We don’t know what the workout is going to be until we show up at the gym. We know what movements are going to be in the WOD, but we don’t know exactly how that’s going to work. On Mondays, we know nothing. But for the rest of the week, the moves are posted on Monday morning.

We also don’t know what day of the week is going to turn into a partner workout. It used to be every Thursday, but then some people were cranky or something and so now we take our chances. Partners are usually arrived at by drawing names from the Red Bag. When there won’t be enough bars for everyone if we don’t all share, that can change.

Thursday’s movement was “run”. That was it. Thursday was also stormy. It wasn’t pouring for 8 AM and I had no idea how this was going to work, but I go to the gym on Thursday and so there I was. I was there alone at first and then just me and Laura. I had a chance to talk. First, I had read the board and noticed that we didn’t have to run in the rain. She had switched Thursday and Friday and we just had a regular workout on the board.

But Friday was going to be running. I don’t. I walk. I walk faster than I can run over the long haul, but I really can run a teeny tiny bit. I just can’t do anything after I run. But I knew the workout was going to be four 400 meter runs with a two minute rest between each. I asked how much disturbance in the force would happen if I actually ran but did only 200 meters. I haven’t been able to run 400 meters even once since I started CrossFit and it doesn’t look like I will ever have the endurance to do so. But I have run 200 meters.

Everyone knows I walk half the distance and that takes me about the same time it takes everyone else to run. But this new proposal would thwart that.

We watch each other. We know who doesn’t do the full range of motion and who miscounts their reps. We know who the cheaters are. I’m not a cheater. This is simply a scale. At least that’s how I look at it. I’m doing my best. I’m just not the same age as all those younger, faster, fitter people I spend time with there at the gym.

Laura was pleased to hear that I was willing to give running a try. And she gave me her blessing as well as her protection for my version of the running WOD.

She also suggested that I wait until my heart rate was low enough and not be concerned with how much rest I took between runs. We were only keeping track of our times on the runs and didn’t have to worry about total time taken. It was nice to know that someone there was experienced with CPR, too. Not that I was going to need it, but it was nice to have available, just in case.

So today, for the first time ever, there was a running WOD and I ran. I ran my first 200 meters in 1.01. I rested two minutes and was able to run again. Second time was 1.03 but my heart rate was higher at the finish. I rested 2:15 that time and got back on the third round in 1.05. I had a higher heart rate again and the longer I work, the longer it takes to get it back down. So I waited 2.5 minutes before heading out on my last run. I managed it in one minute even.

Today I ran a half mile. I know there are marathoners and super-marathoners out there who would scoff at such a “feat” but for me, it is a win. I haven’t run that much in years and probably decades. I know it was just in spurts and I know that other people, even people my very own age and older, can run farther and faster. But I couldn’t and yet today, I did.

Just as an aside, yesterday’s usurped WOD was heavy kettlebell swings at 70/53. I usually use the 26 pound kettlebell so I tried using the 35 pound one. I had used a 30 pound before at CrossFit Summerville but that’s not available here. I gave the heavier one a try. And it worked. So I used it for the WOD and managed to get five rounds of the crap in seven minutes which was only a total of 15 kettlebell swings, but it was a PR for me there, too.

Merry Christmas to me. I’m racking up the PRs before I turn 66 like they are free candy. Who knows what I’m going to be able to do now!

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Here is something I never thought I would say. I had a bit of a revelation today and it made me recall other incidents of its same type.

We’ve all heard that comparison is the thief of joy. Since none of us is the same as anyone else, they are always incomparable comparisons. And yet, we compare all the time. Who has the best car, the biggest house, the most money, the highest grades, and the best scores on the CrossFit board? We can’t help but compare because none of us really know what the hell we are doing.

We had a new member show up on a day when it was just a bunch of horrible stuff. And then she continued to show up the rest of the week. That was great. Then she missed a week. Then she missed a day. She finally came back today.

Laura brought her over to me and asked me to tell her how you get strong. I flexed, pointed out that I would be 66 in a couple weeks, and I got all this doing CrossFit. Not doing cardio, not running, not picking up five pound dumbbells, but by doing CrossFit and lifting heavy until it isn’t heavy anymore. That’s the only way to get from spaghetti arms to muscles.

