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. 

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.

Goals and a bit of crazy

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals – Henry David Thoreau

I was born a goal setter. Although, I’m pretty good at flying by the seat of my pants when necessary. Depending on the situation, flying by the seat of my pants is preferable. But being a goal setter got me through a lot shit in my life. It also helped me sort through the good stuff that has come my way, too.

With regards to celebrating the achievement of my goals, I never leaned towards expressing my excitement by screaming and jumping up and down for joy. I always acknowledged my milestones in a matter-of-fact attitude and celebrated by getting on with it.

For example, when my beloved Chaplin came into my life, all my horsey friends were so excited and giddy with happiness over the fact I found my equine partner. I didn’t share in their effusive and excitable energy. I just smiled, accepted their congratulations and headed straight to the barn and spent that energy working with my boy. That’s how I celebrated that milestone. By getting down to business. My tendency to be level-headed in the face of pretty awesome personal milestones has unfailingly baffled some, if not most of my friends. Relatives, too.

But I will concede that I did jump up and down and yelled “Hell ya” when I hit my PRs during the CrossFit Games Open. Maybe I’m finally starting to let my inner child come out.

While the past couple of years have given me some great milestones in the forms of an art exhibit with two great artists who happen to be great friends and my first fiction novel, this year is shaping up to provide (and has provided) me with some interesting milestones and goals to work on this year.

The first and most obvious milestone was participating in the CrossFit Games Open. Honestly, if someone told me five years ago that I would be doing CrossFit and competing in the Games, I would have told that person he had smoked some bad weed and to go stuff his face with nachos. The idea would have been preposterous. Never saw myself in that light.

Yet, here I am, having completed my first Games, thinking about physical fitness, making it a part of my life and having goals.

This year, one of those goals will be running.

As I’ve mentioned in the last blog post, I’ve never been athletically adept. I never understood the appeal of running. I never understood the people who love running. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t relate to it. Some of the CrossFit WODs I’ve read and seen, include running a particular distance. 200m. 400m. Or 800m. I see the word ‘run’ and I cringe. I cringe because I remember in elementary phys-ed. class, I was always chosen last to be on a relay team. That’s because I wasn’t born with the speed of a gazelle. It didn’t get much better in high school, so I stayed away from anything remotely dealing with running.

Now, I’ll be signing up for 10-week running clinic which will start in June. My goal is to learn to run and to like running. I’m stopping short of saying my goal is to love running. I think that would be jumping the gun. But I want to chip away at the negative mindset that has dominated my thinking for most of my life with regards to running. I can’t (although I can and have done so) avoid the WODs that include running as one of its components. Nor should I avoid it. I’m going to learn to run because I don’t want to avoid doing a WOD because it has running in it. I don’t want to cringe at the thought of running. Aside from learning to run and learning to enjoy running, my concrete goal would be to eventually do a 5km run. Anything beyond a 5km run is not up for discussion. Nothing about me screams marathon. But then I never thought I would do CrossFit either. I guess the possibilities are there.

Yeah, it would be great if I discovered I actually enjoyed running. That would be a hell of a bonus on top of my milestone/goal. But I see the bigger picture and I need to take baby steps.

Fortunately, some of my fellow CrossFitters incorporate running into their training or are runners, so I’ll be picking their brains if need be. Plus I have a co-worker who ran in the Boston Marathon twice. Can’t remember if he did it two years in a row or if he skipped a year. Anyway, he will be a fountain of knowledge once I get started. He’s aware of my running goals and is quite amused/impressed that I’m daring to venture down this particular road. I’m still looking at this with trepidation. But I think the closer to the start of the clinic, the more I’ll be looking forward to seeing what running can do for me and how it can add to my CrossFit training.

As long as I can avoid or minimize training injuries, the running and CrossFit goals will keep me plenty busy this year.

As for non-fitness goals, I’ve finally carved out some time to start writing again. I’m not starting on the next novel since it’s still in the research stage where I’m waiting for information to come back to me. Sigh. Nothing like being put into a holding pattern. So, I’ve decided to leave that where it is and just start writing.

Since music was a huge part of the writing process for The Raven Sonata, it is part of the process again. UK singer Clare Maguire’s Don’t Mess Me Around and Boomerang are the impetus for a scene I’m working on right now. Will it fit into the next novel or will it become something else? Don’t know. Too soon to tell. I’m just trying to have a little fun with the scene. Write what’s popping into my head and figure it out later.

Have a little fun because you never know what kind of crazy adventure you might conjure up.

And I’m all for crazy.