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!! :):):)

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