April 2019


When I began doing CrossFit many years ago, I thought I would improve rapidly and then be able to do all the things. Instead, I improved slowly and still cannot manage all the things. Some days this makes me incredibly sad. Some days it makes me enthusiastically proud.

Last week, after being totally defeated by double unders, I was ready to quit it all. Just sit and crochet and color and do nothing else. But instead, I made it to the gym on Saturday and managed to do some stuff without too many tears.

Monday came and it was still a struggle to make myself go. What’s the point? I can’t do all the things. There is exactly one thing I do as written on the board. Sit ups. Otherwise, I scale. Everything. Why do I do this?

And then I had to figure out why I do this. It isn’t easy to explain, even to myself. But I do it because it is extremely difficult and there are very few challenges out there at my age. I do it because I actually can. I mean I scale all the stuff, but it is so much more than I could do the first time I tried. I do it because it feels incredibly wonderful to stop. And I do it because I like the way I look and feel when I’m not inside the gym. My posture is better, my stride is more solid, my clothes fit better.

I do this because it is the task I set for myself. I have been tempted to quit over and over again. I have been defeated by the workouts and by the white board. And mostly I have been defeated by the annoying, demanding, demeaning voice inside my head. I do this crap to try to silence that voice. Prove to the voice and to myself that I am stronger than the defeats.

So I went to the gym on Monday still tentative, frightened, unsure, and wishing I had never heard of CrossFit.

We are working on split jerks and that was the skill for the day. I could only manage 60 pounds – a weight I once upon a time would have been thrilled to move in any way, but was unhappy with because inside my head where the harsh critic lives, I know I have been able to move more.

I also know that this not yet a disease but treated like one has left me twenty pounds lighter and not all of that has been fat. I have lost some muscle along the way and I will have to build that back up because physics is like that.

Thankfully, the workout was short and because I cannot do a handstand let alone a handstand push-up, I scaled the movement. I was able to move through the AMRAP and get a decent score on the white board, but knew my scaling and so even when the numbers are respectable, I feel less.

I have tried to get rid of the stutter jump in my double unders since the beginning of the year. I have been unsuccessful. But the only way to get from unsuccessful to successful is to keep working on it. So I got out my jump rope and tried. I was only going to work for five minutes tops.

Amazingly, I got two in a row twice and then three in a row. And then, I decided to head home.

I talked to Craig over the weekend and he pointed out that I’m supposed to be scaling and that my workouts are not dependent on anyone else’s workout or ability. He also pointed out that I may be a bit burned out on CrossFit. He suggested I try some personal training and using some of the machines available on the floor of the gym. Coincidentally, they were running a special on personal training sessions that ended on Monday, so before I went home I signed up for them.

Then I had to show up again on Tuesday. It was less difficult to manage dragging myself in even though I knew we were doing snatches. Again, I only got to 50 pounds on the snatch, mostly because it was also with an overhead squat to follow. It wasn’t as bad as I thought and after the workout I got that damn jump rope out again. I missed. I got two. I got eight in a row. Holy shit! I packed up and went home, quitting while ahead.

I also knew what was coming today. More double unders in the WOD. Today was three rounds with a row, a run, and then 50 double unders. I wasn’t sure if I could manage anything for real without the stutter jump, but I wanted to try. I just didn’t want to try until the cows came home. I spoke with Laura and told her my plan. I would shoot for 20 double unders but if I didn’t get them in two minutes or less, I would just be done for that round. She agreed.

So I rowed and walked and then came in for my first round. I got two and missed. Then I got twelve. In a row! I’m in double digits on double unders. Then I got the last six and was thrilled. I didn’t manage to string that many together in the other two rounds, but I did get all 60 double unders done. On the last round, my two minutes was up and I was at 18 and I finished the last two because I could.

I scaled everything today. Again. But I don’t feel so defeated by it.

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I am not a very good student. I often learn lessons that weren’t part of the curriculum. I learn stuff that was not intended to be taught. I don’t know if other people do this, but it is often how I manage to ruin any hope of joy I might trip over by mistake.

Yesterday’s workout was horrific. There were a total of 300 double unders and 150 dumbbell snatches along with a half mile of running. I was sure this was going to be a partner WOD, but nope. It was each of us for ourselves. My first issue came with believing I could do shit. I do manage to do some shit, but not very much of it. There was a time cap for all this nonsense at twenty minutes, so at least I didn’t have to struggle for infinity.

I’m supposed to work on the damn double unders because the only way to get better at something is to practice. I have worked up to doing half the reps of the normal people. I usually do 80% of the other stuff they do and walk only half the distance. So that was how I set myself up for this WOD. That meant I started with 50 double unders instead of 100 and 40 dumbbell snatches instead of 50.

