Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category


It’s like this.

This is the Tune Belt I use. Love it, but read the post for the warning!

Quick version: I’m an idiot.1

Longer version: I was in Tampa visiting my mother and went to her condo’s well appointed workout room, including industrial strength treadmills. No one there but me. View out the window of the pool and a very pretty tree2. I’ve got my Tune Belt on my arm, my earbuds in and my exercise mix playing with the volume turned up to the point just before it inflicts pain.

Now my treadmill in my home is nice, but it wouldn’t stand up to constant running and has a very laid back traction surface, one that doesn’t seem to be all that interested in doing its job. It also is a little narrower than the bad boy I was using that oh-so-fateful day. So if I do stupid stuff on my home treadmill, I usually brush some portion of the side of my body against the arms and can correct.

This kind of rasp. One for horse hooves.

This monster treadmill I was using was great — like getting to drive an old car with far more cylinders than you’re used to. “This is bad ass,” I thought, perhaps not consciously, but I was pretty pleased with myself. I’d been consistent with my exercise routine during this entire visit. And now I’m working out in what would be my fantasy home gym, all by myself.

What I didn’t take note of was that the embrace of this bad boy was several inches wider than the one I had at home, and the tread on the sucker looked like a rasp. If treadmills had bouncers, this treadmill would have its arms crossed outside the trendiest treadmill bar in town.

And then the fateful moment occurred: “ABC” came up on my mix.3

Maybe it’s because the Jackson Five’s tune hit the top of the charts in 1970. I was nine. When we got back to the states4, one of the last cartoons I gave up was the Jackson 5ive5, and it was the theme song.  For those of you who didn’t know Michael Jackson was born a poor black child, here is a video from back in the day, purportedly from the Ed Sullivan Show:

Whatever the deal is, I cannot seem to keep from dancing (badly) whenever that song comes on. It goes from audio processing in the brain straight to the movement center without consulting the part of my brain that says, “Whoa, fella, slow down.” So I started dancing within the wide arms of the treadmill and caught some part of my foot on the non-moving portion of the dance floor, sending me to my knees.

Mostly my left knee. The bad one. It’s probably a good thing I had on my yoga pants; even so, I ended up scraped by the bite the treadmill’s surface gave me, holding me down a few seconds while I processed what had happened and how the hell to get my knee detached from rotating blades6.

It didn’t bother me all that much at first; I iced it and by the next day had a big C-shaped bruise circling my knee. Bruise? No big. But when I went to see Stephanie, queen of the physical therapists, she said it was a lot looser than it had been and that I may have sprained my ACL. It’s not gotten much better since I saw her a couple of weeks ago and I’m guessing she’s going to tell me to get it evaluated by the doc when I see her next week.

I’ve been through a scaled down grief cycle and am back at acceptance. Every setback makes you want to throw up your hands and say “Why bother?” But not doing it means there’s no chance; you can’t win if you don’t play. So after enough of a pity party, and a couple of workouts I cried through, I’m back on the upswing, even though icing my knee is the order of the day and I’m going to have to rebuild it.

Too bad you can’t order bionic parts off Amazon.

1. If you’re familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, think a zero for bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
2. Think it was an oak, but my knowledge of Gulf Coast Florida’s flora is limited.
3. Just finding it on YouTube has me dancing at the keyboard.
4. I’m a military brat. Our family lived in Japan at that time.
5. It was cancelled about the same time I gave up Saturday Morning Cartoons. Yes, boys and girls, there was a day when cartoons were restricted to just after school and Saturday mornings.
6. Shocked by the exaggeration? I’m from Texas;  hyperbole is practically mandatory.
 
 

 


Crystal Mayhue, a 35-year-old massage therapist and SAHM (Stay-at-Home-Mom), balancing her part-time business with raising two young sons and  hanging out with her husband as well as CrossFitting, contacted me about her CrossFit experience. I loved what she had to say, and want to pass it along to you.  Crystal, you now have the floor (or screen…whatever):

From Crystal’s Pinterest board

I started CrossFit recently and I am so addicted. I refer to myself as “Chunky Girl Works Out.”

I started referring to myself as “chunky” after my first pregnancy. I’d developed a serious B12 deficiency which triggered a case of RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) of epic proportions. The baby came and the RLS never went away. Baby number two was also a fan of B12. Lets just say RLS is here to stay.

As a result, I am constantly sleep-deprived which has resulted in weight gain. I would never have called myself an athelete, but I spent years weight training and doing cardio. As long as I kept an eye on what I ate and made sure I was physically active, my curvaceous body was kept in check. The minute the RLS hit and sleep was something I could not accomplish, the curves turned to “CHUNK”! I even have a Pinterest board (http://pinterest.com/massagemomma/chunky-girl-works-out) named for it.