The new and hopeful gym rat had been discouraged by having to use the PVC pipe and still not master the movement. We all start back there at the beginning, but with time and practice we get to the present and move things with weights.

But this is the thought that hit my like a ton of bricks today. There I am, moving weights, albeit not excessively heavy ones, and I have gray hair (I don’t color) and wrinkles (I don’t Botox). I can do the stuff – at least some of the stuff. I swing kettlebells and lift barbells, and snatch dumbbells, and perch atop boxes, and hang from the rig.

I’m intimidating to new people. They can see I’m older than dirt. I was nagging God at the creation. Yet here I am, doing the stuff that these new people can’t do. They are younger, often by decades if not generations and they can’t do what I can do. And I scare them.

When they compare themselves as a newbie who doesn’t even know what a snatch is – at least the ones at the gym – to my tossing an entire barbell with plates up over my head, they can’t match me. Pitiful, old, feeble me. How horrible it must be to see the very old lady doing the things and not be able to keep up with her.

I told our current new person how I started everything with a PVC pipe. I could do exactly nothing when I started. I’ve been at this for years. If she would keep at it for six month, she would surpass me in everything. She is relatively fit, just not strong. And she is far younger than me. And she seems determined even if I scared her.

I remember the statuesque woman who kept trying to do push-ups and couldn’t and would say over and over, “But you can.” Well, I couldn’t when I started and if she had kept coming back, she would be totally rocking this stuff now. But she didn’t come back because she couldn’t do the things. Not only that, but I could.

I would like everyone to know that if they worked as hard at this as I have, they would also not be in the same place they are now, not having worked at all. It’s not my age that makes this awesome. It is the fact that I’ve kept at it for so many years. I’m not the strongest, fastest, most able person in the gym. I’m just the oldest. And I do things. Not all the things, but many of them. And if you go to the gym regularly, put in the effort, learn the skills, practice your moves with integrity, you will be able to do the things, too.

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I’m not getting any younger. Being old is hard work. You have to fight to keep whatever it is you already have. And trying to get more is far more difficult than when younger.

My goals include working out with CrossFit type WODs four times a week. I do a yin yoga practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and meditate on the days I don’t do yoga. This stuff is helping keep me flexible, strong, safe, clear, focused, etc.

I’ve been doing CrossFit longer than yoga and there are days when I just CrossFit the shit out of my yoga practice. I catch myself in the act and alter my behavior so I can yoga during yoga. I have found that after so much yoga, there are times when I yoga my CrossFit WODs, too. I then have to remind myself that CrossFit is CrossFit and yoga is yoga and when they meet, I must adjust my sails.

I want, above all, to be perfect. All the time. I realize this is both ridiculous and impossible, but there it is. I cringe with each mistake. I cringe when I don’t keep the bar in close on a lift. I cringe when my body doesn’t fold in a pose. I cringe when I find a typo. I cringe when dinner doesn’t turn out the way I planned. I cringe and cringe and cringe and then wonder why I have a stiff neck.

Meditation is extremely difficult for me. I’m busy thinking about being perfect and the whole point of meditation is to not think, especially about being perfect and then I get caught in this loop of wanting to be perfect at a time when perfection is not even a pretend goal.

Using a guided meditation helps some, but my mind still wanders into the path of oncoming traffic and I wish desperately to be perfect at this. I would like to be perfect at something. Okay. I want to be perfect at everything.

My quest for perfection has oftentimes negated the sheer joy in living. This is most clear for me now at the gym when I should be so grateful to be able to do all the things I’ve worked so hard to attain. Instead, I want more and miss the joy of getting this far up an eternal mountain. There is no top to this journey.

Stop and smell the roses. At least notice there are roses and they are beautiful. I love the smell of lily of the valley, maybe I should stop and smell that.

I’ve been keeping a journal of things for which I’m grateful. It helps to keep me focused on the here and now and realize how precious it is. It is perfectly imperfect. I should allow myself to cherish it, mistakes and all. Noticing how often I’ve chosen wisely and done good. Not all the time, of course, but often enough to give me something to be thankful for.

I’ve risked enough to make the mistakes, be imperfect, learned new things. Gratitude makes even the imperfect better.

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Anyone who has followed my CrossFit journey knows I lack confidence and can get myself into a tailspin in a matter of nanoseconds. It hasn’t changed with a new gym and this past weekend I was again a mess. I’m still doing CrossFit things, just not under the CrossFit banner. And I’m still woefully lacking in confidence.

