Category Archives: Crossfit

Creative Workouts at Home: Session 1

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Saturday was a lovely stay-at-home-day, but I didn’t want to miss out on the Crossfit workout our coach had posted. So I thought I would do a home-made workout, incorporating my long run.

The following 1 minute video shows what I came up with.

I call it the LabbyNo!

Enjoy!

Testing Day

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dead lift

My son and I walked into the box  to discover it was ‘Testing Day.’

Testing Day was reminiscent of a health clinic. But instead of hitting your knees with a little hammer or listening to your heart with a stethoscope, the guys with clipboards watch as you do shoulder presses and wall balls.

The knee hammer is probably more fun.

Actually, Crossfit, even on a day where the WOD is replaced with a health inspection, is fun for me. And I can’t help but think of the similarities between testing day and a visit to a German health clinic:

  • You go into a big room with a bunch of other people–many of them you’ve seen before
  • You fill out paperwork
  • You ask someone to translate the hard words, which turn out to be ‘easy’ words
  • You guesstimate your weight and height, because you can’t convert inches to centimeters off-hand
  • You’re suddenly much taller and skinnier on paper than you are in real life
  • Everyone complains about the slow service, & for those of us who are English-speakers, the communication problems.
  • You go to the proper ‘station’ at the proper time
  • First come, first served
  • You hope the guys with the clipboards know what they’re doing
  • The guys with clipboards scrawl things on your paperwork
  • You hope that by the end of the visit, you’ll come away healthier
  • When you do finish, you feel a sense of camaraderie with others who’ve just endured the same thing
  • They will want to re-evaluate in 8 weeks

The only difference is that in a German health clinic, you take a number and sit around and read a book until they get to you. At Crossfit, you stand there talking and rolling out your hips and/or shoulders.

While I DO love seeing improvement, I’m not going to stress about the testing day or the follow-up. As our Coach Rob likes to say, “It’s all good!”

And it is.

Every bit of Crossfit, even two solid minutes of wall balls, is good–especially when you’re fertig.

A Spontaneous Marathon

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On Friday, we decided as a family I could run a second marathon this year.

Sunday at 08:00 I signed up.

By 09:00 I was running through a shower of confetti.

After the Gletscher Marathon in June, I had thought I would run the Seenland Marathon in September. But then an injury (which had me inactive for 2 weeks); a visit from my mother (3 weeks of board games & cookie baking); and an onslaught of large farm machinery chopping up and spraying the countryside, sidetracked my usual training plan. Thus, out of 12 weeks between marathons, I had only 3 long runs, the longest of which was a mere 14 miles (nothing like the 18-20 I would have normally done).

Even though I LOVED running the Seenland Marathon last year, I debated about it this year, because I didn’t know if only doing Crossfit (3 times a week), plus one to two runs a week was sufficient preparation.

But then, as my oldest child said, “It’s only running.”

Right! It WAS only running; and I quickly buried the fact that it would be 42 kilometers of running.

The results: 4 hours 26 minutes–the EXACT same time as the Gletscher Marathon.

HOWEVER: I would have done much better with more training. Normally, the marathon ‘starts’ for me around km 30. This year, I was feeling it at km 20. My legs became chunks of concrete, and I sincerely felt like quitting.

HOWEVER (again): That’s when Kristina came flitting along the path with her two bouncy braids, striped tights and cheerful smile. She was SO happy to see me and said that she was talking about me the night before at the noodle party. She is the best pacemaker in the world, and she helped me get through the tough parts of last year’s marathon.

This year, she came along, asked how I was doing, and then said, “Stay with me” in a manner worthy of a Crossfit coach.

So, I stayed with her the rest of the way–and we crossed the finish line together, smiling.

Kristina and I approaching the finish line

Kristina and I approaching the finish line

There are so many things rushing through my mind:

*How easy the marathon was at first, and how incredibly difficult it was in the middle.

