Definitive Ranking of the Most Ridiculous Things Over Which I Have Cried

3. Circa 1990. Spilling a gallon of milk when I was a little kid because I was super excited about the new cereal we bought. I literally cried over spilt milk.

2. 2016. CrossFit Open workout 16.2. I am sick and injured, my toes to bar and double-unders are not amazing but sufficient, and I messed up my cleans really badly in front of everyone during my redo attempt, so I got upset later and ugly cried over the phone to the boyfriend. My screen was smeared with make-up and tears because I literally did not exercise as well as I wanted to.

1. Circa 2010-2012. One time, after getting not-dumped by a not-boyfriend, I was hungry and eating a gross protein bar while listening to the radio. That awful Fun./Pink collaboration came on, and I cried over those stupid lyrics while mid-bite. Really flattering, and absurd enough that after about thirty seconds, I just started laughing instead.

Just a quick entry to say, I’m fine now. On all accounts. Better to have a full range of emotions than to be a robot, even if it means being ridiculous now and again. Onwards we go…

15.4: Upside-down and inside-out

A little late, given that the Open is now done. However, I’ll keep with the “tradition” and recap things individually. I started this just a few days after 15.4, so excuse my tardiness.

Before 15.4 was announced, I predicted handstand push-ups (HSPU) would be in the WOD. Given this year’s inclusion of several more demanding technical moves, I thought HSPU would be a given.

I was right.

15.4 was only an 8-minute AMRAP, but it comprised of HSPU and heavy cleans. It opened with HSPU, which meant for the second week in a row, the Open WOD began with a move I had never successfully completed at the Rx level.

Everyone knows I have a lifting bias; I understand the power lifts easily enough, and compared to the other things required in CrossFit, lifts are more natural. Granted, the Oly lifts are very technical, and much of what I’ve done in them up to now has been with some questionable form. Most people should also know that I tend to suffer from self-inflicted analysis paralysis, meaning that my perfectionism rears its head and I stunt my progress by getting bogged down in the details. Case in point, I’m currently stalled out in my Oly lifts at about 25lbs. under my maximum lifts while I work through eliminating an early arm pull. Meaning I can currently clean about 105lbs. with good form and have failed all but two or three attempts at 115lbs., which in the past few months was beginning to look like a routine weight. (A week after 15.4, I attempted lifts at 115, 120, and 125lbs., and I hit them all–the video showed, though, that I pull early, don’t extend fully, jump backwards, and all-around lose my form at those heavy percentages.)

Sigh. Anyway. 15.4 called for 125lb. cleans, which meant I was probably looking at an embarrassingly out-of-character struggle with the barbell.

Luckily(?), I never made it to 15.4’s barbell task at-hand. Instead, I managed to successfully complete an 8-minute crash-course in kipping HSPU. Inversions aren’t really my thing, as in, I have little idea as to how I’m oriented when inverted. So, slow and steady–as much as possible–in 8 minutes was the key. Thanks to the encouragement of my judge/boyfriend, I was able to finally lower myself all the way. Stuck upside down, there were only two options: fall over, or press myself back up against the wall. I could tell a strict HSPU wasn’t going to happen, so the only way up was with a kip.

I had watched a few 15.4 strategy videos, and one of them had some great tips on how to kip the HSPU. However, I couldn’t exactly invert myself and follow along while watching, so I tried to remember everything I watched. Most of my attempts were mistimed, and finally, there was one rep where everything came together, and I found myself at a point where I knew I could lock out and finish the rep.


That was all I would end up getting that night. I spent a few more minutes flopping around as my teammates seemed to magically absorb all the techniques and tricks of the HSPU, moving off the wall, onto that heavy barbell that likely would have eluded me anyway.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I was stoked to finally get my first Rx HSPU. But part of me was disappointed that I hadn’t taken the plunge into full range of motion earlier on. What was really stopping me? Fear? A stunted idea of progress in the move? Was I blaming perceived lack of strength when really it was fear of dropping down too fast?

Honestly, these are things that I wonder about a lot of the technical challenges now facing me. I don’t want to get fixated too much on one detail and stall myself out, and at the same time, I don’t want to bypass foundations in order get that heavier weight, to get that Rx motion, to get that faster time.

In other words, I need to find my balance again. It’s time to get a little more uncomfortable, and yet it’s also time to trust myself.

What am I waiting for?

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.

15.2 in Hindsight

I’m going to make this short. Here’s how 15.2 went for me:

1. This was the only Open WOD I have ever attempted twice in order to improve my score. Why? Because this year, in my first attempt, I scored a 28, which was the same exact score as when it came to us as 14.2 last year. (15.2 was a repeated Open WOD.)

