Monthly Archives: January 2014

Crossfit: Addiction or Therapy

doc

I used to wait until my husband left for work to sneak out to Crossfit.

I would give him a few minutes head start, if I could spare them, and pray he wouldn’t forget something and come back, which, awkwardly happened a couple of times: gym bag slung over my arm, minimal shoes on my feet, keys in hand, I stood there, poised for the door while he grabbed whatever he had forgotten and asked, “Are you going somewhere?”

“I thought I’d take the morning class today. It’s been too muddy for running, and I need to work out.”

That would go one of two ways, but it always ended with me going to Crossfit.

I knew I needed it.

I often joke about Crossfit being my addiction. I crave it more than chocolate, and without it, I start to have withdrawal. But when I was compared to an alcoholic in one unseemly tirade, I wondered if it was true: did I have a problem?

Addictions are as much a part of my family makeup as our distinguished upper lips and ample posteriors, so it was entirely possible I had slipped into some kind of dependent behavior unawares.

Naturally, because this bothered me so much, I turned to our trusted friend Wikipedia, who told me:

“Classic hallmarks of addiction include impaired control over substances or behavior, preoccupation with substance or behavior, continued use despite consequences, and denial.”

That’s cutting a little too close to my kettle bells.

However, an addiction is clearly something that has adverse consequences, and Crossfit, like a good lover, has only been kind to me.

Crossfit challenges me, makes me stronger both physically and mentally, and keeps me from curling up in the fetal position while uncontrollably weeping.

That sounds more like therapy to me, which WiKi defines as: therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client, patient, family, couple, or group.

Can someone be addicted to therapy?

Of course, I could be in denial about my alleged addiction, but I don’t really care. I would NOT want to go back to the person I was before Crossfit, and nobody wants to see me OFF Crossfit.

I’d be in nice clinic somewhere trying to cut my lunch with a plastic spoon.

I had wondered, however, if Crossfit was a home wrecker. I mean, things seemed pretty smooth before I started making trouble.

But there’s really no such thing as a home wrecker. If the foundation is weak, the slightest weight will cause the whole thing to collapse, while a strong foundation can weather anything.

For now, my life is about getting stronger and finding out what I’m really made of. I need to be strong and stable for this family I love so much. And if that means Mommy goes to Crossfit (again. and again. and yet again.) that’s what HAS to be done, for everyone’s own good.

Crossfit is my therapy, not my addiction.

And right now, Crossfit is better than any drug a doctor could prescribe.

It’s even better than chocolate. 

I guess that’s something else to work out in therapy. 


The REAL Strength of Crossfit

BOL pp face

Just because two bone fragments fuse together does not mean the appendage is healthy.

The only remedy is for the doctor to re-break the bone, so it can be properly set.

Yesterday I had to break a bone.

I thought it would be easier.

But breaking something involves hurting someone, and no matter how anesthetized you might think they are, you know it’s going to be painful.

I didn’t realize how much it would hurt me too. And I wondered if surgeons sometimes grimace when they crack something that appears to function. Or do they just plunge in and do it because they know it will ultimately help?

This is why I’m a writer not a doctor.

Yesterday was a hard day. Not just doing the hard thing, but also by staying strong once I got there.

It’s like when you do a double kettle bell push press and have to overhead walk a thousand meters.

(Okay, maybe it’s not quite that far, but it ALWAYS feels like it).

(And yes, even the most painful subjects have Crossfit analogies). 

But when you have your arms locked out and your forearms are going numb and your face gets contorted and you’re barely able to move forward without stumbling, you have two options: drop them and do a hundred burpees or move forward.

I think I’ve mentioned before my long-standing hatred for burpees.

If I can move forward, no matter how long it takes me, then I’m good.

Stopping is the real problem.

When you stop,  you get comfortable, and it’s twice as hard to get going again.

When you stop, doubts and fears can creep in that make you second guess yourself.

When you stop, the clock keeps running.

So don’t stop. Keep moving. One painful step at a time.

Do what is right, because your voice matters just as much as that of any creature with an orifice.

Crossfit is about strength, but REAL strength comes from inside. It is about focus and dedication, and you can’t weave that into any WOD. It is a mindset that allows you to face challenges rather than run from them.

This kind of strength is something you have to bring into the box with you. And when you bring it with you, you’re not just using it for yourself, but you are giving back to the Crossfit family.

It’s in every fist bump, every ‘good job,’ every smile, every sweaty hug, every kick in the spandex–this is what makes us stronger: all of that positive energy boiling out of one compact place. 

This is what makes Crossfit stand out.

It makes you strong enough to stand, strong enough to move forward.