*A guy running the marathon in an elephant suit

*The hoards of half-marathoners, breezing by, making me feel sadly inferior

*The t-shirts promoting a wide variety of causes (some of them nearly dueling it out on the trail)

*The fabulous aid stations with plenty of watermelon

*Hearing American Rock music booming along the trail

*The handicapped runners (some blind) leaving me in the dust

*A welcome shower of rain

*The Bible verses on my left arm, written in pen, vanishing one by one

*‘Stolz Sein’ (our Crossfit Coach’s mantra) fading from my right arm (translation=be proud: to help my posture)

*Hearing Kristina tell someone in German, “I need to get her to her kids at the finish line!”

* Seeing from 1/4 mile Libby’s striped pink dress, her arm waving frantically at me.

I love the moment I see my family, waiting by the finish with such excitement and anticipation. It is THE single best part of any marathon! 

Crossing with the kids

Crossing with the kids

If you are going to run a marathon in Germany, I highly recommend the Seenland Marathon. The catering stations are fantastic; the people (both the staff AND the other runners) are extremely friendly; and the scenery, with the tall pines, wild boars and the sailboat-filled lake, is simply gorgeous.

If I can, I will run it every year that I live here–hopefully with a little bit more preparation next time. 

Push Up

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Lazy

I was in the box, the rubber floor leaving little black flecks on my sweaty skin every time I fell to the floor lowered myself from push-up position, and wondered how many reps Rob said we had to do. I couldn’t see the white board because 1) I was face down on the ground and 2) I wasn’t wearing my glasses anyway (and the board gets fuzzier the further away I am).

Push-ups are never easy for me, but they don’t seem quite easy for anybody.

Have you ever seen anyone smile while doing push-ups?

I didn’t think so. The only people who smile while doing push-ups are either selling something OR they are actually grimacing.

The first three reps were okay, meaning no innocent-bystanders would think I was having a seizure; but then reps four and five became significantly harder. By rep six I felt as if I had a lead weight on my back, and by rep seven I wondered how many more I had to do before I could justifiably lay on the floor panting.

That’s when I heard the alarm on my phone, its soothing chime resounding over the scuffling shoes and raspy hyperventilation.

I wondered why on earth I was SO tired, when I can usually do ten wobbly push-ups before collapsing.

Somewhere before push-up number eight, I woke up.

…and it all had been but a dream…

…and I was SO THANKFUL that I didn’t have to do another rep!

This is the first time I’ve actually dreamt of Crossfit, and I feel it’s a threshold of sorts.  My son and I joined eight months ago, and while I’m still not as strong or agile as I’d like to be, I can see improvement. For example, I CAN do a real push-up now, whereas in the beginning, I could only quiver in plank position. I can also do Turkish Getups, which literally made me trip on my own feet back in January. I also recently did one ‘sort-of’ pull-up, which if nothing else, gave me hope.

Crossfit is more than a way to relive stress: it is a venue for practicing self-discipline and dedication, two of my weak areas. When I train at home, I can get distracted by things, like wild bunnies or manure trucks; or because nobody’s looking, I don’t push myself; so being in proximity to other people helps me focus.

God made us social beings, and though I can’t exactly explain it, there’s just something about working through a difficult task with other people that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and inspires you to come back. It doesn’t matter if you’re the weakest, slowest person with the wobbliest push-ups–you are still part of the team.

It is an idea I want to apply to other areas of my life.

If you see Crossfit as a temple where you can worship yourself, then you are missing something.

I see Crossfit as a place where I can strengthen the things God has given me, both the tangible and the intangible–and it has very little to do with push-ups.

Catching Up

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You will not find me mixing peas with my mashed potatoes, nor will you see me stabbing up steak with my broccoli. Everything must have its place; and this translates into blogs as well.

I usually have 3 or 4 blog posts rolling around in my head at any given time, and normally I savor them, doling them out at the proper time and place. On a rare occasion, I will toss everything into the pot and hope for the best. This is one of those blogs. I will, however, apportion the ramblings into shish-ka-bob pieces for your enjoyment. Life has been so full recently, I fear a backlog unless I clean out the corners of my brain.

Happy Birthday!

