The Bull and the Horns

On Saturday, December 7th, 2013, I participated in my second ever CrossFit-inspired competition. No Baby, Leave the Stockings On was an all-women’s event with an Rx’d and Scaled division; the competition was held in Oregon City, OR for our region and was also run on the same day in several other locations throughout the country. One of my HEL teammates alerted several of us to the competition, and I agreed to sign up for the Scaled division. Another teammate joined in, and the three of us started gearing up. I even traveled down to Portland over Thanksgiving break so we could workout together and run through the competition WODs.

When our assigned heats posted, my stomach dropped. Even though I’ve competed in dance and piano and tried out for dance and cheer teams, seeing my name posted like that elicits a strong response. I was doing this for real, and I had no idea what to expect from my competitors. I was also excited, though, to be competing alongside my friends, testing out my progress yet again.

The day of the competition, I was tired and feeling far from ready. Even though we’d already done a “dress rehearsal” the week prior, I had no idea how things would go. Would I drop the bar? Would I miscount? Would I start cramping up in unforeseen ways? Would I be severely out-WOD’d by the other competitors?

I worked through my adrenaline by telling myself I knew the WODs. I knew my goals, and I knew my weaknesses. It was time to buck up and go out and give it my best shot. I warmed up with my most standard routine, starting with a row and some dynamic stretching.

WOD #1 was my most dreaded workout going into the competition. It consisted of only two movements: overhead squats and burpees over the barbell, and it was only 8 minutes long. WOD #2 was a clean/front squat/jerk complex, and WOD #3 was an AMRAP 10, consisting of 40 air squats, 20 kettlebell swings, and 10 deadlifts. But #1 was the one that felt the hardest during the run-throughs, and as such, was the one I was most nervous about.

When the clock counted down and the first WOD began, I focused and reached for the bar. I stabilized it overhead, and worked away for the full 8 minutes. I wouldn’t know until later that I was #11 in my division for WOD #1. I wouldn’t know until much later that I was #66 out of 500 Scaled competitors for that particular WOD.

WODs #2 and #3 went fine for me. I set a new personal record (PR) on my clean and jerk (115lbs.), as well as a new PR for my power clean (120lbs.). There were quite a few people who were putting up heavier weights, though, and WOD #3 burned out my back. I finished a bit more towards the bottom of the top 1/3, but I was happy with my performance.

Overall, I came in 20th out of 69 competitors in the Scaled division for our location. Nationwide, I finished 105th out of the 500. It was reaffirming to see that I held my own, but it was even more so inspiring to see the women who competed in both divisions come out and test their own strengths. I’m also incredibly proud of the work my friends did–and we’ll be competing as a team (with one more Belle we roped in!) in January.

When the fear I face is internal, it makes no sense to turn and run. I’m learning to stand firm and to take control.

And to be honest–I’m having a complete blast doing so.

HEL's Belles

HEL’s Belles

Train for Chaos (and really cool leggings)

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One Single Summer

I realized yesterday that I haven’t spent a single summer truly single since maybe 2006. Maybe even earlier than that. Either I was in a serious relationship, or I was dating and it turned pretty exclusive, or whatever was going on soured and then I spent the latter half of summer in a foul mood.

This summer, I’m just kind of free to do whatever I want.

Yeah, I find summertime activities fun with a partner, but it’s good to be authentically alone for a bit. I’m not saying I’m going to plant my foot and declare, “No dating this summer!” However, I’ve long since deleted my OKCupid profile, I’m not asking incessantly if people have nice men for me to date (although we often entertain the topic), and I’m focusing more on what I want out of myself, not what I want in a partner. I’m still fighting the urge to take someone under my wing and try to fix them up, so that’s where I’m planting my foot and saying, “No.” Enough with “potential.” Enough with creating an idealistic, imaginary version of my current infatuation. Enough. Those boys are free to make their own mistakes, and my hands are clean of it all.

And that leads me to here.

