Lessons I learned from trying – CrossFit, yoga, parsnips …

  1. You can do more than you think you can. No matter what you are seeing as limitations, there is room beyond them to grow.
  2. Only by actually trying something and failing can you see your actual limitations.
  3. By repetition, practice, and dedication you can stretch your old limitations and achieve new things.
  4. Life is scary and that makes it thrilling. Going to the edges gives you a wider view and opens new possibilities.
  5. Failing keeps you humble and is not the same as defeat. Failure means you try again. Defeat is quitting.
  6. Your time here is limited and making the most of it lets you look back with less regret and more amazement. “I can’t believe I did that” is one of the coolest phrases to utter.
  7. Everything isn’t for everybody, but you will never find out if you do or don’t like turnips unless you try them. Try stuff. You might like it. And if you don’t you now know that part, too.
  8. Doing is far more satisfying than wishing. No one starts out doing anything well. If you doubt me, watch a baby learn to walk and realize that was once you. You walk now without giving it a thought. That is what practice does for you. Go ahead and try. The world isn’t really hoping you will fail. And you might surprise yourself and succeed.
  9. You accrue stories to tell. We all love telling the stories of our life and no one is entertained by your tales of sitting in front of a TV eating potato chips.
  10. You can. You really, truly can. You can do so much more than you think. All you have to do is try. You might fail and you might not like it. But then again, you may succeed. Nothing in the world tastes as good as unexpected success.

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I am an outlier. I am an old fart who is also a CrossFitter. This makes me weird, but it also makes me incredibly unlike most old farts out there. First of all, I live in world that is growing increasingly fat. Our food is abominable and we are bombarded with advertisements urging us to eat, eat, eat. Every trip down the road brings us past a fast food establishment offering a host of high calorie, low nutrition “foods”.

I prefer cooking my own food and find going out to eat far more work than actually cooking a meal. By the time I decide where to go, get in the car, get there, wait for a table, wait for wait staff to take my order, wait for it to be cooked, wait for it to come to the table, wait for a bill, and get back home, I could have cooked the meal twice over. It’s not that I’m that busy and don’t have the time to waste on such endeavors, it’s that I’m lazy and find the interminable waiting to be a pain in the ass.

So, I eat clean. Well, not really. I eat cleaner than most Americans. I have perhaps one soda a year and I like to try McDonald’s fish sandwich once a year just to make sure they are still ruining it. No cheese/orange slab on mine. Small fries to go with it. And coffee, so this isn’t even when I have my yearly soda.

I love sweets and desserts but even so, I limit this part of my diet to something a bit more manageable. I love pasta and my only limit there is to really only serve one serving size at a time. I’m a fan of really good bakery bread, but I don’t eat too much of that either. It’s not that I’m a saint about eating clean, it’s that my likes and dislikes aren’t tipping me over into the “all junk food” diet.

All this makes me a bit of an outlier, but this isn’t where I’m most obvious. You see, I CrossFit. A lot. Not really all that well, but consistently. And because I’ve been consistent over a long period of time, the people I work out alongside don’t remember how very astoundingly crappy I was when I began.

They see this rather amazing old fart who has heart rate issues but can manage to muddle along with the WODs and get crap done, albeit slowly and without an excess amount of weight. Having said that, every single damn thing I do today was something I couldn’t do at all when I began. I needed a damn cane to lunge down the mat, for God’s sake. I used a PVC pipe for almost every lift. I had a kid sized med ball for wall balls.

Today, I have weight on my weight for almost everything (I still can’t fall under the bar in a full snatch without falling over if I use more than the lightest bar we have). I lunge down the mat without a stick to support myself. I use a real med ball to a nine foot mark for wall balls and as much as I whine about everything, I do it anyway.

And so, people who can see me at the box think it’s possible for parents or grandparents to be like me. It is, but not right away. Anyone can do what I do, as long as they work at it as hard as I have worked. I know I sound like I’m bragging right now and I don’t mean to, but I’m really sort of a big deal. Not that I’m breaking any world records, but I am doing things women of my generation didn’t always do.

It’s hard. It’s hard for everyone. This whole CrossFit thing is a lot of work. And it matters what happens for the rest of the day outside the box. You can’t blow off the other 23 hours in the day and then be a superstar in the gym. It doesn’t work that way. And it doesn’t matter if you are the best athlete in the world, it’s hard. The weights are heavy. The WODs are difficult. It takes skill and determination to get through this shit.

