Tag Archives: Crossfit

The Effects of Social Facilitation on CrossFitters or Move Your Ass, People are Watching

back squat

I’ve been partnered with quite a few people, and I’ve noticed a trend in myself:

If someone currently lifts more than me, I don’t push myself, because I know I can’t ‘keep up.’

If someone currently lifts less than me,  I don’t push myself, because I’m lazy.

But this week I shared a rack with someone who had the exact same one rep max for back squats.

And there was one clear thought in my head saying: “If she can do it, you can too!”

Psychologists call this Social Facilitation.

I call it Move Your Ass Because Your Partner is Watching!

Social Facilitation simply means that performance tends to improve when other people are around. Psychologists have two categories that go along with this: the co-action effect and the audience effect.

The co-action effect is when you are working independently, but someone else is doing the same task.

The audience effect is when people from the next class arrive early and stare while you squat.

With Anja, there was definitely the co-action effect going on.

I didn’t feel competitive (as in some egoistic need to add more weight than prescribed); rather, I felt like we were in it together:  increasing the same weight and pushing through the same reps and celebrating when we accomplished it.

Watching her achieve the reps so elegantly motivated me to push through, at least without falling over backwards.

Anja sets the bar high.

Well…not literally, since I’m two feet taller than she is.

But, she works hard and has great form, which, in turn, set in me a more determined mindset and positive way of thinking.

When you see someone achieve the goal you have set for yourself, laziness is not an option.

According to the experts (some random blog I pulled up while doing this research), Social Facilitation has many dynamics that can’t be calculated. Sometimes people become inhibited and perform poorly in front of others. Thus, the effects of Social Facilitation largely depend on the performer, the task and how much she really cares about being evaluated by others.

I would add, that performance is also influenced by the type of audience. There’s a difference between a coach lurking around (and constantly telling you “Go deeper!”) and a five year-old gazing at you whilst hanging upside down on the rings next to your rack.

And there are other dynamics at play as far as individual personalities. Some people just make me nervous when they’re watching. But with others, their presence inspires me to do better.

I don’t think there’s any kind of schematic that can adequately explain it.

Our personalities, thoughts, behaviors, actions, even our pasts can influence the dynamics at the box. Just as billions of chemical reactions go on in your brain at any given moment, so the nuances of interpersonal relations vary depending on billions of factors.

The point is that sometimes you find someone who inspires and motivates you in a peculiar blend of teamwork and friendly rivalry.

It’s just another way CrossFit is unlike any environment I’ve ever known. You compete with yourself, yet you want to keep up with your peers. And if you finish second, you’re truly happy for the person in first place and the person in fiftieth–because you’re all working hard together.

As individuals.

Yet side by side.

Lifting heavy shit.

Last week I deadlifted 82,5 kg for nine reps.

Anya came along in the next class and did 85.

Does 2,5 kg really make a difference?

Yeah. It does.

Next time, I’m trying 90.

In a friendly sort of way.

But if Anja can do it, I can too. 

Now I have to work on my pull-ups. Because she can do them. And I can’t (yet).

 

 

 

 

 


How CrossFit Changed my Running

Bulgarian Split Squat

Last year I was a thirty year-old male named Kevi Williams, at least, according to a translation error while anmelding.

It’s too early to tell who I was this year.

As I stood in the Sunday sunshine, waiting for the starting gun and wearing traditional CrossFit black in a sea of neon, I was nervous because:

a) I’ve only taken two ‘real’ runs in the past four months, the longest of which was only 40 minutes long.

b) Instead of training runs, I’ve been swinging kettle bells and doing many, many back squats.

c) It was a 10k (which means ‘fast’).

d) People (especially Germans who have sport clubs for things that aren’t even sports) are pretty serious when it comes to racing. Plus, they usually practice.

But the goal of this city race wasn’t to go fast, per say, but to have fun (if possible); represent CrossFit Ansbach (since I was wearing the t-shirt); and to test how my CrossFit Training has affected my running.

I’d been a runner for about four years before I succumbed to CrossFit’s siren song. My running had changed during that time, especially after reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (who DIDN’T start barefoot running after that?!) and slowly, I was able to change my form to a minimalist style: barefoot shoes, forefront strike. That slow evolution strengthened my arches (a previous weakness) and significantly helped my knee problems.

