My Miss NCAA Makes The News

I have so many drafts building up and no posts. But as I lay down for a nap I have to share a story about one of my girls (known here as NCAA). Here is a link to the newspaper article she was featured in (real name Sarah Johnshoy; she’s pictured in the center in blue). I was surprised to read my name in the bio. I’ve told her many times “I’m not that good, I just don’t quit. I’m always the underdog and that works for me” but the darn kid doesn’t listen, as you will read.


Socializing, Athletes, Deadlifts

Coach’s wife, it turns out, has a lot in common with me and we’ve become fast friends. We both are little lifters (she’s tiny); we both knit, can, read, former tennis players, on and on. It’s awesome after all these years to have met “someone like me”.

But there are two problems: 1) when we see each other we spend more time chatting and laughing than we do on our lifts and 2) I know way more about Coach than I ever wanted to know – and we both laugh hysterically that I didn’t even say hello to him for 4 years because I was terrified when in truth he is icky icky sweet.  A little intimidation never hurt me 🙂

All my girls are back from their summer travels and sports camps. My CrossFitter started at the box on Monday…I felt like I was taking her to the first day of kindergarten and when she asked me to stay and watch I said “you don’t need me, you’ve got this! ” and smiled. I have to admit I’m glad it’s dark early now because I cried as I pulled away. Mostly because I’m so proud of her and partly (this is awful) my thoughts of “what should have been…” for me. I said to someone regarding loss: grief doesn’t get easier but it changes us, and therefore it changes.

My program has gotten a little off track and Monday it showed in my deadlifts. For the first time in 8 months my glutes wouldn’t fire. Coach and I reviewed my program and altered the accessories. We invented a new way to do hip thrusts. Returning to deads, weight still low, my hip flexor had so much pain I couldn’t stand up. Coach gave me the third degree, worried it was a repeat of my original injury, until I said “that pain is engraved into every cell in my body. It’s not that. I’m not injured.”

Later that night I was supposed to finish hip thrusts. And I did. Now for the comedic part: this morning I couldn’t walk. I crawled to the shower,  stood up, tried to lift the right leg into the tub, tripped, fell on the faucet, blood everywhere. I told Coach’s Wife I would need a crime scene cleanup crew for the house. The tiniest little cut on my knee did this. What could I do but laugh?

After all, my girls had returned with many hugs and exciting stories.  What’s a few days on ice when I have all that?


Beyond My Becoming


Iowa was the most rewarding trip I have ever been on. My CrossFitter went with me (middle picture), NCAA/Team USA Girl got bronze, and I caught up with a former athlete who is strength training high school girls and running triatholons.

My girls.

At the moment I am processing all the craziness of this summer, thank God for Coach who is the calmest most centered person I know besides The Husband. Home and lifting have been rock solid, peaceful places…finally. And Coach’s wife has become a great friend to be goofy with. I’ve missed being goofy.

My lifts are slowly increasing, as Coach said “not as quickly as you want but I’m happy” so therefore so am I. I would rather go slow, be pain-free and having fun than what I was before. I am becoming the athlete I want my girls to be. That makes me proud.

And let me repeat, I am – almost – doing everything I was before (not tennis) and am pain-free. Pain-free. I should have jumped ship a few years ago.

But if I did, I might not be who I have become and am becoming. And I’m turning out ok.

And my girls are turning out to be amazing!

Life and Lifting Is Finally Fun

Coach is making sure that I am having fun, not only with lifting but with life. And because of that, and in spite of the losses we have had, The Husband and I feel like this whole summer is a second honeymoon. We are hiking and swimming and  rock climbing and biking and running (short distances) and golfing. I have never liked golfing but as my injuries have permanently ended my tennis playing, golfing it is. And we have never had so much fun, so much laughter, so much love, before. All things I had been banned from doing before…even before my injury. I started some of these things on my own and one day when I walked into the training room a little more sore than I should have been, Coach asked what was up. I told him and said “so now I suppose my life is going to come to a halt again because training is more important”. He looked at me and said “ya know, if this is all you have, life is going to suck. And worse, this is going to suck.” “And I’ll go back to hating it and crying everyday.” “Yep. Your old coach and I have different approaches that way. Well, as long as running isn’t a marathon and you don’t play tennis ever again.”

Tomorrow night we leave for 5 days in the woods. The Husband and Coach like each other (that helps) and The Husband is rewarding my return to life by making sure I have a session with Coach before we leave and offering to come home early so I can be back before my deadlift session on Monday. I kind of feel like I have it all.

I am still not hitting the numbers I want but I am enjoying the process of figuring out the issue. It isn’t lack of strength and it isn’t my head (yay!!). Something just isn’t activating properly. Coach has made this lull incredibly fun. At the end of each session, if I haven’t met my goal, he throws a little fun time my way. So far we’ve had 9 reps of 225# deads as fast as possible with a time cap of 1 minute and I did it in 21 seconds; 6 reps of 245# deads in under a minute and I did that in 58 seconds; and the best one was yesterday: 235# deads 1 rep every 10 seconds, goal 10 reps…I got 8 and he called it on 9 for rounding my back. There was an audience. They cheered, I said I missed my goal and Coach, laughing, said “Hell, I set a pretty damn lofty goal. I am impressed.” These little endings are the closest I will come to CrossFitting again – they remind me of bits of CrossFit workouts and leave me with that same exhaustion and pride I always had after a WOD. Oh, how I have missed that joy – and it is absolute joy!

