Posts Tagged ‘fear of exercise’

Cindy, you’re a heartless bitch.

If you don’t do CrossFit, you may not be aware of the fact that certain sets of exercises are named after women. I don’t know the real story behind that, but after doing my first Cindy, I think probably divorced CrossFit coaches named the worst workouts after women who’d treated them badlly.

Or maybe they named them for women they wanted to show off for. Whatever. The speculation portion is now ended.

My husband/coach innocently asked, “You want to try Cindy? Sure.” How did the idea pop into my head? He had the Cindy requirements printed out at his desk: 5 pullups, 10 pushups and 15 squats. I knew what my modifications were: 5 ring rows, 10 knee pushups and 15 squats to a box (my Achilles tendon is griping so I had to go back up to the 19.75″ high plyo box; when I dropped the almost 2″ to the next lower box, my unstable footing was exposed).

So I saw the sheet and thought to myself, “Oh, I can do that.” It was the AMRAP part I underestimated: As Many Rounds As Possible. In a particular period of time. 20 minutes, to be exact.

Now I understand the saying “I was working out for 6 hours and looked up. Two minutes had passed.” I’d heard that, so really tried not to look at the time tick-tick-ticking away. I was sure I’d hit at least the halfway mark before I finally peeked. 13:30 left on the clock. [Insert Valley Girl "Oh. My. God." here.]

About that point, Coach Gary says, “I’m so glad you decided to do this so I didn’t have to push you.” I inwardly cursed myself. Later, it occurred to me that maybe he’d planted the Cindy requirements to lure me in. He insists they were only there because he did a Cindy last week. Hmm. My accusation would not stand up in court, but …

Anyway, he made my daugher and son-in-law do the Cindy, too, after I’d finished. It’s only their fourth or fifth day of CrossFit, so I got a lot of sarcastic, “Thanks, mom” for instigating the pain.

The next day, Gary says, “You know, I thought it was about time to start changing things up, so I’m glad you started the Cindy.”

I reply with a grunt/grumble, and then ask, “So what have you got in store for us today?”

He replies, “A quarter Murph.”

I wonder what that is, and get the terrifying reply, “You’ll see.”  A few minutes later, he adds, “A Murph is a Hero WOD.” [Insert Valley Girl "Oh. My. God." here.] Hero WODs are notoriously difficult, and named for fallen soldiers. The Murph is named for Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL team leader who died during a recon mission in Afghanistan and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Of course, we weren’t aware of that part at the time, and were focused on what seemed to us to be a daunting task; now that I know the background, I have a little more perspective that what I was doing was nothing beside what the hero the WOD is named for did. Talk about motivation and feeling bad about fearing a little hard exercise.

So we did a quarter Murph and everyone is sore. A quarter Murph, it turns out, is a quarter-mile run, 25 pullups (ring rows in my case), 50 pushups (knee pushups  for moi), 75 squats (with 19.75″ plyo box to keep me from falling back on my butt) and another quarter-mile run.

Damn. But I can’t whine about it; Gary did a full Murph after that and has the blisters to prove it. So I’m just icing the new pains I’ve found and wondering what’s in store next. But, I have to say, I do feel a sense of accomplishment. The first time I did a quarter-mile walk/run, the amount of walking pretty much equaled the running. The first walk/run of the quarter Murph I managed to run almost all of it. For a 50-year-old morbidly obese woman, that ain’t too bad.

My daughter-in-law said something encouraging when I was groaning and creaking in and out of a recliner because of my workout soreness. She said, “The bad soreness will go away after a few weeks; after that you’ll only be lightly sore.” Nice to know.

You can expect muscle soreness when you work out. You can expect your ligaments to be stretched and a little unhappy. Those pains actually seem to get better during a workout and bother you more after prolonged periods of disuse, although scientists aren’t sure why. Contrary to what we all thought, it appears lactic acid only causes the burning sensation you sometimes get while exercising, but not the “delayed-onset muscles soreness.” At any rate, the burn means you’re about at the muscle’s limit, and the soreness is part of the process of rebuilding muscle. So you can blow that kind of pain off and count it as part of retraining your body.

But there’s also the pain you need to pay attention to and consider whether you need to scale back until you’ve gotten stronger, and work on form and intensity. And some pain means you need to take a day or so off to heal, to see your doctor or even go to the emergency room.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “more macho than thou” games or to be embarrassed to admit you’re hurt because you don’t want to be perceived as a weenie. Don’t. CrossFit is great because it can accommodate injury or lower abilities, so take advantage of that flexibility. And if you allow yourself to be really injured, you’ll be off your exercise routine longer than if you take care of yourself.

It’s not just the deconditioned or the overweight who can injure themselves. Gary, my husband/coach who is in great shape and rarely injures himself, somehow hurt his back a little just the other day. He’s icing it and staying away from things that cause it to hurt “the bad way,” but he’s continuing to work out using the exercises that don’t stress it and scaling back on the ones that do until he can do them.

My knee injury flare is another case of when stopping is a good thing. Right now, the tops of both knees ache a little, but it’s not a sharp pain and I feel better after walking around on them, so I’m still good to go. But a few days ago, my left knee screamed at me during the workout. I’ve injured myself enough times to have a pretty good idea of when I need to pay attention and when I don’t, but whenever you have a sudden, sharp pain, that’s generally a bad sign. I iced the knee that day and the next, took an unscheduled rest day, and my knee was up for the next workout.

