Saturday, April 12, 2014

What I Want out of CrossFit

So I've been doing CrossFit for a year and a half now. The honeymoon is over. I've had the week when I was too sick to go in and WOD and had to fight to get back into the groove. I have had bouts of insane jealousy and have wigged out from comparing myself to others to the point that I felt like quitting altogether. I have come to terms with my hips and with the reality that I will always have them. I have strained my back (not doing CrossFit, ironically) and have had to work back up to strength and still haven't reached my PRs again. I have competed and finished at the bottom or near-bottom 9 times and concluded that I am better for the experience because I gave it my all.

Then the other day I PR'ed my 5 RM dead lift at 195 lbs. and that was my goal going in. I would have liked to get 200, but it was a PR and I was happy with that. I did not miss on my form and did not strain my back, however, after that lift and the WOD that followed, my lower back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings were so tight that I could hardly get up off the floor or get in and out of my car. No fun. Yes, I stretched. Yes, I rolled out. Still...that night I couldn't turn over without waking and groaning. I tried to stand up the next morning as I was getting out of bed and promptly fell over. It was pretty hilarious, so don't try not to laugh. I laughed out loud at my poor self, and didn't feel bad about doing it. I wasn't even insulted.

Even so, I had to ask myself, "Is this really worth it? What am I, a 44 year old woman, trying to accomplish here? Is it worth all this pain and suffering?"

Today my husband and I really pondered that question, as we have undertaken this journey together. He asked me what I really want out of CrossFit, and surprisingly the answer was so easy to give:

1. After not being athletic or even using my body properly for most of my adult life, I am retraining it to move well.

2. I want to have the stamina and strength to take a 5 mile hike, go kayaking, or ski with my family and not be sore and exhausted.

3. I want to be able to play, run and enjoy life with my kids.

4. I do not want osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, or any other manner of degenerative disease that comes from an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. I want to keep active both mentally and physically until my dying day.

5. I want to be strong enough to be able to pick up my grandchildren. I didn't have kids until my 30s so I won't be a grandma until my late 50's or early 60s. I want to be fit enough to be able to hold my grandbabies for as long as I want and not be exhausted from chasing them when they are toddlers. I want to be the best grandmother ever, so you'd better believe I'm training for it now.

As I read over this, I realize that none of these goals had anything to do with achieving a certain dress size or keeping up with any person at the gym. None of them had to do with what I see in front of a mirror but what I see from behind my eyes, from within my heart. If I never looked in the mirror, or stepped on the scale, if I never looked at Facebook, if I never measured anything, would I think that I wasn't doing enough? If I only go based on how I feel physically and mentally, would I know that I was improving?

(Of course it is a rhetorical question. Insert "duh" here)

So, is it worth it? Without a doubt. My greatest competition is the race against time, and every improvement I make is a milestone in that race. I don't need to PR my dead lift every time. I don't need to do 30 strict pull-ups this year, or maybe even ever. It's just not that important to me. As long as I am lifting as heavy as I can, moving as fast as I can, building skills and improving myself in mind, body and spirit, I am winning that game...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ah, Lloyd. King of the Box...

One of our coaches has been out of commission for a while with a sore back. It's not just a little sore...it's O.O.C., climbing the rafters with boredom sore. Oh, and before you start attacking CrossFit for all the injuries, it's not to do with Cross Fit. It's because he has his particular back, and it gives him problems sometimes, so just stop.

Soooo. A bunch of us girls decided to treat him to lunch. The idea was that we would make him food, take it too his house, kiss his boo-boos and cheer him up. He decided that what he preferred was to go to one of the girls' houses, instead, just to get out. Fine. Get him a proper chair to sit in, give him food.

Then he decided what would really be cool is if he could feel useful AAAaaand get fed at the same time. So he programmed a little WOD for us before lunch. At least it was a team WOD. It sounded HORRIBLE by description. I groused vehemently about it. I was very grumpy, see, because my back was already sore (from skiing, weeks ago, so just shush about the CF and injuries) and I was terrified.

Buy in: he dropped us off somewhere else in the neighborhood and called Jenn's phone to start the clock. We had to run to the house.

then, AMRAP in 20. Team A holds a barbell overhead while the other does 20 box jumps (team of three had to do 25) while team B goes through a cycle of 6 pull-ups, 8 burpees, 10 push presses with an axle bar. When team A completed, we switched.

