Sunday, February 27, 2022

Fitness is the Celebration of...

In my celebration of maintenance--being where I want to be on my fitness journey, for now--I have begun to tally a list of markers of fitness for me to note, track, but most importantly, celebrate. I am a highly intentional person, by most accounts, and maintenance-intention is rather dull. Finding new markers of fitness might become a way for me to keep awake, keep myself lively. is being able to go on a five mile run, if you want to. I can already hear a friend's voice in my ear--are you high!?!--and maybe so. But this doesn't need to be a regular event, by any means. Yesterday, I wanted to move but it was cold outside. Nothing inspired me in the downstairs workout area, so I decided to take my running shoes to the indoor track at a local Rec Center. You can use the track for a couple bucks, whenever you want. Hardly anyone was using the track, and I enjoyed a delightful hour on the padded track, tending to running form, stretching and breaking every 1/2 mile or so. I pushed myself a bit at the end, I realized, because FIVE miles?! was within reach. And I walked it off for a bit, went home, and enjoyed an on-plan meal with a couple tv shows after. Fitness is being able to go on a five mile run, if you want to. Didn't require training up to it. The day after hasn't been a sore one. Fit.

As I sat with the notion of fitness is being able to do whatever you want to do, in your own skin, I bumped into a bit of a conundrum. What we want to do in our own bodies is shaped largely by past experience and the sense of possibility/impossibility we feel about it all. Most of us stay in our comfort zones, and create worlds and rationales for why that is, and what we can (or can't) and want (don't want) to do in our own bodies. Those who engage physical movement the least can often have the most narrow assessment of what it is possible for them/their bodies to do. And if they never get curious, as they age, this capability will get narrower and narrower. Most of us don't know what we can do in our own bodies, particularly if we have lived a mostly sedentary life, if movement in our bodies has been associated with pain, shame, failure, or trauma of some kind.

I didn't enter into CrossFit with a goal of jumping on a 20" box, for instance. Didn't even have the desire until recently, when I decided I wanted to challenge myself a little more than I had been. I didn't want to do that particular movement for a long time, so didn't. I assumed that I could not, or that it was simply not safe enough for me to try. Except now I know I can, and can for at least 100 reps. My sense of body-capacity expanded because space was held for me to stretch into More. Now I'm enjoying this sense of fitness, celebrating being able to jump higher on a box than I ever thought I could.

The conundrum can be tender though. Sensitivities and perceived judgments surround fitness in our culture. I was thinking out loud about this idea of fitness--that fitness is being able to do whatever you want to do in your own body--and this problem of measurement in it--that our imagination or assessment of what our bodies can do is totally conditioned by our past, and often more by our fears than actual body capabilities or possibility. I was trying to say what I've begun to learn in myself... When we move less, we have less idea about what our bodies can do. Only when you get curious and try new things can you discover new things your body can do. Right?  Well, I said it badly and landed in a quagmire of sensitivity and judgment, "your values are just different than my values", and more... which bothers me enough to write to learn more about it inside...

What does it require for human beings to get curious about their health, getting engaged in feeling good in their bodies? I know it took me fifty years to finally land in a relationship with food that feels sustainable and healthy. I guess it takes as long as it takes...and every one is empress/emperor of their body domain.

But I don't think fitness can be this being able to do whatever you want to do in your body in our overcultures today. With the various epidemics of diabesity, heart disease, chronic inflammations... and with industrialized, misleading-marketed food supplies, we have a higher and higher majority of population able to do less and less in their bodies. Traditional medicine and big pharma are shifting 'health markers' relying upon increasingly chronically-ill populations. Most of us are less and less experienced in our own bodies' feeling good. We don't even know what it feels like to feel good inside, and so our sense of possibilities and desires for what we want to do grow narrower and narrower. We become less and less curious...

In the end, better to celebrate what we can celebrate... Crafted this way, there need be no sensitivities or judgment at all.

Fitness is celebrating...

being able to go for a five-mile run if I want to

feeling most myself when I'm moving and "playing" in the movement

having all the energy I need to do all I love to do

staying curious about what I love to do AND what I am more afraid to try

leaning into discomforts of new things, in the camaraderie of friends and safely held spaces

maintaining weight and body composition, roughly, with good clean eating

continuously learning within my own and others' experiences...

[Feel free to add wisdom in the comments...!]

Monday, February 21, 2022

Celebrate Maintenance...? Listening...

Fitness is such a complicated phenomenon, I’m deciding. Inside and outside. Again.