Sharp or intense pain that is qualitatively different from what you feel some hours after you’ve finished working out is something to investigate. Joints are particularly susceptible to errors in the form, or the how, of any exercise. That includes the joints you don’t generally think of, like the places where your vertebrae meet  (the bits that look like wings)(the facet joint) or the joint that is between your tailbone and your hipbone (the sacroiliac joint, commonly referred to as the SI joint).

I’ve injured both a facet joint and an SI joint. The first was when I was younger and lighter, and it still took me over six weeks to recover from, even with physical therapy and muscle relaxants.  Twice. I remember the second time better than the first, because I knew exactly when I did it. I was lifting a pile of casebooks in the law library from the bottom shelf and didn’t have my back in the right position and I felt a weird twinge in my back. The next day I could hardly straighten my back. That’s the kind of thing you see the doctor for.

The SI joint took a while to figure out because I had weird symptoms. The primary place where it hurt was in my lower left abdominal area, so the docs went through all the possible GI and GYN items first. It’s more common to hurt in your lower back or thighs, but referred pain like mine isn’t unusual. After exhausting the other possibilities (and when I’d gotten to the point that 2 vicodine at a time didn’t do anything but take the edge off the pain), I went to a physical therapist who shoved a finger in the right spot and almost made me yell, it hurt so bad. One good maneuver, and the therapist had the damn thing back where it belonged and the pain lessened almost immediately.

What I found interesting about the experience was that Stephanie, the physical therapist, had also had an SI joint problem at one point; she was a competitive pole vaulter, so not a deconditioned person like me. It’s more a matter of moving the wrong way at the wrong time, which can, but doesn’t have to be, a result of exercise. She did it stepping off a curb.

If you get a sudden pain and then a muscle bunches up away from the original pain, you’ve probably torn a ligament, and you need to call your doctor or get to the ER. That one’s pretty hard to miss.

Bottom line: If it hurts right away and really bad, check it out with a doctor. If it pings, pops or twinges, check it out with a doctor. If it’s the worst pain you’ve ever had or if you suddenly can’t move a limb or joint, go to the ER. If it swells and bruises, ice it and see the doctor. If it’s just sore or achey, particularly if it gets better with movement, keep on going. If your muscle starts burning, push the envelope, but if you just can’t stand it any longer, you can give it a little break to get some oxygen, and then get back on with your workout.

If you do something dumb like me, and bop the back of your head on the hyperlite during a situp because you didn’t make sure it was clear, well, you probably do it a lot (I do) and know the difference between something you’ll shake off and something you can’t.

Of course, I’m not a doctor or any other kind of health care professional, so if you have any doubt, check it out with the folks who are trained to figure it out. I can only share what I’ve experienced, not diagnose you.

As far as the soreness goes, hang in there. You’ll keep discovering new muscles (even in your hands and feet) you didn’t know were there, but that means you are getting stronger.

Looking at the CrossFit discussion boards and some of the articles, you find a lot of people and comments that will piss you off as a fattie. They just don’t get it. My husband’s advice: Ignore them. There are more people who will support you than won’t; the people who assume you’re lazy or uncommitted either lack empathy or prefer to throw stones at the challenges others face rather than looking at their own shortcomings. Or, I suppose, it is possible that their experiences with overweight people trying to overcome their eating and fitness issues are largely negative … but they’re still likely judging an awful lot of people on relatively few experiences.

And, for me, it’s hard not to project my own insecurities onto others when I don’t feel good about the way I look.

But you’ll also find people with great comments and suggestions for coaches working with the obese or the obese CrossFitters themselves. In one thread, Susie Rosenberg, who has been there, says:

I’ve got a growing interest in this area myself. I guess it comes because I’m a person who’s lost almost 100 pounds … “I’ve come a long way, baby!” When I hit my heaviest, I couldn’t stand at the sink long enough to dispatch a sinkful of dishes and I couldn’t walk a half-mile without stopping to rest. Man, EVERYTHING hurt: My back, hips, and knees ached all the time.

I started my journey back to health and fitness very slowly. I began with simple aerobics (stepping, marching, sidesteps, kickbacks to music) plus simple exercises with light weights. (DB curls, overhead presses, lateral raises)
Not more than a half-hour in duration. Initially, I had to take the next day off to recover; eventually, I was able to do this for an hour at a time, almost every day.

After losing about half the weight, Jason Ackerman (Albany Crossfit) got a hold of me and after that there was no turning back. Spin class with high-intensity intervals, lots of work with weights and body weight exercises, and eventually Crossfit WODs … heck, this past year I was in the best shape of my life. At 52, thank you, Jason, very much.

I work with the obese now. One client I have walking for a half-hour 3x/week alternating with a very short routine working with a pair of 8 lb. DBs. It’s all about building the exercise habit. This woman got fairly winded from doing a set of 5 overhead “squats” onto a low chair with the DBs, so she’s to start with 2 sets of 5. Once she gets a bit more used to moving, I’ll bring her into the gym and keep her moving. Farmer’s walk, SDHPs, squats, overhead presses and push presses, step ups onto a low box/step, short sets of walking lunges … it doesn’t take much to be “a good workout” when you are massively overweight and terribly deconditioned. How well I remember.