I waited two years to get into CrossFit for many reasons. I found out about CrossFit by way of Facebook, of course. I had reconnected to an old high school friend and she was always talking about going to “CrossFit.” I asked her about it.

I have what I lovingly refer to as “Exercise A.D.D”. I get bored so easily. I find running boring so I started doing mud runs like the Warrior Dash and the Merrell Down & Dirty. I got bored weight training on my own so I started taking BodyPump.

So, when my friend tried her best to explain the beast that is CrossFit, I was very intrigued. I turned to Google to find out more. Thirty minutes into my research I knew that sooner or later I was going to start CrossFit! The idea that it was mix of cardio and weight training and could happen indoor or outdoor and then you throw in kettle bells and a garage type atmosphere … I was in Exercise A.D.D heaven!!

One of the reasons for delaying my first CrossFit experience was “Super Fit Girls + Super Ripped Guys= WTF stares at Chunky Girl Works Out.” I had the itch to try it so bad I even had thoughts of setting up a backyard CrossFit.

I turned to my dear friend Google and his girlfriend Pinterest to see what it would take to create a “box” in my own backyard. I found I could do it on the cheap. But, honestly, I still didn’t totally grasp the whole of what CrossFit was and felt like I needed more instruction. And, quite frankly, I run a house and family and I am constantly in charge and making decisions. Sometimes I just want someone to tell me what to do and how to do it so I don’t have to think about it. I know, sounds lazy. But I’m a Mom, a wife, and I have a part-time Massage Therapy business. I don’t want to have to come up with my own workouts. I want someone to tell me what to do for once.

I have two boys. Very. Busy. Boys! My oldest will be seven in November and is in the first grade. My youngest is four and now attends all day PreK at the same elementary school as my oldest. I was overwhelmed at what the heck I was going to do all day. The idea that my baby was going to start school totally knocked me down. I knew that I was going to have to find something to do that would excite me or I was going down for the count.

We are a “traditional” family, I guess you could say. My husband works and I, for the most part, stay at home with my kiddos. The idea that I was no longer going to have my little buddy to take care of all day still brings me to tears. So, I set my sights on CrossFit. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to see if it was as awesome as I had made it out in my mind to be.

So, I found a CrossFit box and signed up.

Finding a CrossFit box in my area wasn’t easy. When I first looked into CrossFit, there was nothing close to me. One day, I happened to be talking to a nurse in my doctors office  and she mentioned she did CrossFit. She raved about her box. She said the coaches were awesome and the members were like family and that she was in the best shape of her life. So, I went to the official CrossFit website and looked it up. Two CF boxes had opened in a somewhat close proximity to my home.  I only visited one of them. My nurse was so passionate in talking about her CF box, CrossFit of Locust Grove (Georgia), that I never doubted that it was the one for me. When I met the owner, Todd Springer, I was impressed with how he continually talked about CFLG being a family.

I started on a Monday morning. There were about twelve people in the class. There were men and women ranging in age from early twenties to late forties in a spectrum of fitness levels.

The first day I almost puked because I knew these people were going to die when they saw Chunky Butt walk in. But, you know. I have never met people more eager to help and guide and cheer a person on. I have belonged to many gyms…Gold’s, local athletic clubs, YMCA…. never have I ever had people so willing to help me catch on and want me to succeed.

The first person to speak to me, other than Todd the owner/coach, was a very fit, thirty-something woman. During each part of the WOD she made sure I knew where the equipment was, showed me what to do, and gave me encouragement. I was shocked. I tell you, I spent hours at my local Y before anyone ever even spoke a word to me. But, during a WOD that consisted of way too many push ups and box jumps, I had people that I had only laid eyes on that day telling me not to stop, to push through and that I could indeed finish the last round.

Since that first day I have attended morning, afternoon and evening classes. Each person I come in contact has been as helpful as the first. We have a Facebook group for members. People are always posting about getting together to go to events, or telling another member how great they did during the day’s WOD or just posting life stuff. They are family. We are family.

I have been apart of CrossFit of Locust Grove for two months. And, when my Dad was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, the outpouring of understanding and compassion from my CrossFit family rivaled that of my church family. Sometimes when you are mad at the world and feel like you have no control over anything—you just need to drag a tire across pavement, do a hundred burpees and seventy-five squat jumps and then hear someone tell you just how beastly you are because you finished.

CrossFitters, for the most part, really seem to have a passion for athleticism and really want for others to feel the same euphoria they do when finished with a WOD.  But, believe me, I know the fear of walking into a crowd of super fits….YIKES!!…..but I strongly urge everyone that is curious about CrossFit to visit their local box. The outpouring of support and  camaraderie that you get being apart of a CrossFit family far out weighs the nervousness you feel when walking into your first CrossFit class.

