Monthly Archives: November 2013

Double Victories

Double Unders

Double Unders: Old School

I’ve been Crossfitting for almost a year, and there are a lot of things I can’t do. One of those is double-unders. It seems like it should be easy enough. Jump high. Swing fast. But when you are an uncoordinated runner like me, it’s harder than it appears.

On Tuesday, we were supposed to do 200 DUs or singles for three minutes. Now, I can DO singles. I zone out, relax and last about two minutes before my calves cramp up. So, naturally I opted for the three minutes.

After class, Sibylle (who, of course, completed ALL DUs) asked me about mine.

“I can’t do them yet,” I told her, edging towards the nearest exit.

“You can do them. Do one now.”

You have to imagine Sibylle. She is slim, strong and very, very German. [If you don’t know what that means, then move to Germany. You’ll discover it’s a quality that cannot be defined].

I sighed because I knew there was no possible excuse I could make that would let me off the hook. I grabbed a jumprope and began skipping like a schoolgirl.

“Higher!” encouraged Sibylle.

I jumped higher, swung the rope fast, and failed.

“Jump high ten times and then FAST!” she replied, motioning with her wrists.

I did about thirty single skips, failing at every tenth, when I realized that the only way to get out of there was to do an actual double-under.

I love Crossfit, and I would hang out at the box all day if I could, but I also have a coffee addiction, and coffee is my post-WOD treat.

Coffee was calling my name.

So, I jumped high nine times and on the tenth, the rope unexpectedly swooshed twice under me.

It reminded me of a time when, during a run, the labrador I was borrowing actually caught up to a deer. She was thrilled, but didn’t quite know what to do after that.

I let the rope fly.

I squealed.

Sibylle squealed.

We hugged.

Then I got out of there fast.

The great news is that the next day I had some time to work on DUs, and I managed to squeak out 10 of them (though I probably did a hundred singles in the attempt).

Sibylle assures me that once I finally get it, I’ll be able to do them in a row. And I believe her. But for now, I’m just happy that I did a few of them.

While I don’t subscribe to the “everybody’s a winner” mentality, I do believe when you work diligently towards a real goal, no matter how ‘small’, and you finally see progress, it’s a victory. Plain and simple. 

It also helps to have people around who not only understand what you’re going through (because they were new to it once too), but who also challenge and inspire you.

If you don’t have any Sibylles in your life, get some.

You can usually find them in a box marked “Crossfit.”

Eating is a Good Thing

self control

The dial on my German griddle–it cracks me up.

It was over a week ago that I was trying to do a push press with 30kg, and I just could not get the bar over my head. It kept getting ‘stuck’ at my shoulders.

I felt SO weak. And it was crazy because I’d been able to do it before (I have it written down in my little book).

I talked to the coach about it, and he asked, “What have you been eating?”

Oh. Right. Food=Energy. 

I really do love to eat–especially when the night is cold and the Pad Thai is hot. But something strange happened to me the past month that hasn’t happened before–I lost my appetite. 

The only other time I had little to no desire to eat was when I had pneumonia–but this was different. For reasons that could fill a book (were I to write it all out), I’ve been walking around in a pretty bad depression for about a month. It’s not like the Seasonal Affective Disorder I had when I lived in Alaska, where I would just lay on the couch, cry and still manage to eat.

This time, I could still function and only tear up a little when people innocently asked, “How are you?” but in addition, I had no food cravings (which is WEIRD because I am addicted to nut butters). My stomach would growl at the usual times, and I would feed it a cucumber.

If you Crossfit, you probably know that cucumbers alone don’t make the best fuel for a workout.

I admit, I DID enjoy not having any food cravings. And I’m sure part of this whole messed-up episode was the fact that while I couldn’t control my circumstances, I could control food. So, I took ‘control’ (however warped) over what I could control, and buckled up to ride the emotional roller coaster from hell.

Even though I lost about ten pounds, I can’t say I recommend depression as an adequate weight-loss plan.

On the bright side, I’ve re-gained my appetite (but not the ten pounds…yet) and I hope that I can build my strength back up.

Our coach says, “F***orget the scale!” and I’m trying.

While I was strictly vegan for about a year, I have added meat on special occasions (like steak when we eat out),  seafood (shrimp Pad Thai on Fridays), and eggs (every morning). I’m trying to listen to my body, so I can give it what it needs to do the things it wants to do.

