Tag Archives: exercise

Motivation for the Unmotivated

No matter how many inspirational memes I read, they don’t quite motivate me to get up at 04:30 to run in the pouring rain. Even my dog, with his tail wagging so fast it knocks everything off my nightstand, cannot quell the grumbling (and sometimes mild cursing) that spews from my psyche when my alarm goes off.

The word motivation has two nuanced variations. When you pull your hair into a ponytail and say to yourself in the mirror: “If I don’t go to the gym, I will murder my kids today; and I want to avoid jail:” that is motivation (noun).

When you put on an awesome headband that matches your sport shoes and think “Yay, me!” as you skip away to the gym: that is motivated (adjective).

Often, I am not enthusiastic; I just show up.

For example, I do not wake up thinking, Hooray! It is dark and cold and raining; and I get to go running!

Sometimes I even complain about going to Crossfit. Maybe I dreamt I was drowning all night; or I ate too many tacos the day before; or my knees ache from wearing high-heeled boots; or I still have sore muscles from Friday’s WOD; or maybe it’s just a rainy Monday after school break, and I don’t want to drag my carcass out in public. None of that matters–I shove it aside and go.

I have loved ones who would do anything to simply walk across the room without pain. Sometimes, I carry that with me, and it does inspire (motivate) me to get up and get moving–simply because I can. I am blessed with good health. I don’t take it for granted.

Still, there are days I want to take that job as a test subject for NASA my mom told me about: staying in bed three months while scientists study me.

So, what keeps me going when I do not feel motivated?

I contemplated this while the cold spring rain blasted into my face on my run this morning, which is a fancy way of saying I wondered why the hell I was out there.

Marathon Training

Last year, aside from chasing my dog as he attacked ducks in the park, I stopped running. With divorce issues, visa issues, work issues, and basic life-falling-apart issues; I didn’t make the time for training. I was burnt out. Despite continuing Crossfit training 4-5 days a week, I was stressed a LOT, more aggressive; my creativity plummeted into an abyss of self-doubt; and I slowly came to realize I was missing a part of myself.

Except for last year, I have run at least one marathon (sometimes two) every year since 2010.

Thus, when I saw the ads for the Jungfrau Marathon (which I’ve run twice and said ‘never again’ both times), of course, I had to sign up. I knew it would give me the motivation to get my ass out of bed and go running, whether I felt like it or not.

Which brings me to my second point:

Feeling Motivated is Irrelevant

When I have a goal, my level of enthusiasm doesn’t matter–I just train, rain or shine, or snow or wind or whatever the universe throws at me. It doesn’t matter, because the miles I log absolutely count when I’m running five or more hours up the side of a mountain. I know this. I’ve felt this in my quads and in my soul. 

So even if I only had four hours of sleep, or my calves hurt, or my labrador looks a little sleepy–it doesn’t matter. There are no excuses. I might grumble while I pull on my compression socks, but NOT training is not an option.

I just tell myselfokay, just put on your tights and socks and shoes and gloves and hat and raincoat and grab the dog and get the hell out there. If the wind blows you backwards, try to at least make it to the big barn. If you are not hit in the head by a tree branch, continue to the next town.

As long as there are no tornadoes, swarms of wasps, or sheets of black ice, I should be able to make it as far as the park. Sometimes I think about how wonderful running feels. Other times I bitch the first few miles. But I have never come back from a run saying, “I wish I would’ve stayed in bed.”

It’s the same with Crossfit–on certain days, showing up is my only goal, my only expectation. 

So, for my fellow unmotivated friends: never feel that in order to go to the gym or go for a run that you have to be Sunny Sally Zumba (who is, if you think about it, paid to motivate people).

Romantic ideas of being “motivated” are what hinder people the most. Motivational posters won’t tie your shoes for you.

So don’t wait to feel motivated. Instead, schedule your training on the family calendar. Set an alarm or two and show up.

You won’t regret it.

I promise.


City Life

Charlie 13 weeks

My dog isn’t fat anymore.

