some shorter, faster weighted met-cons, regular Oly work and a "mix" day of track, strongman and KBs.

Fixing my diet was the very last step - it was always pretty good, but
when I got really strict with my food choices and started upping my protein and fat, THAT'S when everything clicked. And the best part about this whole experience is that my body just sort of fell into line. I was so focused on getting a bodyweight front squat and learning to kip that I forgot to check myself out in the mirror. It was like one day I woke up and had a six pack. Which, although secondary, was pretty sweet.

Why should women care about Olympic lifts, deadlifts or their 400m sprint time? I can clean a 45# bag of dog food from the floor to my shoulder at the pet store. I can help my husband move a giant pile of rocks from one end of the yard to the other. I can join a pick-up game of tag football with my little cousins - and run them into the ground. That. Feels. GOOD. And the best part? I'm STILL a confirmed girly-girl. (Power cleans and lip gloss are not mutually exclusive.)

Let me know if you have any other questions - and thanks again for the opportunity.


The Picture on the left is from March 2008. The right is June. That's 4 months, tops.

I will have to thank her again for sharing that with me. She sent me another e-mail a day or two later, to point out to me that she was 'fit' before, but that she really didn't achieve excellent results until after she started using significant weight in her workouts. DUH. I'm glad she told me, but she didn't have to. This is the lecture I have been giving confused, bewildered women since 2004.
There also seems to be an inverse relationship between time and intensity that we all know, and all forget. Doing 100 cleans is cool and all, but that will never take you the same place as doing one REALLY heavy clean. I think what Melissa and I are trying to tell you, is that somewhere in the middle, is Fran, Grace, Helen whatever. They all call for moderate loads, and moderate reps for a reason. Intensity. There's no intensity if you can do it more than fifty times. There's no met-con if you do it less than ten times.
The magic is in the movements, it's true. But it's also in the load and the speed. Enough load and speed, and you have power. All things being equal, more power equals more capacity and MORE RESULTS!
Never stop pushing for heavier, faster and harder. It never gets easier. In fact, the more your Fran time goes down, the more it hurts to try and do better. But you have to do better! If the times keep going down, I guarantee you are getting stronger, faster, healthier and god damn it, sexier!


John said...

Great article J. and nice work Melissa. I'm going to share this with all the women I know. Very inspiring.

Melissa Byers said...

Jason, thanks so much for the kind words. I've been inspired by so many amazing CF women - it's amazing to think I have the opportunity to do the same for someone else. Melissa

Melissa Byers said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fat Irish Baby said...

Muh-lis-sa, MUH-LIS-SA! (that's a crowd cheering for you) You ARE a beautiful, strong Crossfit lady! loved the spotlight, and Jason, I love the site!

Gant Grimes said...

Good stuff as always, Jason.

Behold, women, this is what you look like if you lift heavy, do short, intense conditioning sessions, and eat cleanly (with lots of extra fat!). Bulky? Hell no! You're not going to get bulks without testosterone or an Adam's Apple.

It's important to note that Melissa looks like this because she trains for strength and performance. It doesn't work the other way around.

Melissa is one of those people that understands the difference in "wanting to do something" versus making it happen. She makes it happen and is a great example for women--and men--to follow.

Congrats to you, Melissa, on your accomplishments. And good on you, Jason, for spotlighting her.

Jay C said...


Nice bio, well written and of course, great work.

Dialed diet and a sound training program, works, day in, day out.

Pic's look great, BOTH of them.

Annalisa said...

Nice article, Jason but as a dietician, I must say that a person 5'10" and 128 should not be fasting. She looks very underweight and borderline eating disorder.

Melissa Byers said...


I appreciate your comment, but did you read the full article? Please don't be confused by the term "fasting". As I said in my write-up, I eat more than 2,000 calories a day, EVERY day, and half of that is in the form of good fat. Check this link for some basic information on the concept of IF:

As I said, I do still want to put on a few more pounds. I'm gonna need all the muscle I can get to nail a 1.5 X BW back squat.

tucker said...

I had the pleasure of working with Melissa B "Diesel" at GSX when she visited our community and worked on her gymnastic elements for WOD's. Byers is dedicated, and an extremely hard worker. She is all business in the box and that is hard to find and even more so it is wonderful to work with.

She is goal oriented and discets all the cues well and then applies them with ease. She gets results because of her focus and drive - diesel is a very good nickname for her. See goes to the work just like a Diesel! She inspires people and that is always a good thing.

She may not like being put up on a pedistal but she is clearly deserving of such attentions.
I am honored to have met her and more so to call her a friend.


Jason Struck , RKC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Struck , RKC said...

Melissa, as a dietician, Annalisa can not be bothered with reading.