2. I did improve my score on Sunday by changing my chest-to-bar pull-up grip to mixed-grip. (It turns out that I cannot link together reps efficiently with the “easier” chin-up grip. I never practice C2B with any other grip other than overhand, so changing things on the fly for 14.2/15.2 has not really worked out for me.)

3. I improved my score by 5 reps.

4. I hate you, 15.2.

5. Guess I should probably do chest-to-bar pull-ups more often than, like, four times in a calendar year.

Optimism is drawing in Round 2 on the scoreboard.

Optimism is drawing in Round 2 on the scoreboard.

The end.

ReFLEXions on CrossFit Open WOD 15.1

See what I did there? I think I’m going to make this a regular thing.

The 2015 CrossFit Open is underway, everyone! For those of you who don’t participate in CrossFit, this is probably the start of the most annoying season of all. All of us CrossFit nerds are going to be geeking out on workouts, our favorite athletes, and of course the Regional and Games events. So, without further apologies, here’s a recap of how your favorite average CrossFitter did. (That would be me, you guys.)

15.1 (shorthand for “2015 Open” and “Workout #1”) turned out to be 15.1 + 15.1a (Addendum? Appendix? Add-on? Isn’t it really 15.1a and 15.1b? Whatever.).

15.1 was:
15 toes-to-bar
10 deadlifts @ 75# (women’s Rx weight)
5 snatches @ 75#

15.1a immediately followed 15.1 and was:
6 minutes to find a 1-rep maximum clean-and-jerk

The clock ran continuously up to 15:00.

After the workout was announced, I felt okay about it. I had already conceded that toes-to-bar (T2B) are not in my wheelhouse in my previous post, and when they showed up in this particular WOD, I knew that I could grind through, and I would just have to see how many I could complete.

I chose to do the WOD on Friday night during my gym’s “Friday Night Lights” block. It’s a block of time where we all come in to tackle the Open WOD in heats, as well as judge and count for each other. It’s a fun time, although it adds a bit of extra pressure since the spectator dynamic comes in; however, for someone who aspires to compete in local recreational competitions, the exposure is necessary.

The hours leading up to Friday Night Lights were fine, but as soon as I got to the gym, I felt butterflies. I had slightly injured my quad during 1RM jerks the previous week, and I hadn’t attempted a heavy jerk or really even an all-out workout since, so that was a nagging thought. There was also the uncertainty of how I would do. Would I fizzle out after one round of T2B? Would my grip be shot to the point where I could only clean a weight 15lbs. under my current best in the C&J? There was only one way to find out.

Now, I wouldn’t say it’s a tradition, but because the Open does incorporate some form of performance, I like to plan my outfits. Sometimes they’re silly, and sometimes they’re just for me to get my mind in the right place. For 15.1, I chose something simple, and went with all black: black top, black headband, blank capris, black socks. Changing into an all-black outfit and harkening back to my dancer days somewhat helped me calm down. One settled into my uniform of choice, I warmed up and watched several heats go, including my boyfriend’s heat. I got set up, ran through a few reps of each element, got my gear ready, and tried to breathe. My counter and judge happened to be my man, so that helped ease my mind, as well.

When it was my turn, I stepped up onto my platform of several 45lb. plates stacked on each other; I can’t reach our pull-up bars without a platform. The clock counted down, and I hopped up and grabbed onto the bars. I took a controlled swing back, and then brought both my feet to the bar. I did it again, and a few seconds later, I had my first set of 5 reps done. I popped off the bar to shake my forearms out, even though I was early into the workout. I know myself, and while I probably could have linked together just a few more reps, I also know that I fatigue very easily in T2B. My grip will go, and I’ll stop being able to link reps together. Then my core will go, and maintaining enough momentum to make contact with the bar becomes difficult. However, I was able to get through three sets of 5 to complete my first 15 T2B, and then it was barbell time.

Deadlifts and snatches were both manageable; it was the T2B that I didn’t look forward to each time, because I knew the quality would deteriorate each round. Sure enough, partway through round two, my rep schemes were changing, and my kipping patterns were changing. Barbell work remained the same throughout. By round three of the T2B, I was hanging on for single reps, but trying to group them in 5s, 3s, and 2s. I made it through and back to the barbell.

And then I started round four. That’s when my core started to give out. I swung, and my toes came up inches short. Several people encouraged me, telling me to get back up and get another rep, but with T2B, if I’m not rested enough, I will continue to miss, and there was no way I was going to have more no-reps than good reps in this round.

Time wound down, and I managed to get 9 reps into the fourth round. I was one rep shy of hitting triple digits, which I had wanted, but I also met my goal of making it through three complete rounds. But the WOD wasn’t over at 9 minutes; I still had to lift a heavy barbell.