He nuzzles his velvety muzzle against my neck promptly at 05:36 every morning. When I tell him to go lay down, he wanders around briefly before jumping on my bed. By 06:00 we are getting our exercise.

Normally, I would say we are taking a walk, but really, I’m just trying to keep him from killing himself. He lunges at every moving thing, except for trucks and mopeds, both of which he is deathly afraid.

If a dog across the street stares at him, he dislocates my shoulder. If an old lady clutches her Yorkie more tightly, he jumps at her. I’ve started taking our walks earlier, and avoiding well-known dog routes, in the attempt to avoid lawsuits.

My labrador was raised as a lazy country dog, and as such, he is completely bewildered by City Culture. City life means structure and discipline, two things at which I excel when it comes to Crossfit and marathon running but fail miserably when it comes to puppies and children. I console myself with the knowledge that someday I am going to be the most indulgent (*awesome) Oma the world has seen–as long as my offspring make it safely to adulthood.

We have moved from a country house that was dark and secluded, to a city apartment that is both bright and quirky.

When my labrador drops a ball at one end of the hallway, it rolls down to the other end.  My daughter and I had a hell of a time trying to find the most symmetrical furniture arrangement in a room where each wall has a different length and angle.

I still don’t know how to hang the pictures.

Our new apartment gives you the slightly dizzy sensation of living onboard a perpetually listed ship. It is one of the charms of living in an old building.

It is home.

Something about the doors reminds me of my grandma’s house, or maybe it’s the fact that after nine years of living in Germany, this is the first place I’ve seen with closets. The spires of two churches and the warped red roofs of the Altstadt fill the frame of my window. Everything we need, and don’t need, is within walking distance.

Slowly, we’re adjusting to the ever-present traffic; the antiseptic smell of the dental clinic below; and the damn pigeons that defile our little balcony. It is a constant war against pigeon poop up there.

Garbage goes out more frequently in the new apartment, or we are swarmed with gnats. For some reason, forks are a scarcity in our house, and need to be hand washed after every use; and every person who calls this apartment ‘home’ has to remember their keys.

The one who has most quickly adjusted to our new life is our fluffy little dog. He prances perfectly down the street on a loose lead every morning and like clockwork, shits by the steps of the church, which is housed in the ground floor of our building. I’ve learned to bring two baggies with me, because he frequently likes to leave something extra in front of the liquid smoke shop.

City living means the kids have easy access to swimming and the mall (very important for summer). I went for five days without driving my car, and nobody starved or actually died of boredom. And we can spend time with friends, without a major road trip involved.

Discipline is hard. Structure is hard. But with those things comes a certain freedom. And like any worthy endeavor such as weight loss, exercise or good health, the rewards are worth the effort.

So, we will HTFU, as our coach says, and press on in this new city life.

Now if I can just explain it to Charlie, when I take him to Doggy Integration School.


A New Year: Making Potential Real

squats

Streaks of gunpowder in the snow mark a perfect ending.

Fears and worries blasted to hell with firecrackers.

2014 was like a long, painful birth. No quick push and it’s done. This labor lasted 365 days. And now that the pain is subsiding, I’m left with relief and a heart so full of joy, it has to be shared.

This life I hold in my hands, pristine and unscarred, will grow stronger every day. There’s so much to learn and experience.

So much potential.

The word makes my heart race.

I love that word because it “generally refers to a currently unrealized ability.”

Pause, and mull over that definition.

Unrealized ability.

This means you don’t have to rove the world looking for it–whatever “it” might be for you. It means, you–your soul, your mind, your SELF, contains these incredible abilities already. They’ve just not yet been set into motion.

So, I was wrong about something: you cannot become a new person. What you are inside, is the only raw material you have to work with. You can mold it and shape it and smooth out the imperfections. But what you are, what you really are, is there already.

That person who is 10 kg lighter, she’s there. Don’t make a resolution to find her–be her. Every day. Make the food choices she would make. Does she have cake on special occasions? Great. But it’s probably not on her breakfast menu. How does she carry herself? How does she react to temptation, like a plate of fresh-baked gluten-free cookies?

