CrossFit


The oddest things have kept me going. Once, I was ready to quit CrossFit because I was simply tired of being so crappy at it. But I had just bought $60 worth or pre-workout protein mix and without a workout to go to, what else would I do with it?

So I figured I would just quit when the bag ran out, except by then I had gotten past my grumpiness. My crappiness remained, but what do I expect? I mean, I’m old and weak and feeble and I work out with people in their late teens and early twenties all the way up to the mid forties. There are occasionally people in their fifties.

And then there is me. Crappy me, stumbling on, dragging my slow and weary ass to yet another class to be beaten up by my own beliefs that I should be better at this by now even though obviously, I’m not.

Well, I am better than when I started by orders of magnitude. It’s just that I’m not as better as I once thought I would be. There was a time when I believed I would get a pull-up. If I ever do, the shock might kill me. Without a pull-up in my toolkit, chest to bars are out of the question as are muscle ups. But, ring rows are good. I’m all over those things.

I used to think I could just work hard and stuff would happen. I didn’t take into account all the things in my life that make this dream an unreality. First of all, I know there are times when I could push harder at the gym. Sure, it would take me longer than everyone else and it would embarrass me to hell and back, but I could in theory do all the things and just get home in time for lunch.

Then there is my diet. I love to eat and I love coffee and chocolate and way too many things that aren’t really in line with muscle building. I do love a good salad with egg and chicken, ham, or tuna added, so there is that to be thankful for. But I don’t count my nutrients and go crazy with the diet monitoring. I am a bit picky at times, but not totally unreasonable in what I will or will not eat.

My heart is a muscle. That’s all hearts are. It would stand to reason that all this working out crap would strengthen my heart muscle just as much as my biceps, traps, and lats. If I actually look at my work load today as opposed to what I did five years ago, my heart has gotten stronger. It’s just that it is still 65 years old and behaves like it way too often.

My issues keep me from being the superstar my head would like me to be. Each time I’ve considered quitting there has been something not allowing me to give up. Maybe it was protein pre-workout mix. Maybe it was dogged determination. For whatever reason, I kicked ass today. Again.

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Comparison is not always the thief of joy. Sometimes it is the reason for joy.

I’m usually the poopiest, weakest, least able athlete in the gym. I work out with people young enough to be my children – or grandchildren. I work out with people who have been at it for quite some time, or even just long enough for the young to accommodate to the rigors of CrossFit.

Today, there were three new women in our class. They were unsure of themselves and unsure of the process and simply intimidated by the entire thing.

Karen was a mess. This statuesque woman was winded by the warm-up and mumbling as she moved next to me. She could “feel the burn” in her legs after just a dozen air squats or less. She was in trouble with her expectations and reality clashing. I remember that.

I told her I couldn’t finish my first workout and just sat on the bench and cried, and yet here I was.

And in fact, there I was today, being my own poopy self, slogging along with low weights and high heart rate.

We did the skill first which was bench presses and Karen did great with that and was very pleased with herself, as well she should be. I did pretty damn good for an old fart and possibly even just simply pretty damn good. At least, I did the best I could.

The WOD was:
3 RFT
50 double unders
20 push-ups
10 box jumps 24/20

Last week, in a fit of exhaustion, I dropped the dumbbell after my 90th dumbbell snatch when time was called. And it bounced back and hit my right leg. I had been taking Bayer Back and Body, which is aspirin, for a few days before this stupidity. I have a huge bruise on my lower inside right leg covering about half my leg below my knee. It hurts. Jumping wasn’t going to help it. I opted for no double unders at all.

The scale for double unders is 2x single unders and I did do that the first round, but then my heart rate was so high it was just stupid. Masters scaled Open rules let me just do single unders for the double unders and that is what I did for the next two rounds. I did the push-ups as allowed in the Open and I did only 18” step-ups because coming off the 20” box hurts my bad knee and I only do that in a competition. I can, but it seems dumb to hurt myself.

I was in the first heat because we had too many people for the number of boxes available. Karen was in the second heat as were the other two new people. They wanted to watch how it was done before doing it themselves. And Karen and another new person struggled mightily with single unders. Apparently CrossFitters hold the jump rope different. I didn’t realize that until I watched them with theirs.

Karen was just a mess with the push-ups and couldn’t manage even all the scaling options Laura gave her trying to find something possible. She eventually had her on a raised 24” box and Karen still struggled so I went to her as she tried over and over (Laura had moved on to help someone else) and I showed her where putting her hands might help.

