CrossFit


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, 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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I wish I knew. I wish there was someone to just tell me. There isn’t. I have to figure it out on my own. What the hell are my goals?

I write Little Bits of History and publish daily. I took a year off and missed it so I started again. It is a creative outlet and it is a learning experience – at least for me as I write them. I have always been a repository of Mom’s Fast FactsTM and amused or maybe annoyed my kids by spouting off esoteric crap at the slightest provocation. Writing these essays for close to a decade has increased my store of trivia no one will ever ask me about.

I still can’t remember where I put my coffee cup, but I can spout completely inconsequential factoids without warning.

I like writing. It gives me a chance to see what I’m thinking and what appears on the screen before me is often quite surprising. I had no idea I was thinking that stuff until it shows up right there in black and white.

But that is just a small corner of my life. I don’t write all day long. I have other things to do. Most of them equally inconsequential but I’m old and retired and not expected to be of any consequence anymore. I fulfill that ideal.

But then, four to five times a week I step into the expanse of The Box. I don’t know what I want out of that portion of my life. I’ve gained strength and stability. I’ve gained stamina, which is scary when one considers how little I have now and then realizes how much more there is now than when I began.

Each and every time I look at a WOD, I panic. It’s been nearly five years and every single one of them scares me. No one programs for a Little Old Lady and yet, that’s who shows up when I walk in the gym. The young people can do the things so much quicker than me, sitting there box breathing and trying to not have a heart attack and die. I’ve had to promise I won’t have a heart attack and die. So I’m responsible for keeping my heart rate in the “viable” zone.

And then I get cranky. I could have scaled the reps on Monday. I was given the option. I did scale the weight. I stopped working when I was too light headed to do another set up box jumps which aren’t jumped, but still, they make me dizzy especially when my heart rate is high. Rather than die, I quit. But then I was up half the night wishing I hadn’t. I could have sat still for longer and gotten my head straight and my heart rate down and then done the last round. I not only could have, I should have. And then I got all mad at myself for quitting. I was too worried about the time. I’m getting older by the second regardless of the time, so why do I keep selling myself short?

If my goals were clearer, would I stop stopping myself? I don’t honestly know. I do know that I can do many things and I would like to do more and my progress is slower than a herd of turtles moving through peanut butter. But I still progress.

I’m tempted to not listen to the cardiologist and just go for it and see what happens but I’m afraid that could include one of those pesky heart attacks and die things, so I don’t.

I’m so amazed at the people who come to the gym with the goal of getting better and then work on getting better. I’m so waylaid by that damn white board. I need to let the board go.

Maybe my goal should be to improve incrementally. Or maybe just improve mentally.

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I like to think of myself as invincible. I have no idea why since it has been proven repeatedly, that I’m not. Not even close. I’m pretty much capable of injuring myself while standing still. But, in my mind, I’m invincible.

I do CrossFit which is pretty damn a) incredible and b) stupid when one considers my age and natural proclivities. I’m fairly klutzy and lack in both the coordination and muscle requirements for athletic endeavors. But still, I persist.

Last week, I was doing a power snatch and decided, for unknown reasons, to just add a little ballet type step to the bar overhead part. I twisted myself half around and injured my left lower back. So for the rest of the week, I tried to take things easy and I worked on mobility things at home. The workouts were in my favor and my back wasn’t too bad, it was just a bit ouchy.

By Monday of this week, I was back to my old self and I mean that in every sense of the word. I was back to how I am most of the time, which is old.

The WOD had dumbbell snatches in it. I’ve done these twice before and each time, I’ve strained my back. I know to keep my butt low in the squat and to lead with my elbow coming up. I also knew I had managed 55 of these during the open and although I was a bit stiff and sore afterwards, it’s not uncommon for me. See the “I’m old” part above.

This week, there were “only” 45 and so I was sure I could manage this. I thought to myself on each rep, “butt down” and I believe I really was keeping my butt down. I got through the 21 without any problems. I had a sore back at the end of the 15, but there were only 9 more to do and I kept up my mantra. Butt low. Butt low. And I thought I would be okay.