Six minutes to build up to a 1RM isn’t a lot of time, and it takes strategy. In a situation with a workout preceding the lift, there’s even more strategy involved. How light should an athlete start? How long should they rest before even attempting a lift? Do you go really light just to put up a number at first, or do you jump right in to a heavy but manageable weight? In hindsight, I probably wasted energy by opening with 105lbs. but I wanted a number. I knew that several months earlier, I had failed multiple attempts on a 125lb. clean after a buy-in that included burpees and max reps of cleans at lighter weights. I didn’t want to open too heavy and fail immediately.

115lbs. went up just fine, so I loaded the bar to 125lbs. This was the moment of truth. Would I fail 125 like I had in the autumn? The answer was, “No.” In fact, a teammate would say that 125 looked incredibly solid. Since 125 went up, it was time to make another decision.

My established 1RM for the clean-and-jerk is 130lbs. I have also, on separate occasions, cleaned 140lbs. and jerked 140lbs. The question was whether I would continue with 10lb. jumps and attempt a 135lb. C&J, which would be a PR, or if I would attempt 130lbs. to match my PR and add 5lbs. to my score. I took a risk and chose 135.

Unfortunately, I didn’t complete the lift at 135lbs. I did clean the weight–power cleaned it, in fact. Once it was in the rack position, though, it felt heavier than ever. I had just done a 135lb. jerk from the blocks the previous week, and I didn’t remember it feeling like that at all. I tried shifting my hand placement, but popping the bar up and bringing it back down seemed to drive me further into the floor. I knew that if I kept standing there with the bar in my hands that it really would never happen, so I dipped, drove, and bailed.

Bummer. That was it. I had several more seconds to try it again, but that time, I couldn’t get myself under the bar in the clean. Time expired. I finished the lift 5lbs. shy of my 1RM, and 10-20lbs. under many of the ladies with whom I try to keep up in my gym.

However, I was thrilled. This time last year, I was struggling to hit 120lbs. in my C&J. A bodyweight C&J was still several months off. And this year, I’m aiming to improve my form and get up above bodyweight. I’ve now cleaned 135lbs. multiple times since August, and I’ve jerked 135 and 140 once each. I can do this; I have it in me. It will come in time.

In the end, I finished 15.1 with 99 reps and 15.1a with 125lbs. Not an earth-shattering score, but one I can feel proud about. In last year’s Open, I struggled to complete 33 T2B in 14.4 (not 14.2 like I mistakenly wrote last time); this year, I completed a total of 54 T2B. 125lbs. is short of my PR, which means I’m capable of lifting heavier than the leaderboard shows. That’s different than 2013, when 95lbs. was a nearly-impossible C&J (although I did it six times that time). While some people’s jumps and gains are bigger, they aren’t really my concern. What I’m interested in is improving myself and doing this to challenge myself to continue to get better and better. The Open gives me that yearly “check-in,” and the chance to recommit to something that truly has been lift-changing, regardless of whatever numbers I post. Let’s see what’s in store for next week.

Yes, the most appropriate thing to do after 15.1 is the jerk your scoreboard.

Yes, the most appropriate thing to do after 15.1 is to jerk your scoreboard.

(But I also do love lifting, and I want to keep doing this because, man, I love lifting.)

(Oh, and for the record, I used today as active recovery and all I did was bench press and strict press. It might be Open season, but it’s also the season to reFLEX. Or something. I’m done now.)

The Most Important CrossFit Open Post You Will Read

The Open is nigh, my friends. Are you ready?

Well, ready or not, doesn’t matter, because it’s happening.

Now that I have you here (oh, and this is the most important CrossFit Open post for me, but I was maybe exaggerating in the title), let me tell you that I’m not ready at all this year. This year is my third year participating in the CrossFit Open, and the second time I have officially signed up online. In 2013, I was still scaling for the majority of my WODs; in 2014, I had just started Rx’ing things more often. This year, I’m a solid intermediate, with many standard movements at Rx level; more technical and advanced moves like muscle-ups and 95# power snatches are not in my repertoire at this time. I have better endurance now and better proficiency, even though I am not a Firebreather by any means.

What can I expect this year?

Well, who knows. I’m no longer in the bracket where I will be likely celebrating my first [insert CrossFit move here], and I know I won’t be celebrating my first muscle-up because I’ve not worked on the technique much since tweaking my shoulder back in November. I won’t be qualifying for Regionals nor winning the state championship. That’s not counting myself out; it’s called “being real.” I will likely be fighting for one more rep each time the clock counts down; that much I know.

I also know are where my weaknesses and strengths lie. CrossFit is difficult for me in many regards, and I acknowledge my challenges and try to face them each day I’m in the gym. Knowing where I am physically and mentally is going to help me get through these next few weeks, as well as guide my training for the rest of the year, I’m sure.