Here’s to the best single summer ever.

I’m going to play in the sun, and enjoy great drinks, and I’m going to hop in the car and drive wherever I want, whenever I want. And I’m going to get strong, and I’m going to go dancing, and maybe I’ll keep on writing. And I’ll keep on living the best possible way I can for myself.

Because one summer of carefree solitude in a sea of brokenhearted summers will never be the worst thing that can possibly happen to me.

If anything, I'm just going to live here and try one of each.

If anything, I’m just going to live here (The Old Gold in North PDX) and try one of each.

As an added bonus, go on and check out Thought Catalog’s 27 Perks of Being Single.

27. Forced independence that will benefit you in the future. Being solo, you don’t always have a person for emotional support and the only option is to be strong for yourself. It’s like lifting weights. A girlfriend/boyfriend serves as spotter, but when you’re by your lonesome, the pressures on you. Get stronger or drop the weight on your chest.

The Best Summer Ever

“Here’s to the best summer ever.”

That’s the mid-year theme I’ve come up with. And why not?

I spent the solstice and the following weekend with so many people, reminded that there is so much to be said for the magic in friendships. I got to see two of my closest friends whom I’ve known for nearly a decade now, as well as friends who are newer and full of surprises. I even got to make new friends. We confirmed this with a Facebook message reading, “We are friend [sic]?” “We are friends!”

I got to share my current city with my friends, as well, and it was the perfect combination of relaxation and chaos–something we seem to have perfected over the years. It’s always a treat to share something like Pine State Biscuits with your friends and watch their reaction. It’s also fun to share my CrossFit gym with my visiting friends, not just for our set-up and programming but also for the people.

This summer is dedicated to more moments like those found this weekend, whether those moments are in Portland, Seattle, Wenatchee, or any other city I might find myself. So, just get ready for a lot of bad jokes, good food, questionable dance moves, and real good music.

Here’s to the best summer. Ever.

Days of Summer

You Don’t Know Anything, So Stop Listening to Yourself

You Don’t Know Anything, So Stop Listening to Yourself via HelloGiggles.com.

Listen to your gut. Fight your instinct.

I’ve been sitting on this post for months upon months upon months. It just sat there with a link to the article. It’s been in the back of my mind since making that scary leap from graduate school to the Real World v.2.0.

“Your instincts are trained habits that you created somewhere along the way. And they are usually just what you’re comfortable with. And some of us are comfortable being unhappy, being taken advantage of, being walked all over, ignored, overlooked, under respected, being made to settle. Your gut tells you the truth, it tells you when something is off. It tells you what no one else will.”

There was a lot of that, carried over from goodness knows how many years of the same old bad habits. I’m trying to break that now. I’ve been doing so much to challenge myself, to step out of this comfort zone, and to make a stand for the person I want to be and the life I want to have.

Being intentional in my goals towards a fitter, healthier self has helped a lot. CrossFit still makes me anxious day after day (or WOD after WOD, I should say), but I still go. Even if my gains aren’t phenomenal like a lot of my friends’, it’s still personal progress. It’s still my victory.

Stepping outside of the comfort zone in advising pushes me to be a better professional–and to have more of an impact on my students’ lives. It’s not easy for me to ask those follow-up questions of, “What could you have done to be more successful this quarter?” and “How will what’s happened this quarter affect your next quarter here?” and so forth. But when I do, I see the wheels turning. I see those reflective pieces start to come together for my students. And I see again why it is what I do matters, and why I simply do what I do.

Being new-ish to a city is tough. It has its own challenges, but I am still making that transition happen. Interestingly enough, my instinct is to move on to the next place quickly. But I think this time, I’m going to stay. Since college, I haven’t lived in one city for more than two years. In fact, I haven’t made it two full years in one place since leaving Bellingham. As I’ve said before, I think I’m ready to put down some roots in Portland.

And that scares me to no end.

