CrossFit


I have been struggling with CrossFit of late. Each and every WOD defeats me before I even walk into the box. I can’t do them. Ever.

It’s been five years since I began this nonsense. When I started, I was in really bad shape. I could do nothing at all. Well, I could walk around and I could cry a lot, but that’s pretty much a list of my accomplishments. It’s all scalable and I kept showing up and I worked through strains and bruises and aches and pains.

I don’t know what I expected exactly, but at some point within five years, I really thought I would be adequate. I really thought that by now, I would be doing things as written. I would be able to do the weights and manage the moves. I looked at all the things that tell me how to get a pull-up in just six weeks and I’ve done them for months at a time. I still can’t do a pull-up.

I can’t even really do a decent push-up. Or a handstand, which leaves a handstand push-up out of the question. I can’t do the weights as written. Hell, I can’t even run. I can’t do anything. And I’m defeated. Every single Olympic weightlifting move is minimal weights on the bar, laughable weights.

Maybe it’s just this one area that’s a mess. But wait, no, there’s more.

Although I’ve been doing yoga consistently for less than a year, I still can’t do any of that shit, either. I can’t manage to get my lead leg anywhere close to parallel to the front edge of the mat when in pigeon pose. My knees don’t work in child pose. Anything one legged has me being a wall sucker since I don’t have any balance at all. My warrior pose looks like a field of wheat blowing around in a tornado.

I’ve been trying to meditate. I can sit still for minutes on end. My mind, however, it around the globe and time travels to past and future rather than staying in the present moment. I focus on my breath and in the other part of my mind I wonder about anything else at all, both mundane and inconsequential. I drag my thoughts back to my breath only to have them running off into some other direction. I sit still while galloping across the universe unable to stay present in the here and now.

Maybe I should look to other areas of my life for success. I made four new shirts yesterday. It wasn’t entirely successful. I colored yesterday and no matter how fine the point on my pencils are, I can’t manage to stay inside the lines, a task we all learned in kindergarten. My culinary skills are such that we had a roasted chicken from Harris Teeter yesterday for dinner.

I’ve lived here for more than a decade and I do have some “successful” acquaintances, but even after all this time in this space, I don’t have a single friend. There is no one to go out for coffee or go shopping with. I don’t talk about those things because I don’t do those things. I’m isolated in a neighborhood of over 800 homes.

There is a chance today of a world renown event. Today is Solar Eclipse Day. There is rain in the forecast.

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I expect to get things right. I was reading before I got to school so life in the classroom was always a bit of a cakewalk for me. I was ahead of the game most of the time. I’m a practiced and skilled reader and can learn many things from the pages of a book or the scrolling through a screen. Lucky me.

But some things can’t be learned from a book. You cannot learn the proper way to … well, there are many things here – drive a car, fly a plane, crochet or knit, clean and jerk a barbell … the list is long. These things must be learned experientially. Well, I’m assuming that is true for flying because I don’t actually know how to do that. I just threw it in for effect. We all want our pilots to really know how to fly the planes we are in, not just have read about it.

Intellectually, I know these things but I’m disappointed quite often because I don’t meet my own expectations. I can drive. But unlike most of the people out there on the roads, I don’t think I’m a very good driver. I’m nervous when driving, especially when I have no idea where I’m going. Even with my onboard computer/navigation system helping me, I’m nervous about the whole thing.

I crochet much better than I knit. Neither is done perfectly and I often am less than thrilled when something I’ve worked on for so long didn’t turn out the way I was hoping. Dashed expectations. Other people might think it looks fine, but it isn’t what I hoped for and so I’m disappointed.

Clean and jerks are not that hard to do. I have the form down fairly well, but as in all physical endeavors, there is always room for improvement. But I use a hook grip, I have my butt down and my chest up, I slowly pull and then explosively draw the bar up while I float under the bar, catching it in a five point rack with my elbows up and my knees not falling in. Then I stand, give a small dip, and drive the bar overhead while standing tall and elbows locked out. At least I can do all that with a light bar. I’m not quite as good as the bar gets heavier. My five point rack disappears. My elbows aren’t as high because my rack isn’t set correctly. My knees waver on the rise. The whole thing isn’t nearly as nice.

And I’m disappointed. Every time. Really, how many old farts can do even a crappy clean and jerk? Truthfully, how many young people know how to do a clean and jerk? Why can’t I be happy with the fact that I do this amazing stuff?

Because my expectations were always way off. They still are. I amazed at people who show up and work out and are happy with the results regardless of what “score” or “grade” or “time” or “reps” or measurement we are supposed to use to somehow make the white board happy. I’m pretty sure the white board has no feelings whatsoever and is never happy. Or sad.

