A little dirt, a lot of sweat

If your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life — Bill Watterson

I love Bill Watterson. I love Calvin and Hobbes. I’m not sure if I love the green knees you get from gardening. But I do like its inference that you’ve put in some elbow grease into your gardening efforts. However, I’ve solved that dilemma by growing everything in planters and a garden box this year. No green knees. Just dirty hands.

So far, the planters looking promising. The peas and green beans are looking quite happy and aggressive in their growth. The dill looks hopeful. They’re just popping out and if they can get beyond growing threes inches in height, I’ll be happy. The first leaves are sprouting in the other three planters and I’ve already forgotten what seeds I tossed into them. I’m terrible at keeping track. One of them has the Swiss chard. I think another one has some variety of bok choy. I think the last one has beets. I’m not sure. But hey, there are little green leaves sprouting up and I’m pleased. My green thumb has not screwed up yet. I’ll probably know by the beginning of July whether or not my seed choices were good calls.

Another call I’ve made is to try growing microgreens. I was inspired by a friend who generously offered me his potted microgreens to take home, grow and enjoy. And as a result, I find microgreens fascinating. Of course, my ambitious green thumb wants to give growing microgreens a try. I picked up some lettuce and mixed greens seeds, and two small pots that can easily sit on any of my window sills. I look at this as an experiment. If it works, I might consider picking up a compact indoor garden unit with a grow light for the winter. I’ll see how the summer goes with this experiment before I decide.

Fortunately, the seeds are starting to sprout. The odd one here and there. Knowing how many seeds were used, I’m hoping the rest will appear eventually. I think I’m supposed to give it two or three weeks before I start seeing anything.

Here goes nothing.

*****

On Saturday, the CrossFit box where I work out, participated in the 2017 Challenge for Life in support for CancerCare Manitoba. There was the choice of walking 20 km or doing 200 non-continuous minutes of fitness. Oh, and raise a little money for the foundation, too.

The call went out to the members to see who would be up for 200 minutes of fitness fun. Over a dozen members — I’m thinking 14-16 but I could be wrong — was up for the challenge. And that included me.

Aside from getting a ‘little’ sweaty, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turned out, Mandy, coach and co-owner of the facility, put together a great set of WODs for everyone to attack. It’s crazy how quickly 200 minutes can fly when you’re busy taking your next breath. There were burpees, box jumps, skipping, running, rowing, sit ups, push ups and the whole complement of lifts – deadlifts, snatches, clean and jerks, front squats, back squats, thrusters disguised as push presses. Yep, we covered the gamut.

After the challenge was down in the books, we had a picnic — a little pulled chicken, some fresh veggies with your choice of ranch dip or hummus, corn tortilla chips, watermelon and cookies. Yummy.

Not surprisingly, I’m still sore from the challenge. But it’s a good sore, as they say. There’s already talk of doing it again next year.

I don’t think it’s too early to say ‘Count me in!’, is it?

Sweat and belonging

In fitness, there are no short cuts, It involves immense discipline and hard work — Mahesh Babu

For the last five Saturdays (make that four Saturdays and one Sunday), I have participated in the 2017 CrossFit Games Open. The Open is the first of three stages that lead up to the Games which I think happens late summer/early fall. I could be wrong. Yes, I’m horrible for not paying better attention.

On the CrossFit website, the Open is described as a five-week, five-workout competition held in late February in CrossFit affiliates and garage gyms around the world. During the five weeks, workouts are released online each Thursday, and each athlete has until Monday to perform the workout and submit their scores.

The CrossFit affiliate I go to is Prairie Crossfit. The owners, coaches and fellow crossfitters are a great bunch of people. But a little more on them a bit later.

The Open is where grassroots and the elite athlete compete together. This is where a person can determine how fit they are compared to everyone else in their age category. At this stage, for the majority of participants, it’s about having fun — if you consider trying to performing 55 deadlifts, 55 wall ball shots, 55-calorie row and 55 handstand push-ups in 13 minutes fun. It can be done. Just not by me, though. This was the Open’s Week-4 workout.

Participating in the event is also an opportunity to determine where your weaknesses are and to put together a game plan for next year’s Open. But doing the Open year-to-year is a great way to evaluate your fitness progress. If one Open is plenty for you, at least you have an idea of what you need to work on for your fitness goals.

Me? I just want to age as gracefully as possible and kick ass for as long as possible.

The last time I participated in the Open was two years ago. I skipped last year because my right shoulder was still recovering from an injury. No point in fucking that up if it wasn’t quite 100% yet. I hummed and hawed a bit before deciding to dive into this year’s Open. I have no regrets doing it.

Compared to two years ago, I know I’m stronger. My shoulder has held up to the workouts. Aside from the odd bruise and scraped skin, I’m injury-free as the Open wraps up for another year.

My muscular endurance is better. And there’s always room for improvement. I’m still stubborn as a mule. That’s never changing. Mental fortitude is a necessity in CrossFit and any other sport you participate in. As for the squats, I still need to have the hip crease consistently go below parallel but it’s better. Overall body strength is better. And while everything is better, everything is always open to more improvement.

I managed to do some things I thought I would mightily struggle with during the Open. For example, weighted walking lunges. I have enough issues with walking lunges, in general, without adding two 20lb dumbbells into the mix. Getting that knee to touch the ground is one of the banes of my existence. But I did it. Walked at least 135 ft. with the weights sitting on my shoulders. My legs were sore the next day but it was worth it.

