CrossFit


I terrify myself on a regular basis. Not that I mean to, it just happens. I’ve decided I want to be a CrossFit gym rat athlete person. Unfortunately, I’m not athletic. But I want to be. I want to lift the weights and do the moves and dear God, I want to get a pull-up. I’ve tried; I’ve really tried. And cried. I still can’t do a pull-up.

Switching gyms has been both a blessing and a curse. I’m there with a larger class and there is different equipment available. All in all, that’s a blessing. But I’m there with a larger class. A bunch of strangers whose names I can’t keep straight. And they are all, of course, better at this crap than I am. Some due to sheer talent, others to work, and some just because youth is a blessing in the arena.

I am terrified I will either hurt myself or as a more logical outcome, embarrass myself. I’m pretty sure no one else cares what I’m doing. They aren’t looking around and wondering why I’m sitting on something or the floor and box breathing. Every time I have to stop, I’m embarrassed by my aging and my frailty.

Coach is being careful with me. I’m taking advantage of it. I really can push myself harder. There are a few times when I only do half the WOD. But usually, I can do more than that. On a regular basis, I’m used to doing 75 – 80% of the reps. I may modify the movement, but I don’t really need to cut back as much as I’ve been doing. But right now I’m so sure I will make a fool of myself although I don’t even know how.

I need a hero and there is no one coming to save me. I’m going to have to do this on my own. I need to step up and take the bull by the horns. I need to stop being a weenie and get in there and do better at pushing myself.

I can do better than this. I’m going to have to because I feel like a failure for not doing more today. Not that I was really getting any great number of double unders, but I was getting some and I chose too low of a number for attempts. I didn’t push myself and I could have done more. I need to be strong enough to make myself do more than just show up.

It is the voices in my head that are holding me back. Not my heart rate or my age, but the self-defeating talks I have with myself. Part of this is the lack of time to strategize and get myself talked into doing more. Walking in and seeing the WODs without enough time to talk myself down from the cliff edge is hampering my ability to focus on what I truly can do. And so I back off.

Perhaps I should bring a cape with me on Monday. I need a hero. I’m probably going to have to do it myself.

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I’m not getting any younger. Being old is hard work. You have to fight to keep whatever it is you already have. And trying to get more is far more difficult than when younger.

My goals include working out with CrossFit type WODs four times a week. I do a yin yoga practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and meditate on the days I don’t do yoga. This stuff is helping keep me flexible, strong, safe, clear, focused, etc.

I’ve been doing CrossFit longer than yoga and there are days when I just CrossFit the shit out of my yoga practice. I catch myself in the act and alter my behavior so I can yoga during yoga. I have found that after so much yoga, there are times when I yoga my CrossFit WODs, too. I then have to remind myself that CrossFit is CrossFit and yoga is yoga and when they meet, I must adjust my sails.

I want, above all, to be perfect. All the time. I realize this is both ridiculous and impossible, but there it is. I cringe with each mistake. I cringe when I don’t keep the bar in close on a lift. I cringe when my body doesn’t fold in a pose. I cringe when I find a typo. I cringe when dinner doesn’t turn out the way I planned. I cringe and cringe and cringe and then wonder why I have a stiff neck.

Meditation is extremely difficult for me. I’m busy thinking about being perfect and the whole point of meditation is to not think, especially about being perfect and then I get caught in this loop of wanting to be perfect at a time when perfection is not even a pretend goal.

Using a guided meditation helps some, but my mind still wanders into the path of oncoming traffic and I wish desperately to be perfect at this. I would like to be perfect at something. Okay. I want to be perfect at everything.

My quest for perfection has oftentimes negated the sheer joy in living. This is most clear for me now at the gym when I should be so grateful to be able to do all the things I’ve worked so hard to attain. Instead, I want more and miss the joy of getting this far up an eternal mountain. There is no top to this journey.

Stop and smell the roses. At least notice there are roses and they are beautiful. I love the smell of lily of the valley, maybe I should stop and smell that.

I’ve been keeping a journal of things for which I’m grateful. It helps to keep me focused on the here and now and realize how precious it is. It is perfectly imperfect. I should allow myself to cherish it, mistakes and all. Noticing how often I’ve chosen wisely and done good. Not all the time, of course, but often enough to give me something to be thankful for.

I’ve risked enough to make the mistakes, be imperfect, learned new things. Gratitude makes even the imperfect better.

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Anyone who has followed my CrossFit journey knows I lack confidence and can get myself into a tailspin in a matter of nanoseconds. It hasn’t changed with a new gym and this past weekend I was again a mess. I’m still doing CrossFit things, just not under the CrossFit banner. And I’m still woefully lacking in confidence.