​​SNAP SHOT #1: This word fitness has been rumbling around in my belly these last months, though arguably in my heart, mind, and body for decades. Growing up in a doctor’s family, fitness was the Promised Land. It was (somewhat ironically) the cherry on top of the hot fudge sundae. It was the thing just around the corner if I strategized, planned well enough, ate my vegetables while not eating too much of things I shouldn’t. Fitness for me as a young girl swirled amorphously around being slim, which to some degree meant trying to get my body to look like my sister’s body.

She has a body-style quite different from my own, but met the slender hips, little belly, small breasts that
slender or slim seemed to refer to for fitness in a woman. My body type, as fateful delight would have it, is more oriented toward the artist Titian’s style—strong hips, sensuous abdomen, large-breasted, tall, big bones. I was therefore rarely fit in my own eyes, let alone those to whom I gave authority. My parents, for instance.


SNAP SHOT #2:  Fitness and/or Health? The senior CrossFit Level 1 trainer opened the weekend seminar with a glimpse into his own vocational journey into the fitness industry. He’d excelled in athletics, so naturally pursued it in college. He dove into kinesiology as a major, then trained for his certificate as a personal trainer. Setting about creating his own small business in the personal training industry, he encountered a bit of a conundrum that none of his formal training really crafted for him: what does fitness mean? What does it even mean to be fit? He could give detailed schematics on the healthiest movement patterns for the human body. He could advise on nutrition, shaped by the nutrition professionals of the day. But he realized he did not have a concise, articulate definition of the word fitness. To what end would he be training clients, as diverse in age and ability as human beings come? Are marathoners exemplars of fitness? Weight-lifters? Buff men or women at the gym, making a lot of noise? Then he landed into the sport of fitness, or CrossFit. Which actually has an articulate definition of fitness.

We won’t begin here with the one-sentence CrossFit definition, mostly because it comes across as jargon. But sitting there, in that weekend training, I also felt the aha! in my body as a number of jumbled puzzle pieces dropped into an unexpected but recognizable landscape. The history that my body had lived within constantly shifting sands of becoming slender or attractively feminine opened into a stunning beautiful vista of fitness that could be adapted to my own body. I heard an expert in the fitness industry fess up that all his training did not prepare him for the integrative work of training for fitness, though he had all the specialized pieces within his training. He painted a landscape for fitness experts to become human beings able to see more, so to coach and teach each human being to just get better as made sense within their own bodies. This Level 1 Seminar began to shape us in a practice-knowledge of fitness that was finally precisely defined, professionally coachable, and collegially encouraging. It has also been empirically measured, clinically-tested, and communally developed over years now. 

Fitness in this sense is organized around (re-)learning healthy and functional movements—deadlift, squat, and push press—for most human bodies as they age over time. Deadlifts are wisely picking up heavy grocery bags so you can do so when you’re 85. Squats are healthily moving your hips-back and knees-out so you can squat on the toilet when you’re 85. Push presses are wisely placing heavier items onto a shelf in your house by means of your core-muscles and arms so you can do so when you’re 85. 

Becoming fit is being increasingly able to do this kind of physical effort, across long-enough durations of time and various planes of movement. Becoming healthy is then becoming increasingly fit over your life-span. The one-sentence definition then. Fitness, in CrossFit-speak, is work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Health refers to fitness across a lifetime. The thing I love about this community is how fantastic I feel in my own skin today. I now know what it feels like to feel good in my own body, to fuel it well so I can do what I love to do and have more energy to do more of what I love to do. Through no fault of anyone in my own family line, we simply didn’t know what fitness was, or how to frame it in a way that was dependable, fun, and healthy.

As I’ve delved into the Whoop World–enjoying myself thoroughly along the way–my sense of fitness is once again shifting and deepening, with new inputs and yet-familiar internal-habits. I’m learning that my body enjoys even more movement than I knew, and yet I’m shy about it, hiding these extra outings in my own web of relationships. I’m feeling my self-expectations expand both at the gym and at home, which I kind of like. The challenge keeps it interesting, for sure. I’m experimenting with heavier weights, recognizing I need to continue to refine form and core muscles to handle the weight responsibly. My confidence is increasing as well. In the CrossFit wisdom of ‘train your weaknesses,’ I recognize that the short, high-intensity-sprint workouts will always be my weakness-area. AND there’s something that helps me knowing I can track highest heart rate and do this push more carefully, attentively. I like that. I know that this Whoop play is keeping me healthy and pushing toward fitness challenges.

I’ve spent the last 3 weeks ‘playing with the strain’ number that Whoop records. High intensity, long-burn workouts for me, like the recent KB/burpee+jump bar one recently will show a 10.5 strain (or higher, I guess, but not yet). The highest strain I’ve seen so far is 13.4, and that had multiple workout activities in a day. The regular daily CrossFit WOD that varies movements and intensities day to day will show up at 6.0-8.5. Higher intensity BootCamp landed in the 9.0 range, if I recall…45 minutes of a collection of intervals, then one final run-through with the middle-rep count you had logged. 

