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Monthly Archives: January 2013


didnt dieOne acronym for fear is False Evidence Appearing Real and for me, it’s a daily reality.

Today’s WOD did not go well for me. I woke up feeling light-headed. For me that’s a danger sign – it means my proprioception is probably off-balance – but I took it as one of the symptoms of gluten flu, and ignored it. Mistake #1.

Got to the box to find out it was House WOD. Box jumps. That was all I could see. Box jumps. Right then I knew I was in trouble, because while box jumps always generate fear in me, this was stark terror. I chose to ignore it. Mistake #2.

We skipped in the warm up and I couldn’t get a rhythm – I was aware of other people skipping and kept slipping into sychronising with them, rather than being aware of my own timing – at that point I should have stepped aside, talked to Coach Barney and worked out how to scale the WOD for a day when my proprioception was non-functioning but once again I chose to override the warning signals. Mistake #3.

WP_000460Reebok Crossfit Connect Hove WOD- Unit 9

•    9 box jumps (24”/18”)
•    9 thrusters ( 42k/30k )
•    9 burpees

9 rounds, for time.

There was a gold/silver/bronze scaling and I went for silver. I had 25 kilos on the bar and a 12” box so I was already scaling the WOD a lot.  Barney set the room up with the boxes facing the wall and that was Mistake #4. I should have reset my area so that the box was facing into the room. I knew it, and I ignored it.

On the first round of box jumps I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t hit the box with my left foot on jumps 7 and 8 and when I stepped down from the ninth jump I got a neurological misfire. My eyes told me that the wall was closer than the box.  That was a FEAR warning but because I was already thinking about the thrusters I decided I’d deal with it in the next round.

By the next round I knew I’d blown it. I turned my position so I was a 90 degrees to the wall, but on the first jump I got a misfire – my left foot didn’t report landing on the box until my right foot was back on the ground after the jump, and it didn’t report stepping back down until I was in the air for the second jump. I didn’t make the second jump, catching both toes on the side of the box, and that was it, from then on I couldn’t override the proprioception errors and even when I dropped to box step-ups my left hand side was telling me it was going up when I knew it was heading down, and vice versa. Mistake #5 was turning my position so I was back facing the wall. I knew I should stay where I had a long line of vision, because it would remove the visual misfire but I didn’t want to because:

1.    I didn’t want to catch anybody’s eye and see pity
2.    I didn’t want to catch anybody’s eye and see that they thought I wasn’t really trying.

In my head was a voice saying ‘Wtf? You did box jumps on Saturday! You were fine! What’s wrong with you?’ The truth is I didn’t know and the voice wasn’t helping. Facing into the wall was a stupid, stubborn, self-defeating behaviour, because my eyes kept telling me the wall was closer than the box, so I was going to smash into the wall before I reached the box, and I chose to put myself through that. False evidence appearing real is a regular experience for brain injury survivors but just then I wanted to pretend I was normal more than I wanted to enjoy life, so I suffered for my pride. My choice.

Coach Barney stripped my bar back to 17 kilos while I did my burpee round. I was gutted. It felt like there was no reason to continue, but I knew he was right, I wasn’t getting full activation in the thrusters so lighter weight was the only way to go.

WP_000459After six rounds I stopped, glad it was over, and hating myself. Barney yelled across the room at me, ‘What are you doing?’

‘Silver!’ I yelled back

‘Six reps,’ he yelled. ‘Six reps, not six rounds!’

I looked at the board. Sure enough, it said 6 reps x 9 rounds. I’d read it as 9 reps for 6 rounds. Mistake #6 – when I knew I was in poor neurological shape I should have double-checked the WOD and asked the coach if my understanding was correct, as I’m prone to misreading the board when I’m in fear.

I sat for about five seconds, which is a long time when you’re feeling ashamed and stupid. My options were to sit it out, or get back on it.

I got back on it. I did three more full rounds. They were horrible. I finished in 24 minutes flat.

Then I got in my car and cried.

