“We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him.” ― Jane Austen,
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.”
― Robert Frost
I’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.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ernest Hemingway
There have been a couple really good articles that have come across the radar on CrossFit and weight lifting. First this one on the Central Nervous System and being a Sponge, the importance of sleep and eating right.
One of the primary constants that have resulted in my time with CrossFit is the need for adequate healthy sleep and a healthy diet to match. You simply cannot fake it when it comes to a WOD and training, if you try, you will get crushed and it is brutal. A hard lesson worth learning.
This next read is from a Blogger who explores the KoolAid mythology of CrossFit. One of my favorite quotes as follows:
“Yes, CrossFit can be a bit “culty” at times. Just like owning a Harley Davidson, being a car guy, or having babies can be “culty.” It’s an activity that has its own vocabulary, encourages commitment from its members, and becomes a neighborly gathering place for those with like mind. CrossFit can be a very social activity… And while some members can take it a bit far by revolving everything they do around it, it’s up to you on how far you want to go down the rabbit hole.”
I have lots of friends who have kids, young kids, and I’ve learned over the years that as a single adult with no kids, going out to dinner with friends with kids can be, well, extra work. A majority of the conversation at the table will center around sleep away camp and teachers and school supplies and whether or not to buy a 6-year-old an iPhone. Rightly so. None of these topics apply to me and interest me only to the degree that I love my friends and want to be supportive. Are they all in a cult? You decide. After countless nights out where I’ve found myself sitting quietly at the table having little to contribute and passing on the bread basket and pizza because I want to hit an early WOD the next day while their shuffling off to soccer practice, I’ve learned to adjust my expectations and my schedule.
Different lives – different priorities. I just want people to be happy, with whatever it is they choose.
My Uncle Jerry just called, to follow-up on my upcoming visit as I get ready to drive South. He’s well into his 80’s. He sounded so excited that I was coming to stay for a couple of days. He is my mom’s older brother. My mom died in 2003. It has been a long time since I have spent time with a parental-like adult. I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous about this trip, but there’s no backing out now.
2 Aunts, 2 Uncles, 6 Days.
My brother Greg suggested I bring along my Strongman Trophy and take pictures along the way of family members posing with the trophy. Like the Stanley Cup. ‘You’d probably have to hold it for them,’ he added. ‘It’s heavy and you’re a badass.’
I think he’s proud of me and this makes me boundlessly happy.
I think a part of him wishes he was coming on this journey too. As he and I become the adults in the room and our deceased parents grow further and further away from us and the generations that follow, we reminisce about Thanksgivings and piling into a station wagon and Dad dipping his toast into his orange juice at the breakfast table. This visit with my Aunts and Uncles will be one of the last, if not the last, opportunities to get close to our parents again. At least for the remainder of my brother and my life times. It is good to go. It is okay to be nervous. There is so much to learn.
“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.”
― Sylvia Plath
It wasn’t too long ago that I was struggling to come back from minor surgery. After a six week hiatus from CrossFit I was barely slogging by. My motivation had slowed to a trickle – barely audible. It was everything I could do to get to a WOD, let alone finish. My MoJo was on hiatus and I was worried it was gone for good. It wasn’t just my desire to work out, those moments you can battle through, but it was that feeling during the workout and specifically right after; that moment of finishing and feeling like you could simply do anything…That you were stronger than ever before. That feeling was missing. It was all I could do to barely finish a workout and when I was done I was left feeling more tired, completely exhausted, out of breath, barely able to stand and with the final haunting thought; I don’t need this shit. That koolaid, that feeling of getting better and stronger was simply gone. And that was scary as hell.
“But, I love CrossFit,” I thought.
I worried about what was happening to me. Was this only the beginning? Would I just start giving up on everything? Spend the rest of my days beached on the couch watching endless hours of reality TV and snacking on Oreo’s?
Like that sad empty feeling when you know you’re falling out of love with someone and you desperately struggle against it yet feel it all silently slipping. You feel powerless.
And that is exactly how I felt in May. I’ve put so much into my CrossFit basket. Perhaps too much. Perhaps not. I don’t think doing so is a mistake but that’s another post.
CrossFit is healthy. CrossFit teaches focus and discipline and working towards goals and leading by example and specifically how to not give up, especially when everything starts to really suck. Especially then – how to not give up.