Now I was adding CrossFit.

I remember Rob once saying that you have to use your ass when you run; and at the time, I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. However, it IS possible to run 4 or 5 or even 6 marathons without ever using the biggest single muscle in your body.

What a waste of potential.

At last year’s race, I’d only been CrossFitting 2 or possibly 3 days a week for 4 months. This time, not only did I have another year under my significantly smaller belt, but I’ve been at the box consistently 5 days a week, doing the Bogatyr training program, which I love because while my life goes to hell, it makes me feel good to be part of a group of ‘warriors.’

CrossFit isn’t simply doing some kind of exercise: it’s about mastering movement.

Mostly, you’re using your hips, core and ass–and when you do it right, it feels right.

These foundational movements are also utilized in minimalist running technique.

That was the biggest difference for me.

When others were wilting on the long, hot stretch with no breeze, I was keeping my shoulders back, my gaze up, and my hips open.

When ‘in the groove’ my core floated along, and I felt light as my feet pushed the ground away behind me.

Mid-race, I was picking people off, staying strong and increasing my speed until the final sprint at the finish.

After the race (and this morning) I could feel it in my butt, which is something new (of course–that COULD be leftover from Saturday’s Bulgarian Split Squats; but my legs didn’t feel tired at all.

I don’t know how Kevi Williams did this year, but as for CrossFitter Mama, when she crossed the finish line the clock said 54 minutes (not bad for a chick turning 41 this week); and she finished strong and smiling–like a Bogatyr should.

It was a PR.

Next stop: Swiss Alps.

After that…the sky’s the limit.

As long as I can take my kettle bells.  

 

 

 


Strength and Nutrition Challenge

keri rack pull

As if life weren’t challenging enough, I signed up for the strength & nutrition challenge at the box. This “stupid-easy” challenge has turned out to be a battle of wills between my healthy new self and the slothful old self who occasionally wakes up, yawns, and inhales a portion of pommes mit mayo.

I blame it on the health clinic.

You would think a place where getting people ‘healthy’ would have more fresh options besides bananas and chocolate.

I have to credit the little cafe though–it’s probably the only place in Germany that doesn’t sell alcohol, though that might be due to its proximity to the drug rehab facility.

But you can buy your cigarettes, schnitzel, pommes, soda and ice cream.

My new self would carry an emergency pack of tuna in her purse; but I haven’t become as organized as I’d like to be. Like spores, my ‘to-do’ list asexually reproduces every time I turn my back. I don’t even bother writing things on my calendar any more until after the fact.

Thus, I am failing the challenge so far.

However, I have learned that this nutrition thing really does work. My worst WODs this past month were ALWAYS after I’d been eating badly.

Always.

Ironically, the worse I eat, the more I sleep. It’s as if my body knows that fat, salt and sugar require more down-time for storage.

So, I am pounding my fist on the table (again) and saying, “Enough!”

From here until my birthday (where I WILL eat cake), I am going to stick to the eating plan.

I have to remind myself that I AM an athlete–and by the way, I have a mountain marathon in September. I can’t pack on any weight at all–even muscle or my knees will go on strike.

It’s hard to get rid of old habits. But I need to keep in mind the person I want to be. This is a huge time of transition in my life, and I’ve got to start snipping the strings of things that are holding me back, which in this case, means french fries.

This challenge has proven more difficult than I thought it would be. But I want to get rid of my cravings, and I want to give my body the very best so I can perform the best.

I’ve discovered that nutrition really does affect all areas of my life. When I’m eating properly, my mind feels sharper, I’m more energetic, and this sounds strange, but when I look in the mirror, my eyes seem brighter. If I DO get that face-to-face interview for the job that I want, then I want to be at my very best.

When I feel good, I’m more confident, and I can handle the pressures life is throwing at me.

When I feel bad (from eating junk), I become a weepy puddle. That’s not a good look for me.

So, after I finish drinking my coffee this morning, IF I’m hungry, I’ll go find some fresh veggies to fuel my day.

I know my old self is going to rear her ugly head; and I can anticipate a fight.

May the best girl win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Sugar Junkie Reforms (Again)

candy bugs

While I usually strive for excellent nutrition, this weekend I fell off the wagon–and I feel like it ran me over.

