Bupees, Burpees, Burpees

What a wonderful day at the gym! For the strength portion I had 5-3-1 reps of thrusters. Going into the 1 rep it occurred to me I could get a new PR today…it was not to be. There was no pop out of the bottom of my squat and that doomed me. I guess even a Warrior Girl can’t have a personal best every day and going forward in this cycle my front squat pop will be added to my list of things to conquer.

Now for the fun stuff (I know you are thinking “Warrior Girl, what don’t you find fun at the gym?” It’s true, I love it all). No timer today! It was up to me to push it to my limit without a ticking clock ominously looking on. Oh, I am of the breed that can push their limits all on their own and sometimes more when the stress of that clock is off. Five rounds of pull-ups, dips, and burpees. Every round my pull-up and dip reps decreased but my burpee reps increased. Total burpees: 150!

Let me say this again: 150 burpees.

I have been working on the timing of my burpees lately. Using breath to my advantage has made a significant difference in quantity, quality and quickness. And today I saw it pay off. I wasn’t dying at any point even in the high rep rounds. When I hit burpee 140 the corners of my mouth turned up. By 145 I had a bit of a grin. At burpee 149 I was beaming with joy and pride.

An hour later the oxygen returned but my pride remained.

And I think I may have just glimpsed the burpee mile somewhere in my near future! Just don’t tell my trainer. He’s the type that would make the near future next week and I’ve had enough burpee fun for the month of April.


The Pain of Rewards

Today I hurt. Everywhere. My triceps are twitching as are my quads, glutes and back. When I breathe I can feel my ribs. Every couple of hours I have to stop what I am doing (yes, even if that is sleeping) and take a few minutes to stretch. I love it!

Yesterday began with a run followed by a little nap. Nap? It is a rare luxury and one I try to avoid as I tend to be more tired and mildly cranky after one. Not this day, thank goodness. I had a big “reward” waiting for me at the gym (and apparently a big post-reward hurt).

Handstand walks without a spotter, aka upside down falling, for 25 minutes. Yes, 25 minutes of falling. Four attempts had a few steps but I must admit two of those I was falling already so I just moved my hands. I am still waiting on the ruling if those count. My goal for the day was distance and I was realistic, only hoping for two or three steps per attempt. But I was shocked, slightly disappointed, at all the attempts that went straight into a fall. My falls landed me on my elbows, ribs, spine, knees, rolling sideways, rolling forward, slamming backward. I am thinking these 25 short minutes are the primary cause of the whole body hurt. Excellent.

After a rest I began my Meta. The workout was an EMOM (every minute on the minute) of deadlifts and push-ups. If I complete the prescribed reps within the minute, I “earn” the next minute and the reps are increased. This continues until I cannot finish the reps within the minute. I have four attempts, five minutes rest between, and I keep the highest score (total number of reps). Totals: 91, 88, 84, 67. This explains the twitching triceps, the hurt in my chest when I breathe.

My bedtime prayer tonight will go something like this: I have done deadlifts 4 days straight. I have done handstand push-ups and handstand walks 3 days straight. Please, please, please, do not have either of these in my Monday crossfit. Please.

Week One: Attitude, Surrender, and Dancing

The end of a microcycle is amazing for this Warrior Girl. It is when the struggle pays off. I have practiced set lifts at set weights for weeks and the last week I prove that I have mastered them. And the pay-off? Starting over. Joel and I have had several great week 3’s and 4’s but have never had so much as an okay week 1. It is full of heavier weight, picking apart form, making each lift more difficult, learning new movements, exposing weaknesses, experiencing failures, anger, frustration, fear. Torture. It tortures me to start over even though the start is leaps ahead of the previous start. Torture for Joel as I become belligerent and shut down. Torture for anyone who mistakenly goes to the gym on those afternoons and winds up a witness to these scenes. Why is he “out to get me”? Why is this so personal?

But every untamed warrior that wants to master her craft must eventually become an apprentice, surrender control to a commander. For the first time since I began training with Joel, for this first week (there have been many), I chose to adopt a new attitude. I opened my heart and mind, listened, quieted the negative voices, avoided anxiety, set pride aside, surrendered and let my coach…coach.

The result? He coached. I learned. He coached. I adjusted. He coached. I laughed at my failures. He coached. I improved. I relaxed, surrendered to the change in my program, and I willingly let go of the greatness of last week in order to become a humble student.