Just stay tight. Don’t get sloppy. Move forward. And listen to your coach cuss yell encourage and your family cheer.

You can smile again, when the painful part is over.

Keep moving.

You WILL come out of this stronger.

A little sore, perhaps, but still stronger. 

This WOD won’t last forever.

Keep moving. Please. Keep moving.

You won’t be sorry.

You’ll be strong.


Learning to Stand

BOL down1

Sometimes you just have to stand up.

I had a wonderful, Crossfitty post ready this morning, but the anxiety in the pit of my stomach tells me to write and let it out.

I used to be feisty, independent and full of life & vibrance. But somewhere along the way, I went comfortably numb: ignoring major problems and learning to be a good victim by sleeping silently in my coma, as life slipped by.

I blame Crossfit for ripping out the IV. 

It’s not that the physical strength I’ve gained makes me feel like I can physically defend myself, if I needed to; but Crossfit has helped me to feel stronger mentally. I can’t lift a bus full of schoolchildren over my head just by thinking about it, but I know what I HAVE accomplished at Crossfit–and it is a world away from where I began. 

It is a frightening thing to stand up, especially when you’ve been lying down for so long. Confrontation makes me literally feel sick. I don’t like to rock the boat. I LIKE to be the peacemaker. But some things are worth the effort, even when the weight is heavy.

My weight is heavy today. And though I like to write chipper, amusing posts, I also want to be real with you, because we are MORE than what people see online. I want to share my ups and downs & what I learn as I uncover more of the ‘real’ me, who’s been buried under an avalanche of issues for years.

I don’t know if this is a mid-life crisis, or a mid-life catharsis.

Either way, I have to just stand up.

I’ve worked my way up to it.

Something has to change. Right now.

Life is too short to stay down.

I don’t want to, and though I dread it, I’ve got to stand up today.

Stolz Sein.

And HTFU. 


Crossfit: a Humbling Endeavor

BOL fall

I can’t be certain, but I’m assuming that every Crossfitter, at one time or another, has felt humiliated during a WOD.

Maybe the jumprope gets caught in your ponytail; or you fall on your head while kicking into a handstand hold; or you drop a kettle bell on your shoulder–these are purely hypothetical…

When I see someone else drop a bar, or do something that looks like it hurts, my first thought is: “I hope he’s okay!” and not: “Boy, that looked stupid!” 

It’s funny how we’re hardest on ourselves. Or maybe we can become so self-focused that we think everyone else is watching us too?

There’s a good reason our coach tells us to leave our ego at the door. It’s because at some point we will look stupid, and it’s easier to peel yourself off the floor and get back to the WOD if your ego isn’t there hindering you.

The ego is a master at finding excuses to disrupt a good workout. It will tell you your hands hurt too much, or you’re too tired, or because you’ve never actually done a particular movement correctly, you won’t be able to do it now, or you’ll look stupid when you try and fail.

Your ego knows the best lies are rooted in truth. Maybe your calluses DO need to be shaved, or you’re tired from working the night shift, or you have NEVER done a strict pull-up–but unless there are health and safety issues involved (like you are severely dehydrated from partying all night or you have a flesh-eating virus), who the hell cares?

Bringing your ego into the box will only hinder your progression. You have to be a little fearless to Crossfit. You have to be willing to expose your weaknesses before you can get stronger. If you get embarrassed by your weaknesses, you’ll never progress because your bastard ego will say, “See, I told you so! Just give up now!”

At the Battle of London, I could clearly see when ego took over an athlete. That was probably the worst thing to watch. Instead of picking themselves back up, the ego started making excuses. You could see it in their demeanor and body language. They would stare at their hands, hunch over,  look down at the ground, laugh nervously, or even shake their heads. One guy had problems with double-unders, which set a tone of failure for the rest of the WOD.

I’m not trying to be hard on these athletes, because obviously, they are all skilled; but I recognized in them the same attitude that I often have. 

Yes, there’s an appropriate time and place for a pause, but what if instead of staring at the bar thinking it’s a million miles away, I just jumped up to the damn thing and pulled? Even if I can’t get my chest up there, at least I would have done some work that would get me a little closer to my goal. Standing around or taking extra ‘water breaks’ doesn’t help me do pull-ups. 

Yesterday I was rushing through my kettle bell push-press, my arm went wildly backwards, and I dropped the kettle bell on my shoulder.

As the kettle bell crashed to the ground, I started to feel SO stupid; and then I remembered what I had just learned at the Battle of London. 

I gave my ego a quick boot through the door, and instead of rubbing my shoulder or looking around for sympathy, I picked up the kettle bell and started over, with a bit more humility and less sloppy form.

