Yoga


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 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 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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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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