Sunday, April 28, 2013

Break it Down

I like the idea here about "grooving a habit so that you reflexively respond in the correct manner" ...

Exercise is like music!  When I was child learning piano, you would break it right down.  Take a couple of bars ... left hand ... right hand ... hands together.  Sometimes ... you would go over and over a specific fingering.  It did not always feel comfortable but once you got the groove of it, it would just flow!

Earlier this year I attended a functional fitness workshop as part of an educational conference.  The guy taking it gave me a lightbulb moment!  He said for years, we have taught children PE by teaching some skills and expecting them to go for it.  I used the analogy of music.  He used the analogy of writing.  First we teach children their phonics ... they make words ... then they make sentences ... then they put those together and do paragraphs.  Often in PE, we ask children to jump straight into paragraphs instead of helping them make words and sentences.  Wow.  Yes.  That was my experience too ... and as an uncoordinated child ... it wasn't a positive experience, I couldn't get it.

Yesterday I was working with my coach and this is what we did.  We took the movement of a push jerk and broke it right down.  We spent a lot of time just working on dropping into position with hips back.  Once I got that (and it took a bit) ... we added driving hips through and extending ... coming up onto toes and then once we had that ... we added dropping back down with feet jumping out.  Words ... sentences ... paragraph.  Back to the basics.  What do you need to work on?  Break it down and build it back up.  You won't regret it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable!

The other week, part of my workout involved several rounds of rowing sprints - rowing hard, then kicking up into a handstand.  I had less than two minutes for each of the rowing segments ... whatever the seconds marked off after the first minute were, was the amount of time I had to hold the handstand.  So if my row took 1.52, then I would need to hold the handstand 52 seconds.  As part of the workout, I had 30 seconds to get myself up into the handstand from the time I got off the rower.  A month or so back, I would probably need the 30 seconds to either (A) get over the mental fear of committing hands to ground or (B) I would need multiple tries to get up.  After a stern talking to myself (which went something along the lines of, "stop thinking about it ... hands flat, foot to the wall and commit ..." I kicked every one of my handstands first time.  Holding in position has never been the issue ... just getting there.  I took 30 seconds  I had, to get my breath back under control.

At the end of that session, my coach had a talk with me about the need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.  His point was that I just need to transition to the next thing, even when it is not physically comfortable for me.

This brings me to the subject of comfort zones.  Our best growth occurs when we push outside of them.  Sometimes it is a mental comfort zone (such as me overcoming my fear of crashing down and injuring myself) and sometimes it is physical ... where we think we can't do another thing because we are sucking air!  If we keep pushing through ... one thought ... one choice ... one rep ... one step at a time, we will win the moment and win the day!

Sometimes, we need those people in our lives who keep pushing us when we think we have stretched as far as we can.  Commit to the stretch and get comfortable with discomfort!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Much Longer?

Recently, I have had several friends ask how much longer will I be exercising 5 times a week.  That question has also been asked as, "what weight will be enough?"

It's not about the weight and hasn't been about the weight for a long time (do I still need to lose some ... yes I do ... ).  Weight is the thing that people focus on because it is the physical manifestation of this journey I have been on.

I sat with a friend the other week trying to explain what it is that keeps me going.  I said that I love the challenges ... Can I do a handstand?  Yes (I still have to take a breath and slap my mind around it but am becoming less fearful)!  Can I do a handstand pushup?  Not yet but I am determined that I will!  Can I do an unassisted pullup?  Not yet, but I have graduated from a black band to a green one!  Can I get out of the hole when squatting with weight?  Not very well yet ... but I am working on it.  Most of all, I love overcoming fear and doing something that I was afraid of.  The joy of the journey is in the little successes along the way, and like life, we never arrive.  

As the "unsporty" kid, I never dreamed as an adult I would find exercise enjoyable.  And never in a million years did I realise the connections between the mental and the physical.  When work is stressful, it really helps to go and push some weight around.  When I am tired and cranky, it often helps to work out.  My body feels more in balance and my mind is being stretched and changed.  How much longer?  Hopefully, for life!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What I Learnt From The Crossfit Open

My training buddy Jenny and I

So ... the Crossfit Open is over for another year.  A year ago I would never have imagined I would participate, let alone get 3 scores on the board.  My coach and workout buddy talked me into participating this year and I am glad they did.  Here is what I am taking away from the the 2013 games.

It's All About Participation
Really, to be part of a global community all participating in the same thing is something quite amazing.  This year 138,000 people around the world registered to compete.

