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Monthly Archives: June 2013

It’s been a year

courageAnd what a year. I fell in love with you the moment I saw you, before I was even through the door. Door? What am I saying? Shutter. Before I was even through the shutter.

I saw nine or ten sweat-soaked, red-faced, gasping folk picking up a weight from the floor, standing up, sitting down, laying down, rolling up, touching the weight to the floor in front of their feet, standing up, sitting down … It looked like a torture scene from a documentary about Extraordinary Rendition and my first thought was ‘I can’t do that’.

Forty minutes later I was doing it.

That was it. I drank the Kool-aid before I even knew what it meant. I was hooked.

I don’t know why. I don’t know how. But something in me had been looking for you for a long time, and when I saw you, I knew.

I’ve spent twelve months trying to woo you and you’ve played hard to get. I often feel, and this blog shows, that I’m not good enough and that I use up a place that somebody else could benefit from more. That view, though, is changing, slowly. I still think almost anybody could fit in better, achieve more physically and be a greater contributor than I am, but I doubt anybody could benefit more from Crossfit than I do.

You’ve changed my eating habits, my training habits, my shape, my weight, the time I get up in the morning and what I do before I go to bed at night (all that quality time alone with my foam roller!) You’ve taught me a whole new vocabulary, required me to buy an entire new wardrobe (inov8s, compression wear, wrist straps) and given me ambitions (pull ups, double unders and deadlifting twice my bodyweight).

It’s been a hell of a year Crossfit, but one thing hasn’t changed. I’m still utterly besotted with you.


Meet My Goat

benny the goatWelcome to an occasional new series called Meet My Goat – it might be quite a regular event – I have a lot of goats.

Let’s get started.

This is a goat. This screaming, slot-eyed, belligerent son of Satan is called Benny. Benny is my bench press.

Last night at barbell club I equalled my one rep max. Hurrah, you say. Not so, say I. I was aiming for two reps and couldn’t get them. We were working a ladder of 10-8-6-4-2-4-6-8-10 with progressively higher weights for the lower reps to peak with a heavy two. I believe the board reveals that 99% of those benching last night started higher than I finished.

Say it again. Most people started with a ten higher than my failed two.  That’s what you call a goat! As for explosive power … glacial moraine gets deposited quicker than some of my bench presses, believe me. 27.5 kilos. It’s a disgrace.

So I need a plan for Benny. It starts with the fact that I have appalling upper body strength. Now, while that’s still true, it’s not as true as it once was. In a year I’ve got a lot more powerful – and bigger (ladies, I went from a 32b to a 34c – how’s that for a result!) and had to throw away every sleeved top I owned as my nascent biceps didn’t fit into them.

Nascent because I clearly still lack a lot of strength, and almost certainly technique. I’m also a hard gainer, the most I’ve ever weight was 57 kilos and to get there I had to eat five times a day and have protein bars in between. I reckon I’m probably back down to 53 or maybe 54 kilos now, although it could be lower – I really struggle to keep weight on. 

So my plan is twofold – talk to my coaches, get a programme for upper body strength (to go alongside my other two goat training regimes for pull ups and toes to bar) and get back into a higher protein diet, being more disciplined about eating regularly.

Hmmm. Benny – I’m watching you!

ponyThis is not a goat – it’s a mountain pony. It’s not quite a leopard, supple or otherwise (crossfit in-joke, so bite me!) but it’s not a goat either. This is my deadlift.

I can deadlift 70 kilos. That was my one rep max when I walked into the box last night. When I walked out, it was also my two rep max. Huzzah!

I rounded out my shoulders too much and I can feel my lower back is achy this morning but my deadlift, pushing off strong legs and a reasonable core, is good – I just need to keep working on my shoulder lock and my grip – I am happy with my deadlift.

Defo no mofo mojo wodding

wounded tommy in trenchIt’s a couple of weeks since I posted. I have lost my crossfit mojo. Totally.

It’s not a surprise to me, although it always comes as a shock. And it probably comes as a shock to many people who train with me and didn’t know that I even thought I had a mjo, but I did, and it’s gone.

The question of why we crossfit comes up a lot, not so much inside the community as outside. I know that in that outer world my choices rarely match up to my appearance, and people are often puzzled as to why this very feminine-looking middle-aged woman has spent the entire day digging up potatoes or claims that her black eye came from lifting a heavy weight over her head thirty times as fast as possible (thanks, Grace!)