In fact, it’s worse than normal right now. I have to appear in front of a bunch of new people and be inept and inadequate even after five years of trying. In the last month, I’ve not suddenly turned younger and more powerful. I’m still just as old (and getting older by the minute) and just as feeble (and losing ability in all facets as I age).

This is terrifying. My old friends who worked out with me on a regular basis all knew the things I needed to modify. I didn’t have to advertise my special needs. My gym IEP was already on the books. (If you don’t know what an IEP is, it’s an Individual Education Plan written and on file for special need students.)

So here I am. Old and feeble and scared half to death when walking into any old place. Even my old home used to scare the living crap out of me and they knew me there. I was like Norm walking into Cheers. I didn’t have to explain myself. But now, I still don’t explain myself, I just wish I could.

The thing is, after five years of doing this crap, I actually look pretty damn good. I know about hook grips, when and how to pull, violent hip extension is part of my vocabulary, I know the mechanics of the lifts. What I don’t have is the power. I also, due to the aging process, lack a fair amount of balance. And then there is simple ineptitude. I never was really athletic. I grew up a bookworm.

I avoided partner WODs for a very long time because I wasn’t brave enough to inflict myself on anyone else. But in the last year, after a bunch of cajoling and nearly losing my mind a few times and some tears and wishing I could disappear right away, I finally got to where I was showing up regularly. I can’t make myself do that right now.

It is taking every ounce of my courage to take my old fat ass to the new gym. I don’t think I really look my age, although that may be vanity. But I want to advertise that I was not like this when I was the age my kids are, the age my gym mates are. I was able to run and play with the kids and not get winded just thinking about it. I am embarrassed and ashamed to be this old. I never really intended this to happen.

But I would regret not showing up (see yesterday’s blog). And so I strap on the pretend courage, act like I’m not quaking and shaking and fearful and near tears. And I drive myself to the gym. And like every other time over the last five plus years, I do something. Not very much, but more than I used to and more than if I had stayed home. I really deserve a medal of some sort. Probably tin.

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My life as a CrossFitter and now as a gym rat has been one disappointing failure after another. I am not supposed to utter the phrase “I can’t” but there are so many things I still can’t do. Some of them are things I don’t wish to do. I’m not climbing a rope. I’ve lived 65 years without this ever being a functional movement I needed to master. All I need to do is be 15 feet up and my arms give out and fall. At my age, broken bones are serious business.

I also can’t do a hand stand push-up mostly because I can’t even do the hand stand. I mean, the arms again. I’m weak and if I lose the strength to hold myself up, I can break my neck. History has shown this is a really bad idea. It is again, one of the things that has not limited my life in the past. I’ve never really needed this as a functional skill.

I can’t clean my bodyweight. I can’t even back squat my body weight. I can’t do a pull-up. I can’t and can’t and can’t. And yet, I keep showing up.

That’s how I win. I started CrossFit when I was 59. I had a few months before I would turn 60 and I so wanted to have weights on my weight for a back squat. All I needed was to 1. Learn to squat,  2. Acquire some balance, and 3. Get strong enough to actually do it. I really could not squat when I started. I dipped in a forward accordion fold. But with lots of practice and buckets of tears, I got a 27# back squat a few days before I turned 60.

The guy next to me was squatting 225# and yet, I was thrilled with getting my goal. Today, I can back squat over 100# and when I asked Chris, he had not kept pace, not being able to still do nearly ten times my weight. So there.

It isn’t because I’m really good at this stuff. I’m obviously not. But regardless of how crappy I am, and I’m crappy when compared to other CrossFitters but absolutely fabulous when compared to the general population, I keep going.

I have cried. I have questioned my sanity. I have hurt myself. What I haven’t done is quit. Every time I really consider the possibility of quitting, I think of how bad I will feel in a couple months. I will regret not trying. I don’t ever expect to clean my body weight. In all honesty, I don’t ever expect to get a pull-up (although God knows I’ve tried). I refuse to even try or care about climbing a rope.

My failures are spectacular when compared with all the other highly successful gym rats out there. But my successes are my own and cherished. I have weights on my weights for all the stuff. And I keep showing up. Without regrets. Tears maybe, but no regrets.

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What exactly does it mean to be dedicated? I was a CrossFitter for more than five years. I went from not being able to squat (I just dipped and accordion folded forward at that) to being able to back squat over 100# with a real below parallel, chest up, knees out squat. I worked really hard for that.

I’m not a CrossFitter anymore because I’ve moved locations. My gym was closing and I signed up for a cross training gym that isn’t CrossFit. It’s very much like CrossFit, but in my purist mind, it isn’t. Not because the WODs are different or the coaching is different, but just because there is no CrossFit on the door. I’m now a gym rat.