Benchmarks Are Great Things To Have
When I said that I would do the games, I honestly expected to do all the workouts in a scaled form as I am so new to Crossfit and still have not mastered many of the skills.  I never dreamed that I could do any of the workouts RX.  My little scores (way WAY down on the leaderboard) were pretty much personal bests for me.  I pb'd burpees ... I pd'd snatching (heck I learnt the basics of snatching 2 weeks before 13.1) and I pb'd  my overhead split jerk.  I got 75lbs up for the first time three days before 13.2 and to do that workout and get it up 15 times (although one was a no rep because I forgot to bring my feet together under it - darn it!) was a really incredible thing for me.

Best of all, I have a good sense of where I am at on many of the movements - as well as where I am not!  When I made the decision not to do 13.4, I felt like I made that out of a place of strength rather than a place of fear.  Previously, I didn't want to do workouts because I was afraid.  This time, I was able to look at it and know that I was likely to injure myself trying and the smart thing to do would be to do a scaled workout and then go cheer my training buddy on!

Having a good sense of where I am now, makes me clearer about where I would like to be in a years time.  For example, I would like to be able to do toes to bar.  I would like to be able to do handstand pushups.  I would like to be able to clean and jerk 95lbs.  And ... if I can sort my stinky archilles out, I would like double unders!

Warming Up for 13.2

Increased Confidence
Having a better sense of what I can and can't do, has given me more confidence.  For example, when training the other night I had some sets of burpees to do.  I was trying to keep my pace on the workout high (and since I was sucking air at the end of each round, I think I did!).  When I hit the burpees I remember that I just kept hurling myself to the floor and getting up, to immediately hurl myself back to the floor.  At one point going through my brain was the thought that not so long ago I struggled to get down and kick my legs out and back, let alone get up again.  However, after doing 13.1, I was like ... Burpees ... I got these!

Form is Everything
One of the great things about the games is that every workout is judged, so you must maintain good form.  I learnt how costly a no-rep is in 13.2 when split jerking my 75lbs overhead.  This was an incredibly hard weight for me and it took EVERYTHING I had.  The deadlifts were super easy and I was managing the box step-ups fine too.  By forgetting to bring my feet together under my weight when it was up, I no-repped that effort.  It was the difference between the 4th and 5th in the set.  If I had my feet together, I would have been able to go straight onto deadlifts and box stepups, had a small rest from the jerks and probably got another 25 - 28 on my score.  Instead, because of that huge effort and a small failure in form, I wasted the energy and spent nearly two minutes trying to get ONE more rep over my head.  That one rep cost me a LOT.

Bumper Plates Are A Gift
Because I often train in our weight room and we do not have bumper plates, I cannot drop the weights when pushing hard.  This also means I don't push as hard on heavier weight, because bringing it down is hard work too.  When I was doing 13.2 at the box, I seriously messed up my shoulders (they were black and blue for two weeks after the workout) by not dropping the bar and not having the strength to bring it down tightly controlled!  I learnt quickly ... when you have bumpers, drop the weight.  SO much easier and you save a lot of energy. Seriously, bumper plates rock - drop the weight people!

Never Underestimate the Power of Encouragement
This is what I love about the crossfit community.  People cheer and encourage others.  It's not only about the hero athletes ... the elite ones ... its about Joe Normal - you and I, those ones that just get in there and give it everything they have.  I love that people are thrilled for people's achievements, no matter where they are at!  Everyone has been there at some point.  I was inspired watching others workout and being able to cheer them on.  It's thrilling to watch someone do their best and give it their all ... even when they are new like me and struggling, to see them persevere and push through is powerful!

A New Definition of Athlete
My training buddy and I thought it would be fun to get a tshirt for the open and surprise our coach wearing them to one of the open workouts.  One night at training, my buddy was wearing her shirt.  My coach looked at me and asked if I had worn mine yet.  My response, "nope".  When he asked why not, I responded that I had a problem with it.  When asked what the problem was, I said, "the word ATHLETE".  And I did have a problem with that word, because it conjured up someone physically amazing (which I am not).  My training buddy (who happens to be a very good athlete) and I had a chat about athlete and she redefined it.  In our conversation, she mentioned that people often think of athlete only in terms on the "doing" or achievements - and how well you do defines whether you are an athlete.  We talked about the qualities of an athlete - not the doing, so much as a state of being ... dedicated ... consistent ... courageous ... willing to push beyond ... try again and again ... and not accept failure and defeat.  When I thought of an athlete in those terms, I find myself starting to believe that maybe, I am becoming an athlete after all.

Am I thankful I registered?  Heck yeah ... Bring on 2014  :)