It Still Isn’t Fun

Shortly after starting CrossFit, a friend invited me to go watch some of the athletes from our box compete. Each team had three men and three women, and the first event was a max lift of some kind followed by a brutal metcon. We stood on the edge and cheered. At the end of that first event, one of the women expressed how much fun she’d had while on the floor. I thought she was crazy then, and I actually still don’t understand. As I stated last year, I don’t have “fun” while competing. This has been true for both CrossFit and running.

Fun is eating ice cream with friends. I have fun playing with puppies, building Lego buildings with children, and watching Star Wars marathons with fellow geeks. Dinner, drinks, and talking late into the evening is fun. Especially by comparison, going as hard and as fast as you can for a race or a CrossFit competition does not seem fun. It is difficult and painful and challenging. It is one week after my last competition and I think I’m still feeling some of the effects – that isn’t fun. It may be rewarding, but it just isn’t “fun.”

Life is not all about the fun, though. Sometimes, we do things that aren’t fun because they’re good for us or necessary. Plenty of activities can be useful, productive, and even enjoyable without ever being “fun.” One of the primary reasons I’d sign up for a race or have signed up for CrossFit competitions is the preparation period. Committing to doing my best on a particular date sets me up to spend more quality time preparing.

This preparation time has proven itself to be remarkably beneficial, and not just for getting fitter. Fitness is the obvious outcome of such a time, and it does happen. I’m more likely to eat well and less likely to skip a WOD. It becomes a priority to add a bit more weight or go a bit harder in class. I find more time outside of normal WODs to do work that will help me during the competition. I sleep a bit more. I’m more disciplined about ROMWOD. I’m not perfect and all of my plans don’t usually work out, but in general, I’ve gotten much stronger each time I’ve competed.

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Even with being sick, preparing for this last competition helped me get stronger and faster.  This week I set a 3 minute PR on Jackie.  I PR’d my thruster and 500m row as well.  And I sat in the bottom of an overhead squat, something my deskjob mobility level has never allowed me to do.  I’m not sure all this would have happened if left to my own motivation.

Another side effect of preparing is emotional/mental. It is pretty easy for me to spend my free time surfing YouTube and eating junk. In addition to the physical side effects of just laying around in my down time, that lifestyle takes a toll mentally. I find when I have a schedule and things to do, I’m a lot healthier mentally. I’m happier. I’m actually better able to go and do the fun things I want to do!

This greater focus on my schedule leads to spiritual growth as well, as I’m far more likely to schedule prayer or other time at church. Having more energy and a better mindset make me more thankful to God for the gifts I’ve been given. I’m better equipped to worship.

There are advantages on “game day,” as well. I told a coach a few weeks ago I rarely do tasks where I might fail, but there’s a very real (and very safe) risk of failure competing. Competing isn’t comfortable, and things don’t go to plan. I like comfortable. I like my plans. They don’t always work out though on the day of a competition. I’ve not found a race or competition so far outside my comfort zone that I wasn’t safe to try, and so try I did. This risk of failure and moving well outside my comfort zone has always proven to be educational. I learn something about myself and others each time.

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Finally, people cheer the loudest at races and competitions.  These ladies weren’t cheering for me at this moment, but had been earlier.  They are really that excited, and it is contagious.  Photo by Michelle.

Oh sure, people will encourage you in a normal WOD. But I’ve never almost lost my voice at a normal WOD yelling at somebody to keep going. There’s nothing like the energy of having your friends and total strangers absolutely convinced you can do it, whatever it is. There’s something crazy about that energy, and I like it.

What makes you compete?

Third Time’s the Charm!

This weekend, I competed in my third competition and my second Sertoma Fitness Challenge.  It was an excellent competition, and it went to a great cause.  As an added bonus, we did not finish last.  Third time’s the charm!

You might remember this competition was my very first competition last year, and I found it to be pretty terrible and awful and scary, if still awesome.  I was far less anxious this year, and also more fit, so it went a lot better.  It was not without some concerns going in though, as I had a nasty upper respiratory infection last month that still has me coughing a bit.  My teammate was also full of snot.  Nonetheless, it turned out more awesome than last year, without a lot of the panic and anxiety!