Will 16

Today is my eldest son’s 16th birthday. I will suppress the desire to show you cute baby photos–this is my gift to him: refraining from embarrassing reminiscence. He is such a fine young man, and I’m incredibly proud of him. Not merely because of his intellect, humor and his creativity (which are each respectable gifts) but because he is a young man of wisdom and integrity. When he was little, I never imagined he would become such a good friend to me.

Food!

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to try a website called “Real Recipe Plans.” Naturally, I began by messing up the entire deal by leaving town for my marathon, thus missing the first week of recipes. However, I am now catching up, and I have to say, I LOVE having someone tell me what to cook and provide a shopping list. Even though I have not followed the daily schedule, the vegetarian dishes are perfect for our family: easy to make, healthy, quick and most importantly, delicious. I will blog in more detail about this new endeavor, but for now, it is enough to say that Real Recipe Plans is going to be a huge blessing to our family!

Marathon #5
The family finds me around mile 20 & Libby snaps a picture.

The family finds me around mile 20 & Libby snaps a picture.

I had many fears going into the Pitztal Gletcher Marathon, and some of them were well-founded. While I didn’t notice the altitude affecting my performance, the many miles of downhill took a toll on my left knee, and at mile 18 I had to slap on a knee strap. However, looking back, this also happened at the (flat) Koenigschlosser marathon last year (what IS it with mile 18??), so it might be a dietary problem (like my addiction to salty foods).

Despite the knee problems, altitude and the rogue cows running interference at the start (yes, Alpen bells clinging and all), the race went VERY well, and I managed a PR of 4:26, which is nearly 5 minutes faster than my last marathon.

A cow in the Pitztal Alps

A cow in the Pitztal Alps

The race course itself runs from the Riflesee Talstation at Mandarfen all the way to Imst, Austria, which means cars have to pass you along the (sometimes) narrow alpine road. I took the shuttle bus from Imst to the start line at Mandarfen, where an old German runner bought me coffee and encouraged me to run ultras because, he said, they are easier on the body. He also showed me photos on his phone of the Jungfrau marathon, which looks delightful in a grueling sort of way. He assured me that most people walk up the steep parts. I’d like to find out for myself someday.

But for now…

Noah & Libby finish with me

Noah & Libby finish with me

I ran my fastest marathon ever, clocking one mile that was just under 8 minutes (and NO, it was not the first mile). I had 9 to 9:30 minute-miles up until my knee trouble at mile 18, where my pace slowed considerably. The last mile was a long, slow ascent that made me want to cry–especially since they had run out of watermelon at the last aide station, and I had to gnaw a slim pink bit off a rind.

I still have to figure out vegan fueling for race day, as I am pretty sure I ran out of steam. I used chia ‘gels’ but should have begun consuming them earlier in the race (well before needed).

Run and learn.

I am certain I would have done much worse without Crossfit training. For one thing, I wore my hydration pack, which usually leaves my shoulders sore after 26.2 miles. But this time, my shoulders didn’t hurt at all. It might be because I ran out of water, so it was very light by the end, but I’m hoping it was due to the new muscles growing atop my arms. Also, my legs felt very good, and I was only walking like Frankenstein for about a day afterwards (as William and I did a modified WOD in the marathon parking lot–yes, I brought my kettle bells to the race). Two days after the marathon I was back in the box, which helped my recovery considerably.

I wore my Skora ‘core’ shoes for this marathon, and they were perfect. I had NO foot pain whatsoever (not even an ache), which is a first for me. I DO believe in minimalist running–and the Skora cores, while a little sweaty, do fit like a glove.

Several times during the marathon, I felt like giving up. But the one thought I had was: “Whenever you feel like quitting, have some gummy bears.” It worked like a charm, thereby validating my theory that gummy bears make everything better.

I may have some unresolved food issues.

I love running out in God’s creation, and the Pitztaler marathon was by far the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen on a race course thus far. It was a small race, with only about 250 people (most of them very fast Austrians). But I enjoyed its quaintness. We stayed in a perfectly clean & kitsch Austrian Ferienwohnung, with the MOST hospitable owners; and I hesitate to name the place, lest it be booked up for the entirety of our tenure in Europe.