I have to jump a couple times before I can start the double unders and then put in one single under between each double under. The most I strung together was 14 and I had to stop then because my heart rate was too high. But I had done 30 jumps to get those 14. When I missed on the first or second jump, I was taking 4 or 6 jumps to get 1 or 2 reps. It was horrible. It took me over 8 minutes to get those first 50 double unders.

Then it took me breaking the dumbbell snatches into three because I did 20 and then 14 and simply did not have the heart rate capacity to finish without another rest. Then out for my walk and back to the double unders. Only this time, the most I strung together was four or five. To get 40 double unders took the rest of the time. I finished with three seconds still on the clock but I was too tachycardic to continue. So my score was time cap + 220 reps.

I came home in tears. What I learned was that I shouldn’t be doing this crap at all. I should listen to the Sun City woman and just knit. Why do I put myself through this when I simply cannot manage to do any of the shit. Only two people actually finished the WOD yesterday inside the time cap. That’s just a point of reference.

It took every single bit of strength and determination to make myself go back to the gym this morning. I go on Saturday and it is Saturday and I should go. Why? It’s not like I can manage anything.

I know in my head that I’m SUPPOSED to scale everything. Nothing is written for a 66 year old. Even the super duper athletes at the Games get a nod to their advanced years. If the WOD was written for me, everyone else would be miserable. That’s what my head says. My heart says it is disappointed in me. I’ve been at this for over seven years and I still can’t do shit. I still struggle with every damn thing ever written on the board. I still have the crappiest scores put up on the “leader” board. I’m the loser every single day.

I was still vacillating about whether or not to show up today when it was time to actually leave the house. I forced myself into the car and into the gym.

It was a team WOD and there was no rest in there at all. Person one did maximum number of toes to bar – something I cannot do (big surprise there) while the second person held a barbell in the front rack position (95 pounds for the guys, 65 for the girls), and the third person did 25 wallballs and then ran a quarter mile with said wallball. We drew lots for teams.

There were 21 people there so there was no extra person. I wanted to just leave but was coerced (kindly) into staying. Kylie grabbed me and I just stood there crying. I can’t do the things. I can never do the things. I can be old. And feeble. But I cannot be competent. Kylie wouldn’t let me quit and tried her hardest to make me feel better.

The switching was based on the wallballs. When that person was done, team members switched to the next thing and the score was the total number of TTB. I ended up doing hanging knee raises, held a 45# barbell, did ten wallballs with a lighter med ball, and walked half the distance.

As always, I did something. As always, it wasn’t what was on the board. Years ago, I thought by this time I would be adequate. I thought that by this time, I would be able to do things.

I wrote about framing and how the way we look at things makes a huge difference. It’s also very difficult for me raising all sorts of cognizant dissonance when I try to lie to myself.

I know that 15 months ago I could, on rare occasions do a single double under at a time. Yesterday, I did 90. I know that seven years ago, I couldn’t even hang from the bar. Today, I did 70 hanging knee raises. I know that when I began, I used a six pound kid’s med ball and couldn’t hit the nine foot mark or do more than four or five. Today, I used ten pounds to the nine foot mark and did my ten reps.

I know I am better than when I began. I know I’m better than I was a year ago. I know I’m still the crappiest person in the gym day after miserable day. I have no idea how to make that okay. I know I should. I know it is absolute astounding that I do any of this shit at all. I just thought I was going to be better at it by now.

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What does framing do for us? Does it really make any difference at all? How can we go about framing less than stellar things in a positive light and have it fool us?

I keep trying to reframe my performance into a successful outcome. Sometimes I succeed and many times I do not.

Yesterday’s skill was jerks. Two push jerks and then one split jerk at a high percentage of a 1RM. We know that mass moves mass and I have lost nearly 15% of my body weight in the last six months. I didn’t really mean to do that. I liked the first bit and then I’ve worked to keep even more and more from falling away. But, I’m one pound short of that 15% mark. Most of that, I hope, has been useless fat. Some of it has probably been some muscle wasting. I could not move 95% of my 1RM. We were supposed to move 87 to 95% and the weight I failed at was the 87% weight.

How do I reframe that to look successful? I really don’t know. I still got the 65 pounds up once. Then I dropped the bar and couldn’t manage another one with full lockout.

The workout was 30 Turkish get ups and a half mile run. The last time I did a Turkish get up I thought I should increase the weight. I’ve done them without any weight, with three pounds, or five pounds. They jack my heart rate up because that’s pretty much what they do to everybody. The last time was done with five pounds. Yesterday, I did 7.5 pounds. I really should have tried the ten, but I chickened out. I also did my old fart discount of 80% of the reps. My “runs” are always half the distance because I need to walk. But I have been trying to run at least part of the way. Yesterday, after going 300 meters, my heart rate was low enough that I thought I could run it in. And I did. I really ran, too, I didn’t jog or trot. It still wasn’t super fast, but I made it.