WOD 1: Max 1 RM Deadlift

This went so much better than we expected.  It was the first WOD and we were the first heat and the last thing we wanted to do was overdo it and injure ourselves.  We planned to go just under our current PRs and then see how we felt.  We felt great!  I got a 5 lb PR and my partner added 20 to hers!

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WOD 2: Snatches & Burpees

The scaled women’s teams had 4 minutes to do as many snatches as possible.  Then we had 2 minutes to do as many burpees over bar as possible.  We swapped reps on the snatches, with her taking the most as she’s much faster.  Our actual official burpee strategy was for my partner to work until she was tired, and then I would work until she told me to swap.  This was fantastic for me, and worked out well!  We topped our score in practice, even with me forgetting where to put my hands on the snatch and then tripping over the bar on the burpees.

An added bonus is my form has improved over the last year.  I know it isn’t perfect, but it is huge to me to know my posture is better.

WOD 3: Rowing & KB Swings

6 min AMRAP of KBS and rowing, but you could only work simultaneously and had to swap if the KB touched the ground.  She’s better at kettlebell swings and I’m better at rowing, so we just never swapped.  She went for about 2 minutes and then switched to Tabata, and I rowed when she worked and stopped when she stopped.  My legs were more tired than I expected during this WOD, so I didn’t do quite as well as I’d hoped.  But I gave it all I had and didn’t give in to the temptation to slow down, so it was a win.  I also didn’t have to crawl off the floor or hurl, so that was nice.

Intermission:  Between these WODs, I got really tired.  The world is ending, I don’t like CrossFit, why life kind of tired.  I could star in a Snickers commercial level tired.

I had to talk myself into warming up for the 4th WOD by reminding myself my teammate was counting on me.  There was a lot of yelling going on in my head.  Thankfully, I sucked it up and started doing some air squats and pretended to be happy about the next WOD.

WOD 4: 60 partner WB, 50 WB sit ups, 40 partner WB, 30 partner deadlifts, 20 partner WB, 10 linked push ups; 10 min cap.

I may have pretended to be happy about this WOD, but a friend sent me a video today and it is pretty apparent I was exhausted.  You know that new person who falls forward on each wall ball and you’re afraid they’re going to face plant?  Every.  Single.  Rep.   And that was about the only consistent part of my wall balls, as I sent them below the target, above the target, and flying off the side of the target.  At least I didn’t smack my face with one.  There was a 5 burpee penalty if the ball dropped in those segments, so thankfully my partner was paying attention.

We’re fast on sit ups and did okay on the deadlifts, so we made up time there.  Then we got to the linked push ups, which involved my feet on her back and both of us doing a push up.  Think of half a ranger pushup, if you know what those are.  We got no-repped all the way into the time cap, but we never gave up.

We did not place last, which is an improvement over last year.  I’ll call it a win.

I finally came home and may have eaten all but one slice of a small pizza…  Overall, I still did not have fun at this competition, but it was awesome and I’ll do it again!  I’ll likely sign up for the Open and have already signed up for Festivus.  My plan is to keep working until I’m old enough to aim for the middle of the scaled master’s division.  =)

Relax to Succeed

Success.  I have a fair share of it professionally, as they keep paying me to show up and do things.  And you know what it takes to be successful?  Hard work.  Determination.  Effort.  It is the American way.

A few months ago, I started vision therapy to help with strabismus.  I’ll have another post on that sometime, as I’ve found the process to be interesting and the results to be exceptional.  They told me the weirdest thing though – I have to relax to be successful.  When I tense up and try hard, my eyes do the exact opposite thing they’re supposed to be doing.  Oh sure, I can still throw all the determination I want at being consistent with my home therapy exercises, so long as I’m relaxed doing it!

I’ve been doing personal training at CrossFit with an awesome coach.  We we were working on my overhead position, which I lose entirely when I squat.  I assume she is conspiring with my vision therapist, as what I had to do in order to help my position was relax and not tense up my shoulders.  I’d snatch the bar up, find my position, and then actively tell myself to chill out and then squat.  I can be determined about doing all my homework, but apparently have to relax some to be successful.

