Mental Fortitude: the 100 Rejection Exercise

Today, I’m going to talk about how I’m training my mind to be stronger. Generally on this blog, I discuss how I’m training my body for strength, but I truly believe that mental fortitude is an important aspect to overall wellness. Here’s something I’ve added to my training regime that I think has some direct connections to my physical training, though might seem a little counter-intuitive at first. I don’t know if y’all remember, but one of my 2017 goals was to accumulate 100 rejections over the course of the year.

It’s a concept that has circulated various creative circles, but I think is perhaps best summed up in this blog here. It boils down to a simple notion: if you want great things to happen, you need to put yourself out there. If you put yourself out there, chances are you’re going to face rejection. A lot. If you aim for a certain number of rejections rather than a

Let me tell you how many “no reps” I got on those 17.4 wall balls…..

certain number of acceptances, then you have created a framework in which to: 1) celebrate your failures (which will, and should, be measures of how many risks you’re taking and… in the freelance/artistic world… risk-taking is a good thing that pushes you to be better), 2) better gauge how many submissions you’re actually making (since, unless you’re Neil Gaiman or something, you’ll get far more rejections than acceptances), and 3) not beat yourself up about these rejections.

As a freelance writer/artist, and also someone who’s on an extremely terrible academic job market, I get a lot of rejections. I would say that I receive daily rejections, but the truth is that many of the things I submit to never bother to send any kind of follow-up. Factoring in such de facto rejections, I definitely receive at least one (if not more) on any given day.

Years working in my various fields have inured me, generally, to these rejections and I don’t usually think much of them. However, lately, it’s been a little tough to just let them slide off my back. In committing to 100 rejections this year, I thought I was committing to submission volume: 100 rejections required at very minimum 100 submissions (though hopefully many more than that!) I made a grid in my bullet journal with 100 slots so that I could keep tally of my rejections and see how far I’ve come. I also have a special space on each of my monthly pages to count up the month’s rejections, just to see what my rejection statistics are at the end of the year.

It’s nearly the end of March and I can already tell you that I’m getting so much more out of this exercise than I had initially intended. Due to life circumstances, things have gotten a little tough recently (and that means rejection has the opportunity to sting all the more). Rejections can be crippling, especially if they’re from something you were really hoping would work out. However, my 100 rejection goal means that each rejections is also a tiny celebration. As I note the rejection on my list and tick off the number from my monthly goal spread, I get a little jolt of happiness in my type A heart. Each rejection puts me a little closer to my goal, and that means that I actually accomplished something with it rather than threw my voice into the void and got nothing back.

The concept of failing in order to succeed has direct applications to strength building. How many failed lifts have you made in order to hit that one perfect personal best? If you never try to load the bar up heavier than your comfort zone, you’ll never fully see what you’re capable of. Maybe you’ll miss it, but maybe (just maybe) you’ll catch it this time. Each failure is a learning opportunity; a chance to figure out why you failed and how you can make that weakness better in yourself. I’m not sure I would track failed lifts over time as closely as I’m tracking rejected submissions, but I certainly use failure to take stock of what’s working and (more importantly) what isn’t.

So I’m teaching myself to fail gloriously. It’s about grace, and trust, and

Let me also tell you how many times I failed the 95 lb snatch in the penultimate round of 17.3 (did get one though! BECAUSE I ALLOWED MYSELF TO FAIL!)

drive. It’s about focus, determination, and having an unbreakable spirit. It’s about cultivating these attributes the hard way; by pushing myself outside my comfort zone on the regular and proving to myself that such things can make me stronger, even if they sting a little bit.

I would recommend the 100 rejections exercise to anyone who has a goal. You might have to adapt it slightly depending on what your goal is, but I’m reasonably sure that it would work (in some form) for almost anything.

When’s the last time you failed, and what did you learn from it?

17.4 and United Airlines New York Half Marathon Race Recap

What a weekend!  First: 17.4.  Friday night, I executed 17.4 as prescribed (which is super exciting because I had to scale it last year).  I was a little nervous about the handstand pushups, but turns out those nerves were misplaced since I didn’t quite get to them.  I got the bulk of the way through the rowing, but didn’t make it to the wall to attempt my first HSPU.  On the whole, I’m very pleased with how it went and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) but I’ll be excited to retest it next year to see how much better I do.

After that, we whisked ourselves down to New York so that I could run the United Airlines NYC Half.  To be honest, I blithely wandered into this race as part of my 9+1.  I applied for the lottery knowing it would likely be a really fun race, but also not pausing to consider the size and breadth of the race.  In fact, this year has been so jam-packed with the 9+1 and Crossfit Open that I didn’t pause to consider those factors until I started getting e-mails that the race would be televised.

Suddenly, it came into focus that this wasn’t going to be yo’ mama’s backyard half marathon.  This was, actually, kind of a big deal.  Last minute, Mike was able to join me so I would have some backup at the finish (which was awesome!), and with navigating the race expo.  Besides Disney, this was my first big-city race and I loved every minute of it.

