15.3–or, “Everyone’s Allowed to Have a Bad Day.”

There are several foundations to fitness that I try to follow. Those are:

  • leave your ego at the door
  • leave your baggage/bad attitude outside of the gym
  • listen to your body

These are pretty simple things. (Or as one of my friends has kindly reminded me, “No doyyyyy.”) So, why then, is it so hard for me to actually do these things some days? Is it the pursuit of “better every day” and the reality that my progress is often slower than others’? Is it a lingering habit of perfectionism and the frustration of not getting every detail correct? Is it imposter syndrome and wondering if I really belong in this nutty fitness world?

It’s probably all those things and more, and it seems that every year, there’s at least one Open WOD that feels like it’s a personal attack on my weakest points–physically and mentally. Well, that was 15.3 this time.

Here’s what was announced:

15.3 (Rx):

7 muscle-ups
50 wall balls (14lbs. to 9′)
100 double-unders

Um, slight problem with this: I didn’t have muscle-ups, and I certainly didn’t have muscle-ups after hurting my shoulder back in November while practicing muscle-up drills. First blow received. I thought, “At least there’s a Scaled division this year.”

15.3 (Scaled)

50 wall balls (10lbs. to 9′)
200 single-unders

What? No triplet? No chance to test my double-unders which I had worked on all year?


For my shortcomings on the muscle-up, I was relegated to just wall balls and jump rope. That was the second blow. What ensued over the weekend felt like one gut punch after another.

Friday night, I drilled muscle-up technique. A few short videos revealed lack of hip extension.

Saturday, I slept in and missed the gym, although the rest of the day was pleasantly calm. (For the record, children’s productions of The Wizard of Oz are hilariously adorable.)

Sunday, I again drilled muscle-up technique, and started to incorporate hip extension. Sadly, I was still much too low to execute any successful turn-overs, and each try just landed me in a silly pull-up position. I didn’t get as far as I wanted, although I have to admit that in two days of practice after months of staying away from the muscle-up, I did make some progress.

After playing on the rings for a while, it was time to deal with the workout for real and attempt it Scaled. I usually only work with 14lb. wall balls and double-unders now, and I felt that I had made progress in both of those arenas over the last year. However, 15.3 was not so kind to me, and it felt more like it deconstructed my perceived gains, and placed me squarely back at “START.”

My first set of 10lb. wall balls were, by my standards, pretty good. A set of 25, followed by 10-10-5, and I was able to move off the wall and grab my rope. And that’s when everything fell apart. Not because I can’t jump rope, but because my hair kept getting in the way of my rope. Really. 

After what seemed like an eternity, I had maybe gotten through 75 or so single-unders. I had tried multiple hair ties, a different rope, and even letting my hair all the way down, and I just couldn’t navigate around my own self. Frustrated, I tossed my rope the ground, sat on a box, and declared that I was done. It was the worst feeling.

It felt like I had undone months of learning in just five minutes. It felt like, “Why am I even trying?” It felt like I was being shown that I would never move out of the intermediate realm. And I hooked into those negative feedback loops over the remainder of those 14 minutes, sitting on that box, nearly in tears.

But I wasn’t going to take “DNF” and 100 reps or so as my score, so I begrudgingly tied my hair back with two secure hair-ties into a low bun, reconfigured my gear, and tested out several of the grumpiest and most deflated single-unders I’ve ever come across.

While I was able to get through my second attempt without any issues physically, I let my mind get the better of me. My wall balls were not nearly as strong out of the gate, and my second set of single-unders in the WOD took forever–not because of technical issues, but because I was tired, sucking air and trying to keep my composure.

I put up 578 reps in the Scaled version of 15.3 that day, and I wouldn’t have a chance (nor the heart) to attempt it again. Naturally, I beat myself up over it, wondering why I hadn’t fixed my hair before the first attempt or berating myself for my ineptitude with a jump rope. “Why can’t you just be BETTER?” I seemed to think all day, and I moped and wallowed over a workout.

In the grand scheme of it all, one workout doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t define me as a person or even an athlete. It’s easy to write that, but it’s harder to believe that when I know jump rope and wall balls are two things that have historically been problematic.

In the grand scheme of it all, maybe one workout does matter, though. Maybe it matters that while I felt my worst, I wasn’t going to let my worst self quit all the way. Sure, my worst self won a little bit by negatively affecting my performance, but my better self didn’t take “no” for an answer.

And I guess that’s small victory for just your average athlete, which is good enough for now.

One thought on “15.3–or, “Everyone’s Allowed to Have a Bad Day.”

  1. Chris says:

    That’s similar to how 15.4 went for me. Well, not the hair getting in the way part, although my beard almost messed with my rack… haha. I had a plan, and I totally neglected my plan once the clock started running. I hit the wall so early in the 8 minutes and I was very upset, angry even, with my performance. Sure, it was just one WOD, and I threw stuff afterwards, but I did keep moving through it when I knew I screwed the workout up. Like you, I didn’t want to give up. Let’s hope 15.5 is kind to us but… doubt that happens!

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