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Category Archives: crossfit problems

CrossFit and the Language of the Heart

pearl anniversary cakeYesterday was our 30th Wedding Anniversary. And the first time I’ve ever wodded three times in a single day!

One reason I haven’t posted here recently is we’ve been very wrapped up in some big things: Tony’s cancer treatment, planning our pearl anniversary … and one other big thing that I’m not talking abut yet. Anyway, plenty of training has been going on, but blogging about it has not.

We held our anniversary celebrations at CrossFit Connect. It began with a vow renewal, led by the Reverend Jennifer Sanders. Some parts of it we knew about, some came as a complete surprise to us. During the ceremony we went for a paddle on the beach while our guests built a structure out of giant Jenga bricks on which they had written messages for us. At one point I cried, and at another point Tony cried, which caught him out totally!

We dashed home to drop off our dog Rebus, who is quite old and only able to cope with limited amounts of excitement (I know how he feels on both counts!) and to change into our new anniversary T-shirts, then we came back to the box to WOD. Six teams of three took part in our anniversary WOD, the first part of which was a 1984 (the year we got married) row, with each team member rowing 300 metres at a stretch.

The second WOD – a 15 minute AMRAP, could have been designed to reveal my incapacities – 5 (the day we got married) GTOH were no problem, 10 (the month we got married) metres of broad jumps were actually not too bad, I could see how much progress I’ve made in just over two years, because I had to have a special broad jump lesson from coach Barney two years ago, just to understand how to attempt the movement, but 30 (the number of years we’ve been married) wall balls were absolute torment. Catching is one area that I haven’t improved in and it’s so mentally exhausting to try and work out how to throw and catch a medicine ball that I was wiped out by the end of that particular horror. What made it even nastier was that as one team member did the WOD, another got to rest but the third had to hold plank position!

What neither Tony nor I had been expecting until the WODs were written on the board was that we would have to take part in the final, whether we made the cut or not! In fact our team was in fourth place apparently (I didn’t have the energy to check the board) but on we went to the final WOD with the first two teams.

The last WOD was 10 thrusters and 30 kettle bell swings. The way we had to do it was one thruster each, while the other two team members held their bars racked in the front position, then ten Russian kettle bell swings each while the other two members held their kettle bells.

It was fun, we didn’t win and this morning I know what it feels like to do three WODs in a day but I have pre-doms apprehension for tomorrow – I’m pretty certain I’m going to ache in places I can’t foam roll!

Then we had an amazing barbecue, organised and cooked by coach/chef Barney. There was more paleo cake than I have ever seen in one place before and some amazing paleo bread, both of which were provided by guests.

One of the most interesting things about the day, for us, was watching our non-CrossFit friends and family having their first exposure to CrossFit – they seemed to get the idea of teamwork and commitment which we’d hoped would be conveyed by that part of the day.

During the ceremony, Reverend Jennifer had asked us to read out 12 words that she had identified during our planning meetings as being key to our relationship:

1. commitment
2. companionship
3. honesty
4. partnership
5. communication
6. perseverance
7. teamwork
8. love
9. living life
10. willingness
11. action
12. trust.

Jenga block guest bookFor us, marriage, CrossFit, life in general … most of what we do is designed to help us focus on these twelve values. We couldn’t have had such an amazing day without the help of many, many people who gave their time, energy and talents to support us. So we’d like to thank:

CrossFit Connect owners David and Holly for allowing us to hold our day in the box – without that generosity we couldn’t have had such an amazing celebration
Reverend Jennifer Sanders for working so hard to craft a day that really made us happy, thoughtful and overwhelmed by turns
Mum for putting together my bouquet
Ronak for turning up early to help us set up and getting very wet feet going down to the beach to get our emergency sea water supply
Coaches David, Barney and Marta for being part of our day – designing WODs and in Marta’s case, being the third person in our team
Coach Barney for being an MC on the day and catering an amazing barbecue
Peta for being an MC on the day
Linc for designing our awesome T-shirt graphic and creating our cake avatars
Sandra for cake-making and being the world’s henchest flower girl
Oni for cake-making
Ian for the word boards
Michelle and Jason for taking photographs throughout the day – we haven’t seen any pictures yet but we know they’ll be awesome
All the CrossFitters who took part in our WODS – we were honoured to be working out with such a great bunch of people
All the judges who volunteered, or were roped in, on the day
Everybody who came along to participate or watch, especially those who brought kids and dogs – our invitation said ‘children and dogs preferred’ and we were delighted to have loads of both!