We hit the expo around 1:30 on Saturday and were able to power through

Obligatory Expo with Bib shot

most things pretty quickly.  I did stop to pose for a few pictures in front of the bluescreen (which still haven’t found their way to my e-mail, but I promise I’ll share them if ever they do!), and to find my name on the giant wall of runners’ names.  I also grabbed THE WORLD’S SOFTEST SHIRT from the merch section (I would almost never think of doing this for a half, but it’s my home city and the shirt is SO SOFT Y’ALL).  After getting a few questions about the finish line answered, we were on our way.

We headed downtown to see if we could get some elusive dough at Do, but the line was around the block.  We opted to skip and headed over to Molly’s Cupcakes instead (which are INSANELY GOOD if you’ve never had them; the crème brûlée cupcake is transcendent).  Of course, since I can’t just have one dessert, we also got me shaved ice cream at Snowdays (another dessert I highly recommend; it’s so fluffy and yummy!).  Then we headed uptown and, because we hadn’t eaten enough that day (…so, seriously, lots of carbs and not enough protein) met with my folks to have dinner at The Meatball Shop.  Can you tell what my favorite part of being home in New York is?

I stretched out and rolled out before bed because it was going to be an early early morning.  The alarm went off at 5:45 and I was out the door at 6:45.  One perk of being a slow runner in a wave-based race is that little bit of extra time to sleep in; I was in wave 3 so my corral wasn’t set to start until 8:10.  The race instructions recommended that runners turn up an hour before start time, and while I thought that was probably unnecessary for me I was a good girl and followed directions.

For this race, they have some pretty tight security.  All entrances to the park were blocked off except for 59th street, so we were all funneled to one gate where we went through metal detectors, walked past bomb-sniffing dogs, and had our bags searched.  That part was easy and didn’t take long at all.  The next part was what ate time: the port-a-john line.

Luckily, since I wasn’t checking a bag, I had time to kill so I hung out and waited.  The line was long, but it moved pretty quick; even so, I found that I was scurrying to my start corral.

So, I broke the rules on this race.  I tried SO MANY NEW THINGS on race day.  I tried a new protein drink with breakfast, I tried a new watering strategy, and I tried running with a pace band for the first time.  In some incredible combination of the stars aligning, none of this backfired in my face.  This is definitely a case of “do as I say, not as I do,” and let’s all say it together: NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY.

…the pace band, however, was awesome.  My current PR is 2:29:28 and I haven’t been able to come close to that time since I set it 2 years ago (for various reasons including marathon training, talk about a slow-down).  Knowing this, and knowing the race was mostly flat (with the exception of three big hills in Central Park), and knowing that the weather was going to be JUST about perfect for a PR, I grabbed a 2:30 pace band at the expo (they had them for free and it was awesome!).  I threw it on that morning, half thinking that maybe I’d give this a shot and half thinking “who am I kidding, I haven’t trained for a PR.”  Turns out: the micro-goals that a pace band gives work REALLY WELL for me.  It kept me focused in-the-mile, and helped me to understand where I was and how I was doing.  It also broke the race up into nice manageable sections for me because I was always so focused on hitting my next mile effectively.  So: Bravo to the pace band, if you’ve never tried one I’d highly recommend giving it a shot on a lark… especially when they’re free.  Here’s a website that will let you create and print your own (cover with clear packing tape on both sides to sweat-proof it).  Voila! Pace band!

Alright, the course.  The course this year started on the East side and rolled you up that terrible East Side hill before having you traverse across the park, do a tiny out-and-back loop at 125th street, then re-enter the park and head up Harlem hill before continuing on the park loop southward.  This part was old hat for me since we’ve run several races already this year on that park loop, including a half marathon that was 2.5 times around it (UGH!).  As a result, running up Harlem Hill ONCE knowing that you won’t have to do it again is glorious.  No problems there.

At about mile 4.5 my dad was stationed as a course marshal, so I got to see him and high five him and get some awesome energy directed my way.  That really helped to fuel me and gave me a great pep in my step to continue my race.

port-a-john line… notice how you can’t even see the bank of port-a-johns yet….

Along the way, I ran into a couple members of the Sub-30 club (an awesome supportive group that I joined after being introduced to them through the Runner’s World Podcast).  Since I was running so close to the brink of a PR, I mostly waved “hi” “bye” to them, but it was REALLY COOL to see people I “knew” on the run.  Thanks to all you subbers out there who took a moment to say hi to me!  Sorry we couldn’t talk longer!

After you leave the park, things get pretty epic.  They close down Seventh avenue from 59th street to 42nd street, and you get to run it!  I have to admit, I was close to tears for most of this stretch of the course.  Usually I have an eagle eye for race photographers, but this race I just spent looking up and being so grateful that I could run through my city.  This area was really my stomping ground for most of my teenage years, so there are so many memories I have emblazoned on those streets and I spent a lot of the race overwhelmed with all of this.  It was INTENSE.  As an added bonus, I was FLYING through this section of the course; you really can’t help it when you’re running through Times’ Square.  The energy of the city really inspires me, and I was using it to full advantage going full speed ahead!