I’ve discovered the Strain Coach which will give you an estimate of” strain-needed via another activity” to reach “optimal strain” or an even higher strain accumulation for “fitness gains.” A couple days last week, I got curious enough to see what that kind of “additional activity strain” would feel like, what it would be in the play with strain. One day, after a 7.0 strain morning, I went for a 5K run on an indoor track I’ve often enjoyed. I achieved optimal strain, and then was wiped out for the next day. But a couple days later, I saw only a 7.5 strain activity was necessary after the morning WOD were I to reach “optimal strain.” It was a warm enough day, so I went for a run long enough to accumulate that strain amount. And it felt awesome. I had so much energy the rest of the day, and even the next day. (Endorphins? Curious…).

So fitness is shifting inside of me. I suspect my heart/cardio systems can withstand a lot more strain than I’m expending while the rest of my musculature is slower to grow in challenge. I have to remember that Whoop fitness is all around heart-rate and heart-variability, not whether my muscles hurt or my joints are twinging here and there. Form-fitness is an area of regular learning and relearning, as in the Overhead Squats today. I lifted the heaviest OHS weight I’ve ever done, thought even feasible, AND Matt helped me see (via video and observation) that my squat is still too far forward, knees too far over my knees. Quad-dominant, I think Melissa said once. I love getting to ask what to work on next, and to see how to “just get better.” I think my form-fitness has steadily improved over the years I’ve been engaged in CrossFit, and I’m continuing to learn refinement after refinement. Pleases me. Keeps it interesting.

In all this, I’m continuing to translate my own fitness-specifications within this larger fitness-pool of Whoop athletes. My daily WODs are only light to moderate strain, which I experience as moderate to high. I’ve been tracking my own mental weather, feeling a challenge or push to “higher strain” for “better fitness.” Which is true. I would be more fit were I to sustain 18.0 strain a couple times a week. But what kind of life is that for this 52-year-old Masters athlete who CrossFits as a hobby? A pretty expansive and thoroughly fascinating hobby, but a hobby all the same…? I honestly don’t think my joints and muscles would like that life. 

I then dipped into the InBody scan, since it had been about 6 weeks since the beginning of the year, post-holidays. Given this play with ‘strain’ and increased activities to reach optimal strain, I had thought the InBody scan would show it. And while I dropped half a pound of weight, it was only .2 lbs fat and .1 loss of muscle, which basically means I stayed precisely the same. Basal metabolic rate remains high, and I can do all I want to, plus more. Healthy, in other words. Pushing into fitness gains.

Except I felt a small disappointment inside of me. I am so programmed to want to see the body-fat numbers go down, regardless. So...surprise surprise...the retraining for celebration of maintenance continues. I’m all about the drive, the new, the achievement, the contribution…but here, I need to find ways to be about celebration of maintenance.

Listening…and welcoming any tips on that from masters athletes!! :):):)

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Whoop -- weeks 2&3

I smiled at a screenshot of Amanda Barnhart’s Whoop summary yesterday–I’m BACK, she quipped, with a strain level of nearly 19.5 (if I remember correctly?) on a scale from 0.0-21.0, and green Recovery and Sleep percentages (which I don’t remember). Green is good, of course, so she was celebrating capacity for incredibly high strain AND good sleep, recovery. You go girl.

First awareness: these things actually meant something to me, amidst my earliest learning days with Whoop. I startled at the strain number, because I cannot imagine my own body’s sensations at that level. And the immediate ‘turnaround’ with Recovery and Sleep feels impressive to me too. I’ve had a couple green-Recovery days, a couple yellow, and one red, with the red being directly after my highest exertion day. How does one get Green Recovery after such high exertion? Hmmm…

This surprise also reminds me that it’s good for me to equilibrate as me, my body, incomparable to the elite athletes that post their stats for CrossFit community consumption. Another surprise is that I don’t have any ambitions or drives to push myself beyond what feels good, which means the external stats of others don’t register as significant for my own fitness journey. I’m startled. I was surprised. But it didn’t lodge anywhere as significant for me. PROGRESS, which anyone who has journeyed with me can confirm.

