fitness and nutrition

Max Mentality, Part 2

I’ve written before about my inability (or unwillingness) to hit my max effort. I instinctively shy away from redlining. Sending it. Whatever you want to call it.

My comfort zone is running along between 60-80 percent most days. It’s my sweet spot. My happy place. I don’t feel out of control there. I’m putting in work but I can keep going. And frankly, I can stay at that place (and that pace) for a long time. Long endurance work is my strength over short sprints at high intensity. I’m much more turtle than rabbit.

I listened to our box’s CrossFit podcast the other day and they were talking about the upcoming CrossFit Open. Our coaches were trying to describe it, to prepare people who haven’t been a part of it before. The Open is CrossFit’s yearly(-ish) community testing event. You can see how you stack up against many others in the sport, and if you’ve been a part of the community for a while, you can see how you are progressing against yourself, year-over-year. For that reason, there’s a special competitive spirit in the Open. You have a judge and more eyes on you than usual. People push themselves to their max. After such punishing workouts, you often see CrossFitters rolling on the floor, struggling to breathe, even throwing up on occasion. If you haven’t witnessed it before, it can be surprising. But to many of us, it’s just another Open workout at the box. Just with extra sweat and a DJ.

The coaches took a minute to talk about this and made a point to say, if you haven’t gone to that max space, that rolling-on-the-floor-unable-to-breathe-uh-oh-I’m-gonna-puke place, you should try it. I’m thinking to myself, why does that feel so vulnerable? Like going there would take a special brand of courage I’m not sure I have?

I have been wrestling with what to expect of myself this year. I’ll write about that in depth in another post. But I have noticed that our new programming is giving me opportunities to dip my toe into maxing out. I haven’t “redlined” or “sent it” or thrown up in a conditioning workout. But in small ways I have hit failure. I’ve attempted some lifts lately that I’ve failed on. (Usually I don’t venture close to this point!) One I attempted again after I failed it and made. Another I didn’t. I recorded these weights in my notes, something I haven’t done in a long time. Perhaps that’s a sign that I am ready to get more systematic about keeping track of my progress.

Maybe the most glaring instance happened the other day, when we were working on jumping in skill progressions. We usually do a few broad jumps in warm ups and they are something I feel weaker at compared to many. On this day, we did a series of broad jumps for max distance, then rotated to other movements, then back to broad jumps. We did this several times. Each time I got back to the jumps, I felt better about them. In warmups they don’t feel natural, but working on them a few times did. On my third series of jumps, I really tried to push myself to jump longer. And of course, on the last jump, I landed on my heels then fell back into a roly poly ball on the floor. Nothing like going tail over tea kettle with 20 sets of onlooking eyes. Was I embarrassed? A little. But I also laughed. I smiled as I got up. I realized that I had actually pushed myself beyond my comfort level. So I couldn’t hold the landing? Ok. I know what to work on. A friend told me to engage my core, which I did the next round and didn’t fall. I’ll get better at it, failing forward. Inch by inch. Progress.

A little snapshot of going bigger. It might feel foolish. I might fail. People might see. All part of the doing and growing that this year holds for me. What will I fail at next?

challenges

I’m Not Afraid

I’m not afraid of burpees anymore.

I am no longer dreading 72 burpees in workout because I’ll be the slowest to complete them.
I am no longer completely wiped out by burpees. 10-15-20 easy peasy.

It might have taken me over 1,200 burpees in a short period of time to realize this. I learned practice makes perfect or it definitely builds confidence in your weak or feared movements.

In the past, I would do pushups instead of burpees in a workout. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do them. I didn’t want to do them. I would just prefer not to do burpees. I took the easy way out time and time again.

Then one day I said yes to a burpee challenge online. Little did I know that burpee challenge would teach me to endure in many ways. Little did I know it would help me stabilize my breathing while doing burpees with other movements. Little did I know my fear wasn’t worth fearing anymore.

I slowed down enough to take it all in. To practice vs. rush through. I am still not fast at burpees and never will be thanks to my hip mobility but I can get them done in much larger sets. I am not that graceful when I do burpees either. They are what I call sloppy burpees.

Nonetheless I can drop and do 5-10-15-20 or more at my pace without hesitation. I may not love to do them but I can and I will because they have provided many benefits in a short time.

My bench press one rep max has improved. All those extra burpees have caused me to push my body weight up from the ground repeatedly, increasing my pushing strength without me noticing. On that same line, my push ups have improved drastically. My overall form. My endurance. My strength. My ability to do unbroken sets with strong form in my core.

When we mention core muscle, I recently started doing more planks. Not a movement I’ve feared but one I really don’t like to do: well guess what I noticed my time for holding the plank and the the firmness of the plank itself has also improved. Crazy to think how much consistency plays a role in success.

Consistent and persistent are two words that are forever defined in my life in many ways. Sometimes you need to slow down in one area of life to see how you can adapt consistency and/or persistence in other areas.

Trust the process of life. Absorb the learning experiences around you. Test your limits often. Growth comes when you are stretched, fatigued and out of your norm.

Change your surroundings. Try something new. Challenge yourself to do hard things you fear. Growth is a mindset. Sometimes it takes practice. Consistent practice yields results. 

nature

Bloom Where I’m Planted

Screen Shot 2020-08-27 at 8.46.45 PM

A sea of green. Grasses of several kinds, grown knee-high and blowing in the breeze.

It’s a peaceful, idyllic scene, this acre upon acre of green.

Until…

orange!  Orange of all things.  A orange blob right in the middle of all this verdant, lovely green.  An interruption.  An annoyance. Like a lightning bolt to my eyeballs.  Piercing and wild.  Why?  Why here?

