the rub

So, at long last, I’m returning to CrossFit. Well, modified CF. The nearest box is an hour away. In the last year and a half since moving I don’t miss much, I love this new place, but I can say with sincerity that I do miss CF. Whatever it was in my life, some unnameable force that kept me healthy and engaged and connected and taught me to finish what I start: I miss it. In an effort to get some piece of that unnameable whatever back into my life, I reached out to the first CF coach that I ever met who got me started in the sport in 2012, Caleb.

Caleb and I met 10 days ago and put together a 30 day plan, a holistic mind/body program that I could follow on my own. More about that here. Anyway, lift off has been slow … but steady … and I’m determined. My progress is best described in a note sent to him today. See below. It’s a longer read, but my health is not what it was five years ago and I need to make some changes.

Hi Caleb,

Great to hear from you.

In truth, this endeavor has gotten off to a slow start. There are good things, and medium things, to report. I think the best way to give an accurate roundup of the last ten days is by line-item from the overall plan. Bear with me on this as I’m excited about all of it, even if it’s not unfolding in the structured manner originally hoped for. But here goes:

Outside the Gym:

Daily Habit –

  1. Love Your Outfit – I started ditching the flannel shirts and brought out some forgotten favorites, blazers, tops, and scarves. On the first day of this new endeavor, I received a compliment from a coworker saying how nice I looked having left the bulky go-to fleece at home.
  2. Connect – I’ve made an extra effort at work to stop and talk with people, look them in the eye, ask questions about their lives, their families, a new home, their dog. It’s working! Even though the job is still fairly new, people are not only saying hello in the hallway and at the coffee machine, but they are offering the same kindness, of engaging and listening, in return.
  3. Breathing and Stress Relief – In lieu of the crocodile breathing practice, I’ve incorporated an alternate meditation which I’ve been meaning to try for a while: lie down and place your hands over your heart, take the time to feel your heart beating and your blood pumping, breathe, and think of three things (small or large/esp. small) that you are grateful for. This seems to have a calming effect and moves me out of my mind and into my body and away from worry.

Weekly Practice – Healthy Partnership & Healthy Weekly Activity – Partner is traveling. On hold for now.

Nutrition – I dialed this in immediately after we met. I cut out wine during the week and have been prepping all food at home with veggies as my primary ingredient. No eating out. It’s been fun discovering new recipes with seasonal root vegetables like turnips (taste like carrots) and kohlrabi (totally yum). At some point, I’d like to go vegetarian for a month or so, but that’s another topic.

Gym-ish Stuff –

  1. Barbell Club – I will be there!
  2. Monthly Check-In – See you soon!
  3. At Home Practice – During the last week while getting food prep organized, I read through the new programming multiple times, watched the videos, and surveyed the gym space at work. I plotted, I planned, I packed gym clothes for work… and I planned some more.

Turns out the gym at work is not equipped for back squats, overhead, dead lifts, or any real free-weight lifting. In the garage at home, I now have free weights along with a squat rack, a Concept 2, pull-up bar, and med ball. The temperature in the garage is currently averaging between 28 and 31 degrees.

Why is the hardest part of getting started taking the first step? Clearly, this is a matter of re-engineering old habits.

On Sunday (1/14), layered up in fleece and a ski hat and gloves, I rowed for 10 minutes in the garage while focusing on breathing thru the nose. I could see my exhaled breaths floating in the air. It felt amazing. It forced me to slow down, to focus on a pattern of rhythmic breathing and not the meters clicking by on the screen. I finished out at 1,596 meters total. Then I did my first set of 5×5 SDHPs @ 55lbs. focused on form. I have not squatted in a long time and my chest dropped and I could not for the life of me get my butt down. Think, stripper pull. By round three of the SDHP, I was ready to quit. But I finished.

On Monday (1/15) I rowed again, this time I got up the nerve to do it in the gym at work. I don’t know what it is, but the office gym is not that big and the space can get crowded and these are people that I see in meetings. People that I want to get along with. People that I want to like me. Sometimes shyness can overtake a person. I don’t want to sweat in front of these people, or grunt, or look disheveled or worse, have bad form. It just takes me time to warm up to certain things. I can circle a drain for days, weeks, years. Sometimes I never get up the gumption to go in, and then I give up and go home. But not on Monday. I picked up my gym bag and walked towards the gym, twice. The first time I lingered outside the door. I could hear someone on the treadmill and so I decided it would be better if I came back another time. The second time I changed in the bathroom before approaching the door to the gym. I thumbed the phone for my favorite Pandora station, took a deep breath and went in. There were a couple of people that I did not recognize on the treadmills but there was no going back. I put up 1,800 meters in 10 minutes of breathing thru the nose.

At home, after some of your programmed mobility, I back squat, 5×5 @ 55lbs. Again, the legs were weak and the butt did not want to take me below parallel. I lined up the med ball as a target, but no good. The hips and legs and core are out of practice.

Tuesday (1/16) in the garage and dressed in full flannel and fleece, I completed my first round of Daily Movements as you prescribed. I wrote it down and will use it as a benchmark for the days ahead. For the 5×5 strict press, I started out at 55lbs. but then went down to 45lbs. and finished out there.

These are not epic numbers. But it’s a start. It’s something. I’m doing it.