I hate being me sometimes. I hate the fact that this weird ‘thing’ won’t go away and is unpredictable in its appearance. I absolutely loathe having a disability, even a minor, invisible, manageable one.

I know I should be grateful that I can do all the things I do, and that Crossfit is helping me improve my balance and coordination so massively, but today I don’t have any positive feelings about my experience.

I know I need to get back to doing box jumps at home every day to override the misreporting. I know that finishing nine rounds, no matter how scaled, should be a cause for celebration. Today it’s not though. Today, to be honest, I feel like shit.

  • Bruises – thruster bruise on collarbone, burpee bruise on each knee, left toes bruised from box jump failures
  • PB – don’t even ask. ‘Didn’t die’ is a PB for me today
  • Wishlist – that this research will turn out to have the answer for brain trauma survivors so that I can find out what it’s like to trust your senses.



Mature Athletes, Gluten and Heavy Lifting

oldie wods finalThe WOD

•    Row 500 metres
•    30 wall balls (9k/7k)
•    20 kettlebell swings (16k/12k)

3 rounds for time.

I really was dreading this WOD, because I already knew I was going to have to scale it. I can’t get a 7 kilo medicine ball to the right point on the wall for wall balls so although I was taking part, my data won’t count towards establishing an age sensitive baseline for data. On top of that disappointment, I have been having a problem with my row technique, basically smashing the seat into my heels, and having looked at the various excellent videos on this problem, I found myself wide awake at 3am, unable to remember how I was supposed to row to prevent the heel smash happening but also unable to remember how to row – full stop! (Side bar – one of the reasons that people who’ve suffered brain trauma don’t like change is that rewriting a mental script is difficult and there’s a longer than usual period when mixing up the old and new script can lead to confusion/inability to perform/falling over and/or generally looking like an arse. Longer than usual in my case can be anything from 48 hours to three months to unlearn/relearn a skill.)

So I was scared going in because I was not sure that I would have an adequate script to manage the new rowing technique. In the event, it worked out pretty well – I did have a couple of moments where I had brain scramble but it was in the first couple of strokes on the first and second rounds that it happened, so it didn’t really add to my time.

I used a 4k medicine ball and Coach David no-repped me once in the three rounds. The kettlebell swings were a doddle.  I wasn’t happy or sad with my time of 18:44 – I’d had no idea what to estimate so I’m going to use this as a baseline and retest in 6 months.

I was definitely going to bail out of Barbell Club though. I had terrible leg-shake and I’d seen that the board contained heavy back squats and weighted step-ups, neither of which are much fun with tired legs. I did it though and was pleased to get 49k on my back squat 4×2 rounds – I weigh 53k right now, so it was a goodly weight to be moving after an all out WOD.

What really interested me is that while M^2 is experiencing Paleo flu, I’ve got gluten flu – I’m back on the evil substance until 21 February when I’ll have the blood test that will confirm if this is gluten intolerance or full-blown Coeliac disease and boy, does the rotten grain drag me down! I’ve got nasty symptoms, the only ones of which I will openly talk about are the aching joints, slower recovery times, brain fuzz and bloating – the others are not fit for public airing, believe me!

  • Bruises – nope
  • PB – first time I’ve wodded and then done the heavy lifting class – not exactly a PB but a definite step up in the intensity of my training
  • Wish list – to get an answer to my gluten issues, so I can give the stuff up for good! Coming off my wish list – that issue of the starting mechanism for the Wolseley Phaeton – the wonderfully knowledgeable and helpful Wolseley Forum in Australia produced an amazing fact – some old Wolseleys had a compressed air starter mechanism on the dashboard!


(I don’t want to go to) Chelsea

That’s an untrue statement. As a Costello fan and as a Crossfitter, I loved Chelsea!

Chelsea – on the minute, every minute for 30 minutes

  • Gold – 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 squats
  • Silver – 4 pull ups, 8 push ups, 12 squats
  • Bronze – 3 pull ups, 6 push ups, 9 squats

When you can’t complete the exercises within the minute, you rest for two minutes and drop a level.