The white board has been my nemesis since I began CrossFit. I loathe the white board. There is no compassion in the white board. It is a data point and doesn’t take into consideration anything other than a number. But I had such high hopes for better numbers. And to this day, I walk in with some number etched into my brain about how I should be able to manage this day’s WOD. It never works out the way I imagine. I always get a great workout and I manage so many things I never thought I would. And yet.

I expected more. I don’t even know why I expected more. I still expect more which is even dumber. But I go each day and am disappointed in myself. I really should stop that. I wish I knew how.

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I know it is up to me to live a healthier life. I need to do certain things to make the most of the time I have here on Earth. I need to first and foremost, eat a healthy diet. This is probably the hardest part for me and for everyone else on the planet. Our food sources are crap. The most chemical shitstorm foods are the ones that are routinely on sale. Sugar is being added to everything, even food that doesn’t need it. Our grocery stores are filled with “food products” instead of food and we are fighting a losing battle against people who trade our collective health for a profit.

I do the best I can and stay mostly out of the cereal and cookie aisles. I mostly stay away from boxes or bags of chemicals disguised as “convenience food” because while they are, in fact, convenient, they aren’t really food.

There is a maxim in the fitness world about drinking water. This is not based on any science at all. Neither the WHO nor the CDC have recommendations for how much anyone should drink because if you eat real food (fruits, vegetables, meats) they all contain varying amounts of water. So if you eat a bunch of watermelon, you really don’t need to drink as much water. Water is the second most necessary item (after air) keeping you alive. To believe that there isn’t a natural mechanism to help you maintain homeostasis on this front is ludicrous. If you are thirsty, drink. If you aren’t, it’s okay.

The next thing I need to do is get adequate sleep. This used to be no problem. And then menopause began and I haven’t slept right in over a decade. I can fall asleep easily but I can’t stay asleep. I’m unsure how to fix this. If you over hydrated and have a specific gravity for your urine of 0.0000001 you will be up all night peeing. This is not a good idea since sleeping undisturbed is important to overall health.

Another key aspect is exercise. I’ve got this covered adequately. I do CrossFit four to five times a week and back in February I began doing yoga. At first, it was once a week, then it was twice a week, and now it is six or seven times a week. And herein lies the problem.

When is the best time to do yoga? I have to CrossFit first thing in the morning because if I don’t I make up excuses and find myself not showing up. So, I’m there early before my brain kicks in. I also don’t want to take two showers in a day, and if I waited until early evening, then the whole when to shower thing becomes a problem. All in all, first thing in the morning really works for me.

But when to yoga? I have been doing yin yoga, which is pretty good just before bedtime as it leaves you relaxed and ready to fall asleep. But, and this is a big but, I have to remember to get started earlier than I have been because I don’t really have enough time to get in an hour yoga and get to bed and then wake up early enough to get to CrossFit. Another issue is that even a vinyasa class leaves me a bit too jazzed to fall asleep immediately.

Doing a flow class, at least for now, is not anything I’m interested in. I do CrossFit for exercise and I do yoga for my stretching/releasing tension and my soul. Flow is about exercise on a yoga mat. I prefer to exercise with a barbell.

I could do yoga in the afternoon and get in a vinyasa yoga time and it could be longer, but then I’m back to the whole shower thing again.

I can make as many excuses about exercising as I can about eating non-nutritional food. But my real question is, when is the best time to yoga? I know there are whole sun salutation things, greeting the day with a yoga practice. But I’m in the gym without a mat and squatting with a barbell at that time. I don’t think I ever salute the sun, but I’m already busy.

There are so many choices in life. I hope I’m making at least some that are beneficial.

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In my last post, I was in an existential crisis with the white board. Thursday is my rest day and I did nothing, unless you count moving lots of heavy furniture from upstairs to downstairs and then all around the downstairs and then moving the no longer needed piece out to the garage. If that counts, then that’s what I did. I believe that is where the new bruise came from.

I also did my yoga practice last night even though I considered not doing it. If I’m going to do yoga every single day, then I sorta have to do yoga each and every day. Otherwise, I didn’t meet my goal. It’s very easy to talk myself out of doing the things that are difficult or simply not as fun as sitting around and coloring or playing video games. It especially difficult if the only person keeping track of me is me.

Then it was back to the gym today and I was faced with more work than I had anticipated. There was a 10 minute EMOM (every minute on the minute) of 1 clean and 2 hang power cleans. I was ready for power cleans all over and instead, the first pull from the floor was a full clean. I’m on my fourth day this week on my first full week back after nearly four weeks off. This was daunting.

