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.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Patterns Today Then...

 A quiet February morning, snow glimpses enjoyed while they may be, as they’ll be gone by Wednesday (most likely...high in the 50’s). We’ve only really had winter for a couple weeks this year, really, but it reminds me to enjoy the seasons, the cycles, as they come. Always something to be celebrated or cherished, each winding step around the mountain, right? Amidst the various stressors of these last several months--pandemic, election, civic unrest, etc--I decided to focus my early 2021 attentions back on a bit more conscious-disciplined eating habits, among other things. I’m now coming up on the end of the two months I invested in for that purpose, so I figure it’s a good time to note some of the new patterns or learnings… 

I’m once again pleased with where I am, learning maintenance-mode still and again. Though my weight is about where it was, I’m actually down over 4 pounds in fat and up over two pounds in muscle. I am reminded of how much easier I am inside, mentally and emotionally, when I’m choosing good care of my body’s needs. The numbers are less of interest to me, though no longer NO interest. I’m noticing that I am actually much less stressed than I was  (though admittedly some of the input has also been ratcheted down, from the outside). I’ve remembered once again I’m less edgy inside when my body is burning mostly fat for its energies. I can push myself in workouts or around the house, for fun, without a sense of angst or fear. 

One of the take-aways this time then: I learned that recording my splurges in FatSecret terms had a gift this round, though it felt a little counter-intuitive to enter off-plan items into the CookBook. For example, I laughed aloud when I texted a friend with several laughter/thinking emojisπŸ˜†πŸ˜‰πŸ˜πŸ˜†, “Do you think it’s counter-intuitive to record the recipe for an Old Fashioned into FatSecret?” I mean, it’s clearly off plan, though I make mine as 'on plan' as possible, i.e. no simple syrup or sugar cube--rye, orange bitters, an orange slice. I’d never recorded it before. Unknown to me, it was a lacrosse weekend, so this friend was hanging out with Melissa, laughing aloud when my text arrived. A picture of Melissa came next into our phones' text-stream, all of us laughing at the collision of accountability and ‘responsible’ or ‘conscious’ splurging. I had invested in the accountability web, after all, so I loved it and laughed for a long while. Arguably, still. And yet maintenance in my own household requires me to navigate ‘conscious splurges’ too. How do I stay more conscious with cocktail hour? has been a regular question on this journey. Record it in my app, I’ve learned, regardless of whether anyone’s watching on the other end.

One Old Fashioned (with Bulleit rye) is 221 calories, with other macros minimal. Great for low-carbs attentions, but it can also lead me to less-conscious choices, particularly if B brings out chips or munchies. On days when I’m low on calories and way opens for a porch-sit with my husband, it’s an easy and splurgeworthy choice for me. While I remember it’s never completely about reducing calories, alcohol consumption can lower inhibitions and lead to choices that are much higher in calories than desired, for more days/week than desired. Evidence file: November-December. πŸ™ˆ Even if I’ve eaten sufficiently and healthily, an Old Fashioned can put me much higher above the healthy calorie threshold than I was consciously choosing to be.

The unexpected gifts of recording splurgeworthy cocktails? For one, recipe-cocktails are much more precise in measurement. I know what I’m imbibing, more than ‘pouring over ice’ in tumblers of varying sizes. Recipes moderate intake. Recording off-plan items also register the calories in a much more obvious way. In the months of ramp-up to election and post-election events, habits of stress-eating became my choice more than tending to what my body actually needed. I was unconscious of this shift, at that time, considering myself still largely on-plan, with occasional splurges. It was much more than ‘occasional,’ I now realize. Instigating ‘periods of check-in’ with FatSecret keeps me most aware. So while I don’t anticipate recording/tracking every day for the rest of my life, I demonstrated in this season that I will know when I need to return to some ‘check-in’ listening, learning, trusting each time will offer the gifts I need for that time. I celebrate that too.