I’ve been participating in a strength and nutrition challenge, and I think I probably blew all my progress on one weekend of chocolate eggs, ham and potatoes.

But I reform!

Again.

My kids joke about me being a good addict because I always seem to mean it when I say I’m going to quit.

But it’s true this time.

Really.

From here on out, no more sugar (and a lot of other stuff on the verboten list).

The problem with being a junkie is that nobody believes you when you say you’re going to quit–you actually have to DO it. Even then they think you’re hiding M&M’s in your sock drawer.

However, before my relapse, I was feeling really good. I was more focused, energetic and I simply felt better overall (despite my dietary infractions with pommes).

I feel like I’ve arrived at a critical moment in my life, where several major events are intersecting, and how I handle them (like in a good time-travel movie) will shape my future–for better or worse.

I opt for better.

It’s easy to get caught up in the high of a single moment, instead of waiting for the rewards of a long-term investment.

No one forced me to eat chocolate eggs; it was a choice I made. A bad one, obviously, but it was still something over which I had control.

I was telling a friend about one of our WODs. I was doing a 100 meter farmers carry when it started hailing. She (not a cross fitter, but I love her dearly) said, “They MADE you go outside anyway?”

“Made me?”

“It’s not boot camp,” she replied. “You didn’t have to do it.”

“But it was for time!”

Sometimes you just do stuff–especially with the clock running. Getting ice down my tank top was just another variable that makes Crossfit interesting.

It’s the same thing with marathon training. I run in any kind of weather, except, perhaps, monsoons because I don’t like debris flying at me.

It’s a mindset.

If you think you can’t control your sugar problem, then you will relapse. But if you don’t give yourself an option, then you just might be ok this time.

There are a lot of things I won’t be able to control this week–like getting a face-to-face interview for the job I really want.

But what I can control, I will.

If it means choosing the 16kg kettle bells instead of the 12s, I will. Or at least I’ll try. If it means Just Saying No to pommes, then I’ll do that too.

It all boils down to something our coach asked while I was pressing:

How bad do you want it?

I was fairly happy with the press.

But how badly do I want a new life?

It’s all I can think about anymore.

And that means it’s time to stop talking about it and to dig in and make it happen. The whole course of my future could hinge on what choices I make today.

I want to make the right ones for a change.

I really mean it this time.

Wait and see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


When Life Gets Real, You Toughen Up

keri back squat

How does Crossfit help you in life outside the box?

I was contemplating this while sitting in a mental health facility–you know, the kind where they keep the doors locked.

I don’t quite understand how PR’ing the day before on my press, back squat and deadlift could help me through 11 hours of emotional hell, but it did.

I was sitting in a red vinyl chair, inhaling the remains of someone’s cigarette smoke, while “Thank You For the Music,” was cheerfully blaring from the stereo.

Six hours before, I had been sitting in a psychiatrist’s office with my husband, and now, I was navigating the admittance process of a German mental health clinic.

My brain was tired from being in nearly constant translation mode (I WISH I were fluent); my emotions were raw, and the tears were being bottled up and saved for a place other than the day room of the mental health ward.

The woman sitting next to me, the one I named “The Imposter,” because she had pretended to be a nurse when we had first arrived, commented on my ‘handy,’ upon which I was crying on virtual shoulders a continent away.

I set the phone down, and she and I had a conversation about cell phones, kids and (I think…like I said, I’m not fluent) sex. Then she got up and went out into the garden, where other patients were walking around or standing there smoking.

Alone and waiting for my husband to get done speaking with the doctor, I wanted to crumple. If you are going to begin an immobilizing crying jag, there’s probably no better place to do it. At least no one would bat an eye.

My life had suddenly gone from a county music song to The Notebook in a single day.

And I was done.

Emotionally.

Physically (not having anything to eat or drink in seven hours).

Mentally.

And though I didn’t know it,  I was little more than halfway through the ordeal.

It was a marathon. Only this time, there didn’t seem to be a beer and a medal waiting for me at the end.

There are times in Crossfit, when my core starts to weaken, my shoulders fold in, and the weight starts to heed the law of gravity as my form degrades. During those times, it’s not uncommon to hear the coach’s voice calling out, “Tighten up!” or “Do NOT set those kettle bells down!” It usually helps. 