28 jan 13I tackled the silver level again, using a purple and skinny red band – I find this way of scaling a WOD really works, as I’ll usually be silver but I can pause to assess my current abilities and consider if gold is worth trying for, or – when I’m injured or really struggling with proprioception – drop to bronze. (By the way, just in case there’s somebody else like me out there reading this – were any other brain-injury people badly affected by the Mercaptan leak from France? I had to miss a training session as the gas gave me visual aura as well as incessant sneezing. I’ve spoken to one other skull-fracture survivor who got the aura too so just wondering if it’s part of the deal for us.)

Back to the point. I got 18 rounds but couldn’t get back to the band for my next lot of pull ups. Two minutes out, then I did the bronze round until the 30 minute cap. I beat OH who did the WOD at silver but without a band and blew out at 13, and again half way through the bronze, but he did manage to kip his pull ups for the first time. Credit to him, but let’s not forget that I BEAT HIM. It doesn’t happen often, I need to milk it!

Bruises – from Saturday, a collarbone one from the push press and my right knee from burpees

PB – hell yes, first time at Chelsea and I beat my husband! That’s a PB and a half at least!

Wishlist – stronger wrists/to get off the red band/that they’d been playing this particularly wonderful live version of I don’t want to go to Chelsea while we wodded

Wodding to establish baseline data for mature Crossfitters

wod 1 matureThat’s how Coach David puts it. I call it Oldie WODs. So there are two WODs, and ‘mature’ (over forty) athletes at UK boxes have been invited to participate and send in their results to create a baseline broken down by age groups.  Monica, OH and I did WOD 2 today, and there being three of us made it a lot more fun than I’d expected. That’s me on the far left, in pink, Monica in the middle and OH far right.

12 minute AMRAP ladder:

•    Box jump (18”/12”)
•    Push press (35k/20k)
•    Burpee
1 of each, 2 of each, 3 of each etc.

I got exactly eight rounds in 12 minutes. The truth is, I could have got into the nine box jumps, maybe two of them at least, but I bottled out. OH was well into his ninth round when the buzzer went and Monica was into the burpees of her seventh round. I think we were all pretty pleased with our performance and we’ve arranged to do WOD 1 on Tuesday. Let me be clear on that, I’ll do the WOD but as I’ll have to scale it (I can’t hit the wall height with a 7 k medicine ball, so I’ll be using a 4k) my data won’t be included for that baseline.

After the ‘Oldie WOD’ I finished the first round of my Wendler lifts, managing 19 back squats at 85%, which was 30k. Happy with that. Also the sun was shining and we had the shutter open for the first time this year … gorgeous!

Meanwhile Coaches David and George were at the London Throwdown, apparently judging but actually filming Andrea Ager’s pull-ups … gosh they have a tough life!

Bloody hell, Barbie!

barbieYes, my second new girl this month was Barbara, or in fact, Barbie. The new scaling for wods is bronze/silver/gold with gold being the full Barbara. In my mind this immediately became Babs/Barbie/Barbarella – what can I say, I have a twisted brain?

The basis of Barbara is:

  • 20 pull-ups
  • 30 press-ups
  • 40 sit-ups
  • 50 squats

Babs was 2 rounds, no break
Barbie took us to 3 rounds, 3 minutes rest between each one
Barbarella was the full 5 rounds with 3 minutes rest.

I opted for silver, or as I came to know and loathe her, Barbie.

The first round was easy – I used a skinny purple and skinny red band for the pull-ups and everything went okay.
The second round was unpleasant – not exactly difficult but unpleasant, especially the sit-ups, usually a straightforward exercise for me, but which now had the added interest of a sensation rather like the intention to projectile vomit each time I sat up.
The third round was gruesome – like living in a particularly nasty district of Texas at full moon with both chainsaws and zombies. It just didn’t seem to end and all of it was horrible. My time? 23:29. Happy with that.