You can contact Crystal Mayhue by email at massage_momma (at) att (dot) net.


 

It’s often said that information is power. But in our everyday lives, information is more likely to be a source of pain and

private school punks

Private school punks, keeping it secret? (Photo credit: pugetive)

conflict than of power. I’ve been thinking over the distinctions, so please indulge me in some hair-splitting.

Confidence: Someone else’s private information shared with you for you to help them.

Secret: Your private information that you don’t share with either someone who can help or someone directly affected by the information.

Gossip: Spreading private information to increase your image of “being in the know” or to damage others. In some Christian circles, it often wears the label of prayer request (seen this happen too much to be able to let it go).

Private information: Information that a reasonable person would not share with acquaintances or strangers, such as the pin number for your debit card, hemorrhoids,  or your sex life (unless, of course, you’re an adolescent male — it’s my understanding that in some cultures, it’s almost mandatory, although often fictitious). Broadly, you could characterize these as financial, health, relationships and other random embarrassing facts. Or, more succinctly, any information that could damage your finances, relationships or reputation if shared with the wrong people.  Once it’s in the news or you’ve made the mistake of posting it online, it gets harder to say it’s still private.

Keeping confidences is healthy. Keeping secrets is not. Gossip is destructive. Having healthy boundaries about with whom you share which confidences is wisdom.

It’s fairly easy to figure out which is which by asking yourself the following questions:

Am I dying to share this information? It’s probably a juicy confidence and, particularly if you learn of it in the course of helping someone, you should not share it.

Do I think I might die (literally or figuratively) if someone in particular or people in general found out this information? Then it’s probably a secret, and keeping these kinds of secrets can destroy you or others involved. The first presentation I ever went to about incest referred to it as “the family secret.” and I’m sad to say that my experience in working with victims of sexual abuse, particularly incest, it’s often true that everyone in the household knows, but they don’t want to speak it, as if saying it makes it more real. Find someone you can trust to keep your private information safe and tell them.

Sometimes the “secret” is innocuous to most people, but the insistence on keeping it secret gives it disproportionate power. One of the Big Secrets in my family was that my grandmother was older than my grandfather. I still don’t see what the big deal was, but they didn’t want anyone to know. In this case, the secret was transformed from private information into a secret because of the power conferred upon it.

Does sharing the information provide help to the person whose information it is? If not, then it’s probably gossip, particularly if it’s something that would damage the reputation or standing of the person in the shared community. If it’s private information that was given to you as a confidence, stand on your tongue before sharing it with anyone without the individual’s permission.

EXCEPTION: If the example can be used to help others and can be described without giving any information that could identify the person to whom it applies, then it may not be gossip. My main experience of this is in the context of legal education; often explaining a situation helps clarify the problem.

If you’re asking why this is showing up in a blog mostly dedicated to fitness, motivation and CrossFit, you’re not alone. I’m not entirely sure why I’m including it here. I can come up with a justification (perhaps that people sometimes are emotional or become emotional working out and so you may learn information you should keep confidential). But, if I’m honest, it’s because it’s been on my mind, it’s important in all walks of life, and I felt compelled to write it … and it wouldn’t fit in a Facebook post.

 


Today I’m turning over the blog to Rick Martinez of Transition Possible. As the daughter of an Air Force fighter pilot, the niece of an Army Ranger and Green Beret, the cousin of an Iraqi War vet from the Coast Guard, and the mother of an EOD tech, living in a world populated with active-duty servicemembers, reservists, retirees, veterans and their dependents, I know too many individuals and families who bear a heavier burden than the average American for the various armed conflicts our country has been involved in. No matter how you feel about the politics behind the conflicts, the intrinsic honor and sacrifice of our servicemembers are not diminished nor tarnished by performing their duties. 

My name is Rick Martinez and my mission is Transition Possible. I am a retired Army nurse, an entrepreneur, the head vision-keeper of the Fitness Porvida movement, the owner of two CrossFit gyms and the founder of an organization that allows us to support and celebrate our nation’s heroes. It’s my moral obligation and I believe it is one that we all have.

Picture from Transition Possible

The parents of SPC Tracy Willis, who was killed in action in 2007 in Afghanistan. Transition Possible held a fundraiser in Willis’s honor and named the WOD “Tracy. “(Photo Credit: Transition Possible)

Transition Possible’s mission is four-fold:

  •  To positively impact the lives of our nation’s heroes
  • To encourage them to continue living and achieving through sport and functional athletics
  • To show the world that the warrior spirit can thrive no matter the circumstance
  • To bridge the gap between wounded heroes and citizens

As I post this, we are one day away from the launch of the world’s first non-profit whose vision is to create mentorship and leadership programs through which wounded heroes and adaptive athletes can find a new path or career in the world of sport. Think entrepreneurial boot camp for heroes.