There were also people who couldn’t be with us on the day, but were very much in our thoughts: Bunny, Vannoy and Karen (aka George), far away geographically but close to our hearts, and Phil (Duracell) and Martin, both unable to be with us for medical reasons and both sorely missed.

It’s been a demanding and rewarding few months designing the anniversary celebration and it was a remarkable experience to live it. We consider ourselves fortunate beyond belief to have found each other, to have made it this far together, and to have discovered CrossFit!

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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!

Challenging times

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Tony and Rebus enjoying this weekend's barbecue at the box

Tony and Rebus enjoying this weekend’s barbecue at the box

I haven’t posted for a couple of months and here I am posting again within a few days. It hasn’t been the best week or so of our lives, but CrossFit has been integral to everything that’s happened.

About ten days ago my other half, Tony, came home from a heavy wod and said he felt out of sorts. Four hours later we were staring at a toilet bowl full of blood …

First thought, of course, rhabdo. Why? Because it’s part of the CrossFit landscape, because Tony often wods at RX level and because we’re that bit older than the average and more aware that we’re not immortal.

It wasn’t rhabdo. We don’t know what it is yet, but it’s not rhabdo. Whatever is causing this intermittent weirdness that leads to him urinating rivers of blood, CrossFit didn’t cause it. Since then it’s happened several times. We’ve spent a few hours in Accident and Emergency (along with bottles of water and bags of healthy food, because he’s ill, but we’re not stupid, and we know the wait will be long and the vending machines will be full of crap) and what we know is interesting:

1. He’s not anaemic
2. His blood pressure etc are fine
3. Our diet and exercise habits make doctors blink with surprise and admiration.

So he’s been training again (told to avoid ‘vigorous’ exercise he decided double-unders would be okay, I think I managed to convince him not to repeat that thought process!) and so have I. I’ve been up to London, leaving him home alone, and detoured to A&E on my way home for another prolonged pit stop with the charming and dedicated hospital staff there. I’ve been training again and managed to get 8x my previous 1 rep max in the back squat.

So what’s the point?

Without the structure CrossFit offers, we might be more dismayed and upset than we are. Tony is in the best shape of his life and so am I. Whatever’s coming, and we discovered today that he is classed as Code Three (life-threatening medical emergency), we’ve never been more ready to deal with it. But we’ve been able to scale and train at an appropriate level given that he is now ‘the man who pisses blood’ and I am ‘the woman who sleeps but lightly’. We’re still maintaining functional fitness.

Without the support CrossFit offers, we’d definitely be more frightened and alone than we are. The offers came in immediately – people volunteered to walk the dog, run errands, bring food etc. Coaches and CrossFitters alike have sent good wishes, rung us, messaged us, worked out alongside us, talked about their own health scares (mental and physical) and generally showed us that we’re right inside the circle. It’s been an amazing experience of what a community can deliver.

CrossFit taught us to adjust, then do our best. Scaling is a way of life if you’re fifty-something and you came to CrossFit late after a life that didn’t fit you to physical performance. Faced with this peculiar situation, we scaled our lives to suit. One thing we’ve decided is to totally change our plans around our thirtieth wedding anniversary this year. We weren’t going to mark it in any way, but we are now. In October we’re going to have the biggest, craziest, most laid-back Pearl Anniversary celebration ever … so watch this space!

What we’re hoping is that this will turn out to be nothing much. Some kind of burst blood vessel, a rip, a tear – just one of those things. What we know is that it might not be nothing. We’ve lived lives that tend to lead to prices being paid – we can’t shut our eyes to that, but we can maintain our current level of health, mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, while we wait to find out what we’re dealing with.

We have a lot to celebrate – and CrossFit is going to help us do it.

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.

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!

MPLS MAMA BEAR

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Elizabeth Merritt Abbott

Short posts by a midwestern, writer, reader, and occational crossfitter.