I don’t know if it is even harder for a Little Old Lady or not. I don’t know how much other people struggle with any of this nonsense. I do know how hard I’ve worked and how many tears I’ve shed. I know how often I’ve thought of quitting. I know that I’ve gone back again anyway. I know I struggle with every single part of this CrossFit thing. And I know I have won. I have balance, core strength, muscles, even endurance that beats anything I had five years ago when I was younger and unfitter. I’m not a star, but I am impressive as hell. And if you or your mother or your grandmother wants this, you or they can work for it and get here, too. Even if I might make it look very doable, I want to be sure you understand, this is really hard. So I guess that makes me a hardass. I’m good with that. I earned the title.

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This is not me. My hair isn’t this long. 

I’ve ignored this blog for a while not because I’m not writing, but because I really couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say here. I have this space and I can use it for whatever I want. I can talk about my obsession with CrossFit and my desperation to not “fail” at the Open. I am not sure how one would actually go about failing the Open, but I was fairly certain I would be that person.

I did not fail, but I think I got a D- or maybe … I did fail. I was in the bottom third of any category I could sort by – worldwide, region, state, my own box. But that speaks to something else. Something I have tried to tell myself over and over about the Masters Garage Games. While I came in last in the world for that, I did get off my fat ass and participate, which is more than most women my age managed. Still, I was last. In the world. That sucked and I desperately didn’t want to do that again.

I didn’t come in last in any listing – worldwide, region, state, or my own box. Part of the reason for that is simply I didn’t quit. I did all five WODs and no matter how scared I was or how much it sucked, I gave it my best shot. Whether or not I thought it was equitable or even fair, I was stuck with it and I complained my way through it.

And I suppose there is some saving grace in that. I did not give up. I wanted to. I was so frightened by the entire prospect of failure, it would have been so much easier to not even have tried. But instead, I did try and I made it through to the other side.

But that part is over and done and there isn’t really anything else to do with the entire mess. I learned some things and I remembered some more things I had learned before. And I struggled and overcame. And now I have to find something else.

I would like to write about uplifting ideas. I have tried several times to write something like that and I almost had to get the insulin out and inject myself. I’m not really a sweet person and when I try, it sounds so damn sugary and sickenly sweet that I just can’t stand it. I get about half a page written and then erase the whole thing.

It’s not that I don’t think we all need to be better people. I do. I don’t care how good you are right this second, we are all pretty much just a bag of disgusting animalistic needs with a thin coating of civilization. It’s that thin coating that makes our lives possible, but it’s all the other stuff that makes it hard. And I don’t really know how to write about that.

There are seven deadly sins and I practice all of them to some degree way too often. My favorite is sloth. I love that sin. I can sit and do nothing worthwhile for damn ever. Love that shit. But, I’m supposed to make my life matter and you can’t do that while playing solitaire or even while scrolling on Facebook. So I have to eschew my love affair with sloth and get something done.

But I’m retired and there isn’t much I have to do. I have given myself the task of writing a daily essay about history and there are days when I find this burdensome to contemplate but fun to actually do. It’s that problem with sloth. I love sloth.

I have been crocheting, but no more scarves. At least not right now. And of course, I color. I love to color while listening to a podcast or glancing up every once in a while as the TV plays in front of me. I’ve been reading some and doing a few crossword puzzles and trying to make healthy meals and running the household crap which must be done. But really, it’s all sloth stuff.

How can I write an inspiring post when all I want to do is settle into my slothful ways and enjoy the ennui of nothingness? It is a conundrum. That’s why I haven’t been posting.

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I like to win. I don’t know if that makes me a bad sport or not, but it is the truth. Winning is better than losing. I like to win.

So how does one define winning? I belong to a writers’ forum and we have a thread entitled “the last person to post here wins” and I have won it probably at least a thousand times. And then I lose the win and someone else holds the title and we banter back and forth and each takes our turn on the podium, waving the blue/red ribbon and holding our trophy. Until the next person strips it all away.

That’s a fun place to win and I love the wit and abilities of many of those who play the game with me. But in reality, I’m talking about something a bit more substantial. How do we win life?