At 42nd street, you hang a right and run across to the West Side Highway.  This was the first sign of the race getting tough for me.  There was a strong, cold wind blowing off the Hudson, and the buildings created a wind tunnel so there was headwind to contend with.  Also: I was starting to feel tired, which I managed to talk myself into pushing through.  But still; it wasn’t coming easy anymore and I was starting to have to focus to keep up my pace.

Running down the West Side Highway was a real trip!  I couldn’t stop thinking about how much traffic we were probably holding up, and also how nice the weather had gotten.  I was so worried that this stretch of the race would be cold and miserable, but it warmed up rather nicely and my fears were pretty much unfounded.  I started pushing at mile 8 when I noticed I was about 20 seconds behind pace each mile (this was EXTRA INFURIATING because my watch had lost a stretch of the course somewhere around mile 5, so it had me ahead of my pace band while the mile marker clocks had me behind; ugh!).

Mile 10 was where I really hit the wall and that last 5K was a fight.  I kept waiting for the tunnel because I knew that it would mean I was SO CLOSE to the finish line.  It felt like forever to get downtown once I was south of 10th street, but I think that was just the exhaustion talking.

One awesome thing about running through a tunnel is that it’s basically a giant echo chamber; a little bit of cheering goes a long way.  Of course, you have a WHOLE LOT of tired runners trying to mentally prepare themselves to drop the hammer the minute they exit this tunnel, discovering together that the tunnel is an echo chamber, and suddenly you have a recipe for THE BIGGEST CHEERING SECTION EVER.  We all let out whoops and hollers, allowing our voices to help pump ourselves up in the semi-anonymity of the echoey darkness.  Let me tell you, it worked!  I got the tiniest bit of energy pump which let me power through that tunnel until the (literal) light at the end guided me home.

I love how the heat sheet makes it look like I’m wearing armor in this shot.

When you leave the tunnel, you have about 400 meters left so it’s time to GUN IT.  I tried, guys.  I didn’t have much of anything left in the tank, but I dropped the hammer as best I could.  Soon, there were crowds of people, and a big jumbo screen, and cameras, and the finish line, and I couldn’t have been more happy to see it.  I crossed the finish in 2:31:24; that’s SO DARN CLOSE to my PR that I can feel it breathing down my neck.  It’s the fastest I’ve run a half marathon since I shifted my focus from all-running-all-the-time to Crossfit endurance athlete, and I couldn’t be more stoked about it.

Mike was able to meet me at the finish (though weirdly missed me crossing it because I had changed out of my obnoxiously bright running jacket en route and was wearing a plain gray tech shirt, easy to miss in the crowds!).  I walked down the chute, collected my snack bag, medal, and

Artisanal bacon and beer flight!!!

AWESOME SUPER HERO CAPE (urrr…. Heat sheet….), got my finisher’s pic, and waited for him to catch up with me.  We swung up to midtown to get my medal engraved and grab lunch at BarBacon (10/10, would highly recommend…. Artisanal bacon and beer flight.  Let me repeat that: ARTISINAL BACON AND BEER FLIGHT).  Then it was shower, car, and home.

All in all, this race was simply incredible.  The route was breathe-taking, the race (as usual with NYRR) was SO well run.  I cannot wait to run this again next year.

An Exciting Weekend Ahead

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS THIS WEEKEND IS SO EXCITING I CAN BARELY CONTAIN MYSELF!

First things first: 17.4: none other than a repeat of 16.4!  Last year when the open came around, I distinctly remember thinking that the Rx weight for this workout was probably doable for me.  I am a serious TANK in the lower body, so deadlifts are my jam.  Then I thought about it more and felt that it was probably foolish to try and Rx this workout since I wasn’t even sure what a handstand pushup was (and had never successfully completed even a hand-release pushup, which was the scaled option for those HSPUs).  I scaled it and did tolerably well.

Setting up for that PR

About a month ago, someone from my box had the great idea for us all to go retest 16.4 during open gym.  I did! And I beat my score by 20 reps.  Awesome!

So when Castro announced that 17.4 would be a repeat of 16.4, I was 1: not surprised (this was actually my hypothesis about what the repeat was going to be for various reasons that have been expounded upon elsewhere on the internet), and 2: totally stoked.  I have worked on my HSPU this year in anticipation of a moment like this.  That said, I’m WAY further away from getting my first HSPU than I was from getting my first pull-up (which I did, as you might recall, in 17.2) so that first HSPU might not happen tonight.  Still, my deadlift has steadily increased this year; I just retested it for 1RM of 255 with likely more in the tank after a few tiny form tweaks.

So this year?  This year I’m going for it!  I went into the open this year with the goal of Rxing a single workout (which I already did in 17.1), so I’m PSYCHED to be Rxing two.  I don’t know if I’ll make it to the HSPUs, but if I do you can bet that I’ll be giving them hell in hopes of achieving my first.