I can find a way to look at the whole day in a negative light. I can also realize that I was there. I showed up. Just like always. The workouts are not written for old people like me. The skill part … well, I’m trying to adjust to this whole prediabetic thing and getting my diet and weight under control. My percentages are just off for now. With work, I might get them back or I might just continue to get older and older.

The conditioning portion was pretty awesome. I raised my weight by an extra 50% and I should give myself a pat on the back for that. I did the number of reps I usually do for these types of things, allowing myself to get a good workout without working tremendously harder than the regular people there. And I ran part of the run. Really ran.

It used to just grate on my last nerve that I was always the last one done. Everyone else would have a ten minute workout which was the goal of the damn thing, I would be working for more than fifteen minutes because I would have to keep stopping to get my heart rate to a place where I didn’t die. It took me years to realize I could simply cut the number or reps back, a scaling option. If the workout is supposed to be a ten minute thing, it should be a ten minute thing for me, too. And by doing 80%, it often is (now).

I also scale calories on both the assault bike and rower by half. Distances in meters are usually things like 250, 500, or 1000 meters and then I just row 200, 400, or 800 and can manage the same relatively close times. This is important when we are sharing the rowers and my exaggerated time would throw everyone off. I walk half the distance.

If I could actually RX the workout, it might need to be rewritten because all the other people at the box would be totally under challenged. I’m supposed to scale and athletes my age who don’t have to are simply way more awesome than me. Good on them. But I have to deal with where I am at the gym.

I know I have scaled correctly when my modified score is nearly the middle of the pack. I have scaled too much if I’m the first done or the highest reps. I haven’t scaled enough if I’m way behind in time or reps. I’m not the best person there, but I’m improving in my level of fitness and I think that’s the frame I have to put around my story.

I try. I try really hard. I show up on the days I’m supposed to show up. I do the partner WODs even though they are the most terrifying part of CrossFit for me. I do many things I couldn’t do when I started and so … I guess I’ve won. I wish I could feel like that more often, but no one else is responsible for how I feel about this. It’s what I’m choosing. Dumbass.

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A Turkish get up is also a get back down in the exact reverse movements.

We are now a biparticipation family with both of us making our way to the gym each week. Dick has a personal trainer he meets with once a week and on his other trip to the gym, he warms up with us back in the CrossFit area and then when we start our workout, he takes off for the machine part of the gym.

I go to the gym five days a week, taking a rest day on Wednesday and Sunday. I’ve gotten back into doing my yin yoga four to six times a week from twenty minutes to one hour per session. I just use YouTube and follow along upstairs where I have my space all set up.

Dick also golfs three times a week and walks the course, which he had maintained was all the exercise he needed. I knew he was not really getting all the exercise he needed, but going for a nice walk is better than going for a nice sit and watching TV so I let it go. At the end of last summer, there was a deal for a family member to get a special rate to join the gym and I didn’t even mention it to him because he has always thought I was a bit too extreme with my CrossFit stuff.

I did talk about it to someone else and he overheard and thought he might like to try. He went and joined up and had his initial assessment. He was as much out of shape as I was when I went for my first introductory free CrossFit class. He couldn’t do much of anything. He was chagrined to find he was in such bad shape.

That’s the thing. We lose a little bit of our youth each day. We age incrementally. We don’t really notice how much we have lost until we are smacked in the face with it. And then it is “humbling” for us. Inside our heads, we stop aging and we are adult and that’s it and we don’t really remember exactly how adult we are. Sometimes when passing a mirror, it can be a bit disconcerting to see an old person staring back, but we manage to move on and forget how old we really are.

We don’t realize that as we age, it’s not just smooth skin that leaves us. It is all manner of things. If we don’t ever have to try to do those things, we can just muddle through and be fine. But eventually, it catches up to us. We have neglected our physical selves for so long that we can no longer manage a whole flight of stairs or to get out of a chair without giving ourselves a push. It isn’t like we were running marathons one day and incapacitated the next. It is a slow descent into incapacity.

When is the best time to try to keep our youthful abilities? Today is a great day to start, yesterday would have been better. If you can’t do much today because you waited too long, do what you can now and keep at it day after day. If you can’t make it up the entire staircase without using the handrail and struggling, then go halfway up and come back down. Do that five times with rests in between and then call it a day. Tomorrow, do it again. Then keep at it until you can manage the entire flight of stairs. Then keep doing it so it doesn’t go away again.

If you can’t manage to get out of a chair without help, use the help and get in and out of the chair ten times. Then rest (in the chair) and then when you have caught your breath, do it again. Keep this up over time and you will eventually be able to get in and out of chairs without assistance.

