Saying Goodbye to Practice February and How it All Came Together Thanks to the Crossfit Games

For the month of February, I “practiced” on a daily basis.  While I chose a rather broad theme to “practice” (“What would love do”), I found by focusing on this theme, I ended up practicing a whole lot of other, smaller things that I might not otherwise have chosen to focus on, and on the whole, I’m a whole lot happier for it . . . yes, I found joy in practicing.

Let me explain.  When you put things into the context of love, things that might otherwise seem like chores become a lot easier and more enjoyable to undertake.  I found this to be profoundly true when I used this logic on myself.  About half way through the month, I realized that despite eating pretty well, and exercising pretty consistently, my body just wasn’t looking the way it had a year ago, and I just didn’t feel as good as I would like to.  (To put this a bit into context, it’s been a bit of a rough year for me having been put back onto meds for a pituitary tumour after being off them for a year – my hormones are still stabilizing and it seems that some weight gain has been the end result of this medical experiment).

In the past, I would have beaten myself up for allowing myself to get bigger; workouts would have gotten longer, more intense, and caloric intake would have dropped.  But this month, I took a different approach.  I lovingly treated myself like I would treat the Husband or the kids if they came to me with a problem; I was patient with myself, I didn’t blame myself, and I quietly set about finding a solution.  In this case, that solution involved sitting down with the Coach, reviewing my training and my nutrition and getting back into the practice of writing down when and what I eat along with my daily workouts.  With just a few small changes, my weight started to drop, my energy levels started to go up, and I was palpably happier.

This weekend, the Crossfit Games Open started – for those of you who don’t know anything about Crossfit, this is a 5 week competition that anyone around the world can participate in.  Each Thursday night, a workout is revealed, and participants must complete the workout and submit their scores (each workout is scored) by Monday night.  The top men and women in each region around the world go on to compete at a regional competition, from which the top men and women then go on to compete at the Crossfit games.  I participated in the “Open” two years ago.  It was a terrifying yet thrilling experience and I loved it.  Each week I loved seeing how well I completed the workout compared to the thousands of other people in the competition.  But each week I also realized how much work I needed to do in order to get better at Crossfit – I turned something I had loved to do into a chore that I pursed with dogged perseverance, and in the end, there were some unpleasant consequences to my actions.

Once I was able to get back to that place of fun in the gym, and working out for the pure love of movement and physical activity, without the pressure of constantly needing to reach specific goals in specific time frames, I became happier, and more excited about my workouts, and decided never to risk doing another Crossfit Games again.

Fast forward to this Sunday – the first workout of the 2016 Crossfit Games was announced last Thursday night.  Of course I watched the announcement, and was prepared to cheer on all my friends at the gym as they completed their workouts.  But there was NO WAY that I was going to sign up to do it myself.  I walked into the gym on Sunday, expecting to do a partner wod with my training partner . . . but before I knew it, I had barbell at my feet, a judge to my right and a countdown clock beeping out the seconds until the workout began.

This particular workout contained a movement called “Chest to Bar” pull ups.  This means, that each time you pull up to the bar, your chest, at a point below the collar bones, must hit the bar.  Judges are told to hold on to the support of the pull up bar so they can literally “feel” each time you hit the bar.  I’ve said before .  . . regular pull ups are a challenge for me.  Chest to bar pull ups seem like an impossibility.

But, the rush of adrenaline that kicks in during one of these competitions, combined with the amazingly supportive atmosphere of my gym . . . and I managed to eek out FORTY chest to bar pull ups during the course of the 20 minute long workout.  Now, to get those 40 “reps”, I think I tried at least 80 . . . and spent the last 5 minutes of the workout struggling to get the last set of 8 reps done.  When the time on the clock mercifully ran out, my immediate reaction was to get upset with myself.  “Why haven’t you worked harder on your pull ups” … “Why haven’t you worked harder to get lighter” …  “You could have done so much better if you had dedicated yourself to working on your pull ups” … “Why” … “Why” … “Why”.

And then I stopped.

What would love do.

