Sunday, March 5, 2023

CrossFit Open '23 Closes, Opening...

I sit with the Starbucks’ venti-size Jain-citrus Hot-Tea of Victory this morning: another CrossFit Open is in “the books,” with invitation to be-with, smile, consider, and learn. 

This year, I’m startled by how very differently it ended for me, with a wondering whether I’m simply getting better at the mental game of it all, or whether my intentionality with the practice of CrossFit is paying off in some new ways. Probably a bit of both, I can hear my father say in a silly Stan Freberg voice.

As I have often said, one of the things I value most about this community of practice is its ethos, its “respect for the game, in depth,” to use a phrase from Hugh Heclo. CrossFit pushes me into courage, collegiality, challenge, and repeated failure…within daily/weekly containers that then hold, encourage all who participate into deepening tenacity, even a gentle humility. Not all gyms hold all this well, of course, and each gym does its community-culture differently. But the more I stay in the practices, widening my circles of practice, I see it more and more. With, of course, the human frailties and fragilities that can rub the wrong way too. None of it would feel real or ‘growth-ful’ without that. Having run my own LLC-business venture for nearly ten years, I feel for the affiliate-owners' hearts and challenges...who will probably also be glad when the Open has closed.

CrossFit Open 2023 landed me in a huge celebratory relief. For one, it’s over for another year. I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and now I can celebrate that, even ease up a little, for fun. I got three weeks of workouts that pushed my capacities as a scaled athlete, women’s 50-54 category, which resulted in two barbel PR’s! (personal records)

The ‘tests’ Adrian Bozman (left) crafted made space for everyone to participate well into a thorough workout, even if you didn’t have pull-ups (like me) or bar muscle-ups (like many of us). For instance, the final one of 2022 had pull-ups for the scaled wko, early enough in the work that if you didn’t have them, you’d simply spend the workout feeling your failure while trying at the bar. At least, someone with my psychology had a bad experience in it. I almost left with the shame I felt (which was old body history for me, probably age 10). Thankfully, a more seasoned CF friend confronted that voice in my head, insisting I submit the score and be proud of it. Without him, I would not have made it through the shame-fest. In honor of my tenacity, I framed that Open ‘score-sheet,’ symbol of pushing through what feels like failure to me. In contrast this year, there wasn’t one workout that a persistent-attendance athlete couldn’t do all the way through, with a sense of completion, having shown up. I still don’t have pull-ups, but that simply meant my tie-break time was 12 minutes. So credit to Bos, and an appreciative smile. (and an early Boz pic, right, made me smile).

But I also recognize that I am a different athlete this year, than I was last year, than I was the year before… I went into this year’s Open without an expectation that I would have any big pushes or successes. I didn’t imagine I’d get that pull-up. I kept myself steady, curious, wanting to push myself but without attachment to outcome. I’m gentler in my mental games these days. I have also broadened my learning practice community, receiving the benefit of a wide variety of coaching. My body memory for certain movements–particularly with the barbell–is better, stronger, less mental. I’m fortunate to be at a time in my life that I can invest the monies in what I love so very much, offering myself this breadth of resourcing.

All of which really showed up for me in the second and third ‘tests’ of this Open. I smile at my own “slowest burpees in the west” style, so I always just stay with my pace, doing so for the second wko. I knew my 3-rep max for thrusters was 90 lbs. In my head, I wanted to try for 100. My body felt the memory of a power-clean PR the month before–115#--and so I lived into my year-start intention: don’t be afraid of the heavy barbell. And I wasn’t! 105 lbs! I loved that it happened at CFD, so I got to ring the bell there. 

Then the third ‘test’ had the barbell snatch movement that has not been one of my strengths. My one-rep max was 65 lbs. Surrounded by CFD friends, I aimed for getting to the 65# bar in the workout, end of the 6 min. time cap. And I surprised myself, getting through all of them!! All 12 reps, then 3-reps into the 75# barbell!