Before I went on vacation, I would have done this with 52#, so I spoke with Coach Kim and decided I would use that weight and see how things went. If necessary, I could cut back to one and one or else take the full clean out and do the first move as a power clean. But by keeping the weight, I would work more towards my own goals of moving more weight at some point.

So I did that and I managed to maintain the moves until round 7. My heart rate was getting too high and another one of my goals is to not die. So I managed a scaled version for rounds 7, 8 , and 9 and then did the full squat again because my goal is that I get better some time in the future.

The WOD was three RFT of pistols, pull-ups, and double unders. I used a green band to assist with the pistols and I believe I am the first person, at least at this gym, to fall off the band. Luckily I was ass to grass on my squat so I wasn’t far from the ground when I rolled backwards off the band. It was shocking but not at all hurtful. Stunning, in fact. The problem was my foot was back to far and I corrected for that and managed the rest of the pistols without harm.

This whole exercise just made my heart rate climb and stay up and I could barely get back down to 153 before starting anything again and then ending up in the 170 to 175 range within just ten moves. It was horrifically hot and humid and stifling and uncomfortable. I wanted to quit but that wouldn’t have been the way to achieve my goal of getting better at this. So, even though it took me for damn ever, I finished in 13.58. I was exhausted, dizzy, thirsty, hot enough to melt, and too tired to even be proud of myself for not quitting – but I am now.

I want to be a strong old lady. I want to open my own jars and walk with spine straight and pace quick. I want to be able to move the furniture from upstairs to downstairs or the other way. I want to have muscles. Since these are things I want, I have to put in the very hard work to get them. #NanaCan.

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I keep trying to let go, but the reality just keeps dragging me back. I hate the white board. I’m the dumb kid in this class and when we have to post our scores, it sucks all the joy out of my hard work because when reduced to nothing more than a score, it simply sucks.

I try to remind myself I get a great workout when I show up and work hard. I’ve been trying to tell myself this week that it’s my first full week back and one workout in four weeks doesn’t keep you in any kind of shape. My legs hurt. I’ve been saying this since Monday.

I said it Tuesday at CrossFit and again at Yoga. That’s because my legs hurt. I’ve been trying to mobilize here at home. I’ve done my own private You Tube Yoga practice crap, but despite all this, my legs hurt.

And today, I was again faced with my heart rate issues that hold me back no matter how hard I work or how often I work or how much I wish it didn’t. I can’t just keep moving no matter what CrossFit thinks I should be able to do. Short breaks or quick rests aren’t enough unless I pause after each and every movement and since I’ve never tried that, I’m not really sure even that would work.

All I know is that I’m stronger than I used to be. I’m even faster and have more stamina than before. I just ask more of myself and so I basically still suck.

Putting the score on the white board doesn’t do anything for those of us at the bottom of the heap. It might, if your workout buddy can’t show up at the same time as you, be fun for the two of you to compare your scores. But no one is comparing their scores to me and if they are they should stop. I’m not in their league. I’m the old fart.

And so, again today, after working hard, I’m defeated. I cut the reps back to a master’s level in order to get a score comparable to the ones already up on the board. I’m proud of what I could manage. I just hate the whole score thing.

This is unfair to me and to anyone who coaches me because I tend to get a bit less charitable when I’m angry. That may be a bit of an understatement. I just want to be a regular CrossFit person. Instead, I’m the old person. I do amazing crap, but I can’t do all the crap expected of me by some nameless, faceless somebody out there.

I worked hard today. I cut reps to make sure I didn’t look horrible on the white board and I feel like a cheat because of it. I have no idea what to do about this. I’ve been told for years now I shouldn’t worry about the scores, but that I HAVE to put it up there. I hope by Friday I have my equilibrium back because I really hate this feeling.

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Some of the best things I have ever done came when I opted for different.

One of my fondest memories is slogging through gutter rivers with my sons as the rains poured down on us. The water was cool on hot summer days. There were small boys rushing to examine water go down the drain and marching boys splashing luxuriously in a singular moment of laughter in the rain. Much talk has been made about laughing in the sunshine, but laughter in the rain has its own special sound.

While nursing is a rather common profession, especially for women and even more so for my generation, I opted to always stretch farther. First I opted for special training for critical care and then I moved to surgery. I helped people during their most trying days. Many said they couldn’t do what I did, but since I could, I did. Hopefully, my patients were aware of how much I cared.

