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Meh and then some!

lavender ice creamSo the twin carbuncles in my life right now are Tony’s cancer treatment, which is noxious* and Lift It Big, which I find cumbersome. I’m just not a natural lifter.

Yesterday Tony got home at 4pm and I went straight out to lift. Unspoken agreement – I stay home until he gets home on treatment day, just in case he needs to be fetched, feels ill, needs extra care etc.

Everybody is at different stages in the Lift It Big programme, and I’m at the second phase which is 3 reps at 70%, 80% and 90% of 1RM (one rep max, for any non-lifters still reading). My lift of the day was strict press, possibly my second worst lift behind bench. I hate strict press.

The interim exercise between lifts is pistols. I cannot tell you how much I loathe pistols. Cross Pol Pot with a giant slug and that’s pistols, to me. If you have balance issues, pistols are evil.

I’m also doing (no, I’m not ‘doing’, I’m ‘attempting’, as I’ve missed two days out of eight so far) Ido Portal’s 30 day hang challenge – 7 minutes a day. I despise dead hangs – it’s just a way of feeling pain streeeetch out!

So I got it done, but it was meh. The only word for it is meh, or maybe the good old Pshaw! which Wodehouse’s characters used to express derision and disgust. Meh. Pshaw.

Went home, ate lavender ice cream. No it’s not paleo, but it’s great for cancer (seriously it is: lavender is immune system boosting, the other ingredients are free range and organic and when you’ve just had live TB vaccine pumped into your bladder it turns out you don’t always feel like eating substantial food, so home made ice cream is one of the things that Tony’s finding helpful) and that was the best part of the experience.




*I originally wrote ‘gnarly’ rather than noxious, which shows CrossFit has invaded my brain at the synaptic level, quite disturbing for a writer. I might end up with a whole novel in which everything is described simply gnarly, epic or awesome.**

**I note this blog has developed footnotes and footnotes to footnotes – jolly good! I may be channelling the wildcard talent that is Terry Pratchett – and I cannot think of anything I’d rather do.


Are we defined by what we have, who we are or what we do?

CrossFit WODThe past few weeks have involved shed-loads of stuff – literally! Tony’s had his surgery, made a great recovery and then got an infection that has set him back a bit. One of my dearest friends got married – that was fun, although Tony’s deteriorating condition meant I had to leave the party early. I did some CrossFit, although actual wods are a bit of a blur, to be honest. We had help putting our shed up. The thing is, if you listened to what I said, the whole month would have been about Tony. I don’t know how many times I told story 1 (operation, larger than expected tumour, excellent recovery, home, catheterised, after 24 hours) or story 2 (plummeting health after removal of catheter, rocketing temperature, mental fog, inability to sleep, dehydration) but it started to feel like I was reciting it as soon as anybody came into my eyeline, like a Pavlovian dog hearing a bell ring. In amongst all that I managed to train twice a week. In fact I’d just finished a wod when Tony rang to say he’d come round from the anaesthetic, and the surgeon had told him it hadn’t been two small tumours but one large one and the operation had therefore been ‘more extensive’. I had a quiet cry on a 22” box and coach Marta came and gave me a hug and some encouragement. It was actually a great place, and a great moment, to receive difficult news, because I didn’t have any adrenaline to give to it, I had to just accept it as fact. But cancer does come to define you, whether you’re the person with it, or the person who’s relaying the information about the person with it. It’s great that people care, and it’s great to be able to talk about it, but I’m starting to feel like a professional cancer communicator. CrossFit shed raisingSo on Sunday we had a shed-raising. Tony and I would usually do all the work in our garden ourselves, but he’s not really ready to take on major projects and we wanted to get the shed up before the end of the summer. A dozen lovely CrossFitters pitched up, along with other friends, to drink beer, eat barbecue and help us build stuff. The weather was hot, the company great and the shed was assembled in no time flat, so ‘team Connect’ moved onto the fences! I think our neighbours were amazed. We had two gorgeous women sitting on their roof, person-handling fence panels in place, while a stalwart chap essentially got the panels to bed down by doing chin-ups on them! Small (but exceedingly strong) children carried chunks of wood around (thank you Leo and Ada May) while other people just mucked in and fetched and carried and hammered and … basically proved we don’t use machines, we are machines. I served food and watched. We never doubted that CrossFit was a way of life, not just an exercise regime, but having so many people show up to help us really confirmed our understanding. If we are defined by what we do, we’re CrossFitters, even if – like Tony – we can’t currently train. If CrossFit is defined by who does it, then it’s much more than just functional fitness – it’s a way of creating communities that take action to support each other. On Sunday we were the grateful recipients of help. CrossFit boxOn Monday morning our box flooded. We got down there about 11am, when most of the hard work had been done, but we still mopped up a bit and moved stuff around, and I took some home-made ice-cream along. Today there will be no classes, which feels weird, because even if we’re not training, we tend to check and discuss the whiteboard at the end of the day. We were glad to be able to help a bit, and if it floods tomorrow, we’ll go down and move stuff again. The CrossFit games happened. I know who won, but the whole of the rest of it went straight past me – it just wasn’t significant in my life this year. But CrossFit itself is still vital to who we are and what we do, and I’m really glad about that. Thank you to all the amazing folk who helped build my beautiful shed – we really, truly, literally couldn’t have done it without you!