I live in North Charleston, South Carolina. We had what passes for a blizzard here last Wednesday. We got about six inches of snow falling after a bunch of icy rain. Usually, here in the South, that shit melts within a few hours because it was only a dusting and the temperatures rise. Not this time. It has remained freezing.

The sun came out on Thursday and the temperatures rose to ⁰F 34. Then it refroze overnight. It’s been more of the same ever since. We don’t have snowplows and a bunch of soot or salt or whatever the North puts on the roads. It snows once every five years or so, and then it is a dusting. This is unusual.

My backyard still looks like I’m in Ohio. It is supposed to get to ⁰F 55 today. This should be gone soon. I’m tired of being housebound.

On Thursday, the gym was closed until later in the day when the sun would again thaw the roads out. So I missed my workout and let it go. By Friday, I was pretty sure I was going to be at the gym. I wasn’t. I made up a workout with body weight and stuff I had here. It worked.

I had to download a stopwatch for my computer so it wouldn’t go into sleep mode or anything. I knew that. But I forgot about fans. Since I was doing an EMOM, I had time to turn on the fans. But I didn’t have time or energy to find music. Twenty minutes of silence with only the sound of my heavy breathing wasn’t all that pleasant.

I was hoping to get back to the gym today. On schedule. A friend made it to work and said the local roads were still a mess although the interstate was fine. I don’t get to the interstate.

In order to not be stupid, to not wreck the car, to not wreck my old carcass, I opted to write myself another WOD. This time, I had the fans on and music playing before I began.

It’s easy to do the thing, whatever the thing is, when you feel like it. It’s easy to follow your routine when it has become a habit. It is not easy to make the workaround work. It would have been easier to just blow off a couple days. But I didn’t.

I decided five plus years ago to workout. I would learn new things in the gym and new things about myself. I took the road less travelled (at least by old fart women) and tried something new and different.

Robert Frost was right. The road less travelled has a wonderful view.

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Grand Circle Cruise Line focuses on travel for older Americans. That’s me. However, there are many far older Americans as well. This is both a blessing and a curse.

I’m a CrossFitter and not a particularly good one when seen in my natural habitat at CrossFit Summerville. I’m their oldest person. I am usually working out with a bunch of 40 somethings – or younger. I am slow and weak in comparison. I’m also there, something no other old farts in this part of the world seems to have accomplished.

I’m used to being last. I’m used to being weaker and slower and simply not as much, whatever that might be. I’m the oldest person and it sorta sucks. However, I’m pretty damn awesome. I do things other people can’t, even people far younger than me because I go to the gym and I try. Or as Yoda might say, I do as there is no try.

On the cruise ship, I was one of the younger people and definitely one of the fittest. I was fast and strong and able to climb cobblestone roads and ascend mountains in a single bound or something. I was able to surpass the 80 somethings like they were standing still, rather like the 40 somethings do with me daily.

My years of CrossFit and my time with yoga have made me strong and flexible. I didn’t get tired or need to sit down every time we passed a bench or a possible place to sit. I was able to keep up with the many different terrains and the steep hills and the climbing and the walking and all the various physical tasks.

I’ve been home for two days now and I haven’t yet gotten back to the gym. My circadian rhythm is still over in a time zone six hours different from where my butt is sitting. Well, it might be part way back over the Atlantic by now, but I’ve been having a hard time with the time difference.

On Wednesday, I did not set my alarm since I really, really needed to sleep. I woke at 1 in the morning – the time my body had been waking up for two weeks or 7 AM in European time. It took me two hours to fall back to sleep and then I was too tired to move much during the rest of the day. I had laundry to do and grocery shopping to get done and things to do to get back into my normal life in South Carolina without room service or chefs or any of the pampering I had so enjoyed while away.

Today, I could have made an 8 AM class, but there isn’t one. I knew better than to try to get up at 5 AM for a 6 AM class. That was smart since I was up at 2.30 AM again still trying to reset that circadian rhythm thing.

It was also colder in Europe. For the last ten days, I had been wearing my coat and gloves and bundling up again the wind and very occasional rain. The sweltering ⁰F 85 here in South Carolina is killing me right now. The idea of working out at noon or one of the late afternoon classes is enough to make me weep. So I’ve not opted for that nonsense either.

Today, I had a massage scheduled. For the first time in five years, it could be a relaxing massage. There was a bit of tenseness from a 10 hour plane ride and dealing with the TSA, but nothing at all like what I usually am like after moving a bunch of iron. It was peaceful rather than painful.