The best part of the marathon? Crossing the finish line with my kids. That one brief moment is worth the months of training.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

Only God knows how these races affect our lives and my children’s futures. My prayer is that it teaches them something about being faithful in the small, everyday things (like marathon training), which can often equip you for something you once thought impossible.

Celebrating together

Celebrating together

As I sit here on my balcony on this sunny summer morning, reflecting on my son’s 16 years of life, and how swiftly time passes, I am reminded that we must make the most of every opportunity given to us–not for ourselves, but for those intangibles that shape the lives of those around us. That is the prize for which I strive in the marathon of my life.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Just Hang On

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Just hang on

My stomach has that flip-flopping feeling, which signifies another marathon. Sunday will mark my 5th, which is 5 more than I ever thought I would do in a lifetime.

This will also be my first marathon as a Crossfitter, yet another activity in which I had never pictured myself. It just goes to show, you never know the path God will set before you.

I am nervous about the marathon because there are so many unknown factors:

  • I’ve been doing Crossfit in lieu of my shorter runs
  • I want to fuel with ‘natural’ foods
  • Marathon #5 is in a new location
  • The first three miles will be up a mountain to a glacier
  • I will be running at altitude (though I live in the countryside)
  • It will be cold in the mountains but (hopefully) will warm up as we descend
  • The weather forecast is bleak
  • I’ll be wearing barefoot shoes (which I can’t wear my compression socks with–or else my feet slide around)
  • They only offer cola at km 36 (bummer…I love a cola halfway through)
  • I can’t bring cola in my hydration pack

The list could go on and on…

However, for me, it is a worthy endeavor, as the spiritual/mental/physical aspects of my life are rolled up into one package. If one suffers, the others suffer. The physical training helps me to be more focused, disciplined and peaceful in other areas of my life.

The rewards of training are not merely physical, but I’ve learned many life-lessons as well:

  • Quitting is mental before it is physical
  • When things get tough (and painful) just hang on
  • When the weight is too heavy, let it drop
  • Use the correct muscles for each exercise
  • Don’t squander energy
  • Keep good form, even when you’re tired
  • ‘Relax’ does not mean being sloppy
  • Commitment increases strength
  • Trust the coach, and do what he says

God is the one who created the body, and we can learn spiritual lessons from something as seemingly innocuous as a WOD or a really long run. The point is to stick with it, and to run well on the path before you.

2 Chronicles 15:7 “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

Magic of Gadgets

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TomTom

Ever since my Garmin died at marathon #2, I have been GPS-less.

So, for my 40th birthday, my husband got me the Nike +Sportwatch GPS. I was sold on it because #1 it doesn’t look like a laptop strapped to your wrist and #2 it is powered by TomTom, which seems to be accurate even in the technological black hole of Franconia.

I’ve been playing around with the watch, and while I wish it had automatic scrolling (like my old, dead Garmin), it does seem to track me eerily well through the farm fields.

The watch has been extremely helpful in figuring out just what exactly I’m doing out there for hours, other than deer watching and gummy bear eating.

The results:

My average pace has increased (most likely due to Crossfit training) by 30-45 seconds per mile, which means I will either PR at my next marathon, or I’ll have more time to stop and eat gummy bears and drink cola at the water stations.

I go faster when I run uphill. Weird, but true.

I go slower downhill. Also weird, but equally true.

My heart rate stays in the 150s for my entire run–hills and all.

With four weeks until my next marathon, I have a little time to play around with training.

I need to learn to keep my pace (and my balance) while going downhill, and I can ease off a bit uphill. I can also try moving a little faster during portions of my run, since my heart has promised not to explode.

I am constantly worried about going out too fast, which is my natural tendency. But with the watch, I can accurately monitor myself, until I can ‘feel’ it without the gadget, which is still preferable to me.

When you run through a lovely green countryside, you should actually see more than the back of your wrist. With a GPS watch, you can get obsessed with numbers, and unless you’re a professional, what difference does it really make?