I’ve taken up weightlifting which is getting more common for women but not nearly common enough for people of my generation and especially old women. It has been incredible. It’s not always easy. Hell, it’s never easy. But it is awesome. Being a CrossFitter has changed my life in so many ways. I’m stronger and more confident. I have muscles and calluses on my hands. These are not normal for women my age. Another old woman told me I should knit. I do. I just do this other stuff as well.

CrossFitters are not really known for their flexibility. We mostly pursue the whole strength/endurance part of the fitness goal and leave a bit of mobilization for after we hurt ourselves. I’ve taken up yoga, against the norm for CrossFitters. It has left me much more relaxed and able to sleep better. It has also improved my lifting. Please note, I don’t power yoga. I power lift and that’s enough power for one old fart. But I do yin, restorative, hatha, and gentle yoga as found on You Tube. I also take two yin classes a week, led by a wonderful instructor.

Moments of “different” are where the good stuff happens. We were all born individuals. We must live in society and sacrifice some of the individuality (such as stopping at red lights, something no one ever wants to do). There remains many different places in each of our lives to make us each uniquely ourselves. Go for that. Be different. Be you.

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I have been doing CrossFit for almost five years now. That makes me a CrossFitter and I would love to bravely say, I’m pretty good at it. Not because I’m really all that good at it, but because I keep showing up and letting other people boss me around. Others, including coaches and other athletes, have more faith in me than I have in myself.

I have muscles. Really. I’m an old fart with muscles. I don’t quite have six pack abs. I can’t do a hand stand push up. I can’t do a pull-up. I can only clean and jerk half my body weight. I still can’t deadlift 200#. I can’t run a mile. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. So what on earth would make me think I’m any good at this?

I show up. Even when I’m scared to death. I show up. When I can’t do a single thing as written, ever (okay, I once a did a WOD RX, but it was supposed to be fast and light and for me it was slow and heavy, but I did it RX) I still show up. I scale every damn thing, all the time.

And as bad as I am today, I’m so much better than when I began. I would love to see every old fart in the world join me in this adventure. Not because then I might be able to be better than someone for once, but because it improves life outside the box. Really. Even when I occasionally injure myself, I know I’m stronger and more able and more confident and more awesome just because I do CrossFit on a regular basis. The feeling of empowerment is worth every drop of sweat. I can do many things that people half my age cannot. Really. With all the stuff I can’t do, I still do many not-at-all-old-lady things four to five times a week.

I’m killing this CrossFit thing. I’ve failed my way to success. I am good. Even though I know some people might judge me by different standards which would not be as kind or as generous. I have learned so many things by showing up and failing. I’ve mostly learned not to give up and to give myself the chance to succeed.

I’ve tried yoga a few times before. I hated it. Loathed it. Really, really disliked it. But I really like Cindy. She has been my CrossFit friend since I first started. She is a positive influence, a lovely person, and now a certified yoga instructor.

Back in February, while she was still learning to be a yoga instructor (and three years into her own yoga practice), she started to have a yin yoga class on Fridays after we were finished with CrossFit. She hadn’t been making too much time for CrossFit since she was so consumed with yoga. I made a deal. I would yoga, if she would CrossFit.

So I’ve been doing yoga once a week since February. Except, back in April, she was getting closer to graduation and wanted to practice some more and needed guinea pigs and began a Tuesday evening yin yoga class. I really like Cindy. She is a good person. I love that she is chasing her dream and taking all the steps to make it happen, not just wish it were so. I came to her Tuesday evening class, too.

Then in May, to get people used to coming to yoga classes, all of them were free for the month. Dick started to come with me. It has greatly helped him in his mobility which has allowed his golf game to improve. He is more flexible and has more stamina on the golf course, making yoga worth the time and effort. So we both go on Tuesdays and I still go after CrossFit on Fridays.

Twice a week makes a difference. Danette started at CrossFit about a year ago. She usually comes to Cindy’s yin yoga classes too. She also signed up for and does a nightly ROM WOD from an online subscription. It’s been intriguing. Her mobility is quite improved after her nightly stuff, which is a combination of yoga poses as well as stretching.

I decided to try using You Tube to search for yin yoga stuff and lo and behold, there were a half million hits. This week, completely broken by the yoga world and now a more than transient yogi, I’ve been doing a nightly yin yoga before bedtime. I’m getting better at setting up my home space and allowing myself the luxury of surrendering to the space yoga provides.

However, I’m a CrossFitter. Any time the instructor/You Tuber says “if available” I CrossFit that shit and give it a try because in CrossFit there is a need to prove you can at least freaking try. This is not the yoga path, but it is the CrossFit path. I sometimes have to back out, but at least I know I’m not holding back in my practice out of fear.

I’m a CrossFitter. I do yoga. They actually do go together.

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