CrossFit


I’ve heard you should go with your strong points. One of the things I’m very best at, is worrying. I am a Gold Medalist in Worry. I can worry about the things that didn’t happen or might happen, but what I worry about the most is the things that aren’t going to happen but have a 0.0001% chance of occurring.

Very few of the things I have worried about have even come close to happening, but that doesn’t seem to keep me from the habit. I apparently love to worry. I assume this because I do so much of it.

We are leaving for vacation. I have a bum arm and it is getting better and has been now for a couple months. I know that the two weeks I took off when my sisters were visiting did much to help my arm heal. Amazingly, even when carefully lifting weights or swinging kettle bells or doing push-ups or various other things, it still stresses your arm a bit. I have avoided all overhead work and have not jumped up on the rig for this entire time. If it hurts, I don’t keep doing it.

This has been working remarkably well. My arm is very much improved but I still can’t do a few things at all (such as cactus arms). I know that if I pull my seat belt incorrectly, it twinges. On the plus side, it hasn’t been waking me up at night anymore. So – improvement but not cured.

I have been terrified all week of re-injuring my arm. I could maybe completely tear the deltoid and have to have surgery. I could just re-injure the thing and have to start all over. Or, I could just have made it through the week without problem. Which is what happened, of course.

I did have to do my part and remember to leave my ego at the door and work within my extra limitations. It is getting harder to do that because my arm isn’t hurting all the time. I know that doesn’t mean it is healed completely, just that it is healing.

I was in a state today, not over the handstand push-ups, but over the kettle bell swings. Those were a bit twinge inducing last time. As long as I do the push-ups from a box and don’t put my head through the window, it doesn’t hurt my arm. But … today was 50 kettle bell swings and they scared me.

So I went even lighter than usual and then did the workout and now have almost three weeks of no CrossFit. I hope my arm will be better when I get back to the gym. I do have a plan for mobility while I am away from the gym.

But that hasn’t been all I’ve been worrying about. What if they lose my luggage? What if the planes are delayed and I miss my connection? What if? So many what ifs!

I know part of the problems we will face. Europe is in the middle of a heat wave and has not had enough rain. The Danube is a bit low. I have no idea where that is, but it is along our course of travel. I know that the best we can hope for is to sail south and then after a few days, when we leave one ship for our daily tour stuff, we will return to a different ship on the other side of the low water mark.

That’s if the river doesn’t drop too much lower. If it does, when we leave the ship on that fateful day, we will end up in a hotel and then have the last half of the trip done from two different hotels as we move a bit more southeast. Then we arrive in Budapest and are supposed to be in another hotel for a few days.

We are looking at this as an adventure. We were given options. We could cancel the trip completely, we could delay the trip to later this fall, or we could even go next year instead. We wanted to go, figured later in the year would only make things worse, and we wanted to go this year.

I know this is the right choice and yet, I still worry. I worry that my camera and tablet will not connect even though they are both Bluetooth and should talk to each other. I know that phones from America will be very expensive if used in Europe, so I have to make sure all my data stuff is turned off. I know that I need different electrical power things. I know lots of stuff.

What I don’t know for sure is that I have sufficiently worried and plotted and planned for all the correct things. What if I worried about the wrong things? What if I was just supposed to enjoy this respite.

Next on my To Do List – go find that video for yoga on an airplane. I hope they don’t want me to do reclining swan in the aisle.

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I realized a few things about coaching today and I thought I would share my thoughts.

I began my day, as usual, with a video guided yin yoga practice. I began doing yin yoga with a real live in person yogi who would correct incorrect postures and explain asanas. She was a fabulous coach/leader/teacher. I learned that there are modifications available and how to use the practice to greatest effect.

I have been doing yoga for over two years. I give credit to my practice for keeping me flexible enough to continue my CrossFit practice. And I credit CrossFit with my continued need for a yin yoga practice. They are mutual.

After years of practice I know the names of many of the poses and can “assume the position” and/or modify as I need. This is also true in my CrossFit life. I know the Olympic lifts and the gymnastic requirements and all that and I know how to make sure that I don’t die at the gym by choosing my modifications with clarity.

Today’s yoga practice was done with a novice video maker. Apparently, this was her second yin yoga video she ever made. She did not, according to her You Tube channel make very many more. Here was the problem I found. She did not give enough cues. I’m there on my mat, curled into this position or that, not staring at the video and I could modify “like this” or something. I wasn’t watching the damn thing, I was working along with it.

Second to this, her sound system wasn’t the best and the static made her soft voice difficult to even hear at times. I know she had a pillow on the left when we started and it was thrown off to the right by the end, but I have no idea when I was supposed to have used any support in there during the practice.

