Saturday, November 20, 2021

That Far...?!?

 Well...I’ve never rowed that far before. How about that?!

Given what I’ve named before, it’s not surprising that I got curious about the Let’s Row challenge invited by Annie Thorisdottir last week.

Two sessions/week for six weeks, aiming to PB a 2000m row time (PB=personal best). Given the length of my legs, rowing is a bit in my wheelhouse (as we say). W
hy not?, I thought to myself. The first wko of 4 intervals, 500m, minute rest between, seemed easy enough when it landed as wko1. The second workout I was sure was a typo: 6 intervals of 2000m each? 4 minutes rest between? Surely she meant 200m. But alas, no, and so this morning, I actually rowed further than I ever have before. Just get better, right? This post is to name some of what I’m learning. Writing offers that bit of accountability for myself too. 

Folks have been posting in the Facebook group cool pictures of their rower’s screens, nicely marked intervals/splits, etc. I’m a techie-luddite--have no idea how to do any of that on either the CrossFit Dedication gym’s rowers or our water rower here at home, homage to House of Cards days my husband enjoyed.

So my own scores are given below in script. At least they’re not in longhand/cursive or sun-dial terms, right?

wko1 (4 intervals 500m, 1 min rest in between): 214.3, 213.3, 212.4, 2:10.2. I knew I could push harder, but I also didn’t know what the pacing would feel like. I always have a deep body fear of ‘comin out too hot’ or ‘not having enough.’ I got to do this at the gym after a “fun Friday morning” wod of box jumps, situps, and slam-balls. Good enough, I felt. Wko2 would prove I could push harder, particularly when I was focused on endurance, not a sprint.

wko2 (6 intervals 2000m, 4 mins rest between): 9:10, 8:40, 8:33, 8:37, 8:32, 8:29. The /500m pace was anywhere between 2:04 to 2:12. Not sure how this compares with the first wko, to be honest, as it was on the home water rower, with questionable damper-measure. This wko was much more interesting for me, at least in the learning and listening I could do. There was no place else to be, after all, so...listen and learn, listen and learn, repeat.

Strokes/minute is a new category I’d never paid much attention to before. I started out with the numbers saying 29/30, again sure that 19/21 strokes/min rate suggested had to be a typo. (Are we perceiving a pattern yet? I’m not the quickest adapter around :)).

By interval three, it dawned on me that I could try to slow the pulls/minute down, toward the 19-21 suggestion. So I did. It then dawned on me the strength of pull was the focal point. Oh! I thought to myself. How do you keep the /500m rate at a consistent number with only that number of pulls? 

To be fair, coaches at the gym have taught me this before, but the experience of rowing with fewer pulls touches more anaerobic stuff in my body than the easy, slow-steady aerobic cardio-endurance stuff I thrive in. Given I was going to be at this for so long, I did finally find a breathing, slow-steady, cardio-and-strength combo that felt good in my body. I’d even say restful, here amongst CrossFit interested folks. (I usually get blowback in my larger life when I talk about that. CrossFit has taught me how to rest in sustained activity, but most of my overly-cognitive, highly verbal, highly-body-dissociated life hasn’t had that physical experience. Yet, we might say). I found a place I could both ‘exert myself’ sufficient to keep the /500m rate and sustain it over a period of 8-9 minutes at a time.

Functional movement is another area I played around with, rowing for this long. (CrossFit video helpful here). I remembered the ‘curvature of the spine’ recommendations from the CFL1 seminar. Keeping the back in healthy shape while focusing the power through hip extension and then delayed pull. I know if I lean back, again given how long my legs are, I can get more power in a pull. If I pull the handle slightly above my sports-bra/mid-chest line, I get a little more. 

I remember once at a bootcamp session at the gym, we did a series of 20/cal row/minute, with then a minute rest OR however many burpees to makeup the calories not rowed in that minute. If you only got 18 calories, then you had 2 burpees to do during your ‘rest’ minutes. I forget how many rounds of this we did, but I was determined to not do any burpees. I would lean all the way back and pull the handle close to my chin. Not good form, I later learned, with stress on the wrists, etc. But...burpees? The last round, I thought I was gonna have to do 1 burpee, but blessedly, the rollover graced me and we cheered. So...burpees or bad form for short time? I chose leaning back and pulling up to the chin. For 12000m, however? I decided on functional form…

So...glimpses on the journey. Not sure I’ll have access to a rower for the next week as I travel to be with family. I’ll be smiling with all who post and enter into whatever’s next. My bum doesn’t even hurt that much! Perhaps yet, we might say. (And tip: do not Google images for a sore bum!)😆😆😆

Friday, November 5, 2021

An Ode to (Imprinting on) Annie

Annie Thorisdottir has captured my attention in these last days, which makes me curious about what’s rising in me, so to see it “in her.” We cannot see in others that which we do not have within ourselves, after all, even if we hide from it, stay unconscious of it. [editor’s note: the underpinning assumption here is not that Annie and I share anything real or true, but that celebrity culture harvests, projects, and mirrors back to those curious their/our own psychological energies. I notice Annie now because there is something rising in me that I can project onto her, so to see it more clearly. In this case, it’s a positive or affirmational intent, but you can see the negative versions of this in cancel-culture, in demonization of just about anything/everything. Eventually, I will allow that strength (or whatever else I may be drawn to) to find its expression in me.]