I need to try this, though. I need to give myself this chance to stabilize. It will give me the chance to establish a real home again, to become a part of a community, and to keep on this pattern of growth. Growth doesn’t have to mean running from place to place. It doesn’t mean I have to give up that love of travel and exploration, either.

You bet these next few years will be full of mini-breakdowns and embarrassments. (Heck, I hit myself in the face multiple times on my exceedingly low-rep WOD today–however, I completed the workout at the prescribed weight, so I’m going to take that as a victory. [That’s part of the new philosophy moving forward–unless I know the prescribed weight is physically dangerous to me, I will attempt it, even if it means I’m slow and I’m dead-last each time.])

And that’s all okay. Instinct says it’s not, but I’ve got that gut feeling that things will be just fine.

Happy Friday, everyone.

I can see everything from here.

A City Anew

I had something to write about, and I thought of it last night. Just having trouble remembering, as I’ve currently been laid up in pajamas all day.

Oh, right.

I’ve been cooking as part of this paleo challenge my gym is doing. We’re actually on a modified paleo challenge, allowing room for dairy, coffee, and some alcohol. What I’ve noticed so far is that I’m fuller longer, my energy is higher,(except today–c’mon, body, get it together), and I’m taking my creative cooking a step further. (Let’s not talk about a couple of the lunches I threw together, though; a sweet potato and/or a steak with a side of avocado is far from creative.)

This morning, I made a plantain hash, using a few modifications: chicken sausage instead of pork, salsa and goat cheese as toppings, a not-quite-brown plantain. Either way, it turned out deliciously. Then, I took a shower, put on my Slanket, and currently haven’t moved in about four hours. I’m pooped and will probably need a nap. (It’s about that time of year where something goes wrong with my immune system and I have to Google, “Do I have mono?”)

The other day, I made homemade almond butter. Almond. Butter. Basically, I conquered my fear of using my food processor and making something that I’ve only known to come from a jar at the supermarket, and you know what? It’s delicious. I ate it with a banana and some honey, and I’ve eaten a few spoonfuls plain. I almost darted out of my house on Saturday to proclaim my awesomeness to the entire neighborhood.

Other things I’ve done include baking chicken with coconut oil and a steak fajita bowl sans rice/tortillas and beans. I’m hoping this creative streak sticks, so even when I’m “allowed” to have corn and rice and pasta again, I’ll know how to moderate my carbs and balance my nutrients so I can continue to eat clean.

Also, I think I have officially crossed into “crazy” territory because not only am I doing CrossFit, but I’m sold on hot yoga. I picked up a $10 for 10 deal at a local yoga studio; I may go and try to sweat out the “hope this isn’t mono” tonight (and try not to be super-bummed that I’m missing another squat workout at my box), but I may also lie on my floor and try to just do a home work-out because that’s easier and my goodness, I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. Typical.

Also, also, a lot of things have happened in this past year, and I’ve felt like I’m either on the run or treadmilling and can’t quite settle into my current situation. I’d like to put down some roots for the first time in a long time, and I don’t mean that I want to abandon my love of the world, but I’d like to focus on growing my strengths and skills in work, health, my personal life, and so forth. I can’t do that if I’m so obsessed with not missing on the baby steps towards the next big step. I need to bolster my savings something awful, and I think a good compromise will be minimizing how much “stuff” I have, so that I don’t feel weighed down by things; I want to feel tied to a place because I make that choice.

I think this decision came yesterday morning, as I walked downtown in the brisk winter air. I saw cafes and shops I had never noticed before, and I saw people in those cafes having conversations. I saw people walking through the streets, and some of the shops were closed, but the city was still alive. And I saw Portland the same way that I saw Madrid and London and all those cities I’ve visited, and I realized how lucky I am to once again live in a city where everything can feel new if you let it.