There are things to keep in mind. First, one’s abdomen gets in the way with certain movements. (It can be hard to breathe with a big belly when you are doing situps or trying to forward bend and reach your toes!) Second, the center of gravity is shifted, folks have to lean back to compensate for the weight in the belly, so you get an exagerated lordosis–hard on the lumbar spine–and you have to be careful with heavy weight overhead as a result. Alignment is critical, and folks need to really concentrate on tucking the pelvis under and lifting the chest.

[Jodi, aka CrossFit fattie, gives Susie a standing ovation.]

Laura Rucker had a great comment in another thread:

[Y]ou scale the workouts down so they can complete a workout and get some satisfaction out of it. That will keep them coming.

Many of us in the Brand X box would have been considered obese. We were also committed to sticking to the program, and too stubborn to quit, even though we could not run 400m, we walked some of it, and we couldn’t jump on a box but we could step up to it and even though we could not do a pull up, we could do ring rows and jumping pull ups and work our way into them. Take me, for instance. You would not think it to look at me now. That’s because it DOES work for the people you are asking about.

Scale it down and any obese or overweight or unfit person can do this. And then some.

[Jodi gives Laura a standing ovation.]

And kudos to Mike Miner, who looked for help in training a friend who weighed in at 430 pounds and is still working with obese clients when he’s not being a hoss on the competition circuit. He’s another who talks about the positive community at a typical CrossFit group:

One of the reasons why CrossFit works so well is the community. The sense  of camaraderie, the feeling of belonging. That band of brothers, or sisters, type feeling you get from sweating, grunting, and lying exhausted in a pool of drool and sweat after a Grace, or Fran workout. It’s cheering till the last one finishes, and then giving them a sweaty ol’ hug when they PR. It’s screaming as a 60-year-old lady pr’s [hits a personal record] on her deadlift and hits 135 for the first time. It’s cheering for the guy who’s beating you in the competition, and then congratulating him for kicking your ass. How sick is that? It’s the CrossFit community. It eliminates assholes and terminates douchebags. It strengthens the weak  and lifts up the wounded. It’s a feeling you cannot find at any other type of gym, no p90x class, no zumba, no GLOBO will ever be able to come close to duplicating it. In my opinion it is the most important element of the CrossFit experience.

Think of it this way: If someone wants to lose weight or quit smoking, do the doctors tell them to try it alone? No. They try to get them to go to a weight loss group or a smoking cessation class. It’s the same principal. If you want to get in shape, be healthier and enjoy life, find a CrossFit gym. And get in on that community love.

[Jodi gives Mike a standing ovation.]

So, fellow fatties, we are not alone and we are not without support. So get out there and change your life — it’s hard, but it’s not impossible.

I’m sure it’s no shock that I’m not the only one blogging about CrossFit, but I sometimes feel like the few of us who are “average folks” (yes, unfortunately, between being obese and 50 years old, I get to be average) are outnumbered by the jocks, increasing the fear factor for those of us who are most in need of the kind of fitness CrossFit can provide. Some bloggers are affiliates (i.e., they own a CrossFit training center, or “box”), some are other folks like me trying to stay on track, and some are, well, not crazy about CrossFit. And some are the bloggers that make CrossFit sound terrifying.

On the other hand, most forms of fitness or sport has the folks who want to make everything into a competition or to be seen as a member of an elite group. If you like competition, go for it; but as I’ve already posted about finding a coach, if you are like me and somewhat intimidated, you’ll want to look for a coach who creates an atmosphere that scaling back is absolutely cool. They are trained to scale in certification classes, so any coach theoretically can do so, but some will be more interested and supportive about doing so.

So here’s a cross-section of what some other bloggers have to say about CrossFit.

Defining and defending CrossFit:

The blog “Kyriakossstrength” takes the meat out of CrossFit founder Greg Glassman’s CrossFit Journal article on the meaning of fitness and summarizes it quite well:

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program based on constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity. If your goal is optimum physical competence then all the general physical skills must be considered:

CARDIOVASCULAR/RESPIRATORY ENDURANCE -The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.

STAMINA – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.

STRENGTH – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.

FLEXIBILITY – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.

POWER – The ability of muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.

SPEED – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.

COORDINATION – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.

AGILITY – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.

BALANCE – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.

ACCURACY – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

Our fitness, being “CrossFit,” comes through molding men and women that are equal parts gymnastics, Olympic weightlifter, and multi-modal sprinter. CrossFit incorporates metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, and weightlifting to forge the world’s fittest men and women.

“Healthy in Chicago” has tried CrossFit and has this to say about it:

CrossFit is for anyone from beginners to former collegiate athletes because you are training against yourself. The coaches are trained in helping you do modifications of the movements that fit your skill level.

Nestor Perez advocates CrossFit in a guest post on “The Common Sense Warrior,” but he’s a Marine, so it’s up for grabs as to whether that’s reassuring or scary (for those of you not in the military, it is the sworn duty of all other military branches to give the Marines crap; actually, it’s arguable that the sworn duty of all military members is to give every other branch crap). He definitely gives CrossFit a thumb’s up.