Buy out (and here's the clincher): we had three objects to move around the .7 mile path around the "lake" in the neighborhood. One 53 lb. kettle bell, one god-knows-how-heavy sandbag, and two 40-lb dumbbells which must be carried together. Between the five of us, we had to carry that junk around the lake, switching off when we got tired. It took another 20 minutes.

Funny thing is, my hip and back had been pretty sore all week. I was really afraid I was going to drag down the whole group and not be able to do it, but I did. Turns out (and it absolutely kills me to admit this) it was really fun. I felt better afterward, too!

Finally we ate and chatted with him and all around him. Lloyd appeared to enjoy the whole thing. No, he absolutely enjoyed the whole thing. And we love him even more. Get well soon, Coach. We miss your face at the box!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Wager, Part 2

Before you read this post, decide which photo has the happier me in it.

Saturday, after our double-under challenge
Thursday, on the slopes with my son
Now that you've decided...

So you might have read about the little wager my friend Candace and I had going with our coach, Dan.

Today is February 2 and so the bet has now ended. Here's how I won:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

I was practicing double-unders every day. I was getting some here and there but never consistently until another of our coaches, Lloyd challenged me to practice by playing a game that gradually increased the number of du's in sets of ten. It helped tremendously and I was getting them much more consistently. Meanwhile Candace was blowing through 10+ double-unders, though not 100% of the time. Both of us were making huge strides. I got tips from so many people, and eventually was able to string up to four jumps together, however...

2. Taking up Skiing

Since conditions around here have been very cold and favorable for the local ski resorts, I decided that this was the year to knock "Learn to Ski" off of my bucket list. Candace and I have been taking the kids weekly to go skiing. I have honestly never had so much fun doing anything in my adult life. 

3. Learning to Listen

...to my body, that is. Let's just say I don't advise going in for a hard WOD the day after you learn to ski and spend 5 hours on the slopes. I was fairly beat up from using the new muscles and falling repeatedly the day before, but not exactly sore like after a WOD. Aside from some dings and bruises, I was surprised that I wasn't more sore, and then I picked up the bar for some dead lifts. It wasn't even heavy weight. By the end of the WOD I felt like I was trying to lift my max weight with every lift and my lower back was screaming. Loudly.

4. Figuring Things Out (a.k.a. prioritizing)

Meanwhile Dan was putting pressure on us. I continued to practice, and so did Candace. We practiced until my back was so sore I couldn't do a WOD at all and her knee and ankle were swollen and painful. My calves were also giving me trouble. We were, in the midst of all of this, learning the immeasurable importance of stretching and mobilizing every day.

Okay, step back and evaluate...Obviously skiing is a priority at this point. The kids and I are having a blast and we have about a two-month window to learn this new thing. Double-under practice, combined with skiing was not a recipe for success on either front. Meanwhile I was not getting in good WODs. Something was out of whack, so I went to the chiropractor, got a massage, and backed off of the practice for a bit. Okay, for about two weeks, because every time I jumped I would get such a painful knot in my calf that I would not be able to walk without hobbling. Ski boots were not helping this.

We talked to Dan. We considered negotiating, asking for an extension, some sort of injury clause...in the end we decided to just go for it, but we knew the price we would have to pay for backing off of practice.

5. Playing the Game with Honor

On Saturday, Dan did offer an extension, but it was not enough time and we would have had to accomplish 20 du's in a row instead of ten. Plus we knew that we were just going to go skiing again this week and wouldn't be able to practice enough. We each made our three attempts and failed, though on my third attempt, I did get 5 double-unders which was the most I've ever achieved at once!

150 burpees later, I can say that, while it would have been really nice to see Dan do those burpees, I learned so much! I learned about how I handle stress and pressure, what motivates me, how to listen to my body and train better to meet a goal, as well as how to balance multiple goals at once. I learned a great deal about mobility. Now that I am exercising more frequently and at the same time not getting any younger, making sure that I stretch, roll, wrap, stretch, roll, and roll some more is critical to staying injury-free. If I am going to work my body hard and expect to perform at a high level, then I have to give equal attention to the proper care of it!

I showed my kids that keeping your word even when it hurts is part of playing the game. When you agree to something, you must follow through. I would not have been able to live with myself if somehow I had wormed out of the bet, or avoided it in the end.