24 jan 13Oni did Barbarella and was awesome. I spent the last few minutes of the session cheering her on as she fought her way through the nastiest experience either of us had had for a long time.

Did I say I deadlifted 52.5 kilos 7 times in the Wendler section? No, I didn’t, because by the second round of Barbie I’d forgotten that fact, along with my name, how to breathe and why I was doing this at all.

Bloody hell, sometimes it’s grim.

Back to the WODs

After all the sexy excitement of stress incontinence (?) I’m back to basics. Back to Fran, in fact.

We’re still doing Wendler as our weight focus, so it was a choice of press or deadlift for me, to work alongside Fran. I didn’t fancy deadlifts after Friday’s hideously demanding (but strangely satisifying) 55 deadlifts, so I pressed. Now the confession – either I lifted 12.5 kilos, then 15 kilos, then 17.5 or (oh the shame of it!) 17.5, 20 and 22.5 kilos. The reason I don’t know which of those it is, is my poor feedback system. I thought I picked up a 12 kilo bar (I still think I picked up a 12 kilo bar, to be honest) but when I came to set up for the Fran thrusters, Coach David pointed out that I had a 15 bar, not a 12. Now I did put my bar away and get it back out, so I really can’t tell which I had, but I hope it was a 15 in which case I pressed 5 times my previous 1 rep max!

So to Fran. This wee21 jan 13k the Fran scaling was posted as Gold/Silver/Bronze which I found really helpful as I didn’t have to work out how to scale it for myself. I decided to attempt Silver (21/15 9 with 20 kilos and a band) as last time I did Fran I used a 12 kilo bar only. I also dithered between a green band or sticking with the purple and red that give less assistance. In the end, with the thought of undertaking 72 strict pull-ups as part of the Box Pull-Up Programme at the Open Gym, I decided I would need all the help I could get and stuck with the big band.

My time was 8:16 – almost identical to the first (and only other) time I did Fran back in the summer, but with an extra 8 kilos of weight. I would have been thrilled but I was almost in tears at the end of it: I wanted to strip my bar at the end of the 15 thrusters but Coach David told me not to and I did go on to get the WOD done at the Silver weight. It was tough.

Then I did my 72 pull-ups. They were tough too.

Later that day David went on to get a sub 3 minute Fran. I am in awe – totally!

•    Bruises – nope

•    PB – well maybe … if only I knew for sure!

•    Wishlist – not to whimper quite so much during WODs.

If double-unders make you wee yourself, read on!

bathroomYes, I’m talking about that dirty (or rather, soggy) little secret that so many female Crossfitters are hiding. Until this week I thought it was just me – then, as a result of a post on UK Crossfitters I discovered that there are many of us, and not just ‘Masters’ age and not just women – lots of us have to do the toilet dash before a WOD that contains skipping or even worse Double-Unders. In fact they could be renamed ‘Doubly Uncontrollable’ for the effect they have on the bladder.

As part of my other life, the one that doesn’t revolve around whiteboard fear, I write dirty stories for money. One of the many benefits to that job is that I get sent goodies to try out from time to time – and some of those goodies are quite bizarre. But because I am dedicated to the cause, and have expert knowledge in this area, I am prepared to share a little insight with the Crossfit sorority (okay, guys can join in, now we know it happens to them too).

So, the answer to your problem is Kegel exercises. You can google them and find many examples of how to do them. For ladies, the key is twofold:
1.    Isolate the right muscles
2.    Vary the intensity and duration of the exercise (sound familiar? It’s just Crossfit Internal!)

For isolation, the best route is to assume whatever position you’d use, ladies, to insert a tampon, replace tampon with finger and tighten muscles around finger. You might not feel much effect if your pelvic floor is really lax but it’s vital to get the right muscles working. Many women tend to tense the sphincter to tighten the pelvic floor. Now, that’s not a bad thing in itself – good bowel control will be a useful possession later in life, for anybody! However it can lead to under-awareness of the pelvic floor because the sphincter is such a large and powerful muscle it overrides strict control of the right muscles for bladder control.  Let’s be strict here – we should no-rep Kegels too!