For the beginner:

Just the title of “Blood on the Bar” is enough to make a cowardly, out-of-shape fattie like me shudder, but, surprisingly, the author has one of the best comments for beginners I’ve read:

 If you are just starting off with Crossfit, catch a clue and go easy. Crossfit is not “too hard”; it may be you are too inexperienced or deconditioned. And in an egomaniacal, ascetic-driven fitness industry, this can be hard.

I think I’d have called it “aesthetic-driven,” myself, but some athletes definitely seem to go for medieval ascetic virtues.

Brad (no last name on the blog) says it all with the name of his blog, “I (heart) CrossFit,” but he, too, has some encouraging words and advocates hieing yourself to the nearest box:

[D]on’t be intimidated by the idea of CrossFit or by if you think you can’t do it–YOU CAN! … People helping each other achieve their goals.

Like Brad, FallOut CrossFit emphasizes the camaraderie of the box, and, kudos to them, they actually have a video with people of all ages and fitness levels in it.  Adam Stanecki also speaks well of the support system, saying

The thing that attracted me to CrossFit – aside from the awesome method itself – was the community. It astounded me at first that such a number of geographically disconnected people would help, encourage and criticise – politely of course – each other over the internet.

Blogger Paul Stroud kindly provides a list of the 25 most informative CrossFit blogs, so I don’t have to list them all here. (Hey, Paul, can I be 26? Maybe? Someday?)

CrossFitter diaries:

I find it encouraging to see who else is working at staying on track through blogging. “Brooklyngoilinnewpaltz,” a rock climber, has been doing CrossFit for two years and thinks it’s great. “Elle in Wonderland” celebrated her six-month CrossFitaversary with a 43.4 lb weight loss.  Paul Santos, who blogs more frequently about weapons, started in January of 2010 and appears to still be at it, but he sounds like another individual who started out fit before CrossFit.

But the best blog I’ve found so far is Susie Rosenberg’s “If not now, when.”  Just look at her pictures! Rosenberg’s already made the journey I’m attempting — twice! She posted a testimonial about her CrossFit experience in November of 2007. In December 7, 2007, she wrote about age and weight being a factor in making her self-conscious at CrossFit. Then, in 2008, she had to have major back surgery. But she returned to her fitness regime after. And I have trouble just returning after my rest day. Rosenberg is seriously inspirational. If you want to just read her CrossFit entries, enter “CrossFit” in the search box at the top right. But she’s got a lot of great things to say about other life stuff as well.

For the already fit, emphasizing the “elite” potential of CrossFit:

Bristol CrossFit, an affiliate, tries not to scare you off with its last line about the video of competitive Crossfitters, saying “Don’t be put off by the intensity of the training – these guys will have spent years building up to this.” Yes, but it’s still a bit intimidating. I like the videos of people who are using PVC pipe to get the form right, which sends the message that everyone needs to work on form, not just newbies.

Fitlyf doesn’t even try to keep you from being scared, showing just how hard CrossFit can be with an intense workout by coaches (warning: the music contains profanity, so don’t click on the link if that’s going to bother you). “Smashby’s Training Blog” is trying to be inspirational (and probably is if you’re already an athlete) and the video is really cool, but it’s another one that makes me think, geez, I could *never* do that. [But please read the author of Smashby's Training Blog's comments for some great additional info.] Tommy (I couldn’t find a last name on the blog) is unabashed about having a “CrossFit Swagger,” not something I think I’d advocate even if/when I get to a point where I could justifiably do so.

The CrossFit “haters”:

Some of these guys don’t really hate CrossFit, and they do have some points to make about the downsides of CrossFit. Like most things, CrossFit isn’t for everybody, and the experience certainly will vary depending on the attitudes of the coaches and other people at the box.

Dan Shute at “Athletics and Aesthetics” is a CrossFitter, but, like me, he does see a few things to be careful of within the CrossFit community, and lists three of a possible ten, with full explanations, in his post “10 Things I Hate About CrossFit“:

  1. The “Us and Them” Mentality
  2. Rx’d at any cost [meaning that some people insist on doing the Workout of the Day (WOD) as written, whether they are ready for it or not]
  3. O-Lifting in WODs? [CrossFit utilizes Olympic-style lifting in Workouts of the Day, but ignores some of the fine points of this lifting style] has a balanced post discussing pros and cons of CrossFit, concluding

Is CrossFit friend or fad? It’s really a matter of opinion. This is a highly refined system of exercises and training programs that are geared toward the more experienced athlete. It’s understandable why so many feel that the system is a fad, or a bit on the cult side, but regardless of the stance it’s difficult to argue with hard results from people who successfully use the system almost every day, no matter how many injuries come up.

Another author that sees CrossFit as primarily for the already athletic, the problem that plagues anyone like me considering CrossFit as a way to get from completely unconditioned to fit., a site for Ultimate Frisbee players, seems to be reserving judgment to some extent, and posts links to articles evaluating the utility of CrossFit.

And then there’s this:

I’m guessing the blogger’s name is Justin Bailey, and he makes an interesting case for CrossFit as church. Given that the narrator of the video at FallOut CrossFit calls it his religion, maybe he’s not too far off.

So after my post about falling off the wagon, I got seriously nauseated and the treadmill just made it worse. I ended up hitting the sack by 8:00 pm, not the norm for me; I’m a night owl who thinks morning people are seriously misguided (of course, the hubby is the opposite; he thinks breakfast is the best time for socializing). That hypocrite Ben Franklin, author of aphorisms such as “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” was a notoriously late riser, as was the highly quotable Winston Churchill (but I can’t remember any quotes in which he advocated being an early bird).

