18.2 … or how crossfit humbled me yet again

Just last week I was discussing how good I felt about two different workouts. I was riding a crossfit high that doesn’t happen very often, except perhaps on back squat day. I even was proud of something with burpees!

And … then 18.2 was announced. Twelve minutes. Burpees, dumbbell squats and cleans. Dumbbell squats? Oh cool! Burpees? Yuck, but doable. Cleans? An opportunity to work on my form, right? So go me, something I can Rx! Assuming I can get through the burpees that is. I knew going in there was no point to scaling because it wasn’t going to be the dumbbell that was the issue.

Burpees are my nemesis (I have many crossfit nemeses, but burpees make the top of the list every time). I’m not fast, jumping over the bar will slow me down even more. I’m always worried I will trip over the bar, or hit my head on it, or my calf will hurt… or or or …

I did the workout Friday in class and managed 101 total reps. Nine shy of even getting to the cleans. I watched all these ladies in the box get through and get several cleans in. So what is wrong with me?

Pondered all weekend whether or not to go again. I’ve never repeated an Open workout because, let’s face it, I’m not and never will be a Games athlete so what does it matter? It mattered because I didn’t even finish the first workout, much less get to the second part.

Driving out of town gave me hours to think. And I basically decided I was going to do it again Monday (unless back squats were on the menu). I mentally prepped for, if not moving factor, then at least not stopping. I somehow needed to find two minutes. One would work, two would be better.

3-2-1 Go. I felt I was moving pretty well. My tests were a lot shorter, I was more efficient at getting the dumbbells to my shoulders and they were closer so I was wasting less time with them.

I’m not great at burpees, but I tried to keep moving, even though by round 7 I wanted to throw up. I also knew there was no way I was finishing at that point. I wasn’t moving fast enough. I picked up the squats, but couldn’t find the speed in the burpees.

I DID get 4 more burpees, so I did do better. But once again, I’m left feeling like a failure for not finishing, while all around me people are getting PR’s.

So I’m walking out beating myself up for not being faster, for not being stronger, for doing crossfit for 3 and a half years and still can’t do: toes to bar, pull-ups, box jumps, double unders, rope climbs, and the Olympic lifts. I know deep down I’m not a failure and I will get over this, but it’s frustrating.

My coaches are all about PMA. I get that attitude can make a difference, but I’m a realist, I know my limitations in terms of workout engine. I can be all “I can do a muscle up” all day long and it’s not going to happen as I don’t have the strength nor the coordination. Does that mean I cannot work on those things? No. But simply believing isn’t going to make that a reality.

So I will mentally beat myself up today. And tomorrow I will show up, and do my best at the workout the coaches have in mind for us, like I always do.

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So much to talk about

So a very rare thing happened TWICE in the last week. I was actually proud of something I did in the box.

First, 18.1. My initial feelings and thoughts were anger at yet another move that I cannot do, relegating me to the scaled arena once again. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely don’t believe there is anything wrong with scaling a workout where appropriate. But the reality is, I’m starting to think there is something wrong with me that after 3+ years, I cannot do one of the most basic of gymnastic moves, toes to bar. So it being the very first move of The Open, really upset me. Dumbbell clean and jerk? Ok. Fine. Rowing? Yuck, but fine. Twenty minute grinder? Again, yuck, but fine. It was obvious from the very beginning that the obvious strategy is find a pace that you can keep and just keep moving.

So get over yourself. You are doing scaled, end of story. Buck up and set a goal for yourself, and do that quickly. So I pondered my engine. I watched the “big wigs” perform and get into their 13th round and pondered my engine some more. My engine is more akin to a cheetah than an African wild dog. Meaning I can go fast, but not long. I am hella strong (particularly for my “advanced” age), but I don’t have distance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on myself as my cardio is well above where it used to be, but it’s certainly not my strong suit.

So my initial goal was five rounds. 150 total reps. Many of my friends were thinking more like 8 rounds, which I felt was very much out of reach because of the rowing. I wasn’t worried about the dumbbell at all. I was concerned the rowing would tax my engine to the point I wouldn’t be able to keep going. I asked my friend to use what I call his “Sargent” voice to yell at me so I would keep going.

In the end, despite all my fears, I got 8 reps into round 10. 278 total reps, darn close to TWICE what I initially thought and even past what others predicted for me! I was so proud of myself. THAT is the feeling that I’m not used to. Something I did, me. Old, still overweight, with a engine that doesn’t run long distances, with the coordination of a drunken, one-legged penguin trying to fly through maple syrup. And yet here I was , proud of 278 scaled reps. I’m not used to this feeling at all. I’m used to saying something sarcastic to cover up my feelings of inadequacy. And yet there I was, lying on the floor, incapable of breathing, of moving, smiling. Happy.

Incident 2 happened today. Today was a 21 min EMOM. Min 1 was 8-10 DB cleans, min 2 was 8-10 burpees over the DB and min 3 was 12-16 box jumps. Okay, so I don’t have box jumps in my brain anymore after falling over them one too many times. I’m okay with scaling to step-ups. I elected to use the 30 pound dumbbell over the prescribed 35 pounds mostly because (or so I told myself) that I wanted to leave those for the people who could Rx the workout. Looking back, I should have used the 35 pound weights, but that is a story for another day. Burpees. Oh goody. I HATE burpees. HATE HATE HATE them. They demoralize me, tax my small engine and in general make me hate everything about me and crossfit.

