I used to be much younger. Hell, decades ago, I was really much younger. But that was then and this is now. I am, today, as old as I have ever been. I’m also the youngest I will ever be. What a disconcerting thought. I’m facing so many different issues with aging and mortality that I’m in a complete stew. I am feeling mortal and old. And as a woman, there is nothing worse to be than old. We old women are useless and invisible.

I am a CrossFitter and we are boisterous and bold. Dear God, how do I be useless and invisible and boisterous and bold at the same time? These are totally dichotomous positions. If I were drawing a Venn diagram, there would be absolutely no overlap. They do not match up. I am both. I’m in a stew.

I read an article at Tabata Times and it made me think once more about my current conundrum.

I have always been competitive. Cheri, stop that maniacal laughing. My sister will lovingly call it obsessively competitive. Is that better? Maybe I’m at over-the-top competitive. I hate to lose. I hate to be less. My comfort zone is the winner’s podium holding the gold medal. I’ve only played once in a place where there were medals and I don’t possess any gold ones, but it is my preferred place.

When I began CrossFit, I cried nearly every single time I went. I usually waited until I got home. I used to be young and fit and play racquetball as an A player and win many if not most of my games, even playing against the boys. I had a wicked serve and trick backhanded Z-shot that died in the front corner. I played hard and I played to win. I had the bruises and even some serious injuries to show for it.

I was 59 when I began CrossFit. I was the fattest I had ever been in my life and weighed more than I had when I was nine months pregnant. I had been power walking and riding a bike and unable to lose the weight, although I had stopped gaining. I thought I was in reasonable shape. Then I joined CrossFit and could do absolutely nothing. I had spotted a neighbor as he lifted weights 25 years ago. That was the closest I had ever come to the bar.

Now I was supposed to be fit in all ten areas and here I was, old and useless. But because I put myself in the middle of this space, I was no longer invisible. Everyone could see how pitiful I was. As I held on to a PVC pipe to keep from falling over as I lunged down the mat, everyone had to wait for me to get to the other end. And then they had to wait for me to catch my breath.

I can do monumentally more now than I could a couple years ago. But even with all this improvement, I still have a muscle that doesn’t seem to want to behave appropriately. My heart has been checked out. There is nothing wrong with it except that it has been beating for 62 years and it is less efficient. And when it is taxed, instead of pumping harder or stronger, it pumps faster. There are only two ways to get the proper cardiac output. You either increase the stroke volume or you increase the number of strokes. That’s simple math.

And so I’m old and feeble and my heart rate goes too high. This isn’t anything I actually have control over in the gym. I can make sure it never goes too high simply by doing nothing, but I choose to do CrossFit even if I do it poorly.

Am I a self-defeating athlete? I think I am. I know that I’m in a room with kids and young adults. I’m old enough to be their mother or even grandmother. My children were both old enough to participate in the Masters Garage Games. How can I overcome this disadvantage?

The article linked to above mentions the new or out of shape athlete. I’m not new to CrossFit and that is part of my problem. My brain knows this stuff but my body can’t keep up. I’m not ever going to be the fastest or strongest. I will always be the oldest unless some even older nitwit decides to join and isn’t frightened away by the WODs as written. Or too injured when attempting to try the WODs as written. That happened to me at first. I was always banged up.

But I’m competitive and I kept coming back. I could see the improvements even through the injuries which were all minor. I’ve had far more serious injuries playing racquetball (and no one in the media wrote up the dangers of the game).

Why do I keep trying to compete with others at the gym? My only competition is me. I’m the only person there who is like me. There are a couple men in their fifties, but I’m the only person there over 60. I’m the only one eligible for Social Security this year. I’m in a class by myself. And here is a problem for me, if we aren’t competing with each other, why are we writing our scores on the white board? What’s up with that if it is not for comparison’s sake and to see who had the best score for the day or if Todd could beat Cindy’s time?

I work as hard as I can each and every time I show up. I whine about how difficult it is because it is always too difficult for an old woman. I work. I work really hard. I have achieved more than I thought possible when I was panting, leaning on a crutch, as I lunged. I’m never going to be young again. My heart is stronger, too, but it will never be 30 again either. I am boisterous. I am bold. And when I’m at CrossFit, I’m not invisible. It might be those crazy socks.