The reason is my business, as it is for all of us, but unlike the average strong but slow, or fast but weak crossfitter who turns up hoping to train their goats, I arrived with the slow and weak goat troupe, bascially, I’m just all goats, and knowing exactly what I wanted – which I got. The mindless physical exhaustion of the WOD.

I’ve found it other ways at other times: running did it for decades, yoga, performed intensively, did it too. Martial arts most definitely did it, but were too dangerous for me and anybody who had to train with me. Hard manual labour, basically, does the job, which is why an allotment is an absolute necessity for me to sustain my creative life. I need that mindlessness, the muscular exhaustion, the slow seeping burn of DOMs because without it I can’t write well. But with it, I write very well indeed.

CIMG0143So, in the end days of drafting a novel, which is where I am now, living eight hours a day in 1917, dreaming my protagonist’s dreams, feeling her dread and – with her – wondering if the War to End War will ever end, my mind is rarely present in the present. There’s a buzz to the end days of a novel, which maybe only novelists, epic poets and symphony writers can know (although I’m willing to be persuaded that other forms of creative life deliver it too, not attempting to be exclusive here, simply reporting what I hear from other folk) which is like white noise in the head. It will never be quite like this again. When ‘this’ ends, there will be crafting and shaping and ruthless excision and revisions and rewrites and sharing my writing with others … but there’s never ‘this’. This moment when you can see the end, and you are going to set your characters down, at that end, and walk away, leaving them to have no future outside of the tales you spin in your head for them (unless there is a sequel, which is a whole different and weird experience for a writer). You are about to kill some darlings – or if not kill them, at least nail them to the page so they can bleed interestingly for public entertainment. It’s an odd place from which to try and get physical.

I am, frankly speaking, a crap crossfitter. This often infuriates and humiliates me. It did today, when my Crossfit 2 Total was less of a total and more of an accommodation with the inevitabilities of age, injury and my head being in 1917. But without something like crossfit, that gives my body something to do while my head does the other stuff, I would not be a writer.

End days are just strange. I woke at three to listen to the rumble of thunder and wasn’t totally sure, for a little while, if it was thunder or my imagination supplying the background noise to my protagonist’s final chapters. Her name is Dorrie, by the way, and she, like a surprising number of other women, was at the Front during the Great War, as a volunteer. I spent the whole of yesterday hunting down the starter system for a WWI ambulance, so that I could imagine how it felt to sit in a cold leather driving seat at dawn, feeling the vehicle warm up around you, as you waited to be told where you were going to collect the shattered bodies of boys who had been officers just an hour ago, and were now the wreckage of war. As I say, end days are strange.

And my crossfit mojo, such as it was, has departed, as usually happens in end days of a big project. Today had nothing good in it – no fluency, no endorphin rush, a pb (but given my appalling previous one rep max, less of a pb than a public apology for previous poor performance) and none of that glorious surrender of self to the exigencies of the WOD.

Tomorrow … barbell club. More public goat training. Why do I do this again?


Edit – just found a fascinating article over at The Sport In Mind which encapsulates how I feel about my crossfit performance:


Female perfection

Posted on

It’s a beautiful piece of synchronicity that this blog post appeared today. Female perfection is a big issue for me in crossfit terms and today – the day I gave myself a black eye without even knowing I’d done it – was a day when I was starting to really think this journey might be over for me.

  • Last week of Wendler and I only just equalled my previous 1 rep max in strict press. With bad form.
  • We did Grace. but GTOH rather than strict. I was the slowest. Again.
  • And the black eye, naturally.

So I came home feeling as if I was slipping backwards and there was no point. My box has capped membership because it’s so popular and there’s not enough space for everybody who’d like to be a member and I feel like I should give up my place to somebody who would be able to make better use of it than me.

So Stephanie Vincent’s post was inspiring. Somewhat. But the truth is – I ONLY feel this way about crossfit. I am happy with the way I look. I am thrilled by my career, a profession in which I experience a lot of rejection and a lot of success and affirmation and I cope with both pretty well. I like my relationships.

It’s just crossfit – and I don’t want to be perfect, I just want to be good enough to feel that I’m a part of that world, not a hanger-on. Not sure how I get there from here, but I’ll start by going back on Friday …

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journey since 1989...