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]

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