When coaching/teaching/leading, it is imperative that you actually lead. There are many different ways to learn things but visual demonstration doesn’t work when one is not supposed to be staring at a screen in the first place.

Although I did like her programming and her shift from one asana to another was good on paper, there simply wasn’t enough instruction for anyone not already part of the practice of yin yoga. It wasn’t horrible for me, but I can’t see how someone unfamiliar with this type of practice would really know what to do.

I went from there to the gym where our entire day was working on snatches. This is the most difficult of all the Olympic lifts. There are so many moving parts and it takes a lot of flexibility as well as balance to actually carry this out. It also takes two arms and I only have one that goes overhead. I’ve been working diligently to not re-injure my already bum arm and so I only did cleans.

We did a 21 minutes EMOM. That means we did something at the top of each minute. There were three different moves. On the first minute we did three power snatches (cleans), on the second minute we did six deadlifts with the same wide grip, and then on the third minute we were to do one squat snatch (clean for me). We repeated this seven times for the 21 minutes.

We are in the middle of a deload week as next week we will be working on maxing out. So the percentages today were to be 60 – 75%. I selected the weights I would use. My goal was three rounds at the first weight, three at the slightly higher weight, and the last round at the highest weight.

The guy over there is relatively knew to CrossFit. His mobility isn’t the very greatest and his form is often a bit wonky due to that and to inexperience. Coach told him not to load any more weight on the bar, but to work on form.

One of the tenets of CrossFit is form before function. If you can’t do something perfectly with a PVC pipe or an empty bar, you aren’t going to be able to do it correctly with more weight. The form comes first. If your grip is incorrect, if your pull is off, if your foot placement is askew, if your squat is shallow – all these need to be corrected before you can safely go on to actually adding weight.

When you receive the bar overhead while you are on your toes or your feet are wobbly, all you are doing is risking beaning yourself when you lose your balance and drop the bar on your head. So this isn’t just about CrossFit, but about safety.

Since I’m writing about this, it is safe to assume that the guy added more weight to his bar anyway. He did not get hurt this time. But the need to be coachable is just as important as the need to coach properly. Ego makes us do dumb stuff. Ego makes some people miscount or shave time. But the greatest sin and the least helpful thing you can do at the gym is let your ego get in the way of coaching. The whole reason to have a coach is to learn how to correctly do the stuff. Listen to the coach; not your ego. It will help in the long run.

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I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to write about. I think it is – my arm. By taking a couple weeks off from the gym while my sisters were visiting, I gave the dumb thing a rest. It helped.

I have not been officially diagnosed by MRI or anything, but it is assumed by symptoms and physical exam that I have a tear where my deltoid inserts into my humerus. I can now reach my arm almost straight up but I can’t put my head “through the window” yet as I can’t get my left arm that far back. I also can’t do “cactus arms” for my yoga practice. I learned today that I can do eagle arms with my left (hurt) arm on the bottom, but not with it on the top as that torques it too much.

I can now row without it hurting at all. I can do cleans and deadlifts without problems. I can do downward dog as long as I don’t overextend. There are many things I can now do with impunity. That’s really nice.

Monday’s workout was rowing and then weighted box step ups interspersed with running and toes to bar. I cannot hang from the rig, so I have to do them supine and that seems to work. After I was done with the last round of step ups, I wanted to get rid of my second, heavier knee brace. I always wear a knee sleeve on my right knee. Anyway, I took off the brace and went to toss it over there by my water bottle. I was throwing it like a Frisbee. I used my left arm.

I thought I was going to burst into tears. First, because of the very sharp pain, lasting only seconds. Second, because I thought I might have reinjured my arm and would need to start all over. That second fear seems unfounded.

I have no idea when I’m going to hurt myself. I am very careful during a workout to make sure that what I’m doing is not going to cause me pain. I was doing heavier than normal cleans earlier in the week and every once in a while, on the pull, it would tweak my arm and I would end up letting my right arm do most of the work and coming under the bar all crooked. But, my arm was okay.

It is easier to protect me from myself with my yoga practice because I’m not tossing iron around, I’m by myself with a video, and I can back out as soon as I feel a tweak.

Another problem is sleeping. There are nights when I can get through the entire night without problem and wake up refreshed and ready to take on a new day. And then there are the other nights where my arm throbs and wakes me up several times. I have found that sleeping on the arm actually seems to help. When I sleep on my right side, my left arm eventually torques into some icky pose that will wake me up. I have no real solution to this part of the problem.