That woman, who squats 15 kg more, runs faster, does pull-ups without stopping–she makes time not excuses. She starts over with a lighter weight and jumps on bumpers because the plyo box still freaks her out. She spends five extra minutes after class trying to get her chin over the bar and repeatedly whips herself in the ass with the jumprope until she gets a double-under. Then she goes home.

The author, writing her novel. She’s there too. Clicking away at the keyboard every day. She makes choices. Five fewer minutes on Facebook. Five more minutes staring at her blank screen. And she writes something–anything. Even if it’s just one stupid, run-on sentence that will most likely be deleted.

What potential exists for you? What goals and dreams are inside, waiting to be realized? 

I’m not making resolutions this year. I am just being myself. Being, not doing, as some dear friends of mine like to say.

Living. Loving. Staying aware of every little thing in this crazy life. Letting the good things fill my heart and soul. Letting the bad things drift away like a dying firework.

Thank God 2014 is over.

It made made me stronger.

But you couldn’t pay me to endure it again.

2015 has arrived.

Living.

Breathing.

Beautiful.

Crying out.

Kicking with potential.

Watch in wonder as it develops. Laugh when it does something new. Gasp when it stumbles.

But cherish it.

Embrace it.

Kiss its lovely little face every day.

 

Wishing you a happy New Year! 

May you live your potential!

With love,

Keri

 


Take the Yoke

KB Snatch

I’ve been in a malaise of stress and mental exhaustion since I last wrote. And let me tell you, comfort eating does not cure a damn thing. Chocolate bars won’t help you sleep; potato chips won’t play taxi driver for your kids; and raw cookie dough won’t fix the timing belt on your retro car.

However, five extra pounds in the winter does not have to turn into ten or twenty–it can stop here. And despite the recent proliferation of lebkuchen in Germany and my lack of regimented marathon training, my weight can dial back to normal based on the choices that I make.

Laziness, negativity, cookie-dough-eating: these are choices.

So what if you don’t feel motivated (to exercise, to write, to eat healthy)? Who the hell cares? Do what you know is right–no matter how ‘motivated’ you feel.

And as long as you are breathing and thinking somewhat clearly, then it’s not too late.

Every time I run a marathon, the first five miles are spent vowing to NEVER run another one again.

This has happened eight times.

Motivation is great, but it’s irrelevant. It’s better to just get the job done.

I’m not a pilot, so I apologize if my metaphor is inaccurate; but one thing I DO know is that if you’re in a nosedive, then you should pull up.

So you’ve been smoking for thirty years.

Pull up.

You’ve been eating crap for forty years.

Pull up.

Your only exercise is getting up to use the bathroom during commercial breaks.

Pull up.

It’s not too late.

And even if it turns out it IS too late, you don’t want the blackbox to reveal you were pushing forward on the yoke the entire time, telling the copilot, ‘I just can’t help it.’

Visualize what you want your life to look like–not just five years from now, but in the moment. And be utterly content with where you are in the dangerous process of dream-making.

If you look out and see nothing but the ground rushing towards you, then it’s time to take a deep breath, grab the yoke, and pull it back.

That’s what I’m choosing. 

 

 

 


Shadow of the Cat

rack hold2

I’m tired of being treated like a mouse.

Expected to squeak and scurry from the shadow of the cat.

I’m tired of the cravings and fears and emotions and other traps that try to pin me down by the neck.

I’m tired of being told what I should think and say and do.

Don’t tell me not to be angry. Anger is an emotion; and I have every right to feel it. It’s what I do with it that matters. If I write a bad word, it lets it out; and then it’s gone.

If I run up the side of a mountain or lift heavy, I can sweat it out; and the anger disappears, so I can be myself.

My real self.

Calm.

Alert.

Content.

I might look like a mouse.

But I have a lion’s heart.

And I’m not afraid of the damn cat.

 

 

 

 

 


How CrossFit Ruined My Love Life

'I loved you--until I saw your kettlebell!'

‘I loved you–until I saw your kettlebell!’