The obvious frame of reference is CrossFit, but I suspect it has more to do with her smile, her inimitable humor/self-expression, the depth of her vulnerability and her rise back into elite competition just over a year after a very difficult childbirth. Actually, her ability to constantly reframe her experience as it is in the moment...that may be the biggest draw for me here.

I’ve only been in the CrossFit streams for a little over three years, so it wasn’t until the 2021 Open that I began to hear her name, hear a little bit of her voice. She wasn’t planning on competing, given how her body had changed in her daughter’s birthing, but something in her preliminary participation and media attentions caught my eye, enough to get curious. It was the first year I actually registered for the Open, staying in the scaled-athlete streams for the first two workouts, then the third-stream for 21.3. 

There was something that resonated in me as Annie began to talk about her journey back into competition. My journey with CrossFit has been one of returning to my own body, discovering its gifts and graces after being reared in mostly inherited shames and imposed guilt. I had no intention as a 52-year-old woman to ever enter into the Open, let alone any other competition, but something in me wanted the challenge.

I wanted to see how my body would feel if I took a chance in extending my skill set a bit. And I remember a deep satisfaction at completing 21.2, consisting of DB snatches and box-stepovers (for me). I was nearly completely spent, but thrilled.
I did it. I did what I never thought I could. This probably seeded my own recent completion of CFL1 (successfully!), and then joining as a pair for the Festivus Games. No one saw that comin’. 😮😆😅

So to hear Annie talk about the difficulty of her childbirth, the recovery, the postpartum, and the gentle/not-so-gentle climb ‘back into her body’ as her own? Deeply resonant and thrilling for me, for her. I’ve never wanted to have children of my own, but I am always fierce for mothers coming back into the sense of themSelves, with but also beyond their children. This has been my mothering and now grandmothering work in the world. So much of the work to found/hold Women Writing for (a) Change, Central Ohio has been this very space-holding: spacious creative containers for women of all kinds to find their voice, to return to themSelves, for the good of those around them, for the good of us all. So Annie catches my attention because she’s doing that internal-external work for herself, allowing herself to be seen while doing it on the public stages of CrossFit elite competition. Stunning and beautiful.

Dedication Health changed my life, beginning summer of 2019, which then got touched as Annie wrote about her own frustrations with food in early years. I don’t remember the full posting--probably Instagram or Facebook, way back--but she lamented that the nutritional/medical knowledge for fueling the human body was so lacking for her, for so long. She had been a gymnast? Or a ballet dancer? Yes. And a pole-vaulter for a time. All while limiting caloric intake, so to retain a perceived-necessary form for her sports. Knowing what we know now? She wrote a fierceness for fueling the body in what it needs to perform at an elite level. I felt connected here too, though not for the elite bit.😆 I’m listening for what and how I can hold spaces for young women writers, sneaking in the functional CrossFit movements so to get them back into their bodies, beautifully fueled to eat more of all the right things.

The CrossFit Games’ season captured a lot more of my attention this year as well, both because I had taken the chance of actually participating and had had a good experience with it. I got more curious about the variety of athletes than I’m predisposed to do, a bit weary of celebrity culture as a whole. Naturally, Annie’s journey to the podium in it all was thrilling. “I hadn’t even expected to compete this year,” she quipped to one of the media after an event win. I think what caught my eye so many times was this determination to show up, to take a chance, to push just a bit more than she thought she would be able to. That’s a travelable aphorism or wisdom nugget, in my view. The 1-rep max snatch event was by far the best image of this character commitment. She surprised herself with her (second-attempt-success) at the 200-lb snatch.

And maybe the imprinting energies are here because she’s such a good illustration of what I love about CrossFit, within CrossFit: the goal is yes, fitness, but it’s much more about “getting better,” however you might define it for yourself. Just get better, we say at the gym. Become the better YOU you can become. For the 200-lb lift, for example, Annie noted that hitting 200 on the snatch wasn't her goal. "I had a goal to have one event that I could enjoy it, be in the moment and take it all in," Thorisdottir shared. "Hitting 200 and standing it up — it checked all the boxes." Given the cultures we live in today, this takes some doing, to keep focused on the inner work that makes the outer meaningful.

For example, when the doctors early on told her she might never lift anything heavy again, she knew to reframe it for herself. As an online August 16 Parents-Today post described it: After delivery, Thorisdottir's doctor told her she may never again be able to lift anything super heavy. Annie responded: "She knew I was a professional athlete and she was like, 'You may not gain the strength in your pelvic floor again.' I hate it when doctors say things like that. As human beings, we never look for becoming the same as we were, we look for being better." Again and again, Annie invites the challenge. It was marvelous to find the 2009 CrossFit games videos, both to see the challenges she faced (and some, could not overcome) AND her journeys to the Games over the years. There’s something so incredibly hopeful in seeing elite competitors where they first began, to where they are now.

Completing the Rogue Invitational this past week, there’s another great image of Annie reframing: you’re not a victim, you’re a warrior. She’d read a post the morning of the last day of competition with those words. She faced each event that day with determination and endurance. She noted her own frustration with Event 7, claiming her own right to do precisely as she had done, though she was frustrated by it too. 