This time was no exception.

As I sat in the red chair, looking into the garden through windows marked with two large, greasy handprints, contemplating words like Parkinson’s and dementia, I felt my core weaken. The weight of five worlds was finally starting to push me to the ground.

It sounds sappy and sentimental, but I could hear my coach’s voice, which can always pierce through the cacophony of groans, music and metal in the box, telling me one thing:

Toughen up! 

And I did.

The tears would come later, alone and in the car.

But there, mid-way through the worst day of my life thus far, I stayed strong.

Sometimes the world IS placed on your shoulders.

I’m glad I was ready. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


It Takes Courage

victory

Courage is a word we toss around quite a bit, and I’m sure it manifests itself in people differently.

Some of you got off your couches and ran a 5k, with a crowd of people starting at your spandex. That took courage for you.

Some of you walked through the open garage door of a local Box and felt like you could never possibly be like the people over on the rings doing dips, but you didn’t turn around and leave. You stepped in, shook hands and even if you felt awkward, you kept showing up. You still can’t do dips, but you still show courage.

Often, courage has a fearful spark igniting it. How many of you, parents, wouldn’t put yourself between a bear and your child? The fear of the bear harming your kid produces a type of courage that you don’t even think about. You just act. Your adrenaline is pumping, you might even feel sick; but you are wired for the fight, and you don’t second guess yourself.

Courage isn’t something you plan–you just do.

Or you don’t.

And if you don’t, then it’s the antonym.

Fear.

It’s not a healthy basis for living.

Sure we shouldn’t live a completely ‘fearless’ life–doing stupid things and thinking we’re bulletproof. But there are calculated risks we take every day. Limiting yourself by the ‘what-ifs’ will eventually clog up the healthy flow of your life until your heart is barely beating anymore. You go numb and are content to be that way.

Get rid of the ‘what ifs.’

Make the changes you need to. Face the challenges, no matter how sick it makes you feel. Do what’s right.

Most of all, show courage.

Once you begin to show courage, it gets easier and easier, until you start to feel alive again.

Life is hard. Sometimes we take a risk and it fails.

But when it doesn’t fail, then we can truly live.

 

 


Crossfit: an Assertiveness Immersion Course

weights

A sled doesn’t move unless you pull it.

Sounds simple, right?

But think about the alternative.

What happens if you’re passive about:

  • what you eat & drink
  • other chemicals you put into your body (yes, smokers…I’m nagging you)
  • HOW and when you exercise (*note: I didn’t say ‘if’ you exercise)
  • HOW and when you sleep
  • your spiritual life
  • your job
  • your relationship with your kids
  • love & romance (yes–it’s important too)
  • your finances
  • your present
  • your future

Each of those things (and probably more) requires an active, dedicated, thoughtful effort. 

The result of letting things slide means critical failure at some point. And trust me–it WILL catch up to you eventually.

I’m learning this now, the hard way.

Pieces of my life are falling down around me, and I often wonder how I’m going to claw my way out of the rubble.

But I will.

I know I will.

Crossfit (no topic is too deep for Crossfit) has loosened passivity’s grip on my life and has frequently been the impetus for change.

Being assertive does not make you annoying–it gives your opinion value. Think how your life would be different if you were assertive in the things mentioned above: your health, your relationships, using the present to shape your future. 

At the very beginning of this current personal hell I’m going through, a Crossfitter friend asked me where I saw myself in five years.

I had no answer.

I had never envisioned life five years down the road. I had simply been along for the ride, letting others dictate how the course of my life would run.

I have a five-year vision now. 

It includes relationships, joy, Crossfit, marathons, a simple life, fluency in German, a job I love, a six year-old labrador and lots of coffee.

I’ll also have a deeper appreciation for the things I have. 

I already do.

I have a LOT to be thankful for: my kids, my friends, my family in the US, my always-cheerful labrador, the cup of coffee at my side, and of course, today’s WOD–whatever it may be.

Most of us don’t just walk into a box and do a muscle-up. It takes practice, dedication and a lot of sweat. But at some point, you’ll find yourself doing things you once thought impossible.

Think about one area in which you’ve been passive–and take steps today to change it.

Your future depends on it.


The Secret to Life: Don’t Get Comfortable

comfort

I’ve been comfortable for a long time.