One day, one of the coaches said she could tell a change in attitude between movements from deadlifts to burbees. She could read it on my face. Yep. That would be my hatred toward burpees.

Today, on round one, I slogged through them with my usual attitude. Step back, flop on the ground, drag myself up, step up, turn to face the DB, barely hop over, heavy sigh, repeat. I got 6 in a minute doing this. Could I move any slower? Seriously…it was the proof I needed that I wasn’t a worthy crossfit athlete. And my coach’s voice popped into my head about changing my attitude toward burpees, something about working on my opportunities. My inner voice started cussing up, down, left, right and center. And then I made a conscious decision to change my mind.

I made the conscious decision to continue to do “only” 6 burpees (not the prescribed 8), but I would do them as fast as I could, every round. Guess what happened? I did 6 in less than 30 seconds each of the last rounds. By the end of the workout, I recognized that I could have done the 8 within the time! In addition, I was actually HAPPY about how I did. Was it as the coach wrote? No. Was it scaled? Yes. Do I care? Nope, not at all. I did six rounds of 6 burpees and felt good about it. Meaning this was the first time in over two years that I felt good about a workout with burpees.

So basically twice in the past five days I’ve felt good about a crossfit performance. Who am I and what has happened to me? I will say, it’s a feeling I could get used to.

The Open is Coming

Another year, another Open is upon the athletes of crossfit-Land. Once again, perhaps against my better judgement, I’ve signed up.

This past year, I’ve watched all these women move well past me in terms of abilities and skills. And here I am stuck in the same spot (I’m not really, but it often seems that way). I jokingly call that “The Overachievers Club”. I’m mostly jealous of them. Why do I have to try to find time outside of class to learn pull-ups and double unders? These ladies did it in class!!

Ok, ok… it’s possible they worked at home on these skills too.

Today we did 17.5. (10 rounds of 9 thrusters and 35 singles/double unders). My coach didn’t let me do this one last year due to my nagging calf injury. And while I wouldn’t say I’m 100%, I’m about 95%, and did the scaled version today with no issues.

That workout has a 40 min time cap. And I went in there going (please beat the cap). Then I thought, please get under 20 min. Then it was, please under 15. I did it in 14:42. Since I didn’t have a baseline, I was actually happy with this number. I was even happier that I did all the jumping and didn’t hurt afterwards.

And …. then I looked at the whiteboard. I know! Don’t remind me. I’m not supposed to compare. And my very last post was all about how happy I was with my performance! Turns out, my time really wasn’t all that good, and I find myself in a funk because I know I could have pushed harder, but I also know I wanted to make sure I paced myself due to fear of re-injury.

I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter. My score is my score and I can work to improve my mental game next time.

Bring on the open.

Am I becoming friends with the Assault bike?

What is happening to me? I feel like a stranger in my own brain today.

Thursdays at my box we get a choice of cardio workouts that are all slightly different and all designed to make you regret your choice, no matter which one you choose.

Today we had three options:

1. Suicide sprints and bear crawls

2. Max effort rowing for 40 seconds

3. Max effort Assault Bike for 20 seconds

Each workout had its own rep scheme and its own rest built in. Lately, I have been picking the Assault Bike because I’m not good at it, it scares me, and we generally hate each other. I pick it for those very reasons. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, or something like that…right?

Sometimes (nearly all the time if I’m honest), I don’t understand how to plan to spread my limited energy out to make it through a workout. But max effort? I get that. Each round for 20 seconds, you go until you cannot move. Until your muscles scream and beg. And then you keep pushing because there are 5-7 seconds left on the clock and rest is coming. I know I have about 10-12 really great seconds in me and then it’s a mental game to get the rest of the way.

Eight rounds. Twenty seconds. Three minutes of rest.

Rounds 1 and 2 I got that bike to 97 RPM. I will repeat that: 97 RPM! TWELVE calories. This is a PR by such a long shot that it’s almost funny. And yet I cannot adequately describe how my heart filled with pride at this. I was barely able to stand, I was trying to breath out of my skin to get more oxygen, there were still 6 more rounds to go.  And yet, I felt good.

I felt good about something I did on the Assault bike? Who am I? Where was the person who wrote “the Assault Bike is my nemesis”? What was happening to me?

I got 80 calories in those 8 rounds. Yes, my performance declined in subsequent rounds, but 4 of the 8 rounds I was able to hold it over 90 RPM for 10-12 seconds before my max effort dropped into the 70’s. The other four rounds I kept in the mid -80’s for 10-12 seconds, before having to drop into the 70’s.

I know there are athletes out there who could keep that dang bike in the 90’s (or higher) for all 20 seconds. But you know what? I’m not them; I’m not comparing myself to them either. I’m comparing myself to last week, last year, 2 years ago. And today, I can proudly exclaim that I gave it my all. I am STILL feeling the pain, 5 hours later. And I’m happy with what I did today. Yes, it destroyed my ability to do pushups, but I don’t care. I am happy with an Assault Bike performance.