This is ridiculous and contrary to my nature.  I also think it may be why I’ve struggled with prayer.  That seems like one of those things I shouldn’t be all Type A about…  Dang it.

Oh, the things we learn with coaching.

 

 

2017 Goals

Now that we’ve established my 2017 Word, I’d like to identify a handful of objectives as well.  While they certainly don’t directly fall under my “prayerful” word, they do allow me to be physically and emotionally healthy and in a much better position to serve God.

Fitness/Health

I was in a local health food store a few years ago, buying cod liver oil. A much older lady saw the bottle in my basket and asked me about the purpose.  I explained how it was supposed to be really good for you, full of Vitamin D and all sorts of good stuff, and I can hide it in my smoothies and never know the difference.  She asked about the lemon flavor; I said that made it easier to take.  She nodded and said, “When I was younger, we’d drink it straight.  Unflavored.  Makes you hardy.”

Hardy.  I kind of love that word, and I’d say it is an excellent long term goal.  Life, illness, genetics, injury, and age will all take us down varying roads to less active bodies.  I’d like to be as hardy as possible, physically and emotionally, along the way.

Last year, I had some very specific goals for CrossFit.  I hit all of them, and it felt great.  I’m stronger and more fit now than I was a year ago, and that’s important.  I haven’t felt the urge to make any specific goals like that for 2017, however.  When I think about it, I keep going back to that word, hardy.  I like that simply doing what I enjoy doing is making me more hardy now and for the future.  It is affecting both my body and mind, and makes exciting things possible and the mundane more enjoyable.  I want to spend 2017 continuing that journey, and focusing on a few areas which will help me more along the way.

  • Yoga.  This is on the advice of pretty much everyone, and I’ve found the results to be excellent as well.  I want to at least stretch daily, but do ROMWOD as often as possible.  I’ve worked at a desk my entire adult life and that takes its toll.
  • Other Mobility.  It is less enjoyable, but I’ve seen good results with rolling.  This can be with a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, or any of the other torture tools available.  I recently picked up Deskbound and friends sent me the second edition of Supple Leopard for Christmas.
  • Speaking of Deskbound, I have a standing desk.  I’m going to use it.
  • Food.  I need to eat enough of it.  Women are prone to caring about the scale, and that just hasn’t worked out for me.  Remember when I lost weight in Colorado?  I got dizzy the next time I picked up a barbell.  Quality food is key to my 2017 hardiness goal.
  • CrossFit.  Seems to be working out for me.

Writing

I’ll keep this one simple – write every day.  It can be here or it can be the novel, but I want to work on it every day.

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You’ll notice I left off reading this year.  It is a silly goal for me, as there’s no way to stop me from reading.  The problem last year was there was no good way for me to keep track of what I’d read, and I didn’t seem interested in trying.  I’ll always find something to read!

What are your 2017 goals?

Unhappy at Christmas?

Are you ready for Christmas?  I’m ready for it to be over.  So many of my friends have expressed exhaustion and anxiety over the holidays, and then further distress they’re doing something wrong for not feeling happy about “the most wonderful time of the year.”  Reasons vary, ranging from stress over keeping up with it all, to depression from a tragic loss or losses in 2016.

And yet we all walk around convinced this is the season to be happy. This, out of all the times of the year, is the one time we must smile and feel good about others, the human race, and the world in general. Everything should be just as cheerful as a golden retriever puppy playing in the snow, a small child swinging on a swing, or a panda bear sneezing. If it isn’t, there are some of us who feel we are “doing it wrong.”

I’m no theologian, but it seems the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity did not take on human nature so that we’d have to smile incessantly and pretend to be overly cheerful for the four (or more) weeks preceding His birthday.  The Incarnation did not occur because we were all smiling and happy people; quite the opposite.

Do you know how far we manage to make it into the Word of God before we run into sin, suffering, and death?  Three chapters.  It is in the third chapter we have the fall, the consequences, and the promise of salvation.  I don’t think the Word made Flesh would forget this.