And apparently this renewed spirit is noticeable to everyone. If I had a dollar for every person who has approached me and said “your the person I remember again”…I wouldn’t be able to retire but I would be able to get three sessions a week with Coach.

It isn’t the roller coaster good and bad either. It is just a solid foundation of confidence and happiness.

And now to continue the honeymoon of a summer….

Title Unknown

23 days ago…my last post. That evening My Crossfitter’s mom called. There had been a tragic accident, could I come?

The next 14 days were an emotional horror. My 17-year old Crossfitter, often referred to as “My Girl” and “My Athlete”, had been holding hands with one of her best friends when they dove into a quarry. My Girl surfaced, her friend did not. The joyful yet always ready for a fight girl I had just seen a few hours before is forever changed. Over the next two weeks her mom and I took turns holding her, making sure she ate, watching her begin to laugh just to have her collapse in tears. I repeatedly and silently gave thanks that I don’t have children of my own. I desperately wanted to take this pain from her, and I am just her trainer. What her mom, what the mom of the dead friend will forever experience, I don’t know how they will ever be sane again.

Since we are in The Middle of Nowhere, most of my athletes and parents knew one or the other of the girls. They were all incredibly flexible with their schedules and patient when my biweekly “athlete updates” were emailed late. One mother said “I know you would do the same for X if she needed it” and I would. Coach has a magical way of shutting everything in the world out once I cross the threshold to his training area. It was about the only respite I had – lifting and learning. As he is a more experienced coach than I am, and has worked with hundreds of kids compared to my dozens, he would sit down at my desk, outside of the training room, and offer advice and guidance on the role of a coach to kids who need a little more support in the world.

And just as that immediate crisis entered normal grieving, an amazing man in my life died. Six weeks prior we were told he was terminal. All of his “strays” spent a last father’s day with him, and then he died. I was glad for him and his minimal suffering. But he sure didn’t give us time to adjust to the idea of a world without him. One of my friends wrote the obit which began “Wise Wayne, known for collecting stray cats and stray people…”. Just last summer he and his wife celebrated 50 years of marriage and the tough old German gave a speech to her that reduced us all to tears; such love and they were so entwined, I don’t know how she will breathe without him.

Today is the funeral.

So I haven’t updated here. I used all my energy staying mentally well through all these unexpected journeys.

Hopefully all returns to normal after today and the next post is back to workouts. 9 weeks to my next meet!

The Girl Who Never Quits

Two years ago this very date, on a heavy day of Smolov, I squatted with 285# and my already damaged hip crumpled underneath me. I thought it was one of the worst days of my life. It was, in fact, the worst day in the life of whoever that Warrior Girl was.

What I forgot at the time – what everyone forgets when they go from the happiest moments of life to utter darkness in less than a second – is that I was exactly where I needed to be. Who I thought I was becoming wasn’t who I was supposed to become. I just needed to have a little faith, continue working hard, and patience. Wow, did I need to learn patience.

I walked into Coach’s room and set up the squat rack. Coach walked in and we had our normal “conversation” (see yesterday’s post) and I warmed up as he unpacked his stuff. He threw weight on my bar and we worked our way up to 180#. I have been back to squatting 6 or 7 weeks since that fateful day 2 years ago. I have learned to appreciate every squat I can do: body weight, light weight, kettlebell, back, front. It took me all this time to not care about my squat numbers and instead remember the beauty of doing them. So I was proud of that 180#. Last year I could still barely squat to a chair without pain. I told The Cool Girl I was starting a post-injury PR list because the comparison to pre-injury doesn’t do me any good, it only makes me sad and I want to be proud of these small steps.

Coach told me to line up all my shoes and he stripped the bar down to 95#. He then had me put on my low converse and worked my way up to 140# in each. He stripped the bar back to 95# and had me put on the high tops and worked me back up to 140#.  We repeated this for every shoe I own. Last, but not least, I put on my oly shoes. And this time we worked past 140#. I didn’t do the math. I still didn’t know what was special about this particular day.

We ended the day and as I put notes in my journal Coach said “2 reps at 200#”. And I smiled and recorded it in my book. I’ve been wondering how long it would take to get back in the 200’s.

I have been trying (and actually succeeding lately) to not look back. There’s no purpose. But things will always feel heavy come mid-June. I decided to pull out my journals from June 2013 and read about that fateful day. 2 years to the day I went down. How fitting this day, years later, I would have the biggest squat accomplishment I could imagine. I have to be honest, many times I doubted I would ever make it back. I just never quit. And in those writings I can see I am not who I was. That Warrior would have been ashamed to type “I squatted 200”. This Warrior Girl will always cherish 200.

I e-mailed my old coach “on the 2 year anniversary I hit 200 on my squat. I fought my way back and it’s too big a moment not to share with you” (I would want to know news this big about one of my girls) and as I hit send a text came in from Coach. All it said was “I’m so glad for you”.