Still, the Strain measurement offers me a good reminder of the ‘new pool’ in which I find myself amidst Whoop measurements/metrics. The levels of strain that my body requires for good health are considered ‘light’ for those who are aiming to be ‘the fittest.’ [CrossFit has an arc of "illness" into "health" into "fitness" in which regular gym-members would most likely land in the "health" categories, with Rx and more competitive athletes heading into the "fitness" category. I'm clearly a healthy-woman, 'top of my class' even, but fitness as a master's athlete is not something I necessarily need to push into, in CrossFit terms.] The Whoop metrics that are "normal" for me are not "light" for me, to be clear. They signify a good attention to strength-training, cardio, and metcon workouts of the day. A LOT for American standards these days, and a good steady diet of movement for me. But I experience them as not-light. They are leading me to much better health. I’m good with all that.

Still...It’s been fun to experiment with Strain, exploring lighter days and heavier days for me, feeling the rhythm of light-light-heavy that seems to create a good sensibility for me. Knowing I was going to the Hocking Hills for two days of nothing but hikes, naps, hot-tubs, and good food/wine, I pushed my Strain to the highest I’d done so far, the Sunday morning before I left. The day’s WOD was a good long-ish one–row 800m, 100 box jump overs, and 50 front squats–with a strain measurement of 9-something, as I recall, 23 minutes (I think?). That’s been a pretty typical day for me, strain between 7.5 and 9 or 10. 

What kinds of activities pushed the strain higher? What did it feel like to keep at a cardio or strength-training spell, watching and learning? 

To find out, I basically stayed at movement in the things I’m focusing on–a 10 min EMOM of strict pull-ups 1/min, thinner green band at the gym. Strain edged up, but not significantly. Rowing a mile at a slightly slower pace, but still moderate-to-pushing pace edged it up more.

The assault-bike had the most bang-for-the-buck, of course. I stayed at 50% pacing, with intervals of “how high can I get the rpm?” pushes–short, but repetitive. 75 rpm is the answer, and a bit of that pushed me up to 13.4 strain. I checked in with myself, with the timing for the day’s errands before heading out of town. Yep. I was done.

The rest of the day was errands to pick up lunch/snacks for our time away, and then a drive over to the inn (Glen Laurel). I noticed I was weary!! On a trip that I would normally drive the whole way, I invited Brian to drive the second hour of it. My body was spent, my focus less than alert after a while. Significant strain.

Moving from that level of activity into two days of off-plan eating was probably not as wise as I could have been. Or kind to my body. I awoke with a 27% Recovery, in the red, which was both the previous day’s exertion AND the bottle of wine Brian and I enjoyed over the hot-tub afternoon into a 6-course meal.

Everything in moderation, and those two days were fabulous for us after a stressful holiday season. I think I took four naps on Monday, and cleaned up the eating a bit, lessening alcohol intake as well. Still, the next day’s recovery status was in the yellow…over 50%, so moderately recovered to take on strain, but not in the green. I did the daily WOD from home–run, thrusters, burpees–and it was pretty awful, but do-able. Next day’s recovery, clean-eating and a good sleep? Back into the green with 91%. I entered into the gym that morning with a sense of confidence and a desire to push myself a bit. 20” box jumps for the first time, and a slightly heavier weight for the db snatches and power-cleans. Recovery today was still in the green, but only 72%. Curious…and letting the 30-day baseline-setting process continue.

The “journal” function that arises when Sleep is processing each morning is a good accountability metric for me. You can set up to 30 or 40 questions (I think) for it to ask you, everything from macros to supplements taken to sense of purpose or sense of stress to “dog/cat in the bed with you” and more. I chose about 30 of the questions, to start with, so each morning, as the algorithms are working on the biometric data, I respond to the yes/no questions, with some asking for amounts or times during the day–working from home, video calls, etc. The accountability factor is that it’s a place where I keep an explicit account of carbs, fats, protein, fish-oil, alcohol. I’ve noticed that this morning’s response-practice now arises in my awareness when I am offered things off-plan or alcohol out of habit. Nice to have another field in the clean-eating fire-wall I sometimes need in my home.

The biggest thing I notice so far, overall? The Whoop metrics (and play, because that it is what it is for me) are giving me additional guidance amidst my highly-psychological and mental challenges that so often limit me in my body, my love of movement. Instead of focusing solely on the dread I may feel in any given moment, or inherited fear of [whatever it might be that day], I have an outside metric that can free me to try new things, to push myself a bit more than I thought I could/should, explore my own sensations of higher heart-rate/intensity more calmly and within reason of health, perhaps even edges of fitness. I don’t have any substantial outside goals (beyond the 10 strict-pull-ups in 10 minutes by the end of the year), but I realize Whoop is helping me deepen my own practice within the gym, within what we’re already doing. I’m really enjoying that, without any sense of judgment or failure etc. This Strain-Recovery-Sleep learning curve is providing a balanced, encouraging voice to my overly-developed body-fears of old.

And I’ve not even progressed past the Baseline measurements that apparently solidify at 30 days! So the learning will continue…