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.

But.

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.

Anyway.

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.

Advertisements

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.

Flex Appeal and the Double Down Competition

It’s not easy being me.

What I mean by that is that I spent most of last week sick with an energy-draining cold, and because of that, I haven’t even had a chance to recap the competition from the 11th. CrossFit425 hosted their first annual Double Down competition, and it was a mixed-pairs (i.e., two-person teams consisting of one guy and one gal) competition with divisions for Rx and Rx+ (a.k.a., awesomely elite athletes). JD and I signed up for Rx, after convincing him it would be a great first competition.

The day started early, leaving my house around 6:30AM to get to Bellevue. We signed in, got settled into the athletes’ holding area, connected with our friends who were volunteering at the event, and eventually were briefed on the day. Then it was on to warm-ups and the first work-out at 8:40AM. We probably could have warmed up more, and we probably could have come out harder in the first work-out, but hindsight is 20/20. WOD 2 followed the first work-out immediately, though, and we did go all out there, which then warranted about an hour of rest until our third workout.

Teamwork

The pace of the competition, I should say now, was also very good. Although the length of the work-outs and all the heat times left about an hour between each of our work-outs, it felt like we had just enough time to recover with a quick snack and some water and watch some of the competition before it was time to get back onto the floor. The competition actually ended up running ahead of schedule, too, which is virtually unheard of, as anyone who has ever done anything competitive might know.

Our third workout was, by far, the hardest for me. Overhead squats and wall balls were right in the middle, and those two movements are notorious for slowing me down. However, pull-ups went quite well for both of us, especially considering that neither one of us utilizes the butterfly technique. (Side note: say what you will about the utilization of “fake” pull-ups in CrossFit, strict and kipping pull-ups are both burners in their own special ways–and yes, I can do both.) I was able to hit all of my sets unbroken, partially because the pull-up bars at 425 are high enough off the ground that I needed assistance getting up to the bar! Talk about motivation. Anyway, we got through the full 11 minutes without too much of a meltdown from me, although I was definitely running on empty at the end.

We had some time between finishing the third workout and starting the last workout, and that’s when we took care of the Wildcard WOD. Braxton had arranged a mini obstacle course consisting of a wall, a tire, and a weighted sled. Each partner had to go through the course once, and the team’s time was recorded. For the Rx division, partners could assist one another over the wall if needed, and thank goodness for that (well, for me). We completed the course, and I did not get stuck at the top of the wall, which is what I was most concerned about.

Train for chaos, right?

10401978_643447822438951_7307766781836259546_n

The last work-out for us was a down-and-back chipper. When the WODs were released, I thought the chipper was going to be the hardest. Chippers almost always are for me, because the rep schemes always include numbers like “50” and “100” and “you’re probably going to die midway through this set.” However, the more I thought about it, the more I started to think that maybe it would be a good one for us. Certainly it would not be easy, but it could be a workout that played to some of our collective strengths, I thought. JD is very good at double-unders and quick on box jumps, and I enjoy deadlifting quite a bit. Partner push-ups were of concern, though, since I know JD can outpace me by a ways. We knew we needed to stick together on those, so during a strategy session prior to the competition, we agreed to pace the push-ups off of me. We also agreed that I would do more deadlifts, and he would take on a larger share of box jumps and all of the jump rope work since he can typically go unbroken or at least work in large sets, whereas jump rope is still a major sticking point for me.

Once the work-out began, we started flying. JD went unbroken on the first set of dubs, and I picked up on box jumps. I felt faster than I usually do, finishing twenty and moving on to set up for deadlift while JD finished up box jumps. We covered some major ground on the deadlifts (I love me some deadlifing) and got to the push-ups with plenty of time. Maybe it was adrenaline, and maybe it was because they were hand-release push-ups, but we also got through those quickly, without me burning out. And then it was back to deadlifts, a little bit slower this time, but still at a good speed. Then we moved onto box jumps–in which I realized my hamstrings would no longer fire properly because of all my deadlifts–and JD took control, went all-out on the remaining reps, and transitioned smoothly back to the jump rope, going unbroken, and giving us a final time of 7 minutes, 58 seconds (at least from what I could discern). We had a full two minutes to lie around on the ground and congratulate each other on a job well-done. It was a fantastic work-out to close out the day and an absolute testament to what teamwork is about.