Known Weaknesses

Double-unders: Double-unders are my goat. “Goat” isn’t even appropriate in this case. Double-unders are not just a move at which I am weak; they are seemingly strong enough to break my will. They are a nasty thing that frustrate me beyond belief. They have the ability to deflate me during an otherwise manageable WOD. Nothing makes me want to cry more than double-unders. What’s worse–it’s not even so much that I’m bad at them; it’s that my biomechanics make it painful to work on them for more than a few minutes each week. No practice means no progress. And it’s shin splints that keep me from getting after this goat.

Shin splints are a recurring injury for me. I never had them until cheerleading in my senior year of high school. At that time, ill-fitting shoes were the problem, along with the bouncy nature of high school cheer. They disappeared after proper taping, and they were rarely an issue, save for a few minor incidents later on involving brief stints with running. However, something about the way I take off and land while jumping rope aggravates my lower legs. I have posterior shin splints, and taping hasn’t seemed to resolve the issue too much. I feel like I need an expert opinion and hours of video analysis, and I also need desperately to fix my technique. It all snowballs together, and it’s routinely compounded by everyone else wanting to help me feel less frustrated. I know my positioning is off; I know my timing is off. But more than that, I know jumping too high or too many times will hurt me and render me useless for several days, and it seems almost more productive to just not try.

However, not trying will not be an option. To combat the issue in the short-term, it will take the following: KT tape, my rope and a backup rope, and iron will. Completing the inevitable double-under WOD will be a triumph; I must remind myself of that, and just get through it. Stress factor: 9.99/10.00

Strict press: The chances of strict press being in The Open are not high. This is still a known weakness, and I have been trying to strict press at least once a week to encourage those muscles to grow, grow, grow. Likelihood of strict press showing up, though, is low, so the actual move itself is not a problem; the associated muscles and their weaknesses, though, are a stressor. Stress factor: 3.00/10.00

Wall balls: Unlike strict press, wall balls have been a staple in The Open. Wall balls to a 9′ target are manageable; wall balls to the 10′ target are a bit more “out of reach” (har har har) because I’m an overwhelming 5’1″. My wall ball stamina has gotten much better in recent months, but if the number “100” or high appears in front of the phrase “wall balls,” it’s going to be a mental struggle.

Wall balls feel a bit like grade school punishment. The proximity to the wall, the repetition, the physical burn, the frustration of being just shy of the target–those are the elements that lead to the wall ball being a hard movement for me. Stress factor: 7.00/10.00

Known Strengths

First of all, I spend a lot of time talking about tackling weaknesses. I never spend time celebrating my strengths. Although I don’t feel like I am naturally gifted in the CrossFit and lifting world, there are things I bring to the table because of my natural traits and my limited athletic background.

Deadlifts: I love deadlifts. Deadlifts were something that my first coach spent lots of time on, and it paid off. I like deadlifts because they get really heavy really quickly, but most of the time, I can get through them. The technique just clicks with me. I haven’t been working on my hamstring strength as much in the last few months, so there is a bit of worry there, but I hope deads come up in The Open so I can again feel proficient during that WOD. Last year’s 14.3, which so many folks dreaded, was exactly what I had been begging the CrossFit gods for: box jumps and deadlifts!! I know high reps and heavy weights are still difficult and carry an element of danger to negotiate, so don’t get me wrong–I don’t feel cocky about deadlifts. Stress factor: 4.00/10.00

Burpees: “BURPEES?!” Yeah. It turns out that being really short and retaining flexibility from all those years of dance and cheer helps with this one. I don’t have very far to go when I have to get my entire body onto the floor and back up again. It is a problem when burpees show up near the end of an already taxing work-out, due to my endurance. However, I have been able to dig deeper into burpees than some end-of-WOD movements, so I know I can manage these, even if it feels terrible in the moment. Castro likes to come up with something really awful to pair with burpees (or just make it seven minutes of burpees), so I’m mostly concerned about endurance. Stress factor: 6.00/10.00

Ring dips: Not sure if these will show up because, like kettlebell swings in The Open, it might be hard to judge them. These are a hard move, and I can’t do more than five at a time (and even then, I can do that once before the sets break down into 3’s, 2’s, and 1’s), but I can do them, weirdly enough. If they come up, fantastic; I can probably get a few. If they don’t come up, which they probably won’t, even better. Stress factor: 1.00/10.00

Squats: Short legs come in handy again. So does all that time spent in dance class. I have a proficient squat, although at heavy loads I get just to or minimally below parallel sometimes (which I’m actively working on getting past–oopsies!). When you spend a good percentage of your life learning to plie, you learn to keep your chest up and knees tracking over your toes; while I was not the most amazing dancer, even that foundational knowledge plays a part. We’ve seen thrusters and overhead squats in recent years, so I expect something similar; again, endurance is a consideration for how well I’ll do, as is the required load. There are a lot of variables that go into what kind of squat we’ll see, so that uncertainty ups the anxiety. Stress factor: 5.00/10.00

Neutral Ground

There are plenty of other elements that we could see in The Open, and there are plenty of them that I don’t consider strengths nor major weaknesses of concern. Several of those things include chest-to-bar pull-ups, rowing, toes-to-bar, and snatches. These are all things at which I am getting better, but not up to competition standards. That’s okay.