Recording splurge-worthy items also makes them another choice, but each time conscious and with reminding-impact. Instead of going ‘off-plan’ and implicitly believing a “doesn’t count” kind of thing, off-plan choices can be better seen for their macros and impact. There is an implicit deciding-factor of what truly counts as ‘splurgeworthy.’ My long-lived relationship with bread, for instance. Yesterday, I finally loaded my favorite splurge-worthy bread into my FatSecret CookBook: struan, which is a Celtic harvest bread, handcrafted for celebration and love of baking. It’s a multigrain bread with oats, uncooked polenta, brown rice, a touch of sweetness. Totally off plan, but food here is more than fuel for me. When I was in my first sabbatical, needing to write my first book but unable to keep my butt in the chair, I would make three batches of struan a week. It forced me to a domestic, sitting-writing-waiting rhythm while it rose, both times, then baked. Too much to eat or store, of course, so I gave loaves away to our students for free that semester. My way of feeling a part of the community, even though I was ‘away’ writing my book. I called myself the Sabbatical Bakery, with tagline because everyone needs a little extra dough. When I make it, I do so in mini-loaves, better for smaller servings and toasting (more crusts!). I hadn’t made it in literally years, but in November, Thanksgiving time, I retrieved the recipe and made a batch. Two loaves have been in our freezer since then, so were nearing ‘eat’ or ‘throw out.’ I decided it counted for a splurge in my Saturday night/Sunday morning rest-day/family day. One small slice? 33 g carbs, 4.59 g protein, .24 g fat, 169 calories. It’s not worth it regularly or even ‘often,’ will always be splurgeworthy to me...and now I’m more conscious and aware of the impact of the choice. 

A more feasible communal pattern may also have formed in my home in these two months. Sorting out “the family rhythm” is the ever-changing pattern-discernment for me. My husband is eating just as much, if not more, sugar, carbs, etc. than he used to...which for the most part, doesn’t impact me much at all in our weekly day-to-day. We’ve figured out our regular meal-compromises and rhythms amidst work and rest during the week. The date-nights/weekends are more challenging, however.

There are times he misses some of the classic date-night meals we used to make together--paella, pad thai, vegetable lasagna, etc. I don’t miss the food like he does, but I do miss his ease and delight, his artistry and play with the food we often both used to enjoy. So...he asked about making paella earlier this week--a Spanish rice dish with lots of meats, veggies, shrimp. “How about Saturday night, then?” has become the pattern. It seems to meet a relational need, and I have been enjoying a bit of his play and artistry, some of the communion I’ve missed. Counting and recording it in these weeks of accountability? Sometimes I record it; sometimes I just leave it blank, not even trying to ask Brian what he’s created our dinner with that night… Paella is pretty easy to aim for proteins more than rice, but it's all in there. It also behooves me to watch the binge factor with such a night. If Saturday night is the ‘only night,’ then a bit of everything can wind up in the mix, which my body truly does not fare well in...

It probably seems strange to some that families consider food to be so central a connector. For his and my families, it has been for as long as I can remember. Our visits to his family are totally food-identified, which 'favorite food' of his will be when during our short stays. Hard to navigate sometimes... This new pattern of a ‘less than 24 hour’ period from Saturday night into Sunday morning where splurging ‘fits’ in my week, my rhythm...may work for the time being. I don’t even ask Ches Brian as he creates, because it alters the ease of the evening. Post pandemic, we’ll have different options, but for now… The day-after becomes rehydrating and a smile to get back to what my body prefers for ‘normal’ now...low carb, higher protein, higher fat...fresh vegetables and meats. All a body loves…

Finally, I’m continually intrigued by the invitation or drive to relaxation that ‘splurging’ seems to connote, followed closely with the body discomforts or edginess I know I do not find relaxing. What is it about relaxation/downtimes that seems associated with foods my body now does not like…? Craving arises still, though much less frequently. I know sometimes it’s simply a body-habit or body-memory that focuses my attention on things I grew up on, or have a strong relational connection to. Some of them, like my earliest-years-birthday-meal, Chef Boyardee’s beef ravioli, now disgust my palette even though my body remembers it with nostalgia. Others, like freshly baked bread, right out of the oven (or toaster), remind me of my father, of celebrations, and my own delight and artistry. These are harder to release, though I don’t like the after-effects my now-sensitized body signals. Yet relaxation seems to trigger the impulse to splurge in some way… So very curious… Such a fascinating dance in these days… 

