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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Let the coaches coach!

be proudSomething has been really bugging me. Just after I had a melt-down about not being able to WOD, and spoke to Coach David and eased myself back into the box, another member of my box, who doesn’t know me at all, gave me some unsolicited advice about something I was practicing in Open Gym.

Here’s what I wanted to say.

“Whoever you are, you’re clearly good at this stuff and you can see I’m not. Your advice is well-intentioned but, friend, you don’t know me. Don’t dump your perceptions on me and expect me to be grateful, because I’m not. Don’t hand me what works for you, because you know nothing about me, my problems, my capacities or what I’m here for and the simple fact that you think you’ve got the right to try and coach me shows me that you think YOU know better than ME.

“Maybe you do. Because you can see, as can everybody else in here, that I am crap at this particular skill. But listen, you don’t know what it took for me to get this far and you have no idea what it takes for somebody like me, who’s not a natural, who’s old enough to be your (crossfit) mother, who’s failed again and again and again JUST TO KEEP STANDING HERE AND FUCKING UP IN FRONT OF YOU.

“So please, my friend, keep your expertise to yourself. High-five me, hug me, slap me on the back, ignore me if I embarrass you, and I’m sure I do because you’re an athlete and I’m not. But don’t tell me how to do what you find it easy to do because – seriously – do you think I’d be doing this so badly if I had any choice?

“And one last thing, matey. I’m here. I’m trying. I’m 100% doing my best. I know you think you can help, but 100% is all any of us have to give. Before you offer your easy solutions to anybody else, ask yourself one question. Did I ask you for your opinion? If not, why not try waiting until I do? I’m using all of my 100% already – your input has no place to go except … when I walk out of here burning with shame that a random stranger felt it right to critique my poor performance, it could be the 1% that stops me walking back in again.”

Okay, rant over.

I’m really grumpy today because it was Angie and I wanted to WOD but it’s not the best idea to squat 100 times with a Baker’s cyst and there’s no point me scaling that because I wanted to better my current Angie time. So I didn’t train and I’m really peeved (as you can probably tell). I hate not being able to WOD.

Will be starting work on some intensive physio and rehab in April. Back to the very beginning. Urgh.

Also, a great post about Crossfit Chicks. I’m so glad to see that penultimate word ‘old’ because there’s such a tendency to assume crossfit is all about strong, young people and even masters coverage tends to focus on the men. There are women out there who are forty, fifty and sixty something who are attempting to be Crossfit athletes but they (we?) are pretty well invisible. It’s nice when somebody recognises we exist.


Not new beginnings but back to basics?

The Baker’s Cyst had a message for me. I took it to my excellent, if somewhat pain-causing physio, Paul Keenan, who confirmed the likely diagnosis, told me what exercises I should and shouldn’t do and began to unkink the hideous pain in my right hip and glutes. While he was causing me immense pain, he pointed out that the right-hand side of my body, which is the side on which I get piriformis and itb pain, was in much better shape than the left-hand side of my body which was, as he put it, ‘a wreck’. But because I feel no pain on that side, I’ve never bothered much with physio, rehab or rolling it. Hmmm….

actions proveThat was Tuesday. Friday when I went to row (about all that’s possible right now) he was at the box and helped me work out a scaling for the day’s wod, which was:

100 double-unders
10 cleans
80 double-unders
8 cleans
60 double-unders
6 cleans
40 double-unders
4 cleans
20 double-unders
2 cleans

I can’t do multiple double-unders and cleans would put too much pressure on the Baker’s cyst, so as the double-under scale was three times the skips, I opted for strict presses in place of cleans so I did 300 skips, 10 strict presses, 240 skips, 8 strict presses etc which meant I was only cleaning once each round (and I was only using a 12 kilo bar!)

I had to stay up on my toes for the skips, which was a calf killer and – being a female – needed to run to the loo in the 240 skips round which cost me some time! My overall time was 13:26 which I’m not unhappy with, allowing for the toilet break and the sheer horribleness of that much skipping, especially as I’m injured (again).

But while I was stretching, after, Paul and I got to talking again and it occurred to me that actually I might be getting completely accurate pain messages from the left hand side of my body – but my weird wiring reports them as being on the right! And as we talked Paul suggested that it might be possible to do some intensive remediation work, focusing fascia release as a way of getting more accurate feedback/muscular control.

Suddenly that’s a major new commitment, a potential change for the better, but a substantial requirement to start again with basic movements and to re-learn just about everything … and it will be cost and time intensive. I can feel myself getting tired just at the prospect. I mean, really? Don’t I have enough to do already? Can I even begin to re-educate a body that, at best, has intermittent recognition of its extremities? Do I want to engage in yet another round of how weird and crap I am at normal stuff?

On the other hand, I just can’t carry on picking up injuries at this rate. The idea that I might be able to regain some feedback from areas that currently have none, and the idea that I might not have to have physio ALL THE TIME just to keep going … well that’s attractive.

Thinking … thinking … thinking.

Also, and I probably shouldn’t post this, but there’s a pull-up challenge doing the rounds, for charity. I’m so glad nobody’s nominated me!

Finished the WOD … did not die!

Finished the WOD … did not die!

finished a wodActually it was a bit better than that. I’d already decided that as the box programmes light, medium and heavy weeks, it would be good to get back into wodding in a light week. When I got to the box, and looked at the whiteboard, I really did want to throw up. A ladder 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 of box jump overs and chest to floor press ups.