As I watched the new people struggle, it hit me right between the eyes how far I had come. I do everything scaled. I have to stop and get my heart rate back down to what supports life. I can’t do so many things that I’m often oblivious to all the things I can do – the great strides I have made over the years. Today, my not really “good enough” bench press was nearly one third heavier than my original deadlift. I did a total of 200 single unders without ever missing a jump. My push-ups were adequate and I did all 60 of them. My step-ups were with full extension at the top. I did all the things. I was tired when I finished, but as I reflect on what my journey has been like, I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself. I didn’t quit. I hope the newbies find this same satisfaction with results that will soon send them whizzing past the old fart.

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I have been doing CrossFit for over five years and I’m tremendously proud of my advancement in that time. I’ve come a very long way. And yet … I’m no Thorisdottir. I’m slow and when I work by myself, I mostly just try to stay out of the way of the people who move faster.

I have a heart rate that races ahead to the finish line in a matter of seconds. Spiking higher than my cardiologist wants means I have to stop and box breathe and get my heart rate back to a life sustaining rate. It sucks. I’m rarely too tired to go on, I just have a heart rate incompatible with life. So I stop. And rest. And box breathe. And wait for my heart rate to come back down so I can work again.

When I’m working alone, this works out wonderfully. I just get crap scores on the board and I have made great efforts in that area to never care about it again. They are crap. They are low reps and high times and that’s what I get. Too bad.

But then, there are partner WODs. I have always struggled with them. We used to play Pass the Patti and they had to take turn with who got stuck with me. I never volunteered for the damn things, but they were part of the regular week and I was stuck. Then they stopped being that and Scott and Betsy would open the gym on some Saturday mornings for a partner WOD. I was encouraged to show up even though I suck. But I had been at the same place for five years and they all knew I sucked as a partner. Not because I didn’t try or not because I quit, but because my heart rate would go too high and I would have to stop or have a heart attack. I always choose to stop.

Today, I braved it. I went to the Saturday morning partner WOD regularly scheduled every Saturday. I have studiously avoided this up until now. I’ve tried to make myself go several times. It’s all scalable. They always say that, but really it isn’t. Two weeks ago there was a partner carry for God alone knows how many meters. I’m glad I didn’t show up that week. Last week there was all movement without breaks for over 30 minutes of counting reps performed. I would have been a terrible partner there.

Not like I was any great partner today. But I showed up and Coach Laura assigned us partners and poor Temple got stuck with me but at least she knows me. So I didn’t have to demonstrate to some stranger how horrible it is to be partnered with me. I apologized before we started and Temple remained sanguine.

We were first divided into two teams of about ten people each and did a serial 800 meter tire flip. The big guys liked showing off and willingly competed with each other doing lots of the flips. The tire was bigger than I could flip solo, so Cindy and I worked together to flip it and it was awkward and not really as easy as it should have been. But we took our turns. This part took 20 some minutes.

Then we had a 20 minute AMRAP of one partner working at a time with 100 wall balls, 80 DB snatches, 60 box jumps, 400 m farmer’s carry, and 20 burpees. Those wall balls just kill me and spike my heart rate. I didn’t even do full squats and just did a dip and couldn’t do my half. Temple had to cover for me and I felt miserable. The DB snatches were split evenly and then I asked Temple to get an extra 4 on the step ups we were doing because my heart rate was still too high, but then I did the last 6. We each did two 100 meter farmer’s carry and we alternated the burpees. So those weren’t lopsided. But then we had the damn wall balls again and I could do even fewer this late in the game. Temple picked up the slack and then we began doing ten each on the DB snatches and I was working when time was called. Our score was 1+136.

I believe that was a reasonable score and I’m happy for us. But Temple was not given a partner who could manage to keep up with her and for that I feel bad and discouraged. I hate when I have to be old and deal with my shortcomings, especially in a public place.

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Day 1: This is a trial. I’m just experimenting to see if the possibility even exists. I fail. Miserably. I cry. I’m not going to be a CrossFitter. I can’t do the things. I ask Ryan if there is any hope at all. He says that if I’m willing to work, he’s willing to help.

Day 2: I’m in a weeklong personal training session with Attila the Hun who expects me to be able to do the things. I can’t do the things. Not even with a PVC pipe. This should be obvious. I can’t squat with a PVC pipe if I can’t squat. I dip with the damn PVC pipe; it’s the best I can do. I cry. Again.

Day 3: I’m sore as hell and I did nothing at all. I mean, really, I can’t even squat. I need to use the PVC pipe as a cane to “lunge down the mat” which is such an offhand comment, no one even blinks an eye. Me? I fall over trying to balance. I’m not a CrossFitter.