At the end of my trip in Madrid, I remembered feeling like I wasn’t a tourist anymore, that I had finally found my favorite local haunts. I knew there was still much to explore, and that kept the city dear to me. I don’t want to treat Portland like some kind of waypoint; I want to treat Portland as a milestone. Portland is every bit as fascinating and wonderful as the other cities after which I lust–it must just be that it seemed too easy, too good to be true that I ended up here after grad school.

Thank my lucky stars.

So, PDX, what do you say? Here’s to a lovely journey and many adventures to come.

Hit the Road

My body is conflicted right now. On one hand, I am sore and my knees and shoulders are grumbling a little bit. On the other hand, I’ve been in the gym four times, and that’s with a conference that lasted from Wednesday through Friday in Bellingham, WA, followed by a super-lazy weekend.

Let’s recap.

Thursday, Nov. 1st
Independent Workout at the Hotel Fitness Center

I woke up early to get my workout in on this particular day. The fitness center at my hotel was small, but adequate. I warmed up for a few minutes on the elliptical machine, then went through some dynamic stretches. For my warm-up, I used a light dumbbell to go through some sumo pulls (one arm at a time), then did some squats with the dumbbells overhead to work on balance and core, and threw in a few burpees. For my quick workout, I just did the following:

3 rounds of:
21 sit-ups
14 hand-release push-ups
7 overhead squats with 12lb. dumbbells

It was a really short workout, and I finished in under ten minutes. I still managed to get really sweaty in the short time I was in the center, so that’s a good sign, I think. I wrapped up with some stretches, and then it was off to my conference for the entire day. Surprisingly, I even made it to the breakfast buffet where there was still much bacon and sausage for me to enjoy.
Oh, and later that night, I danced for a good while, and I’m going to count that as something because I wore wedges.

Monday, Oct. 5th
CrossFit – WOD: Iron Oxide

Before we started this workout, Coach gave us the heads-up that the first half was all mental. It was. We started out with a seemingly easy exercise, which went like this:

Every 30 seconds for 5 minutes:
3 Back Squats
*bar may not be racked for entire 5 minutes
The total count worked out to 30 reps. However, we could not do more than 3 reps in a 30-second span. Therefore, we spent a lot of time holding the barbell across our backs. My hands started to tingle during the first half, and I had to readjust quite a bit to find a good grip that didn’t cause my old shoulder injuries to ruin my circulation. I got through this portion with 50lbs.

Next came the following:

10 rounds for time of:
3 Power Cleans
1 Box Jump (for me, modified to a step-up) – maximum height
10 Double Unders (or 3x single unders)

I came out of this portion of the workout with a time of 8 minutes, 2 seconds.The load I used for the power clean was 50lbs., and for the box, I added a weight plate to make my step-up 21 inches. I did single unders because I suck at jump roping.

Tuesday, Oct. 6th
CrossFit – WOD: Dueling Banjos (a.k.a., “Quite Nearly Hell”)

The good thing about WODs is, once I’ve survived through a workout, I get this feeling of, “Even though I scaled back and made some modifications, I got through that.” It’s a bit crazy. Especially when one considers what Tuesday’s workout looked like.

We started with rack jerks, which are basically the jerk lift with the bar starting behind your back. We did max weight for single reps, and repeated the single reps five times. I worked up to 75lbs. I need some more speed and punch before moving up in weight, that’s for sure.

The biggest challenge came next. It was broken into four rounds, for overall time. Those rounds went, simply, like this:

1. 510m Run (around the block)
15 Overhead Squats

2. 300m Run (down to the corner and back)
15 Overhead Squats

3. 510m Run
15 Overhead Squats

4. 300m Run
15 Overhead Squats

Coach has a real funny way of crafting a mile run into a workout. As I told a close friend, this workout was like running a beer mile, but instead of chugging a beer between the runs, you had to lift weights. And the thing about overhead squats is, they’re incredibly difficult for me! I used the 22lb. bar, and with 15 reps on top of already aching legs, it was a miracle I didn’t fall over. The form is coming, and I am glad to be improving both flexibility and balance with this type of exercise. Running is still the bane of my existence, but I doubt that will ever change. Good news, though: no asthma attack in the middle of any of my laps!