Even with strategy sessions, things came up that we needed to work around. We adjusted on-the-fly, and we communicated. We anticipated where our individual strengths were and how we could capitalize on those. We anticipated sticking points, and how we could work around that. And most of all, we went in with the right mindset: to have fun and challenge ourselves. It didn’t hurt one bit to also have a few good friends there, and the atmosphere of the competition was positive and vibrant.

Oh, and our reward after all that work? Korean barbeque. Absolutely the right choice.

If you’re curious, here are the work-outs we completed. WOD 2 (Max Kettlebell Swings) and WOD 4 (The Chipper) were our best showings, finishing tied for 2nd and holding down 4th place, respectively. Our other scores were no lower than 24th, so at the end of the day, we shook out to 12th out of 34 teams in the Rx division. Not bad, not bad.

WOD 1:
AMRAP5
Max ground-to-overhead (85#/135#)
Only one person working at a time
Score is pounds lifted, e.g., (85*27) + (135*39) = final score

60 seconds rest, then…

WOD 2:
AMRAP2
Max kettlebell swings (35/53)
One partner is swings while other partner holds their KB in one hand locked-out overhead
Score is total # of reps

WOD 3:
AMRAP1121 Pull-ups
21 Hang Cleans (65/95)
21 OHS (RX: 65/95)
21 Partner wall ball burpees (RX: 14#)
21 Med-ball partner sit ups (RX: 14#)
Reps MUST be split 10/11; doesn’t matter which partner goes first on each exercise, however, partner A must complete 10 reps before partner B can start their 11 reps (not applicable to partner sit-ups and wall ball burpees)
Score is total # of reps

WOD 4:
Chipper, 10 minute time-cap75 Double-Unders
50 Box jumps (20/24”)
40 Deadlifts (135/205#)
30 Partner push-ups
40 DL
50 Box Jumps
75 Double-Unders
Reps can be split up however teams want to; ex: one partner may do all the double-unders, deadlifts can be split 35/15, etc.
Score is for time (results sheet showed # of reps completed, with time used as tie-breaker for teams who completed)

Wildcard:
Obstacle course
Partner A climbs up and over barrier
3 tire flips
1 sled pull down and back (45#/70#)
3 tire flips, then tag teammate
Partner B climbs up and over
3 tire flips
1 sled pull down and back
3 tire flips
Score is for time

Did I actually mention our team name was “Flex Appeal?” No? Well, it was.

Flex Appeal.

🙂

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.

Why I Do CrossFit

That is such a cop-out title. People love the “Why CrossFit is Dangerous,” “Why CrossFit Isn’t For Me,” “Why CrossFit is the Best Thing You’re Missing,” etc. Even so, I want to consider and share why I continue to participate in this form of fitness and recreation, and why this is the only other athletic thing I’ve stuck with besides cheer and dance–and why it’s the only athletic thing that I feel like I’ve grown in and continue to progress in as I approach my two-year anniversary.

The Workouts
I remember my first workout clearly. I got left behind on the warm-up lap after a very nice girl chatted with me for a bit and then picked up her pace to match the rest of the group. I learned how to clean and jerk from a very hands-on coach. I was the last person done with the lightest weight possible. And I was thrashed for several days following. But I logged on to Facebook and left a very telling status update that night which basically told my circle of friends, “Okay, I finally understand this CrossFit thing.”

After one session, I realized that it was a form of fitness which provided the opportunity for people to push their boundaries, not in terms of physical limits, but in overcoming mental hurdles. Weightlifting, for example, is something I was mildly interested in, but societal norms in rec centers and other gyms is that girls, ladies, and women don’t use the weight room. It was always intimidating, uncomfortable, and a sure-fire way to look like the novice I was. But CrossFit basically says, “To Hell with that.” Women learn the same lifts, the same moves, and the only difference is that sometimes our prescribed weights are lighter. There is nothing that says we can’t aim for the males’ prescribed weights, and depending on the workout and people’s fitness levels, sometimes I lift heavier than the guys. And there is no shame in any of that for anyone.

Essentially, the workouts continue to be challenging as a person progresses. The seemingly endless ability to scale and modify–whether that means “down” or “up”–means that it truly “never gets easier, you just get better.”

