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):
AMRAP14

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)
AMRAP14

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?

Nope.

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.

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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.

Unconquered

I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul.

– William Ernest Henley

It’s been hard to write lately. Things are changing very quickly. They are moving faster than I expected, and it’s all because of me.

For those that haven’t heard, I accepted a job at the University of Washington. I begin in mid-September, where I will be taking my advising skills to the public four-year realm as part of the School of Public Health. I am nervous and excited and happy and confused and all sorts of different nuances. What I do know is when I need to be at work on that first day, and for now, that will have to be enough.

I spent a lot of today talking about CrossFit and love. My one-year anniversary is coming up, and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on this past year, as it really has much more to it than nutrition and fitness. That’s a story for another day, however.

Today, I talked at length about being a manic pixie dream girl and how I’m tired of my penchant for trying to help (“rescue”) the males in my life. As I have quoted many a time, “We are the hero of our own story.” (Thank you, Mary McCarthy.) That goes for all of us, regardless of biological sex or gender identity or sexual orientation. We are the hero of our own story.

I am looking for someone who understands that. He will understand that for himself and about me. He will be so incredibly fascinating by his own account that I can feel safe and comfortable in sharing my own stories. He’s going to be different. He’s going to be unexpected. We will find the space in our own stories where things don’t simply fit together like puzzle pieces–they instead create something new, something where the individual parts are still visible and still meaningful, yet the sum of the whole is more than those individual pieces.

I write about love a lot. But I write a lot about my journey there, because being alone is something I want to be good at. This summer has been such a good thing for me. And maybe, yes, I’m still unsure about the possibility of ending up lonely. As another friend and I discussed, it would be lovely to be with someone that looked at you not with lust, but with love and adoration and respect and the most genuine kindness. It would lovely to be with someone who would say, without prompting, without curating the perfect words, “That woman right there? I love her.” They would say it with feeling, with realness, not with the sugar-coated insincerity social media has blown up.

I fully expect the same of myself, too. I want to feel that spark and the simultaneous calm that comes from being with someone who’s a good match. There are a lot of opinions out there on “knowing” you’re with the right person; I am of the opinion that, if I allow myself to, I will be able to feel and know. I’m optimistic, because I haven’t quite gotten there yet–and it’s scary, not knowing what it feels like to know (see what I did there?). I have been wrong. I have been wrong a lot. I haven’t conquered nor mastered this.

And why should I have done so already? There has been so much change in my life, in who I am and who I am becoming. I think I like who I am becoming. (That’s a Drake quote?) I cannot (but I will) wait to see how things unfold.

I am a lot to handle. I bring a depth of thought and feeling to the table, and it is overwhelming to many. But… someone out there can handle it. Maybe we’ve already met, but does that matter when the nature of life is somewhat turbulent? I know he can make it through, and we can make it through to each other. I trust him.

Because he’s out there, too, hopefully searching for himself in this wild frontier we call life.

 

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Adventures in Downsizing

I have a lot of baggage.

I mean this emotionally, physically, and literally.

I have a lot of stuff.

Romances without closure. The evidence of too many indulgent weekends. Unread books.

This summer is the best time to start weeding out these things. I’ve talked a lot about the emotional journey, how I’m using this summer to focus on myself and friendships and adventures and goals. I’ve kept you all updated on CrossFit in a somewhat sane manner (I hope). Both of these things have been downsizing in certain ways–trying to tighten my connections and reconnecting with my values, and taking off physical inches on my size as I get into better health and fitness.

But what about the literal?

Funny you should ask. (Okay, maybe you didn’t ask.) I’ve been cleaning my closet out pretty extensively, bagging clothes and shoes and accessories. I sold a few things to Buffalo Exchange and gave a few more things to some friends. I plan on repeating these steps and throwing in the occasional donation run, as well, so that I can pare down my clothes to really great, essential items. This is tough because a lot of these things carry sentimental value. However, I’ve been moving towards a shift in my life philosophy to record things in words and in photos, rather than in material belongings.

Next come the household items. These feel like anchors, but you all know me–I’m not sure where I’ll be in the next couple of years. By the time I settle down, most of what I own will be worn out or broken, anyway, if I hang on to it for good, so I’m trying to be strategic in figuring out what can go for now.

Books are a problem, too, because I love my little library. I have books I want to read over and over again, books that are great conversation starters and great additions to any collection, and books that I look forward to reading.

