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October 22, 2013

Through the Fire

Through the FireSky Fire

“What is to give light must endure burning.”
~ Viktor Frankl

 

There is an old saying in the world of fitness:

No pain, no gain.

There is an old joke in medicine that goes like this:

Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” said the patient.
Well, then don’t do that,” said the doctor.

Like an angel and a devil sitting on each shoulder, I often hear both voices at the same time. Yesterday I was at CrossFit™ and our workout had one exercise that just hurt. The weight was too high, the movement too awkward, the feeling was wrong even when I slowed it down. The one voice in my head says It’s just 4 rounds – do it…and then the other voice says that’s 80 reps you crazy woman you will not be able to walk tomorrow.

In the end, the desire to do the workout despite the pain won. It took me longer than almost everyone else, it hurt, and I finished it. But I know the risks. I have had enough injury to know that pushing too hard can do real damage. I have also done enough exercise to know that often, my greatest gains come from finding that edgy space right between pushing hard and pushing too hard and working right there.

Pain, in theory, has a protective element to it. The doctor joke is only half a joke…pain is partly a signal to stop doing the thing that hurts. That said, we can condition ourselves to override some of that. We can raise our pain threshold so that it takes more and more stimulus to get to that place of “stop.” We can convince ourselves that pain is good.

And sometimes it that is fine. Continue reading…

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August 14, 2013

To Fail Better

To Fail Better

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

~ Samuel Beckett

I don’t do failure well. OK, I know that sounds funny. After all, failure is failure and it’s not meant to be beautiful or graceful. Failure more typically looks clumsy and awkward, right?

Tonight at CrossFit we were working on Power Cleans (PC) and Snatches. I was getting comfortable working up to a heavier weight so when we went to start a timed workout that was going to call for 15 PCs and an equal amount of Front Squats, I lightened the weight a bit and figured it was going to be fine. It was the plate push that killed me. Why or why pushing a weight across a stretch of turf make my thighs feel like jelly is still a mystery to me…but I did that plate push one time and the weight I had easily cleaned 5 times just a few minutes earlier wouldn’t get over my knees.

One time. Two times. Three. Nothing.

I put the bar down and stare at it for a minute. Everyone else moves on to the next rep without me.

Eventually I change out my plates and finish up at a lower weight. But inside a part of me hurts. It’s some mix of frustration and anger and embarrassment. I feel a little betrayed by my body and maybe even more betrayed by my mind that somehow could not overcome the obstacle and see a way through. Continue reading…

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August 12, 2013

Balanced on the Edge

Balanced on the Edge

You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge.

~ Danielle LaPorte

I have never been excellent with boundaries. Maybe as a child no one told me no often enough, or I somehow missed the lesson that there were things I couldn’t at least try if not achieve. I have always figured that this somewhat contributed to my success in life – I have not been afraid to try things, to push forward, to test boundaries (mine and others). I have been lucky. I have continued to find my way down a successful path – one that has allowed me to have a comfortable life, personal success and more than I really ever asked for.

I have often approached life like a fitness pursuit. Always looking for the next level of my personal ability like a runner looks for better times or a weightlifter a new PR (personal record)

The two are not that different really – you work hard and continue to put new challenges in front of yourself to see if you can do better. If you run you can always run a little farther, tackle a hill, pick up your pace. CrossFit is built for this – there is always a heavier weight, a harder technique, another rep to add. Life is basically the same if you think about it. Continue reading…

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July 23, 2013

What’s My Age Again?

What’s My Age Again?

CandlesMy friends say I should act my age

What’s my age again?

What’s my age again?

~ Blink 182

I turned 44 not long ago. Quietly and without fanfare. It was not that I was trying to avoid it, but maybe just trying to let is sneak by unnoticed…

Earlier this year, my friend Larry and I had a conversation about age. It went a lot like this:

Me: I’m still young, lots of time!

Him: What’s your definition of young?

Me: A state of mind, heart and body?

Him: So that means a bright active 85 year old runner is young even though he doesn’t have plenty of time…

Me: Ok, so at what age is someone no longer young regardless of attitude or health? Who is young? Are you young?

Him: No – I am not. Is a 30 yr old young? A 20 yr old? Who is young? And middle age means just that, I won’t live to be over a 100 so I am not middle age I am older then that.

Food for thought right? We live in a youth-oriented culture. Young is a commodity, and aging is a thing we hide at the cost of hair dye, Botox, and perhaps even self-deception. Think about this carefully now: are you young? Really?