There is a saying, “He who dies with the most toys, wins” and that seems to be how the Western or First World looks at success and/or winning. But I believe it is in error.

Kim Jong-un seems like an entirely unhappy and paranoid idiot. He seems to not only own a country and their military machine, but had taken to nuking the Pacific Ocean with pent up rage for years now. He doesn’t seem to be a winner to me, just a sad little man who would like to be praised, loved, accepted. He is not any of those things, even under pain of death.

Maybe winning isn’t in possessions but in moments. And we each have access to so many moments. They are zipping past us all the time and all we need do is pluck one and win.

Maybe it is the moment you open your eyes in the morning and realize you are alive in an amazing world. Or maybe it is when the coffee is done brewing and includes the first sip.

Maybe winning is noticing a butterfly, perfect rose, or sunset. These moments are often cited as something special not because they are rare, but because we so often fail to notice them. Life is full of abundance. The wonder of nature, the mystery of the universe, the creativity of mankind.

We live in such a world, filled with so many precious things, we forget to take notice. When was the last time you were thankful for cool, refreshing water? We walk into the kitchen and grab a clean glass, go to the sink, turn the tap, and voila – fresh water. This isn’t true everywhere. This basic need is a problem in many parts of the world. Some people are literally dying for clean water.

Maybe winning is meeting life head on. Taking chances and either getting a hit or a miss, but learning in the process and going forward to either try again or having learned it isn’t something you need to experience ever again. This would be like meeting an alligator. I am willing to never do that again, but since I did and survived, there is a frission of thrill involved in the thought.

Maybe winning isn’t getting the scholarship, the award, coming in first. Maybe it is stopping along the way to help those less fortunate. Maybe it is being rich enough to be able to give of your time or talents to help others. Maybe, just maybe, winning is simply making the world a better place and leaving behind a trail of kindness.

As my mother used to say, over and over again, “Be nice” and that may have been the best advice I’ve ever been given. I believe that is truly how to win.

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I’m over it. I managed all five WODs as Dave unfairly wrote them and I’m done. Blissfully done. I achieved a new PR – I did the CrossFit Open. And I’m not the suckiest person in the world dumb enough to sign up for this crap.

Thank you, Scott, for pushing me to sign up. Just so you know, tattling on me to my son wouldn’t have mattered. He would have told you I had to choose this torture for myself. He can’t or won’t or simply doesn’t pressure people into doing what they don’t want to do. I had to pick this for myself. And your faith in me and my abilities made it possible. Craig has to tell me I’m good. I’m his mother. He loves me. But other people don’t have to tell me I’m enough. Thank you for lying to me.

Thank you CrossFit Summerville for letting me play. I’ve watched this from the sidelines for years, fretful and fearful and totally sure this was beyond my capabilities to even attempt such nonsense. But of late, with the extra weekend partner WODs, I’ve felt more accepted in my inelegance and ineptitude and permitted to play with the real athletes no matter how much of a drag I am to my partner. And yes, that is just me talking inside my head. No one, and I mean not any one ever, has said any of that out loud to me. But it did help make it possible to sign up. Thanks.

Thank you, Kim. You have listened to me, dried my tears, calmed my fears, and let me return to try again and again and again. I don’t know how you have managed to remain so patient all these years. I don’t know why you have done so, either. But I appreciate all the hard work you have done on my behalf. You don’t let the crazy take over and destroy me. Thanks.

Thank you, Ryan and Betsy, for telling me it is okay to suck in a public place. Not that you actually used those words, but that’s what I was asking for and you gave me permission to do so. Both of you calmed me enough to do what I knew was going to my Waterloo, my worst WOD, my downfall, in a group setting. Both of you told me I wouldn’t be chastised, castigated, belittled, or demeaned if I showed up and took for damn ever to do what real athletes could do far more quickly. Turns out, the real athletes also took for damn ever to do this. I had no idea. I figured it was just me. I always think it is just me. But you two made sure I was given the chance. Thanks.

Thank you, Pete, for telling me to just rest. No one has ever told me that in four and a half years. I’ve been told to get back up, keep moving, don’t stop, you got this, just keep going, move, move, move. I’ve never been given the permission or the advice to just rest until I can really have something to move with. I’ve always felt like I was letting myself and everyone else down by box breathing and trying to get my heart rate low enough to bang out a few more reps. I was willing to just quit instead of fighting to keep going. And I would have if you hadn’t said to just wait until I could move again. There was plenty of time and I could finish if I would just let myself really recover first. I could and I did. Thanks for good advice, permission, and being so kind.

