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.

Glutton for punishment

Woke up yesterday morning feeling achy and sore.

Fortunately, I didn’t feel like I had been hit by a Mack truck. If I had, then it would have been a sign that I had overdone it.

What the hell did I do the day before? Well, I tried out a CrossFit bootcamp class for the first time ever. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Actually, that would be incorrect for me to say that. I had been doing some research and I have a couple of friends who are doing CrossFit via classes or a personal trainer. And I finally got around to trying it out. Granted, it wasn’t an actual CrossFit class but bootcamp certainly gave me a taste of things to come when I’m ready to participate in a CrossFit class.

The intensity of the Saturday morning workout wasn’t exactly geared towards a newbie like me. But according to some of my new workout buddies and Mandy, the instructor, I held my own with them. Whew. I’m glad I didn’t get into over my head.

There were a few things I hadn’t done since junior high school (that would be grade 7-9 for those who are more familiar with the ‘middle school’ reference) or had no prior experience in executing it.

For example, the 400m run. The last time I ran 400m was at my junior high track and field day event at school. I totally suck at running/jogging. In fact, I really don’t like running for the pure joy of running. I have never been able to get the adrenaline rush from hoofing it around a track. I suppose I should be comfortable with running. You never know when you have to outrun a black bear or a ugly mob of zombies.

The first 200m was fine for me. After that, it slowly went downhill for me. Covered the next 150m before I let myself walk. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t so bad and it would only get better over time. Goal: run an easy 400m. Let’s be honest. I’m not trying to run a marathon. I don’t even want to think about running 800m because I know I’ll eventually have to run that distance. Baby steps, right?

Next… burpees. Prior to Saturday morning, I had only seen them executed on YouTube and in illustrations. I know, you’re wondering how the hell did I manage to not try a burpee or two at this point in my life. You tell me I haven’t lived unless I’ve done a burpee. However, in the class before bootcamp class, the participants were working on their technique to do Turkish get-ups. That looked really interesting to me. I’m willing to bet you haven’t lived until you done Turkish get-ups. Deceivingly simple-looking, but oh so challenging. I must be a masochist because I’m looking forward to trying that exercise with great delight.

Here’s something else I’ve never done — lateral hurdle jumps. If there was any doubt I wasn’t meant to move like Tigger the tiger, all doubts were put to rest with the lateral hurdle jumps. I modified the move so I could I just keep moving. As of right now, I do not bounce. I don’t know how to bounce. But I’m pretty sure I’ll bounce like Tigger somewhere down the road.

All the other movements were pretty straightforward, so there weren’t any issues in performing them. Having lived through it and having talked with the facility owners and Mandy, I’ve decided to attend the facility’s on-ramp program which starts in a couple of weeks. An on-ramp program prepares men and women to participate in a CrossFit workout. The program goes over techniques, skill development and the basic movements needed to do a CrossFit workout safely and successfully. I am oddly excited about doing this.

A friend told me it is addictive and fun. I’m curious to see if I agree with him. I have simple goals going into this. If I can reach those goals, I’ll be very happy. Doing CrossFit can only enhance my yoga practice and my flamenco dance studies. I’m looking forward to reaping the benefits.