It will take some work, but I want to be strong–and to do that, ironically, means a little bit of letting go.

Creative WODing: Session 1

Some days you just can’t get to the box, so you improvise at home.

The WOD called for body weight squats–but since our coach didn’t say whose body weight…I used my kids and my dog.

I KNOW my burpees look like a walrus arriving on shore; and I have bad form during my squats–but labradors and kids are wiggly; so I gave it my best shot.

I call this Creative WOD the LabbyNo!


Bikini Bodies


I’ve been to both Hawaii and Florida, and I know that neither of them resemble the interior design mashup known as Kristall Palm Beach, a spa/water complex outside Nürnberg, Germany.

It is a wonderful place–it just has multiple personalities.

  • Kristall: because of the rocks & natural hot water springs in this part of Germany
  • Palm Beach: American, if you ask me
  • Poloynesia is represented by the hula girls on pedestals and the giant Gauguin paintings surrounding the wave pool
  • The Turkish bath area, with its colorful mosaics and hot tubs
  • The Space Alien waterside area, where the children are happily stowed upon arrival
  • The Egyptian sauna complex, into which I once stumbled for a pedicure and was never the same again

On a trip to Kristall Palm Beach a couple months ago, my tankini was literally billowing around me in the salt tub; and I could have used a pair of suspenders exiting the sprudel pool.

I had put the entire incident out of my mind until recently when, on a whim, we decided to go back to Palm Beach. The only other modest suit I had was even larger than my old one, and would never withstand the rigorous jets of the salt tub.

But there was one more suit. My beloved tankini had come with a matching, more revealing counterpart–the bikini. But because it was on discount, the only size left had been a small. I remember trying it on soon after I got it and tucking it away into a drawer, thinking I could never possibly wear it in public, even though here in Germany, grandmas wear bikinis.

Before I started Crossfit, I would see the old people in their speedos and bikinis getting out of the pool after water aerobics and avert my eyes, but now I am fascinated.

I watch how people move and walk; how they carry themselves; if their shoulders are back; I look for muscle tone and core strength and how their legs work and how they use their upper bodies. For the most part, despite the physical exercise, the majority of these people have not aged well.

I DO give them credit for getting out and exercising, it’s just that I would like to prevent certain things, like the typical hunched back, that I frequently see.

Sure, there may be ailments or diseases you can’t predict; but sometimes the state of a body is due to a steady diet of schnitzel and pommes–and no amount of Aqua Zumba can correct that.

I have two amazingly healthy grandmas, and they BOTH tell me things like ‘eat your veggies,’ and ‘stand up straight.’ My Auntie tells me stories about my grandma wearing hot pants and standing on her head; and exercising in the era of the young Jack LaLanne.

It’s not about how you look in a bikini, because it is possible to be ‘skinny fat,’ but it’s about working what you have, so you can show your great-grandkids how to do cartwheels.

I want to be the eccentric grandma who is standing on her head when the kids walk into the room. I want to take them hiking in the alps or cross-country skiing or go running with them or swimming in a cold alpine lake and not get too tired to play. I want that energy now. I want to sprint and push press and run ultras–who cares how I actually ‘look’ in my bikini?

Yes, I wore the bikini. While it felt strange at first, I quickly lost my self-consciousness about it. In fact, I was LESS self-conscious wearing it than I had been with the billowy tankini.

Not only did it stay put in the Turkish baths, but for the very first time, I felt secure enough to face the Space Aliens with the kids.

After a fun day of waterslides and wave pools and body-watching, I went home and did the unthinkable: I ordered another bikini–size small.

I will be wearing it for a long time to come.


lean out

“Are you up for a challenge?” our coach asked.

My first reaction was to think of all the reasons why I was NOT.

  • My legs were still sore from Wednesday
  • I’m not the strongest person in the box
  • I was a little tired
  • My toes were cold
  • I couldn’t think of more reasons, but I’m sure I had some great ones

But instead of just saying, “No,” I asked what the challenge was–and he moved on to the next person.

Out of the entire group, only two people said ‘Yes’ without question–and that, really, was the right attitude.

That’s how I want to be. 

My first instinct is to avoid challenges–to stay comfortable and hide in the middle of the pack.