Thank you, Brittany, for being the other voice in my ear. I could – eventually – get back up and keep moving and finish and not quit and get this version of hell over with. I have no idea why anyone ever has faith in my ability to do this shit. We’ve been partners in a WOD and you physically know exactly how much I can’t do. And yet, you were willing to help me as I struggled with doubt and fear. Thanks.

I’ve survived this with a lot of help from a lot of people. There have been many more unnamed people who have encouraged me not just in the last five weeks, but over the years. I’ve read numerous blogs about other people’s success and failures and doubts and exhilaration. These have given me hope of a more lasting kind. There are people out there whose names I know and others who are just their blog titles and yet, amazingly kind people who have given me encouragement from afar. Thanks.

Thank you, Dick, for being supportive in this and in any cockamamie thing I decide to try. You have never, in 44 years, told me ‘no’ – except when I wanted to go to Sweden and you wanted to go on a Caribbean cruise. But you were right, you did win the trip. Other than that one little thing, you have always supported any dream and tried to talk me out of any fear. This is just one very small example. I love you. Thanks.

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I know ‘a lot’ is two words. I wish everyone did. 

I’m living in fear and trepidation. I struggled with 72 thrusters, didn’t even do the damn 84 thrusters, and now I have to do 90 thrusters. I know. It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I understand that the fittest people on earth have absolutely nothing in common with me. I understand that the fittest people on earth can do amazing things. I understand that hard work goes into their workouts as well. However, I’m going to be working a lot harder than these young, fit women. I won’t accomplish as much, but it will be harder work. Why? Because it will take me about four times as long to do only half as much.

I have no idea what to do about my heart rate. I’ve been told to try interval running by some great coaches. Apparently two intervals isn’t enough to do anything good for heart rate, but that’s as many intervals as I can manage before I just have to walk and walk and walk and my running is slower than my walking.

As far as I can tell, jumping rope is essentially running in place while trying to trip yourself. So I have to run ten times today. Did you notice up above that I can’t really do that?

I should be able to get into round three before good old Katrin and Sara were finished with the whole shebang. At least that is my goal. And I hope to manage the thrusters unbroken for at least two rounds, but that might be too much. I hate pushing weight over my head when my heart rate is over 170. I’m technically supposed to quit working when my heart rate is mid-160s but the cardiologist also said “keep doing what you’re doing” and that included not stopping that soon.

I was awake most of Thursday/Friday night/morning but managed to sleep pretty well last night, so at least I’m not completely wiped out and tired as hell. That should help my muscles, but it won’t matter to my heart (technically a muscle but it refuses to behave well and play nicely with others).

I’m supposed to be part of the larger community and yet I feel like an interloper. I feel disconnected from the people who actually manage this stuff with a bit of panache or at least, without having enough time to have pizzas delivered while they sit and pant like lizards on hot rocks. I’m fairly certain that no one actually does order the pizza, but they would have time to eat the whole thing, too, so no telling.

I’ve worked my way into a tizzy. I knew it was going to be thrusters and double unders because they appear year after year and double unders are one of those limiting movements that separate the men from the boys. And thrusters seem to be Dave Castro’s favorite beat you over the head with uncountable numbers of reps movement. Next year, will we top 100? These seem to be escalating with wild abandon.

Anyway, I’m going to go in today. There should be a smaller group of us working out because many of our members are off doing the Palmetto 200 – a 200 mile relay race across the state of South Carolina. Amazingly enough, I’m not part of that. Probably because, as listed above, I can’t run.

So at least I will be delaying fewer people as I sit and box breathe and sit and pant and mostly sit through this WOD. I will get it done. It won’t be pretty. I will be proud of my accomplishment and then totally embarrassed by it because it isn’t really much of an accomplishment when I do half the work in quadruple the time.

But it is all I have so that’s all I can do. I’m not sure resignation is the best way to get things done. But it seems better than just crying, which is my other option.

