February 2017


At CrossFit Summerville there is a chance to have an extra bonus day on some weekends. Scott devises a partner WOD and we can come in and work together if we choose.

I hate partner WODs. I hate being the poopiest partner there and I feel sorry for anyone stuck with me. I wouldn’t choose me as a partner if I could help it. But I’m always on my team. I feel like we play “pass around the Patti” and some poor schmuck gets stuck with me as we rotate through.

I also hate not knowing what’s coming. I don’t know how other people workout. I look at the WOD. I have my panic attack. I look at the WOD again. I begin to figure out how to scale it, or as my head tells me, how to game the system. I know everything is scalable. I scale everything. It must be fantastic to be able to RX things and not have to worry about how to rewrite the WOD. I rewrite every single WOD.

So each time there is a weekend WOD, I’m faced with two very scary, frightening, paralyzing issues. I have to be a partner and I have no idea what is coming.

I didn’t do this for a long time. I go to the box four times a week and I’m old and I don’t really need an extra bonus workout and they scare the ever living shit out of me.

Then I began to show up. I don’t know if people groan when I walk in the door. I’m always sorry for whoever it is that gets stuck with me. The last time we had one of these, Scott made me a team captain and I had to choose the poor people who were stuck with me. I was overwhelmed by the number of reps expected of me as it stood and then selecting the people for my team had me nearly in tears.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I hate partner WODs. And I hate not knowing far enough in advance to come up with some strategy whereby I can actually manage a WOD.

I also workout first thing in the morning before my brain is entirely awake. An awake brain says things to me like, “What in the hell are you thinking?” and then might add “stay home”. It would be so comfortable to just stay home. I could skip this. I don’t have to show up. It isn’t mandatory. It isn’t part of my “routine” work. It’s a bonus.

I hate partner WODs. They scare me. I’m a detriment. I can’t do this. I am scared. I have no idea what’s coming. It’s called Sweet 16 today. There is going to be something in there with the number 16 and I sure as hell hope it isn’t rounds.

It takes tremendous courage to show up for this. It’s not “normal” for old women to do this stuff. I know because all my non-CrossFit friends tell me so.

I needed to eat before this event and I never eat before a workout because I go first thing in the morning. Then, as a reward, I come home and have bacon and eggs and mostly I just really care about the bacon. But today, because the warm-up starts at 10.30 and the WOD starts at 11, I had to eat something or I would run out of steam. So I had my reward before I actually did the task.

So, now I’m doubly committed. I don’t just get to eat bacon for no good reason. I have to earn it. I have to burn enough calories to make it possible to consume that much fat. I also need to stoke the engine to burn that kind of fuel.

I’m going to go again. Even though it scares me. Maybe precisely because it scares me. I’m very sorry for my partner, whomever that may be. But I’ve got my big girl pants on and I’m ready to try anything – scaled, of course.

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I am a perfectionist. I don’t live up to my own standards, but I’m still a perfectionist. I would love to be able to do what I expect of myself.

I wish I could do more or better at CrossFit. I’ve wished this the entire time I’ve struggled to improve micrometer by micrometer. I’m pretty freaking awesome now, but even so, I would like more. Always, there is more and always I am not in possession of it.

I know one of the things I don’t do is mobilization. When I get sore enough, I work on getting rid of the soreness. I know, I absolutely know, that mobilizing for just ten minutes a day, regardless of how I feel, would improve my overall well being. I don’t. I did when someone gave me a point or two for it. But after the points went away, so did the behavior.

I’ve tried rewarding myself, but that didn’t work at all. First of all, I have no real way to do that. When I want something, I just go out and buy it. I don’t have a way to make it rewarding, other than just feeling better and apparently that isn’t enough.

I get a massage every three weeks. That is helpful. If I was a Powerball winner, I would get a massage once a week. I don’t even play the lottery, so this seems like not much of a chance.

What would be beneficial for me is doing yoga. I’ve tried. Honestly, I’ve tried.

Like CrossFit where everyone is welcome and it’s all scalable, yoga is a judgment free zone. Except in my own head, where it has never (even for one nanosecond) been a judgment free zone. Inside my head, I’m judging. I judge myself harshly, more so than any outside person does.