Scaling Crossfit

Wod photoWhile those around me were wincing their way through 14.4, I was spending two hours a week under close supervision from physio Paul tensing my left glute and trying to establish if I could get any feedback. It’s hardly comparable, is it?

I always want to forget that my starting conditions are different. When I began Crossfit it was easy for me to be delighted by my progress, but after nearly two years I often fall into a particular trap. Because I spend a lot of time with other Crossfitters it’s easy to slip into their mindset and that means I end up wanting to do the things they do. Bluntly speaking, I’ve watched loads of people arrive at our box, roar past me in the skills development and become part of the ‘elite’. I trudge along trying to get more than two double unders and wondering if I will ever manage another box jump, which can demoralise me.

So focusing on what I can do is important, particularly now I’m back to basics with Paul and trying to build basic neurological feedback mechanisms from areas of my body that currently don’t report anything. I’ve discovered that it does seem likely that I will get some more feedback and also that the way Paul is helping me locate my body in spatial terms could assist with basic motor movements – but it’s knackering. And I have to do exercises at home a couple of times a day, which is both boring and knackering. Meh. I really want to be experiencing the hell of 14.5 but that’s never going to be my reality, I don’t think.

I went back to main class at 06:30 on Wednesday with quite a lot of fear – wondering if I’d be able to manage any of the movements with the scrambled brain I’m currently enduring. The focus was to get a new three rep max back squat which I did – 52.5k (aka bodyweight for me) after failing to get the final squat of the first attempt and dumping the bar forwards over my neck. Funnily enough, that didn’t worry me at all although Coach David came sprinting over! Second attempt he spotted me and I got it fine, although my knees were all over the place.

So this week’s WOD was a fifteen minute AMRAP of:

    3 bar muscle-ups
    6 OH squats
    9 burpees
    12 kettlebell swings

I had to band the muscle-ups and my OH squats were a horrible mess: I started with a 15k bar, dropped to 12 (which was too short for the correct grip) and ended up with a 9k, partly because my glutes and quads are wrecked from the physio and partly because I’m getting a lot of neurological misfires. I am in a gap between using my old system to script a movement and developing new systems based on what Paul’s teaching me and so half the time I just can’t work out how to move at all! I used a 8k kettlebell which was too light, I could have moved to a 12 but I’d already stopped twice to change my bar so I just couldn’t be arsed to lose more time. So essentially I scaled this WOD until it was almost unrecognisable.

I got six rounds and four burpees which wasn’t too bad, considering. All in all, I’m happy with progress so far. Still wish I could do what other people do though …

Physio and Crossfit

zombie stanceSo after two sessions of physio I am definitely feeling it! That’s good news, because part of the process is to try and re-engage areas of my body that have been neurologically adrift. It’s pretty painful though …

I seem to spend most of my time lying on my side doing knee raises or on my back doing knee raises or on my feet with a band round my waist doing knee raises and sometimes there’s another exercise that I’ve named The Zombie F**k, much to my physio’s amusement, which involves opening the hips whilst leaning forward slightly with the arms raised but the hands relaxed. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.