After Friday Night Lights, we’ll be packing it in for a lightning trip to New York so that I can run the United Airlines NYC Half marathon as the fourth race of my 9+1.  Mike, originally, was going to be spending the weekend elsewhere but his plans got cancelled so he’ll be around to cheer me on at the finish line (so will my incredible dad who, despite already fulfilling his +1 volunteer credit, has registered to volunteer as a course marshal so that he can be on the course to support me AND at the finish line; what a guy!).

This is my first big-city race and I am SO excited.  New York is home, which is part of why running the New York Marathon was so important to me in the first place.  I feel like this weekend will be a tiny taste of 2018’s

training this week has been unreasonably photogenic.

marathon madness, and I seriously can’t wait for it.  The race is going to be televised (my first televised sporting event!), there will be people out on the streets cheering (I got a taste of this at Disney when we ran Princess last year, but you can bet that it’s one of the parts of racing that I LOVE), and there will be EPIC finisher’s food.  We’re debating between which is going to win out for lunch: Black Tap, or Los Tacos No. 1 (that might be a game day decision).

So I’m pumped.  So many exciting things to look forward to!
So which would you pick for post-half lunch: Epic Milkshakes, or cheese-as-a-tortilla tacos?

17.3 and a Trail Run

This weekend started off with a bang as I completed 17.3; the third of five workouts in the 2017 Crossfit Open. The scaled workout was basically built for me; jumping pull-ups and squat snatches. If there’s one thing I can bang out like nobody’s business, it’s a set of jumping pull ups. If there’s a second thing that I can rock, it’s heavy lifting. As a result, this combo played right in to my strengths and I knew I’d come out pretty high on the gym leaderboard.

Turns out: I was right! I got into the penultimate round of squat snatches and PRed my snatch by 10 pounds, bumping my PR on the lift to 95 pounds. That’s pretty incredible given the sheer volume of lifting I had done before I got that bar up over my head. Of course, I wish I had gotten at least one more snatch which would have allowed me to rack up a bunch more reps and boost my score even more, but how can you really complain when you PR a complicated lift under competition standards? The answer: you can’t. I’m super exited about how I did, and couldn’t be happier with how the open is going

PR during warm up probably means you’ll do okay during the workout.

for me this year. Workout one: my first Rx Crossfit open workout. Workout two: my first three pullups! Workout three: PR my snatch by 10 pounds. I’d say the work I’ve done all year has been paying off big time.

On Sunday, I had to get a long run in and since I’ve got a Spartan Beast coming up, Mike and I decided to join a group trail run that a few folks from our box put together. Of course, us being the turtles we are, the speedy folk outpaced us almost immediately. We had never run this particular trail before, so the afternoon turned into a huge adventure of attempting to follow a very windy trail through the woods on some of the most technical terrain I’d ever tried to run.

It was intense, and we wound up power hiking most of it. That said, it was definitely awesome training for the Beast. While we can’t really simulate Spartan Beast terrain fully since they run on SKI MOUNTAINS, this was a fairly decent approximation of some of the less mountainous stretches. There were rocks, roots, steep inclines and declines, winding switch-backs, and (of course) lots and lots of mud.

As an extra added degree of difficulty, it was COLD yesterday. We’re talking 24 degrees when we started hiking at 2PM. Because none of us knew the trail, we wound up being out there for almost three hours. My usual running gear keeps me warm, but only if I can maintain core body temperature inside the gear. Cold-weather running gear is designed to trap warmth more than anything else, so its efficacy is precipitated upon the notion that you’re staying pretty toasty on your own because you’re running. Because we wound up power hiking, I cooled down significantly in the last hour or so of this hike. I didn’t realize how cold I had gotten until we got back home afterwards and it took me a solid two hours to re-warm. In hindsight, I probably could have regulated a bit better: gotten out my hand warmers sooner, run a few more stretches, brought more water to stay hydrated, taken in fuel more regularly, etc. Because I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trail run, I wasn’t entirely prepared for what I got. I learned my lesson since the evening became devoted to recovering from the hike rather than executing the household tasks on our to-do list. Thankfully, Mike bounced back a bit sooner than I did and was able to take on the lion’s share of meal prep for the week. Phew.

Here are some things that I did right on this run:

*Wore layers. If we had run for more of the interim, I would have stayed plenty warm. I also got the chance to test my new fleece-lined thermal running tights and they seriously rocked it. Good to know!

*Brought fuel. I had plenty of fuel on me (I brought a package of pop tarts, which equals about four hours worth of fuel for me since I

Farmer’s carries for grip strength. HUGE for Spartan.

generally eat half a pop tart per hour when I’m regulating). I didn’t run out of fuel, even when we were out there for longer than expected.

*Paid close attention to the footing and paced appropriately. My rule for trail running is that nothing is worth an injury. If I don’t feel safe running, I slow it down to a power hike. There’s no shame in going slower if you feel unsafe to run.

Here are things I could have done better:

*Brought more water. I threw a 12 oz. bottle in my pocket, which would have been fine for eight miles of flat terrain… but it wasn’t quite enough for two and a half hours of woods trudging.