When I hear people say, "winning isn't everything," I want to stamp my feet and say, "Yes, it is!" because really, who doesn't like to win? This time, though, I have to agree...Playing the game with honor, embracing the whole experience and walking away with your head held high is winning.

Actually, I'm happy in both pictures. It's just...skiing is more fun than burpees.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Try New Things


Excuse the distorted selfie of myself and my son, but this photo is really significant because it is one of the two I took on the day I went skiing for the first time. I was really busy concentrating on learning how to ski and totally forgot to take pictures of the day, which was really perfect.

For years I have been trying to work up the nerve to try skiing. For various reasons I have always figured out a way to say "not this time." They all boiled down to fear, really--Fear that the weather wouldn't be right, fear that it would be too expensive, fear that I would blow out my knees, fear driving there myself (I have no sense of direction). With the weather staying fairly chilly this year, I could no longer put off trying this thing. I've always wanted to, and the kids have been begging every year. I toughened my resolve and called my friend and said, "Let's take the kids, you can navigate." She agreed, and off we went.

See, the thing is I don't like brand-new situations where I have to handle a bunch of details by myself. I am NOT a detail person. But I did it--tickets, rentals, uncomfortable boots, changing the boots, figuring out how to shuffle kids, gear, lunch, schedule, letting the kids go off without me in an unfamiliar environment...it was all a bit intimidating, at least for me.

However, from the moment I first picked up "speed" down the bunny slopes, I had a grin pasted on my face. I cannot remember when I have had that much fun. For five hours we skied. I fell, I skied. I fell again. Skied again. Laughed a ton. Had the most fun I've ever had with my kiddos.

But what does this have to do with CrossFit? Everything. I would not have been able to do this even one year ago. I was still sore from my first workout, haha. Yes, I was working hard at getting fit, but the fear factor was still there, I was not nearly as strong as I am now, and I am not sure I would have fit into my snow pants.

Now, I have had every ache, pain, and type of stiffness a body can have. It does not bother me anymore. I have core strength that I can count on to keep me going. I have endurance to be able to enjoy an activity for a sustained period of time. I can really do this. And I did. My lower back was stiff after the day of skiing, and I was "beat up" from falling over and over, but for the most part, I wasn't hurting too much.

*****

...And today I am writing again after my second time skiing. Got better. Fell less. Not as sore. I think I've found a new hobby.

I love the time I get to spend with my kids this way. I think we'll go again next week.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Wager

I'm not usually the betting type. I do not gamble, I do not make big claims to know something and say, "I'll bet you..." or, "if you do X, I'll do Y."  No. I'm usually wrong, and I usually lose.

Somehow I got into a wager and I'm not sure why or how I let myself get sucked into this. I've said before that this whole CrossFit thing--I pretty much stink at it, so betting myself into accomplishing something is a huge risk. Even worse, I've dragged my BFF into it, also.

Candace and I were dutifully setting up for the WOD which involved 20 double unders in an AMRAP of 20 DUs, 15 lunges, 10 sit-ups for 15 minutes. Neither she nor I have consistent double-unders. She had never achieved even one. I can get them in ones and twos. Dan, our coach and mortal enemy dear friend came by and said, "Double unders? You got 'em?" and we sheepishly replied that no, we don't and 2014 would be the "year of the double-under." He gave a little snort because he's a sadistic dragon he realized how ridiculous that was and offered a little wager. How about Candace and I get double unders by Feb. 1 or we do 150 burpees. Both of us have to get them. We get 3 tries to get 10 consecutive or we both do 150 burpees. If we succeed and get the DUs, then he does the burpees. "Sure! You're on!" We both agreed. Yup. Both of us. Agreed.

I can't say exactly how we are progressing, but I will just say that progress has been made. I'm quite sure she will achieve 10 DUs. I'm not sure we won't still be doing the burpees. I'm a little nervous...

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Truth Is...

Today is my third day back at CF and the suck factor is going down by degrees each day that I'm back. Even so, as I was warming up today, swinging the kettle bell, doing my stretches, doing my pull-ups, I thought to myself, "I absolutely despise working out."

Yup. I said it. I hate working out. I always have. I still do. I hate breathing hard, sweating, pushing myself to the point that if I go further I'll puke. I hate the burning sensation in my muscles. I hate learning new skills and feeling like a dork when I can't do them. I hate running, and bar work, and burpees. The only thing that could be worse would be an aerobics class of some sort.