Comfortable, yet miserable inside.

We tend to think that comfort is something to strive for, and we’re even willing to pay a lot for it. But would you pay your soul for it? Would you really snuff the spark within you just so your life could have more leg room?

Years ago, when a family member was breathing his last, hospice gave him two things for comfort: morphine and TV.

Maybe that’s a radical way to define comfort, but when you think about it, we’re all dying. These bodies degrade (some more rapidly than others) day by day. So we need to set goals and keep striving for them. We need to put some muscle behind our dreams to make them real. Making dreams real is decidedly uncomfortable, and often, you find yourself doing things you never thought you’d do.

Nothing illegal, of course.

This isn’t Breaking Bad.

And when I say ‘dreams,’ I don’t necessarily mean things that will make your life ‘easier.’ Sometimes a ‘dream’ is simply living the life you want to live: changing careers, moving to a foreign country, making sure every relationship you have is meaningful in this world of aquaintfriendses.

Relationships are what life is all about–that nuanced give and take of ideas and energy that leaves you feeling like your life has changed someone’s world, even just a little.

My comfort blanket has been thrown back, and as I wake and rub my eyes in the dawn, I can still feel the warmth of the bed, growing cold as I rise. I can’t lay back down and pull the blanket over my head. The sun is starting to shine, and I want to get up and make the most of this life.

It is uncomfortable.

I have many fears.

But I am finally awake.

I understand now, what it means to take care of what you have, whether it’s material possessions or your own body & spirit & mind.

In Crossfit, we tangibly make the connection between hard work and results. It is a lesson that shapes how we live and work and play. But there’s more to it: the community is what makes Crossfit so rich. It taps into that craving we all have to be part of something bigger.

It is ‘constantly varied.’

It is ‘functional.’

It is NOT comfortable.

It IS a metaphor for life.

And it’s good.


Crossfit Isn’t Dangerous–I Am

IMG_0774

My grandma sent me an article about how dangerous Crossfit is. I read it, and like any good Crossfitter, I found it amusing.

Grandmas are supposed to worry; and someday as I’m doing handstand pushups and running ultra marathons, I’ll probably worry about my own grandkids too. It’s kind of the Oma’s job.

While I don’t entirely buy the ‘karma’ idea, I did manage to injure myself after I read the article. But I can’t blame Crossfit–it was entirely pilot error. I can’t pinpoint exactly what I did, but I think there was a problem with my improperly executed push-ups that left my shoulder-blade hurting. And like the stubborn marathon runner I am (pushing through pain) I kept working out until I literally could not put any weight on my left arm whatsoever.

Stupid, I know.

I tend to learn things that hard way (it’s a character flaw).

This shoulder ‘incident’ has left me feeling weak. While everyone else gets to do the WOD, I get the ‘injured runner’s special.’ It’s frustrating to NOT be with my fellow bogatyrs, swinging kettle bells and (as much as I hate the exercise) doing push ups.

It makes me feel weak.

We tend to think a lot about strength in Crossfit, but the ‘W’ word isn’t tossed around much.

That’s because no one WANTS to be weak–that’s why we Crossfit.

Weakness means not performing up to standard or to be structurally compromised or inefficient.

But being weak is so much more. Like strength, weakness is also a condition of the mind. Weakness causes people to roll over and die when things get tough, rather than facing challenges head-on.

We all have moments of vulnerability, moments where we WANT to give up. But the truly strong people will observe the weakness, and then elbow it out of the way as they push past.

Injury is not weakness. In fact, forcing oneself to recover from injury takes more mental strength than pushing through pain. It means staying humble by using a lighter weight; it means complete trust in your coach’s modification; it means willingly, purposely decelerating, though everything in you wants to put the pedal to the metal.

There is strength in self-control.

Given time, most injuries will heal, and with Crossfit, you can bet that you’ll eventually come out stronger than ever.

Weakness of the mind–that’s another story. No amount of time can heal it. Once it takes root, it will completely take over until lives are brambly and tangled with it.

The emotions we have are important outlets. Sadness, when it comes, needs to be recognized and given its proper respect. But it’s not a place to linger; and it’s certainly not a neighborhood you’d want to buy a home in.