I wish I knew how I hurt myself. I was trying to do pull-ups, something that has so far eluded me completely. I know I pulled too hard and hurt my right arm/shoulder. But that’s not the arm that continues to have issues. I don’t remember ever hurting my left arm but just having this continuous pain show up.

Mt external rotation is improving although not as fast as I could wish. Eagle arms didn’t work very well today. My abduction is also improving, but I could not throw my knee brace without risking tears. Things are getting better, but not fast enough to suit me. If I were younger, perhaps I could heal faster. If my body were not trying to decay from the inside out, perhaps that would work better. I really have no idea how blood sugar levels affect healing, but I do know that diabetic heart attack patients have loads of issues with blood sugar. So it’s involved in there somewhere. I could probably look it up, but it wouldn’t change anything.

All in all, it is far better to never hurt yourself. I wish I had followed that advice.

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I do yoga to recover from my exercise routines, not as my exercise routine. This means that I use the gentler types of the practice. I’ve tried hatha and slow flow and even got sucked into a vinyasa or two, but I prefer yin and occasionally try some restorative.

When I exercise, I want iron involved. My favorite WODs include some Olympic lifting and little on the cardio or gymnastic side. CrossFit is fun because it is all of those things. And it is difficult because it is all of those things. Recovery from the rigors of the WOD is essential even for young people and for us senior citizens it is all that lets us continue.

So I do a lot of yin yoga. I stretch, I hold the poses for around three minutes and let the connective tissues release. It helps. I haven’t had a really bad IT band in a long time.

My routines is to wake up, start the coffee, go upstairs and do around 30-40 minutes of yin practice. My two favorite yin people are. Yoga with Kassandra and The Yoga Ranger Studio with Aprille Walker. I have tried several others and some are okay, some are pretty good, and there is one woman out there with a voice that drives me nearly to distraction. This is not a good thing when one is trying to calm the hell down.

After I finish up with my yoga, I have a half a cup of coffee, check social media, my email, my favorite online websites and then have a second alarm to remind me it is time to get up and get ready to go to the gym.

Since today isn’t a gym day and since I felt like it, I ran a search for restorative yoga and found one I thought I could like.

Well, let me tell you …

I liked it. It was fine and I restored myself and it felt great but …

I have gotten used to holding the pose for about two to three minutes. You can hold yin poses for longer, but usually since I pick shorter practices, it is a two to three minute hold. I have gotten very used to this time frame. Kassandra does use some background music while Aprille does not. That used to make it much more difficult for me. However, I have gotten good at keeping my mind from the to do list, menu, random unnecessary thoughts, and general noise even with no music to follow.

However, today’s restorative practice held poses for five to six minutes. They were very supported as it was restorative and it was not difficult to hold the pose. But there was no background music and my mind would just go all crazy talk on me. The most difficult part of the practice was trying to keep my mind still.

It took me a long time to even understand what “follow your breath” meant and even longer to actually get my brain to do it. Today, it was all that saved me from the intrusive thoughts, the cacophony of nonsense, the straying mind. I would suddenly see I was all monkey mind and immediately start to follow my breath and it worked.

I cannot even begin to explain the massive difference between three and five minutes. I have habituated to the three minute mark and can usually keep my mind focused on the present moment and the nothingness of stillness for that amount of time. But five minutes seemed like an eternity. Maybe even longer.

I have tried meditation in the past and could eventually manage to at least sit still for ten minutes, but I have never been able to calm my mind, follow my breath, or sit in internal stillness for that long. Perhaps this is something I should attempt again.

What I learned today is that it is scary there inside my mind. It is full of nonsense and distraction and trivial unimportance – anything to keep the silence at bay.

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I struggle with CrossFit. I mean, everybody does if they are really pushing themselves. But I struggle with admitting that I do wonderful things. I feel like I’m bragging or as my mother might say, “Tooting my own horn.”

I work really hard and I am consistent. I allow the coaches to coach me. I try to keep my form even as I tire. I have a whole host of limitations on top of all the other stuff. I’m old and getting older by the minute. I have a heart rate issue and am limited by the constraints put on me by my cardiologist. Right now, I have a boo-boo and my left arm doesn’t work exactly right. I can’t raise it straight overhead and certain movement hurt what is probably a tear where the deltoid inserts into the humerus.

All in all, it takes a certain amount of dedication to do what I do. Perhaps, it takes stupidity or maybe I’m just crazy. Whatever it is, I am consistent in doing it. I show up, I work hard, I reward myself with bacon and an egg when I get home.

