Tag Archives: Health

Arschlöcher gibt es überall: A Letter to my Critic

Dear “TonyT,”

Thank you for reading my blog. You would have received my response twice already, had you given a valid email address.

If you had come up to me on the street and uttered those comments, particularly the abusive words aimed at my kids, I probably would have pepper sprayed you and called the police. If, however, you had a rational argument, I would have been happy to discuss it.

I can understand that to the outsider my blog might look shallow at times. That is deliberate. The details of my 20-year marriage are private, and to protect our family, I chose not to elaborate. This blog is about finding peace, contentment and overall health. 

Because your IP address is from Washington, I’m assuming everything you know about my situation comes from the blog. Likewise everything I know about you comes from your comments. So, if that’s the basis of our discussion, let me see if my estimation of you is accurate:

Your marriage was perfect, until your wife became ego-centric because of Crossfit. When you asked her to stop, she chose Crossfit over you.

Here is a life lesson: there are assholes everywhere.

They are in Crossfit, they are in step aerobics, they are in Zumba, they are in line at Wal-mart, they are at the table next to you at IHOP, they leave dirty coffee cups in the kitchenette at work, they are Democrats and Republicans and atheists and conservative religious zealots, they even go to Disneyland.

Go to any country in the world, and you will find an asshole. 

A wife who leaves a healthy, loving marriage because she feels she’s ‘better than’ her husband is an asshole.

You have been wounded, and I am sorry for that. I don’t like to see anyone in pain. But if we allow anger to take over, it will ruin us. It will destroy our personality, our character and our potential for doing good in this world.

Hatred is a fire that feeds on itself–and no one should live that way.

Life should be a balanced thing: holistically healthy.

It’s what I wish for people everywhere, and it’s the ultimate goal of my writing.

Peace, TonyT. Seek it. 


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.


Different is Good

bw fountain

My birthday is perilously close to Mother’s Day, which means I only get one cake. On the bright side, the kids never forget my birthday because every store window reminds them to get something for their Mom.

This year had a different feel to it; and when things have been pretty much the same for twenty years, (to quote Groundhog day): “Different is good.”

My birthday landed on a Thursday–a non-Crossfit day–which meant no birthday burpees for me. Instead, I took the kids to Wurzburg to my favorite Thai food place and afterwards for the best coffee (at a nondescript little hole in the wall) and ice cream in Germany. Interestingly, both places are run by Italians. I’m thankful they brought their beans and gelato north of the Alps.

The difference this year was that there was no spouse to take pictures of me with the kids. It was a strange feeling.

As we walked through the palace garden, it was hard to watch couples strolling along holding hands, or to see a kid riding on his dad’s shoulders. You start to ask “Why can’t we have that?”

Why do I only have a strong espresso in my hand where fingers should be laced?

But questions that don’t have answers only set you down the road to self-pity–not a good place to go.

It’s far more productive to be thankful: for the unique individuals I call my offspring; for the laughter; for the coffee; for the ability to walk and run and lift heavy.

I’m even thankful for the trials because they are forcing me to become the person I want to be.

But I don’t want you to get the wrong impression: my life is not The Notebook (which, for the record, I only saw once and could not stand it).

My life comes with tears that work my abs and moments where I have to pull the car over because my sweet little family is unraveling in the rear view mirror.

I have come to understand that my life ‘before’ wasn’t life at all–it was existence. I did not have some incredibly amazing passionate marriage in which my partner suddenly had medical problems, and I, as the ever-loving, patient wife would care for him and see him through. The hard reality is that things had been messed up for a long time; and I though I wanted things to be better, I was smart enough to have already begun the long journey towards independence, well before the medical problems complicated matters.

I AM a Taurus, which means when something isn’t working,  you either fix it perfectly or smash it all to hell and start over.

That stubbornness, a quality I had loved about myself,  had been covered with twenty years of dust before Crossfit came along to clean house.

I’m thankful it did.

I’m starting to figure out what kind of person I really am–even though I sometimes don’t like what I see. I want to be like ‘good’ people–you know, the ones who always seem happy.

My kids are feeling this too. My youngest and I were talking about how ‘different’ we feel these days–and how it’s almost painful to be around ‘good’ families. I guess part of this whole process is discovering the joy of being a family exactly like ours: figuring out how WE roll and not comparing ourselves to others and sure as hell not WANTING to be like other families.