Chest-to-bar pull-ups are inconsistent for me. Sometimes, I can get the height but not the required contact; other times, I can link three in a row. That’s fine; they will come with practice. They don’t give me shin splints.

Rowing is hard for me, given my size. When I was in college, I was actually approached by some girls on the crew team who said I should consider crew because I was the perfect size to be a coxswain. I can haul as fast as my little legs will go if needed, but most competition WODs are not won on the rower, especially not in my case.

Toes-to-bar are another move that are slowly coming along, now that I have the full range of motion. Some days I can link my first sets of reps together before my grip weakens and I switch to single reps. Other days, it’s steady singles. Toes-to-bar will be an element like they were during 14.2 when I was fighting for each additional rep. I accept that, and I will do what I can to string together a few in the first sets. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay. I’ll analyze what happened after I get through the work-out to look for areas of improvement.

Snatches are technically demanding. It’s a hard Olympic lift. Depending on the weight we see for snatches in The Open, I might get one or I might get several. I might be able to power them up, or my “work in progress” technique might stop me in my tracks. We will see. However, this is a lift that I’ve been spending more time with, and it is a humbling lift, especially when it takes me so long to establish positioning and movement through those positions. It is what it is, when it comes to snatches in The Open.

The Open will be a time to test mental fortitude, foundations, lungs, and spirit. I’m anxious to see what we’ll be doing, and I’m anxious to see how I’ll feel and move through everything. It’s a wonderful yet taxing time of the year. I’m glad to be a part of it, to have the teammates and friends that I do, and to really be doing something that pushes me out of my comfort zone.

This is my time to shine, and by that I mean, prove to myself that I don’t just suck less than yesterday, but that I am better every day.

May the WODs be ever in your favor.

From Whence You Came

Hi there.

I’ve been out of blogging action again, for all the same reasons I’ve stated before: writer’s block, being too busy living, spending most of my time processing aloud with my colleagues and friends and significant other instead of in my head and onto the blog.


What better activity for yet another sick day than to finally get back to writing? Armed with Kleenex, some tea, and a warm blanket, I’m dazed enough to share thoughts with the world wide web.

First of all, yes, I am upset that my Seattle Seahawks lost by way of a heartbreaking late-game interception thrown by little Russell Wilson, when the obvious choice to us fans was to hand the ball off to Beast Mode and pound the stupid thing into the end zone. But understanding our time-outs, the time left on the clock, the strategy, the downs, and the fact that it’s a team sport where the guys trust each other to make the plays make the situation sting a little bit less. They tried, and unfortunately for them (and for us) it didn’t work, and hindsight is 20/20.

Anyway. Proud of them for making it to where they did when, really, the talk went from “They won’t make playoffs” to “They won’t make the Super Bowl” to “Oh my, they could really win it back-to-back.” The team didn’t come away with that one last trophy, but, my oh my, they did so much this year. My fondness for American football has been growing exponentially since the mid-2000s, and I’m lamenting the time that exists between now and the start of the new season.

Anyway. That’s all I’ll say on the subject for now, except for I believe I would make an amazing defensive player in an alternate timeline where it’s largely acceptable for young women to play football.


It’s been a wild fitness ride, you know?

Two years ago, 65# hang power cleans killed me in a workout. Several months later, I struggled through 95# clean-and-jerks. I could barely overhead squat 45#. I couldn’t do a single pull-up. And all I wanted was to stop feeling like dying on every warm-up run.

Every time I start doubting my progress, I comb through my old training journals. I’ve passed the “beginner’s gains” nowadays and am making PRs of 5, 10 pounds here and there, so it’s good to remind myself of the overall journey.

I started my fitness journey at around 137lbs., with a lifetime bench press max of 65#, arms that looked nice but felt useless, and the mentality that I was never and would never be an athlete.

Now 2015 is here, I’m roughly 130lbs. but packing more muscle than ever before, working towards being able to bench press my own body weight*, and pondering how to design my training more deliberately because I keep feeling the need to compete. I also keep Googling powerlifting competitions and thinking that I should build all three pillars of the powerlifting trio, since 2+ years of training has led me to discover that my strengths seemingly lie in those lifts. Also, I can do multiple dead-hang pull-ups; it’s so awesome to finally have those, after nearly three full decades on Earth.