CrossFit ruined my marriage.

At least, that’s what my estranged husband might say.

Before CrossFit, I was mild, docile, and never wanted to cause trouble.

But CrossFit changed more than my lats.

It gave me the courage to do things that were hard. After all, CrossFit, like great sex, is mostly in your mind. When you apply pressure to a person through a challenging WOD, their real nature comes out–for better or worse. Quite often, how a person reacts to a WOD is how they will react in everyday situations.

There are enough blog posts on why you should date a CrossFitter, and most have to do with the body and sex and so on. But what makes a person great is the mind and soul and character.

So, what do you see at CrossFit?

  • Faithfulness: Do you want to roll your eyes when someone tells you that [INSERT ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM HERE] is just as good as CrossFit?
  • Dedication: When you miss a WOD, or go to a different class, do your friends worry about you?
  • Endurance: Do you walk through the door, having quit already? Or do you give it your all until the clock runs out?
  • Social Skills: Do you talk to the people around you? Or do you sit in the corner, hoping nobody sees you?
  • Personal Responsibility: When you screw up do you admit it or blame it on your shoes/calluses/ponytail/big blue stupid kettelbell…
  • Healthy pride: It’s okay to yell or fist bump or collapse to the floor smiling when you PR.
  • Humility: Actions make a person great–not words.
  • Attitude: It doesn’t matter how fast or strong you are; or if others are faster or stronger–but what kind of a person are you, really? How do you attack your WOD? That’s the proof of your character. That shows how you live life.
  • Strength of character is the most attractive quality a person can have–and CrossFit can help develop it.

Now that I’m discovering who I am and who I WANT to be, I think a lot about these (and other) attributes. Life should be a steady work-in-progress, where we are always striving to improve some area of our lives. Whether it’s to relax more, to have fun, to pay more attention to detail, to be bolder–whatever it is for you, these things play out daily in the box. There is a body/mind connection, nearly indescribable, that shapes our character. Nobody’s perfect, but at least in CrossFit, we’re working towards something better.

And this is why CrossFit has ruined my love life–past, present, and future.

The past, because it gave me the strength to capsize the boat.

The present, because I’m currently in a new boat, and it’s a lot smaller (like…only room for me).

The future, because I’m convinced only another CrossFitter could eventually help me paddle upstream.


First Times and Thoughts While Running

 

Pitztal Gletscher Marathon 2013

Pitztal Gletscher Marathon 2013

I am sitting in my tent, watching the beads of rain roll off the plastic windows, and drinking a gluten-free beer–my first in two years.

Another first happened for me last night–I slept in a tent in the backyard with the kids.

It’s funny, the things you do when you’ve suddenly become a single parent.

I also signed up for another marathon.

This is not the Jungfrau (in September) but the Pitztal Gletscher marathon–the same one I did last year. Many factors went into this decision. 1) I wanted to take the kids camping. 2) There is a campground by the finish line. 3) It’s Tirol–one of my favorite places in the world. 4) It’s a marathon ‘from the glacier to the city,’ which means both mountains and descent.

The marathon is about 3 weeks away, and I’ve been doing nothing but CrossFit training. Thus, this weekend I thought it might be good to actually go for a long run.

“Twelve miles?” my coach asked.

“I was thinking 18,” I replied.

He looked skeptical but simply said, “See how you feel.”

Right, I thought. I’ll do 18. 

I’m stubborn that way.

Some people say running is boring, and I can see how they might think that. It’s just you–alone with your thoughts.

Scary.

So what do I think about when I run?

  • I love running
  • I hate running
  • I wish these bicycles would get out of the way
  • I wish I had a bicycle
  • I’m hungry
  • I feel sick
  • Three miles already?
  • Five miles–that’s it??!!
  • Ahh…alone time!
  • I’m lonely
  • Why am I doing this?
  • I feel great!
  • When I’m done, I’m going to get ice cream
  • I feel sick again
  • Do all German couples color coordinate?
  • ________.
  • Where the hell am I?
  • I see the ice cream stand!
  • What IS the meaning of life?
  • I hope they have coconut.