Right now I’m still strong from all my time in the gym without any of the day to day pain associated with all the time in the gym. I still have the benefits without paying a current price. It is supremely tempting to stay home and not hurt anymore.

And then I remember all the people who were bent, twisted, crippled by years of sitting and doing nothing. I passed them by, safe in my CrossFit body. Strong and able and not nearly the mess these others were in. The price I have to pay to keep this, is to keep doing the stuff I’ve done.

It would be nice if there were some easier way. But the sad fact is sitting is killing us all. We weren’t built to sit all day. We were built to move. We were built to fight for our survival. We were built for action. And because of that, I have my alarm set and I will be at CrossFit tomorrow morning. I will have to scale it back a bit so I don’t hurt myself after all this time off. I will be the last to finish and have the lowest weights and generally suck. I will follow the WOD with some yin yoga. I will stretch and move. I will be back.

With all this work, I should be able to enjoy many more cruises, climbing cobblestone roads to magnificent castles, twisting and turning through the narrow passageways, enjoying the experience of seeing the new and different.

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Zooming my way across Europe.

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Me and the grape vines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, October 7 was spent in Nijmegen, Netherlands. One of the interesting things I learned was exactly how long the charge on my bluetooth keyboard lasted. It lasted about ¾ of the way through the blog post I was writing and then … nothing at all. Since patience is one of my strong points, I took this in stride and simply recharged the device and was able to finish writing eventually.

We had sailed all night and reached the Netherlands around 8 in the morning. Right after breakfast, we had a local come aboard ship and explain his life and times as a survivor of this war zone. Nijmegen (pronounced NIGH-megan) was liberated soon after the D-Day landings in September 1944. He was a small boy of 8 at the time. The first word of English he learned was “chewing gum” when a kind American soldier gave him some.

The Allies were able to retain control of this region – the northernmost line of the old Roman Empire – but they were unable to take and retain other bridges in to the north. The lines were stretched too far and the British general didn’t want to sent his troops up to help fast enough. And so the bridge became known as The Bridge Too Far of movie fame.

The parachute airborne portion of the operation was Market (where they intended to land) and the land portion was Garden for obvious reasons. The whole thing was Operation Market Garden.

After taking the city, they had to cross the Waal River to continue. They crossed in boats with Germans shooting as them as they tried to get across a fairly wide river. Some went over the railroad bridge and 48 Americans died on the bridge itself. Each night when the street lights come on, they light one by one until 48 lights are lit, honoring the Americans who saved the city after years of Nazi Occupation. They also have a yearly celebration in September commemorating the event.

We took a walking tour of the city which was also in party mode for some other reason. It was a yearly event, rather like a county or state fair with rides set up in various parts of the city. It was also market day and there were vendor carts throughout the market. It was also raining on and off again.

Serge bought herring (raw) and some other fish breaded and fried. We were right there in the central part of the shopping district and since Dick doesn’t really like fish and I’ve eaten way too much already, we went shopping instead of eating fish.

We all met together again and went to the local no longer a cathedral church. It was originally the church of St. Stephen. Today, it is Protestant and they don’t like naming their churches after saints. So it is today called the Big Church by the locals, but for us American tourists, it can still be called St. Stephen’s.

The Program Directors called the church people, who use the church for non-church things all the time, to ask if we could have a small organ concert there. We were given permission. Two of the people from the ship played the organ and wanted to do so for us.

The organ was built in 1776. At first, they had some schmuck trying to build an organ, but he simply wasn’t up to the task. As recourse, they invited the most famous organ maker of the time to come from Cologne and build their organ. He did.

During WWII, the church was slightly damaged and luckily the stone work from the destroyed tower fell that way. If it had fallen this way, it would have destroyed the organ. Instead, only a few of the pipes were damaged. They were rebuilt along with the tower itself.

The newer built pipes were not made of the same metallic mixture of lead and whatever word the guide couldn’t translate, but maybe tin. The newer pipes are already rusting. The sound of the organ was still incredible. The acoustics in the high arched church added to the mellow tones issuing forth. The music was heavenly, as it was meant to be.

Both of our people each played a song and did remarkable well. And then the church organist played a majestic piece that brought goosebumps to the skin. It was thrilling and as the last notes faded away, it as really exactly like you could imagine them drifting off into awed silence.

We played Eucher with Austin and Shirley again and this time the girls only won two out of the three games. Even with some rain now and again, it was a lovely day. It mostly poured after dinner and we could see the light of the Ferris wheel off in the misty distance.

Our morning talk

The town had been a Jewish refuge and then the Jews were cruelly betrayed by a local citizen sympathizer of the Nazis.

The 1776 organ from St. Stephen’s Church

Simply beautiful

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