Today is my favorite of the lift days. There is so much work to be done on my cleans, snatches, and jerks. I am early in the development of all of them. It is a challenge mentally because my weaknesses are all exposed (my hips and my balance) and it ends tackling my fear (cleans). With 15 minutes left we begin working behind the neck jerks, a lift I love. It conveys power. But this cycle we are changing the focus: lunge deeper, keep my shoulder movement to a minimum. This is all about balancing my body while in a deep lunge and holding weight above my head. The frustration that has been controlled all week rises but I only need to keep it together for 15 minutes and I can officially say we’ve finally had a great week one. I rack the bar. “I am getting frustrated. I can’t maintain balance. I’m all over the place” to which Joel replies “I’m glad you understand the balance issue, it means we are on the same page. Now look at it from my perspective”.

My balance needs work. To improve my balance I must be pushed to an unbalanced position. As my balance improves the safer I will be in the lift. As my balance improves the weight will increase. As my balance improves I improve.

I enthusiastically put the bar across my shoulders and begin to improve my balance.

And the cleans? This irrational fear has blocked me from successfully completing this specific weight for months. The failures have been half-hearted because the attempts have been half-hearted. But today, instead of ignoring my fear, I acknowledged it and calmly stepped to the bar. I went on to complete all 45 cleans, 40 of them in the squat position.

Why is he “out to get me”? He’s not. He is out to improve me. I am with the best trainer in order to become the best athlete. Is it personal? Absolutely. I have to admit and expose my weaknesses. I have to willingly hand over control. I have to trust he is putting together the best plan of attack in order to turn my weaknesses into assets, to advance and advance quickly. Keeping a good attitude while adapting, accepting help, taking direction, trusting someone…this is changing the core of who I am and that is personal.

The result of this change in attitude, the surrendering of control? My first great week one, a little dance by this Warrior Girl and a big hug.

Just wait for tomorrow: I am handstand walking on my own. I’ve never done them solo and it is an acknowledgement of my hard work, my improvement. It is a reward. And it is followed by a long crossfit… Stay tuned fellow warriors!

New PR, New Perspective

In an attempt to celebrate the little things: I set a new PR today!! Push Jerk 145# … Level Up Warrior Girl!

I have stopped looking at my max numbers on a daily basis (yes, i was obsessed with them) and going into today’s workout I didn’t know exactly what my numbers were. Heading back to the rack I was only thinking about all the little adjustments I have learned in the last few months. Looking at the bar, prepping myself to lift, I didn’t think about chasing a number. “Pop your lower body, lock your arms above your head” was all I thought. I built up the weight without a problem. Then 145# was loaded on the bar. The first two attempts were there but I just couldn’t lock my arms out. Getting ready for the third, I stared at the bar, wrapped my hands around it and said “this is for all the Warrior Girls”. I got the bar up again but no lock. So I screamed, drove my hips again in a last-ditch effort and…lock! It wasn’t pretty but it was a completed rep. This felt momentous simply because I stuck with it, fought for it, figured it out and won. I was a little shocked when Joel said “starting the day off right with a new PR”. And I was extremely happy. But, for the first time since I started lifting, the PR wasn’t what mattered most in that moment (or this moment). What elated me was my ability to adjust, work it out. I used my rest periods to figure out the smallest movements that caused my first attempts fail. When I got the third one to the sticking point I could easily have let it drop, some days I might have, but I didn’t today. Today I was going to finish. The weight could have been 100# or 160# it would not have affected my mental game. The goal: finish and be proud of your effort. Done and done.

My reward for winning these battles: Head outside for 11 minutes of sprints, 5 minutes rest, 5 minutes shuttle sprints.

Remembering The Why

“Go home, relax, remember why you do this.”

So said this Warrior Girl’s mentor. I have never missed a day at the gym but I have been sent home two, now three times, in the last 18 months. I am there seven days a week. I’ve driven in ice storms, blizzards, walked when the car was in the shop. But those obstacles are easy to overcome compared to battling my self-doubt.

Today’s weight on the bar wasn’t too heavy (deadlift, cleans, shoulder press). I’ve done them multiple times before at these weights. But I am tired. It’s been a long week of intense concentration for me. Learning to focus, mastering my emotions and channelling them into my lifting, is exhausting. Cleans are my sticking point when I am unable to keep my head in the game. They are the terrifying boss fight.