Because I was diagnosed as prediabetic last fall, I have had to modify my eating habits. Due to this, I have lost 15% of my body weight and some of that was muscles. I cannot move the same amount of weight I could last summer. That could also be because I’m aging and slowly deteriorating. Whatever the reason, my back squat is lighter. This is upsetting me and yet, I was squatting 90 pounds yesterday. I couldn’t even deadlift that when I started.

I want to be proud of myself. I should be. I show up and work. But I also don’t want to brag too much lest someone point out that what I’m doing isn’t all that great or world class or what the totally awesome old ladies who show up at the CrossFit Games can do. I’m not that caliber of athlete, but I am working to my own capacity each time I venture out.

How do I manage to get these two conflicting ideas to meld into something that doesn’t sound ludicrous to me or to the world at large?

I know that I am more flexible than I was when I started my yin yoga practice. I know that I’m more flexible than when I started it back up after having a temper tantrum that lasted for months. I can forward fold with my legs stacked and do crazy stuff like touch my head to my knees. The instructor, a woman in her twenties, is far more bendy. I feel bad sometimes when I don’t bend like she does or when I sway in the wind on some of the asanas.

There was a time when I couldn’t even get close to the correct position for these things. With practice and patience I now can. No one wins at yoga, but I’m a CrossFitter and we do dumb stuff like compete with ourselves constantly. I try to win yoga, a completely ludicrous choice. There is no winning in this arena. And yet, I can’t fold as far or hold the poses without wobbling and in some instances, even hold the pose at all.

How do I learn to appreciate the time and effort I put into these endeavors? How do I manage to do that without feeling undeservedly boastful? How do I learn to accept where I am now as the space I should currently occupy?

I want to be better. I want to be better at all the things. I wish I was far more capable than I am. And yet, I do many things reasonably well. I do many things at or above expectations. I should be happy with my progress.

I see opportunities for improvement everywhere. I see the missed stitches when I crochet. I see the stray marks outside the lines when I color. I see the collapse as I try to hold dragon pose for too long. I see the lower weights on the bar or substitute movements for the WOD. I see my failures.

How do I find the thousands of stitches done perfectly, the overall pleasing aspect of the pictures, the perfection of pigeon pose, the mastery of weights lifted with proper form? And then, how do I learn to feel proud of these accomplishments rather than looking for perfection? I have no answers. Another fault.

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My injured arm/shoulder really enjoyed my absence from the gym. It really was nice to give myself a bit of time to heal. It isn’t perfect yet, but it is much improved. I can put in a ponytail without wincing and my left arm can reach overhead, although not as far as my right.

When doing yoga, I can almost get to “cactus arms” while in a twist, but not quite. It still can wake me up at night and if I pull on my yarn in the perfectly incorrect way, I get a stabbing pain. So, not completely healed, but getting better.

I love going to the gym. I’m not where I want to be there, either. Mostly because I have maintained highly unrealistic expectations even in the face of abject failure. Still, I love having muscles and being able to lift or carry things. I love the feeling of competence even as I bemoan my imagined incompetence.

For instance, I bought groceries and was just going to carry them to the car. It was two cloth bags and bunch of chicken breasts in a plastic bag. I was grabbing them out of the cart when an employee asked if I needed help. I swung the two bags over my shoulder near my purse, picked up the chicken and told her I was okay. She said, “I know you are strong,” as she carefully watched to see if I was going to topple over. When I got home, I weighed the damn things because I thought it was light. Twenty pounds. She was worried about me picking up twenty pounds.

I guess many people my age would have used the cart to push that massive pack out to the car. It never even occurred to me to make that much work.

So I go to the gym on a regular basis. I was there Friday and it was a bit much. There were 100 weighted squats (25 back squats and 75 thrusters) on the board. Then there was the warm-up stuff to go with it. I did all the back squats and just did front squats for the thrusters because I can’t put weight over my head and still cut back on the reps. And then I had to cut back some more because I couldn’t keep up after my luxurious absence. I could still barely walk on Saturday.

I rested over the weekend and looked at the WOD for today. I cursed under my breath. I may have even cursed out loud. It was jerks for the skill and then kettlebell swings for the conditioning. That’s a lot of overhead stuff for someone who can’t overhead right now. I went to gym anyway because I really haven’t got the sense God gave spit.

I felt sorry for Laura, but I really need to burn up some of this excess energy. She gave me something to do while the rest of the gang worked on jerks. I did banded curls and banded lateral pulls. Neither of those movements hurt my arm.