Books also weigh a ton.

I finally figured out a good compromise, though. I’ve created a list called “My Virtual Library,” and on that list, I have the titles and authors for books I really enjoyed but don’t have the space to hold on to anymore. Those books will go on to good homes, and those titles will remain handy for me so when I decide to revisit those stories, I know where to look them up. Additionally, if I come into possession of a digital reader, I would be more than happy to add those books to my “real” virtual library.

Things are coming along slowly. We don’t really have much of a yard in which to hold a yard sale, so I am wondering if anyone has any ideas outside of eBay and craigslist to sell some of the items I’m currently piling up in a corner.

My hope is that I get into a place where I can, at the least, fit everything into one car trip to the storage unit. Granted, the dining set and my snowboard are throwing a wrench in the plan, but maybe I’ll just consider those outliers in this whole process…

In CrossFit happenings, I was assigned the Rx’d motion of single-arm dumbbell snatches yesterday. With the Rx’d weight. My time was slower than my teammates doing power snatches, but I got through it. I did have to modify the GHD sit-ups and toes-to-bar, as I have a fear of going backwards over myself still (GHDs), and I tend to fatigue after about three reps on toes-to-bar. However, I did “catch one!” during my toes-to-bar warm-ups yesterday. I know I can do them! Now I just need to do more than one to three really good reps each time.

Also, we did Fight Gone Bad last week, and I did the whole thing Rx’d; I wasn’t injured, nor was I sick! Broke 200 reps finally. 206, if I remember correctly.

In GoFundMe news, we just hit $300 tonight! Almost 1/3 of the way there. 🙂 Again, visit my page to learn more and chip in! Things are coming along, and I am incredibly thrilled with the support thus far.

Stay tuned for more Best Summer Ever updates!

All of This

I am almost a month into “Hashtag Best Summer Ever,” and I have stored enough Vitamin D to get me through the winter, I think. I spent another lovely weekend in Seattle, visiting friends, visiting familiar haunts, and trying new places out. (Might I recommend The Commons out in Woodinville to you all? Try the boozy milkshake.)

Currently, I am taking several days off from CrossFit to regroup and recoup. Not just physically, but to take some mental renewal. For instance, I am spending some time thinking about what I am striving for with my career and chosen industry. I want to be intentional in setting goals for myself so that I have measurable outcomes. The biggest goal currently is to raise the necessary funds to present at NACADA in October. Again, you can help out by chipping in as little as $5; follow the GoFundMe link to the right for more information.

But other than presenting at a national conference, what else am I looking for? What comes next for an academic advisor who has found the most enjoyable conversations have come out of academic dismissal meetings? These students are given one quarter where they cannot enroll in classes at the college, and the majority of them come to the meeting with articulated reasons for why they did not succeed in previous terms. We get to talk about their goals and aspirations, and then we whittle it down to why they think our college fits into their plans, and then finally the logistics of registering for a class. It is an opportunity for us to explore the bigger picture together, and then get into the details and tactics of how to complete that bigger picture.

I like facilitating intentional thinking for others because it’s been such an important part of my own life. I want to find myself in a role where I can inspire students to change the world around them, one tiny ripple at a time. I want to see those “ah-ha!” moments come into fruition. I do not have the answers to what comes next; it is a process that is just beginning.

Besides my career, I am also taking this summer to really reflect on what I want in a partner. I have had so many failures to launch and near-misses and train-wrecks, that it is time to step back. A few weeks ago I brought up the fact that this is my first summer unattached and single in a very, very long time. It has been quite interesting to do the activities that I always thought were better with another person and instead just have so much fun just focusing on myself and my friendships.

Here is what I am starting to consider, in terms of this hypothetical connection I want.

We (“We” being “future Mr. Partner Man” and myself) have to be so okay with the idea of discarding “normal plans.” We also have to be okay with the idea of reworking “normal plans” to fit who we are–not to fit any one idea of what a couple should be doing milestone-wise. He should be okay knowing that I might shift my idea of what my career will look like and pursue the Ph.D. track with the sole intention of becoming Communication faculty, but he should also be okay with the fact that I might strive for a Dean of Students position. Or I might back off and go part-time and pursue writing and the whiskey bar I’ve been secretly wanting to be a part of. I fully expect this partner to have the same kind of aspirations, but the idea remains the same: moving forward towards fulfillment, towards purpose, towards happiness, and towards the next greatest adventure.