Regardless of how we see ourselves, our age is our age. It’s a real number. Just like others that we try to avoid.

I could tell you that one motivation for me to keep up with a pretty aggressive exercise regimen is to stave off time – and there is truth to that. Physical aging happens more quickly in those who don’t actively exercise. And being frankly sedentary will – as many studies now tell us – kill you sooner than otherwise expected.

I rarely feel old, and I am used to being told that I look younger than my years…enough so that sometimes I can fool myself. But if you exercise enough – long enough, hard enough – your age will become more clear.

The first day I walked into a CrossFit class it was intimidating. There was a lot of gear I had never seen and finishing up was a class of exhausted, sweating looking people doing things that I was pretty sure my body was not designed to do. But this is me…I’ll try anything once.

Twice even. Continue reading…

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July 22, 2013

Group Therapy

Group Therapy

IMG_4428“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

~ Ryunosuke Satoro

For the past couple of years as a runner, I have run alone almost exclusively. It’s not that I don’t occasionally go out with a friend, but mostly, I don’t. My running time is my time to not talk to others, to not answer, to not share. It’s mine. It’s personal.

In years past, however, my preference was always for groups. I did serious martial arts for a long time and part of what I loved was the dynamic of my school. We trained together. We trained a lot, and over time we became like a family. One big sweaty family united by upper cuts and side kicks and wrist locks. In years since I have had similar kinds of experiences in yoga studios, though less so because there is more transience in yoga.

For me personally, a funny thing happened over the years – the harder and more demanding my family and career became, the more I craved activities that took me away from people not towards them. Running lets me be an exercise hermit, and I am grateful for that. It also lets me be at my own pace and push only as much as I want to on any given day. One of my readers here once commented about physical “diminishing returns” in running…and I wonder if this is partly why.

So I started to think recently, that maybe part of the magic of a group has to do with accountability.

When someone else is there to push you, maybe you can expand your limits more than you can on your own?

Continue reading…

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July 21, 2013

New Days, New Goals, New Challenges

New Days New Goals New Challenges

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
~ Goethe

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I sort of stopped paying attention to this blog some time ago. Life gets busy and writing seems more like a thing that get in the way than…well, than much of anything.

Plus sometimes I think to myself, this thing has served its purpose. I ran for a year, I wrote for a year.

End. Of. Story.

But perhaps not. I think that part of what happened here – and those who followed along bore witness to this, is that I started to really enjoy running – it became part of my life. I still like it now and I still run and it’s now just kind of part of who I am. In the eyes of some, that might be a successful experiment. It has been for me. The minimal learning here was that at least in my life – busy, chaotic, full, but with a priority to stay healthy and fit – the age-old advice that you should chose an activity you like for your regular exercise because you will be more likely to do it – proved to be untrue. What I found – and this might help others too – was that what I really needed was an activity that I could actually accomplish regularly despite my life. Running fit. So I ran with committed effort. I ran and it changed me. At least it made me a runner.

I think it also made me a better person.

I will never be a great runner. I’m not going to be fast, I’m not going for super distance. As a 5 foot tall woman with asthma, I really wasn’t build for this sport. But it gives me results, it gives me a stronger, healthier body – and frankly, it gives me a healthier mind. And once I learned all that, it could have been the end of the story. And perhaps for running it is.

Then there was CrossFit.

I am probably about to make a terrible mistake in writing what comes next. Continue reading…

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March 10, 2013
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Where I Run (16)

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A cloudy day near 36th St. Newport Beach, CA.

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March 8, 2013
March 4, 2013

This Bugs Me

This Bugs Me

Saturday was a beautiful warm (nearly summer warm) day here in California. It was only about 7:30 in the morning when my friend Wendy and I went out for a run. It’s worth noting right here that Wendy is tall and me – well – at 5 foot I am officially short.

When we leave our neighborhood we can run a few different ways, but on a sunny day, it’s great to head north and into Huntington Beach because on that route there are no houses along the waterfront so you get the full warmth of the sun and uncluttered views of the ocean and beach and it’s pretty great.IMG_3678

To get there, we have to cross the Santa Ana River. Saturday, at that hour, the tide was very low and the river was less flowing water than a big mud flat. Wendy and I are running and talking and as we cross the river, to my most unpleasant surprise, I get a face full of tiny little bugs. They are in my nose, my eyes, my mouth. Yuk!

I look at Wendy who seems unflustered. Waving my hands in front of my face such that I don’t inhale more insects than necessary I say Aren’t these little bugs making you crazy???

Wendy: What bugs? Continue reading…

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March 3, 2013