What’s happening is my quads are loading up quite a lot, which is unexpected but so are my glutes and that’s the aim apparently, to get my glutes firing. That means that my quads hurt and my glutes hurt.

Why am I doing this again?

So on Friday after physio, which was excruciatingly painful, involving a 100+ kilo man finding my pressure points and then putting what felt like ALL his weight on them, I decided to do a 7 minute amrap of
8 burpee box stepovers (24″)
20 kettlebell swings (8k)
60 and skips.

I got three rounds and one burpee, which is four burpees below my pb but after an hour of physio, I’m okay with that.

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.

And then there was P …

Paleo. I’m going to try 30 days of Paleo from Monday 7 October.

I feel weird just typing that. No dairy (no dairy!) no sugar, no potatoes, no beans …

I think I might last till Thursday.

I just can’t imagine that radical a change to my diet – which is odd because when I cut out wheat, about ten months ago, I couldn’t have imagined that either, and yet now I don’t miss it or think about it at all. So we’ll see …

allotment cropsI estimate about thirty of us were present for the Plan P chat that Coach Barney gave us today. It was fun and thought-provoking, although the main thing it provoked in me was doubt. Can I really do this? I’m certainly not going to be short of provisions, given the harvest from the allotment this week …

The other thing I’ve started doing is personal training, with Coach David. That feels really weird. I’m just not good enough to merit coaching so I think of it as remedial studies – and having established very quickly what was wrong with my squat (poor ankle mobility) and what was wrong with my bench (poor positioning, poor breathing and no proprioception because my feet weren’t properly on the ground) I got painful exercises to do at home and a 1 kilo pb on my bench in the first twenty minutes of the training session. Bench feels a lot easier now I know to put 2×20 plates at the end of the bench to put my feet on. A very simple thing but it makes all the difference to my position, and my confidence about the lift.

Still only one double under though. Despite skipping for what felt like forever, I can still only get singles! I suspect that double unders will be turning up in my pt sessions for a while to come!

As for WODs, well I haven’t actually got photos of the last few – we’ve moved house and I’ve lost track of a lot of stuff (I didn’t lose track of training, but I did lose track of tracking training, if you take my meaning) and I need to get back on top of it.

• Bruises – loads from double unders
• Wishlist – more than one double under
• PB – 1 kilo bench
• Burpee Challenge – Day 66 – still going.

And another PB (this one’s for all the clumsy kids out there)

free to changeAfter bench pressing with the son of a friend of mine (this blog is called Old Enough To Be Your Crossfit Mother for good reason!) I took nine seconds off my baseline fitness time today, down from 6 minutes 18 seconds to 6 minutes 9.

Not huge, but pleasing, especially as it went up to 6:18 after the first time I took it. Mind you, it’s partly because I haven’t actually performed the same WOD twice. The first time I definitely wouldn’t have been doing strict press-ups and used a green band for pull ups. The second time was strict press-ups but a purple band, and this time I used jumping pull ups – difficult to compare like with like.

Also a Tabata checkout – hollow body rocks. I got 78. Happy with that.

I’d also had a little discussion with Coach Barney during the focus (Bench – how I hate it!) about my negative thinking.

True, I have negative thinking. I need it.

For decades I berated myself so that nobody else would. One of my clearest memories is of a primary school teacher saying to me, ‘How can a clever little girl be so stupid?’ because I’d failed in some simple task again, and again, and again and … again. And probably again the next day and the whole week, month and year too.

I didn’t know how I could be so stupid, and I didn’t know why and knowing why now doesn’t really help. Neurological impairment is weird – it’s not consistent. It’s not like being Forrest Gump who throws off his leg braces and runs like the wind. It’s more like going from wheelchair to leg brace to running and back to leg brace on a random basis.

Today, for example, I managed three single double unders. Woo hoo! Those are the first double unders for a month. Everybody tells me they come and go but I know that mine might just go. Box jumps have gone. For ten months now.

So it’s still important for me to knock myself before anybody else does. Maybe that will change one day but not yet. I’m used to disappointing myself, and that means I don’t have to disappoint others. Simples.

Oh yes. 100 Day Burpee Challenge. Today is day 22. It’s horrible.

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Journey of Strength


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