SUCH good modeling for so many… It’s hard on any given day to be an elite-contender--i.e. focal point of news media and the potential invasion of any privacy--but what captures my attention here is her steadiness no matter what. She names her experience, then lets it go (at least publicly). To use a Ted-Lasso-ism, she is a goldfish. She comes at the next ‘event’ or ‘day’ or whatever fresh and in the moment. I particularly loved her mirroring back to the Icelandic news-media that publicized a less-positive-than-could-be summary of her Rogue Invitational experience. She gave a translation of it on her Instagram page, saying “Could have been a little more positive, I think” or something like that. One, she used her social-media tools to mirror what could have been better, in her view. She thereby reframes it. I’m drawn to that kind of internal strength to reframe, reframe, reframe. I need more of that in my own work, methinks.

So what’s significant for me in this imprinting on a ‘CrossFit elder’ who is much younger than I am? She confirms for me my own daily mantra with CrossFit, for one: enjoy the movement. I can move and do things now at 52 that I could not have done even 10-20 years ago. She loves what she does, and offers an inimitable smile, buoyancy, as she does it. Me too. 

I learn regularly with her own words, sharing of her experience, both to allow herself to be seen as she is but also to reframe it whenever it does not match what she knows to be true. There’s a two-step here that feels important for me to practice in my own work. Though I have faced remarkable community-visibility work these last years, I've also hidden the gifts I have for a long while, afraid of being seen then misinterpreted, misunderstood. I crumpled a bit the last time I was mis-understood and chastised for some innovative work. Knowing myself inside as I do now, steadied in my own body, I can say more fully: it doesn’t matter what others may see or mis-see. Reframe it. This will be a long learning curve for me, but it’s good to see it here, in her.

Her story also puts me back in touch with my overwhelming fierceness for women-become-mothers, finding their way back into their bodies AND modeling healthy connection for their sons, daughters. I will be about this path for mothers (and daughters) for the rest of my life, and it’s good to feel it come alive again within me. I find myself curious whether she will ever write a lengthier piece? And how to be in support of that…? Hmmm... Then... Simply because it shouldn't go without at least a nod: I also love the glimpses we've received of her partner in all this, Frederik Ægidius, whose voice in the Miles to Madison episode was marvelous. He gives me hope for a balanced healthy masculine in our world today.

For now, it’s enough to smile into the mother-duckling energies of imprinting, trusting my own strengths and vulnerability will emerge more and more, with practice, risk, and tenacity. Just get better, as defined for me, for now. Shout out to Annie, from a quiet blogger in the Midwest of the USA. There is so much to be hopeful for with more and more women learning to become more and more fully themselves.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Festivus Feelings

 A week ago today, I was gearing up (with EricW) to participate in the Festivus Games, “CrossFit for the rest of us.” Four workouts of rowing, thrusters, knee-tucks from the rig, lunges, cleans, shoulder to overhead, synchro-DB-snatches, box-stepovers, fronts squats and burpees. We had rehearsed, practiced the synchronized the snatches, sorted out our probable progressions through the four different workouts, and prepared via nutrition and recovery rhythms. I had recovered, mostly, from a painful hip-impingement “extreme puzzling” injury, but was anxious that I was not going to be able to do the thrusters or front squats the workouts required. We arrived at AKP CrossFit in Huber Heights a little before 8 a.m., registered, and began to stretch, warm-up a bit. I rolled out my quads and did the hip bridges I now do every morning, but also put some bio-freeze onto my hip and upper left quad muscles, which relaxed me. Sample thrusters for the judge before the first workout, and I realized it was all gonna happen. We were off to the races by 8:40 a.m.!

I’ve not written about any of this yet, much to my surprise. I knew I wanted a little bit of distance from the experience before I would know what I was feeling, thinking. Had I been able to focus enough to write directly after the competition, that Saturday afternoon, I would have said vastly different things than arise for me in this moment. Writing about it before the competition would have offered vastly different words as well. What am I most aware of now, one week out from the experience?

I’m stunned and delighted that I/we dove in, faced into all the dynamics of it, and succeeded by just about any measurement you could suggest. I’m SO GLAD I volunteered when the option arose. I loved the focus necessary to be responsible in the journey there--practice, awareness of the extent of the energy-output that would be required, regular tending to a body injury that would have/could have prevented me from participating, courage to spend all I had. I loved learning the partnership of it all--synchronizing, but also sorting out our strengths and maximizing those in each of us. I enjoyed the strategizing, and was impressed with Eric’s foresight into weaving the fewest transitions possible. We didn’t come in last, which had been the mantra offered by a friend. We actually placed in second, for our masters M/F division! So I take great pleasure in the successes of the whole thing, whether internally conceived or externally demonstrated.

Me being me, of course there were internal weather-storms that are just as much a part of this journey as the easy obvious things. I didn’t show it much, nor name it aloud, but I was afraid more often than not during the 6 weeks of preparations.

There was a steady hum of fearfulness diffused through just about everything--being in another Box during an epidemic, failing my partner in some fashion, being unable in body to do the squat movements, bringing shame upon me or those I love in some fashion. After the competition, I felt heavy and embarrassed, critical of my performance and how I looked, how I moved. I couldn’t wait to get off the podium realizing I don’t like having my body in the spotlight in any fashion.
That’s an old story, for sure. I was afraid after the competition, that I had seriously injured my hip somehow, so for the rest of my life, I would be limping. Re-entering the week’s rhythms, I wanted both to be seen and celebrated for facing into this challenge, and I didn’t want anyone to say anything at all. Impossibly and beautifully ME, all this. We laughed as Melissa asked the day-after, “What is possibly the worst that could have happened?” to which I responded, “Excruciating pain, shame and failure in the face of those counting on me! Welcome to the family of origin of Lisa M Hess!” She shook her head, giving up her attempts at logical positivity. Impossibly and beautifully ME.