Round One – my deadlifts are all over the place, I am already thinking about the cleans. Move on to the cleans. Pull once, no squat. Pull twice, even higher, no squat. The third pull I practically throw the bar through the ceiling but no squat. I have no follow through, no finish. I let the bar slam to the ground and back away.

“It’s over, you’re done” Joel says. This is not how today is supposed to go. I make progress. I get better everyday. I don’t give up. I don’t leave a job unfinished. I don’t walk away. I don’t know what to do with this moment. So I ask “how do I let this go? I gave up. I lost faith in my ability. I quit on myself. How do I not hate myself for that?”

“Go home, relax, and remember why you do this.”

Because I love it. I love the potential of it. I love feeling strong. I love knowing I am capable. I love being good at something this challenging. I love wrapping my hands around the bar, struggling for weeks to master a weight and suddenly making it look easy and beautiful. I love that once that happens I add weight and begin the struggle again. I love who it is making me – the master of myself. I love the hidden aspects of my personality that I am discovering. I love the solitude of it and the community of it.

I do it because it is who I am.

So tomorrow I will go in, whatever the weather, whatever my mode of transport, and start again. Nobody, not even myself, will stand in this Warrior Girl’s way.

The Beginning

October 2011 I was introduced to my passion: weightlifting. Until that time I spent my days measuring calories, making sure not to go above 500 a day – unless it was an exceptionally special occassion. I lived in fear of breaking 100 lbs and therefore spent most of my adult life as close to 80 lbs as I could – the bigger the buffer zone the better. Years of doctors, nutritionists, therapy did very little but strengthen my resolve to “show them” I was fine just the way I was. How did this anorexic wake up one day and become a weightlifter?

During my first introduction to the “big boy playground”, aka the weight room, a barbell was placed on the back of my shoulders and I couldn’t move. I landed on my tush when I attempted to squat it. But that bar felt at home laying across my shoulders and an ember started to burn. What followed was months of “but I want to lift more” to which the response was “if you want to squat, eat an extra piece of chicken tonight”; “if you want to bench, have an extra protein shake”; “if you want to deadlift, it’s time to add in steel cut oats”; “if you are spending 4 hours in the gym, I want to see you fueling your body”. My resolve was once again steeled and I was going to show them: I was going to conquer those lifts even if I had to eat to do it! It has been a long process but I have been blessed to have met wonderful trainers who never once made my journey about eating or a diagnosis, rather they keep me focused on my love of lifting. And, most importantly, I have been blessed with the spirit of a warrior.

18 months later I still have stretches where I have to set timers to remind me to eat – my purse contains chicken packets, raw nuts, and a couple of scoops of protein powder just in case the timer goes off and I am not at home or near a grocery store – but the timer goes off, I add fuel to my fire and this Warrior Girl heads off to forge her weapon.

Fran Breaks and Makes a Warrior Girl

A warrior engages in battle with courage, dedication, resolve, and the deep-seated belief that, regardless of the odds, she will conquer. She must have the intelligence to know when to retreat, reset, and reenter the arena. For this warrior girl the opponent is inside her head but the battlefield is inside the gym.

Fran, that b*tch! This was my first attempt at one of the crossfit girls. I was doing a broken version (45 65# thrusters, 45 pullups in any order) for time. I did complete her after many tears, desperate texts to my trainer, leaving the gym and returning three times, the forceful encouragement of another warrior girl, and in the unofficial Worlds Worst Fran Time of five hours.

Fran destroyed me 33 days ago. I willingly admit that leading up to this day I was already beaten down and over the last three months I had been losing ground…not with my lifting but with the battle in my head. I forgot to leave the arena, to re-evaluate the battle, find a new strategy. I thought I had Fran, no problem. Fight on as I had been was the plan, even though the plan stopped working months ago. But my trainer knew. And he knew Fran would make brutally clear the blood covering this warrior girl’s armor was mine, not that of my enemy.

Retreat. Reset. Refocus.

33 days later and Fran was slaughtered in 13:30.1 minutes.

The reward: a 20 minute rest followed by a 25 minute AMRAP of split squats, box jumps, situps, pushups, Overhead squats, and handstand pushups. It’s good to be back on the battlefield!