The list could go on.

In fact, the list DOES go on.

Usually, my 3 hour runs are a non-stop, stream-of-consciousness narrative containing everything from deep philosophical issues to utter randomness. On this particular run, I literally zoned out for about forty-five minutes. When I ‘woke up,’ I couldn’t remember which part of the trail I was on.

It was great.

I was curious how this run would go, since I haven’t actually been running consistently in months, though I have been CrossFit training five days a week. Overall,  I felt really strong during the run. My endurance was great, and I felt like I wasn’t even breaking a sweat. The only problem was that my calves started cramping at mile 15, so I stopped, sat on the lakeshore and watched the sailboats, while I stretched and ate the last of my apple slices.

After that, I walked for about a kilometer. It felt like ages.

In the end, I finished strong, and clocked in at just over three hours, which was pretty good for me, considering the stops.

I did not get ice cream. I wasn’t hungry anymore. But I did feel good. Good that I had made it. Good that I had stopped to enjoy the setting. Good that I could purge a few issues from my over-worked brain.

Running isn’t a hobby. Like CrossFit, it’s part of the landscape that defines my life. It makes me feel more like the real me. My kids understand this, which is why they push me out the door when I get those guilty feelings.

I’m not a great runner. And you won’t see me in a CrossFit Throwdown any time soon. But these are part of my life, as much as writing or reading or parenting or breathing.

This is my real life.

And it feels good.

Now, it’s dark. The birds stopped singing. My glass of beer is empty, and it’s time to zip up the sleeping bag and rest.

I’ve got to run in the morning.

 


Victims, Villains and Heroes: Why Abuse Victims Should Crossfit

victim

Not to build muscle.

Not to ‘feel’ better about how you look.

Not to improve self-esteem.

Not to have the ability to kick ass, if necessary.

Victims of abuse, whether it was sexual, physical or emotional, should Crossfit because, if you have a great coach and a great environment, your mindset will begin to change. And any change that’s going to happen in a person’s life MUST begin in their own mind.

The perpetrator could be hauled off to jail, die from a drug overdose, step entirely from the pages of your history or, worse yet for some, unexpectedly reappear to haunt you. But whatever scenario applies, the victim needs more than anything to transition from the victim mentality to the hero mentality.

I’m not villanizing the victim here, but we’ve all seen cases of perpetual victimness. The 50 year-old putting up with behavior that is borderline illegal simply because that’s what she’s been trained to do. She reacts without thinking, and quite often, she believes that without her, the guy would be completely lost. She WANTS to be needed–and that can be a source of power for her, no matter how twisted it is.

Switch gears to Crossfit. The victim now only NEEDS to find power within herself. By training daily, she seeks and finds that strength. Because her desire for power is being met in a healthy way, she’ll start to see the unhealthy behaviors for what they are–and she’ll have the courage to change it.

I’m no psychologist, but here’s why I think Crossfit helps the victim:

  • She is in a positive, supportive environment where people are only beasts when it comes to the WOD
  • If she’s been sexually abused, the Crossfit environment allows her to see the body for the incredibly complex and beautiful thing that it is, rather than something to be ashamed about
  • The mental focus it takes to lift heavy shit translates into her personal life, and she’ll start to think, “If I can swing THAT kettle bell without setting it down, then I can handle [FILL IN THE BLANK.]
  • She won’t be isolated anymore
  • When she began, she couldn’t do ten wall balls, and now she can do 150–and seeing that kind of progress will show she DOES have the power to change–if she perseveres
  • She’ll have a seriously strong Crossfit family to support her
  • She’ll stop seeking out villains and become her own hero

I’m not saying Crossfit is a cure-all for deep psychological/emotional trauma–if it’s that serious, please, get some help. What I AM saying is that Crossfit changes lives for the better.

I’d encourage anyone who’s been abused to seek both counseling and a kick-ass box.


Love Like a Barbell

barbells

Sometimes I wish love were more like a barbell: something you could wrap your hands around and make it do whatever you want. It could be heavy and slow, or light and fast.