Now for the unexpected in all of this: recently I purchased a blood pressure machine for kicks. Seriously, my blood pressure has always, always been healthy but I thought the machine would be cool to have so I could check my pulse. Last night I took my first measurements and then again this morning, and here are the numbers:

1/16 at 8:46 pm – 141/84

1/17 at 6:18 am – 166/87

Turns out, I’m bordering on hypertension.

. . .  :  / . . . .  : /  . . . .

I’m not sure what to do with that. Other than face it. I’m still processing. I guess it’s more fuel for the fire to get back to healthy. That’s about it for now.

My best to you. See you next week.



Life is a Series of Comebacks

cf 2-12-16I’m starting up this blog again.

There’s certain things I’ve missed:

1. Writing this blog, and

2. Writing about CrossFit.

The first time I ever tried CrossFit was in October, 2011. I remember the feel of that first workout in boot camp. I do not remember what we had to physically do in that first workout, but I do remember how it felt. Boot camp is engineered for beginners and designed to challenge you but to not kill you; to push you just enough that you want to come back. As the workout began I remember thinking, Hey, I’m in shape, I ride my bike, I’ll show these guys what I’m made of. Although, by the end, not so much. As that 8 minute workout ticked to a close I found myself lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling and wondering where my next breath would come from. That was almost five years ago.

Back then everything was so new, and scary. Every workout (Annie, Filthy Fifty, Jeremy…), every movement (squat snatch, hang power clean…), even every acronym (HSPU, WB, DU…) felt foreign and overwhelming. There was always something new to learn. I loved the feeling of learning a strange new movement, and saying hello to the stranger next to me. I kept showing up and mimicking what I saw and attempting my own versions. I listened to the coaches and agreed to push myself most of the time. And then the changes started to come. My strength and endurance grew and the PRs, oh the PRs, they were bountiful and seeming to be in endless supply.

Being new to CF is a sweet spot. You’ve never performed a deadlift before? Step up to the bar and hang on. And just like that, every time you do it you just seem to get better and stronger in astounding feats of power. You get to keep adding plates! 10, 15, 25lbs… Especially with deadlifts.

And then, one day,  you don’t.

About a year or so into it you start to level off, and then the PRs are hard won if at all and that’s when you begin to stall. There’s a few different things you can do at this point; stop, or keep going. Either dial it in and work harder—because the better at CrossFit you become, well, the harder it gets—Or you can quit.

I kept going. And then I got injured. Sprinkle in some major-life-events, and then a few more, some of which I can’t even remember now (but let me tell you they were epic, at least they seemed that way at the time–they always do), and it all seemed to start tumbling down hill in a frenzy.

I lost a job. I got another one. I moved. I broke a bone. Then I broke that same bone again. Top it off with a couple of surgeries, a few pizzas, and well, you’ve got yourself a stalemate. I found myself stopping and starting and stopping and starting and stopping and starting CrossFit again, and then again.

Today, things are a lot different then they were back then, all of three years ago. For one, I’m at a new box, having moved to a new town to follow a job. Also, my body is different. It’s older.

Scanning through the old posts on this blog it’s clear I had a lot of goals back then: CF competitions and Strongman and marathons. But now my biggest goal is to just show up to the WOD. Dr Wayne Dyer talked about how our bodies are always changing, never the same from one minute to the next, as we are constantly shedding old cells and growing new ones. My body feels different from what it was. Oddly, I feel weaker in some areas I never thought I’d lose ground (deadlift) and stronger in other movements I had resigned to sleep with the fishes in terms of gainz (overhead squat). Somebody probably knows why, but I sure do not.

In the end, the whole point of this post is to say the one thing that has never changed–the center axis on which all those old workouts and PRs and acronyms and reflective blog posts spin out from–life is a series of stops and starts. It’s a series of comebacks. Doesn’t matter the scenario; you lose your job, your beloved pet, your home, your parent, your cell phone. At some point you are faced with two choices; give up, or begin again. It’s simple but not always easy. In fact, the higher the stakes–the more shredded the heart or the body or the soul–the harder it is to put one foot in front of the other, again. There were so many times when I wanted to give up, especially this summer when I told myself I was done with CrossFit for good. Work was too busy, I felt too far gone, left behind, what’s the point.

But then I got a good night’s sleep and said I’d give it one more go. Okay, that sucked. Maybe try again on Thursday. I don’t know why but I kept walking through the door. And now it’s winter and I still find myself standing in front of the whiteboard day after day. I’m weaker in some areas, yes, stronger in others (not really), but there’s still some magic in there for me. I’m thankful for it. Part of the challenge is to accept where you are and start from there. Part of the accepting-part is to stop thinking about where you were, or where you’d like to be in some far off universe sprinkled with pixy dust. The trick is to just be there on the floor with your fellow athletes and say, ‘Ready!’ Even if there’s thrusters.

So here I am. Rebooting the blog. Rebooting one of my first true loves, CrossFit. The writing part, well it’s always been there, but for some reason I find it therapeutic to write about CF. The words come easy. Unlike thrusters, which, by the way, were in the WOD today and I let the pansy-portion of my brain get the best of me and went into it light, at 35#. I knew at the end of the first round I was being a weenie. Did I put more weight on the bar? No. Not today, but I’ll get there.

As my neighbor on the rig next to me said, “The hardest part is just showing up.” Knuckle bump.