My client list is full. I kept 2 adults and the rest are high school and college athletes. Throughout this day, what once was the darkest day, I received random messages from some of the girls and some of the moms “S said she had an amazing day with you”, “thanks for listening today and being so cool”, NCAA sent a picture of her poolside in Florida with a note “you are my inspiration”. On the really hard days, these girls are the reason I never quit.

So I did not become the Warrior Girl I pictured myself becoming 2 years ago. I suspect this Warrior Girl is becoming something more amazing that I can even imagine. Isn’t this exciting?!

It’s good to be the girl who never quits.

Warrior Girl Has A Tribe

My sessions with Coach begin with the same conversation everyday. Coach “how’s it going?”. I smirk. He laughs. Then he calls out “Deadlifts” or “Bench Day” or “Squat Day” and I set up the area and put on the appropriate shoes (converse low-top for deads, oly shoes for bench, converse high-top for squats).

Deadlifts have been crazy fun. Coach always mixes lbs and kg weights so I can’t quickly do the math between sets. Every week we inch towards that glorious 300#. I’m so close but starting next week he’s bumping me to reps of 3 at the current weight. It’s the right thing to do but I really want to keep maxing. It’s a good thing I have a coach.

He’s been sending me videos daily. I’ve finally caught on to the message: the best lifters all lift differently. They know what feels good to them. The average lifters follow the “rules”. I told him I finally caught on and he replied “your old coach taught you how to lift technically and that’s important. You follow the rules very well. But that can only get you so far. Figuring out what is best for you – and only you – will take you as far as you want to go”. I have  started playing a lot and he never discourages or gets mad at me. He always smiles (sometimes laughs) as he critques what works and what doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong: he’s tough and he expects a lot but he expects what I can give. He said today “I love the journey my athletes are on. I want everyone to do well but I don’t really care about the outcome or the ending. I like being a part of the story”. I finally have a Coach that coaches like me. A coach that my New Mother always said I deserved.

Bench day was great. It has been a sore spot for me since December. Coach has been keeping me sane throughout with his words of wisdom (which when he says them The Wife – his wife – and I look at each other and roll our eyes. She too has been struggling). The Wife then said she started using her oly shoes to bench in. The bigger heel allows her to plant her feet. We are both all of 5 feet tall. Keeping Coach’s words in mind, I laced up my oly shoes Tuesday and benched. No PRs but I got 3 sets of 3 reps at a weight I failed the week before. I left the gym yesterday the happiest girl in The Middle of Nowhere.

As I put on my shoes Monday, I mentioned to Coach that the meds were kicking my ass. He said “you should be adjusted to them by now. Has your diet changed?” Not really. Well…I’ve been having ice cream. Daily. A gallon of chocolate milk. Every few days. “And how clean was your diet until the last few weeks? How much sugar did you have?” Extremely clean. I listed my daily food intake for the last 5 years (easy to do since I ate the same food every day). No sugar – except for my 4 oreos a month which was really only every-other-month. He laughed and said “Holy shit.” and I replied “It’s the food that’s making me exhausted! I’m such an idiot. But I want to have a normal life. I want to get ice cream with The Husband sometimes (for 15 years we’ve talked about walking to the Dairy Queen 4 blocks away but we never have) and I want to eat a piece of pie – everyone says I make amazing pies and I have never had a bite. I want to have those moments”. Coach said my body just needs to get used to it and I can have those things but I need to slow down and let the body adjust to sugar. Start with once a week and build up. He basically told me what I would tell a client who was too strict for years but I forget to apply these things to myself. He said The Wife is having the same problem.

Today I got to introduce Coach to the man whose name is on the Credit Card I pay him with – The Amazing Husband. And they chatted quite a while. As I was leaving The Wife stopped me on and we spent 20 minutes lamenting our sugar withdrawal headaches. I have been trying to talk her into doing a powerlifting meet and she is going to!!! I may just change mine set for September so I can lift with her. Then Coach joined us girls and we talked about all the big names in lifting, some they are good friends with (worldwide!), and talked about all the big meets said friends have been doing. The Wife and I mocked our own shortcomings and how Coach has to remind us both of the obvious. And then they announced they were getting a puppy toy poodle this weekend. I squealed for her and made fun of him. Seriously? One of the world’s strongest men is getting a toy poodle? How could I resist!

Coach left and The Wife and I continued talking. Some of the other lifters drifted in and out of our conversation. Two hours after I started leaving I picked up my bags and on my way out the door I said to The Wife “Thank you for making space for me in the group” and she smiled and said “you bring a lot to our little group”.

The Husband had dinner on the table when I got home. “You look happy” he said. I curled up in my chair and started eating. “I’m so glad you got to meet everyone. And…I have a group. I’ve never had a group. I drifted around until you and in college your friends were the group and even now, your friends here are the group. I’m friends with them but they aren’t my group. And my few friends aren’t in the same circles. But I realized tonight I belong to a whole little group.” He smiled and said “I knew you would find your way”.

Tomorrow I squat.