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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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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I expect to get things right. I was reading before I got to school so life in the classroom was always a bit of a cakewalk for me. I was ahead of the game most of the time. I’m a practiced and skilled reader and can learn many things from the pages of a book or the scrolling through a screen. Lucky me.

But some things can’t be learned from a book. You cannot learn the proper way to … well, there are many things here – drive a car, fly a plane, crochet or knit, clean and jerk a barbell … the list is long. These things must be learned experientially. Well, I’m assuming that is true for flying because I don’t actually know how to do that. I just threw it in for effect. We all want our pilots to really know how to fly the planes we are in, not just have read about it.

Intellectually, I know these things but I’m disappointed quite often because I don’t meet my own expectations. I can drive. But unlike most of the people out there on the roads, I don’t think I’m a very good driver. I’m nervous when driving, especially when I have no idea where I’m going. Even with my onboard computer/navigation system helping me, I’m nervous about the whole thing.

I crochet much better than I knit. Neither is done perfectly and I often am less than thrilled when something I’ve worked on for so long didn’t turn out the way I was hoping. Dashed expectations. Other people might think it looks fine, but it isn’t what I hoped for and so I’m disappointed.

Clean and jerks are not that hard to do. I have the form down fairly well, but as in all physical endeavors, there is always room for improvement. But I use a hook grip, I have my butt down and my chest up, I slowly pull and then explosively draw the bar up while I float under the bar, catching it in a five point rack with my elbows up and my knees not falling in. Then I stand, give a small dip, and drive the bar overhead while standing tall and elbows locked out. At least I can do all that with a light bar. I’m not quite as good as the bar gets heavier. My five point rack disappears. My elbows aren’t as high because my rack isn’t set correctly. My knees waver on the rise. The whole thing isn’t nearly as nice.

And I’m disappointed. Every time. Really, how many old farts can do even a crappy clean and jerk? Truthfully, how many young people know how to do a clean and jerk? Why can’t I be happy with the fact that I do this amazing stuff?

Because my expectations were always way off. They still are. I amazed at people who show up and work out and are happy with the results regardless of what “score” or “grade” or “time” or “reps” or measurement we are supposed to use to somehow make the white board happy. I’m pretty sure the white board has no feelings whatsoever and is never happy. Or sad.

The white board has been my nemesis since I began CrossFit. I loathe the white board. There is no compassion in the white board. It is a data point and doesn’t take into consideration anything other than a number. But I had such high hopes for better numbers. And to this day, I walk in with some number etched into my brain about how I should be able to manage this day’s WOD. It never works out the way I imagine. I always get a great workout and I manage so many things I never thought I would. And yet.

I expected more. I don’t even know why I expected more. I still expect more which is even dumber. But I go each day and am disappointed in myself. I really should stop that. I wish I knew how.

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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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