So, we move on, without asking ‘why;’ without wishing we could change time; without hoping it was all a bad dream. We just keep moving forward. Though we might hobble along, we still keep moving. We don’t stop. We don’t look back.

Because if we look back, our progress stops cold in its tracks.

That IS weakness.

The best runners keep their eyes on the horizon. They don’t look down, and they sure as hell don’t look back.

If we’ve stumbled, then we learn our lesson, do things better, and make things right.

Being injured might make you feel weak–but that’s not true weakness.

True weakness is stopping to watch the clock run out instead of trying.

Even if you’re injured, you can still move forward, albeit slowly; because in this life, every rep counts.


Hot Bodies Part 3: The Perfect Body

BOL cheer

I was standing there talking to my friends after a WOD when one of them pulls up my shirt, grabs my bauch, and says, “You’re too skinny! You must eat more!”

This is also the same woman who routinely grabs my butt.

Germans can be a very tactile people.

Since this is probably the fourth person to mention my physique recently, I’m starting to think my body IS changing. I’ve never ben called skinny.

But we rarely see ourselves how others see us. When I look at my body, I see the things that still need improvement. Even though some of my size small clothes are now getting baggy, my eyes are first drawn to what I perceive as flaws.

If I had the money, I would get plastic surgery to get rid of the extra Michelin man skin I have around the midsection from bearing 4 kids, and to perhaps reshape a couple of superfluous body parts. But now I wonder if that would even make me feel better?

I used to shop, thinking that a new pair of pants would make me feel different. But that’s as ridiculous as thinking a new pair of running shoes will make you faster. If you’re fast, you’re fast, no matter what shoes you’re wearing. If you’re strong, you’re strong. If you’re weak, you’re still weak. If you’re kind; you’re kind. If you’re an asshole; you’re still an asshole–no matter what your tee-shirt says.

There are two important points here:

Even the most 'perfect' body has room for improvement.

Go up to someone who you think has the ‘perfect’ body. You know…this is probably the person who can do stuff that you can’t do yet. Ask him his weakness–and if he doesn’t think you’re a stalker, he’ll probably tell you. The human body requires maintenance, and that means working on things that aren’t quite up to our standards.

It is a life-long endeavor, and no one ever arrives at some kind of Superhero Valhalla, where we all walk around with tight, properly-bulgy bodies, flashing Hollywood smiles as we fist-bump and where WODS come so easily we don’t even sweat. 

Crossfit is hard for everyone. And the people who seem to do things ‘easily’ have put in countless hours of sweat and possibly blood to get where they are.

Who cares what your body looks like? Can you do things that are hard?

It makes me cringe to hear people talking about Crossfit as a means to lose weight. That’s just stupid. Crossfit is about doing things that are hard. If your body begins to change because of it, then great, but it shouldn’t be your primary focus. This IS functional fitness. That means it is PRACTICAL for enjoying life TODAY and facing challenges that make most people slink away.

I never would have dreamed of moving an entire household of furniture myself had it not been for Crossfit. As a marathon runner, I was in no shape to extract major appliances from a basement. But as a Crossfitter–bring it on!

As the washing machine was pushing me over backwards down the basement stairs, I wasn’t thinking about my chunky thighs, ample posterior or how I look in my running tights. I was thinking, “Tighten up! Tighten up!” I was using every ounce of muscle to keep that SOB from crushing me.

Now that’s functional fitness. 

So, am I losing weight? I have no idea. I could clean the dust and dog-hair off the scale and step on it. But judging from the fit of my ‘skinny’ jeans, which now have the ‘Cross-fit’ (loose in the waist, tight in the thighs), something is changing. My small shirts are loose in the belly (as my friend so enthusiastically demonstrated) and I’ve had the experience of combining  paradoxical words: spandex and XSMALL.

When I hold up the XSMALL TALL pants, I don’t think they’ll fit. But they’re like super pants and they always slide on.

Do I like it? I guess I do, on some level.

Do I care? Not really.

I never set out to go down in size and my goal is not to have a ‘hot’ body (*definitions may vary). Rather, I want to be strong enough to run mountain marathons, and ultras, and lift heavier and heavier, as my hair turns white and the wrinkles take over.

I need to reprogram my mind so that notions of plastic surgery go the way of the bathroom scale.

Crossfit makes you strong.

Sexiness is just a by-product.