Tag Archives: focus

Line of Sight

*Note the angle of this photo...from the front but not directly in my face. Thank you, coach.

*Note the angle of this photo…from the front but not directly in my face. Thank you, coach.

One of Ali’s repair jobs next door could explode, sending flaming chunks of automobile into our box, igniting the wallballs and turning the plyo boxes into a giant bonfire; and as the climbing rope burns like a candle wick and the ceiling starts to collapse; Rob would still finish his squat ladder, saying something like, “This should only take you six seconds,” as the bumpers smolder at the ends of the bar on his shoulders.

Of course, we’d expect that of a coach.

The rest of us mortals get annoyed or distracted by certain things.

I don’t mind if people watch me squat–it’s a part of this whole process. We encourage each other, and we help each other, because until I can feel the movement in my bones, I can’t always tell what I’m doing wrong.

But if you’re going to watch someone, don’t fucking stand directly in front of them. I mean, seriously. Think about it.

When I’m squatting, I’m keeping my head neutral, and if your body is directly in front of me, where do I look? Your face is too high, your feet are too low, if I look to the side I’ll get a kink in my neck: no, I have to look you squarely in the belly or at your shorts, depending on your height. And I don’t know about you, but this seems a little awkward to me–especially if you’re a guy.

The reader, at this point, might say, “Well, can’t you just tell him nicely to move?”

I probably could, IF I weren’t already descending towards the ground with 70 kilograms on my shoulders.

Sometimes we accidentally find ourselves standing in front of someone, or blocking the clock with our sweaty bodies as we chug our water bottles–I’m not talking about accidental bodily misplacement. I’m talking about deliberate hovering.

People, people, please, we all watch each other at Crossfit. It’s okay. But if you don’t know where to stand, take a look at what the coaches are doing. I have never once seen a coach stand directly in front of me. They always stand to the side a little, or directly to the side, so they can make sure my knees aren’t riding over my toes, or behind me, to endow me with their super-strength as I combat gravity with a barbell.

If you stand directly in front of me while I squat, (and by directly, I mean squarely eyeball to eyeball, 1 meter or less, AND you’re not actively lifting on the opposite rack) then unless you are one of my friends, all I can think about is punching you in the face when I’m done, and that’s probably not a healthy response.

If I were competing, I know there would be people in front of me–but if I’m strong enough to compete, then I hope my focus could endure ogling, hovering, flash photography, train wrecks and forest fires.

Until then, gentlemen, stay out of my line of sight; because if I don’t bore holes into your body with my stinkeye, then with all the ladylike grace I can muster, I’ll have to growl a string of bad words at you as I lift, and I don’t enjoy doing that, unless it’s an emergency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When the Well Runs Dry, Find a New One: Inner Strength and Crossfit

dig2

One thing I love about Crossfit is that for one hour, the only problems I have include avoiding getting stuck with the bulbous blue 12kg kettle bells (which everyone hates), lifting heavy things over my head without getting a concussion, and seeing how much anti-gravity enhancement I can get (*jumping) during pull-ups.

Crossfit is the ultimate stress-reliever for me; and if you didn’t know me, you might think that after a workout I was on drugs because of that peculiar relaxed bubbliness that shapes my attitude as well as my physiology afterwards.

Life is good after a WOD.

But occasionally stress takes over a part of my brain, and even though I’m not thinking about it consciously, I’m not quite fully engaged in the workout.

Even though I read yesterday’s workout on the blog (at home) and on the board (repeatedly during my warm-up), I STILL asked my partner a million times what we were doing; and I STILL messed it up. I could read and hear and see the workout, but my mind wasn’t tracking.

I hate that feeling.

I also felt weak, but I’m not sure how much of that was physical and how much was mental.

Presses are hard. Yes. They’re kind of like the strict pull-up of lifting because you can’t compensate with momentum. Though I did 30kg in the warm-up, I got ‘stuck’ about shoulder high during the WOD. And once I was ‘stuck’ physically, I was stuck mentally.

I hate that feeling too.