On Saturday, October 6, 2012, in San Antonio, Texas, we will host the Warrior Summit II, which will bring together the nation’s best coaches, U.S. Paralympians and adaptive athletes to prove that CrossFit can be for everyone. In the evening, we will be hosting a special fundraiser (tickets available here) with keynote speaker Kyle Maynard — an ESPY-award winning athlete and one of the most motivational individuals in this world. “An Evening with Heroes” will celebrate adaptive sport and our nation’s heroes and will raise funds to support Transition Possible.

Why does this vision, this launch and this cause matter?

Let me share Mike’s story:

How a daisy-chain IED is set up. (Photo credit: GlobalSecurity.org)

Mike Gallardo is a Tribe Member and he is an amputee. His dream was to become an elite trooper, “Delta Force,” he says, to serve his country. The events of February 7, 2008 had a different path for Mike. That’s when his platoon was hit by a daisy-chain IED. That’s when he, for lack of better words, became broken.

Folks, that’s when Mike’s hopes and dreams were radically changed because he made the choice to serve. To protect us. Mike came to us some time ago, buy us I mean Fitness Porvida, and it was evident that though broken physically, mentally he was not bowed. He attacked the program and embraced CrossFit as a means to a new end. The Tribe was his new platoon.

Mike Gallardo at work … or play? (Photo Credit: Transition Possible)

The WODs were his new mission.

But where does it go?

How does that fulfill a destiny?

Even more, how does that offer a life of fulfillment where a man can support a family, start a career and be a productive citizen?

Mike was integrated into the Tribe (as we call it at Fitness Porvida), accepted as a regular Joe and soon he started a 90-day internship pilot program to test the efficacy of making a coach/trainer a viable career option.
Here are his words:

The internship helped me in many ways people can’t see. It has helped with my PTSD because I did not like to be around lots of people. The Tribe made me feel at home and that I can trust people once again. It helped with my TBI because before I could barely remember my own birthday, now I can remember over 50-100 members names. It also helped me be a little more organized because I have to plan my day and keep a daily planner for my tasks.

WOW!

Soon after, Mike was offered employment as a coach at Fitness Porvida. He’s one of the finest coaches
we have EVER had. In his words,

Fitness Porvida has been very helpful because they have set me up for success. They helped me make goals for myself and accomplish them ahead of time. They helped me become a good coach, but they still are in contact with me to make me a great coach. Not only did they treat me with respect, they treated me as part of the family.

Now imagine doing this ten-fold, folks

Transition Possible exists to make this transition possible.

Today it’s Mike.

Tomorrow … well … tomorrow depends on you.

Be a part of making the transition possible.

~ Rick Martinez


While I live in what’s arguably the most military-oriented major metropolitan area outside of the D.C. area, nothing blew up. I had to hit the ground for internal reasons.

Over the last week my workouts have been limited by cold sweats and light-headedness. The fatigue has been bad enough that I’ve had several days when I fell asleep reading for pleasure, which almost never happens (technical or high-concentration reading is a whole ‘nother kettle). This presents a problem when you need to  keep working out as consistently as possible, but you want to, well, not die in the attempt by falling and hitting your head on hard and pointy things, like the edge of a weight stand.

My current issues were brought on by a combination of ridiculously high pollen counts, fluid behind the ears and a possible reaction to the flu and TDAP shots I got. Your causes may vary, but the solution is the same. Know your limits, but go to them.

That’s when I go to the ground: WODs built around things I can do on the floor. Here’s my list of options; please suggest any others.

The Concept 2 Model C, no longer in production.

Rowing: Up to 20 minutes; I use the rower to the right. Upside: It’s a great all around workout, and you’re sitting down, so it’s pretty easy to avoid any real problems (although I’d keep the area clear on either side if I’m particularly unbalanced). Downside: It’s a great all around workout, so you can be exhausted pretty quickly. If I get all 20 minutes in on a bad day, I feel like I did a good job.

Sit-ups: 3 x 10. Upside: Yes, they’re better at working your hip flexors than your abs, but you’re still on the ground. Downside: If you don’t have someplace to hook your feet (see our contraption, below right, attached to the garage wall), you’d do better with crunches.

Push-ups: 3 x 10. Upside: Great for those arms. Downside: If you’re overweight and/or you’ve got a disproportionate amount of fat deposited on your derriere, you need to either do “knee” push-ups or be very careful to keep your abs tight (stomach to backbone) so you don’t overload your lumbar spine. (You can also substitute planks.)

The sit-up do-hitchy welded and well-attached to our garage wall.