I struggled to get to sleep that night, so much adrenalin in my system. But I kept the clean-eating plan, just in case the morning... I knew I was going to the Bombers’ throw-down brunch, to cheer folks on, earn points for the yellow-team. But I awoke with a Whoop ‘green recovery’ day, so dressed with possibility of doing the wko again. Ate a performance-bar a couple hours before, just in case. There was space and time in the last heat, so I set myself the goal of getting to the 85# barbell. Having been through the wod the night before, I imagined where I could cut time…so pushed myself harder. I got to the 85# barbell with about 90 seconds to do 6 reps. The first time I got it, I stared at the circle of Bombers’ friends now in a circle cheering me on, exclaiming “I’ve never done that before!” We laughed. At 11:58, I got the sixth rep up in the air. I couldn’t believe it. I LOVED it. One could argue the adrenalin is still in my system this morning, given my activity level and mood. 

So this year’s Open has closed, officially complete tomorrow night at 5 p.m. EST (I think), with scores validated by Wednesday. I love being a part of the widening circles of practice I get to be in right now, both my original gym, CrossFit Dedication, and the newer gym that has offerings fit for my writing work this sabbatical, Bombers CrossFit. I sipped my pear-martini of victory last night, reveling in what it feels like to be in a nearly 54-year old body like this. 

CrossFit ethos, circles of practice, clean-eating (about which CFD offers the best re-orientations), and communities that hold one another in the health-to-fitness path. I’m re-motivated for 100% on-plan eating and seeing what the Spring will bring!

Friday, February 10, 2023

Pre-Open 2023 -- Progress Notes

Well…I signed up for the CrossFit Open once again, six days and counting til it begins. 

I remember my first year, experiencing a bit of intensity at the gym surrounding this world-wide fest. I was newly overcoming my ingrained shame-reflexes. The Open was not helping me in that. I rolled my eyes at all the hubbub. Now, over four years into the practice(s) of CrossFit, it provides a different kind of challenge, even a welcome one. Befriended.

Updating the profile is part of the registration ritual by now. It was fun for me this year, noting how in each category of cardio and strength, I’d come down in time and gone up in weight/capacity. I’m more willing to flirt with Rx weights/distances, at least in kettlebell and wallball movements, rowing/biking/skiing.

The current stretching between two affiliates is a marvelous, deeply appreciated path for the moment. I knew I’d never sign up for the Open in the new gym–a variety of reasons–but signing up with my home gym felt like a ritual by now. The ramp up to the whole thing has been quite pronounced in the new gym, and I’m learning to keep my own center as I anticipate the next three weeks of contests that will come. In some ways, I challenge myself more in the new space; in other ways, I explore-experiment-attempt more in my home gym. I'm fortunate to have landed in this "habit" and to be able to afford what I love most.

I suspect I’ll be solid in the Foundations track of Open workouts, particularly as I don’t have pull-ups yet. My deltoid muscle pain has largely disappeared, finally, so perhaps I begin again with the preliminaries of hangs, slow descents, etc. Or not… Getting a strict pull-up doesn’t mean what it used to mean to me. I’m finding new other things to try, to improve. Crossover jump-rope was the most recent buzz for me. Masters Scaled is a sweet spot for me, at least last year. We’ll see.

Another big ‘win’ for me of late has been holding the clean-eating and mental-game around ‘fitness’ a little less rigidly inside, trusting myself more as is. So much of the early practice of clean-eating required rigorous daily tracking, with intermittent InBody scans to track progress. Thankful for that, still. And I do best when I track macros, even though sometimes in the evening, I don’t weigh everything. Brian has pretty much adjusted to my clean-eating rhythms, so I don’t have to hold the boundaries as fiercely as I used to. And I made a commitment to myself to
not get on the scale anymore, and to decrease the frequency of the InBody scans. I don’t have any internal numbers I’m trying to get to, nor do I care as much about tracking daily. I am intending maintenance alongside moderation. It’s allowed me to trust myself more during the week, and accept my beautifully aging body just as it is. Clean eating erases the cravings, which is rationale enough beyond any numbers.