*Eaten more regularly. I forgot to check my watch when we set out, which meant that I didn’t have my fueling intervals regularly scheduled in my mind. I really need to take in calories every hour on the hour, and I did not do that on this run. As a result, my recovery took much longer than it should have.

*Temperature regulation. I needed to stay warmer, however I managed that. I could have busted out my hand warmers earlier in the run and stuffed them up the back of my shirt (this is great for keeping your core warm, esp. if you can get the hand warmers to stick right over your kidneys). I could have run a few stretches and then looped back to get my companions. However I managed it, I needed to do it and not doing it set me back in recovery.

*Warm up my ankles and calves. A few ankle circles would have done the trick. Trail running really takes a toll on your joints!

What are some mistakes you’ve made recently that have helped you grow as a runner?

Let’s talk about Stress

First things first: I wrote a guest post for the Marathon Training Academy blog! Check out my post and, while you’re there, check out their amazing podcast. MTA is an incredible community, and the MTA podcast has talked me through many a long run on various training cycles. They interview all kinds of running celebrities, share their own significant running know-how, and have delightfully soothing voices to boot. I highly recommend their awesome content.

Next up: let’s talk about stress, baby. For reasons of my own, this week has been an insanely stressful one. We’re talking earth-shaking monumental levels of stress compounded on many different fronts by environmental, emotional, and vocational-related factors. I think it’s reasonably safe to say that we can all agree how terrible stress is for your health, but what to do to fight it in the moment? And how to stay on top of your stress levels when there’s often so much outside of your control?

For me, when the going gets tough the tough get lifting (…or go running). This week, I took my stress to the gym. This tactic helps me on several different levels: a workout gets the endorphins flowing and the blood pumping. It physically primes my body to be more relaxed, and lets me ease out of whatever stress-related physical patterns I’ve taken on over the course of the day. It’s like a reset button for my body; a tough workout makes me really work and I can’t hold onto whatever physical trappings of stress I’m experiencing if my body is moving through prescribed movements (whatever those may be). The increased blood flow also helps refresh my everything; it’s like a bath for your insides.

Mentally, a workout instantly releases me from the frame of mind that caused me to stress out. At the gym I’m focused on a series of pre-defined tasks. My coach sets out the movements and I execute them. My thoughts move inward to form and function, I can fully occupy my mind with what I’m doing in the moment. There’s nothing like a dynamically challenging workout to require your complete mental capacities, and focusing like this allows me to hit the reset button on my mind. Taking an hour or so out of my day to replenish with a workout allows me some perspective, and a much-needed break from the downward spiral of stress. It allows me to “jailbreak” my mind from the things that are causing me stress, and gives me some space to objectively examine these things once I’m done with the workout.

It also helps that at the gym I don’t have to think very much about the meta-moments of what I’m doing. The workout is set, it’s written down for me, all I have to do is follow it. It’s really freeing to have an hour (or more) of your day just taken care of for you like this. It helps me to focus on the task at hand when I’m not constantly trying to think three steps ahead of myself.

Last, but certainly not least, a workout gives me a feeling of
accomplishment. It is a method through which I can prove to myself, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am strong and I have done something important. Sometimes stress can make me feel small and insignificant; it can also make me feel like my actions have no use or meaning. A workout denies all of this with tangible proof. The stress demon can whisper all it wants to me about how I “can’t” do something, but it’s much harder to believe that when I’ve just squatted my body weight or run 12 miles.

What are some ways that your exercise regime helps you to fight stress?

A First, and A 10

When last we left our hero she was teetering on the edge of 17.2; ready and determined to try the fight that she’d be preparing for for almost two years.  I am SO EXCITED to say that I not only managed to accomplish my first unassisted pullup, but also my second and third!!!  I don’t want to wax poetic about the experience for terribly long, but it was really wonderful to feel all that effort paying off.  Perhaps even as wonderful was the incredible feeling of support in my gym.  My judge, coaches, and colleagues-at-crossfit-arms screamed SO LOUD at the achievement, and were there emotionally invested in my progress the whole way.  I am so thrilled to be part of such a wonderful community.

these lunges are WAY prettier than the pull-ups. Trust me.

Of course, one workout (even one as epic as 17.2 was for me) does not a weekend make.  This weekend, winter reminded us in the Northeast that it’s still hanging around.  Temperatures plummeted from the sincerely unseasonably warm to the downright frigid.  Since I’ve managed to almost completely kick this cold, there were no more excuses for my long run.  Even though it was cold, I had to get something done.

I am running the New York City Half Marathon in two weeks as part of my 9+1 and I’m REALLY stoked about it.  Unfortunately, being sick has definitely set me back in my running rhythm.  I generally keep a baseline fitness of half marathon plus level (meaning I can whip out a half marathon pretty much at any time and not think twice about it).  That said, I hadn’t done a double digit run since my last half marathon in January, so I really wanted to get in 10 this weekend just for confidence and comfort.