Usually I can dig down deep to some source of molten anger and push through, but that well was dry.

I just had nothing left.

I was physically and mentally empty, and I couldn’t even come up with a great excuse.

If this were someone else’s blog, I would tell her that it’s okay. We all have bad days. That you have to let go of the pain, the stress, the frustration and let it all evaporate like a sweat angel from the floor. Because negativity will only hold you back.

I would tell her that a single day of a lobotomized WOD isn’t that bad, because at least, in the middle of a personal hurricane, with rubble flying at her from every direction, she took time to go to the box and to work some things out in a healthy place.

I would tell her there IS strength in her. She just needs to go Big Oil: cap the old well, move the drill to a different location and tap into a new current that’s flowing unseen beneath the rocky layers.

Strength is there, even when she can’t see it. Even when she can’t feel it or even understand where it’s going to come from. But it IS there. I believe that now.

On Saturday, I’ll walk through my old, empty house with my landlord. It will give me a real sense of closure to my old life. It will be difficult, because ghosts still run through those halls, and it will be hard not to romanticize it.

I’ll have to remind myself of the dusty, dry, hard times too, so I’ll remember to look to the future, and the vast stores of potential waiting to be unearthed.


A Crossfit Ethic for Everyday Life or Shut Up and Work

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As a writer, I love words. Language has some great ones: discombobulate, serendipity, abscond, chocolate; and I know that words can be motivating. Words have incubated millions of loves and spawned thousands of wars. They are powerful, hurtful, thrilling; they can touch the soul or break the spirit; they can focus the mind or flood it.

But there comes a point where words are as ineffective as a wheel on an overturned bicycle, it spins fast but gets nowhere.

Words must be backed up by action, or else it’s all just carbon dioxide.

Sometimes, as our coach says, you have to get shit done.

Maybe you have to become fluent enough in a second language to get a job? Maybe you have 8 years-worth of junk in your attic that has to be cleaned out in one week? Maybe you want to lose that last 5 kilos, run mountain marathons or deadlift 115% bodyweight?

Whatever goal you envision, it’s nothing unless you walk towards it on a daily basis.

And that takes work.

Not talk.

If you want to change things, then change them. Step out, step up, be bold, be aggressive. Shyness is really a form of self-consciousness, which means, you’re thinking too much. Too much about yourself. Too much about what other people think. Get over it. Step outside yourself and DO whatever it is you have in your mind to do.

Work is hard. It’s uncomfortable. It requires effort you don’t even know you HAVE inside you. But the only way to achieve your dreams is not to pontificate about them, but to ACTUALLY work on them by DOING the thousand little things necessary to build them into reality.

Remember that scene in LOTR, ‘Return of the King,’ where Samwise Gamgee is in pub with his buddies: he sees Rosie Cotton, takes a drink, and then walks off camera while his friends blush? Who DOESN’T remember that scene? Sam has become a man (or Hobbit, rather) of action, and we all know it’s SO much better than in the beginning where he’s just mooning over her. Or later when he’s in a sea of lava with nothing but his regrets and a nearly-dead, four-fingered compatriot.

Don’t live life with regrets. If you’ve messed up, then get over it and move on.

Most of us don’t just walk into a Crossfit affiliate and swing the 64 kilogram kettle bell. Some of us can barely wield the 4 at first. My first Turkish-Getup I kept stumbling over my own feet. Rob didn’t even HAVE a 4kg kettle bell back then–he gave me a weight that had broken in half–and I could barely hold it over my head. It was HARD.

Weights are useless if they’re lying dormant. You have to grab them and lift them every day until you CAN put them over your head.

This is one way that Crossfit has changed me: I am finding the strength to do things that are hard.

Some of these things I love.

Some of these things I don’t love.

But I DO know this: my Crossfit work ethic has given me the courage to take risks, to be focused, and to DAILY draw closer to my dreams.

These dreams are not just vapor.

They are real.

They require effort.

They CAN be achieved.

And yours can too.

So, let’s stop talking and get to work.

There’s a WOD waiting for us.


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.


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.


Challenges

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.

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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!