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.

Management is key

This past week, a friend of mine wanted to know how I did in my first 5K run event. He’s the one who ran in the Boston Marathon twice. So, I told him how it went, my thoughts on the whole process leading up to the race and what I thought I needed to do to get ready for the next 5K run in October. Then we commiserated over training injuries.

After that, he welcomed me to the world of running and all the ups and downs that come with it. Gee, thanks.

Then, a couple of days ago, at the CrossFit box where I workout, I bumped into a friend and fellow CrossFitter who I hadn’t seen since late spring (I think). We usually cross paths about once a week but when summer rolls around, it’s hit-and-miss. It was great seeing him again.

He filled me in on what he and his lovely wife were up to. I informed him of my running endeavors and he was very pleased with what I had done so far. Again, the topic of training injuries was discussed. Nothing like talking about ‘battle scars.’ You would think we were warriors, of some sort, if you heard the way we talked about injuries.

When it comes to sports, injuries are to be expected, be it bruises, scraps, sprains, hyper-extensions, dislocations, etc. It’s impossible to be physically active and not have some sort of injury (no matter the severity) to show for it.

I suppose you have to be somewhat of a glutton for punishment to willfully do some of things I’ve engaged in this year. Becoming physically active and fit isn’t easy. Aside from the physical challenges, it also challenges you mentally. And that can be the biggest obstacle on the road to becoming healthier and stronger. There will be moments where the idea of quitting will be very enticing. But you can’t give in to that. There is the bigger picture to consider. Your health and well-being.

Since I decided to make a more concerted effort to becoming a more physically fit version of me, it was clear that management is key

Time management, risk management and pain management. All three are in play no matter what the physical activity is.

It was play in everything I did, and do now. Time management has always been the easiest for me to deal with. Making time for something. Sure, making time can be tricky but if you want to make time badly enough, you will find the time.

Of course, when you throw in risk and pain management, life gets interesting. In this context, risk management is when, where and how you’ll push yourself in your chosen physical activity. Making a calculated risk. And sometimes that calculated risk can lead to pain management.

Some of my calculated risks have paid off in personal bests. Other mis-calculations have had me alternating ice and heat packs for unduly stressed muscles and joints and making visits to the physiotherapist. Naturally, the older you are, the longer it takes to heal. Oh, the joys of growing older.

This certainly tries one’s patience. Believe me, I’ve been tested enough times. It can be frustrating and maddening. But this is where you have to listen to your body. It will tell you what it can or isn’t quite ready to do. And believe me, I listen.

With the most recent injury, I had to scaled back the running to once a week instead of the three a week I had been doing pre-injury. Oddly enough, the injury hasn’t been much of an issue when I do crossfit. I gather it has something to do with what muscles are involved in the different sports and how they’re utilized.

Last week, I added a second run and it went pretty smoothly. Maybe, I’ll get back to running three times a week in a couple of weeks. Crossing my fingers and hoping.

It’s always tricky trying to figure out how to stay active while allowing an injury to heal at the same time. Risk management coming into play again. I can’t imagine doing absolutely nothing. That would drive me crazy. Honestly, I don’t think being completely sedentary is all that good for anyone or for the body.

So, here I am doing the management thing. Figuring it out and biding my time.

Two kinds of running

The Canadian federal election campaign has begun. Eleven long weeks before we can cast our vote. Yikes. I’m not sure what to make of this. I thought six weeks for a federal election campaign was long enough. Now, you tack on an extra five weeks and I think I’m going to go bananas come Week Seven.

But I had a surprise a couple of weeks earlier when a supporter for Conservative MP Joyce Bateman knocked on my door to let me know that the riding boundaries had been re-drawn and my neighbours and I were now part of Winnipeg South-Centre. Goodbye Winnipeg South. I’m pretty sure the reaction on my face to the news was mildly amusing but not unexpected to the Bateman supporter. He offered me some material on Bateman’s mandate to peruse at my leisure. I politely shooed him away after he handed me the paperwork.

Great. New riding. I wonder if the other candidates will come knocking on my door. They have 11 weeks to get to me and convince me to give them my vote. Good luck with that.

Never been much of a political nerd. I suppose it should be interesting to witness the rollercoaster rides the party leaders will probably experience over the course of the campaign.

Based on current polls, any one of the three major political parties could end up being top dog on Oct. 19. Finally, an interesting horse race.

There are some things I am curious to see.

I think the election is Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s to lose if he doesn’t play his cards right. I’ve never been a Harper supporter so I would be happy to see him leave.

New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair has to build on what the late Jack Layton started in the last election when the NDP became the official Opposition in the House of Commons. Mulcair doesn’t have the charisma Layton had, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can push the NDP into the role of governing party.

This will be Justin Trudeau’s first election campaign as Liberal leader. The learning curve could be pretty steep since he has to step up and prove himself as someone who can capture the Canadian voters’ imagination and run a country. I don’t see him as Prime Minister of the country just yet. But I think he will win more seats in this election. I think he has the most to gain from this campaign.

The return of Gilles Duceppe as leader of the Bloc Québécois might not be enough to bring that party back to any level of significance in the political landscape after Oct. 19.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May may be in the same boat as Duceppe but you have to respect her passion and commitment in her political beliefs. She’ll probably win her seat again.

Aside from the ‘fun’ that federal election campaigns bring, I’m thinking about the Hope Classic 5km run this Saturday.

I’m still in the process of healing from the injury I sustained about three weeks ago when I was running with the Learn to Run group. Good days and rough days. My body is still processing. Sometimes I wish I was 20 years younger so I can bounce back more quickly.

It seems clear that when you get older, to compensate for the fact you really don’t bounce back from an injury like you did when you were in your 20’s (or even in your 30’s), you need to recover smarter. It really is the only option.

So that’s what I’m trying to do. After six days off from running, I’ll be back at it this evening with my running group. By the time I put my head on the pillow tonight, I’ll know what I should do for the rest of the week in order to feel good and ready for Saturday.

Will I be nervous? Probably. I’ll be nervous not because I want to have a respectable time when I finish the run. I’ll be nervous because I want a pain-free run. I want to have enough gas to cross the finish line. And I want to be smart about this.

That’s all I can do. That’s all I can hope for.