The following exercises were given to me as physical therapy exercises, but they are still valid as core stabilizers, and when you just need to lie down while working out, they’re better than nothing.

Theraband chest pull: 3 x 10. Grasp the theraband appropriate to your strength (probably yellow, red or blue) in each hand, extend your arms full length (you may need to adjust your grip; you’ll want the bit between your hands not to sag at all) and parallel to your chest. Pull your hands apart until they’re at your sides (you look like a “T” at this point). Usually this is done standing, but you can do it lying down.

Straight leg raises: 1 x 20 each side. This, like the preceding, were given to me as physical therapy exercises, but they are still valid as core stabilizers. Upside: My quads still find them challenging because I have a built-in weight set. Downside: None I can think of. Boring?

Hip adductor raises: 1 x 20 each side. I can’t seem to find one that matches the one I do. Lie on your side and cross the upper leg over the under so that you’ve made a triangle with your leg and the floor with your lower leg as an anchor of one corner. Raise your lower leg, keeping it in a straight line with your back as if you were standing on it. (If that torques your knee, you can use a pillow or rolled towel to prop up the top leg. You just need to get it out of the way.

Supine bridging: (It’s about 3/4 of the way down the page)1 x 20 each side. I use an 8 lb sand-filled fitness ball between my knees.

Abdominal squeeze and your friend, the hip flexor: 3 x 1 minute each. Lie on your back, pressing your lumbar into the ground, with your knees up and feet braced on the ground. Put your arms to your sides, and when you start the clock, pull your belly button into your  spine (well, try). Focus on pulling in tighter each time you exhale — but don’t hold your breath. I alternate these with each leg doing its abductor/adductor workout. You straighten out one of your legs, and then lower and lift your knee to the ground, still trying to keep your ab tight and without losing control of the leg. Don’t rush; form and control are more important. Do these for a minute per leg.

I then conclude with a bunch of stretches: gastroc, supine hamstring, supine piriformis, upper trapezoid and thoracic mobilization.

I’ve got more I can do on my back on what Gary has dubbed “the scaling machine,” but more on that in a future post.

 


Peanut Butter Cookie Batch

Peanut Butter Cookie Batch (Photo credit: Greatist): I can’t stand peanut butter, but maybe some of you crave it.

I love Greatist. I encourage anyone interested in health, fitness and weight loss to subscribe to them. No, I have no financial or personal interest in them, so feel free to take it or leave it with my blessing and no effect on my pocketbook:

  1. How to foam roll like a pro
  2. Can you be too sore to work out?
  3. 10 interval training mobile apps to download right now
  4. News: Talk to yourself to stay motivated
  5. Schedule your day to reduce stress
  6. Give in to cravings to avoid binges
  7. Ultimate guide to good posture at work
  8. Develop a routine to improve sleep
  9. Why do I eat when I’m not hungry?
  10. How to handle criticism like a pro

There seems to be a “routines” theme in my list. Maybe I’m trying to tell myself something. I’m not even touching the word “pro,” given that I’m a woman old enough to remember that as a euphemism.


The Illness/Wellness Spectrum

I’ve thought about illness to wellness spectrum (above) a lot lately. Whenever I think about it, I recall civil defendants’ attorneys describing “a preponderance of the evidence” as meaning the plaintiff has to push a boulder over the top of a peak before a jury can conclude that the plaintiff has won the case. (Plaintiffs’ attorneys, on the other hand, will start out like an Olympic diver at the top of a platform with outstretched arms, but with more clothes, and begin see-sawing to explain that the scales just need to be tipped.)

Pushing a boulder up a mountain is not a bad metaphor for getting fit when you’re already chronically ill. Or, better, climbing an icy slope with a backpack. You gotta push up that slope, and any time you lose your grip or your balance, you start sliding back down that damn mountain, with the load of the past dragging at you.

And now I think I may have found an ice axe, which you use to stick into an icy slope to make sure you don’t slide any farther. The maneuver referred to as a self-arrest. I like that term: You stop yourself before you start picking up speed on your way down. From Wikipedia:

 The longer the delay of the climber before he/she starts to put weight on the axe’s pick the longer s/he freely accelerates down the slope.

Ariel Bravy learns to self-arrest with an ice axe on St. Mary’s Glacier, Colorado.

In the past I’ve worked out and thought, gee, I feel better now, but when I stopped, I had to think about it before I realized I kind of missed it.

That’s not the case any longer. These days, at the three-day no-workout mark I start declining and find myself in increasing pain. That’s when I use the ice axe. It is something that makes me say to myself that there is no more time for delay, no excuse, and that if I don’t do something now, even if it hurts, things will just get worse.

I’m not talking about the stiffness and pain of the morning. That’s one of the reasons I hate waking up. I start out sleepy and warm, and then the fog dissipates and, like a morning glory, my pain opens to the sun. But those creaks tend to even out (or at least recede into the background) as the day goes on and I warm up.