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I live in suburban Charleston, South Carolina. I live in a development with an annoying HOA telling me what I can and cannot do at all times. It’s supposed to be a civilized place. There are houses built close to more houses. All this is situated around a 27-hole golf course. Since it was partly protected lands or something, there are a lot of trees and wetlands preserved.

Last week, and I don’t remember which day but it might have been Saturday, I was driving to the box. As I was winding my way through the curved streets built to make me drive slower (doesn’t really work, but it does limit my vision around curves) I had to almost stop the car in order to not hit what must have been a wild turkey crossing the road. Like the chicken before it, it did not give a reason. It was remarkably large. Hitting it would probably have dented the car and deployed the airbags.

But I blinked a couple times and watched the massive bird run into the trees on the other side of the road. (Addendum: I also stop to miss squirrels and they wouldn’t dent my car or anything, I just don’t like running over animals. I did run over a snake here a few years ago and even though I don’t think they are cute or anything, it did make me feel bad.)

Saturday, I did CrossFit Open 17.4 and that meant that Sunday, my legs hurt. Not so bad I couldn’t move, but I could tell I worked out the day before.

I spent the morning writing history essays which meant that I spent the morning sitting in my chair at my desk. This did not in any way, shape, or form help my legs.

We had winter last week with temperatures falling below freezing, something that happens in January and isn’t supposed to here in March. It was cold, especially for a Yankee Southern belle. But winter gave way to spring and Sunday was beautiful. Temperatures were in the mid-50s and the sun was shining. The wind was still a bit chilly, but I opted to get out of my chair and even more importantly to this story, out of the house.

There are three ways to walk around the block here. None of them are blocks, but they make a circular route. There is the small block which takes between ten and twelve minutes to navigate. There is the big block which is a 5k walk give or take a hundred meters or so. And then there is the medium block which takes around a half hour to complete.

I really didn’t know how far I was going to walk when I left the house, but as I continued on my way, I opted for the middle path, not too short and not too long. It felt just right. I walk at a fairly brisk pace, back straight, head high, talking to myself and solving my version of the world’s problems. I will notice something spectacular on my path at times, but I’m mostly oblivious and just letting my mind wander as my feet move me forward.

And so it was. I was being fairly oblivious to my surroundings. I was nearly home. The pool area is up the street from my house, about 250 meters from my yard. There is a sloping driveway down into the parking lot with the pool (now locked up) and the playground (available year round) and soccer fields. There are a lot of landscaping things around the edge of the Recreation Center and then some wetlands abutting that.

I was still there in the landscaped area when I caught movement off to my right. I looked and there, about 2-3 feet away from me was another of these damn woodland creatures. Except here, the woodlands are wetlands and the creatures include alligators. This teenager was about 5-6 feet long and resting among the shrubbery. He/she/it noticed me coming and had moved his/her/its head to get a better look. I, now aware of it, was seeing far more gator than I had ever hoped for. I had never been this close to one of them. I would be willing to wait forever to be this close again.

Here we were, two 5.5 feet tall/long beings both frightened half to death with the presence of the other. The gator stood up, I backed up. I inched toward the street, but there was a car coming. I had to choose between a car with hopefully an alert driver, and a beast that had grown into a possible serial killer in front of my eyes. I chose the street and yet, I had to get past the gator to get to my house.

I watched the gator as I inched around. The gator began to turn as I began to squirm. Finally, the killer gator turned back towards the trees/wetlands/Recreation Center and I got past the point where he/she/it had been lazily sunning. I think my heart rate was at about 25 wall balls pace.

I looked and the car had stopped to make sure I was okay. I don’t know if the driver or a passenger had seen the alligator or if I was just behaving so strangely, but I was okay, except for the adrenaline rush, the flushed feeling, the racing heart.

I hurried past my brush with death and remembered when Becky and I met the dog on one of our walks. We had frightened ourselves into a near panic before we got away from Cujo and were around the corner before we noticed the dog had been wagging its tail, happy to see us.

I’m pretty sure this gator was just as frightened by me as I was by the gator. This did not stop me from warning a man walking with his dog (and a tennis ball) toward the park. He needed to know there was a gator there and although the dog was big, the gator might not be as afraid of the dog as it was of me.

I know there are lots of deer here, as well. And so for my trifecta of wildlife encounters within my neighborhood, I’m hoping for a herbivore.

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