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It turns out you can never undrink the Kool-Aid …


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!

Paleo summer fruit custard recipe

summer fruit compoteTo train or not to train…. It turned out to be ‘not to train’. I’ve had another week off. I had a week off lifting (but not training) a couple of weeks ago and hoped I’d get to a substantially improved back squat one rep max this week. But on Sunday I developed a shooting pain in my right knee and the advice was to rest it. So I’m resting it. And bored.

Not so boring, but not much fun either, another trip to A&E on Tuesday. This time though, Tony got a different potential diagnosis: march haematuria. To whit: Causes of Haematuria
Haematuria is the result of bleeding somewhere in the urinary tract, which is made up of the kidneys, the ureters (the tubes that take the urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder, the urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside world) and, in the male, the prostate.

There are many conditions that can cause haematuria, most of which are not life-threatening. However there are a number of serious causes of haematuria that need to be detected.
·        Trauma. Traumatic injury to any part of the urinary tract, from the kidneys to the urethral opening, can cause haematuria.
·        Urinary tract infection. Haematuria can be caused by an infection in any part of the urinary tract, most commonly in the bladder (cystitis) or the kidney (pyelonephritis).
·        Drugs. Haematuria can be caused by prescribed medications such as blood thinners (anticoagulants) including heparin, warfarin or aspirin-type medications and cyclophosphamide.
·        Cancers of the kidney of bladder (or prostate in males).
·        Stones or calculi. These can occur in the kidney, the bladder or the ureters.
·        Glomerulonephritis. Glomerulonephritis refers to a group of kidney diseases that have inflammation of the glomeruli, the filtering units of the kidneys. It can rarely be a complication of certain viral and bacterial infections. It can also occur in autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosis (lupus or SLE) and diabetes mellitus.
·        Exercise. This is also called ‘march haematuria’, as seen in soldiers on extended marches. Very prolonged exercise in athletics, jogging, horseback riding and bicycle riding can cause haematuria, which is a non-serious condition.
·        Bleeding disorders, including genetic disorders such as haemophilia, can result in haematuria.
·        Inflammation/infection of the prostate can lead to haematuria.

Isn’t that all just peachy? But if you had to choose just one of those vile causes, you’d choose march haematuria and that’s what we’re hoping is the cause of Tony’s symptoms, not least because 48 hours or so before every episode he’s done both heavy(ish) squats and double-unders in the same training session.

uncooked pale summer fruit custardMeantime – paleo!

I spent most of today at the allotment, teaching and then tending crops. As a result I came home with lots of soft fruit: tayberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, strawberries, and red and gold raspberries. We eat a huge amount of this fruit raw, but I decided as we had so much to make a compote. And when I’d made the compote I decided to sieve it, and then to make some compote custards with pistachio maple topping.


Gently cook a selection of summer fruits with 15 grams of honey for each 100 grams of fruit. No need to add water. Either cook until the fruit breaks down into a loose mass or cook for another five minutes and then sieve to get a thick puree or compote. The former is probably healthier but we eat enough raw fruit not to worry about getting sufficient roughage and trace elements. Once prepared, set aside to cool. Keeps for a week in a refrigerator, not that it’s ever been a problem in our house, we struggle to keep it more than 48 hours as we eat it on everything!

pale summer fruit custard with maple pistachio Topping

1 tablespoon butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios

This quantity of crumble tops four custards. Blend the ingredients together and set aside.



Two eggs per person
Teaspoon honey per four eggs

20140621_185226Beat the eggs together lightly with the honey. Pour into a pan over a low heat and cook until they just start to ‘turn’ and thicken, you don’t want to leave it a moment longer or you’ll have sweet scrambled eggs! Still good to eat, but not part of this recipe. As soon as it starts to thicken, pour into ramekins, then swirl some of the compote through the custard – don’t over fill as these custards rise (then collapse) during cooking. As you can see, judging how much is too much can be tricky! Drop a spoonful of the topping in the centre of each dish and cook for 15 minutes at 175 degrees. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Haven’t posted for months

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Haven't posted for months

After a long time of physio, I did a kettlebell workshop this weekend. It was amazing, demanding, fun, exhausting (I have the bruises to prove it) and when I arrived I wanted to turn round and go home. So glad I didn’t! And I ordered myself a kettlebell charm to celebrate. CrossFit is amazing …

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.

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.

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~Cruising through my Life~

journey since 1989...