Running is still not a strength of mine, but it’s better than it used to be. I’ve run several 5k races because I’m a glutton for pain under 30 minutes, and that’s pretty good for my plodding pace. I would love to increase my speed on the short distances (400m and under), as well as hit a 7:00 mile, but I also have faulty mechanics in my foot and ankles, which means shin splits and knee pain come into play if I run and jump rope too many days out of the week. I suppose one 2015 goal is to work on remedying that situation.

I’ve set quite a few goals for myself in 2015, and many of them boil down to strengthening my foundations: strengthening basic gymnastics moves, increasing my work capacity in things like pull-ups and push-ups, increasing my power-lifting numbers (particularly the back squat), fixing my technique and form in my Olympic lifts, maintaining and improving flexibility/mobility, and overall increasing endurance and speed.

It’s a lot to work on.

The numbers may not be stacking up as quickly now, but the challenge still entices me. The continual self-improvement still brings me in, day after day. And the team keeps me there, grounding me, cheering me on, and helping me to simultaneously work hard and never take myself too seriously.

I’m thankful that 2012 Ardith decided to make a change; I’m happy that 2015 Ardith continues to prove herself wrong.

That said, some days, I just need to rest up and heal, and I’m hopeful that self-care will hold off any more illnesses for the remainder of the winter. Sniff sniff.

*I hit 120lbs. on my bench press on Saturday while coming down with a cold. Unfortunately, the light working out did not “sweat it out,” and I have since become a human snot factory. It’s lovely.

Checked Baggage

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to CrossFit has always been, “Listen to your body.” My next piece of advice in all that I do has always been, “Leave your ego at the door.”

Well, it turns out, I really have to do both things this month, and I swear to all that is holy that it is the most frustrating, infuriating, and humbling process.

After two years of making steady progress in my fitness abilities despite coming to the table with a boatload of chronic injuries, I managed to piss off my left shoulder. I pulled too hard in some drill (a drill! a skill-building, strength-building drill!), and for three days, my arm felt just a bit more sore than usual. Then I noticed the pronounced asymmetry in strength in a behind-the-neck press. I forced myself to go light and not push like normal in that particular lift, and then I rested my shoulder for a few days. I tried to to do a workout like normal near the end of the week, and the next day, my arm was so sore and so tired, I had to use my other arm to move my left!

I scheduled a doctor’s visit for several weeks out, finally resigning that it was time to get a PT referral and have an expert tell me exactly what I damaged fifteen years ago in junior high PE.

Since scheduling the appointment, my shoulder has improved quite a bit through stretching and rest and backing off on weight. Most movements don’t even bother me, just like normal, but now I’m wary of tweaking it again. I’ve always been wary of tweaking it, which is why I suppose I’m so frustrated with this set-back; I’ve done almost everything possible to build my foundations (or so I thought) to avoid something like this.

Beyond that, I’ve found that double-unders cause my shin splints to flare up. Usually, I can mitigate the situation with proper taping and footwear, but for some reason, last night, I could barely do fifty double-unders before having to call it quits. I was pissed and found myself close to tears on a run, only the second time I’ve felt like crying during a workout (which is surprising, considering my slow attainment of skills and chronic injuries for which I compensate).

On top of these things, I’ve gotten very stubborn about fixing my shoddy technique in my Olympic lifts. I’ve achieved some great numbers in my clean, but with a shaky technical foundation. If I want to get where I want to be, it’s going to take stepping back a few notches to unlearn some bad habits.

And on top of that, I’m keen to fix my technical and foundation in a lot of other skills. There are a decent set of skills where I felt like I adequately mastered the progressions, but in actuality, I was tired of the modified or scaled version–especially because other people have been advancing more quickly, relative to their starting the sport.

This flies in the face of what I actually believe and know to be beneficial.

So now what?

I recognize my challenges, but I’m re-committing to tackling the underlying weaknesses in the foundation. Yes, I have progressed. Yes, I have gotten stronger. But at the same time, I’ve been compensating for injuries I never properly rehabilitated. I’ve been compensating for holes in my skill sets. And I’ve gotten by, utilizing my strengths in very particular areas.

But you know me–it’s not enough. I want more. And to get more, it means re-examining my goals, readjusting my necessary work, and basically being the over-analytic “trends-towards-perfectionism,” “how does this fit into the big picture?” scholar I am.