And then I smiled.

If the Husband or the kids had just done the workout I had done, I wouldn’t berate them.  I’d hug them and tell them how proud I was of them, how amazed I was that they’d done what they’d done.  And in that moment, I was able to release myself from the negative self talk, embrace the moment, and be proud of myself.

Sunday night brought my family together ostensibly to celebrate my birthday.  But inside, I was celebrating so much more.

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It Really Is a Magical Season (Or How I Did 42 Pull Ups in a Single WOD)

Today was my crossfit gym’s Christmas party.  And when I say Christmas party, I mean we did a 12 Days of Christmas WOD (workout of the day).  There may have been some paleo treats and protein shakes after we were done, but really, we were all there to do the WOD more than we were there for the party after.  For those of you who don’t know, the way this type of WOD works is that there are 12 movements – you start by doing 1 of the first movement, then you do 2 of the second movement, 1 of the first movement, then 3 of the third, 2 of the second, one of the first . . . . until you get to the 12th movement and you work your way all the way back down to the first movement.

I knew that this would be the style of the WOD today, but I didn’t know what the movements were going to be.  Which is why the first thing I did, before checking on my kids, was to check what the WOD was going to be.  And there it was . . . movement #7 . . . pull ups.  I may not be the best at math, but when it comes to WODs and how many of a movement I have to do, I can turn into an idiot savant . . . Anyway, my heart broke a little when I saw that I was going to have to do 42 pull ups.

Fast forward a few hours, I got to the gym, the countdown started, and before I knew it, I was at the round of 7 and about to jump to to the pull up bar.  I took a deep breath, jumped up, and did 7 (kipping) pull ups.  Without dropping off the bar.  Or taking a break of any kind.  7 legitimate pull ups in a row.

And then a few minutes later, I was back at the pull up bar for my 2nd set of 7 . . . and I did those too.  Without dropping off the bar.  Or taking a break of any kind.

And so it continued . . .with each round, I was able to crank out 7 decent pull ups.  And as I entered my last round, one of the coaches looked at me and simply asked “When did that happen?”.

The truth is, it happened today.  Today was a truly magical day as I got to live the results of the hard work and amazing programming the Coach has put together for me.

As I recovered from the excitement that was the workout, enjoying a protein shake and a paleo snack, I looked over at my daughter, and there she was, in her element, swinging on the rings, having the time of her life.

Looks like I have a new goal now . . . learning a muscle up before she does!

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An Epiphany of Sorts (in the gym and in life)

I haven’t been writing much lately.  Partly because the last 10 days have been a merry-go-round of commitments both for the kids and the adults. Partly because I’ve been feeling the pressure of the season to go out and BUY!  And partly because I’ve been busy mentally filing away and letting go (once and for all) of the craziness of the last decade or so . . .

Last Wednesday, I had my quarterly checkup with my endocrinologist.  These appointments, as I may have mentioned about a million times before, terrify me.  Whether it’s the doctor’s demeanour, the fact that I feel like a human science experiment to him (I get it, having 2 unrelated tumours in my head in a span of 5 years may be medically inexplicable, but sometimes, we just have bad luck), or the fact that he tends to be very negative about my prospects (“Well, you’re fine for now.  Let’s check again in another 3 months”) . . .it all sets me on edge.

But at my appointment last Wednesday, the doctor was positively .  . . well, positive.  I got sent away with instructions not to come back for 6 months and after my MRI in June, confirmation that I don’t need another MRI for 3 years.

In other words . . . I am really and truly tumour free.

But then on Sunday morning, the epiphany hit me.  And by epiphany, I mean it in the truest sense of the word:

“An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.”
-Wikipedia

I AM REALLY AND TRULY TUMOUR FREE.

And then I started to cry.  And I don’t think I stopped for about an hour.  And did it ever feel good to get it out.

I’m sure I’d been building to this moment over the last year or so . . . but something about that appointment on Wednesday really and truly signalled to me that this journey was really and truly over.