The pages are not filled with people drinking pumpkin spice lattes, putting up decorations, buying each other gifts, and spreading good cheer.  Time and time again, the people faced sadness, suffering, sin, and chaos.  God continued to work everything up to that moment in time when His Son would come, promising His arrival through the prophets.  The faithful were full of hope at this promise, but this faith didn’t remove their suffering.

And then when Jesus does arrive, it is not to matching warm flannel pajamas, perfect hot chocolate, and freshly baked cookies in a perfectly clean house full of clean laundry and smiling children.  He does pick up some amazing gifts, but I’m not sure they were as practical as a warm blanket at the time.  I think we should be thankful the annoying kid with the drum isn’t actually Biblical.

His life was not full of sunshine and roses.  There was work to do.  There were illnesses.  People got sick and died.  And at the end, He died the most horrifying death known in the Roman Empire.  Jesus is not unfamiliar with suffering.  He is not unfamiliar with your suffering.

Last year at Christmas Eve Mass, my family sat in the front row of my sister’s beautiful church.  The entire place was gorgeous and festive.  Everything about the building was happy.  And for some reason, they had to go and sing I’ll be home for Christmas.  I can’t even link to it without crying, so I just won’t.  My mom loved that song.  And so we were in the front row, just sobbing.  I cried, my sister cried, I think my dad may have cried.  ALL THE CRYING.  And then they played it again at the end!  Snot.  Everywhere.  That’s no happy Mass, people.  Did we do it wrong?  Was Jesus displeased with our emotional outpouring of grief?  Was He annoyed we cried on His birthday?  Of course not, that’s ridiculous.  He was right there with us, quite literally in fact, at Communion time.  And that brings me joy.

We can have faith, hope, and love without actually feeling happy.  They are supernatural virtues; overwhelming cheer is not.  Jesus can give us joy without turning us into happy mindless robots.  There is a time for weeping, and this may be yours.  Jesus wept too, so it must be okay.  If this is your time, then let it be your time, and don’t stress over all the bells and whistles you’re not playing with.  It may be time to be nice to others, but you can be nice to yourself as well.

I wish everyone joy and hope this holiday season, regardless of how you are feeling at the end of 2016.  I also wish you happy moments with family and friends, because they are nice, even if they’re not necessary in the eternal plan.  And puppies.

2017 Word

Now that we’ve recapped my 2016 goals, it is time to think about 2017.  I’ll start with a post about my intended 2017 Word.

As with last year, it takes the place of a long list of New Year’s resolutions.  While I might make a handful of objectives for CrossFit, writing, etc, this word is the goal for most aspects of my life.  It needs to be simple and fill in the sentence, “Be ______.”  In 2016, I picked fearless, and I nailed it.

For more information regarding the idea, check out this post “The One Resolution That Might Work.

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I’ve spent most of my life caring a great deal about efficiency.  My education is in industrial engineering, and someone has paid me for 12+ years to care about making things more efficient.  From the time I arrive at work to the time I go home, a major driving factor for me is saving the company money by saving them time.  I need to save them at least as much as they pay me, hopefully a lot more.  Otherwise my job itself would be inefficient!  I take this role very seriously.

This kind of outlook doesn’t do great things for my appreciation of patience.  Efficiency takes on almost a moral quality in my head, and this extends far past the realm of work.  As doing well in this area for work is admirable (as that’s why they pay me), it can and frequently does get out of hand elsewhere.  I can be quite an impatient person, especially with myself.

Thus, I have spent the last few months of 2016 thinking my 2017 word should be patience.  It goes well into the formula above: “Be patient.”  It would be a good response to have in my head for almost any situation. Stuck in traffic?  “Be patient.”  Sitting at the dentist?  “Be patient.”  Wondering why I can’t do whatever I want as well as I want in writing, CrossFit, reading, friendship, sleeping, praying, decorating, cleaning, cooking, or simply existing?  “Be patient.”