And so I made a decision, with the discipline learned from a love that was falling away – I made a decision to not give up quite yet.
My goal: to find my lost MoJo. The plan: to reconnect. Any way possible. And so I reached out to Dean.
Together Dean and I set our sights on a goal long on the Horizon, the Mass State Strongman Competition. I would compete in the Novice division, Dean would train me to get ready.
Fast forward 10 weeks, after hours of showing up and training with Dean and countless WODs in the gas tank – I can happily say I feel reconnected again.
This weekend our lovely Strongman Coach, Cat, and I will be driving to a small town outside of Boston to compete in the Mass State Strongman Competition. With some hard work and sweat under my belt, with Dean’s pushing and training, I can say I’m happy, I’m excited, I’m ready, The weather forecast is 77 degrees and sunny. I feel stronger than ever before. I’ve found my MoJo.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath
First, I thought I lost my log book. This could not be. You never know what you have, till it’s gone. As soon as I realized it was missing the inner discombobulator began to represent. For Part I of the WOD, Deadlifts, 4 x 4 x 4 x 4, I was simply lost. All over the place. Suddenly couldn’t add, or subtract, or count apparently.
5 or 6 trips to the calculator on the wall, and I still wasn’t confident in my math. Learned tonight that I love to scribble stuff down during the WOD in my little book. It’s an integral part of the whole experience for me. Chicken scratches and roman numerals and addition and subtraction and little stick figures with x’s for eyes.
Completed: @ 195lbs., 205lbs., 215lbs., and 225lbs.
I remember not only two or three weeks ago 225lbs. was my One Rep Max. Now it’s my 80%. I don’t know what happened. But, there can be no greater feeling. Your body getting stronger from hard work. Try as you might, this, you simply cannot purchase.
And then along came Part II:
Going to admit right here; Part II of tonight’s WOD was bru-tal. Felt weak and didn’t know if I could finish. So goes the up and down of a Crossfitter. Which is what makes CF such an excellent training ground for Life
Scaled a couple (not all) of the Burpee rounds from 8 to 6. And was still last to finish. With about a minute to spare on the 15 minute clock. Total Burpees, going to estimate to be approx. 72.
II. For Time:
10 Overhead Lunges with Barbell (45/35)
Completed: In 13:45 @ 35lbs. See rambling paragraph above. And that’s all I have to say about that.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” ― Mark Twain
There’s an annual workout in the Crossfit world called the Memorial Day Murph. It is named in memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. In boxes around the US, athletes gather and perform this WOD in honor of Lt. Murphy and those who serve. It’s not an easy workout. It’s a beast. If you’ve got a twenty pound vest or body armor, you’re encouraged to wear it. And people do.
All day yesterday and even this morning, leading right up to the actual workout, I was, well, scared. Full of anxiety as I drove into the parking lot. How am I going to do this?
And then I thought about what a soldier might feel; When leaving his family behind, his first steps into battle. The incredible fear he must find the courage to swallow. The absolute unknown of what lies ahead and the total and utter certainty of it. Whatever it may be. It was almost too much to imagine.
Would I ever possess such courage? Here I sit afraid to do some squats and run for an hour? By comparison, its ridiculous really. But fear is a very personal thing. And it comes in all shapes. Whether physically standing in front of you, or creeping through your thoughts when least expected. It’s there. And it can take hold of you.
This morning the sun was shining brightly in upstate NY. And as I watched the parking lot begin to fill, and other athletes get out of their cars and walk towards the gym, I knew I could too.
1 mile Run
1 mile Run
Completed: In 61:52.
I’ve been talking about Crossfit to friends and family for some time now. In fact if you ask them they might actually tell you I won’t stop talking about it. My brother brought his daughter today and very graciously watched and cheered. He called me later in the day to talk about it and see how I was feeling. ‘I’m really sore,’ I said. And I am. Really sore. But never before CF have I thought I would be capable of such things as were done today. I used to have a tendency to quit. To lag in the middle of large endeavors, and then just let it all fall a part. But somehow not any more. No matter how fearful or full of doubt I become. Over the last seven months I’ve learned that I’m quite capable, actually.
For me it just comes down to putting one foot in front of the other, and then across the triple wide, and then through door.
What we face is never, ever, bigger than what we are capable of doing.
No matter what might be creeping through your head; show it the door and get right back to the work at hand in front of you.