Eventually, when I go back to my “track my food” a couple series-of-days in a month instead of daily, I’ll already know more how these recent patterns of choices play in my week, my days, with stress and without. One nice thing about the conscious-unconscious cycles in us is that it keeps us constantly learning, if we’re curious. These have been worthwhile (re)learning days for me, proving once again we can end where we began. We human beings can be as changeable and cyclical as the weather. Part of the CrossFit wisdom is to honor the cycles, the intervals, and work them again and again, in community. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Staying on the Spiral Path...

It’s been a while since something has arisen large enough in my experience to invite me to the page here, at least with respect to CrossFit journeying and the nutrition re-education path I’ve been on these last years. I’m coming to think of this path as a spiral, because I’ve spent the month of January (re)learning things I already know, but in some senses also did not remember, or at least know in this pandemic rendition of fitness and health. Reflections for staying on the spiral then…

This past Friday brought some unexpected and rather unfamiliar sensations of craving I’d not experienced in a while. Or perhaps it was simply desire, without the judgmental nuance of ‘craving.’ The week’s workouts had been good but also wearying. My body was more weary than usual at the end of a week. I had a hunger for something as I stopped by Dorothy Lane Market on my way home from the gym. For Saturday, I still planned on my sacred rhythm of arising-coffee-drive-CrossFit-drive-breakfast then into the day, but I did decide that a weekend of a little both/and paleo-and-not food-planning was in order. I got the beef-stew meat to make the paleo beef-stew I’d found, and I got the crusty loaf of French bread to go with it. And while I was there, a blueberry-bran muffin that DLM offers, which I’ve enjoyed in seasons past. 

As I arrived home, putting the groceries away and eating breakfast, I noticed I was moving even more slowly… I had been ravenous, however, so perhaps just needed calories for the day. I tended to my work until about 2:30 or 3 p.m., getting ready to make some herbal tea for the afternoon. It dawned on me that I was done. I could hardly keep my eyes open. So be it, I figured, laying down to rest my eyes for 45 minutes. Two hours later, Brian stirred me, wondering if it was cocktail hour yet. Wow...a two hour nap? Marvelous! As I rubbed my eyes, I realized I was taking the weekend off. “Sure,” I told him. “Pear martini please. Hold the simple syrup but bring on the rest!” He smiled.

We had a delightful evening of some listening to music, catching up from the week, watching The Expanse (the sci-fi TV I’ve actually enjoyed, believe it or not), and working on a puzzle (for me). The paleo-beef-stew wasn’t bad, though I wasn’t sure I’d make it again. Three pounds of beef, then celery, carrots, and parsnip. Dried shitake mushrooms (ground in a processor til they become a powder) created the thicker stew-texture of the dish, instead of flour (hence, paleo). The best, though, was the crusty loaf. It’d been a long while since I’d had bread right out of the oven. My martini lasted well all evening, a good sipping drink over time. I’d made Brian banana bread earlier in the week, a sign of the way he desires to be loved. I’m not usually tempted by it, or least much of it, but I treated myself to a slice. It was delicious. I slept well enough--though awareness more below--and the easy coffee-and-breakfast-muffin in bed was luxurious. I don’t think I got out of bed until 9 a.m. It was a marvelous beginning to our weekend of rest...

The (re)learning parts are no less significant, of course. I eat the way I eat now because I love how I feel each day--the energy I have, the extensive activity I enjoy, the movement(s) I get to play in, and more. I rarely feel ‘deprived,’ in other words, though something clicked in this weekend that hit a whiff of that chord in me. So, carbs and sugar. Have at it, I told myself.