The Third Space
Typically, people have their home space and their workspace. In my line of work and in the spirit of balance, we often talk of establishing the “third space,” that place that exists outside of home and work. My third space in recent years always tended to be a coffeeshop or a bar, somewhere where I spent time reading and writing, for the most part. After graduate school, I didn’t need that function as much (for better or for worse), and I floundered a bit in trying to establish a different sort of third space.

What my gym has provided me is a third space for recreation, the ability to shed the weight of the day (ironically, usually by throwing literal weight on me) and a place to rejuvenate. For some folks, that place isn’t and never will be a gym or a fitness center, and that is perfectly fine. Trust me when I say that I’m surprised the gym became my third space. For a long time, I was the girl who made every excuse to avoid going to the gym; I still do that–except I establish good, solid reasons to keep myself out so I can get a rest day in (over-training is bad for you, people!). My third space is a place to reconnect with myself, where for a small amount of time, I can disconnect from technology and the tasks at work and focus on self-improvement. It’s also, luckily, a place where I can interact with other people and feed my social life.

The People
And that brings me to the people of CrossFit. My athletic background was, in my mind, fairly minimal. I spent 12 or so years dancing and 4 years cheering between high school and college. I dabbled in other team sports, but mostly harbored a distaste for the years I attempted soccer, basketball, and softball. I enjoyed being around other people, even though I didn’t have a ton of incredibly close friendships from dance and cheer, which is no one’s fault; to me, it seems like I just didn’t quite fit in the same way most of the other ladies and men did. (On a related note, I fit in quite well with my band people, but that was outside the fitness spectrum by a long-shot, at least in my experience.) However, I still loved the team dynamic, understanding how each individual’s strengths played into a bigger picture while we were each able to hone our skill sets and work on weaknesses.

After college, the opportunity to participate in team-based fitness seemingly disappeared. I think I’ve mentioned numerous times that I tried running, I tried yoga, I tried group fitness classes, but each time, I lost interest and quit going (even after buying memberships for some of these things!). Nothing grabbed my interest enough to make me commit. Looking back on it, part of that reason was there weren’t other people to hold me accountable. Sure, there were regulars in my classes, but the environments weren’t conducive to socializing and getting to know other people.

But then there came CrossFit. Technically, CrossFit classes are group fitness classes; there are scheduled times and a coach, and you’d think it would have been the same situation as with Zumba or spin or cardio kick-boxing. For some reason, though, a team develops and emerges, and in my case, I was able to integrate into a team, which then led to my accountability to others kicking in, which then led to returning over and over to the gym, which then led to a greater want to develop individually and contribute back to the overall skill set my gym showcased.

That sounds fairly convoluted, I think, and there are a lot of psychological and social processes at work there, but what it comes down to is, there are a lot of good people that I met, and that mindset that we are all in this journey together is prevalent in the community. (“Community?” Yeah, there’s definitely a community around this form of fitness.) There are more and more fitness communities springing up, too (based on my social media), and there is a ton of potential in those teams and communities to shift the habits of other adults towards health and fitness.

Oh, and also–they’re fun!

Some of the SEAtown CrossFit crew during float day on the Yakima River near Ellensburg

Some of the SEAtown CrossFit crew during float day on the Yakima River near Ellensburg

In a nutshell–it’s a healthy combination of fitness, self-improvement, relationship-building, and fun. We push and challenge each other to try new things. We teach each other. We laugh. We encourage. A personal fitness journey moves to “we,” and the secret to what I need to be happy and healthy is no longer a secret.

 

The Return! Kind of.

“Hey, so, Ardith–what’s with the lack of blogging?”

Oh, jeez. Well, there are several reasons that I haven’t posted as much as usual.

The Wide World of Student Affairs and Higher Education
I’m still wrestling with what’s up with my professional life. As I’ve said a hundred times before, my job is fantastic and my team is great, but I’m missing something. I can’t pinpoint it yet, but I think it partially has to do with a need to be connected and engaged with more AAPI professionals more often, the desire for an outlet to explore research and theory, the negotiation of feeling like part of my professional network left me hanging, and wondering what to do about not feeling like a rock star and feeling more like I’m adequate and competent in my role(s). Turns out the working world isn’t full of fireworks all the time, and that the every day can be quite common. Making a difference in the world isn’t instant either; I feel like even though I knew that coming out of graduate school, actually experiencing the little victories and the little shifts is difficult. I feel like there should be more pizzazz, more “wow,” more so-much-other-stuff, and realizing that that isn’t real life is somewhat “bleh.”