I waded through the grasses to get a closer look.  I found that this bright, almost glowing orange was actually a tightly clustered bunch of petals.  A gutsy, piercing, look-at-me! blossom.  A beauty, standing out boldly in her own way.  I studied it for a while, wondering about its roots.

Later that day, walking through the acres, I saw another orange splotch, hundreds of yards away from the one I first noticed.   How did they get there?  Are they family, I wondered?  Long lost sisters, maybe?  Or even just spreading their wings?

“It’s just a weed,” a friend said.

But it’s pretty, I thought.  What makes something a weed, anyway?

(Being me, I looked it up, of course.)

I now know that a weed can be anything that grows where it’s not planted on purpose.  That turns up where it’s not wanted.  Where it’s not supposed to be.  Even someone’s prize roses can be a weed if they come up in a pumpkin patch.

It’s all about context. Beauty can be anywhere.  I noticed and admired these orange ladies more so because they were dramatically different than all the deep green surrounding them.

From these brazen orange beauties I learned to just bloom wherever I happen to be.  Make the most of where I am, even if it’s not the perfectly sunny spot.  I don’t need approval to show my true colors.  To be myself, grow and blossom, wherever I plant my own feet. 

Have the courage to be different.  To stand out.  Will everyone appreciate it?  Not the meticulous gardeners. Who like it all in control.  But to other eyes, I might just be the antidote to the ordinary that they need.  The splash of color in a sea of monotony.   The lightning out of the blue, or green.  The inspiration to spread their wings.

anonymous letters

Graduation Day

 

Recently, someone close to me reached a huge goal. She called me, a mix of relief and joy in her voice, to tell me the news.  She celebrated a graduation day of a special kind.

Not everyone knew what she went through.  Not everyone could see her struggle. Most didn’t even know she was on this path. It was a kind of schooling that she took on not because anyone said she had to.  It was the kind of schooling she took on just for herself. When the time was right, she volunteered.  She committed. Invested. She did the work.

Not many people knew what brought her to the doorstep of that school.  She was pretty quiet about the learning she had to do, the lessons involved, the tests she brought upon herself.  She found her own teacher, someone she thought could help her find her way to her goals. And she worked with that teacher faithfully to learn what she needed to know. She did the work. There is no substitute for doing the work.

Life is full of schools.  Some are official, with bells and class rosters.  Some schools are of our own making, when we decide it’s time to level up, or maybe level out.  There are schools of hard knocks and schools of higher learning. Schools for driving and schools where we learn to be a passenger.  Lessons from classrooms, lessons from the streets, and life lessons that we have to learn over and over again, sometimes the hard way.  But for the most part, once we get past the tweenage years, the schools we attend are by choice.

It takes courage to take ourselves to school when we know we need to learn something but it won’t be fun or easy.  These kinds of schools aren’t required.  No attendance officer is going to call you if you don’t show up.  Holding ourselves accountable can be one of the biggest challenges we face when the topics are tough and the lessons are long. Homework is the deep challenge of learning, unlearning, and relearning how to think and live. We may not get grades, but we know when we’ve failed and when we’ve passed.

It’s not the kind of graduation where she gets a cap and gown. No cords for clubs or uncomfortable seats.  No one is sending her gifts or cards. No diploma will hang on her wall. But she does wave at the crowd, whether you recognize it or not. She smiles with a deeply confident face and a fresh mind. She doesn’t stride across the stage and shake hands. Instead, she treads a quiet victory, walking her new walk every day.

There may be no certificate, no tassel, but still…she tosses her hat into the air in an inspiring way, sharing her journey and her learning as she sees fit.  To witness her journey and her graduation brought me to a new, deep level of respect for her. I celebrate her today and every day, as she bounds toward her next classroom.

 

coaching, dare to be different

Mind Training

Can you train your mind to do things?

I think you can. We all have fears and sometimes our mind makes us think we can’t do something but if we are consistent, determined and persistent a lot can actually get done if we train our mind to think I can.

Let’s look at learning to ride a bike as a child. There is a fear factor involved for most, if not all. I’m sure it has to do with road rash and how much it hurts. I can’t think back to that age but my vague memories tell me it took practice, determination and trust. Trust in my teacher(s).

Then there is learning to drive a car. This fear may fall more towards the teacher rather than the student, but practice, consistency and determination play a part in success or failure. Even how long it takes to master the skill.

For some learning to swim is a challenge. Some don’t get the exposure in their youth and have to battle bigger obstacles to learn to swim or acknowledge they can’t swim as an adult. Kind of weird when you think about it. Nonetheless one has to train their brain to conquer the new skill. Consistent practice, patience, determination all play a role in success or failure.

Conquering fears is a lifelong challenge as fears pop up almost everywhere in life. We have to train our brain to think we can. Show our inner strength and power. Show our resilience and determination. We have to look fear in the eye. We need to train our mind.

What’s also crazy is we have to train our minds while people watch. Around us others are watching and learning too. Some may even be mirroring our behaviors to improve theirs. It could be your kids. It could be your grandkids. Maybe a coworker. Maybe a student in your class. Maybe a neighbor. Any day you could have one or more watchers. Those who watch you. Those who want to learn from you. Those who want to see what makes you tick.

Show them how you train your brain. How you do the things you may not want to. How you can strive to a new level of awesomeness with just a little extra push.

When you power up yourself and those around you great things happen. Strength, positive vibes, compassion and so much more is ignited.

Training your mind is a valuable skill to be able to harness. It’s an indirect form of communication. It’s even more powerful when you can spread that power to others around you.

Escape the ordinary today. Be that influencer. Be bold. Be assertive. Be decisive. Be authentic. Add a little sassy. Maybe some smarts. You will be one hell of a badass!

Just a little whisper in your ear from one badass to another.