Nor am I talking about DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), the sore you get from breaking down and rebuilding muscles. (I almost like that pain; it means I’ve done something to push myself.)

No, the pain that is the warning arrives at night when I try to go to sleep that tells me I’m starting to fall. No anti-inflammatory will make it go away. I can’t reposition my body to ease it. Ice nor heat will beat it into submission. It’s a bone-deep ache that generally affects me from the hips down. And when it happens, I either have to be so sleepy that I could fall asleep while someone was amputating my leg, or I have to get out of bed and at least stretch in order to get the pain level down to the point I can sleep.

On those nights, I wake up knowing that no matter what is hurting me, I’ve got to do *some* sort of exercise. Time for the ice axe.

I’ve crawled out of bed, ate a little something and hydrated, then exercised, and crawled back to bed, completely spent for the day. I’ve exercised with a night mask and ear plugs (on better days, inside with sunglasses) because of a migraine (and had it get worse during the exercise). I’ve exercised with twinges in my knee that I jammed. I’ve had nausea and dizziness while working out (when light-headed, I try to make sure I don’t do anything that involves standing with a heavy weight). I’ve sneezed, hacked, coughed, wheezed and otherwise been an allergy queen during my workouts..

I’ve had a lot of what I’ve come to call fibro spasms (more intensely during workouts; they seem to lay off once I stop): the closest I can come to describing it is that an area along any muscle fiber of about 3 inches long and a half-inch wide that suddenly hurts as if someone pushed into a particularly tender bruise. It lasts for less than 30 seconds in any given spot, then wanders to kick a different muscle.

But none of that deters me once the three-day ache kicks in; it makes me  use all my will to plunge my imaginary ice axe into the side of the friggin’ mountain and say to myself, “Yeah, this sucks, but do you really want to hit the bottom of this slope at full speed?”

And I work out. It may be modified or scaled because of whatever is going on, but I get out of bed and move and lift and stretch.

Someday I’ll get over the top and let the backpack coast down ahead of me and spill out a million fragments. And then I’ll walk down the other side.


The first time I saw Stephanie for physical therapy, around six years ago, she told me there was “no time off from good biomechanics.” At the time, I was seeing her for a sacroiliac joint (SI joint) problem, and at some point I picked up my purse off the floor by bending at the hips. She stopped me and said something to the effect of “What are you doing?” and made me pick it up correctly, with the admonition “There’s no time off from good biomechanics.”

Clearly, I haven’t forgotten it. Just as clearly, I don’t necessarily heed the warning.

It’s easy to think about form and injury prevention when you’re in a workout; after all, that’s what you’re concentrating on. During the rest of the day, though, it’s easy to get distracted and do things that can end up injuring you. And sometimes it’s really frickin’ stupid things, like “watch where you’re going.” (Not so much biomechanics there, but the failure to look may end up in some funky movements.) And when you’re injury-prone, older and/or obese, you are more vulnerable than other springier, younger or lighter people.

Yep, there’s a reason I’m bringing this up.

My husband and I went to see “The Fifth Element” on the big screen last night. We’ve periodically been annoyed that we missed it when it was released, as it’s a favorite. Alamo Drafthouse, also a favorite, was showing it. The particular location has a big flight of stairs as well as escalators. I opted for the stairs, and was quite pleased with myself for getting up them without being winded or leg-dead.

When did I get hurt? In the dark-ish movie theater when we were trying to figure out where to sit. I stepped down without looking and jammed/twisted my knee because the step wasn’t where I thought it was. Ergo bad biomechanics.

So I’m now icing my knee after my workout (which was modified to keep from aggravating the injury) and seeing Stephanie in the morning. And guess what she’ll probably say? Yep, see title of post.


This last week I had a rather unexpected setback. I had a “minor” oral surgery procedure that managed to knock me on my butt for at least three days straight (advertised as “you’ll be up and going the day after”). I visited my wonderful physical therapist, Dr. Stephanie Thurmond, and after talking to her, and reading some blogs and comments from other folks in my position, I started thinking about CrossFit for “nonathletes” generally and what’s important for those of us who

  • are overweight to morbidly obese,
  • are over 50,
  • are congenitally awkward and remember PE as a torture chamber filled with humiliation,
  • have accumulated injuries that need accommodation,
  • are illness- or injury-prone,
  • have hormone issues (HRT, perimenopausal). and/or
  • have illnesses that make them hypersensitive to stimuli (fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, allergies and asthma, as examples).

I’ve discussed much of this in other posts, but I felt the need to sum up.