CrossFit has a scoreboard. Some boxes don’t insist on writing your raw score on the board. Mine does. My old lady score goes right up there with the 20 something male athlete’s score. Two numbers, no explanation, no anything. Just raw scores. Mine is worse.

In yoga, another place to safely practice well being, there is a correct way to breathe. It is not the way I’ve been breathing for 64 years. So, I don’t even breathe correctly.

I don’t know the terminology. I don’t know the basics. I don’t know shit. I’m not expected to and no one, other than me, is finding it offensive or passing judgment.

I struggle with the problem of wishing I could do things and the knowledge that beginners always suck at stuff. Inside my head, I’m supposed to already be expert. I’m supposed to be flexible, know the jargon, do the poses without problems.

In actuality, I’m not that flexible, know next to none of the jargon, and my only good pose is holding a coffee cup and contemplating what sort of snack I’m interested in.

The way for me to get stronger, is to show up for a CrossFit WOD and do that thing, whatever it is and no matter how scared I am. I know this. And even after more than four years, I struggle to keep plugging along.

Starting something new is frightening. I can’t even breathe right.

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I only speak English. I do it quite well and have a larger than normal vocabulary, according to my sister the Kindergarten Teacher who might not be the best judge of normal adult vocabulary. Regardless, I speak English. I speak only English. I would like to learn a second language just for the sake of it, but I have no one to practice with, meaning it would just be an exercise in futility.

I was watching – really I was just listening – to a TEDx Talk and the speaker was doing a very good job in delivering his speech even though it was obvious that English was not his Mother Tongue. What he was talking about was authenticity of self and how to interact with others in a more authentic manner.

It was his opinion ego gets in the way of our connectability and we remain separate and often at a distance due to our own egos getting in the way. He was listing steps to connect with others in a better fashion.

The first rule was to know your own self better. He had a five-point list for learning more about yourself and I don’t remember the first three because I was so struck by the last two. Not that they were anything actually unique to the world of self-knowledge, but because he was a non-native English speaker.

Here are his two final points in knowing more about yourself.

4. What do you can?

5. What do you can’t?

This is not the way a native English speaker would say this. We often hear about what can you do and what can’t you do. But it sounds so much better to me this way. What do I “can” and what do I “can’t” because often these are just messages I give myself without benefit of trial and error.

Most of us know what it is we can do. Except for the people who believe they can do something that in actuality mostly sucks. I belong to a writing forum and people come and believe they can write because they are putting words down on the screen. This isn’t really what “writing” as a profession is about. There are many rules and regulations to writing and although they can be broken, one must know about them before they can be flaunted correctly. So these people come in and tell us they can write, post something awful, get a critique which they argue with, and often take their crayons and move on to a different place. The select few will listen, often with hurt feelings, and then work toward making their writing a more professional product.

Many of us believe we know what we can’t do. But the thing is, many of the things we can’t do are simply things we can’t do yet. We aren’t genetically unable to do them, we just haven’t yet mastered the task at hand. Many preschoolers can’t read. This doesn’t mean they will never read, but only that they can’t read – yet.

Many of us set out to try something new and quit before we have given ourselves a chance to see if we might turn the can’t into a can. I could delineate my time with CrossFit as a case in point. I couldn’t right up until I could. It took work and practice, but many of our can’t do that items are really part of this list.

“I can’t touch type.” “I can’t work a computer.” “I can’t …” fill in the blank. Some of our can’ts are simply due to lack of practice, some due to lack of motivation, some are due to that genetic limitation. I can’t fly. I might be able to learn to fly a plane, but I will never simply fly because humans aren’t built for that.

Many of the things on my “What do you can’t?” list are simply things I can’t do yet. Many are things I have no intention of ever doing because they don’t interest me. Learning to differentiate between the nuances of your list seems to be a lifelong issue with the list changing with time. Sometimes it changes because what was once on “can’t” has moved to your “can” list. That’s kind of cool.

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Sooner or later I’m going to have to admit that more than four years of committed, difficult work has paid off and I’m adequate. That’s scary. I might even have to admit that I have passed adequate and moved on toward awesome. I might even have to claim awesome status.