Day 30: I continue to show up and can do some of the things. I’m still wobbly and my squats aren’t really low enough, but I’m getting better. I cry less often. Maybe I will someday be a CrossFitter.

Four months in: I had weights on my weights for a back squat. This means I did a 27# back squat to a box so not really breaking parallel, but I did it. I managed to meet my goal of doing this wonderful feat of magic before I turned 60. I might make it to CrossFitter.

One year in: I do the things. I can do a full squat. I lunge down the mat without a cane. I have mastered the form of all the Olympic lifts. I know what a hook grip is and when to use it. All my weights are low, but I have PRs for all the lifts. I cannot do a pull-up or climb a rope or a HSPU, but perhaps I can call myself a CrossFitter.

Five years in: I’ve competed in the Masters Garage Games and sucked at it. I’ve competed in the CrossFit Open and sucked less at it. My weights have increased incredibly over the years. I’ve mastered the lifts but still struggle with even basic moves. Still no pull-up or HSPU. I’ve determined that I never want to do a rope climb and will resist them.

Today: I am a CrossFitter and I have been since Day 1. Not because I can do the things. It has no bearing on whether or not the things are done. It is the persistence, the perseverance, the continual showing up. I’m a CrossFitter because I do CrossFit and do it to the best of my ability. My form is more important to me than any score on the white board. I’m thrilled each time I master a new technique. There are still more things I want from myself.

I have faced my fears and beat them. I was petrified. I sucked at this over and over and over again. And yet, I continued to show up and do my version of the things until I could do a better version of the things. My cleans yesterday were smooth. A side video would have shown the bar coming straight up, the little curl at the top and me “floating” under the bar, catching it in a five point grip, then standing back up leading with my elbows. This is not a natural state of affairs for anyone let alone a 65 year old woman. But I did it.

And that is what makes me a CrossFitter. No matter how scared, no matter how weak or sucky or incapable I have been, I have tried to improve by small increments day after day.

I am determined to give it my best shot and not die in the process. Someday, I might get that pull-up or I might have to acknowledge that it is beyond me. But for now, I will work on the process. Hell, if I can string some double unders together, there is really no stopping me. And there never was.

Ryan was right. If I was willing to work for it, I could be a CrossFitter. It is the only requirement. No matter how frightened I’ve been, I kept showing up. It is amazing to realize how fucking brave I really am. I’m brave not because I can do the things. Anyone can be brave when they are in control. I’m brave because I can’t do the things (or do them at low weight or low volume) and I get into the arena and go after it anyway.

I am a CrossFitter. I am scared four times a week. Unless it is five. And I show up anyway. They say the first day is the hardest, but I truly believe it is the second. That was the point at which I committed to being a new version of myself. I turned out pretty awesome.

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If you want something, you have to earn it. You have to go out and get the things you want. There is no fairy godmother or genie in a bottle granting your every wish. Only you can grant your wishes. And you have to earn it.

I am a gym rat. I have been for over five years. I knew I was taking time off to go and visit my sister. It came at an auspicious time. My right knee was bothering me something fierce and my IT band was super tight. Taking a couple weeks off was going to be my time to heal and recover.

My knee continued to hurt throughout most of my time in Arizona. It was still catching if I left it bent too long even after I got home, although it was no longer painful and didn’t try to crumple when I walked.

I got home just before midnight on Thursday. I could have gone to the gym the next morning but I had a list of excuses a mile long. I was still two hours early from my travels, I was exhausted from my travels, my knee was still bothersome. I simply couldn’t make myself go and do an Open workout after being off for two weeks.

And then on Saturday, I got sick. I couldn’t even get out of bed on Monday. By Thursday I thought of going to the gym but was so lightheaded that it was really stupid and self defeating. Friday, another Open workout on the menu (maybe – I really don’t know if this gym does that or not). I was barely able to take a ten minute walk the day before so 800 jump ropes might be a bit excessive. I stayed home.

I increased my walk each day, going both longer distances and at a faster pace. I was ready to start over again today.

Last night I went to sign up for my class time. The app wouldn’t let me. I can go from normal person to victim of catastrophe in 0.76 nanoseconds and this was no different. I immediately came up with catastrophic events. The most common one was that the place closed down. I know they are struggling financially. I shouldn’t know that as a customer, but I do. And all I could think was they had to close.

I’ve been doing sport stuff on and off since I was 27 (38 years ago) and in all that time, I’ve never prepaid for a long term membership. I paid monthly, month after month. Right up until this time. I purchased a 15 month membership and am paid in full until the end of March 2019. And all I could think of was all that money gone and what would I do and where would I go and how was I going to continue working out.