In the short period I had after I’d pretty much decided to ditch my workout and before I could no longer stay awake, I watched Gary the hubby-coach do his workout. He’s been telling me all along that it’s scalable, and that he did the same thing and had the same struggles, just at a higher degree of difficulty, but on some level it hadn’t really clicked until I watched him. He pushes himself and grunts and struggles and occasionally cusses out the workout equipment. Wow; it really, really isn’t just me. (Why did the infamous Sally Fields Oscar acceptance speech suddenly pop into my head?)

Anyway, the next day I woke up late and found that my knee was better; not 100% yet, but better, and the nausea had quelled to an acceptable level. Gary cheerfully told me that it was a good thing I’d taken a break and that I probably needed an extra day for the knee to heal. I was all ready to tackle my CrossFit regime of the day. Not a WOD (workout of the day) yet; but my regular exercise.

We tried using the exercise bands, but he’d broken out the 35 lb. ones, which didn’t make as much difference as moving back up to the plyo box, which stands 19.75″ from the ground, as opposed to the shorter box (which is actually for stepping on; I’d just turned it on its side), which stands 18″ from the ground. That made a huge difference in terms of the angle my knee had to overcome and it only whined a little and screamed not at all.

But since my arms were fine, Gary upped my weight on the medicine ball to 20 lb. I remember now why I thought the shrug was a primo bitch the first go round. We tried a few oompa-loompa knee dips to try to get me ready for a push-press, but that really made the knee unhappy, so we stuck with the regular press for the time being. Gary then decided I should up my reps to 10 each round, and was emphasizing speed.

Speed freaks me out. I start losing control of the form because I still have to think really hard about what I’m doing. However, Gary was supervising the whole deal and was telling me where I was losing control, particularly on the press: “Elbows out” or “Don’t lose control on the way down,” or “Open your eyes,” or “Head up.” I don’t know why I look down or close my eyes when I exercise, but if I’m not thinking about it, both things seem to happen of their own accord.

But damned if I didn’t finish the round in a PR (yeah, that’s right, I’m going to use CrossFit jargon — PR=personal record) 12 minutes and 18 seconds (plus 10 minutes on the treadmill).  I don’t know if the fact I had done better than usual prompted the coach’s next decision, but after I’d caught my breath, he was on the phone with his buddy Kenny asking what they did for clients at the box for a baseline test. The baseline is repeated every six months to measure overall progress.

So today I did the baby-step version of the baseline, which is apparently standard operating procedure for anyone unable to do the regular version. First up should have been rowing, but we don’t have the rowing machine (although I think Gary would really like to get one at some point), so Gary came up with the next best thing: a Sumo deadlift highpull. Say that three times fast. Here’s what it looks like:

They were using pvc pipe to show the form, but I used the hyperlite with bumpers for a total of about 10 lbs.

Then I did a 400 meter “run,” which is about the same as a quarter mile. I actually did run, albeit very slowly, for short sections of the distance. The course that my kids and husband use is from our driveway uphill on our street and back. Not surprisingly, I ran more downhill than up, but I was a little surprised to find I could run at all. This took me almost 4 minutes, which sounded good until Gary noted it was a 16-minute mile. I’d really like to see that drop to a 12-minute mile the next time we do this.

Then on to situps. Situps are the only exercise I’ve done as long as I can remember,  but with the huffing and puffing from the Sumo deadlift highpull, I wasn’t able to do the full 30 without stopping several times to catch my breath and drink some water.

Gary was great about cheering me on through all of it. He doesn’t want to be spoken to while he’s working out; I want the encouragement. In buckets. Bathtubs-full, even. At this point he’s telling me to move along to the push-ups.

Blergh. I couldn’t do a push-up when I was in grade school and they did the Presidential Exercise evaluation. Still can’t do a real one, but I got through knee push-ups. Sort of. I couldn’t touch my chest to the ground without losing control, so I just got as far as my belly. But I did them.

Then the last hurdle: the ring rows:

My angle was about 30 degrees from the rings. 10 of them. Not nearly as bad as I thought.

Total time: 11 minutes and 47 seconds.

I don’t even want to think about how long it would have taken me three weeks ago. Yep, that’s right. I’ve just broken the three-week rule. Some rules are definitely meant to be broken.

So if you’ve been reading up through now, you already know my CrossFit coach is my husband, Gary, and I workout in our garage, where Gary has what our son refers to as CrossFit GFF (Gary’s friends/family) (Gary thinks there should be another F for “Free”). Having a coach is important in CrossFit because, among other reasons, it’s really hard for you to critique your own form, and correct form is the best prevention for avoiding injury, something those of us who are overweight and out of shape are pretty prone to.

For example, one of the easiest things to do is the shrug. You grab a medicine ball by the sides, stand in Superman pose, and shrug your shoulders. I had no idea I was bending my arms when I did it; you’re supposed to do it with your arms straight. Trying to fix it, I straightened my arms by pulling my elbows in and with the place they take blood from prominent (what is the backside of your elbow called, anyway?). Nope, that still isn’t right. I had to grab the ball a little lower and straighten my arms by pushing the ball itself. Tougher than it looks, by a long shot.