I’m in this for the long haul, and that means as I grow stronger (with crossfit) my running will improve. As I age, the real payoff will be in the health benefits, not the numbers.

While I am always wanting to challenge myself and improve, my life is not made or broken by three-tenths of a second. So even though I am now numbered among the gadget-people, I also want to keep the joy of running alive.

Because it’s the joy that makes the race worth running.

T2B: None of Us are Pretty in CrossFit

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Runner's Feet

Last Friday, our coach Sibylle tried to kill us with the workout of the day.

Maybe that’s a little harsh, but the WOD left nearly everyone on the ground in a puddle of his or her own sweat. And after the WOD, we had the WOD 2 in the form of 30 toe to bars, which by that point, was a cruel joke.

Toes to bar: you grab the pull-up bar, bend yourself in half 
and touch your feet to the bar overhead; or for beginners, 
you hang there quivering and think: "This was so simple when I was 9!"

The first night I stepped foot in the box, we were supposed to do toes to bar. Naturally, having spaghetti arms and a core comprised mostly of ice cream and gummy bears, all I could do was raise my knees an inch in the general direction of my chest while the coach talked about ‘torque,’ whatever that meant.

I remember thinking I would never be able to do this. It was simply something I’d never envisioned, like real pull-ups (which I STILL can’t do).

Imagine my surprise when after our grueling workout on Friday, I hung from the bar and swung both my feet overhead.

I was shocked.

And like a toddler who just realized she could sling oatmeal at the wall, I did it again.

I ended up touching my toes to the bar 8 times well and 3 more times not-so-well-but-it-still-counted-to-me. I turned giddily to William and asked, “How long do we have to do this?” thinking we were probably nearing the end of our time limit, and I would have a count that wouldn’t make me hang my head in shame, to which he replied, “We’re supposed to do 30.”

Ugh.

That meant I had to work.

Thus, my T2B’s decreased in quality as the reps increased.

By the end I could barely move my knees upward, and I really wanted to complain about the callous that had torn off my hand.

After class, I showed Sibylle the flap of skin hanging from my hand, and in her classic, German, Crossfitter style, she left me with a quote I’ll use for the rest of my life: “We, none of us, are pretty.”

How true.

My hands (like my long-distance runner feet with 3-inch calluses) couldn’t even win Miss Congeniality in a pretty contest, but they are getting stronger.

Being strong can be a beautiful thing. But strength isn’t something that you can simply put on like a new pair of shoes. Real strength, like real beauty, comes from God, and it is demonstrated by the quality of a person’s character.

How we react to challenges shows what we’re really made of, regardless of how long it takes you to do 30 T2B’s. You can never become stronger if you’ve already forfeited the race in your mind.

The important thing is to do your best and not give up, even when you feel weak–and that IS something truly beautiful.

40

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Birthday Banner

I’ve run 4 marathons, but I’ve never run a 10k–until Sunday. The weather was sunny enough to make you happy, cool enough to keep you from wilting.

I’ve been worried that I haven’t been running enough miles, but the 10k gave me more confidence. I was actually passing people UNDER the age of 80 during the race and finished with a smile (and in 56 minutes).

It was a great way to begin my birthday week.

My Crossfit coach gave me a birthday present in the form of 50 burpees, 100 pushups and 150 walking lunges interspersed between sprints of varying lengths.

The good news is that now at age 40, I am healthier than I’ve ever been. And that is exactly how I wanted to begin this next phase of life.

But life is still life. My week has been filled with (mostly) a good kind of chaos, but chaos nonetheless. My actual birthday morning began by scrubbing the dog’s behind at 6:00 am. Then I spent half the morning finding his special food, which he wouldn’t eat anyway. Now we have an emergency vet appointment to find out why he’s not eating or drinking. Poor little thing.

But being at an emergency vet appointment isn’t how I envisioned spending my 40th birthday. Obviously, I love my fluffy little dog, and who cares about a birthday when he is miserable? It’s just not what I ‘planned.’