However, it’s been quite the wild ride the last two or so years. Being involved with health-related programs as an adviser has helped me think more deeply about my own interests in health and wellness. I want my trajectory to have something to do with that, although there are several different pathways I could pursue. That’s hopeful. I have to remind myself that a career is something to think about longitudinally, and these ideas take time to develop. I don’t have an end point; you won’t find me stating flat-out, “I want to be Dean of Student Life/President of a college.” That’s not how I roll; it never has been. I’m still learning to negotiate uncertainty and embrace it. Part of me wants to know where I’m going, but the other part of me just wants to wander and love all that comes with that.

I’m still playing with the idea of getting my doctorate. It could be that I set my target entry date as soon as Autumn 2016; it could be that I change my mind and delay for any number of reasons. Right now, my short list includes universities far, far away, as well as the University of Washington. I feel good when I think about the programs (programmes) I’m eying. Now to marinate on some research questions. Before I make any decisions, a few other things need to become more clear. Again, I’m anxious. What’s next? Oh, calm down, self; you’ll get there soon enough.

CrossFit
I’m still doing that thing with the sweating and the barbells and the fitness. I like it a lot. I’ve now progressed into “Intermediate” territory, where I’m seeing slower progress in my numbers, but I’ve also started to incorporate more advanced skills. Ring dips and pistols and full range-of-motion GHD sit-ups are all in my arsenal now; even double-unders are starting to come along with the switch to a new jump rope. Now I’m trying to figure out where I want to go next. I’ve gotten into better shape, that’s for sure, so do I aim for recreational competitions? (Yes; actually, that’s what I’m looking towards now.) Setting this goal of competing regularly in local competitions means I’m intentionally working on weaknesses. This means putting in extra work in the gym, incorporating some extra drills and skills, although fitting it all in with a full-time work schedule can be tough. Making the time, though, is worth it.

I’m also starting to explore my interest in coaching, which is no surprise given my inclination towards the helping professions. I’ve been demoing skills for the new members, while also watching and learning how our trainers work with different clients. I hope to participate in a Level One certificate class within the next year in order to bolster my skill set. I’ve enjoyed introducing people to CrossFit, and it’s kind of a nice full-circle to be someone who new people can approach to ask a question. This is really a role in which I fully play out my co-learner approach, reminding them I am by no means an expert, but that I’m someone who has been enthusiastic about my own learning and applies that to their learning, too. I’ve been told I move well, which is absolutely the result of my mediocrity coming into CrossFit and the need to establish strong basics. I hope to carry that forward because–let’s be honest–I’m having a ton of fun so far. I also have to say that my involvement in CrossFit has bled over into my professional interests, and it is shaping how I approach future work and trajectory. Again, I’m a bit antsy about how everything will play out in the long-run, but I’m enjoying the ride thus far.

Dating
Have I been absolutely the worst in terms of providing you all with juicy stories about being single in the city? More or less, yes. You all had high hopes for me!

And behind the scenes, I did fine. I went on a few dates here and there early on in 2014, and nothing really came of it. The thing is, that was totally fine by me. When I moved to Seattle, I spent a lot of time transitioning into my new job, my new house, my new gym, and my city that I had left behind in 2010. That was my focus, and it went quite well. I reconnected with friends, I traveled, I re-established myself. I didn’t have time for dating, which was partially a carry-over from #bestsummerever. I was open to it, though, and by no means had I given up on dating; it just wasn’t the right time.

2014, I met some fellows that piqued my interest. I went on some dates, felt things out, pursued when I thought necessary, and backed off when it didn’t feel right. I did the “grown-up” thing and politely declined some dates and didn’t string people along. And it all felt pretty good. At some point in 2013 and 2014, the nagging feeling of, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with me? Why am I still single?” dissipated. I was finally free of this unreasonable anxiety that was doing me no good.

And in that freedom, I was able to clear my head and give myself the ability to take notice of someone worth my time.

That’s all I’m going to say on that front right now, except for… he’s really great.

In Conclusion
Things are going! Things are happening! I have to go tend to dinner! Stay tuned for more things and stuff!