All that said, however… I’m pleased with my performance, and so very proud of US. I want to remember my body’s emphatic sensibility on the day after: we don’t need to do this again. I smile at the question from Eric that morning: Wanna do this again in April? to which I responded, “Don’t ask me that today, for heaven’s sake! Ask me in January…” I sit here one week out from the whole experience, feeling pleased, proud, fond of the experience as a whole. I see more clearly the arc of the whole, which allows me to relax and be less afraid. I love the movement, the learning, the partnership. So...we’ll see.

We’ll just have to see.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Staying Actively Engaged in the Edge...?

What does it mean, what does it look like, to stay actively engaged in a learning curve toward fitness?

I found myself musing on this question as I drove over for Day Two of the CrossFit Level 1 training seminar at the Rogue gym in Columbus. I have loved every minute of it, somehow. Even the finishing either second to last or last in the end of day workout of thrusters and burpees. (Should have stayed with the empty bar, judging from my energy level, but I didn’t even care.) I loved feeling so well prepared for this deeper-dive into CrossFit methodology, movement philosophy, modeling of fitness. I knew much of what was being presented already, but I always learn more...when I pay attention, of course. Hence the do I stay actively engaged in something that has clearly become such a big part of my life, and can therefore become habitual, less intentional or conscious…? Mostly, from Day One, I simply loved the balance in my mind and body whenever I am in this flow of community and focus, learning and challenge.

I had panicked a little bit on Thursday night, learning that the Training Guide was 258 pages long and “it would be good to familiarize yourself with it before you come” advice in the orientation email. Training Guide? I asked myself, anxiety rising. Me being me, I downloaded it and began to familiarize myself with the phraseology, most likely to be found in any multiple-choice “celebration of knowledge” quiz/test. My husband (being who he is) printed it all out in color, double-sided copy, putting it in a binder with my name on the front title page. I love how he supports me in this journey, even if he actively refuses to welcome any of its wisdom for his own body-path. Long in the learning-biz, I knew how best to prepare myself for this, so did that...identified the probable knowledge-points, definitions to be learned, performance-standards to learn, common errors/mis-forms to correct. Day One was therefore an entertaining and informative review, which set me up for feeling confident throughout the movement patterns we did all day.

And I was grateful for some significant but incidental form-corrections for my own movement patterns. As is often said in my CrossFit class, I’m internalizing anew that
midline stabilization needs to be my primary focus in everything from here on out. I’ve known this and had it repeated to me again and again, but I know it in a different way now.  Some new way.

I have avoided being aware of my abdomen for most of my life--psychological shaming and ambivalences abound there. invitation now (again, continuing to remind myself) is to strengthen my lower core muscles as I move all day. Which is different from pulling my stomach in. That was a habit learned from adolescence on, afraid of being judged “fat” or “ugly.” The correction there was soft belly--soften my belly with nonjudgmental awareness, lovingkindness, acceptance and appreciation of my body as it is. And the correction has been a good one for me, psychologically. Strengthening my core now, however, means bringing intentional force from my belly button to my spine, to my lower back. Midline stabilization has a healthy purpose--protecting my lower back, keeping balance coordination and agility steady. I sense now how my habitual avoidance has put stress on my lower back. Oh! I found myself nodding yesterday, noting the spine position in the squat overview-demonstration. I also felt it in the Press series, small group practice sessions. There I learned I arch too much, again needing to correct by pushing my belly button in to correct the posterior-tilt (I think it might be called).

I also learned that my front-rack holding position has had my hands too narrowly placed. My hands need to be more outside my shoulders than I’ve been aware before. Then my arms came up more easily and with better angle and a sense of Oh! I had just assumed it was my shoulder mobility (or lack thereof) but felt the difference immediately with a trainer’s advice to someone else.

And I saw something new in the Pull-Up demonstration/movement patterning exercise. I have been strengthening my kip swings, but I saw the use of the lats in a pull down motion that I had not internalized before, or yet. I have a new sense of some muscles to strengthen--maybe ski-erging, or back to the slow negative pull-ups like I know to do. But I have a new vision of what movement pattern I’m missing because i focus on the pull too quickly. I need to strengthen my active shoulders more consciously, but not so consciously that I limit movement.

I really enjoyed the breaking down of all the standard movements into their movement moments or dynamics. We get glimpses of this every class in my own box, when we do a particular barbell movement or complex of movements, but this has been hours of small group practice, with repeated reps and point coaching. SO HELPFUL for me. I’ve been taking my index-notecard notes like I know I need to do to remember particular phraseology, but I also love simply having these for my own focal-points for improving movement. Because watching a CrossFit trainer do a movement, then seeing my fellow-seminar athletes doing the movements? I see we all have improvements to make in the dynamic journey that functional movements are. Some days, I’ll get the hip extension easily. Other days, particularly if I’m already tired, I won’t. When we did the med-ball-clean workout--an 8 minute AMRAP of 20 medball cleans and 20 ab-mat sit-ups--I was reminded how well I’ve been coached in the movement, but how quickly the form can falter in me when I tire. I never quite conceptually got to the notion of threshold training in that part of this morning’s session (Day Two), but I appreciate it and will consider it when it rises.