I also managed to set a personal record (PR) in the snatch and overhead squat. 25kg is new PR if you were wondering. I wouldn’t consider my upper body strength exactly great. But it’s coming along.

There are lots of things to work on because it’s never too early to prepare for next year. If I made a list of goals, it would be substantial because they would all be baby steps working together to become physically stronger. All part of the plan to grow older gracefully.

Aside from the fitness goals, one of the reasons I participate in the Open is the idea of community. Every Saturday, during the Open, I got to sweat it out with my fellow CrossFitters who I don’t normally see on a regular basis. We cheer each other on, we support each other and celebrate each other’s successes, no matter how big or small they may be.

The folks I workout with, are great and interesting people. The knowledgeable coaches will cheer you on during the workout, but won’t hesitate (in a loving manner) to kick your ass if you need it. And we don’t just cheer each other on during the Open… we cheer, support and celebrate each other all year round. Camaraderie forged in sweat and determination to fight for every rep.

It’s true that you can’t pick the family you’re born into. But there are families you can choose to be part of. We all have a few chosen families that occupy parts of our lives. I’m fortunate to have this particular community as one of my chosen families and to be part of their family, as well.

Fitness. Friendship. Family. That is the community I belong to and love.

Flowers not needed

Yeah, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Whoop-dee-fucking-do.

The day for overpriced roses, wine and dinner. And if you play your cards right, you just might get a little nookie for your efforts. But I think today would be far cheaper for flowers and dinner for the same effort and results.

Can’t be bothered with that nonsense. I’m not saying that because I’m lacking in the romantic partner department. If I was in a romantic relationship, I’d make the poor bastard eschew the commercial trappings of Valentine’s Day because he knows the way to my heart has nothing to do with giving me flowers and all that sappy shit.

I must admit yesterday wasn’t spent cursing that fact it was Valentine’s Day. Refreshing considering the past few years were spent wondering why the hell everyone in the first world needed a special day to show their significant other that he/she is loved.

I spent the morning and part of the afternoon hanging with my CrossFit peeps at an in-house Valentine’s Day couples CrossFit competition. I wasn’t competing, I was cheering. A couple of my friends asked me why I hadn’t entered.

Well, because I wanted to see what it was all about.

More like I wasn’t sure if I could find someone who would do the competition with me. I was assured someone would have stepped up to the plate and joined in the fun. You won’t place in the top three with me as your partner. But I would guarantee camaraderie and shits and giggles of the highest order.

Also, my shoulder injury is almost healed. No point in putting myself in a situation where I could inadvertently re-injure the shoulder. That would also be the reason I won’t be participating in this year’s CrossFit Games Open. Kinda bummed about that. I really wanted to do it again after last year’s experience. I’ll still checkout the WODs and maybe give them a go with some modifications during one of my workouts. Next year, I’ll do the Open. I’ve got the year to get stronger and make some gains.

Anyway, it was fun to watch the teams compete and get a look-see at how a couples competition works. If they do a Valentine’s couples competition next year, I just might go searching for a partner. I know the folks at the gym/box would be more than willing to ‘match’ me up with someone.

After the competition had ended, I went home, watched some Netflix and finished watching the Star Wars prequel trilogy for the first time ever. Now, I know why Jar Jar Binks was so reviled.

I’m also re-acquainting myself with the original trilogy. I’ve watched Star Wars: A New Hope already. Interesting watching it again after 30-plus years. I had planned to watch The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi but they were put on hold for Secretary starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The movie is my one nod to Valentine’s Day. No point in acknowledging Valentine’s by watching some sappy rom-com.

Something a little more subversive (according to what Hollywood standards could bear in 2002) was in order. Secretary just happened to fit the bill although I wouldn’t have minded watching more subversive material because I have that kind of sensibility. Sure, the movie had what one would consider a happy ending but the journey getting there was interesting. The two main characters were damaged enough to make it engaging for me to watch. Let’s be honest, you can’t possibly go wrong watching Spader’s and Gyllenhaal’s performances. They’re such great actors.

Enough of Valentine’s crap. This week promises to be busy and I have the emails to prove it. Also, some of my characters for the next novel seem to be vying for my attention so I’ll need to set aside some time to play with them. Naturally, they want my undivided attention just as other parts of my life are gearing up to monopolize a fair chunk of my time.

Never fails. Been this way since I started writing. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. And I’m not. Thankfully, this is the first time it doesn’t annoy the hell out of me that I have projects pulling me in different directions. I think it’s due to where I am in the creative process and my approach to it. It’s been easier to roll with it despite what life may throw at me. I’m pleased with this personal development.

There are other reasons for the change but I won’t get into it. A little too esoteric, I think. A handful of people know what the change is and they’re excited for me. Last Saturday, I told one friend that I felt like a 5-year-old on a perpetual sugar high. He laughed. He laughed even harder when he asked me after I did my morning workout, what else was on the docket for the rest of Saturday and I replied that I would be reading porn. Nothing fazes the man. He has learned not to be surprised by whatever comes out of my mouth. He figured I was doing research for a future writing project.

Well.. yes and no.

Anyway, I got a busy week ahead. Let the good times roll.