CrossFit


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

Friday, October 6 was spent inn and around Bonn, Germany. The Bonn docks were filled and we had to park our happy asses in Konigswinter, a place our tour guides had not ever visited. But we could make it work. 

They got buses scheduled to take us into Bonn and asked them to park as close to our ship as possible because this is a cruise full of old farts and some of them can’t walk well. The bus drivers complied and we were catered to once again. This will not happen again since the bus drivers (I assume all three of them) were given a ticket for blocking traffic. We were not dropped off at the same point and old and infirm or not, you just had to get back to the ship slowly. 

The weather finally decided it was done with the cloudy and would actually rain a bit. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been. 

Serge knew that the Jesuit University in Bonn was famous, not just for its curriculum and some important students who had attended, but because there was an excavated Roman bath ruin in the basement of one of the buildings. If you knew it was there, you could go and see it without any fee attached. And so we did. 

We went on to Bonn’s University and had a local student talk to us about the German education system. It is quite different from how we do things in the US. In Germany, the realize that not everyone needs to go to university and those who do have the chance do so because higher education is needed for their field of endeavor. They have apprenticeships and manage to get most of the citizens employed and with living wages. 

It was while this young woman was speaking with that it first started to rain. We were under a line of trees and were mostly kept dry and when we moved on, we decided to enter a store and get a taste of what local shopping is like. 

Their mustard, mayo, and some other condiments come in a tube which looks a lot like toothpaste tubes. It would make applying the stuff a lot easier 

We went back outside and the rain had stopped and Serge had a street vendor make us three different types of wurst to try along with some fried up potato wedges. They don’t call them French fries in Germany. 

The large cathedral in Bonn is closed until 2018 as they renovate. There are two relics inside but we were not permitted in. in front of the cathedral are two Roman soldier heads. In late Roman times, the soldiers were told to attack the locals and refused. The commander decimated his troops, meaning he beheaded every tenth soldier and the two heads in the front of the church are a nod (as it were) to these men who refused to kill the natives. 

Also in Bonn is the world famous origin of gummy bears. Haribo was founded by Hans Riegel in Bonn, hence the name which is the first two letters of his first and last name and the first two letters of Bonn. There is a store in Bonn unlike any other Haribo place I’ve ever seen. I had no idea there were do many different gummy bear type candies. 

We got a little more rain on our way back to the ship and it was a bit disappointing, but there is nothing we can do about the weather. Except for Steve who has claimed responsibility for all the good weather we have had so far. He said he would clear the skies for the afternoon. 

The guides used us as a test case. As I mentioned, they had never docked at this tiny little town, but it boasted a cog wheel train. They convinced Grand Circle to buy us all a ticket on the train. Steve did his magic and the sun came out after lunch. We walked up the bottom of the mountain to the train station. Some of us did this more quickly than others, but we eventually all arrived. 

The train couldn’t accommodate all of us at one time, so there were two departure times. We were in the first group. The train made a stop halfway up the mountain and let off people who wanted to tour a refurbished castle there (not included in the ticket price) and then went to the top. Our train tickets were good for one round trip and we could either get off halfway up and then continue on the next train or go to the top and stop half way down. We selected the latter and made our way to the top of the mountain. 

It was stunningly beautiful. No wonder they built their castles so high and on bends in the rivers. We could see far into the distance all around the perimeter. Pictures included here. After taking enough pictures we reboarded the train and made our way down the mountain and stopped at the castle. 

We knew we couldn’t enter the castle but were not aware we couldn’t even enter the grounds. All we had access to was the gift shop. We couldn’t even get a decent picture of the outside of the buildings. We got back on the train and made our way down and then back to the boat. It began to drizzle again. 

There was a mandolin group coming to play for us after dinner. In my imagination, I was thinking two or three funny guitars. Instead, it was at least a dozen people – an entire orchestra. They had mandolins, mandolas, guitars, a bass violin, and a drummer. They were amazing and played for us for nearly an hour. 

They barely got off the boat before we set sail and headed on to new adventures. 

Roman bath ruins


Haribo


One of the vistas

Ruins of the old castle seen at the viewing site

It would be so easy to quit. Quitting takes zero effort. I could quit CrossFit and yoga and everything would stop aching and hurting.