I don’t know how all this will land for me when I return to my own box, the weekly rhythms of workouts and rest days. I feel some energy in me about a 10-minute EMOM of strict pull-ups, 1/min until I can do incrementally more (up to 5), so to practice active shoulders and strengthening of my lats. I feel some energy in me about just playing more with the PVC pipe, reviewing my own notes and points of performance, focusing on midline stabilization and posterior chain engagement. I’ve never been really good at purely maintenance of anything, so not surprisingly I find myself restless with fitness now. How shall I continue to learn? How do I stay actively engaged at the thresholds in me? What more do I lean into...even as I listen carefully to my body, all 52-years of her, simply enjoying the movements I get to do every day, each week?

The Nutrition lecture was a piece of cake, so to speak. :) Given the years of Dedication Health and my own integration with my foodie-cooking-baking tendencies, most was familiar to me. I did hear something new about eating to maintain lean body mass, not fat. I don’t think I would change much of what I’m doing now, actually--good metabolism rate, macros well tended including things not on plan per se but enjoyable at home, active lifestyle. I really love my life right now, much as it is.

As Day Two draws to a close, yet to experience the Celebration of Knowledge (Test/Quiz) of course, I’m yet tickled that I actually leaned into doing this training. I had been listening to The Midnight Library on Audible, a book by Matt Haig and read by Carey Mulligan (both British). Its gift has been to invite awakening to possibility amidst any regrets or felt-sense of “cannot do/wish I could do” feelings. I saw an ad for CrossFit Level 1 trainings, including one at Rogue in Columbus. Hmmm, I thought. I recognized my own habitual fear of entering into new physical challenges that might be in such a training. And then I signed up on the spot. Something I would never have done, I thought to myself. And I’m going to try it.

Me being me, I told no one at my box that I was doing this, of course. I wanted to be really clear I was doing this for me, myself and I. And so I have. It brings me a smile now to share it with whomever might be on their own journeys with intention, encouraging and celebrating this stepping out. As I texted a close friend yesterday evening, “I’ve come a long way baby.” What are the most pertinent growing edges for me right now? Listening...

[And nod of gratitude to Joe, Cody, Greg...good work, y'all]

Friday, June 18, 2021

Food Freedom

I give thanks for the food freedom I now know is possible, palatable, even practical. What do I mean by food freedom?

Peaceableness in body. Steadiness in being in my own skin. Relief from endless food discernments and decisions.  Any philosophical inquiry into what we actually mean by freedom will specify the sense of being free from and being free for (whatever). In those terms, then, I now know freedom from a lot of things -- cravings, billboard or marketing triggers, expectations of others imposed upon me with respect to what food means for them, presumed to be for us. I also know freedom for a lot of other things -- physical play, increased sense of fun or levity, a high level of energy for my entire day and embodied movement with less and less shame or guilt, whether internalized or imposed upon me by another. It took me a long time to find my way here, but I am so very grateful for the food freedom I now know and get to experience every day.

One of the pathways that began to open the way for me here several years ago is called the Whole30, which (I was surprised to be reminded recently) is probably where the use of the phrase first landed in my own vocabulary. Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig’s book, The Whole30: the 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, came down from my shelf recently. I was looking for some new healthy food combinations I could find to spice up the order and content of our summer meals, and I startled at the subtitle. I had not remembered their use of the phrase. The book itself doesn’t have much to say about it, but Melissa Hartwig has a video in which she describes what she means by the phrase food freedom. I recognize the steps in her words that got me here, even as there is a sense of ‘moving beyond’ into my own experience, my own words.

“You are in control of your food instead of food controlling you,” she begins. “
No more uncontrollable cravings. No more feeling like you’re a slave to sugar or carbs. No more prowling through the pantry at 10:00 p.m.” Instead, food freedom means “you are making conscious and deliberate decisions about your food.” 

I appreciate her words and recognize the wisdom within them. They describe my own experience, at least to a point. Because I also feel a weariness in her words that I do not experience in my day to day. She speaks the truism that food freedom for her is making conscious and deliberate decisions about food. She offers a pathway there, in our cultural intersections where food-choices abound, and maybe only 10% of them are healthy. 

Is it worth it? 

Do I want it? 

These are the two questions she names within food freedom living. She’s basically asking what impact will this food have on my body--in ten minutes, in an hour, by tomorrow morning, or even into next week? Is it so special that it’s worth it? Is it so delicious that it’s worth it? What will the impact be, on my body?

These are the questions I also listen to when I’m in a social situation with my husband, necessary in his job. Or when a celebration weekend is coming and nostalgic-special foods are desired to observe the festive day. The consciousness and deliberation in decision-making is a pathway to food freedom. But it’s incredibly wearying as well. Particularly when we are bombarded from without by others’ food-insecurities or struggles in a high-marketing, high-consumption culture.