I’ve had to do all kinds of uncomfortable things this week–specifically, making several appointments in German, which is nearly as taxing to me mentally as burpees are physically.

All I want to do is stay home one day this week, but it doesn’t look like that will happen until Saturday, and even then I’ll have to leave for a few hours for my long run.  I look back on my ‘sick day’ last week with a warped kind of fondness because I got to lay on the couch and eat jello.

As a wife & mom & servant of God, I don’t write my own schedule. I have to interact with other human beings and figure out how I can best help them. I have to talk to God and actually obey Him when He tells me what path to take–and usually, that path isn’t the easy one.

So while my milestone birthday did not include a luxury vacation, it did include a date with my husband; a card from Libby that was so incredibly sweet it made me cry (and scared her a little); gorgeous earrings in my favorite color, and a ‘Mom’ necklace, bought with hard earned teenage money; lots of hugs & an old hat of mine (which I had loaned out); and a custom-made comic strip, with humor that always makes me laugh.

Libby's card made me cry!

Libby’s card made me cry!

Katie went over the top with my beautiful, elegant cake, and all the kids helped decorate to make my birthday morning (once I was done scrubbing the dog) special.

As much as I dreamed of escaping to a beach somewhere, this birthday has been the best one ever because of the pure and simple love that pours out from my family, even though I don’t deserve it.

40 birthdays behind me.

I look forward to 80 more.

No Worries

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footprints

No Worries

When I go to CrossFit, I have no worries for an entire hour.

The only knots in my stomach are from doing a lot of sit-ups in a little amount of time. The only weight on my shoulders is attached to a 20 kg bar. The only thing I have to remember is what rep I’m on.

There are no meetings, no appointments, no long commutes–I am purely living in the moment, and I often feel guilty about it.

I don’t think I’m trying to completely escape my problems, but it IS nice to ‘get away’ for a little while. If I lived closer to the box, I would go five days a week or more. It is THAT refreshing to me. Some people listen to music, or play it; some people watch TV or eat or play video games; they walk the beach or take cruises; but for me, stress-relief is packaged in a CrossFit box.

I walk away from a workout feeling completely relaxed, refocused and re-energized, and I think ultimately, it enables me to deal with stress.

When we were in London, I saw two women at Harrod’s, draped from head to toe in black, with only their eyes and some flashy rings on their hands showing. They were at the jewelry counter. Read that again: the JEWELRY counter.

If you’ve ever been to Harrod’s, and you’re just an average person like me, then you know how thrilling yet painful it is to buy a single truffle from the food counter in the basement. This is a store where a pair of socks costs more than my wedding dress. They probably charge money just to glance at the jewelry counter. I’m sure no matter how rich or poor you are, women everywhere have to deal with stress, and I wondered if shopping was the outlet of choice for these women.

Then my thoughts go back to the woman at the top of the mountain at Petra, Jordan. One of her many sons probably brought jugs of water up the mountain on donkey. She looked as if she had enough to eat. She was just alongside the path, selling her wares in one of the most scenic locations on earth. I don’t think that her life is stress-free, but she probably deals with it differently than I (a spoiled Westerner) would.

I can go to CrossFit, but what does she do? Maybe she daydreams or makes jewelry for tourists. I’m not sure.

It makes me wonder if stress is a luxury? I do think it’s easier to focus on the things that really matter when you don’t have a bunch of junk clogging up your home.

As for us, we’d like to downsize–get a smaller house and live more simply. Think about it: if I have fewer clothes, it’s less laundry. And besides, a family of 6 does NOT need 5 bathrooms!

But what happens next? Move to a developing nation? Learn to be happy with the clothes on my back. I could still do push-ups and squats and lift heavy things (like orphans, ideally). The pressures would be different: like cooking for the family without a supermarket nearby and finding clean water. Internet? That WOULD be a luxury, I’m sure.

For the moment, here I am: an American woman in rural Germany, speeding down the autobahn in my leather-seated van, worrying if the baustelle will make me late for the next appointment. And you will find me at CrossFit, putting down the worries and picking up weights, as often as possible.