Our scars show that we’ve been actively engaged in life, not merely witnessing it from a protective bubble.

Different is scary.

But different can be good.

So, we press on, move forward, and scrawl out the first word of the first chapter of this new life. 

 

 

 

 


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.  

 

 

 


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.


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.


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.


It’s Crossfit–You Have to be a Little cRaZy

aqua exercise

It’s hard when someone says, “How’re you doing?” because sometimes I just stand there trying to think of what to reply. I don’t want to lie, but I also don’t want to spontaneously vomit my sour garbage on some unsuspecting person who is only making a friendly greeting.

So, I stood there like a bird who bumped a little too hard into a window when our coach answered (for me): “Good. You’re good.”

It was a command, so I guess I was good.

And really, I was good because I was at the box with my son and my friends.

The happy fuzzy feelings of camaraderie would soon be replaced by physical torment, but that’s why I was there–to work it all out with kettle bells, which was the instrument of torture for the day.

Actually (and don’t tell my coach) I love kettle bells. I’m not great with them, (my double snatches are horrid) but I guess I like being able to HOLD the buggers, since they are equipped with those convenient handles.

If I have to file a single complaint about our box, it’s the limited quantity of 12 kg kettle bells. There are a couple sets of bulbous Smurf-blue ones (which I DON’T love) and one more compact set that leaves flakes of metal on your skin. I might buy my own, paint them with rainbows and flowers and bring them with me.

I grabbed the flaky kettle bells (before anyone else could get them, as they are highly sought after), when my friend Steffi said, “Are you crazy?”

Another good question.

I’ve heard that before: marathon running, Crossfitting–don’t those endeavors take a touch of craziness that soon becomes so incredibly normal you think everyone else is crazy for NOT doing it.

Then I took a good look at the board.

4 sets

20 KB swings; 20 KB cleans; 20 KB squats; 10 front rack KB lunges; 10 KB jerk or press

Then 15-15-15-10-10, then 10-10-10-10-10, and finally (the easy round) 5-5-5-10-10.

The penalty for setting them down was 20 pull-up burpees and immortal shame. Shame I can handle, burpees of any sort–not so much. I would do ANYTHING to avoid burpees.

I grabbed the 8-kilogram kettle bells.

I KNEW that I could at least use the precious, flaky 12s for one round, and thus, I would feel that I’d challenged myself (something I’m trying to do this year).

I did the first two rounds with the 8s and then picked up the 12s, incredibly THANKFUL for Steffi, the voice of reason. I respect her opinion because a) she’s been doing this for a while, and b) I’ve seen her squat. You just have to listen to someone who has really great form.

That said, I also remembered how I had made it through difficult WODs in the past, and I knew I could do one round with 12s without penalty. The real bitch about the penalty is that even if you do the burpees, you still have to finish the kettle bell round. So why put those suckers down at all? I would rather have both my arms fall off (fingers still gripped to the handles, of course) before I would drop those kettle bells.

For the amount of love I have for kettle bells comes an equal and opposite amount of hatred for burpees.

It’s all about a healthy balance.

While I was slogging it out in round three, Rob stole my 8kg kettle bells, which meant, I HAD to use the 12-kgs for the last round.

Crap.

But it was only 5 more, right?

Crap. Again.

This is going to sound straight out of a cheesy karate movie, but when those last five bastard push-presses got really hard, I thought of a situation that had been stressing me out. I literally thought: If I can do this, I can make it through anything. 

I also thought a few bad things.

It was a therapeutic WOD.

Many people don’t understand Crossfit–they think it’s the same as any other fitness class, which you take for a while, but then stop when something new comes along. Someone had the nerve, or just plain ignorance, to tell me: “I think you’ll do it for a while, but then you’ll quit.”

My answer, from which I refrained verbalizing, was one of my favorite quotes from Pride & Prejudice:

“You think that, if it gives you comfort.” 

Crossfit is my therapy. It’s where my friends are. I want to be Crossfitting when I’m 90, not listening to people bitch about their bad health during aqua zumba.

Crossfit is for my longevity, but it’s also for the here and now.

And right here, right now, I need a little bit of something crazy to keep myself sane.