I wasn’t. Apparently, based on when things hurt even worse, I was twisting as I switched hands with each rep and I somehow totally destroyed my right lower back, but not really. I totally destroyed my right butt cheek, but that just sounds pitiful to my ears.

My back/butt hurt me so bad, it kept waking me up Monday night/Tuesday morning. My alarm went off and when I almost cried getting out of bed, I pretended I had the sense God gave spit, and I crawled back under the covers and stayed there.

I rolled on a lacrosse ball. I used essential oils. I used a foam roller. I winced with every step I took and gasped each time I got out of any chair. I did show up for yin yoga Tuesday evening and stretching helped tremendously. So, of course, I figured, showing up on Wednesday would be fine. I had already missed a day.

The WOD was deadlifts, power cleans, thrusters, and overhead squats in a Tabata routine. Two rounds. So eighty seconds of each move, total. I was sure this would be okay. I thought I would do the deadlifts and power cleans using a light weight and just get my heart rate down during the thrusters and overhead squats. Warm-up included some push press wall balls and even that hurt my back/butt. So, instead of doing something fun, I pretended I was not an idiot and I did 20 seconds of child’s pose interchanged with 20 seconds of downward dog.

Thursday, is my normal day off and I had a massage scheduled. Catherine did a great job fixing the remnants of my invincibility gone wrong. I could actually move without pain. It was heavenly.

I showed up today and we were doing Annie with extra rope climbs between each round. I did the warm-up gingerly and tried a few sit-ups. It worked without hurting, although V-ups were still not a good idea. I tried jumping rope and that didn’t hurt either. But there are 150 of each. I knew I wasn’t doing anything like a rope climb because that would just hurt me. I had to promise I would stop if I was in any pain.

I was in pain, but it was the front, not the back, and so I finished. Then, after the WOD, we had another class of yin yoga. I felt a few pulls in that and would back off from the stretch. As I sit here, I am feeling pretty good.

I’m going to guess my stomach is going to be sore tomorrow, but it is the good kind, not the “you dumb old fart, what did you think you were doing” kind. My real goal is to be ready to honor all the fallen soldiers and do my version of Murph on Monday. Maybe I am invincible.

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What do I want from CrossFit? I want greater cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. That’s what they advertise. Those are the ten areas of fitness one should improve upon with a well balanced cross training program.

What do I get from CrossFit? Coaching. It is what I pay all that money for. It is why I don’t just workout in the garage. It is the basis for CrossFit. Coaches right there to make sure you are doing it right.

And the coach was right. I hate that. I mean, it’s what I pay for and I should be coachable. And I did what the coach said I should do. But I resented it. I hate that even after all this time and all this effort and showing up even when I’m defeated and doing all I can do, I still suck.

But the coach was right. I didn’t believe it at the time, but now I do. Why? Because last week when I did things my way, I was fine the next day. Nothing ached. There were no “growth” pains. I was absolutely fine. In my mind, it was because I was stronger.

This week, when I unhappily did what the coach said I should be doing, I hurt. In the right places. I was using the muscles intended to do the work in the WOD. It’s not terrible hurt. It’s not much more than a slight twinge every now and again to remind me the coach was right and I was, once again, wrong.

Or, perhaps, in a more generous vein, I was coachable.

What I really want to be is competent. I want to be able to do all the things. There are many things in CrossFit and some of them are super stupid. When I started, I couldn’t squat and now I can get ass to grass, so it’s not like I haven’t improved. But I still can’t do a pistol or a one-legged squat to below parallel.

And I can’t do a HSPU or a rope climb or any number of weird things that I have no real desire to do outside of the box. I have no idea in what odd world I would find myself where I would be required to stand on my head and do a push-up from there or else all would be lost. But if it ever happens, all will be lost.

If I can’t do a HSPU, you can bet your sweet Aunt Fanny I can’t do a handstand walk, either.