My first marathon was a challenge. But the second? Third? Sixth? Not so much. I KNEW I could run and finish without doing any worse than the last time. But I wouldn’t exactly call it a challenge. A challenge would have been to set a goal, and then win or lose, go for it.

Crossfit and marathons are inherently challenging, but I am also lazy.

Yes, lazy.

It isn’t natural for me to push myself.

I’m not talking about jumping out of Seilbahn and trying to fly. But I do know that I could try to add a little more weight to the bar, even if I end up dropping the whole damned thing.

Ever since I had coffee with a random German guy at the Pitztal Gletscher Marathon last June, I’ve wanted to run the Jungfrau. He said he had done it, and I could too.

Then he showed me pictures on his phone. If you’ve never looked at pics from the Jungfrau, do so. It is INCREDIBLE. That’s the kind of running I want to do.

It IS a challenge. But is it enough of a challenge? I’ve had a crazy squirrel running around in my head telling me that while I CAN complete the Jungfrau (and I know I can, even if I had to drag an Oxygen tank with me across the finish line), I should try to finish in the top half of my age group.

That thought scares me because typically, there are very FEW women my age running, and when they are, they beat the compression hosen off me.

European women my age are members of running clubs and wear matching t-shirts and collapse when they cross the finish line; whereas I like to finish smiling and holding hands with the people I love.

Women my age (who want to do something fun) sign up for the 5k or the 10k or even the half or they clack around in the Nordic walking stick group–but they don’t run marathons unless they’re serious.

If I want to be in the top half of my age group, I’ll have to push myself, or as my son and I say at Crossfit, I’ll have to “put more weight on it.”

I still want to finish well (which means without need of medical assistance) but I also want to stay focused mentally; to correct the negative self-talk that causes me to wither during a race (around km 36); and to ignore the pain. (Marathons always hurt, and so far, slowing down doesn’t help anything).

Most of all, I want to finish smiling.

My goal is to spend the next few months not just training my body, but also getting my mind to the “bring it on” level, which I so admire.

I don’t know if I’ll even get a slot at the Jungfrau (registration opens in February), but my new challenge for myself is that the NEXT marathon I do, I want to finish in the top half of my age group.

[And I’m not going to deliberately seek out a huge one just to improve my odds!]

[Yes, that WAS my first thought…see, I AM challenge-challenged].

If I don’t meet that goal, then who cares? At least I will have given it my best shot, and I can walk away proud, knowing that I went for it without question.

It’s a new mindset for me, and one that requires practice.

Lots and lots and lots of practice, I fear.

I have 10 months to train for Jungfrau. 10 months of pushing myself further and further, aspiring to meet my challenge, yet still smiling, regardless of what the numbers might be at the Ziel.

Coach Humor

Crossfit isn’t just about the body; it is also about the mind.

Your coach, in his endeavor to be increase your mental acuity, will test to see how closely you were paying attention, which usually ends up with everyone laughing.

For example: a 30 second hollow hold (with a kettle bell) that turns into something closer to two minutes.

I was a little distracted coming into class yesterday, and when I saw we were doing 8 rounds, I thought, “Oh, crap! I’ll never remember which round I’m on!”

When I first started Crossfit, I would constantly lose track of reps and sometimes muddle along until everyone else had finished and call it good. At LEAST I can keep track of my reps now.

But rounds…those can be a different story.

I don’t know if it’s because my brain is 40 years-old; or if I wasn’t focusing; or if the local anesthetic from my dentist appointment earlier had gotten to my brain; or if eating a pint of pineapple-coconut Haagen Dazs (yes, the entire 600+ calories) right before class wasn’t proper fuel; but I was a little bit off yesterday.

During the sprints, Sibylle and I passed each other, and she called out, “What round are you on?”

“I don’t know!” I answered.

“Five? Six?” she asked as we made the u-turn and passed each other again.

“I forgot!” I called.

So she asked Mickey, who can’t be more than 19, and thus has no excuse to NOT know what round he’s on.

When I reached my station, Sibylle said, “You’re on round 7.”

I felt like I’d won a prize. Only one more round!

I was glad SOMEONE had been paying attention.

But during the Simple Sets, my brain shut down for good. While I vaguely remember Rob saying these were 30 second holds (or ‘Hollow Robs,’ as we call them) I wasn’t looking at the clock. I was just listening to Rob’s voice saying “Hold…Hold…Hold…”

It was the longest 30 seconds ever.