When you make it that far, try adding some things to your list of what you need to do to keep moving adequately. I lift weights, but not everyone has to do that. I enjoy it. Perhaps all you care about is getting the groceries into the house. So, practice lifting a full milk jug over and over. You can start with a half gallon and work your way up to a gallon. If you keep practicing, you might eventually be able to get all the groceries into the house in just one trip.

If you are young enough to not have fallen into such sad shape, keep moving now while it is still easier to make gains. The older you are, the slower you body is to respond to this stuff. Taking care of your younger self is something your older self will thank you for, be delighted with, and celebrate as you manage to hold on to the life you want for longer than those who didn’t care for their outer shell.

No one dreams of dying in a nursing home. I’ve never heard anyone say they hoped they ended up in one. The best chance you have for staying out of them is to take care of yourself now. Once it is too late, it will take a monumental effort to overcome the inertia of years or decades.

You don’t have to do CrossFit. It is all scalable and you can do CrossFit, but it isn’t mandatory. What you do have to do is adequate range of motion and some weight resistance. It makes a difference.

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I know that comparison is the thief of joy. I also know that I’m taller than average and older than average and smarter than average, etc. I know this because we all measure ourselves against each other and keep track of not only the Joneses, but everyone. This may not be the straightest path to joy, but it is human nature. Where do I fit in?

I vacillate between believing I’m pretty dang awesome for even attempting to CrossFit to being the most obviously crappy person in the gym. That latter is, in part, because I have always been the oldest person in the gym. To be fair, there could be older, fitter people than me and then I wouldn’t even have that excuse. I know where I ranked in the Open and it wasn’t at the top even though I did scaled everything.

So, for me anyway, the Open and the Leaderboard are always about failure and defeat. There is only one leader on the leaderboard and the rest of us there aren’t leaders, but losers. Of course, that’s not the way we are supposed to look at things, we are supposed to be proud of how much we can achieve.

Just as any parent of a school age child would be just as proud of the kid even going to school, right? Maybe the parents expect some decent grades out of the student. Very few parents I’ve ever met brag about a report card filled with Ds. They just aren’t the best kind because … we all want to win.

So, I don’t win at CrossFit. Except I do. I go. I’m coachable. I try really hard. I have limits and limitation and I’m freaking old. Even though other freaking older people manage stuff, many old people don’t even try. And I’m the only me who has had my life and experiences and all that stuff.

I try. I often fail. I always scale. That’s my life. That’s as it should be. If they are writing workouts for me, the younger, fitter people will be unchallenged and thwarted in their desire to grow as athletes. Inside my head, I’m more than passingly aware of this. I’m supposed to scale. I’m not twenty anymore. Even my kids are master athletes.

So I go and do what I can. And some days I feel really good about that and focus more on the first part of the sentence and some days I feel really bad about that because I am focused on the second half. It is actually the audacity of the second half that should make me feel so much better. But it rarely does. Lately I’ve been feeling more failure than success.

We are starting a new lift cycle and this week was low weights and heavy reps. Today was back squats with six sets of eight to be done with weights in the 50 to 70% range. My 1RM is 110 pounds so today I did two sets of eight at 55 pounds, two at 60, one at 65, and the last at 70. While it wasn’t nothing, it wasn’t that hard. I mean, at the top, it was only 70% and so not a real problem. I did have the least weight on the bar and all, but I was true to the percentages.

As I was readjusting my stance for the last two reps of the last set, standing there with 70 pounds resting on my shoulders, I got the picture of my early CrossFit self. I was struggling with the 22 pound bar, trying to dip to the top of 20 inch box with a 25# plate set on top of it. Chris was next to me back squatting 225 pounds (ten times as much) like it wasn’t a problem. And I struggled with that damn 22 pounds but at least it wasn’t a PVC pipe anymore. So there was that.

As I set myself up for two more reps of a full squat with 70 pounds, a relatively light weight and possible to do for eight reps without tiring myself, I realized I really am a fit old woman. Or at least, a lot fitter than I used to be. And while I will never give the twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, fortysomethings, and teenager in my class a run for their money, I’m doing okay.

While my fitness assessment which finally took place was a waste of my time and energy and I was deemed fit (without metrics or numbers or anything concrete which is what I really wanted) I did find out that the body fat percentage calculator thing doesn’t really work and I shouldn’t worry about the 27.5% body fat number (which for my age and gender is in the middle of normal) because it is probably way off. It also makes me the fattest person in our morning class, something every person in the morning class said couldn’t be true. I’m not fat. I’m 5 foot 5 inches and 125 pounds (about 50 of that muscle according to that same machine). And that last bit also skews the fat percentage. Along with being female and old, both of which add stuff.

So, I’m going to declare myself fit now, fitter than I was seven years ago, and doing okay considering how old and feeble I am.

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Photo by tubbygorilla at Flickr as Woman performing squat, CC 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/158197534@N08/41086858490