I’m not even sure these things are that important. But I would like to be able to be partially competent at this. After almost five years, shouldn’t I be almost competent? Inside my head, I got this. Apparently, from the outside, not so much. And according to the slight ouchiness of today, the outside is correct.

While I focus mostly on my heart rate and how it slows me down, the truth is that my power isn’t as powerful as I would like. Yes, I’m old and I’m doing amazing things considering everything else I can add to the pot to give me a list of excuses, but what I really want is to be better. Now.

I am better. But not enough better. I want to be betterer. I want to be 25 and have ten years of experience and have the aerobic engine of a beast and muscles on my muscles. I want the impossible.

On some days, I can be thrilled with the possible I have worked so hard to achieve. On some days, I can be okay with the possible. On some days, I just want the impossible and not only do I want the impossible, but I want it now. No wait. Yesterday. I want it yesterday.

I have never in my life worked so hard to be so below average. I have no idea why I believe I’m below average, either. Maybe I am amazing and awesome and competent. But if I am, I would sure like to feel like it.

The only thing I can do to get there, wherever the hell there is, is to show up and be coachable. So, I do. But I can’t say I’m a real big fan of that shit.

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Be nice. I can’t even pretend to count how many times this order was issued. It was a cornerstone for all other orders. You don’t have to be the best or the greatest. But you always have to be nice. You don’t have to be a doormat, but you do have to be nice. Just, for the love of God, be nice. It’s important. You can stand up for yourself, politely. You can defend others, with compassion. You can move through life and achieve your dreams and still be nice. No man is an island. For all of us to live together, it is easier if we are all nice. Since we can’t control other people, at least you can be nice. So, in short, be nice.

Be neat. You don’t have to be spotless. You don’t have to scrub the corners of baseboards. But you do need to be orderly and neat. You save hours of time if you put things away so you can find them when you need them. If you just set your crap down, it gets lost, misplaced, and even thrown out. But if you put it away, you have safely taken care of whatever it is. Corollary; make your bed every day. It takes under five minutes and it sets up your day for order. Second corollary; laundry baskets are a thing, use them. Hangers are a thing, use them, too. Also be neat in your appearance. It matters.

Be industrious. Everyone needs down time but we don’t need down lives. This is your only chance to be on Earth and you have a limited time here. Make use of it. Relax when you need to, but don’t relax all the time. That’s not relaxing. That’s sloth. Side note: I love sloth. But when I sit for too long, there is my mother’s voice nagging inside my head telling me to DO something. You can’t just sit there – unless you are reading. Then you can, because reading is a good thing.

Be helpful. Open the door for the person with the full hands. Smile your thanks, or better yet vocalize your thanks when someone helps you. Look for ways to be of service to others. It doesn’t have to be a big, major undertaking although choosing a career of helpfulness might be ideal, there are still plenty of ways to be helpful outside of career choices. Every single day there are less fortunate people surrounding you. Reach out and help.

Be patient. Yes, it would be lovely if everything you ever wanted was available for you right this instant. Of course, that would take all the fun out of it. Anticipation is key to much of our enjoyment. Earning the thing, even when it takes time and effort, also adds to the lusciousness, the savoring of the treat you worked to earn. Waiting is part of life. Get used to it. And spend your time in reveling in the upcoming thrill, whatever that may be.

Be fearless. This lesson was not just voiced. She lived it. She went back to college after getting her own kids in school. She was a mostly single parent (as most women of the era were in charge of everything domestic, but also because our dad travelled across the state for his job), newly returned to college, and worked a full time job. She mastered the whole adult student thing. She changed her job three times after she turned forty, always keeping her goal of helping children become adequate adults at the center. Her choices were inspirational.

There were many small lessons, given on the fly. Examples lived in order to teach us how to be the kind of people who make the world a better place. The smiles bestowed, the tears dried, the caring hands reaching out to fix what little bit was near. While it is impossible for us to make the entire world better, it is not only possible, but desperately needed, for us to fix the part right here.