I looked over to see that Sibylle and Mickey had set their kettle bells down and were laughing.

Susi (Rob’s wife, who I’m convinced is really a SuperHero, she just chooses not to reveal her true power to make us all feel better) told me to say something bad about him.

But I’m the kind of person who likes to formulate her thoughts, and remembering a picture posted on Rob’s facebook page, I thought I would write up a blog instead.

So, here is an undated photo of Rob, stolen from his facebook page.


I can’t be certain, but I think it was taken during his days as a laboratory experiment. I’m glad he escaped the evil scientists and found Crossfit, because he looks a hell of a lot better now.

And now, it’s time to prepare myself mentally for another WOD.

I’ll be paying closer attention this time!

The Tough Get Going

no smoking

What do you do when life gets tough?

Do you run or pray or meditate?

Do you smoke or fight or drive your car too fast?

There was a time when I could gauge how tough things were in my life (consciously or unconsciously) by the distances I would run. Sometimes I would release the stress into the air along with my sweat and tears, but other times, problems rode piggyback the whole way.

I still love a good 2 to 3 hour run; but Crossfit has been my therapy of choice these past eleven months.

At first I only went twice a week, but a couple of things happened at once: 1) my running trails turned to ankle-deep mud and 2) I realized the box was my safe place.

We all need a safe place to go: a place that is healthy, where people are encouraging, and where you can blow off steam and not think about anything except the next rep.

The only time someone yells is to say, ‘Tighten up!’ or ‘Stolz Sein!’ [Be Proud]; and it’s never derogatory, but it always makes you try harder.

As I was talking with another Crossfitter after class, I realized that many of us come to Crossfit not knowing it will become our safe place–a place we need to keep ourselves sane.

For many of us, our box, with its dripping ceiling and random divots in the floor, feels like home to us–and I wouldn’t change it for anything. A shiny place wouldn’t feel the same.

This is not to say that I’ve forfeited home life for the box. My kids will tell you that I’m a much better, less stressed-out Mama because of Crossfit. They encourage me to go [sometimes vehemently] because with Crossfit, I can be the Mama I’m supposed to be. The one with energy, vitality and an optimistic view of life.

Funny how tangible, iron weights can lift the intangible weight from our minds.

I am thankful for every day I get to go to Crossfit. It’s making me stronger, in many different senses of the word.

American Hairless

*Disclaimer: today’s post deals with sensitive issues. If you are squeamish about the human body, I recommend you find a nice blog about golf or muscle cars.

*The author is not liable for any resulting psychological trauma.
*Seriously, stop reading now.

Are they gone?


Now we can talk about body hair.

*I told you to stop reading, dude.


I didn’t want to write, “No boys allowed,” because I know some men deal with this issue as well. In fact, I have friends who shave their husbands’ backs on a routine basis–so this isn’t simply a female issue.

I was in the tub with my good old safety razor, and I realized that because of Crossfit, and the subsequent muscles that have sprung from nowhere, MY RAZOR WON’T FIT IN MY ARMPIT!

I managed to do a decent job, only cutting myself twice. But with all the stretching and bending required for the procedure, only a contortionist could get a clean shave.

On the cover of Trail Running UK, there is a photo of Paula Radcliff with her bare arm waving high in the air with a gorgeous hairless armpit. Inside the magazine, the caption reads: “Paula was really glad she’d shaved under her arms before the race.”

But my question was HOW did she do it? Did she have a tiny razor? Hot wax? I didn’t really care how she trained after an injury; I wanted to know how she got her underarms so smooth.

Crossfit has changed my life in MANY ways, but this is a change that took me by surprise.

If my Crossfitter friend (who got me into this) had initially said, “You’ll be able to do a pull-up, but you may have stubble,” I might’ve thought twice.

I live in Europe, where many women (especially of the older generation) don’t shave; but sheesh….I’ll drink Federweißer in the fall and occasionally forfeit my Vegan principles for a hot bratwurst at a cold Weihnachtsmarkt, but I’m not willing to go THAT native yet.

So, my dear brave reader and fellow athlete…what do YOU do about body hair.

I am truly curious to have your input on this one! Don’t be shy! Please share your advice! 

What’s Holding You Back?

Holding Back

I was going to write a post on the intimate nature of the partnered pretzel stretch when I ran across this article by Dr. Allison Belger on Psychology WOD, which gave me a lot to think about.