But it’s not always easy to take correction from your spouse, no matter how matter-of-fact he is about it, because there’s a tendency to interpret the comments as having some deeper meaning. And I am an expert at taking even a positive statement, much less a criticism, in the worst possible way.

Poor man. The first thing he taught me was how to shoot, but that was when we were dating and I was still on my best (or at least better) behavior, so he was probably completely shocked when he tried to teach me how to golf and I ended up angry and tearful. Why? Because I wanted to be perfect (kind of a generic goal for me; I specifically would like to be omniscient, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen) or, at the very least, for him to think I was. I didn’t want to disappoint him; I didn’t want him to think badly of me. So I have a historic tendency to react emotionally and negatively to Gary’s attempts, no matter how well founded or kindly put, to give me constructive feedback.

So how is it working for CrossFit? Well, I probably snap at him more than I would a coach that I don’t have an intimate relationship with, but I’m better than I used to be … and so is he.

I’m better because I’ve spent the year prior to starting this exercise staring in the quiet dark because to do otherwise would make my migrainey, cranky self want to claw out someone’s eyes, maybe even my own, and that gives you a lot of time to reflect. It also puts things into perspective; healthy is so much better than sick. In some ways, I think it may have rebooted me. I’m still a long way from being who I’d like to be someday, but it has made me consider who I am, what got me there, and why I do things the way I do. It made me take time to forgive both others and myself. That clears out a lot of emotional baggage.

Among the things I realized in this self-discovery was just how fabulous my husband is. Gary has taken on all the work of the household while dealing with the day-to-day uncertainty of whether I would be sick (generally, I was). He’s had the responsibilities of a single person without its privileges. Yet he has never griped about it, never made me feel guilty about it, and never let me down. What more can someone do to let you know he loves you and thinks well of you?

So I’m trying to curb my defensive reactions, although I’m not always successful. It’s really not about what he thinks about me, but what I think of myself. And it’s okay that I’m not perfect.  And as far as he’s concerned, the fact that I’m actually working on getting healthier is a big plus.

He’s gotten better, too. He’s learned to be more thoughtful about how he phrases things, not to overwhelm me with too much information at once, and to give praise and encouragement. I’m really a big ol’ Lab; just pat me on the head and I’ll slaver all over you.

Most people in my position don’t have the luxury of having a loving spouse as a coach and a gym out the kitchen door, so they may think “Well, she’s got it easy.” They’d be right in many ways. I have convenience and a ready-made trusting relationship with my coach. I don’t have to parade my happy ass down to the local CrossFit box and let all those athletic folks see my cellulite hanging down around my knees. I can see that as a barrier to going for the help.

But there are CrossFit coaches out there who work with the elderly, kids, and even us fatties. There are certification courses from CrossFit to work with kids, and I seem to remember they offered courses for working with the elderly at one point. Coaches who have taken those courses are probably the best prepared for working with the obese as well because they are more used to making modifications to CrossFit for special situations.

However, the beauty of CrossFit is that it is scalable, and no matter what your skill and fitness level is, CrossFit is designed in a way that you can start out wherever you are, and most coaches will be able to work with you. I know the CrossFit home page is a little daunting with its motto of “Forging elite fitness”: Why do you think my first post was “Sheer, unadulterated terror“?  But the courses and the philosophy behind them is that anyone can get to the level of fitness they desire from wherever they are now.

That being said, some coaches do prefer to work with elite athletes, and I wouldn’t want to work with one of them,  so it does take a bit of time to find the right coach. I keep looking for those who have a particular interest in or experience with the obese to link to them on this site (see the headings on the left side of the page); I hope to hear from more of them and of more of them as I work through this experience. I’m also on the lookout for success stories so that we can begin to build a community of support.

Unfortunately, from everything I’ve seen so far, CrossFit does not offer a class specifically designed to help coaches who want to work with overweight folks, so it’s harder to figure out who would be ready for you or me.  A class certification would be a dead giveaway and make it easier for us to find fattie-friendly facilities. Until then, call your local CrossFit or check out their websites. See if they’ve commented on the CrossFit website. Find comments and testimonials about the specific coaches. The one you want, the one you need, is out there. And CrossFit is growing fast, so if they’re not there now, they may be soon.

If CrossFit did have a specific certification for working with the obese, then, just maybe, we’d be more comfortable coming out to a box in front of others. If you’re like me, you suspect people are internally evaluating you based on your body size. But if you’re not a novelty, then no one is likely to stare or think “Wow. What’s s/he doing here?”

Just imagine. Going to CrossFit Fattie Day. Of course, they probably couldn’t get away with calling it that. It’s one thing if I say it about myself; I’ve been there. I *might* think it was funny; kind of depends on where I am with things. But something like that would let me know I would be welcome and accepted. That would sure be nice.

Of course, I wouldn’t accept foot rubs from any other coach.

We’re in San Antonio, so it’s not surprising that we’re Spurs fans. Even after they fall apart at the end of their best season *ever.* (The only thing that makes me feel better is that the Lakers are also out of the running; I think that makes us look a little better than if we were the only major upset.)