While I do have the necessary gear to accomplish an outdoor double-digit run in temperatures below freezing, I can’t say that it’s a comfortable prospect no matter what gear you have (especially when there’s any significant wind).  On top of that, my usual plan to run and call for a rescue if I need it wasn’t possible because Mike was spending the weekend knocking out his +1 credit volunteering at a NYRR race in Washington Heights, NY.  I was on my own for this one, and while Uber is always an option I really didn’t want to run without my usual safety net.

So I made the tough but not-unheard-of decision to run my 10 on the treadmill.  It would keep me warm, there would be all the comforts of home nearby (including a water fountain and a bathroom), and I made a deal with myself that I could mainline back episodes of America’s Next Top Model so long as I kept running.  As far as treadmill runs go, I always have to find something like this: a treat to keep me interested in trudging for the sheer volume of miles that make up a long run.

It wasn’t the best run of my life, but it certainly wasn’t the worst.  I definitely hit the wall around mile 7 (to be expected given my recent running history), but managed to push through and complete my planned mileage.  I did the run at a nice conversational pace, mixing it up by adjusting the speed of the tread every couple of minutes.  I would run 3 minutes at one pace, then adjust to a slightly faster pace and run 2 minutes, turn it back down and repeat the cycle.  This kept me engaged with what I was doing, and divided the run into nice manageable chunks.  Five minutes is enough time that I could feel like I was getting somewhere without having to wait forever for the next interval to go by.

Maybe it sounds silly to have to break things up this way, but

Post 10 miles on the ‘mill.

seriously.  Treadmill running is an art.  If there’s anything you can do to break up the tedium and keep your mind on the task at hand, do it.  

Weirdly, this run also gave me the first foot blister I’ve ever experienced running.  I wasn’t wearing any new gear, and I’ve run long treadmill miles before so I really have no idea where this blister came from.  Luckily it’s on a weird place on my foot (up in the pad between the ball of my foot and my toes) so it doesn’t really bother me to walk on, and I’ll be able to get my workout in at the box tonight.  Bizarre.  Maybe the blister fairy felt like she was neglecting me or something?

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve gotten a blister?

How many miles have you run at one time on a treadmill?

17.2

17.2.  Well, okay.

Since I started getting involved in the Crossfit open, I’ve heard stories about the fantastic happening when people tried new things.  Stories about people getting their first muscle up in an open workout, their first chest to bar pullup, their first set of strung together double unders. The power of the open is revered in certain circles as nothing short of magic.  There’s some alchemy to the combination of “I really want to do this,” “Dave Castro tells me I have to do this,” and “my entire gym is screaming for me and I feel like I can do this…” that pushes people outside of boundaries they previously had.

consistency.

I never really believed this magic.  I’m a firm believer in doing the grunt work and one day science will pay off.  You will be stronger, you will be faster, the gymnastic skill will “click in.”  I’ve never been the kind of person to “try something crazy” in a workout without putting a HUGE amount of effort into training for it.  I like known quantities.  I like to understand that I, 100% and without a doubt, can do something before I attempt it (especially in front of a large group of people).

After the 17.2 announcement last night, all I could think was “well then… I guess I’ll be striving to bust out of that comfort zone.”

I’ve been working on my pullup for a year now.  It’s no secret that pullups were on my 2015 goals list and, despite diligent effort, I didn’t quite achieve them.  Since September I’ve been steadily grinding at the pullup under the guidance of my wonderful coaches at Mountain Strength Crossfit.  I’ve been doing the accessory strength work religiously, I’ve been checking off boxes on my bullet journal as I work up prescribed set numbers and movement goals.  I’ve been consistent.

The efforts have definitely paid off, my upper body has gotten stronger (and bigger! I put on 2” of muscle in my upper back because of my pullup work!).  I have gotten consistently better at the building blocks that will lead to pullups.  I have gained stability, grip strength, and dexterity when dealing with the bar…. But I have yet to get that first strict pull-up.

So now’s the time, I guess.  I definitely don’t have T2B, or bar muscle ups, and while I’ve been diligently working on my T2B, I’m so far from muscle ups that I wouldn’t be comfortable giving them a go sans training.  Because of this, I won’t be attempting 17.2 Rx (at least not this year!).  That leaves me to face down pull-ups; 16 a round to be exact after the first two rounds of this workout.

I’m doing it.  Tonight, I’m determined to get my first pull-up (….and it wouldn’t hurt if I could manage at least 15 more after that first one, either). I’ve (literally) been training all year for this, it’s time to let the chips fall where they may. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Crossfit Open: Week One

As those plugged into the Crossfit world know, it’s an exciting time in the sport.  The Crossfit Open, an annual five-week worldwide competition, began on Thursday.  This Friday was the first of five Friday nights that I would face Dave Castro’s nightmare workout of the week, designed to test athlete’s overall fitness and grit.  The top finishers in each region go on to regional Crossfit competitions, and the top finishers of Regionals go on to the Crossfit Games.  That is not in my cards for the immediate future, but regardless of placement I still get pumped for the open.  It’s about testing myself against the workout and seeing how much progress I’ve made, and this year the answer is “a lot”!