There were two closely-related issues that struck home with me:

1) Body image isn’t SO much about what the media pumps into your head about beauty, but it’s our response to it that matters.

2) If we have ‘body issues’ it MIGHT be that we are unconsciously sabotaging ourselves; and we should really spend some time reflecting on the root of the problem–if it is indeed something we can control. 

Because I have a melancholy disposition, I’m naturally prone to scourging myself with introspection, but THIS time, it seems to be a good thing. Dr. Belger’s article gave me a chance to consider that perhaps the reason I haven’t ‘lost those last ten pounds’ is because of something psychological.

Dr. Belger writes: “The reality is that our susceptibility to the cultural phenomenon of perfection is fundamentally and essentially based not only on the images we see, but on our own psychology.”

Basically, when I see an image of the ‘perfect body,’ I immediately look for the ‘flaws’ in my own body and lament that I’m not different. But Belger’s thesis suggest there’s more to it than an inferiority complex brought on by false advertising in the media–she suggests that my own psychological makeup (for better or…usually for worse) hinders me from really being content in my own skin.

Belger punched me in the gut with this: “How do you imagine your life would change if you had another body—you know, the one you watch enviously at the gym every day or the one with which your best friend is blessed?

We tend to think everything would be just fine if only [FILL IN THE BLANK].

But what if the reason I haven’t broken through the chunky thigh plateau is because I’ve used my ‘imperfections’ as a defense mechanism?


After pondering this in the wee hours of the morning, I’ve come to realize that for most of my life, I’ve wanted to be invisible. I learned at an early age to associate ‘attention’ with something bad. Thus, my goal in life was to blend in with the wallpaper–to not rock the boat–to escape notice.

Those of you who knew me in high school drama class might think, “Wait a minute–you were Nun #4 in the Sound of Music! How is that invisible?” But when you’re in a play, you’re either having fun; being a diva; or hiding.

I was hiding.

Fast forward.

I’m in my 40s now and still don’t have what I would consider the ‘ideal’ body.

So back to Dr. Belger’s question: how do I think my life would be different if I had a different body?

Well…I wouldn’t be invisible anymore, and I would have to risk failing at something or worse–risk succeeding at something. Fear of failure and fear of success seem like stupid issues to have, but they are real for many of us. Because when you fail, it draws attention. And when you succeed, it draws attention.

You see the conundrum here for the invisible woman?

Something has changed in my life recently, and I owe much of it to Crossfit: a certain sort of inner gumption has bubbled up from somewhere inside. It’s this feeling or belief or whatever you want to call it that says: win or lose, you have to go for it! 

I have some big dreams, and I can’t let my own warped ideas about myself hold me back.

I don’t know if every Crossfit environment is pretty much the same across the world, but our box has such a great atmosphere that the only reason you walk away feeling like a failure is because of the erroneous thoughts rattling around in your own noggin.

Crossfit is not about seeing results that can be quantified on a scale; it’s about being able to carry heavy stuff that you couldn’t carry before; it’s about running up three flights of stairs for fun; it’s about being with people who are supportive and encouraging, even when your life outside the box is ripping apart at the seams.

It’s about setting free that person whose been hiding all these years, and watching what she does with the time she’s been given.

If you’ve not yet done so, check out Dr. Allison Belger’s article and give it some thought! It’s worth the time! 

Two Things

work it

Steam rose from my sweaty body as I lay on the cold floor, trying to catch my breath.

75 burpees will do that to a person.

I’ve been Crossfitting for 11 months now, and I have learned that if Rob only has two things written on the big white board, we’re going to get our po’s kicked.

At first, you think, “Wow! Looks like an ‘easy’ day,” (if there is such a thing at Crossfit). But when there is less variety on the menu, you can expect a gourmet workout.

Our WOD:

Deadlifts 70 percent, max reps

75 Burpees for time.



I may be wrong in this generalization, but everyone hates burpees. (If you like them, let me know, because I can recommend some good medication to help you).

As in Crossfit, the simplest things in life can be the toughest. Making time for your kids when you have other deadlines hemming you in. Cleaning your room when you’d rather be running.

We tend to marginalize the simple things in life; or in Crossfit terms, we view them as the warm-up rather than the WOD.

But sometimes, doing the small things well has the biggest payoff.