This was especially on my mind last week, as I lay about my house recovering from some evil virus.  I don’t believe my throat has hurt that much since I had my tonsils out and subsequently knocked off one of the scabs, and I’m certain I have not been ill for such an extended period of time as an adult.  As I grew increasingly frustrated with my sore throat, my inability to sleep, and my total lack of energy, I tried to think “Be patient.”  It did not help, and then I was frustrated with my inability to be patient!

What did help my mood was when I thought on why I should be thankful.  As annoying and painful as my aggravating bug was, I was not in mortal peril.  I’m also fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to call in sick when necessary and even work from home on occasion, thus allowing me to be sick and miserable without also worrying about my employment.  I had friends who brought me things (like more NyQuil), a recliner to sleep on, and the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings to watch.  I own enough hoodies I could wear a different one each day.  Being thankful actually did make me feel better by making me more patient.

While I don’t intend to make thankful my word for 2017, it did make me think more on another word I’d considered: prayerful.  Declaring myself to be patient might work in the moment and prevent me from doing or saying anything stupid from a place of impatience.  But it is not the only way to acquire patience – apparently being thankful works too.  And I know that being prayerful will also provide patience, among a whole host of other virtues.  See?  That’s efficiency right there.

The downside is I’m not very good at being prayerful, either.  It requires a certain stillness I have yet to acquire.  Don’t get me wrong; I pray.  I like talking to God and I love studying God.  I just don’t do it in depth regularly, which is a key factor in any relationship.  Alas, as with any relationship, it requires work.  And I have yet to put in that work.  I’ve been lacking the patience.

Another problem with trying to be prayerful is it doesn’t easily fit a checklist, though of course one can ensure they attempt to pray daily.  There is no sense of completion, at least not until your end.  There’s no scorecard or dashboard to objectively measure progress.  As an efficiency engineer, I’d like a graph, please.  I’ve often noted my application of my bible studies would be more fruitful if the thing came with a flowchart.

I pondered this at Mass a few weeks ago.  The bishop and another visiting priest were there; they seem like prayerful men.  As it turns out, they were there to announce our parish would be starting perpetual adoration in 2017.  There were cards we could fill out to sign up – isn’t that efficient?  Times you’d sign up for and be on the schedule for one hour each week.  A commitment.

So for as much time as I’ve spent considering patience, I think it is an easy pick now.  My 2017 word will be PRAYERFUL.  Time to be fearless in working on that relationship.

What’s your word?

2016 Goals Recap

Greetings, readers!  Around this time last year, I set some goals for 2016.  It is now time to see how I did!

Let’s start with the CrossFit goals I set with this post.  In 2016, I hoped to accomplish the following:

If you can click on the item, then I nailed it in 2016.  I accomplished all my goals in CrossFit!


Last December, I also decided on a 2016 Word.  This is like a goal, in that I’d spend the year more focused on a single word to help guide some decisions.  My word for 2016 was “fearless.”  My goal was to be fearless.  How’d that go?

  • In January, I participated in my first CrossFit competition.  It was honestly one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done, and also one of the most educational.  I also went on to participate in the CrossFit Open and compete in the team Festivus competition.
  • During the summer, I went to Colorado alone and then hooked up with a group taking a 5 day backpacking trip across the Continental Divide.  This turned out to be more difficult than I expected, but I didn’t quit and I used everything I’d learned at CrossFit to get myself through it.
  • In the fall, I went on a leadership retreat with work that involved climbing 40 ft walls and doing high ropes courses.  I’m afraid of heights, so this was a major stretch for me!
  • While I didn’t finish my novel, I took on an entirely new approach and now have way more material than I have at any point prior.  This may not sound scary to you, but try writing a novel sometime.  😉

I’m quite happy with all the adventuring I did this year and some of the risks and rewards I managed.  I’ll be coming up with a new word for 2017!


There’s one area I didn’t do as well with in 2016, and that were my goals in reading.  I did read quite a bit, but I failed to track how many books.  I’m certain it was not the very aggressive 2-3 I’d hoped for in that post.

I would love to listen to audio books, but I get too easily bored and distracted, even if I speed them up.  Does anyone have any ideas on making audio books easier?  I even tried the Audible subscription on Amazon to listen to some professionally made audio books, with no luck.

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