If I want to get stronger, master more skills, get faster, and all that good stuff, I need to check myself and do the work I need to do, put in the time, practice smart, and listen to my body. No over-training, but no skipping the foundational work that will help my shoulder and my ankles. No getting grumpy and giving up because I don’t like the standards I’ve set for myself. Instead, it’s lots of organization, tracking, goal-setting, time frame-setting, dedication, and work–oh, and remembering to learn from the experience, reflect on the experience, and find joy even in the suck.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive 2015.

…And maybe some one-armed clean and jerks.

Two Years’ Time

September 19th, 2012 is the day to which I ascribe my CrossFit anniversary. Two years ago, I wrote:

Finally made it back in to the local box. The coach at this particular box is fantastic, and the team members are fairly easy-going. Now, I’m no strength trainer. Never have been. The prescribed weight for today’s Workout of the Day (WOD) [The Chief] was 95 lbs. for females during hang power cleans. Guess what I used? A 35-pound bar. And that was still difficult. It’s okay, though. Weights are something that I have always avoided. That said, I got through the work-out. It broke down to this: one round consists of 3 hang power cleans, 6 push-ups with hand release, and 9 squats; there were 5 segments at 3 minutes each; in those 3 minutes, you would complete as many rounds as possible. I got through 3 rounds each time, grand total of 15 rounds. Which at baby weight and slow-ish pace isn’t all that impressive, but it’s impressive for a chronically-injured ex-dancer… with asthma.

Yeah, I busted out the inhaler today. Cool, right?
Again, it’s okay. I’m making progress towards wellness and trying to get back in the routine of challenging myself.

I had done two other WODs previously, Grace and the Filthy Fifty. Grace was modified to 22lbs., and I halved all the reps in the Filthy Fifty. My third WOD, the “sticking point,” apparently, was The Chief, completed with a 35lb. bar and what I’m sure were push-ups from the knee.

To be completely honest, I haven’t attempted any of these WODs in the last year, let alone attempted them as Rx. However, I’m to the point where I can Rx all of these things (yes, even the double-unders in the Filthy Fifty). That’s not to say I would have an amazing end result after each WOD, but Rx’ing those things is sure as heck progress when I consider where I started (which was essentially several levels below rock bottom).

In two years, strength has become my bias, particularly squats. Maybe I should have been doing strength training all along. I would have definitely developed a much better snatch technique if I had started at 16 rather than 26, right? Then again, who knows. My athletic trajectory wasn’t calibrated correctly, and I suppose I should have at least been lifting weights and lifting heavy many, many years ago, but so it goes.

I’d say I’ve made leaps and bounds towards wellness and challenging myself. As far as challenges go, every day I’m in the gym, I’m facing a seemingly-impossible task list. Every day, I come away with more goes. The biggest pitfall for CrossFit and me is that I don’t seem to have enough hours in my day to add in the skill work I need and want without over-training. I have to do things in bits and pieces, and my next goal is to keep myself on track. I need to set small goals, work on those, level up, and then take on a new skill. Then I need to revisit those other skills, refine them, advance them, and so forth and so on. For example, I set a goal to get my double-unders and ring dips several months ago. After trying a new rope and working for several weekends on ring dip negatives, I have double-unders and ring dips; I don’t have big sets of those yet, but that will do for now. Right now, it’s toes-to-bar and handstand push-ups that are big gymnastic hurdles. I need to work on my advanced pull-up technique and muscle-up technique. I need to get comfortable in executing the full snatch, not copping out on power snatches every time.

I’ve also decided to compete more. I’m not bringing an incredible athletic background nor natural talent to the field; instead, what I have are sets of skills that I am continuing to work on and improve. They’re not elite by any means. I just simply like seeing where the gaps are in my skills compared to others–all with the additional element of other people watching as I do so. It makes me grumpy yet excited, and it’s a way to cultivate relationships with my friends, both here in Seattle and elsewhere. I’ve done a number of competitions in Oregon, even competing recently with a former teammate from Human Evolution Labs (which, by the way, has since closed its doors) in a team competition. Recently, on September 7th, I competed in the women’s open division in the Elysian Games, which was an absolute blast. It was a challenging competition, and to just finish most of the workouts felt amazing. Granted, I got pretty cranky after my first two workouts, but as soon as it was my turn to get back out there, I perked up and started joking with the judges. Once I was done with the last two workouts, I was in a completely different state of mind; I was elated to have gotten through the competition. Overall, I finished 15th out of 30 women. Not bad for my first non-scaled event (although I did modify rope climbs halfway through the last WOD; most of us had to, as our grips had been taxed in all three previous WODs. Even so, by taking the modification, I was able to continue through all the movements, including my new favorite skill: toes to rings).

Toes-to-rings, comin' right up.

Toes-to-rings, comin’ right up.