Somewhere in there, a home of our own and a family of our own will organically come forward. Dogs, kids, a yard? Maybe. A rabbit, one kid way down the road, and an urban loft? That could very well be, too. Something that isn’t even a blip on the radar? More than likely. The thing about me is, I am in a constant state of evolving and becoming; that’s how a relationship should unfold with me. That’s why I am not forcing anything or pursuing anything. I am not waiting nor on pause. I am here. And I am trusting in the infinite goodness (and weirdness) of the universe. (Do you hear me, Universe?)

I want this summer to be a summer of healing for myself, too. For too long, summer has been a season that I love because of the weather and the way it lends itself to spontaneity and adventure, but it has also been a season of heartache, historically. I want to show myself that I can be happy in the summertime by being a little bit selfish and treating myself the best way possible.

I heard a great quote last night on my drive home, and it really resonates with me because of the way I feel and experience this journey called life:

“I don’t think you can appreciate the glory of life unless you also know the dark side of life.” – Bessel van der Kolk, On Being interview

How true. Some may think I have too many feelings, but I cannot imagine a life in which I do not appreciate the full spectrum of my human emotion. This summer, I commit to spontaneity and intentionality, socializing and reflecting, growing and knowing when to take a moment for myself because all of this matters.

It matters more than I even know.

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Putting Up Numbers

“Coach, this time last year, I thought CrossFit was an eating disorder.”

True story.

What a difference time makes.

Now, here I am, grumbling about how my assisted pull-ups disintegrate after about ten reps and how thrusters are miserable and wall balls are clearly unfair to us short people.

We did the HEL5 last week, and I PR’d four out of the five lifts. I’m most proud of my deadlift attempt: 200lbs.! I’ve been working through 195lbs. since I competed in April, and it finally happened. I didn’t PR my shoulder press during the HEL5, but I had bested 65lbs. the week prior; I attempted 75lbs. during my second attempt in the HEL5, but did not succeed. So, I have a new goal. Thank goodness.

Here’s the evidence:

6/20/13 HEL5 results

6/20/13 HEL5 results

In order:
Back squat – 160lbs.
Strict press – 65lbs.
Deadlift – 200lbs.
Bench press – 100lbs.
Overhead squat – 95lbs.

We have also been doing quite a few benchmark WODs. This Tuesday was Fran, and I scaled the weight tonight to stay within the 5-10 minute time domain (it took me 11+ minutes at 65lbs. two months ago). My pull-ups absolutely collapsed near the end; I was not happy with myself. I know what I’ll be hitting hard (along with wall balls) for the next few weeks.

Anyway, things are going in the world of CrossFit. I have two skills left in the Basic test along with a sub-15 Christine. I want all of this.

***
On to something somewhat unrelated to fitness but definitely related to growth, I’m starting a GoFundMe fundraiser. I was recently accepted to co-present a workshop session at a national academic advising conference in October 2013. The problem comes down to I don’t have the funds to get myself there, along with two family weddings in the same month, and my institution also doesn’t have the funds to support me in my first ever national presentation. So, I’m figuring out what to do about the family travels, but I’m turning to peers and friends and family to help me out with this amazing professional development opportunity.

Here’s where you can find out more about how to help out: Help Get Ardith to NACADA!

Fun fact: If 190 people donate $5, I”ll reach my goal!

 

Kryptonite

Stronger than yesterday.

Make that two skills and Christine left before I pass the CrossFit HEL Basic Test. I need three consecutive chest-to-bar pull-ups and 25 unbroken wall ball shots (14lb. ball, 10′ target). Pull-ups are hopefully going to happen very soon, as I’ve gone from barely any movement during my first Basic attempt to only inches away this time around. Wall balls… are going to take a little bit longer. I have height working against me, and the shoulder to overhead motion is not my strength.

In fact, wall balls are my kryptonite.

The plan? Work with the 10′ target at the lighter weights until I get 25 unbroken shots. And 8′ shots with the heavier weights. I’ll get there; it’s just going to take some unpleasant work.

It’s time to face the demons.

When we get comfortable, we can–as a co-worker said today–get comfortably numb. There are scary things out there, but tiptoeing around those scary things never made anyone stronger. This goes not just for CrossFit, but for my professional and personal life outside of the box.

It is time to break into blossom.

Here goes nothing. (And a lot of frustrated yelling.)