And then on Monday, I went to the gym.  And the strength part of the workout had us doing 7 Toes to Bar every minute for 7 minutes.  Toes to bar rank right up there with Pull Ups for me . . .I can maybe do them 1 at a time . . . . but FORTY NINE of them . . . in sets of SEVEN???  Not just one at a time?????

So I hopped up to the bar and with a new movement cue in my head, I gave it a go . . .and I did one . . .and another . . .and another . . . until I had done all SEVEN.  IN A ROW.

A fluke I thought.  But then in minute 2, I did the SAME THING.

And in minute 3 I did 5 and then 2.  And so on until I had done all FORTY NINE.

And then I got it . . .movements like pull ups and toes to bar require the entire body to work together; brute strength in just one part of your body won’t help you . . .

And there it was.  My second epiphany in as many days.  In order to succeed in the gym OR in life, I need my entire body to work together.  I can’t let just my brain or any other part of my body take over.

So.  What did I “do” after having these epiphanies . . . well . . . I went on to my week.  Thoroughly.

We’ve had simple meals.  There have been no recipes.  I’ve stuck to my general eating plan during the day, but at night, after the kids have gone to bed, there has been some wine.  And some chocolate.  There’s been longer sleep-ins (today was my first 4:30 wake up in a while).  And there’s even been less time in the gym as I chose watching a 2nd performance of my son’s Christmas concert over a workout.   Sure, I’ll get back to my normal routine soon.  But for now, this is what feels good.

There is Magic in Focusing on How You Want to Feel

Ok.  I mentioned last week that I want to feel light, happy and full of joy.  And according to Danielle Laporte, the way to do this is to focus on doing those things that make me feel that way, and I will end up feeling that way.  So, instead of making mental and physical to-do lists in the morning, I’ve been trying to focus on what I can do in each day to make me feel the way I aspire to feel.

Interestingly, I’ve found a LOT of my to-do list items are still getting done.  But, the intention behind ticking these chores off the to-do list is far different; and the way I feel after I’m done is way different too.  I actually smiled through (most) of the garage clean up/out this weekend.

But the biggest place I’ve noticed a difference in the last week is in the gym.  Right now, I’m not focused on specific goals.  Instead, I’m focused on improving my technique and getting stronger overall.  And yes, I’m focused on trying to learn pull-ups.  But unlike any of the other times I’ve tried to force myself into becoming some sort of pull-up phenom, I’ve crashed and burned spectacularly (i.e. “over-planning” never worked).

This time around, I’ve spent the last week just trying to get a little bit stronger each day.  Yes, I’ve been doing pull-ups every day, but without too much planning, forethought or desire for set outcomes.  And on Friday, I did manage to eek out one strict pull-up.  But that was it, and I was content to celebrate the small win, and move on with more practice.

Today, I had a few minutes to spare in the gym, so I thought I’d try to squeeze in a few pull-ups as my practice for the day.  I jumped up to the highest pull-up bar, so there was no way for me to cheat the movement, and . . . .I gave a mighty pull . . . and my chin made it over the bar.  In my excitement, I dropped off the bar, and did a little happy dance.  But then, I jumped back up, and did it a second time . . . . and a third. . . . and a fourth . . . . and a fifth.

Five strict pull-ups.  In one day.  MAGIC.

I feel good.  Really good.  And strong.  And like I want to keep working hard to feel good.  And strong.

I’m going to take this as a lesson learned; that focusing on what makes me feel good can lead to some pretty magical moments; in life, and in the gym.  And I’m curious to see where this will lead me as I continue to try and focus on how I want to feel, and doing the things that make me feel that way.

It All Makes Sense & How I WILL Reach My Pull-UP Goal

I mentioned in an earlier post that my reading list lately has been light on the fiction and heavy on the “self-help” (I did read This is Happy by Camilla Gibb . . . while I couldn’t put it down, it was decidedly NOT a happy book).

The books I have been LOVING include The Gifts of ImperfectionThe Crossroads of Should and MustThe Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and Big Magic.