What I’m taking delight in for myself is the unexpected arrival into a space or habit whereby I don’t even desire or crave what’s difficult for my body to digest. Where the decisions I make about food each day are so free that I don’t even have to discern. It’s no longer that I am consciously choosing or being deliberate about food choices, but that the high sugar, high carbs things don’t even appeal to me anymore. I’m not deciding it’s not worth it as much as not even noticing an interest in having to choose.

Before this sounds all cut and dry, I so do have my area of consciousness and deliberate decision making, each week. My husband and I are foodies, and he’s loved learning about all kinds of cocktails in these recent (and lengthy) pandemic-bubble months. I was one of his only bubble-mates so regularly faced invitations to cocktail hour! The drinks themselves were not that high in calories or sugars or carbs, but they do lower inhibitions for old habits of munchies and hors’d’oeuvres. So...I learned that an ounce or two of vodka can go a long way in an evening with three cans of seltzer accompanying it over time. I’ve learned cocktail recipes actually control amounts and ratios, because you have to be precise in the creation of a Poet’s Dream, for instance. (isn’t that a great name? Easy for a poet like me to accept that celebratory beverage). Recipe cocktails are better than an eye-estimated Old Fashioned.’s not that I’m never weary in deliberating, but that occasion is really the only time where I get to practice differentiation (doing what my body needs and desires, splurging from time to time) and participation (communing alongside my husband and our friends, from time to time), both at the same time. The rest of the time, I take delight in the food freedom I now know, held in a community of fellow-travelers who love CrossFit intensity, who also navigate home and restaurant food choices within a commitment to health.

The secret here could be said to be "hidden in the sauce" of how CrossFit works--communally, collegially, competitively (for some). Several times a week, I surround myself with folks who are intensely committed to fitness. I pick up tips of the trade and new ways to prepare foods, which then circles back to supporting the community for me. It’s not a mindfulness or deliberation alone, in other words. It’s a communal culture that encourages good health and increasing fitness. As each decides for themselves. No shame, no blame. 

The end result has been a peaceableness and steadiness in my body, my life, which then allows me to be present to all that is around and within me. I rarely get triggered into feelings of shame or guilt anymore, at least with respect to body-image things. Awakened heart, some of my teachers call it. 

I know from the outside this way of being with food looks like a hugely willful and highly controlled-from-outside discipline or difficult regimen. I often get the comment that I must have huge self-discipline, or that the person talking "doesn't have that much willpower." I don’t experience it that way at all. By now, it's not my willfulness or even that much discipline anymore. It was a journey of discipline to get here, with coaching and community support/learning. But over time, even my husband with whom I eat the most often, who eats vastly different than I do now, honors and even does his best to support me. It can be hard to have willpower regarding food in our overculture, unless you surround yourself with those who are living into your own choices, values, with you. So no...this way of being with food--no sugar, low carbs, rich healthy fats and proteins and veggies--is not a mind-trip or superhuman willpower. I find that it gives freedom from all that swayed me into anxiety and fear, and freedom for so much more in my life than I knew was possible to enjoy. 

That’s what I mean by food freedom. 

P.S. I just found another Melissa Hartwig listing that I also live into myself...but 'nuff said, for me.

Food Freedom ...

... is about indulging when it’s worth it, passing when it isn’t, and never feeling guilt or shame for doing either. about taking morality out of food, and recognizing you are not a “good” or “bad” person based on what’s your plate.

...means you never again feel powerless over food. You don’t obsess. You don’t get anxious. You aren’t stressed.

... means that food is FUN again. It means you feel free to play around with how much, how often, and in what quantity while still looking and feeling exactly as awesome as you want.

... means you don’t restrict needlessly, or binge heedlessly. You make conscious, deliberate decisions around food, and sometimes you say yes, and sometimes you say no, and both are totally okay because you chose it.

... doesn’t mean you’re a perfect eater or always make the “right decision", always stay on track, or never fall back into old habits.

I like the whole-life living overview of this, particularly the emotional components with food that are so prevalent in my own early formation and stress-responses, which often would include food.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Socialization's not all bad after all...

Socialization is a funny thing, I’m finding, and not all bad for the fitness journey I’ve been on.

It’s funny for me to be toting socialization because it tends to be a pejorative word in my line of work, or at least in the way I do my work. Many of my seminary-faculty colleagues are socialization-heavy, in my view. It speaks to the status quo, to prioritizing the Tradition (always with a capital T), to the way we’ve always done it, to the conservative power of the community to shape human behavior in predictable and definable ways. Most socialization-heavy folk, in my view, are rigid out of fear, need for security-stability, willfulness to hold onto what-was instead of being with what-is... Not surprisingly, I’m a transformation girl, myself. I’m interested in tradition (small ‘t’) growing and changing, welcoming innovation and healing through new ways of trying/doing something that improve upon the old. Not eradicating the old, of course, just improving upon it. Of course, folks who don’t want to be improved upon see me as against Tradition. I don't like it when others try to improve me, so I get that, but...I am as I am. Transformation's more interesting.

Schools are vehicles of socialization, though we also want them to be places of discovery and transformation. School today is where young (older?) people go to learn how to be in collective settings, to know how to speak quietly in the library and scream on the recess playground, to learn the rudiments of reading, writing, arithmetic, to learn critical thinking and problem-solving. We also want them to try new things, of course, but usually only things we adults have thought of before, or
know to be safe, etc. Older people go to school to learn a profession, to be shaped in a discipline of study, to learn a set of skills that will nurture and provide sustenance and hopefully even delight in their lives. By the time older people decide to return to school, sometimes they/we just want to “get the certification” or the “driver’s license” to do something we/they already know we/they want to do. Theological education can be that, or it can be a lively container in which someone learns new ways of seeing the sacred, the world, our relationships within us and our world(s). I can usually spot the socialization-students within the first week of class. Socialization ultimately provides the script by which we become the human beings we are familiar with already.