Are we becoming friends? Is that even possible?

My nemesis (at the moment)

Anyone reading this blog for any length of time knows I actually have many crossfit nemeses and I’ll not rehash all of them here.

My current nemesis is the Assault Bike. 

I can’t even think the term without it being preceded by a long string of words better left to drunken sailors or The Sopranos. If I said them out loud, this blog might get an XXX rating! Suffice it to say, it is an evil piece of equipment, it’s a hate:hate relationship. 

Lately, in our box, Thursday’s have been generally devoted to intervals. We are given options: rowing/ski, running, biking or a strength option for those that go 2-3 days a weeks. For a long time, I would choose the ski-erg. Turns out, the ski-erg and I get along. It seems intuitive where to breathe, it’s possible to engage a wide range of upper body muscles, and yet it doesn’t spare the glutes or hamstrings, especially on the longer workouts. I love having this options and our head programmer is amazing at coming up with all kinds of variations for all activities!

The past 4-5 weeks though, I’ve chosen to do the bike workout.  I figured it’s something I hate doing. It’s something I suck at doing. Therefore, I should do it more. At least, that was my rationale. Work on your weaknesses, right?

Cardio will never be my thing. It wasn’t my thing when I played soccer. I was a keeper. Keepers don’t run!! It wasn’t my thing on the track team. I threw shotput. Shotputters don’t run!! Apparently crossfitters run, row, ski, and/or bike. And I’m a crossfitter. So now I get the “pleasure” of working on this thing I’ve always avoided. 

But the Assault Bike is relentless. And it’s not intuitive. I don’t know where to breathe. There is no obvious strength/rest move like the rower has. You use both your arms and your legs; there is no 1 second pull, 3 second recovery. It’s always moving. You can’t even coast downhill like on a “real” bike. 

I can’t figure out how to coordinate my arms and legs so the output is relative to the size of the muscles. I am always using one more than the other and constantly switching back and forth. Is this normal? It doesn’t feel normal. 

I can’t figure out how much body movement to put into it. I’ve watch the Games. You see some athletes sit very still and some move their upper body prominently back and forth. Neither seems bad, especially at that level of athlete. But in my mind, the more I move my upper body, the less efficient it feels. Maybe it varies depending on the workout? Perhaps short sprints one would use move movement to generate more power and on longer rides, use less movement to increase efficiency? 

See … having all these questions drives me nuts. I just want to know how to use the bike and not feel dead and defeated at the end of a workout. 

Maybe I’m overthinking it … 

Why we (scale) crossfit

I’ve spent four days this week working on the Landscape Industry Certification test. I help set up, administer, and tear down. I do need to point out I am one of a slew of people needed for this. And it’s a lot of work. Most of the work isn’t physically demanding, but some of it is. Also my professor self is not used to working outside all day, in the blazing sun, in the billion percent humidity, doing any kind of work, much less hard work. 

So this got me thinking about why I crossfit. (Please inset whatever form of exercise you love). I started crossfit to look better. I kept it up to get stronger. I keep it up so I can get my old, kinda chunky, professor butt out of my office and work along side younger (mostly) guys who are used to being outside and doing this kind of work.

I heard the following over the past few days:

1. Nice guns!

2. You still doing that healthy stuff?

3. I started exercising after I spoke to you.

4. You’re a little thing, are you sure you can … yep! You definitely CAN lift that. 

I’m not trying to brag, but to point out that some form of strength training is essential as we age. It keeps the joints and muscles moving and able to lift things. It will allow me to do so for the next 20+ years.

Scaled or no… that is why I crossfit. 

Reality Check

Dear self, you are 49 years old. You are not 20. You are not even 30. You are probably closer to death than to birth and this means certain things for your body. 

1. You are under no obligation to “keep up” with the younger athletes in your box. Push yourself, yes. Keep going, yes. But please try to stop beating yourself up when the 20 and 30 somethings are faster/stronger. You do you. 

2. You are under no obligation to keep up with those in your age group. Yes, there are several mid to late-40’s women that you very much look up to. They are doing their own thing. You are doing yours. Push yourself, yes. Be happy for their accomplishments, yes. You do you.

3. You are under no contractual obligation to get: pull-ups, double unders, toes-to-bar, rope climbs nor any of the plethora of moves you don’t have. Work toward them, yes. Push yourself to try them, sure. Should you, one day get them, rejoice. But life isn’t over if you never get them. You do you. 

4. You don’t have to excel at all the crossfit things. You might want to, but you were given certain skills and certain strengths and some of those might not be exactly what you need to excel at crossfit. This is okay. Work on your weaknesses, yes. Push yourself to get better, sure. But not excelling isn’t failure. You do you. 

5. Learn to accept your journey. I keep telling myself this one. I’m not sure my brain fully buys in to this one, mostly because it’s not all all the journey I had initially dreamed of when I decided to get healthy several years ago. This is the hardest to accept. But again, you do you. 

If I keep repeating these, maybe one day I will believe in them.