Anyway, in years past, there was a player on another team that my daughter dubbed “Whiny Wallace.” I don’t remember which team he played for, whether that was his first or last name, how he spelled it, or what season it was, but I do remember that he would gripe to the referees, the camera, the stadium, his coach — I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him whip out his cell and cry to his momma, who was probably the only one who would have cared.

At any rate, today was my turn to be Whiny Wallace. I hurt. I had a headache of the regular kind, but was worried about it turning into a migraine. I didn’t sleep well last night. It was hot. So I called Coach Husband, who was at work, kind of hoping he’d let me off the hook. I basically said all of the above to him, and the conversation continued:

Hubby: Just make sure you hydrate well first.

Me: [almost audible whine] But what about my headache?

Hubby: You’ll feel better after you work out.

Me: [almost a bitch-out] Have you ever worked out with a headache?

Hubby: Sure. Lots of times.

Me: [considering whether this was actually a possibility, and deciding it was]: And did it feel better after?

Hubby: Sure.

Me: [whining evident in my voice] But I still don’t want to.

Hubby: [wisely, silence]

Me: What will you give me to work out?

Hubby: [laughs]

Me: [now whining like my daughter's chihuahua-pug mix (don't ask; he's evidently the product of a mad scientist's failed experiment)] Tell me something to motivate me. Tell me I’ve been wonderful.

Hubby: [again, wisely] You are doing great. You’re doing wonderful. You’ve improved.

Me: [slightly astonished by the multiple rephrasings; I wouldn't have been surprised by a verbatim repetition of what I said] Okay. I guess. [not done whining, but down a notch]

Hubby: Just worry about getting it done today. Some days are like that. Don’t worry about increasing your intensity; just concentrate on your form.

Me: [Still not convinced and still a little whiny] Okay.

I hung up, cranked up the exercise mix, and got Billy Joel’s Second Wind. Someone has a sense of humor, I thought: The lyrics begin with “You’re having a hard time and lately you don’t feel so good.” I reluctantly got on the treadmill, set it to my blazing speed of 2.5 mph, and began walking my ten-minute sentence.

Five rounds of eight reps each of overhead presses (hyperlite bar only), situps, squats with my helper box (that I pretty much took a pause on between going up and down), and shrugs with the 10 lb. medicine ball, I was done. Took me a total of 25 min. and 45 seconds, a full minute and a half longer than yesterday, but I did it, damn it.

And then I saw this video, which put my whines in perspective:

So, goodbye again, Whiny Wallace. I’m afraid I’ll probably see you again, but I hope it’s a while from now.

Consistency is defined by Webster’s New World College Dictionary as “conformity with previous practice.”  The dictionary also provides some synonyms: “steadiness, persistence, sameness.”  For an exercise (or weight loss, for that matter) program to work, you must be consistent. Not my forte.

Consistency meant a lot of things to me that the dictionary doesn’t cover. I’d have subconsciously defined it more as “boring” or “inflexible” for most of my life, which tells you more about me than about the word. I would not have said, if asked, that  consistency had negative connotations, but I have treated its existence in my life as largely a bad thing.

I can come up with lots of reasons for why I have felt that way, but they do not excuse the lack of consistency in many areas of my life. One is that I was a military brat; the reality of that life, even more in my childhood than now, was constant change. No one stays; everyone moves. The parent serving in the military is often gone. It was just the way it was, and shaped my view of reality. Even now, some 37 years after the last time I moved (with the exception of two academic years at Baylor University), I still get an itch to change locations about every three years.

I also hate, with a purple passion, the merest shadow of something external controlling me. My mother often tells the story that the first time I went to school, when she tried to walk me in, I refused her assistance, saying “I can do it by myself.” So it’s a deeply entrenched, possibly genetic, tendency. I was almost always late to everything in my life until about 10 years ago, when my shrink explained to me that tardiness was a metamessage to others that their time wasn’t important. That was an eye-opener; it may seem obvious to anyone else, but I just never looked at it that way before. My feeling was “I won’t get worked up if they don’t show up on the dot, why do they?”

But, in a way, I suppose that was not far from the underlying message I was trying to give: “You can’t control me.” Or “The clock can’t control me.” Don’t tie me down, damn it.

I’m also a bit (okay, a lot) ADD (I know, ADHD is the more commonly used term, but I’m not particularly hyperactive, and I prefer the in-between version which is more inclusive), and, therefore, easily distractable unless it’s something I am engrossed in, and then I get into hyperfocus mode. At that point, a tornado could sweep within 10 feet of me and I’d probably not notice.

But if it’s something I’m not particularly interested in,  I tend to be in the middle of some task and then notice “Oooh, shiny,”  and leave the task unfinished to pursue the new and attractive. And then abandon it for the next cool thing that crosses my path.

Or there’s simply the “bored now” response, as in vampire Willow.

So I resisted routine. Over and over again. “How’s that working for you?” “Not so hot, actually.”

Now I’ve finally figured out that routines, the key to consistency, are the key to getting better. First, it was just taking meds regularly. I’d forget and miss dosages (probably how my son came into being) of pretty much anything ever prescribed until a little over 10 years ago, when the consequences of missing a dose of whatever became immediately apparent and painful. And then I added taking Metamucil to the repertoire of daily routine — easy enough, just take drugs with the orange goo.

But that wasn’t enough for me to consider consistency in my overall day: my sleep patterns changed from day to day, eating at odd times, and exercise? Puh-leeze.

