Encouraging steps

Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want mostAugusta F. Kantra

It’s a given that anything you want out of life requires discipline… along with persistence (aka stubbornness), drive and an absolute belief in yourself and what you know you can do.

Oh, I forgot to mention that patience is a must. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything worth keeping.

When it comes to staying healthy and getting physically stronger, discipline, persistence and all that stuff comes into play. It doesn’t apply only to creative endeavours. I haven’t yapped about anything related to health or fitness in awhile and I think it’s time to yap about it now.

It’s been over five years since I started CrossFit and I haven’t thought about leaving it yet. The fact that I’ve stuck with it this long is a bit of surprise. Yeah, there’s no way I would go back to a traditional gym. It’s not the way for me.

I’ve come a long way from when I first started. I’m not RX’ing a ton of stuff but that’s not my personal goal. It’s not my endgame when it comes to my health and fitness goals. I simply want to be the fittest — mentally and physically — I can be. 

And I can honesty say that I don’t think that I have ever been at my physically strongest as I am now. As I said before, I’m not RX’ing a lot of stuff and I think that’s because of my hypermobility. Yeah, I’m more flexible than the average bear. And that creates a unique set of issues. I think it’s more common for folks to be strong but not flexible than vice versa. I’m vice versa. 

That means I have to approach movements a little more carefully. I’ve lost count on the number injuries and visits to physiotherapists over the years. Unfortunately, I’m used to it. I don’t care for it but I’m used to it. 

It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword, I think, when it comes to pushing yourself and trying not to cross the line of injuring yourself. Most of the time, you don’t realize what you’ve done until a few hours after the incident. Then your body starts rioting with barbwire-covered bats and pitchforks. Fun times.

The main reason I’ve been thinking about my fitness level and goals is that it’s been a year since I started adding physique work with my CrossFit workouts. Now, when I say physique work, I’m talking about working and strengthening the smaller muscle groups so they can better support the larger muscle groups inside and outside of the box/gym. I also believe strengthening the smaller muscle groups will help protect and support my occasionally loosie-goosie joints.

I think when most people hear the word ‘physique’, they think bodybuilding. You’re not wrong to think that. But that’s not why I’m combining it with my WODs. Any physical transformation that takes place is secondary to me getting stronger and encountering fewer injuries. That’s my endgame.

I will admit my arms never looked as toned as they do now. They will only be more defined as I slowly continue to increase the weight. To be honest, I really like the combination of WODs and physique work. The combination is helping me reach personal bests or PRs (personal records) more often. Whenever I’m not injured, that is. Yeah, that’s something I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid completely.

When I get injured, the important thing is how I manage the injury and the rehab that I need do in order to get back to where I left off. And that usually takes awhile. More specifically, anywhere from six months to a year if we’re talking about my shoulder. Fuck, I hate shoulder injuries.

Despite the injuries, I’m still stronger now than I’ve been at any point in my life. That says a lot. Some of the movements that were a tricky for me have gotten better. Sometimes to the point that maybe I can progress to the next level. That progress is because of the physique work I’ve been doing. Without it, my progress would still be moving at a snail’s pace. I’m okay with moving at a turtle’s pace quite frankly. Turtle speed is good. Better than snail.

As a result of recent progress with some CrossFit movements and the reinforcing of others, I may have a new technique goal I didn’t think I would be pursuing. Was it a surprise? In a way, yes. But I shouldn’t be surprised because of the work I’ve been putting into physique in the past year.

Recently, I had a short chat with one of the coaches at the box. She wanted to know if I was noticing results from adding physique work to the WODs since it had been a year. My answer was ‘yes.’ But I think I’ll always err on the side of caution when it comes to increasing weight for lifts. I simply want to stay away from injury for as long as possible. Who doesn’t? 

Our short chat resulted in a couple of slight alterations to my physique work. I’ve already started to notice that my mindset has changed from the adjustments. It should be interesting to see how it will go. 

Baby steps but definitely encouraging steps. 

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.