Surprise and remembrance then. I must have had over 64 oz of water that night, though the stew wasn’t that salty, and the volume more than accounted for the ounces of vodka. Thirst was intense, with dry-mouth and all. I smiled, remembering. Yes. And of course, this promised waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Smiling and worth it. Getting up in the middle of the night, however, I noticed this incredible discomfort in my stomach. Not quite nausea, but whiffs of that feeling. A weight in my stomach. A bit of discomfort. Nonetheless, back to sleep I went. The muffin in the morning was still tasty.

Brian and I went on a long loop through the nature preserve close to our home. I’ve loved these walks together, and alone, with Nala, these last months. Feeling my feet on the earth. Enjoying the landscaped campus of Mount St. John/Begamo and the less tended woodland-prairie paths. A full long loop is probably about 2.5 miles, with varying terrain and a huge hill to climb at the end of the walk. I’m eager for spring when afternoon walks can become a part of my usual routine again. For this weekend, though, I was shaky hungry by the time we returned home for breakfast. This is one of the main reasons I stay off of the carbs and sugar. It’s exhausting to get so hungry, so shaky, attempt to eat normal portions of a meal, then crash-rest afterwards. The upside, of course, is that I’m reminded how much I hate this cycle. It motivates my return to healthy clean eating for myself. All a part of the spiral, then.

A couple times throughout the Saturday-Sunday rest days, I would feel that whiff of discomfort in my stomach again. I’d drink some water and it would diffuse, go away. Of course, me being me, I began to wonder about the ulcer or stomach cancer that it probably was--my overactive mind simply cannot help itself--but the digestion of food not usual for me anymore simply took a bit more effort, methinks. All part of the spiral...

The Monday morning workout was a “30 min time cap,” I saw when I walked in. It was good to be back in my fun-space, and I was looking forward to the movement. I’d done nothing beyond the walk, really, except nap and read all weekend. I was surprised at how the workout felt, however. I’d guessed that the carb-fest of Friday night/Saturday morning would have passed through my system 48 hours later. But I could still feel the shakiness, the internal edginess and weariness. It was still fun. I still did just fine, scaling the workout to make it well under the time-cap. But I’m smiling at the body-awareness and sensitivities. I’m thankful, even as it’s also a bit unnerving. I’m so much more aware of my own body’s responsiveness to what I choose to eat. It’s a gift to be sensitive. It’s also a challenge in our food-cultures today to be sensitive. 

The pieces I’m remembering are simply I do better in my own nutrition and fitness choices when I’m within a community that holds space for me to get to choose what’s best for me. I used to feel so alone in my body-journey, guilted-shamed about food-choices and highs/lows/crashes I never could manage well, isolated about what science knows and what is lack of willpower, etc. Being wise about my own nutrition and fitness doesn’t work in that cultural storm. It also doesn’t work if there’s an obligation to do so. I resist obligation anymore. It doesn’t work for me if there is an authority ‘above’--whether I place him/her there, or others do--saying “you must, if you want to be healthy.” But it seems to work every time when I set the pieces in place for me to choose my best self. A community, a sister on the other end of the food diary, then body memories of why I choose what and how I do? It works ever time. I choose my best self much more often, over time. 

I suspect that at least once a year, it’ll simply be good form for me to return to higher-accountability practices for myself, to examine closely where I am on the spiral path that this is. I can remember how much I’ve already learned, but more importantly, be reminded that this is always a learning journey as my body changes and my tastes cycle through menu and food-prep choices. 

And during an election-season, holiday-season, then into civic-unrest season that we’ve been living, it’s not the least bit surprising that food began to become once again an emotional salve for feelings I did not want to hold consciously. I began to focus on the workouts “to burn off the extra calories and less attentive food choices” I was beginning to make. Whenever I land in the “I’ll eat this and then work off the calories of it” habit of mind, I need to reorient once again. Find healthy ways to tend to the feelings I don’t want to feel. Take a break from things that are stressing me and return to what gives me joy. Ultimately, get back on the spiral path… Sojourns off of it need not be bad--some things are to be enjoyed in life for a foodie such as myself--yet getting too far off the spiral requires relearning and being reminded of the habits it entails, beckons, invites...