Now I find that, gee whiz, the experts might have a point. Sleep problems are associated with various health issues, notably fibromyalgia and migraines, and they all recommend a consistent sleep/wake pattern. What? Naw, they can’t mean me. Studies on weight loss have suggested that people who regularly track what they eat will begin to cut back on their eating simply because they’re paying attention.

And, of course, exercise. One of the posts on CrossFit’s website posed the question to coaches: What do you tell your overweight clients? The best tip, and something my husband emphasized as well, was “encourage them to be consistent.” That’s an overall concept CrossFit has preached, but it is particularly important with someone like me, whose obesity puts them at an increased risk of injury. Gary, the hubby, has also emphasized keeping a log of my exercise to track my progress — another thing requiring the dreaded consistency.

I’m not going to even begin to talk about my housekeeping, or, rather, the lack thereof.

So I’m finally seeing consistency not as boring, but as a foundation for variations. Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert cannot be charged with being uncreative, yet they each wrote variations on their own or other’s work. I think I can live with aspiring to be like them.

It’s like this. My husband, Gary, has been doing CrossFit for…oh…a few years now. He’s got a group at work that use CrossFit to stay in shape, and he and his good buddy, Kenny, have gotten so into it that Gary got certified as an instructor and Kenny opened a box. My husband is 55 and a hoss. Why the high school jock married a sedentary, klutzy nerd is anyone’s guess, but he still seems to like me anyway.

I, on the other hand, just turned 50 and have had chronic health issues and am seriously overweight. Okay, I’ll just say it: I’m an obese 5’5″ fattie weighing in at 242 lbs. Some of it has accumulated from binge eating when I’m stressed; some of it came from a medication which made me balloon 70 lbs in about 6 months. But that was over a decade ago, and I’m still looking down at the basketball that lives over my abdomen.

Gary’s been trying to tell me for…oh…probably friggin’ years that I needed to exercise (and drink more water and eat better and take Megamucil — these I’ve finally given in on) for health and weight loss. I generally stuck my fingers in my ears and said “Lalalalala — I can’t hear you.” I grew up believing in the magic pill. When I was 16 and 120 lbs, my mother took me to a fat doctor for the first time (no, not an doctor who is overweight; I believe the technical term is now “a bariatric specialist”). The guy’s office was in a shady part of town, which should have given me a clue that perhaps Mom wasn’t really on the right track about this, but, no, I bought into it. And continued to. For years. For decades.

So once Gary got into CrossFit, he kept harping on about how great it was and anyone could do it. I thought back over my multiple times to physical therapists (at least 11 times I can count offhand) and the countless minor injuries that I’d had at lower body weight (which lead to my 3-week rule: three weeks of any exercise, no matter how benign, and I’m down for 6), and rejected the idea out of hand.

Then Gary got certified, and has been using family members as guinea pigs to hone his coaching abilities. I had started having chronic migraines (5-7 per week) some months before, and after one feeble attempt, gave it up as a lost cause. Of course, at that point I’d given up driving, socializing, and pretty much anything other than huddling in a dark and quiet room as a lost cause.

Then, right after my 50th birthday, I finally caught a break. I was accepted by a headache specialist who is so well-respected and in demand that you pretty much have to audition to get to be a patient. He identified the weirdnesses associated with my migraines, and the solution also applied to almost every other disease or syndrome I have. (Basically, if it will make you miserable but probably won’t kill you, there’s a high likelihood I’ve got it.) So the drug he put me on began decreasing intensity and frequency of the migraines, but slowly. The side effects, mostly being what my daughter tells me is definitely the equivalent of being stoned, wouldn’t go ahead and go away, though, because the dose was never quite enough, and kept going up, and every time the dosage went up, any side effect improvement went away.

But a little over a week ago, a window of coherence appeared. And the man I live with said, “Lo, a time to try CrossFit, as it has been prophesied.” (Okay, what he really said was something more like “CrossFit?” He’s extremely economical with words, a failing I obviously do not share.)

So he made me a babystep CrossFit plan. A sorta-squat using a plyo box, a press using PVC pipe, a shrug using a 10 lb medicine ball (who knew those things still existed…don’t they predate Jack LaLanne?), all preceded by a 10 minute walk on the treadmill. I started at 2.5mph on the treadmill and kept trying to cry when he was instructing me on the techniques I needed to do.

“It’s too much.”

“I’m overwhelmed.”

Yeah, basic whining and complaining. The only thing I was ever good at athletically was doing the splits and now out-of-date dancing; other than that, I was slower and clumsier than anyone else. I missed being high school valedictorian because I got a D one semester in PE. So I pretty much count on being a failure at anything athletic.

And then my wonderful husband said something amazing as I sat on the plyo box with tears welling up in my eyes: “You can’t fail at CrossFit. When I say ‘working until you fail,’ I only mean that you do something until you can’t do it any more. That’s not a failure; that’s a success. It means you are challenging yourself and getting better. You are the only measure of success; improvement is success.” And, for once, I actually heard, all the way down in my heart, what the man was saying.

So, although I’m still terrified I’m going to screw up or hurt myself, I’m committed to trying. That’s my first goal: consistency. And I managed to weasel a deal out of my husband: After I’ve done 2 sets of 5-day workouts, I get a foot rub. Now that’s what I call motivation.