Tag Archives: kettle bells

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.  

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Are All Crossfit Coaches a Little Sadistic?

kbpain

One prerequisite for Crossfit Coach Advanced Certification is a psychological eval to determine whether the candidate is sadistic enough to derive “pleasure as a result of inflicting pain…or watching such behaviors inflicted on others.”

You might want to fact-check that statement. 

But it feels true. 

My arms are STILL sore from last Monday. And here we are again, facing 100 more pushups–as a ‘simple set.’

Tell me that’s not sadistic!

Of course, the next day’s WOD is written on the website, so we can see beforehand what we are about to endure, and we can imagine the PAIN involved on our already beleaguered appendages.

Now, my Crossfit friends will tell me to HTFU. And they’re right. I should stop crying and just do 100 more stupid pushups.

But I think our coach LIKES to hear us complain. It gives him a sense of accomplishment to know that whatever creative program he’s designed for our ‘benefit’ is actually working.

If the right muscles hurt, then we KNOW we’re doing things correctly.

For example:

If your back hurts after double kettle bell rack holds, you’re doing it wrong.

If your ass hurts, it’s okay.

Pain is how the coach measures success.

A while back, the Coach started this program that is tailored to the different needs of different athletes. I started in Tier 1, but after the first day, I asked to switch to “Bogatyr.” He told me that I COULD switch–but only once. And then I had to stick with it.

I’m still not sure WHY I switched. I think I just liked the name, which means ‘warrior,’ and truly, I need some kind of label to get me through my current personal life–and Bogatyr is a GREAT label. If I were going to get a tattoo, I might consider that one in a scrawly script on some body part nobody could easily see.

I digress.

I am a Bogatyr, and quite often, we get to play with the toys at the box, some of which were most-likely purchased at the Medieval Torture Museum at Rothenburg.

As a Bogatyr, we do things that often hurt (like nearly 300 Russian Kettle Bell swings) or HUNDREDS of pushups. And while I complain a lot and whip out ranting blogs on the subjects of pain and sadism, you should SEE my arms. I’m really proud of them.

And the fact that I can do 100 push-ups (and not from my knees anymore) means that something HAS improved. Ok, so my push-ups still resemble a Sea Lion flopping onto a rocky ledge, especially after the first ten, but at least I can DO them (sort of).

The fact is, I love being a Bogatyr.

I love the pain.

I joke about it with my friends.

I sign up for mountain marathons and look at the course elevation map and say, “That’s going to be frigging hard!” and then I laugh. I get excited about the challenge of it, and the fact that I WILL BE IN PAIN.

And then I dream about bigger races. 100 miles through the Himalayas is on my radar. 100 miles–at altitude. Little Sherpas will have to carry my sorry ass across the finish line, where I’ll smile and laugh and look for my kettle bells for a post-run WOD.

Which leaves me with one question:

Who is the sadistic one?

It might not be my coach after all.


Strong Enough to Move a Deep Freezer

moving day

CrossfitterMama working hard

I used to think phrases like “find your inner strength” were kind of…well…cheesy. Like something that should be written on a gym bag. However, over the past four days I’ve discovered something about myself: I am strong enough to move a deep freezer.

Sure I had help from my teenage son. Okay, he did most of the lifting on that one. But I did manage to scrape it against the stairwell in such a way that left a nice gash in it, which we will fondly remember whenever we reach for the pineapple-coconut Haagen Dazs.

Moving an entire household is a pain in the ass (and the legs, and the arms, and the hands); and when it is just you and your teenage son, it can be outright comical. And tragic.

Alas poor washing machine, I knew him well Horatio. 

(The washing machine was left behind due to…((ahem)) technical difficulties removing it from the water supply).

When I first realized that as the adult in charge, I was responsible for the entire move (and I wasn’t willing or able to part with the 1,800 euro quoted by the movers, who may or may not have criminal records) I was a little intimidated. My facebook messages that day to certain friends would probably be rated R for foul language and adult emotional themes (if there is such a thing).

Basically, I wanted to pack our bags (the children, dogs and I) and run away. But after a few words of wisdom and re-direction from friends, I knew that I HAD to do this move. I also knew that if I could run 6 marathons and NEVER, EVER willingly set my kettle bells down during a WOD, I had the inner strength (stubbornness, as my mom says) to do this move.

We did it, my son and I, with support from friends. But the heavy lifting was all us. And I am damned proud of my son. In fact, I’m proud of all my kids, and the way they rose to the challenge, pulled together to make this happen. It truly bonded the kids and I and marks a shift in the family dynamic.

This whole ordeal has shown me one, single, important, life-changing thing.

I am strong.

This might not be a revelation to some of you. But for me, this is something that has shaken me to the core. For years I have imbibed the message that we are weak. And when we are weak, God can make us strong.

I still believe this is true to a certain extent.

But I also believe that sometimes you just need to suck it up. God doesn’t want to hear you crying anymore about how weak you are. Maybe God just wants you to pick your ass off the floor and go move something heavy.

If I had to label myself a year ago, I would have called myself a “Conservative Christian Homeschool Mom.”

These days, I am peeling back those labels to find the real person underneath.

Labels have so much wrapped up with them–mostly the ideas of other people. And if you don’t measure up to their ideals, then something is wrong with you. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of people wanting what I can’t give. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I also want to be myself, even if it means showing my ugly side once in a while.

I would love to live a life where I felt comfortable being myself. Where I could say what I wanted without fear. For years I have played a role that wasn’t true to that person I am on the inside. I AM a people-pleaser. And the problem is that as a people-pleaser, you often find yourself miserable.

And the (erroneous) theology that has blanketed me for so long told me that if God wants me to be miserable, then I had to accept it and BE miserable my whole miserable life and trust that He would reward me later.

I don’t believe that anymore.

Not that I will just run out and do every selfish thing that pleases me, but I have learned that my happiness IS important. It IS a treasure that needs to be guarded, because people will try to take it from you.

Sometimes we cannot control circumstances, but things like misery and happiness are choices we make.

And now I know, at heart-level, that if I am strong enough to move a deep freeze, refrigerator, couches, a dryer (sans washer), untold numbers of books (I AM a lit major), and five bedrooms worth of furniture, I am strong enough seek, guard and protect happiness in my life.

It will be a fight.

But I will win.

And I hope the same for you.

YOUR happiness matters.

Grab it tightly, and never, ever let it go.


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.