Just this morning, I found myself wondering if a new breathwork practice I’m exploring is expanding my lung capacity, even my belly breathing during workouts. I give my own introduction and linked/cited resourcing to it on another blog I’ve started, here, but it is a simple, three-part active-breath practice in the pranayama lineage of Southeast Asian yoga.

Lying down, head flat, blanket to keep warm, comfortable. Inhale deeply into the belly. Inhale again into the upper chest. Exhale. Repeat for the duration of active-practice, then rest and return to normal restful breathing for 5-8 minutes afterward. I landed in this practice because of friends I trust. Joining one practitioner's Patreon page (with recordings/guided practices) I’ve now experimented on my own with short-practice sessions (8-10 minutes) and longer ones (30-35 mins). Each has its gift, but in these days of Brian’s pilgrimage-leadership, with more expansive time, I’m doing a long-practice each day. (Except yesterday, when I was in the car by 4:30 a.m., into afternoon meetings, then home to crash, get to bed early). 

The practice is shifting how I experience my body, or my body in relation to the world(s) around me, which is intriguing. I’m more grounded in my belly, in my own sense of intuition, wisdom. I’m increasingly curious about the images and associations that rise amidst the practice. I become aware of things with more oxygen in my system, which is what this practice instigates. The sensations–tingling, some tightening of muscles in my neck, hands, shoulders–are becoming more familiar, ‘normal.’ But each practice is different. My mind’s resistances to starting differ. Where the breath takes me changes each time. Except I’m noticing a peaceableness, a comfort in my skin, an anticipation of whatever mystery beckons. Courage and contentment both seem to be growing...

And this morning, my capacity to complete 150 wallballs (10# ball) in nearly nine minutes was GOOD. Made me wonder…?

For now, I’m battening down the clean-eating intentions for the next 7-8 days, which is when Brian returns for a celebratory Shabbat-style meal after his Israel-travels. We’ll find out 23.1 on Thursday, and off to the races we’ll go into the more formal CrossFit ‘season.’ My Instagram viewing increases threefold, as I love tracking various elite athletes these days.

Oh how things change as we stay with, continue to learn, continue to play.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Connection, CrossFit & Self-Supported Learning

 Connection facilitates and encourages self-directed or self-supported learning, which is the pathway through challenge—even failure--into delight, even abundance...ultimately more connection… with self, and with others.

This is an aphorism I’ve just made up as I deepen my CrossFit learnings in the soup of two differently-cultured CrossFit affiliates. Yes, it comes as I find myself listening to Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart, a summary of sorts of her decades of research on human connection, spelled out across the alphabet of varying emotions and/or cognitive-oriented sensations-states. Yes, it comes as I’ve given myself the gift of reconnection in my home CF gym for the season of the Open (at least) amidst a solitary sabbatical time. And yes, it comes with the recent awareness that my lifelong pattern of learning is now playing out in CrossFit like it has in my family, in the church, in the academy, in Women Writing for (a) Change.


The pattern, I now see: I land in a community of practice as a beginner. I progress in the practices (often despite myself), moving into leadership possibilities (I did take the L1, but I don’t want to coach; CF is my recess, playground). Then something moves me outward and I learn at the periphery of several of “these kinds of communities,” be they extended family members/families, or churches, or traditions, or circle-communities… The something is often a discomfort or dissonance of some kind that grows to be unbearable, distracting. So I now belong to a CF gym that is not my home, but that is contributing greatly to my learning. I am intentional about maintaining contact and connection with my home-gym-folks—my homies, we might say—and enjoy working out when I can with that community. I’ve reconnected ‘formally’ again, which feels generative and for now, is financially feasible. This pattern has freed something in me to continue to stay connected and lean into self-directed, self-supporting learning.


It’s my over-arching learning pattern, apparently. And I know it can be difficult for folks who are rooted in primarily one community—or I experience their emotions/sensations/feelings as difficult, given I want to be connected, even to please. Yet the drive to learn, to deepen, always pushes me through the discomfort in the end. [I wonder where I learned it first, and why? But that’s another blog and a different post… It’s probably my family of origin and the extended family-uncles pattern, now rooted in cousin-connectionalism. Hmmm…]


So what am I learning, and/or what am I receiving/offering?