Today’s WOD as written:
Strength
Deadlift
1 X 2 @ 90%
Deadlift
6 X 3 @ 75%
Touch and go reps, 90 -120 seconds rest between sets.

WOD
AMRAP 10 minutes
Bar Facing burpees
Shoulder to overhead 135/95
3-6-9-12-15-18-21……..

My 90% was 148# pounds. I used to dream big and think some day I might be able to get sort of close to my body weight and lift it. That 90% is over my body weight and I not only lifted it up, but controlled it for a touch and go. I can remember the absolute thrill when I got to three digits and managed to lift over 100# and today that’s my normal WOD weight for a deadlift.

I entered the Masters Garage Games a couple years ago. There were only 7 scaled women in my age group throughout the country. So there weren’t many of us brave enough to do that nonsense. I was one of them. The last workout was a 45# shoulder to overhead move and I could maybe get two to three of them at a time and then I had to sit on the floor and box breathe. It was pitiful. It was part of the reason I came in seventh overall for the event. I did take second place on the day since it was just me and Cheryl in our age group.

I asked about weight today and was told the 22# bar with 10# plates should work for me. So I did my modified burpees and then did shoulder to overhead with 42# which is the equipment we have.

I did the 3s without stopping and then did the six burpees. Then I rested and got my heart rate down and did the 6 shoulder to overhead. I then had to rest a bit, but not much, and then got the 9 burpees. I did my box breathing and got my heart rate down and then managed – without setting the bar down, all 9 shoulder to overhead. I couldn’t manage more than three at the Masters Garage Games and today I did 9. That’s a pretty impressive improvement. I did the 12 burpees, rested, had to break the 12 shoulder to overhead into two sets of six, and then I managed to plod through all 15 burpees after I got my heart rate under control. The time ended with me getting 75 reps (30 shoulder to overhead and 45 modified burpees). All that work in 10 minutes.

That’s pretty damn adequate. Inside my head is still the small voice that says they were MODIFIED burpees. Inside my head is a voice that nags and says I probably could have managed either 47 or maybe even 53# on the shoulder to overhead. Inside my head is the critic that always says I could/should have done more or better. Perhaps I didn’t get that A+ and only got an A or even an A- and surely I could do more or better.

And that voice tries to rob me of any joy I may have achieved and I have to silence it because the thing is, I’m supposed to scale things and that doesn’t make me not awesome. In fact, the people who can just bang this stuff out aren’t any more awesome than me. They may be younger, fitter, stronger, and more athletic, but can they write about it later and then crochet a fancy scarf? Can they be a grandparent? Can they do any of the multitudinous things I also do beside lift some weights? Do they even have a cardiologist?

I might have to realize that all the work I’ve put in has insisted I pay the price and give up the negative self talk. I did good today.

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What sort of life goals can a retired person have? This has bothered me ever since I gave up my real adult job almost twenty years ago. I’ve done other adult jobs over the years and some of them were even really worth the effort. But my real job, my real calling, was saving lives and conquering disease. It’s what I did and who I was and what I was meant to do.

But now, I’m completely retired and not even doing the menial task of paperwork for the benefit of others. So what sorts of goals can I pursue?

I suppose I want to live healthily as long as possible. But that’s such a stupid underlying thing that all of us want. I wanted that when I had a real goal in life to save other lives, etc. Absent being alive, all other goals are meaningless. I can’t think of a single thing to do with all my time that is beneficial to the real world outside my curtained windows.

I write my histories. I like that. I didn’t like it when I took last year off. It gives me at least a bit of structure to my days. I have a task to complete, something to check off my to do list. Something tangible. I don’t know if it really benefits the world at large. Knowing more stuff is always good. Knowing the problems we face today are not unique to our time may be of some benefit.

I could create of goal of publishing me work for remuneration. I’ve actually thought about it many, many times. But it would be more work than I’m willing to put into it. And right now, I am happy to write with the occasional typo remaining and not feel bad about it. My OCD would be exacerbated by publishing for money. Essentially, this is not a goal I have. It might be a goal I should have, but I don’t think should is part of goal setting.

I know I could set some goals for projects around the house. These are not goals, however, they are to do lists. We have talked about repainting the inside of the house. That’s as far as that particular item has gotten. It might even be a really good idea to repaint. But that’s a not a goal item.

