What do I want from CrossFit? I want greater cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. That’s what they advertise. Those are the ten areas of fitness one should improve upon with a well balanced cross training program.

What do I get from CrossFit? Coaching. It is what I pay all that money for. It is why I don’t just workout in the garage. It is the basis for CrossFit. Coaches right there to make sure you are doing it right.

And the coach was right. I hate that. I mean, it’s what I pay for and I should be coachable. And I did what the coach said I should do. But I resented it. I hate that even after all this time and all this effort and showing up even when I’m defeated and doing all I can do, I still suck.

But the coach was right. I didn’t believe it at the time, but now I do. Why? Because last week when I did things my way, I was fine the next day. Nothing ached. There were no “growth” pains. I was absolutely fine. In my mind, it was because I was stronger.

This week, when I unhappily did what the coach said I should be doing, I hurt. In the right places. I was using the muscles intended to do the work in the WOD. It’s not terrible hurt. It’s not much more than a slight twinge every now and again to remind me the coach was right and I was, once again, wrong.

Or, perhaps, in a more generous vein, I was coachable.

What I really want to be is competent. I want to be able to do all the things. There are many things in CrossFit and some of them are super stupid. When I started, I couldn’t squat and now I can get ass to grass, so it’s not like I haven’t improved. But I still can’t do a pistol or a one-legged squat to below parallel.

And I can’t do a HSPU or a rope climb or any number of weird things that I have no real desire to do outside of the box. I have no idea in what odd world I would find myself where I would be required to stand on my head and do a push-up from there or else all would be lost. But if it ever happens, all will be lost.

If I can’t do a HSPU, you can bet your sweet Aunt Fanny I can’t do a handstand walk, either.

I’m not even sure these things are that important. But I would like to be able to be partially competent at this. After almost five years, shouldn’t I be almost competent? Inside my head, I got this. Apparently, from the outside, not so much. And according to the slight ouchiness of today, the outside is correct.

While I focus mostly on my heart rate and how it slows me down, the truth is that my power isn’t as powerful as I would like. Yes, I’m old and I’m doing amazing things considering everything else I can add to the pot to give me a list of excuses, but what I really want is to be better. Now.

I am better. But not enough better. I want to be betterer. I want to be 25 and have ten years of experience and have the aerobic engine of a beast and muscles on my muscles. I want the impossible.

On some days, I can be thrilled with the possible I have worked so hard to achieve. On some days, I can be okay with the possible. On some days, I just want the impossible and not only do I want the impossible, but I want it now. No wait. Yesterday. I want it yesterday.

I have never in my life worked so hard to be so below average. I have no idea why I believe I’m below average, either. Maybe I am amazing and awesome and competent. But if I am, I would sure like to feel like it.

The only thing I can do to get there, wherever the hell there is, is to show up and be coachable. So, I do. But I can’t say I’m a real big fan of that shit.

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Be nice. I can’t even pretend to count how many times this order was issued. It was a cornerstone for all other orders. You don’t have to be the best or the greatest. But you always have to be nice. You don’t have to be a doormat, but you do have to be nice. Just, for the love of God, be nice. It’s important. You can stand up for yourself, politely. You can defend others, with compassion. You can move through life and achieve your dreams and still be nice. No man is an island. For all of us to live together, it is easier if we are all nice. Since we can’t control other people, at least you can be nice. So, in short, be nice.

Be neat. You don’t have to be spotless. You don’t have to scrub the corners of baseboards. But you do need to be orderly and neat. You save hours of time if you put things away so you can find them when you need them. If you just set your crap down, it gets lost, misplaced, and even thrown out. But if you put it away, you have safely taken care of whatever it is. Corollary; make your bed every day. It takes under five minutes and it sets up your day for order. Second corollary; laundry baskets are a thing, use them. Hangers are a thing, use them, too. Also be neat in your appearance. It matters.

Be industrious. Everyone needs down time but we don’t need down lives. This is your only chance to be on Earth and you have a limited time here. Make use of it. Relax when you need to, but don’t relax all the time. That’s not relaxing. That’s sloth. Side note: I love sloth. But when I sit for too long, there is my mother’s voice nagging inside my head telling me to DO something. You can’t just sit there – unless you are reading. Then you can, because reading is a good thing.

Be helpful. Open the door for the person with the full hands. Smile your thanks, or better yet vocalize your thanks when someone helps you. Look for ways to be of service to others. It doesn’t have to be a big, major undertaking although choosing a career of helpfulness might be ideal, there are still plenty of ways to be helpful outside of career choices. Every single day there are less fortunate people surrounding you. Reach out and help.

Be patient. Yes, it would be lovely if everything you ever wanted was available for you right this instant. Of course, that would take all the fun out of it. Anticipation is key to much of our enjoyment. Earning the thing, even when it takes time and effort, also adds to the lusciousness, the savoring of the treat you worked to earn. Waiting is part of life. Get used to it. And spend your time in reveling in the upcoming thrill, whatever that may be.

Be fearless. This lesson was not just voiced. She lived it. She went back to college after getting her own kids in school. She was a mostly single parent (as most women of the era were in charge of everything domestic, but also because our dad travelled across the state for his job), newly returned to college, and worked a full time job. She mastered the whole adult student thing. She changed her job three times after she turned forty, always keeping her goal of helping children become adequate adults at the center. Her choices were inspirational.

There were many small lessons, given on the fly. Examples lived in order to teach us how to be the kind of people who make the world a better place. The smiles bestowed, the tears dried, the caring hands reaching out to fix what little bit was near. While it is impossible for us to make the entire world better, it is not only possible, but desperately needed, for us to fix the part right here.

Thanks, Mom. I hope you are proud of my meager ability to practice the lessons you so patiently taught. Happy birthday. You made the world a better place. There isn’t anything better to say than that.

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Mom getting ready to go into the mines. She was always up for any adventure.             Living large. 

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.