The fellow I studied with defined transformation as the force that helps human beings become who they/we could become in the future, with imagination, creativity, and wonder. He placed the journey of human becoming solidly between the necessary forces of socialization--learning how to survive in human collectives and the natural world--and transformation--delighting in being a child of God, able to imagine, create, take delight in the mysteries and gifts of being a body in our world. Transformation is what happens in the Sacred Flow of life. Transformation is the unexpected, the scandalously abundant, the surprisingly Grace-filled Gift, etc.

So this transformation girl is today going to tote the wonder of socialization, alongside the gifts of transformation: I completed the Murph challenge yesterday, with time left to spare before the time-cap of 60 minutes. CrossFit ‘boxes’ across the nation (world?) often honor national days of remembrance with a particular ‘hero WOD,’ a workout-of-the-day that is specified and named after a fallen veteran or officer whose life was lost in the line of duty. Many boxes do the Murph Challenge on Memorial Day: wearing a 20-lb vest or body armour, run a mile, then 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air-squats, then run another mile. Scaling options are available, as in any CrossFit workout, and the community comes together to complete the workout. Post-COVID now, this was the first time our box was back in full force for the Memorial Day workout. Coaches & some arrived early to do the challenge before the rest of us arrived at 9 a.m. to complete the workout.

All of this has everything to do with socialization in a CrossFit way. There is a predictability of the Murph Challenge on this day. There is the way you are supposed to do it, accompanied by other ways you can, so more of the community can participate. Folks coming in know the ‘rules of the road’ and how to participate. All the marks of socialization.

I’ve only done CrossFit for a little under three years, so this was only my third run-through. The first time, I arrived a little unsure of what all would be required of me. I was new. I teamed up with 3 or 4 partners, and we did the work in pretty short order. I realized I had more umph in me, so I added a mile run on the end of that day’s fitness. The second time was in COVID lockdown, so no one came to the gym at all. I was already socialized enough to know the Murph Challenge was “a thing,” however, so I found a scaled way to do it in my own garage: bent-over rows with 18 lb DB, push-ups, air-squats, and run to the middle-school sign and back at the start and the finish. I made sure my husband was away at work that morning, and did the whole thing in my garage. 61 minutes, or so, but including a run downstairs to get a box-fan. It was HOT! So this time, I repeated the way I had done it before, except worked out with the community at the gym/box, 20 lb dumbbells. Another mark of CF socialization: do the same workout and try to beat your earlier time.

It’s the predictability, the continuity, the community that keeps me steady in my own fitness journey. Learning how movements are done, and done healthily and well. Learning ever-deeper nuances as one skill-level is mastered, like pairing one’s breathing-timing and tending to core-stability once you have the barbel technique down. It’s the socialization of the whole that creates the container for the individual to grow, to strengthen, to challenge, to celebrate too. That I can celebrate about socialization.

And there are funny side-effects of all this in life outside the gym/box. Recently, my college sent out a notice that they were rectifying a gender-injustice within the varsity sports norms operative when I was there in the late 80’s. Men would get varsity letters for playing a varsity sport; women’s sports at Carleton did not. I had been a soccer player through the first years of high school, then gave it up to focus on band and academics. I entered Carleton without considering joining a sport. By junior year, however, events converged for me to join the women’s soccer team. It became my life, my community, my web of friendships. I wish I had played from freshman year. senior year, I played on the varsity team some, but I was by no means a starter of the team. I remember the assistant coach, Kristen (though she went by Sten), sneaking me a first-year C pin, which was the women’s equivalent of a varsity letter at the time. It meant the world to me. 

Today, once again, I understand myself to be somewhat an athlete, given my love of and discipline in the CrossFit streams. So I wrote the Alumni Office--which I probably would not have done if I weren’t a CrossFitter now--and requested my varsity letter. It arrived in the mail last week, complete with a certificate in my name.

Socialization is not all bad after all. It’s nice to have achieved within the spectrum of some norms I have come to value anew. I love the fact that it’s a C too. For Carleton, of course, might just go onto a jacket and mean CrossFit for me. Perfect.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Shifting the Open

Something shifted in me today, at least once I caught my breath and had time-space to feel, sense it... I sit here after a large brunch meal of pulled-pork, eggs, salsa verde, intrigued and curious about this first journey for me into the CrossFit Open.

I’ve formally entered the CrossFit Open this year, though I’ve been an avid CrossFitter since August 2018, not quite three years. For the first two years, it was a time in the gym that felt like it shifted the energies away from what I valued, became more numbers-oriented, competitive. I did the workouts in class, and that was quite sufficient for me. I did enjoy watching and listening to others' enthusiasms about it all, but it was never going to be for me. (Never say never.) Part of it this year was the altered structure--three weeks, not five, I think--and part of it was seeing the wide variety of ‘options’ from ‘equipment-free,’ to ‘Foundations,’ to the more traditional ‘Rx/Scaled’ versions of any workout. I still registered to support the community more than to actually submit scores and such. Wasn’t even sure I’d bother. But there’s something about the challenge and world-wide thing of it that finally caught my attention, my own sense of confidence. After watching the 21.1 festivities that Thursday night, I said to myself Why the hell not? I decided to download the app, follow the Grand Reveals on Thursdays, see what option of workout would make most sense for me.