I didn’t have the fastest time, but I did the work I was supposed to. 

One of my goals is to stop making excuses: to remove myself, so to speak, and just attempt the task at hand, no matter what it is. That’s the only way I can meet my goals.

With humility and hard work.

No egos allowed.


Men are not Beautiful

After much undocumented scientific research (looking through nearly a thousand photos from the Battle of London), I’ve come to the conclusion that men are not beautiful.

BOL mkbs

Random Shirtless Dude–Doing Beautiful Work

Sorry guys.

You’re just not.

You might be considered handsome,  strong, attractive, or just plain geil, but beautiful is not a label I can slap across any of you.

But don’t lose hope. You have the potential to do beautiful things, like braid your daughter’s hair or take your wife’s hand for no reason.

I looked up “Beauty” in Webster’s, and it has about as many shades of meaning as there are colors seen by the naked eye. I think a really old person with sparkling eyes and good posture is beautiful, but maybe you don’t.

We are more than just bodies though: we are minds & souls, packed with creativity, intelligence and emotion–and often, those things make us beautiful or ugly, depending upon how we use them.

A handsome man loses his attractiveness when he is an ass.

So, beauty has to be more than skin deep.

There’s something appealing about people who posses qualities you don’t have. I was in AWE of the muscle-ups and fluidity of some of the athletes doing chest-to-bar at the Battle of London. The spectacle was raw, sweaty and yet so graceful, I would consider it a beautiful sight.

Women's Masters Final--BEAUTIFUL

Women’s Masters Final–BEAUTIFUL

Beauty, according to the dictionary, is something that excites the emotion, which makes it a highly personal thing. It could be a laugh or a smile or a clean-and-jerk that does it for you. I suppose that despite my research, you might find a man’s body beautiful.

I’m not entirely convinced, but I’ll give you the freedom to define things how you want.


The Naked Truth Part 2: Hot Bodies

hot

In a recent post on the topic of perception of the human body and Crossfit culture, I had written a profound statement about how I am not ogling other Crossfitters but merely watching mechanics.

BOL wrist

This was before the Battle of London.

Wow.

Hot bodies come in all shapes and sizes; and to not admire them would mean that I am either a) a eunuch or b) an alien species.

I take that back: eunuchs and aliens couldn’t help but admire such a conglomeration of supreme physiology.

I would have to be an android, devoid of all feeling and emotion to NOT do a little ogling.

Let’s face it: Crossfit is sexy.

BOL lifting

While you may not feel exactly sexy as you’re struggling under weights with your hair all askew and sweat dripping from places from which you’d rather not draw attention, there is something about watching the human body in action that stirs the blood.

Our bodies were made for work, and they were made for pleasure, and in Crossfit those two things can be intertwined.

What I really enjoyed about the Battle of London, aside from the part where the guys took off their shirts, was watching how the different body types had unique strengths and weaknesses.

They were all strong, but some could do chest-to-bar more fluidly, or run with more economy, or lift more weight than others.

There is no perfect Crossfit body type: some were svelte, some had muscular thighs, some had incredible upper bodies; some, but not all, had gorgeous abs. And the thing is: it didn’t matter. They were skilled enough to compete in the Battle of London–and that is impressive. That IS sexy.

Even the grandmas and grandpas had hot bodies.

Masters

Women’s Masters Final

While having a sexy body is NOT the goal of Crossfit, and while it’s not something I think about while gasping for breath during a WOD, it is a component of Crossfit, not to mention a really nice side-effect.

Crossfit should have a warning label.


Confession of a Crossfit Snob

treadmill

I have a confession to make: I’ve become a Crossfit snob.

I realize this confession might cause some of you to unfriend me on facebook, but bear with me a little as I try to explain this extremely delicate and complex matter:

Crossfit is superior to everything.

I may smile and nod while you tell me about your diet plan, your new ‘fitness’ DVDs and even the new ‘class’ you’re taking so you can ‘drop a few pounds’ before your Mediterranean Cruise. I might say something like, “It’s great that you’re being so active.” But really, I’m thinking, “Why waste your time with that crap?”

Here’s where you unfriend me.

While I DO think step aerobics (do they still DO step aerobics?)  is far better than sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and sucking down Mountain Dew, Crossfit is better.

I realize that not everyone actually has access to a good box, and I also realize that you can’t do Crossfit entirely on your own–there’s only so much a YouTube tutorial can show you–however, if you are already investing time, money and energy on a gym membership, why not Crossfit instead? Choosing Zumba over Crossfit is like eating Marzipan instead of real fruit–it may taste good for a little while, but it’s not very nourishing.