1. Get past the slogans and hype.

“Forging Elite Fitness,”  CrossFit’s official slogan, intimidates the hell out of most non-elite nonathletes. And lots of affiliates (aka boxes) like to up the ante. One I saw recently was “Blood is replaceable, Sweat is Expected and Tears are optional.”  At this point it made me laugh, but a couple of years ago I would have seen it as a “nonathletes need not apply” sign. Although my husband was really into it, and is level-headed about pretty much everything, I still saw it as a testosterone-marketed competitive activity.

And it may have been, at least in the beginning. But the CrossFit powers-that-be quickly saw that even if you’ve got motivated folks, not all of them are athletes, or, if they are, they’re specialized enough that they burn out in a CrossFit workout, which is generally designed to improve your ability to function in the real world. You read variations on it all the time: “Our specialty is not specializing.” So even competitive athletes had to have parts of their WODs (workout of the day) scaled.

So it seemed that as CrossFit expanded and evolved, many CrossFit coaches saw the benefit of making the program more inclusive, involving the elderly and kids. I mean, as long as you’re having to adjust WODs on a custom basis, why not do it for anyone?

2. Ask questions. Lots of them.

Membership in a CrossFit affiliate isn’t cheap, nor is hiring a CrossFit coach.  Boxes are cropping up everywhere (at least in my neck of the woods), so you may have some choices. Or you can consider working out at home, but you need someone who knows what they’re doing to watch how you’re doing things or you can easily end up worse rather than better.

First, look at staff bios if they’re available; I prefer being able to read them online. Most CrossFit boxes have at least a semblance of a web page. Ideally, you’d find a coach who has a lot of experience or special interest in working with people with whatever limitations you have, and, cherry on top, has professional training in biomechanics (like a physical therapist). Kelly Starrett is a well known CrossFit instructor who is also a physical therapist and he has tons of good information. But even his website can make you think it wouldn’t be a good fit, as he works with “elite athletes” and uses the term “athlete” to describe who his website is for. But I emailed the site, asking for clarification. I received the following response:

These mobilization are for everyone and everyone is an athlete!

Not my mindset, but cool, now I know that if I were in the San Francisco area, I’d definitely look at going there. And the response was from another physical therapist apparently working with Starrett.

But not every CrossFit box is going to have that attitude or that depth of experience. However, CrossFit central is very big on working with nonathletes, even if some individual coaches aren’t:

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.

A bit stuffy, but the bottom line is that CrossFit is designed to improve anyone’s overall fitness. And affiliates and coaches who are members of CrossFit have access to materials to help them scale IF the coach is interested in working it out. Your job is to figure out which coach is going to be not just willing to work with your limitations, but who has an active interest in doing so.

So take the time to talk to the coaches before making a decision. Listen carefully to their responses. Tell them your particular concerns and ask them how they’ll be able to scale down or adapt the program for you.

3. Make consistency your first priority

Most injuries occur when people try to do too much too soon. Whatever your limitations, be willing to start slow and concentrate on being steady at it. When I started, I was really consistent for five months before a knee problem got in the way, and I let myself be sidelined for at least an equal amount of time. This last setback felt almost as bad, but I did what little I could within 3 days of my recovery. I’m bouncing back far more quickly than I have in the past.

And I have discovered that if I miss more than around 3 days in a row, I will start deteriorating in a much broader sense than being able to do fewer reps or less weight. Whichever illness has decided to start picking on me, migraines or fibro or seasonal allergies, it will get worse as well, and then my sleep is affected because I’m in pain or hacking, and things begin to snowball. If I suck it up and do what I can without injuring myself, which may be far less than what I was doing before whatever obstacle got in my way.

4. Listen to your body, and tell your coach what it’s saying

If your body is hurting, you need to evaluate it. I’ve written earlier posts about when to pay attention to pain and when to ignore it. Short version: If it’s sharp and new, stop and figure out whether you can continue or if you need to stop. Achey pains and cramps are generally not going to be things you’ll need to quit for.

But your coach cannot help you if you don’t communicate. I’m bad at this; I hate sounding like a whiner, particularly when other people are doing the same thing easily. But your primary goal should be getting yourself fit. That’s the whole reason you’re putting yourself through this stuff and why you came to CrossFit to begin with, so swallow your pride and tell your coach your problem. Sometimes it’s just a slight form problem that’s causing the pain.

For example, I started feeling a weird pain in my left knee (which is the bad one) while on the rower. It was on the outside of my knee, which was new. Turned out that I was opening my legs to give my gut extra room so I could get a longer push, which was putting torque on my knee. As soon as I corrected that, the problem went away. You will learn to troubleshoot some of the problems yourself, but often you need someone else to watch to see the form flaw.