The workouts are numbered sequentially as year dot workout; so this week was 17.1.  As the world found out during the live workout announcement on Thursday night, 17.1 was a real burner: 10 dumbbell snatches followed by 15 burpee box jumps, 20 DB snatches, 15 burpee box jumps, 30 DB snatches, 15 burpee box jumps, 40 DB snatches, 15 burpee box jumps, 50 DB snatches, and a final round of 15 burpee box jumps.

Morning of trying out the DB snatches in my home facility….. no shoes and PJs FTW!

Workouts can be performed “as prescribed” (that is with the movements/weights held to an intense standard) or “scaled” (that is with the movements/weights held to a different, slightly less intense standard).  Performing a workout “Rx” is a huge step in one’s Crossfit journey, and not one that I was able to achieve last year.  As such, I’m pretty stoked that I did this week’s workout as prescribed; my first time Rxing an open workout!

The movements were things I could handle; box jump burpees and 35# dumbbell snatches.  The volume was my concern; 150 DB snatches will get heavy no matter how comparatively “light” it is to one’s 1RM.  I was also worried about the box jumps.  About a year ago, I had an encounter with the box that gave me a nice (finally fading) shin scar and a healthy respect for these often misunderstood creatures.  I wanted to make sure that I was playing it safe with box jumps, that I wasn’t setting myself up to get injured before any major races, and that I was going to be able to feel successful when the workout was over.

After much deliberation (and a discussion with my coach, and a couple practice DB snatches at the various weights involved), I decided to just go for it.  I decided that I could go slow and steady if I needed to, and that each box jump could be deliberate especially as I got tired.  I knew I would feel like I had accomplished more if I gave 17.1 my all Rx than if I blew through it scaled.

At my box, we have four teams for the open and it becomes a little intramural competition for us nested into the larger regional competition.  This year, I’m captaining one of the teams (which is pretty awesome!).  Let me take a brief moment to nonspecifically crow about how awesome my team is: they attacked this workout with gusto!  We encourage all levels of Crossfitters to join the open at our box; no matter how much experience they have previously with the sport.  As a result, some folks who participated were only weeks into their Crossfit journey.  We had lots of return athletes from years past, lots of experienced vets, and they were

Getting those snatches done at FNL

incredible to watch.  We also had a great many new athletes who were participating in their first open, who were a little nervous to get up there and do the workout, or who were giving it a go “in spite of” themselves.  It was so magical to watch them tackle this workout in spite of their fears or hesitancies.

Honestly, that’s part of what made me push myself to do Rx.  The idea that if members of my team could push themselves to the next level by signing up for the open, I could certainly do the same by trying the workout as prescribed.  What did I have to lose, after all?

One last complication worth mentioning: I’m currently suffering from a nasty bout of sinusitis mixed with the most juicy chesty cough this side of Worcester.  In spite of my respiratory distress, I Dayquilled up and got to work.  And I am so glad I did.

17.1 will never be my favorite workout, but it will definitely hold a dank, dark, corner of my heart.  Thanks for the memories, 17.1; I look forward to Rxing many more workouts completely unlike you in the future.

Swolemates Recap

Competition recap! As I mentioned on Friday, on Saturday Mike and I participated in our gym’s annual “Swolemates” competition; a valentine’s-themed internal partner comp. It was a great experience overall, and definitely gave me some food for thought as I progress on my fitness journey!

ALSO: there was a polaroid station for throw-back photo booth shots!

First off: size. It was a small comp, which meant that we didn’t have to sit around too long in between heats (nice for staying warm), and also that we knew everyone competing. This made it really exciting because we spent the time off the floor cheering on our fellow athletes and marveling at their skills rather than being nervous or in our own heads the whole time. This made it much easier to relax and enjoy the experience of the competition. It also meant that while we were working out, the other athletes were (in turn) cheering for us.

This aspect of the Crossfit community is one that I really enjoy. In preparation for the Crossfit Open (eeee! 17.1 gets announced on Thursday!), I’ve been rewatching old Crossfit Games streams. Even at the elite level, Crossfit athletes (and enthusiasts) are community-based. The athlete who finishes last (especially if she’s fought a hard fight through the workout) often gets a louder ovation than the winner. Crossfit enthusiasts value the fight, and this value is incredible when it comes to building communities around the sport.

Bottom line: the energy was really supportive and wonderful all throughout the comp. There were four workouts: one consisting of OTB burpees, rowing/planking, lunges/barbell holds, pullups/dead hangs, and deadlifts/barbell holds (one partner would execute the movement while the other held the static pose with the burpees done in synch), one barbell complex, partner Fran (thrusters and pull-ups), and a fourth “mystery” workout (hint: it was double unders).

We were competing in the scaled division because we’re both still working on toes-to-bar, pull-ups, and double unders. Strength is definitely where I shine; for me, the weights for ladies’ scaled were light enough that I could blow through barbell movements with (literally) no sweat. I struggle with rowing and Mike struggles with planking, so that was a major setback for us in workout one that we never really recovered from.