Overall time: 14 minutes, 20 seconds.

Wednesday, Oct. 7th
CrossFit – Partner WOD

Tonight’s workout was kind of fun. Maybe I think that because it came right after the hellish running workout.

We started with some standing rows. I got up to 60lbs. comfortably and did several sets of 7 reps. In between those, we all practiced “skin the cats” on the rings.

Funny story about “skin the cat” is that in junior high, we learned how to do this move as part of the gymnastics unit. In evaluation, I got all the way over, but instead of dropping down to the floor or reversing so I was in my starting position, I just kept rotating until I popped both my shoulders. It was the worst dislocate on the rings in gymnastics history, I’m sure (“dislocate” actually being a move, not a thing that I did to my body). The creepy thing is that there was a mild moment of hurt, but then I felt fine. Same thing happened several years earlier when I rolled my left ankle. Momentary hurt, then nothing. Granted, now I know I have a ton of scar tissue in that ankle, and I know my poor coordination and lack of judgement is what has caused my shoulders to be in the state they currently are.

Anyway. Back to today’s gymnastics practice. Coach spotted me the entire time, and I could tell in an early pass that my shoulders felt really weak and unstable once I came around. I modified the rest of the time, going only halfway over, keeping the shoulders stronger. I could definitely feel my body wanting to make that same stupid mistake of going all the way around without letting go, so thank goodness for a tentative coach.

After all of that came the 14-minute partner workout. We had an “Every Minute on the Minute” of:
P1: Max calorie row
P2: 10 kettlebell swings + 5 Ring Push-ups

We switched tasks every minute, so each round was performed 7 times. My partner and I hit a maximum total of 139 calories burned on our row, which we blame partially on being the shortest team. 😉 For KB swings, I challenged myself up to the 16kg. bell, although it was quite a bit heavier than my usual 12kg. Still made it through, although I know my height at the top of the swing suffered. Ring push-ups weren’t too bad, although I did them from the knee to focus on keeping my arms and shoulders stable and strong.

I felt good after the workout, and I was very thankful that we had a larger group tonight, as it meant more stretching at the end. Each of us calls out a stretch to perform. I picked straddle split tonight, and it kind of makes me giggle to hear my big burly male teammates groan about some of the stretches I call. Coach said it best when he told the new guys, “The dancer will always bring the pain during the stretches,” to which I responded, “Well… I could have called out ‘Wheel.'” Then I got a lot of blank stares so instead of explaining, I demonstrated. (And it actually felt really, really good tonight to move into bridge/wheel.)

After tonight’s workout, I met up with Snugs to try out a sushi place by my house. It’s the “funky” one, connected to what seems to be a divey little cafe. The sushi place has great reviews on Yelp, and after dinner, I could see why. We got an order of salmon sashimi, and it was some of the best I’ve had in the Northwest. All the rolls we ordered were delicious and well-made, and as it was a weeknight, we pretty much had the little joint to ourselves. Not a bad way to round out the day.

I’ll leave you with one take-away from tonight’s dinner conversation. Snugs and I were discussed working out, and he mentioned something about how supplements, like protein, could be really screwy in terms of what it does to people’s bodies. However, they can get people in good physical shape, even with the side effects. I thought about it for a second and said, “Yeah, but I guess there’s really a difference between being ‘in shape’ and being ‘well.'”

We both agreed that being well is a much better priority to have.

Alive

I made it to Friday, and the best part about that is…

I made it through my first “first week of Fall Quarter” at work. The wait times for students wanting to see an advisor was infinitely shorter than it was last week, when times got up into the hours (plural).

Now, I’m going to reward myself with an episode of Doctor Who, maybe a Rainier, and some sleep before waking up much too early for a 5K I don’t even intend to fully run. YAY! FRIDAY!