5. Scale, scale, scale; form, form, form. Did I mention you should scale?

One of the aspects of a CrossFit workout is intensity: You need to push yourself. But that doesn’t mean overdoing it. What you are capable of doing is, to some extent, subjective. And it will vary from day-to-day. If you’ve tweaked a muscle, scale back anything that is the problem. Find ways to deal with whatever areas give you problems. Rule of thumb is that you should find the first round relatively easy and begin to start having difficulty (needing to take more stops, for example) around the third set. If you start getting sloppy with your form, you are increasing the chances of getting injured. On the other hand, if it’s just a lot of effort, but you can keep the form, then you’re on target.

This is what you’ve looked for in your coach: Someone who is willing to be creative to find solutions to your weaknesses. Use that creativity to scale appropriately. Concentrate on getting the form right and the rest will take care of itself.

6. Expect set-backs

Life happens, and things will get in the way of being as consistent as you’d like to be. Illnesses, vacations, injuries, surgeries, drugs: Any of these may cause a period when you can’t work out. It happens. Don’t flagellate yourself. Do what you can as soon as you can. This is the same principle as in weight loss. There’s a great post from LiveStrong’s The Born Reality that applies; here’s a taste:

Having worked with clients for more than 10 years, most people suffer from an extreme inability to fail on a small scale. When they screw-up, that’s it for them–they have screwed up permanently, and so they keep going.

Conventional wisdom tells us that if you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging–that’s the logical thing to do. However, when it comes to nutrition, we aren’t logical or conventionally wise. When clients have a dietary faux pas, their impulse, paradoxically, is to make it worse; after they eat the brownie, they think, “Well, I’ve ruined today. I may as well just eat whatever I want and then be good tomorrow.”

That would be bad enough by itself; however, for many people, they carry the failure over to the next day, and the day after, and finally, “I’ll be good tomorrow” becomes “I’ll start again on Monday.”

The Monday Mindset

Historically, Monday is the busiest day at gyms. (In my facility, attendance is 30% higher than any other day of the week, and that is not unique.) A decade of looking at clients’ food logs makes it clear that Monday is also the day with the highest level of dietary compliance.

Which is ironic, considering this: In my view, Monday is the most dangerous day of the week. Not Monday, but the idea of Monday–a fresh start, always available, never more than a week away.

7. Remember that you are only competing with yourself

CrossFit encourages competition and working in a group. In a well-run CrossFit box, the other people working with you should be supportive, and the coaches should create a supportive environment. Of course, we live in a flawed world with flawed people. There may be someone who makes you uncomfortable or is smug about how much “better” s/he is at whatever WOD. Don’t worry about them, and don’t let the jerks get you down. Most affiliates keep records of your times, reps, etc., and will make a big deal when you achieve a personal best.

It is a big deal. Pat yourself on the back and keep going!

Help! I can’t count!

Posted: July 8, 2012 in CrossFit, Exercise, Fitness
Tags: ,

Who knew counting could be one of the hardest things to do while working out?

Maybe it’s just an ADHD thing, but I have a hell of a time not losing count, particularly when it’s something that you need to hold for a certain count or where the exercise has several bits within it and I forget where I was by the time I get to the end of the exercise.

I finally figured out a way that helps me keep count more accurately. I use a foreign language for the count and English for the in-between.

For example, one of the exercises assigned to me for physical therapy is an isometric exercise designed to recruit the small muscle chains in the neck (I also tend to overkill and defeat the purpose, but that’s a whole different issue). So I need to count five of them per side, but hold each for a four-count. That became scrambled in my head on a regular basis, and, for some inexplicable reason, my brain randomly substitutes “ten” for “two.”

However, if I use, for example, German, it goes like this:

  • Eins, two, three, four;
  • Zwei,two, three, four;
  • Drei, two, three, four;
  • Fier, two, three, four;
  • Funf, two, three, four.

I seem to be able to remember whether I’m on drei or funf better than whether I’m at three or five. Now, to keep that from becoming an issue, I rotate languages in which I can count to the requisite number (no, I don’t speak these languages; I’m excited to find a use for the ability to count in several as the near limit of my competency).

So here’s one to ten in several languages, in case you want to try:

German: Eins, zwei, drei, fier, funf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn.

Spanish: Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diaz.

French: Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept. huit, neuf, dix.

Japanese: Ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyu, ju.

Latin: Unus, duo, tres, quattuor, quinque, sex, septem, octo, novem, decem.

Koine Greek: Heis, duo, treis, tessares, pente, hex, hepta,  okto, ennea, deka.

Greek alphabet as counting tool: Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa. (Note: I omitted the digramma because, as many Greek students, as well as fraternity pledges, I learned the Greek alphabet without it.)

You can also use Google Translate for counting fun.

Hope this is helpful to other counting-challenged CrossFitters (or any other type of exercise requiring counting).