Event two, however, was made for us and played right into our relative strengths. The complex was: 1 deadlift, 2 hang power cleans, 1 shoulders to overhead. We topped out at the head of the leaderboard in weight, each slightly surprised at how limiting the hang clean was. I basically hit the number I thought I would (115) with no “one more pound” surprises. I tried to make a 10-pound leap up to 125 and just couldn’t get it in a hang clean. Might I have had 120 in the tank? Maybe. But I wasn’t about to bump down after I had 125 on the bar so…. Guess I’ll have to find out another day.

Event three (partner Fran) just made me want to get my pull-ups that much more. The scaled weight (45# for ladies) was so light that I blew through my squat cleans fast enough to tag my nose on the bar a couple times. Jumping pull-ups presented similar ease for me, and I breezed through my section of this workout. By the end, I was barely breathing heavily.

Moral of the event three story: I need to get those pull-ups. Badly. I’m

Synchronized OTB Burpees

working hard on them, and making (slow) progress, but it is incredibly frustrating to know that my lower body is Rx ready and my upper body is lagging behind. More fuel for the fire I suppose.

Event four was predictably humbling. Both Rx and Scaled athletes were set the task of max double unders in 2 minutes. I’ve been working on my double unders, but not drilling them as hard as I could be. I really hate jump roping. It’s one of those movements that just winds me, no matter how fit I am in other aspects. I would seriously choose running double-digit distances over five minutes of jumping rope. Not only that, but my calves are particularly sensitive to the jumping movement so overlong jump roping is a guaranteed ticket on the next day pain train. As a result, 2 minutes of DU attempts is basically my personal version of hell. That said, I did it, and surprised myself with the number of successful DUs I managed to get in 120 seconds. Go me, I guess?

On the whole, the competition really solidified for me how important it is to keep working on those movements that are keeping me out of the Rx category: pull-ups, toes to bar, and double unders. My strength is awesome and progressing at a steady rate. If I can support that growth with similar gains in my gymnastic movements, I’ll be sitting pretty this time next year just in time for the open.

What are your next movement goals?

An Exciting Weekend Ahead!

Hey gang!  It’s been a big week of workouts and I’m feeling beat up.  My body is tired, I am sore in many different places, and (to top it all off) Mike and I have our first Crossfit competition on Saturday.  It’s an internal comp at our box, nice and low-pressure, and should be a lot of fun.  That being said, I definitely want to feel my best going into it, so

Working hard to get to my squat goals!

here’s how I’m practicing self care today to rehab my body off this mammoth week of workouts:

  • I’m hydrating. Water, water everywhere!  When I get sick of water (which almost never happens…. I really love to drink water), I’ll be dropping a Nuun tab in my glass to get some hydrating, healthy flavor in my beverage.  My muscles have really felt the grind this week which means I’m waking up thirsty a lot (the New England winter dryness isn’t helping this I’m sure), so bottoms up for me!
  • I’m moving around. If I sit at my desk all day and don’t move (which is sorely, sorely tempting!), my muscles will lock up and I’ll feel stiff and terrible by end of day.  Instead, I’m getting up and moving around a bit, doing some light stretching, and just keeping everything lubricated and flowing.
  • I’m mobilizing. Stretch, foam roll, etc.  Since I work from home on Fridays, I can get in a ROMWOD routine during my lunch hour.  This will be huge towards helping me feel better and I’m really looking forward to it!  In case I haven’t recently touted how awesome ROMWOD is, take this as your touting.  I’m really enjoying the emphasis on deep breathing, and I love being able to let Dan “stretch me out” without having to think about stretch routines to help me perform my best at the box.
  • I’m resting and recovering. It’s so SOSOSOSOSOSOSO tempting to go get in “just a quick run” over lunch, or drop by open gym to just do a few light lifts.  I am not giving in to the temptation.  It might sound weird, but sometimes resting can be the toughest part of maintaining an active lifestyle.  While I know that resting is as productive as a hard gym session, and I know that my body needs it in order to perform, when I’m feeling fluffy and blah it’s so hard to resist the siren call of endorphins.  But if I want my body to perform at its peak tomorrow, I have to “buy in” with some rest today.
  • I’m getting in the mental game. I’m working on preparing my mind to enter the elusive beast mode tomorrow, thinking about how I can best psyche myself up and generally getting excited about what I’m hoping to crush tomorrow.  At the same time, I’m relaxing and trying to “zen” into the last twenty four hours before competition, just so I don’t accidentally
    And also having fun on the floor. Because if you’re not smiling then why are you doing it?

    trigger a stress reaction in my much-needed rest hours.  It’s a tough line to walk, but one that I’m treading as best I can.

  • I’m preparing for a good night’s sleep. I’m planning bed time and wakeup time, working through what I’ll need to do to make sure I get those elusive nine hours no matter what’s going on on TV or Facebook.
  • I’m getting things ready for a seamless morning routine. I’m laying out what I plan to wear, prepping what I plan to eat, and overall making it so that I have the fewest possible things to think about when I’m getting ready to go in the morning.

I’m really excited about the comp tomorrow, and I can’t wait to report back on how it went.

What plans do you have for this weekend?