While on Sistercation, I noticed one day that nothing hurt. Nothing. My calves weren’t aching. My IT band went back to unnoticeable. I didn’t have trouble with my lats or triceps or any particular part of my body. My everything was pain free. No strain. No ouchiness.

In addition to this pain free status, I could still hold my balance, pick up crap, move freely and without injury, and do all the things I couldn’t do easily five years ago. My body still held all the benefits of CrossFit and yoga without all the actual effort of doing anything.

I came home and got back into my CrossFit and yoga routine. And the intermittent strains and aches and pains returned.

I just had a massage yesterday and Jose worked really hard to get rid of the built up accumulation of my active lifestyle. I really hurt my shoulder/scapula a couple weeks ago with an overhead carry WOD. It’s finally fixed.

Then last night was my regular yin yoga class and we did lots of deep stretches with props (most of the session was with bolsters and it was really lovely). In yin yoga, the idea is to sink into poses so that the connective tissue and fascia and all the tightness have time to release and relax and the musculoskeletal system can achieve previous flexibility and whatnot. It isn’t like vinyasa or flow yoga.

Today’s CrossFit WOD had kettlebell swings and toes to bar, which I sub out as knees to elbows(ish). There were also goblet squats with the kettlebell. And so, right now, my hands are on fire and my quads and lats are letting me know I did a bunch of work.

When I first started CrossFit, I couldn’t have done anything I did today. My kettlebell swings were done with lighter weight, I couldn’t squat below parallel, I couldn’t raise my knees to even my waist. I was unable to do the things I did today – not with ease or panache or grace or anything, but did them nonetheless.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on CrossFit over the years, not counting clothing or equipment or protein powder or any of that stuff, but just on membership. And I still can’t do a pull-up or HSPU. I can’t climb a rope and I hope I never do. I’m really paranoid about falling from that height and breaking my hip. I’m an old woman and Grandma never recovered from her broken hip.

So it is my own fault I don’t climb ropes. It’s also my own fault I don’t have a pull-up or HSPU or any of the other things I complain about. I’ve not earned them. Paying dues isn’t a magic formula for success. You actually have to do the work to get the results. Certainly my age is a factor in all this, but so is my attitude. I have to take responsibility for my failures. Which allows me to take credit for all my successes – so it works out.

There are things I do outside the gym that when I stop to think about it, are absolutely amazing. My balance is so much stronger, my strength is much greater, my ability to do many of the things Little Old Ladies can’t do is simply awesome.

So, even though it is sometimes tempting to quit and return to slugdom, I’ve worked too hard to get to where I am right now. It certainly wouldn’t take five years to get back to taking every jar into the other room to be opened or carrying in only one or two bags of groceries at a time.

It’s isn’t a daily reward anymore. I don’t make leaps and bounds of improvement on a weekly basis. I can’t see the incremental tiny growth, but looking back I can see the results.

It’s like aging. I don’t feel any older than I did yesterday. Aging is constant and incremental. I am certainly older than I was five years ago and I know this when looking back. Each moment brings me closer to my next birthday, a marker we need to remind ourselves that time moves on.

Some days it seems like I’ve put in a lot of effort for not much gain – until I look back and see exactly how far it is I’ve come. Quitting is seductive because it is monumentally easy. And quite frankly, if I could quit and remain right here, I probably would. But quitting is going to make me slide back down the mountain and I’ve worked so hard to get here that I do believe I will just have to keep going, strained IT band and all.

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Adult to child: Just do your best.
Adult to child: Is this really your best?
Child to adult, hesitantly: Yes.

Just do your best. We say this to kids all the time. It’s onerous. How many times as adults do we not do our best? Can you really NOT cook a better meal than the ones you have been preparing all week? When was the last time you really cleaned the house instead of just getting the surfaces? How much television have you watched instead of [fill in blank]? Is your career path on course? How many times did you check social media at work this week? Is that really your best?

We do our best on occasion. But not all the time. It would be exhausting. I make decent meals much of the time, but other times I honestly don’t feel like it. We don’t have to have gourmet food three times a day.