Thanks, Mom. I hope you are proud of my meager ability to practice the lessons you so patiently taught. Happy birthday. You made the world a better place. There isn’t anything better to say than that.

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Mom getting ready to go into the mines. She was always up for any adventure.             Living large. 

I am an outlier. I am an old fart who is also a CrossFitter. This makes me weird, but it also makes me incredibly unlike most old farts out there. First of all, I live in world that is growing increasingly fat. Our food is abominable and we are bombarded with advertisements urging us to eat, eat, eat. Every trip down the road brings us past a fast food establishment offering a host of high calorie, low nutrition “foods”.

I prefer cooking my own food and find going out to eat far more work than actually cooking a meal. By the time I decide where to go, get in the car, get there, wait for a table, wait for wait staff to take my order, wait for it to be cooked, wait for it to come to the table, wait for a bill, and get back home, I could have cooked the meal twice over. It’s not that I’m that busy and don’t have the time to waste on such endeavors, it’s that I’m lazy and find the interminable waiting to be a pain in the ass.

So, I eat clean. Well, not really. I eat cleaner than most Americans. I have perhaps one soda a year and I like to try McDonald’s fish sandwich once a year just to make sure they are still ruining it. No cheese/orange slab on mine. Small fries to go with it. And coffee, so this isn’t even when I have my yearly soda.

I love sweets and desserts but even so, I limit this part of my diet to something a bit more manageable. I love pasta and my only limit there is to really only serve one serving size at a time. I’m a fan of really good bakery bread, but I don’t eat too much of that either. It’s not that I’m a saint about eating clean, it’s that my likes and dislikes aren’t tipping me over into the “all junk food” diet.

All this makes me a bit of an outlier, but this isn’t where I’m most obvious. You see, I CrossFit. A lot. Not really all that well, but consistently. And because I’ve been consistent over a long period of time, the people I work out alongside don’t remember how very astoundingly crappy I was when I began.

They see this rather amazing old fart who has heart rate issues but can manage to muddle along with the WODs and get crap done, albeit slowly and without an excess amount of weight. Having said that, every single damn thing I do today was something I couldn’t do at all when I began. I needed a damn cane to lunge down the mat, for God’s sake. I used a PVC pipe for almost every lift. I had a kid sized med ball for wall balls.

Today, I have weight on my weight for almost everything (I still can’t fall under the bar in a full snatch without falling over if I use more than the lightest bar we have). I lunge down the mat without a stick to support myself. I use a real med ball to a nine foot mark for wall balls and as much as I whine about everything, I do it anyway.

And so, people who can see me at the box think it’s possible for parents or grandparents to be like me. It is, but not right away. Anyone can do what I do, as long as they work at it as hard as I have worked. I know I sound like I’m bragging right now and I don’t mean to, but I’m really sort of a big deal. Not that I’m breaking any world records, but I am doing things women of my generation didn’t always do.

It’s hard. It’s hard for everyone. This whole CrossFit thing is a lot of work. And it matters what happens for the rest of the day outside the box. You can’t blow off the other 23 hours in the day and then be a superstar in the gym. It doesn’t work that way. And it doesn’t matter if you are the best athlete in the world, it’s hard. The weights are heavy. The WODs are difficult. It takes skill and determination to get through this shit.

I don’t know if it is even harder for a Little Old Lady or not. I don’t know how much other people struggle with any of this nonsense. I do know how hard I’ve worked and how many tears I’ve shed. I know how often I’ve thought of quitting. I know that I’ve gone back again anyway. I know I struggle with every single part of this CrossFit thing. And I know I have won. I have balance, core strength, muscles, even endurance that beats anything I had five years ago when I was younger and unfitter. I’m not a star, but I am impressive as hell. And if you or your mother or your grandmother wants this, you or they can work for it and get here, too. Even if I might make it look very doable, I want to be sure you understand, this is really hard. So I guess that makes me a hardass. I’m good with that. I earned the title.

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This is not me. My hair isn’t this long. 

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