I then could do Russian KBS without any pain in my arm or shoulder. Even the burpees didn’t hurt at all today. The last time I did them, there was a twinge with each push back up. So I know my arm is improving and I know that if I don’t push too much now, that will continue. However, there is a desire to push the envelope anyway.

Instead, I behaved and did what did not hurt me. Hopefully I scaled back enough to keep myself on the “improving” side of the injury. This being patient stuff is not at all as fun as it might sound. It is not what I’m best known for. It is, in fact, quite the opposite of what I am known for. But it is the way to get fully back in the gym, so I am pretending I’m not a complete idiot and giving this old carcass a chance to get with the program.

And for that, I believe I deserve a gold star.

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A much younger woman making the same face I use while doing KBS. 

What do I want from the gym? I struggle with this. In the best of all worlds, I would love to RX every single workout and be powerful and strong and have muscles and be fit and athletic. I do not live in the best of all worlds. I live in a pretty great world, but it isn’t the best.

I rarely ever RX anything. I’m not supposed to, really. If they wrote workouts I could do as written, all the other people would scurry away and find some place that actually challenges them. I am strong and I do have muscles. But I am not 25 or 45 or even 65. I’m older than dirt and still manage to get to the gym. Pretty impressive.

I also know my limitations. I know what hurts me and what stops me. I have tried to push the envelope for nearly seven years now and in doing so have increased my capabilities much more than one might imagine – if that one wasn’t me and thought that with a couple years of practice, I could do all the things. That was either hubris or stupidity or both, but that’s the saving grace of naivete.

Doing a half Murph means doing 150 air squats. I did that for Memorial Day and then it took until Friday for me to be able to walk again. I know that is the end result of Murph, and I’m okay with that once a year. Monday’s workout had 60 weighted back squats for the skill and then 150 air squats for the conditioning.

In theory, I could have RXd the WOD. It was a row, air squats, and sit ups. I can do all those things. What I can’t do is that volume and then go on with the rest of the week. There were 210 squats on the board with over a quarter of them weighted (albeit relatively light weights). I should have been able to do that. I could do that. I could have done the entire thing.

And then I would have had to stay home for the rest of the week. I could RX one workout and sacrifice a few more visits to the gym. This is what is known as stupid or ego or just plain wrong.

I chose different. I did 41 weighted squats and 75 air squats. That is still 116 squats and my legs have let me know they worked really hard. There is some indication that my legs have gotten a workout, but I am not crippled. But I was appalled. Aghast. Defeated. Demoralized.

Almost seven years and I still can’t do the things. I’m still too afraid to risk it all. Although it wasn’t a risk. I just did Murph and know I couldn’t walk again until Friday and even then it was ouchy. Adding the 60 weighted squats was going to destroy me. Not adding them destroyed me. Why can’t I be like the other gym rats? (It probably is because I’m not like the other gym rats.)

I wouldn’t even put a score on the board. I was just too ashamed of my pitiful performance. I can’t do the things and survive.

But … why do I care? I did some of the things and made it back to the gym on the following day. I can still walk today and will be able to continue to do so in the days to come. I wasn’t there hauling all the other senior citizens off the rowers to get my chance to row to England. I did the row. I did half the squat. I did the sit-ups. I did the things.

I still felt defeated. I questioned why I keep going. What was I doing?

Well, I like the things I can do. There was a time when I wouldn’t have thought that a 70# back squat was light. It was more then three times what I could manage and my squat wasn’t really low enough to count back then. There was a time when I couldn’t do any of the things I just blithely do day after day now. There was a time when I would have seen me today and been so proud of all I’ve managed to do.

I dragged myself out of bed on Tuesday. I did my morning yoga, working on stretching out my quads. I cried as I got ready to go to the gym.

On the menu was handstand push-ups. I can’t do those because the first step is a handstand. They terrify me. Absolutely terrify me. What if my spaghetti arms collapse and I fall and break my neck and become a quadriplegic for the rest of my life? See? Terrify!

We were asked to list some goals for the year back in January. One of my goals was to do a handstand. Since I was having a sucky week anyway, why not see what else I couldn’t do. Shit. I can’t do anything. (Inside my head is a horrible place to be.)

I told Laura this was a goal. She and Liz helped me kick up to the wall. I held the handstand for 20-30 seconds. I came down, curled into a ball on the floor and just shook like a leaf. Then I did it again.

Then I went on to my scaled version of HSPU, and I did the conditioning portion scaled, too.

I don’t think I have ever done a handstand before in my entire life. There was really no reason to do it as a kid and even less of a reason to do it as an adult. But as a senior citizen, it became possible. That, exactly that, is why I keep going to the gym.

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