Amazingly enough, this did not lead up to a good night’s sleep. Already sleep deprived from the daylight time switch, and tired from worrying about nothing, I got up when the alarm went off and got ready to find out what the hell had happened. (There was a problem with the app and they are supposed to update my credentials and fix this some time today.)

There were cars in the parking lot so that was a great thing. I went in and tried to sign up for my class (I have a special membership which costs more so that I can do the CrossFit type workouts with a coach) and was unable to do so. I went back to the dark little room where we work out and the coach and one other person were in there. They were happy to see me and asked how vacation was.

When I told them it was fine but I had been sick since returning, they were concerned about the flu. I assured them it was more respiratory and they seemed delighted. That made no sense. The flu isn’t killing people, it’s the respiratory stuff, but since they were happy, I just tried not to cough on anyone.

Luckily, the strength portion was light back squats and I could manage the 5 x 5 at 55-60% without any problems. I did wear my extra knee support and even now my knee is fine.

Then it was four different Tabatas. Each four minutes/eight rounds was a different move. Wall balls made me really dizzy so I took out the full squat and just did a dip. The planks were tiring but what the hell. The burpees sent me spinning and I actually missed two rounds to try to recover. The inverted hollow body rolls were new to me and I was tired and spent and barely managed some.

My goal for the day was to survive. I was scared to return because I had been gone for 3.5 weeks and old people lose so much so quickly and regain things so slowly. And I didn’t even know if they were really still there. All in all, getting back at it has been wonderful. I’m blissfully tired. Nothing hurts too much. I feel like I actually accomplished something. It wasn’t nearly as hard as starting the first time, but unlike the first time, I sorta knew what I was getting into. And that’s exactly why I went.

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Lisa and I were the score keepers for the first I Can Games sponsored by CrossFit Hilton Head now called Conviction Training Facility (CTF). It looked like so much fun. The athletes were all athletic and doing marvelous things. It was awe inspiring.

I decided that I, too, could do the things. I just didn’t live in Hilton Head so I had to find a different spot. There was a spot, not far from my house. I tried the free introductory class and failed miserably. I couldn’t do a damn thing, including finishing the class.

But that didn’t stop me. I signed up. I worked hard. I cried a lot. I hurt myself a few times but nothing too serious. And I improved with time and effort.

I really thought, way back on game day as I was being a geek and entering scores and sorting the numbers and sneaking peeks at the athletes, that I would one day be able to do all the things. I’ve now realized that although there are some old farts out there who can do all the things, I’m not going to be one of them.

Sometimes it is because I refuse to do the thing. Climbing a rope is one of the things I will not do. I have no need to prove myself on that battlefield. If my arms give out when I’m up that high, I could seriously damage myself. I don’t have to do the things I don’t want to do.

But other things are still possible. I may possibly some day get an actual real pull-up. Not soon or anything. Maybe never. I’m not really looking at getting a chest to bar or muscle up, but I might, with enough practice and work, actually get a pull-up.

Snatches are not my friend. They don’t like me and I’m not all that fond of them. A full snatch is possible for me – with a PVC pipe. But I’m too unsteady to actually float under the bar if there is any appreciable weight on the thing. I have enough trouble executing an overhead squat.

Today’s WOD was a 24 minute EMOM of one power snatch (thank goodness) and one overhead squat. Increasing weights after every four reps was also on the menu. I don’t have that many steps between the bottom bar and my top weight. So I did an empty trainer bar (which cannot have plates added), then a bare bar, and then small plates.

Unfortunately, that ended me at 45 pounds, something I can achieve in a power snatch, but not perform an overhead squat. I was allowed to snatch, put the bar down, get the smaller bar and snatch that and then overhead squat it. I did that for the first four minutes of the heavy bar.

But I decided to try. I’ve never done a 45 pound overhead squat. But what the hell. The 35 pound ones were working and that didn’t used to happen either. So for the last four reps, I attempted an overhead squat with the heavy bar.

First time, I nearly fell on my ass. So I was going to quit that. But I didn’t. Instead, I was careful in my set, I tucked my ass, held my core tight, grabbed the bar like I was going to rip it in half … and got a little bit lower. I did that two more times. I’ve still never done a real break parallel overhead squat with a 45 pound bar. But instead of nearly falling over with the slightest of dips, I got so close. I needed to just drop another inch.

Instead of giving myself a pass, I gave myself a chance. I didn’t make it. This time. But next time I will know I’m closer than I thought.

I didn’t cheat myself. I didn’t disappoint myself. I worked to my capacity. I’m closer than ever. I will get there.

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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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