In fact, it’s worse than normal right now. I have to appear in front of a bunch of new people and be inept and inadequate even after five years of trying. In the last month, I’ve not suddenly turned younger and more powerful. I’m still just as old (and getting older by the minute) and just as feeble (and losing ability in all facets as I age).

This is terrifying. My old friends who worked out with me on a regular basis all knew the things I needed to modify. I didn’t have to advertise my special needs. My gym IEP was already on the books. (If you don’t know what an IEP is, it’s an Individual Education Plan written and on file for special need students.)

So here I am. Old and feeble and scared half to death when walking into any old place. Even my old home used to scare the living crap out of me and they knew me there. I was like Norm walking into Cheers. I didn’t have to explain myself. But now, I still don’t explain myself, I just wish I could.

The thing is, after five years of doing this crap, I actually look pretty damn good. I know about hook grips, when and how to pull, violent hip extension is part of my vocabulary, I know the mechanics of the lifts. What I don’t have is the power. I also, due to the aging process, lack a fair amount of balance. And then there is simple ineptitude. I never was really athletic. I grew up a bookworm.

I avoided partner WODs for a very long time because I wasn’t brave enough to inflict myself on anyone else. But in the last year, after a bunch of cajoling and nearly losing my mind a few times and some tears and wishing I could disappear right away, I finally got to where I was showing up regularly. I can’t make myself do that right now.

It is taking every ounce of my courage to take my old fat ass to the new gym. I don’t think I really look my age, although that may be vanity. But I want to advertise that I was not like this when I was the age my kids are, the age my gym mates are. I was able to run and play with the kids and not get winded just thinking about it. I am embarrassed and ashamed to be this old. I never really intended this to happen.

But I would regret not showing up (see yesterday’s blog). And so I strap on the pretend courage, act like I’m not quaking and shaking and fearful and near tears. And I drive myself to the gym. And like every other time over the last five plus years, I do something. Not very much, but more than I used to and more than if I had stayed home. I really deserve a medal of some sort. Probably tin.

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My life as a CrossFitter and now as a gym rat has been one disappointing failure after another. I am not supposed to utter the phrase “I can’t” but there are so many things I still can’t do. Some of them are things I don’t wish to do. I’m not climbing a rope. I’ve lived 65 years without this ever being a functional movement I needed to master. All I need to do is be 15 feet up and my arms give out and fall. At my age, broken bones are serious business.

I also can’t do a hand stand push-up mostly because I can’t even do the hand stand. I mean, the arms again. I’m weak and if I lose the strength to hold myself up, I can break my neck. History has shown this is a really bad idea. It is again, one of the things that has not limited my life in the past. I’ve never really needed this as a functional skill.

I can’t clean my bodyweight. I can’t even back squat my body weight. I can’t do a pull-up. I can’t and can’t and can’t. And yet, I keep showing up.

That’s how I win. I started CrossFit when I was 59. I had a few months before I would turn 60 and I so wanted to have weights on my weight for a back squat. All I needed was to 1. Learn to squat,  2. Acquire some balance, and 3. Get strong enough to actually do it. I really could not squat when I started. I dipped in a forward accordion fold. But with lots of practice and buckets of tears, I got a 27# back squat a few days before I turned 60.

The guy next to me was squatting 225# and yet, I was thrilled with getting my goal. Today, I can back squat over 100# and when I asked Chris, he had not kept pace, not being able to still do nearly ten times my weight. So there.

It isn’t because I’m really good at this stuff. I’m obviously not. But regardless of how crappy I am, and I’m crappy when compared to other CrossFitters but absolutely fabulous when compared to the general population, I keep going.

I have cried. I have questioned my sanity. I have hurt myself. What I haven’t done is quit. Every time I really consider the possibility of quitting, I think of how bad I will feel in a couple months. I will regret not trying. I don’t ever expect to clean my body weight. In all honesty, I don’t ever expect to get a pull-up (although God knows I’ve tried). I refuse to even try or care about climbing a rope.

My failures are spectacular when compared with all the other highly successful gym rats out there. But my successes are my own and cherished. I have weights on my weights for all the stuff. And I keep showing up. Without regrets. Tears maybe, but no regrets.

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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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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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