All of these books have a similar theme; that when you live the life you want as opposed to the life you feel you “should” live, you will start to feel a whole lot better.  By embracing creativity (be that in the form of art, physical pursuits, or any other pursuit that brings you joy), letting go of the idea of achieving perfection, and tidying and organizing your home in a way that brings you joy, happiness will be the inevitable outcome.

And then, yesterday, after finishing the 2nd of two of the BEST workouts I think I have ever done (and by best, I mean despite being gruelling, I had a light heart, light sprit, and a smile on my face the whole time), I came home, and while soaking in my recovery epsom salt bath, started reading The Desire Map.  And all of a sudden, IT ALL MADE SENSE.

“Small, deliberate actions inspired by your true desires create a life you love”
(The Desire Map)

For the past few weeks, as I’ve chewed through my aforementioned reading list, I’ve incorporated a variety of suggestions the authors make and made small adjustments to my, and my family’s life.  The new habits of getting all the activity bags packed on Sunday, stealing 10 minutes here and there when the kids are occupied/doing something with the Husband to get something small tidied or a little chore done, getting the kids dressed at 7am as soon as they’re done breakfast so we can have a full hour of “mommy school/together time without a mad dash/cranky mommy running around 5 minutes before we have to leave for school getting everyone ready . . . they are ALL making a MASSIVE difference in our lives.  We’re more relaxed, the kids are happier, the house is cleaner, and I feel far less anxious about everything that I’d like to get done.

Why has it been so easy to stick to all these new habits????  Because they make me FEEL good.  And from the way everyone else in the house is acting lately, I pretty confident in saying they FEEL good too.

“When you get clear on how you want to feel, the pursuit itself becomes more satisfying.  The quality of the journey and the destination begin to merge in your heart”
(The Desire Map)

Ahhhhh.  Ok.  So what I want is to feel this way every day; light, happy, full of joy, and able to focus on whatever it is that I’m doing at that moment (not worried about what I have to do next, what I haven’t done, or what I should be doing).  And if I keep up with all these little habits, I will be able to keep feeling this way; and if I keep feeling so light and happy and full of joy, it’s easy to keep up with the habits . . . I sense a virtuous cycle forming . . .

So how does this cycle back to training and my desire to be able to do pull-ups?????

Right now, I’m in what we call a “strength building phase” of training.  That means, when I go to the gym, I’m not trying to hit PR’s (Personal Records) in my lifts, or complete workouts in faster times.  I’m simply working on a variety of movements, working at a percentage of my maximal lifts, and trying to improve my technique and overall strength.  And I’m LOVING every minute of it; especially the last 2 workouts.  I haven’t questioned why I’m so happy, I’ve just been going with it.  Then I read this “Constant racing for success creates habitual and unconscious goal-setting.  We need to re-learn how to move toward our dreams-with (the) trust and well-placed devotion”.  Wait a minute . . . . that’s exactly what’s been going on in my training . . . remove the constant race for success, and replace it with trust and well-placed devotion . . . and it makes for much happier training.  Don’t get me wrong – I do love a good PR-smashing session, and these types of sessions definitely have a place in a good training plan – they just don’t have to happen EVERY time I go to the gym.

Ok then.  But I do still have goals that I REALLY want to achieve.  Is that still possible under this paradigm???  Well, Danielle LaPorte has some words of wisdom on that too:

“Feeling Good along the way doesn’t mean you do’t work your ass off to get what you want.  It means you joyously work your ass off.”
and
“When you’re connected to the greater purpose of an intention – honouring the call of your heart, not just proving yourself – and there’s peal sure in the process, you can pull off some amazing feats.”

So . . . I want to be able to do pull ups because I want the feeling of knowing that I’m that strong.  And the only way to get that strong is to work on it, and build that strength.  So . . . I know why I want to achieve this goal, what I need to do to achieve this goal . . . and so I trust that as I go into the gym today, I will joyously work on developing the strength I need to master those pull ups.

(Ironically, and article entitled “2 Programs to Build Up Your Pull Ups” appeared in my blog reader this morning . . . thanks Universe!)

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