The truth is, sitting around is so ridiculously easy! But the other truth is I was sinking into the mire of poor health and a future of nothing if I continued in that mode.

So what is it that keeps me going back if I hate it so much? A few things, actually...

People

In personality tests I am pretty evenly split between introversion and extroversion. The introvert me writes, reads, stands and ponders the universe for inordinate amounts of time, plays the guitar, hates meeting new people, freaks out in a crowd. The extrovert goes to CrossFit, stays and talks after church, checks Facebook, doesn't miss a party. The introvert me is highly unmotivated to work out, and this is a problem, because I thought it was something I needed to figure out on my own. I finally realized that when it comes to exercise, I am completely extrinsically motivated. For years I operated under the misconception that if I could not motivate myself to exercise I was a weak person and lacked self-discipline. I basically feasted on the lie that I was going to have to be miserable in order to get into shape in order to punish my weak character, and I just wasn't in a rush to sign up for that. When I found CrossFit, I went with a friend, was encouraged by friends, and made new friends who were coming alongside and encouraging me constantly to keep going, so I did. The time I spent suffering, hi-fiving, chatting and cheering with other people kept me wanting to do more, do better. Over a year later, I still hate working out, but I love my peeps. I. love. my. peeps.

The Rush

So in spite how much I hate working out, there is this ... this ... RUSH that I get when I am done. I feel happy. I feel energized. I want to congratulate myself over and over for just doing the hard thing (and I do). I just feel good. When I sit around, I never get that feeling, and so I keep going back.

The Muscles

You can't see them, but they are there. I can feel them and I can see a difference in my own body, but I know I'll never look like Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. That's okay...I'm 44 years old and she's half my age and has never borne children. I love the strength that comes from having muscles, for the fact that I can (because of these that I now have) continue building more. I am elated that I am doing weight-bearing exercises so that I don't end up brittle and shrunken from osteoporosis. I am thrilled that I have better posture and hardly ever need to see the chiropractor. I love that my clothes fit and feel better than they have since I was in my 20s.

The Knowledge

By this I mean that "if I had known then what I know now..." I would have been doing this years ago. I wouldn't have waited until my 40s to start. I would have understood that in order to enjoy doing the things that the introvert loves, I need to get out and do the hard things. It feels so much better to earn the right to sit and write, and read, and do the things that I love to do that unfortunately burn far fewer calories. I get to in essence be a stronger, better me.

So yes, I hate working out, but the truth is, the balance is now tipped so far in the other direction, and I can no longer operate as I did. Why would I exchange 24 hours a day of unhealthy for 23 hours of feeling really great and one hour or less of embracing the suck factor? The truth is, I wouldn't. I can't go back...It costs way too much.

Monday, December 30, 2013

When You Can't Work Out...

CrossFit...That thing that you GO and DO. Do Work. Lift Heavy. Run Fast. Pull Hard. Go back home and brag about what you just did.

In the whole year-plus since starting CrossFit I have never missed more than one WOD. Never done less than two workouts in a week, even on vacation. As I sit here today writing this, I am on day 9 of not WODding. I even got dressed for it, took the kids to their class this morning, walked in the door and my friend looked at me and said, "No way...You're crazy." True. I started bark-coughing and and realized that she was right. ((sigh)) Benched.

I am unfortunately one of those people who tries to see the deeper meaning in just about everything. I have trouble taking things at face value and just letting them be what they are. Let's just say that from the moment I came down with a fever last Monday, then a cough / bronchitis all through Christmas, I have had to work hard to just let this be what it is--I am human. Humans sometimes fall victim to viruses and what-not. I had been pushing myself hard, stressing about things that were really rather silly. I probably wrecked my own immune system, all by myself. I have to remember that this is not punishment for some wrong-doing or something too overly-spiritual. I can say, though, that getting sick helped me put a whole list of things in their proper perspective, not the least of which was how important it is to have the house clean before Christmas (it's not, really) and how badly I'll fall behind in CrossFit for having to take more than a week off (I won't, probably). Truth be told I can't say I've minded having these days when I actually can say I refuse to do anything, I am going to sleep / take a bath / sit here / watch you cook... I've needed the break.

A friend of mine says, "There is no cure for the cold because the cold is the cure." True.

I'll be back on my feet soon. CrossFit will still be there. Housekeeping and school and laundry and cooking will still all be there. Meanwhile I'm going to enjoy this excuse to just rest and recuperate.