All I saw was the box jump overs. I can’t even do box jumps. But when it came to the WOD, having done my lifting tech with a pvc pipe so as not to put too much strain on my knee, I looked at the board with new eyes. Because of the knee swelling I would have had to do box step overs even if I could do box jumps, so suddenly the sense of shame about having to scale was gone. Not only that, I could do them at the gold height (20”) and chest to floor press ups are not a problem for me; in fact I do them anyway, as that’s the easiest way to get body position feedback so my press ups are quite strong.

crossfit whiteboardMy time was 5.29 and I’m happy. I had substantial feedback problems with the box step overs, but I was able to keep going except twice, when I had to stop and reset my position momentarily. I’d done all the things I committed to doing before the WOD – got an absolute horizon, worked on my proprioception, ensured I wouldn’t be distracted by anybody else in my sight-line … and it worked. Whether I’d have been able to complete a 20 minute WOD is another question, but I only needed to be able to do this one, and I did – allowing for the small scaling for injury my first WOD back after a month was Gold!

Tomorrow is another day …

Tomorrow is another day …

motivational posterAnd it’s the day on which I’m going to attempt to WOD. I haven’t wodded for a while – maybe a month and I’m quite freaked by the idea that I’ve committed to doing it tomorrow morning.

Fortunately, synchronicity is on my side. I came home from lifting on Wednesday and discovered what is almost certainly a Baker’s Cyst behind my left knee. It’s not painful and it’s easy enough to treat, but having taken advice from one of the two doctors (at least two, maybe more) with whom I Crossfit, and my utterly excellent physio Paul, I’m going to take tomorrow’s WOD very gently. Weirdly, I would have felt compelled to push myself really hard if my only problem was the neurological/proprioception one, but now I have a physical limitation too, I’m much happier to accept that I must scale as necessary to accommodate my ability. There is clearly a lesson for me to learn about how I de-prioritise what is a genuine (dis)ability.

I also went to mobility this week and had a really good time. I’m not bad at mobility anyway, and the long lay-off seems to have helped me become even more appreciative of what I’m good at, because the whole class was a blast.

So, with a bit of fear but a lot more confidence than I expected, I’m getting back into the ring with the Workout Of the Day … let’s hope I’m still here to report on it next week!

New beginnings (maybe)

New beginnings (maybe)


nelson mandelaIt’s been a tough month.

My weird brain wiring has been playing a lot of tricks on me – maybe because I’ve been unwell, maybe the time of year, maybe just because it happens from time to time, but I reached a point in January where I couldn’t face going to the box. I’d had a total neurological freeze-up during an open gym session where there was virtually nobody else in the box, and while I got myself out of the immediate problem (it’s a bit like mental catatonia – I send signals but they don’t arrive at the muscles they’re aimed at) I just couldn’t face Crossfit again.

After a week off, I asked, on our box members’ page, for help. I didn’t make clear what the problem was, just sought some motivation, and got offered loads, but it wasn’t that helpful because most people assumed I was just demotivated (which is, after all, what I’d said I was) and so there was loads of support and encouragement but none of it reached where I was at – in fear of the box itself.

I finally agreed to speak to Coach David, and we had a one-to-one where I finally talked about the actual extent of my problems, to the best of my understanding, and as a result got given some excellent advice, including taking another week off!

During that week I thought really hard about why I find the new box so difficult to train in, and whether I was willing to make the commitment to finding strategies what would work for me. I talked to two people who are also Crossfit Connect members, and who’ve been amazingly supportive, and to my husband, who knows my neurological issues better than anybody else. It turns out that this is the first time I’ve spoken to anybody about what happens in my brain when I do Crossfit … no wonder I wasn’t getting help; I wasn’t communicating about the problem!

For me there’s a lot of shame in my inability because for 35 years I was told I must be either lazy or stupid not to be able to do certain basic activities. I was in my mid-thirties before anybody realised that the traumatic brain injury I suffered in a car crash when I was a year old had permanently changed the way my brain functions. So I have 15 years of knowing there’s a real problem compared to 35 of being ‘lazy or stupid’. Talking about it makes me feel ‘lazy or stupid’ and that’s my problem, not anybody else’s – I need to get over my inhibition if I’m to get help.

So I have four new strategies:

1. Talk about the differences between my ‘wiring’ and other people’s so that people understand if I drop out of activities

2. Find an absolute horizon before and during training to try and maintain my balance – this was easy at the old box as the sea was right outside the door. At the new box I’m taking Rebus training with me because then I have to walk to the beach first, and so I get a sense of absolute horizon that I can (hopefully) take into training with me

3. Focus on my progress, not my problems. I’ve done pretty well with the strength programme and my squats have improved – I need to spend more time having fun at the box and less training my many, many, many goats

4. Stop disenfranchising myself. When I can’t train or feel I’m not making progress I simply cut myself off. As an example, a member of my box has recently started her own blog, Living Little and Fierce and I read it regularly but I never comment because I don’t want to be identified – this blog has been a largely anonymous way of exploring my own relationship to Crossfit. Clearly anonymity is not serving me well any more, so hi Joski! (Also, she has a cute picture of Rebus on her blog so I feel he deserves a link!)

Two other potential strategies have been suggested:

– Take more time off on a regular basis – coach David says he takes a week or more off several times a year; until January I trained every week for 18 months because part of my problem is that I have no body memory so things I don’t practice, I don’t remember

– Stop wodding. Which terrifies me. I didn’t come to Crossfit to lift, I came for functional fitness and the idea of not doing wods is really disturbing – that’s so far down my list it’s about Plan W and I’m still putting Plan B into practice. I don’t want it to come to that.

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