You could hold it to your chest or feel the cold weight bruising your bare shoulders; you could throw your entire body under it, and if you have the strength, it wouldn’t crush you.

If you drop it, you can pick it back up and try again. With steel, you inherently understand that the more you work with it, the higher you can go. Your technique and strength improve with practice.

The barbell cannot be destroyed and is unlikely to be taken away from you while you’re holding it. Nothing anyone says can make it vanish. It’s never hidden or cloaked or suppressed or masked. It cannot die or dwindle or be extinguished.

The barbell is predictable. It does not change. It is always there for the taking. If you get hurt, it’s never the barbell’s fault.

But love is  a different beast.

Unless you’re clinically narcissistic, love involves another living, breathing human being. And human beings, as we all know, tend to make messes wherever they go. But that’s what makes love, love.

Its unpredictability thrills you or breaks you. You never know which it will be.

The interplay of mind, body and emotion is far more complicated than the sleek, sturdy silhouettes of iron.

That’s probably what draws me to the iron. Whether it’s the barbells or the kettle bells, the heart races, the blood flows, chemicals are released in the brain that make you feel good, elated even. And isn’t that what love is supposed to do?

The barbell is simpler.

Cold, yes. Unfeeling, yes. But simpler. And sometimes we need a break from the emotion, the drama, the heartache, the uncertainty of love.

Sometimes we just need to lift heavy shit.

For all the differences, however, there is one way in which love IS like a barbell: if you are lucky enough to have it in your hands, you can hold on tightly and do something great with it. 


Hard Things: Crossfit for a Healthy Perspective

view2

The softest thing about Crossfit is the floor–and even that feels hard when your body slams into it.

Most people take a cursory glance at Crossfit and think, “Oh! That’s too hard!” It’s the same with marathons. I repeatedly hear, “I could NEVER do that!”

But really, with the right training, anyone can run a marathon; and anyone can Crossfit.

It just requires doing things that are hard:

  • Giving your best effort
  • Not making excuses for a poor effort
  • Dedication to training
  • Showing up consistently
  • Having the humility to start small
  • Having the guts to dream big

Crossfit has made me stronger mentally. I don’t give up quite as easily as I used to, and when I see a challenge, I go for it.

That’s what strength is, after all. It’s envisioning a positive outcome, rather than letting problems suck you under like quicksand. 

Some of my challenges (like registering for the Jungfrau Marathon in the Swiss Alps) are self-imposed, but others are beyond my control. I am facing challenges that in my pre-Crossfit days would have seemed impossible:

  • Getting a job after 20 years of working from home & raising kids
  • Sending my kids to traditional school
  • Sending my kids to traditional school in a different language
  • Becoming fluent in German
  • Figuring out how to stay here, and the subsequent roadblocks, paperwork, assholes, and other things I won’t understand
  • Keeping a healthy perspective, so I have something to give the people who need me
  • Keeping my core strong when I get tired

I can’t say this enough: Crossfit is not about the body, it is about the mind. I KNOW that if I set the bells down, I’m not picking them up again (very easily). So I don’t set them down. Even when they feel heavy.

Challenges don’t feel good, and at times, they can be so big, it’s like standing on the edge of a canyon, only it’s black inside, and you can’t see the next step.

Then someone hands you a headlamp and guides you to the path. You still have to do the work, and you’ll probably fall down a lot along the way. But at least you’re headed in the right direction. You didn’t give up and plummet into the chasm.

There is life to be lived and experienced: and Crossfit gives you the strength to face anything. Maybe you won’t be able to lift your own refrigerator (at first) but you will be able to do things that are hard, like putting a stop to an unhealthy relationship; like making a foreign country your home; like moving into a smaller house and painting the basement ‘Papaya.’

Whatever problem is stretching out in front of you, it CAN be overcome.

You just have to do things that are hard.

The soft things will come later:

Sitting by the campfire.

Watching the stars.

Sharing a bottle of wine with friends.

Laughing at the hike from the ridge.

Contentedly, quietly enjoying the view as the sun rises.