My capacities are expanding, but it’s due to the strength&metcon combination in one location and the movement-progressions coaching in the other. I wouldn’t want either one to change, as I benefit from the distinctiveness of both. For instance, I jumped a 26’ box+plate this week! I couldn’t have done the 24” box for the WOD, as knew it would take me much longer than I felt comfortable with. But I was not remotely afraid of trying it, as I knew I could do it. Long legs. Good hip extension. Today, I did cross-over singles in a workout for the first time! 10/round! I’d never done them until today! The movement progression coaching pretty much insists that everyone try the easiest scale, moving into the next level, then the next. It forces me to try things I wouldn’t otherwise try on my own. It’s also a methodology that would have ultimately pushed me away, early on in my CF journey. So curious.


I’m getting healthier, both inside and out. ‘We’ in my home-gym caught me in the familiar but outdated “calorie counting” mode with my eating-exercising-resting rhythms. Stepping onto the InBody machine, it became apparent that my metabolism rate was declining, as it always does with calorie-reduction. I relinquished the old habits of mind and returned to the macros counting that tracks lower-but-higher-quality carbs, higher (good) fats, and protein. I’ve not confirmed through InBody, but my appetite-in-balance suggests my metabolism rate is returning to its higher levels. I’ve remembered the food-freedom and delight in crafting on-plan meals, trying new foods with proteins and greens. And my sensitivities are honed to know that attending the Nutrition Seminar at the new gym is not for me. I love the coach who’s leading it, but his language wedded counting macros with calorie counting. Not where I need to be.


And a bit of distance has given me perspective on the emotional dissonance that ultimately pushed me out of my 8am rhythm in my home gym. My pattern always seems to require a discomfort or a dissonance for me to open to my own deepening-learning curve. The woman who is a regular now at that class, that just got under my skin? OMG. She’s my mother, whom I love but also with whom I’ve had a difficult relationship since awakening to the feminine. I never saw it before. Red-haired. Sour-expression and negative energies. Unresponsive to conversation. Competitive. Not celebrative of others’ successes. My mother-baggage gets triggered every time. Almost made me laugh aloud when I realized it. Consciousness of it now will lessen the trigger, but the 8 am doesn’t work well with my writing/working-sabbatical schedule needs. So be it. It all unfolds as it should…needs to…right? I won’t be writing this 8am woman a thank-you note, but I am glad her presence pushed me into my next learning curves.

The impending hooh-hah about the Open is what ultimately goaded me into more-formally reconnecting with my home-gym. The new gym doesn’t have the relational-consistency and connection I need to stay in my own learning through the challenges of The Open. I couldn’t imagine signing up for it in the new gym (to me) culture, expectations. But I know the challenge tests me in ways I value. So…plan is to register for The Open within my home gym, see what happens this year. I still don’t have pull-ups as I had hoped. Deltoid muscle pain seemed too high a cost to pay. So…the month of January invites 4 minutes of shoulder-mobility a day. I’ll see if it’s truly a muscle/tendon injury, or simply working at my computer all day, lack of mobility and flexibility. Connection with my homies paves a pathway to be consistent with it, to enter in and try without shame or fear.

So I return to where I began: Connection facilitates and encourages self-directed or self-supporting learning, which is the pathway through challenge—even failure—into delight, even abundance…ultimately more connection…to myself and to a community of practice. Reconnection with my home community of practice is solidifying a lot of my new learning while grounding me in a sense of belonging I've needed to stay at my sabbatical-solitary work. The additional spiritual-direction work that I do–one directee/week or so–covers the added expense of my intensifying CrossFit ‘habit.’ (Though not my shoes. Nor my clothes ). But apparently, I learn best when I’m on the periphery of differing spaces-community. I just never thought it would apply to CrossFit.

Gratitude for the journey… Such a blessing to be precisely where and as I am. May this blessing also be for the sacred work that is to come…