I’ll talk about intensity and duration in a minute. First let’s get the basics. One of the problems is that busy people forget simple things, and Kegels get forgotten. Ideally you want to do them every single day. A phone app is the best way I’ve found to get that problem. Set the daily alarm and do your standard Kegels every day – the best apps have a progressive increase of both duration and intensity to allow you to ramp up your internal musculature in a structured fashion. I recommend Kegel Bootcamp if you’re on a Windows phone, but there are apps for all operating systems. Read the reviews and pick one.

That’s the basics. After about a month you should notice a definite improvement in muscle tone and sadly, if you stop for a month, a progressive decline in ‘inner grip’

Now, here’s a few things that you shouldn’t do:

•    Don’t test your pelvic floor muscles by constantly stopping yourself ‘mid-flow’. It seems like a logical way to test and improve that particular set of muscles, doesn’t it? But in fact it can lead to problems with peeing – interrupting the natural process on a regular basis can lead to other forms of incontinence, to urinary tract infections, and even the inability to urinate altogether (micturition failure).
•    Don’t rely on gadgets. I’m not against gadgets, per se, but they don’t take the place of regular practice. If you are gadget-minded, open-minded and up for experimentation, you might like Luna-beads. My view of these is that they could be fun, but seriously, I’m not entirely convinced about the hygiene implications. Bead devices (and we’re heading way off Crossfit territory here, so don’t ask for details on this blog, okay?) are notorious for trapping bacteria. That’s not a nice thought. Kegel cones are another gadget that might look appealing. Two little points to bear in mind are (a) you have to be standing  which limits your ability to do these regularly in my experience and (b) front farts (ladies, we all know that the front fart is not something we want to encourage, don’t we? Well cones seem to increase the prevalence of that particularly embarrassing blatter sound!)

There’s a couple of other things to think about. One is that incontinence often has a psychological component, just like performance does. One of the ways we train ourselves to have stress incontinence is that we tend to empty our bladders before we leave the house, because our Mum always said ‘Make sure you go before we leave, as we won’t be stopping on the way …’ Remember that? Well it means that we have an involuntary pee response whenever we leave the house. It’s a taught mechanism. Now think about seeing double-unders on the whiteboard when you walk into the box. Same stress response, instant bladder response, we NEED to pee! Part of getting around stress incontinence is to teach your bladder to ‘hold on’ more and not to pee in response to set triggers but to actually check you need to go, before you go!

Finally, we all have a pattern of peeing, and so doing our Kegels at the same time every day is only half the solution. We need to work those muscles at different times of day, random times, and in different ways. Full bladder, empty bladder, sitting, standing, all that stuff – functional internal fitness, in fact. There’s the loooong hold, the quick pull in and relax (don’t push out, that can actually encourage prolapse, relaxing is good, shoving out is not!), the multiple muscle pulse, made famous by the bar girls of South East Asia who use it to pick up coins with their vajajays – all kinds of ways of working the pelvic floor that a good app will introduce you to, in a structured, regular fashion.

To really master (or mistress) your bladder, you need to have the dedication to get variable and spontaneous with your internal tightening. Women who have sex for a living need excellent pelvic floor control – they often work their pelvic floor when driving, so each time they stop at a traffic light they tense until the light turns green. Other ways of randomising your Kegels are to do five tense and release each time you make a call or send a text, each time you drink water, or even – and I like this one – look at the whiteboard and give yourself a mini-Kegel WOD based on the numbers there. So a Fran WOD could be 21 long holds, 15 pulses and 9 quick in and relaxes.

Oh yes, the guys! Kegels for men are somewhat different. Less of those quick in and relaxes, more of the five to ten second holds. Men are even more prone to habit incontinence than women, so mixing up the times of day that you head for the urinal and randomising the times you do your Kegels will significantly improve your bladder control and give you a happy, happy old age, as well as less fear of the white board!

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