I don’t have a five or ten year plan. It seems entirely pointless. I’m not yet to the point where I won’t buy green bananas, but to plan out something that long term is incredibly ludicrous. I don’t even know what I want to do this weekend and it really doesn’t matter what I choose.

I’m not sure how other retired people manage all their time. I can remember my mother saying how one day, we would look back and wish we had some of the busy stuff to do. She was bored, too. Not all the time and not every single day, but when she was called with a “Do you want to” question she always said yes before the doing part was mentioned. She always had time to do or go or help.

There are myriad books written for the young and middle aged to help them get their lives focused and their chance for happiness increased. I don’t even know if there is any wisdom out there for retired folks. We tell younger people to plan for retirement. What we don’t say is that most of what you have to plan for is boredom.

I’ve been told many negative things about boredom. These are repeated by people who have their days so overscheduled they have to check their calendar for a time to go to the bathroom. When days stretch out endlessly, there is really only whatever it is you can think of to do with yourself. And the less you have to do, the harder it is to find any motivation to do it.

Every motivational book, every motivational talk, tells you to focus on your goals. Determine where you are going and then build a map to get there. I’ve already been there. I’m going home and I know the way. And there is nothing to do when I get there. Just not a real exciting goal.

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I have no idea what the real numbers are, but I’m going to guess that most of the world does not participate in CrossFit. I’m going to also guess that the percentage of old women around the world is even lower than simply the percentage for all people around the world. This is not a usual pursuit for old women.

I also know I’m not the only old woman who does this stuff. The CrossFit Games has a whole slew of women from my age group. I know because lately we’ve been revisiting WODs from the Opens of years past. And there were many, many women brave enough to participate and post scores for the entire world to see.

I am not that brave.

I am still brave enough to show up. I’ve been showing up for over four years now. Just today, we were talking about CrossFit memberships and the perseverance of the members. When I showed up on that hot August Saturday to try a class, I couldn’t even finish. I cried the first time I was there. Ryan said it was all scalable and as long as I showed up, they would work with me.

There were several people there that day, all doing better than I did. I’m the only one still there, still getting by as best as I can. Still showing up. I should be really proud of that. I didn’t quit. Not any of the times I’ve felt like just quitting. I always found an excuse to try again even in the face of abject failure and complete disappointment.

I began in the valley, far below sea level. I began to inch my way higher and higher. I’ve worked hard to push myself past obstacles which seemed totally insurmountable. Instead, I overcame them.

Not a single one of my one rep maxes is over the top impressive, generally speaking. They are all so much more than I had ever imagined possible for this old fart. I dreamed the impossible dream of some day finally being able to deadlift my body weight. Hell, I’m past that by almost 20%. I’m overachieving.

This week we did the workout from the 2015 Open. The last time I did 15.4 I got 40 reps. Not really two years later, but almost, I did it again. This time, doing it exactly as I did back then, I got 60 reps. I improved by 50% over the course of two years. That was freaking awesome and I’m thrilled and elated and I was ready to jump for joy except my heart rate was too high and I had to just sit and box breathe.

And yet, I’m still afraid to say anything too positive about my progress. I’ve reached the foothills. That’s all. I’ve climbed out of the valley and gotten farther than I dreamed possible. But up there, right in front of me, is still an entire mountain to be climbed and I don’t even have any hiking boots.

If I say with any conviction that I’m awesome, someone will point out that I’m just in the foothills and haven’t really done anything worthy of that tag. I’m certain they will. I even know who will be the person to say it. Me. I tell myself this all the time. I don’t know why because I certainly wouldn’t say it to anyone else. But, there I am, talking smack to myself.

I am terrified of success because it might not look like success to anyone else. But who the hell am I trying to impress? I’m the only person who needs to be happy with me. Anyone else happy with me is a bonus. I have to learn to like what I have accomplished. Especially considering how much that is.

Today’s WOD wasn’t nearly as impressive as Tuesday’s was. It wasn’t anything I could compare to an earlier time. It was one of those slog it out things and I scaled it appropriately to allow myself and my heart to get through it. I did. I was awesome. (Right?)

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So does chocolate. How many calories did 37 burpees burn? 

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