Take a good look at photos from fitness ‘fads.’ No one actually looks capable of pulling a person from a burning building or even carrying a bag of heavy groceries without breaking a sweat.

Maybe you don’t want to pull people from burning buildings–I get that. But judging from the photos I’ve seen of other ‘fitness programs,’ nobody looks particularly fit–not even the trainers.

You might say, “I have bad knees. I have a bad back. The doctor said I should stay home in my rocking chair until I die.”

My answer: “Try Zumba.”

But if you say, “I need to change my life.”

I’ll reply, “Try Crossfit.”

Anyone CAN Crossfit, but maybe not everyone should.

More snobbery.

If you are not willing to change your life and do things that are hard, things that require EFFORT, things that are NOT always FUN, then don’t try Crossfit. But if your entire life until now has been one big slide into mediocrity and you’re tired of it, then you just might be a Crossfitter at heart.

There’s nothing better than watching the metamorphosis of someone who is struggling with obesity or knee problems or rapidly advancing age (like myself) as they come consistently to class and give it their all. It doesn’t matter if their push-ups (like mine at first) are against the wall, or if they’re stepping up on bumpers instead of plyo boxes. They are doing real, hard work in order to make their lives better–and THAT is admirable. 

You don’t have to be perfect to Crossfit, you just have to be consistent and give it every ounce of energy you’ve got. If I reach muscle failure at 9 chin-ups, while my partner can do all 30 on her own, I am STILL giving it my best effort.

I’ll get to 30 eventually.

Some people don’t care about doing chin-ups or pull-ups or handstand push-ups–and that’s fine. They can keep doing their elliptical or their treadmill and lose the same 5 pounds over and over again for the rest of their lives. If they are okay with that, then why should I care?

But for those of you I truly love, and for those of you who WANT real and lasting change in your lives, and for those of you who WANT to be part of the most awesome, encouraging community worldwide, I recommend Crossfit.

There’s nothing better. 


The Naked Truth: Culture, Crossfit and Perception of the Human Body

push up

If I stare at you during a WOD, I’m not checking you out; I’m watching your mechanics.

I am a visual learner.

I can’t speak for every Crossfitter, but during a WOD, there’s no time for fantasy. If I do have a moment to ogle my friends, it’s to analyze their form, not their junk.

I have lived in Europe for nearly eight years, and I suppose I’ve been a little desensitized to the human body, because around any corner, something unexpected can pop out at you. My youngest daughter was still in her car seat when she first chimed out, “What’s Dolly Buster?” I had to explain it wasn’t a place where they sold children’s toys.

The body takes on a certain kind of practicality here. It can be beautiful or ugly, but it is natural, and many Europeans let it all hang out. It’s not a big deal–and it’s not always sexual. It seems more hypocritical to me for a culture to constantly sexualize the body, and then be shocked or offended by actual nakedness.

There’s nothing wrong with modesty–in fact, it’s something I like to instill in my daughters, but the body is nothing to be ashamed of either. It is a body. And everyone has one.

Sometimes our American perception of the body creates problems. For example, we don’t want to take physical care of our elderly because it might include dealing with someone’s nakedness. So, we hire nurses, or stow away the elderly in nursing homes rather than get over our shock at an old, wrinkled body and do the dirty work ourselves.

One thing that Crossfit in Germany has taught me is that the body is just a body. It can do incredible things if you put the time and effort into maintaining it. But there is also an extremely practical side to Crossfit–it enables me to do things like help lift my mom (in her wheelchair) up some stairs so she can enjoy a movie with us; or even place her safely into bed if she’s feeling weak that night.

The strength I gain at Crossfit not only enhances my life, but it improves her quality of life as well.

I’m not entirely angelic here. I DO like the way my body is shaping up; and I DO like feeling more attractive. But the real satisfaction is in being strong enough to help other people.

I may be odd, but I’m not attracted to a person’s body any more than I’m bowled over by flowery words. I’m a writer, so I know how cheap good rhetoric can be. Action is the evidence for one’s beliefs. In a similar way, I’m not attracted to bodies, though I am a sucker for a good set of eyes–the windows of the soul–and a great smile–but mostly, to actions & behaviors.

Having a ‘hot’ body is not the sole purpose for Crossfit: the purpose of Crossfit is to improve your body and mind so that you can not only enjoy this life to the fullest, but to help others do the same. 

There’s more I’d like to say on this subject, but it’s time for me to sign off–I have some people to uplift. 


BWOD

Toughen Up, Buttercup!

Toughen Up, Buttercup!

Standing on my left leg, I was wobbly, and nearly fell over, which naturally meant I should swap the plyo box for bumpers on my Bulgarian Split Squat.