[There were really funny memes with this image, but I can't find much but this one...:):)]

So far, surprising myself, I’m a Scaled athlete in this mix-up. Me being me, I’m holding open the possibility of Foundations or Equipment Free versions for me for next week, but it’s been a fun challenge to lean into the Scaled version...and succeed in my own mental goals with both. For 21.1, I wanted to at least get to the 21 ‘wall-walks’, and I did. A couple reps over! For 21.2, I wanted to see if I could finish, beat the time-cap. I was fine if I didn’t beat the time cap, as long as I was into the final round of burpees by then. And I finished!!! 19:33 mins, all 225 reps: 20 lb DB and 20” box for the burpee-step-overs. I didn’t even really get that nauseous until the 50 DB snatches, says the athlete who normally refuses to push herself so far as to feel nauseous. As I saw the prospect of finishing was before me, I made an exception this time.

So something in me has shifted in this journey so far. For one, I came up with a strategy for myself to both tend to nerves and keep my initial pace down. I could feel the anticipation/nerves building yesterday, though I don’t really know why. None of this matters that much to me. But my mind was simply active. After hearing many in the gym talk about their experience, coming out of the gate too hot/fast, I elected nasal-breathing for at least the first round, to keep me slow-enough on pace. Step-overs were fun, without the usual mental-game I have with box jumps. I’m a 16” box-jumper, but 20” step-overs were good (once I faced one direction, to alternate legs!). I even stepped into my own strategy-voice by sharing it with a couple CF peeps. I’m usually pretty quiet about ‘how to do this’ kinds of things, at least aloud. The first thing I celebrate here is that I came up with a strategy for myself, and it was a good one. I found it to be so. A CF peep said she found it to be so, after her wko of it. We’ve come a long way, baby!!

Wasn’t conscious of this one til just now, but I also tended my own sense of belonging in a way that connects me in the rest of my life, interests. As a carrot for getting some onerous admin work done yesterday, I experimented with a new recipe by a Dedication-Health (often) Approved guy, Mark Hyman: salted pecan chocolate chip cookies--dairy-free, grain-free. Not only was it relaxing for me, the ‘day-before,’ it was fun to share with anyone who wanted to enjoy such a treat. I do best when I feel connected in a community, and in hindsight now, this was a good way for me to feel as comfortable as I was gonna. Again, we’ve come a long way baby.

The something that’s shifted feels much older than some of these recent learnings, however. I have images wafting into my awareness, not only because of the adrenalin/endorphins: my sixth-grade self at the pull-up bar, ‘failing;’ my 5-6th grade selves having to run the 400m sprint for a school track-and-field, ‘failing’ to succeed-win-finish in a top rank. There were so many opportunities for my youngest self to enjoy her athletic successes--the diving saves at the goal when I was goalie; the tip-over-the-bar save that fractured my wrist but allowed me to move into Sweeper-defense position; the college-soccer-team two-a-days weeks in which I began to shine as a late-blooming college athlete. I have many fond memories of my athletic sensibilities--soccer, runner, cross-trainer--but the ones that feel shifted are the harder ones, the ones I felt shame about…

...because so many who worked with me didn’t know how to frame girls’/women’s athletics that maximized our strengths, our own athletic forms and musculature. There is so much women never knew to share with one another, for one, and appreciating women’s distinctive gifts and strengths was never taught in PE school when I was its student. When I learned you could do a ‘real pull-up’ with a kip, for instance. I can use my child-bearing hips to help my arms?!? I exclaimed to my then personal-trainer, Natalie. “Of course,” she said. I was furious. Why didn’t someone tell me that? Why didn’t Ms. Hill, the PE teacher whom I adored, teach me about that? Because she didn’t know herself, at least to teach it, if her body even knew how. Besides, by the time I met her, she was well over 200 pounds and shorter than I was. PE was about other things than getting a girl to love moving in her own body.

So today I’m feeling strangely vindicated inside. Like I stuck with my desire to move, my love of movement, through a wide, challenging, non-linear learning curve. I was an incredibly active little girl--tom-boy, really--who got immersed in what all adolescent girls seem to--comparatives, shame, self-loathing and more. And I’ve come out the other side, more days than not, at least. What got ingrained at such an early age will always be with me, but it seasons the journey now, it doesn’t shape it. I catch the voices fairly early, most days…

...because I’ve surrounded myself with a community of fitness and health, fun and extraordinary silliness...and discipline, trust, encouragement. I did 150 DB snatches (151, with one no-rep :)) and 75 burpee box-stepovers in 19:33 mins. I have received a witnessed, testifiable promise that I will never have to do that workout again (Melissa’s encouragement to really finish under the timecap! :):):)). And there is a lightness, an openness in me because I leaned into something I wasn’t sure I could ‘do’ and have done it. Already. Regardless of ‘success’ or not in the actual workouts. I believed in myself enough to enter into the challenge of it all. With friends.

Shifting the Open.