Wellness is definitely a centerpiece in my life still. I feel very strongly about holistic wellness, and finding CrossFit was a catalyst in changing my priorities. Sadly, there is much less whiskey and craft beer in my life; when I do seek it out, I go for the good stuff, at least. I found my “third space,” and “meet me at the bar” has much different meaning. My social circle is heavily influenced by my friends from the gym, and yes, I met someone amazing and wonderful and fantastic–I could go on, but I’ll reign it in–at my gym.

And the best part is that it’s the healthiest relationship I’ve been in. I’m in an entirely different mindset compared to all prior relationships and quasi-relationships and whatever you want to call that period of time from [insert which of my prior relationships you had the biggest qualms with]. Seriously, just read my blog from, like, 2010 until early 2014. Those were some dark times for heartache and my mental well-being. There were some things that happened in there that had repercussions for many years afterwards, and I’m glad that sometime around the start of 2014, the fog finally started to lift. I’ve healed for the most part. Things are better within me. And because of that, things around me are better, too.

In the past two years, my life hasn’t gone from godawful to perfect. No, it’s morphed from “it has its peaks and valleys” to “it still has its peaks and valleys, but I feel much better about myself.” I feel more sound, although I still battle some nagging insecurities and stresses. I finally figured out what it meant to truly care and love myself first, even though I knew that’s what I was striving for. It finally manifested, even though it was a rocky ride to get to that point.

I’ve endured a lot, and I always anticipate the Universe’s next great blow. After all, that’s what I’ve come to expect. But I think that I’m learning to expect happy things, too–although I’m still wary of that (with good reason. I mean, come on). This weird little multidisciplinary cross-training fitness modality I discovered helped me cultivate strong, positive traits that I’ve had all along, but that have been suppressed.

So, I suppose you could say I was saved by Grace…

and the Filthy Fifty…

and The Chief.

Because here I am. I’ve stuck with it. Let’s see where this crazy journey takes me next.

Reaching for Good

“I just wonder, when will I stop feeling like I’m bad at this,” I said, lamenting to that boy on the phone about my lack of confidence in all things CrossFit.

I noted that two years ago, I couldn’t do a single box jump, pull-up, rope climb, double-under, or wall ball, and I sure as heck couldn’t tell the difference between a clean, a jerk, and a snatch (no, not like that, come on). My work clothes didn’t fit, I thought pasta and low-fat dairy would solve all my problems, and yoga was my only tie to physical activity.

Nowadays, I complain about different things: that I can’t string 10 double-unders together, that my box jumps aren’t fast enough, that my unbroken sets of pull-ups are too small, that my wall ball shots aren’t high enough, that I should lift heavier. I can critique my errors in the full and power versions of the clean and the snatch, and my front squat has emerged as my best lift. My diet has evolved (although I did have ramen at Samurai Noodle today–worth it. And then I had some Seahawks game day brews. Whoops!), my workouts have evolved (although I still like the occasional yoga session as sharp contrast to my CrossFit training), and I definitely fit differently into my clothes.

But I still want more. I want bigger sets, more advanced skills, heavier weights, faster times. I want to “level up” and to catch up with some of the rabbits I’m chasing.

And still, I have it in my mind that I’m an imposter. Will I only believe I’m decent when I have 50+ unbroken double-unders, a muscle-up, and a heavier-than-bodyweight clean & jerk? Or will I get to that point and still think, “Still not good enough.”

Burpees over the bar. Yay.

Burpees over the bar. Yay.

I don’t believe this to a be a problem for everyone. This is a product of my own remnants of perfectionism. For example, I was good at piano–but in my mind, I was never that great because memorization didn’t come easy, I wasn’t winning local competitions, I never mastered the most difficult pieces. In my mind, I was never good at dance because my proficiency in ballet lagged behind my tap skills, I couldn’t turn and leap, my splits were never as far down as I wanted.

And maybe that’s just me. Always setting my definition of “good” just out of reach. I’m trying to break my self-deprecating mindset, to have confidence in growth and progression, to remember that developing skill takes hard work and dedication.

And that means pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Come see for yourself. I’m competing on Sunday in the Elysian Games, which is my first time competing in an Open division as opposed to Scaled. The idea is that it’s an Rx division, but if you absolutely need to scale any of the movements, you can–great for a first competition, or the first time out of a Scaled competition! I’m nervous, of course, seeing that there aren’t many movements I consider to be “in my wheelhouse.” (If you’re wondering, right now, my wheelhouse consists of exactly two things: deadlifts and burpees. Lucky me.) However, it’s a good way to push myself out of my comfort zone and into a setting that will challenge me physically and mentally.

I didn’t come into CrossFit with a ton of talent. In fact, I’d say maybe the only thing I had were my flexible hips. But I’ve found something that keeps my attention, and it keeps me coming back day after day to tackle another weakness.

And that, I suppose, is good enough for now.