As I tossed a bumper to the floor, I heard a voice say, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you quit.”

I wish this had been an internal voice, but no, it was my coach, my own personal Jiminy Cricket, busting me before I could turn into an ass.

I hadn’t thought about it, but I WAS quitting just because something was hard–and that’s not the kind of person I want to be. I like to think that even if I broke both legs and had to claw myself 42 kilometers up a mountain, I wouldn’t quit a marathon–so why do I ‘quit’ during a WOD?

But there are more subtle ways of quitting than packing your bag and walking out. 

I DO quit during a marathon–usually around kilometer 30. Though I don’t hobble to the nearest aide station and have them cart me back to the finish line in an ambulance; mentally, when it gets really tough, I justify slowing down. My body might cross the finish line–hell, I might even be smiling–but deep down, I know that I didn’t give it my all.

I had quit when it got hard.

This is not a good theme for one’s life. 

It is absolutely incredible to me how much of a good WOD (or race) is in your mind. When my brain is in default mode, it reverts to the quitter–I HATE that. She sneaks up on me when I’m not looking, and it takes a not-so-little voice wearing the ‘coach’ shirt to say, “Toughen up! That mountain will not be kind to you!” 

I need that voice in my head, because the coach is right–that mountain will conquer me if I quit.

There is a fine line here though. I don’t want to get SO focused on ‘winning’ or on a particular goal that it sucks the joy out of the event. There was a time a couple years ago when I stopped running with my GPS watch, because the more I watched the numbers, the less enjoyable the run became. So, I started listening to birds (and my body), watching deer and looking for amazing sunrises instead of staring at my wrist. I PR’d that year.

I need to have a similar philosophy about Crossfit. I have specific goals, but instead of stressing about them, I need to just show up, do the work, and NOT quit when things get hard. I’m confident I can meet these goals AND have fun at the same time.

One of my friends posted recently about her WOD (and her attitude towards it), and it made me realize just how often we sabotage ourselves. We can have an incredible WOD and PR at our race, and STILL be dissatisfied with ourselves.

We SHOULD have goals, but in Crossfit, they’re more like mile-markers. Places along the route you can point to and think “Oh, right…I WAS there once!”

Whether the mile-markers are down in Death Valley or up in the Himalayas doesn’t matter. What matters is that I keep going, keep trying and never quit because I think it’s too hard.

For the record: my Bulgarian Split Squats were ugly, but I finished them all–and though I looked like I was doing them in an earthquake, I didn’t fall down.

Now that’s a good metaphor for life. 

It was my Brain WOD.


How to Love a Crossfit Newbie

schoolkids

She was so obnoxious, I wondered why Coach Rob didn’t just tell her to shut up. I think she talked the entire session, nodding wisely and trying to add important information to the conversation, which wasn’t really a conversation at all–she just didn’t know that.

I do understand when you have not yet purchased the correct tool, you will dig around in the junk drawer of your brain to find anything you can use to do a new job.

And, like hanging up drapes with paperclips, it’s not pretty.

While I’m sure our coach was intrigued with her knowledge gleaned from years of step aerobics and running, which she mentioned frequently, he didn’t say anything about it other than, “Here, you have to leave your ego at the door.”

She didn’t seem to think anything about that until later, when she realized that pretty much everything she had been doing, while good for her in many ways, had been wrong.

Eventually, she learned to keep her mouth (mostly) shut and listen–really listen, which means applying it to the WOD. 

It still amazes me that the more experienced Crossfitters were not only patient with her, but encouraging as well. They took the time to get to know her, to show her things, to give her pointers and tell her when she was leaning too far forward while squatting the bare bar.

In case you’re wondering, the Newbie in question WAS me.

As I look back over a year of Crossfit, I can see how far I’ve come, not just in physical strength, but in my mindset as well. I’m not the most stellar athlete–I still haven’t RX’d any WOD that includes lifting or pulling the entirety of my body weight, but with one year under my rapidly shrinking belt, I have learned a few things.

  • People might annoy you, but give them a break–they’ll settle in. And besides, they are trying something way out of most people’s comfort zones.
  • Camaraderie is what makes Crossfit the best sport on the planet–do your part to build such an environment.
  • The Newbies who come back routinely might become your new best friends.
  • New Crossfitters are working hard too–if they’re not, they probably won’t stick around long.
  • Be patient and wait to see how Crossfit changes them physically, but also mentally. The proof is in the Paleo pudding.
  • Even if you have to lift the plyo box out for them and put weights away for them and show them where the toilet is; love them, because no matter how buff you think you were before coming to Crossfit; you were a shiny-shoed little school-kid once too.