The house is reasonably clean. The laundry is done often enough. We aren’t going to have the health department come in and condemn the place. But it isn’t spotless and probably never was.

Life is imperfect. Doing one’s best all the time is perfection and we are not capable of perfection. I’m not sure it should even be a goal. If everyone were perfect, whatever that might mean, we would all be the same. It is our imperfections which make us unique individuals. I’m odd in this place and even weirder in that one and when you sum up all the ways in which I miss the mark, it creates me.

When I CrossFit, I’m not the best. I’m often not even anywhere close to my own best. I’m tired and cranky and the WOD contains crap I struggle with. But by struggling in my own crappy manner time and again, by listening to the coach who points out the errors in my form, I can improve to something better. But I will never get to best, at least not consistently because that would be perfection and … humans aren’t perfect.

When I do yoga, I strive to get myself tied into the correct knot and because I do yin, I then try to hold the pose and melt into it. Sometimes this is simply impossible and sometimes it is merely a struggle. But because I’ve been doing this for months, my poses look more like they are approaching the way the masters says to contort oneself. But in yoga, acceptance is more important than prescription.

I’ve been meditating. My mind is far less chaotic and I can focus on my breath for longer and longer periods. There was a time when I couldn’t even sit still for a few minutes. I can now. It isn’t the best, but it is better.

I rarely have the strength or stamina to do my best. But I can often do enough. Perfection is unattainable. But enough can be enough. If you let it.

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I have been in a tailspin. CrossFit is hard – for everyone. And for most of the CrossFitters out there, there is some goat, some odd thing that is particularly difficult. Most of the run of the mill people who dare to put it all out there are dealing with some sort of limitation.

I know a guy who has been to the games three times. He works really hard and is amazing. I know CrossFitters who are young enough to be my grandchildren and they can whiz past me like I’m standing still. In fact, because most of the people I work out with are young enough to be my children, they all whiz past me like I’m standing still.

Inside my head, I’m still 35 instead of being the mother of two adults both older than that. Inside my head I’m capable and don’t have either a cardiologist or a retinologist or any specialty doctors at all. Inside my head I can still do things just like all the other athletes I work out with over and over again.

But then, outside my head I’m old and feeble and have both a cardiologist and a retinologist and grandchildren and receive a pension and get daily mail telling me how to register for Medicare. I’m old and I’m not getting any younger.

The reality of my life and the dreams inside my head are not matching. And I’m not really at all happy about that.

It’s been five years. I’ve been at this for five long, grueling years. I’ve dripped sweat and frozen my ass off. I’ve been bruised and pulled muscles and hardly been able to move for two to three days. I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. I’ve done a few “Get a pull-up in six weeks” programs, running them for months and I still can’t do a pull-up. Inside my head is someone shouting all the things I can’t do. Even after five years of showing up consistently and really working hard I have this long list of failure.

It’s enough to make me cranky. Okay. Crankier.

Today, I made a list of all the things I can do that I couldn’t do five years ago. I didn’t even mention learning things like how exactly one does a clean and jerk or a snatch, the proper way to grip the bar and float under it or how to do any of the Olympic lifts themselves.

My list has twenty things on it from ass to grass squats (I couldn’t even get down to a 20” box when I began) to lunging without a cane (as I needed five years ago). I have weights on my weight for all the lifts (with a full snatch still looking horrible no matter how light I try to make it, but I actually can manage it – sorta).

I have trouble celebrating my accomplishments because they seem so meager. I do this crap and it is always a lighter weight or fewer reps or some modification because I’m an old, feeble woman.

I don’t ever think about how many people can’t do what I do because I’m surrounded by people who not only can, but whiz past me like I’m standing still. It is disheartening to work so hard and never feel good enough. (I’m the only person who has ever mentioned I might not be good enough.) I have no idea how to give myself the permission to scale back and still consider what I’ve done to be a success. I don’t know how to be grateful for all the hard work paying off and the ability to actually manage, in some fashion, to get out there four to five times a week.

I’m astounded each time someone says anything positive to me because all I ever see is what still isn’t there. I wish I knew how to stop that.

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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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