25 Aug 2013
Iron & Grit Athlete of The Month
I can’t think of anytime I have been quite so surprised as when Tina told me that I had be voted athlete of the month here.
Growing up, I was not athletic, not even a little. You know that last person left standing there in gym class when teams are chosen? That was me. My mother couched her boundless encouragement – “If you set your mind on it, you can do anything you want ” with the realistic caveat – “as long as it doesn’t involve anything physical” Outside of grade school gym class, I have never played any sports, organized or not – no softball or tennis, no beach volleyball or ultimate Frisbee.
In my 20s, I lived in NYC’s East Village and commuted each day to work in White Plains. It was the gritty 1980’s New York, the East Village of bodegas and storefront galleries, its burnt out tenements not yet turned into shiny condos.. I loved living there, but the commute was awful: the subways were filthy, the trains often broke down, and the 90-minute trip sometimes took several hours. It was in this incongruous setting of cigarettes and late-night clubs that I discovered exercise, in the form of downtown dance/workout classes. They were great fun –some had live drummers accompanying them, others had DJ mixed tapes with that week’s underground club hits. I’d take classes and lift weights til I could stop gritting my teeth from the stress of my job and commute. Finally, for the first time, I was fit.
Then I moved up to Boston. I kept the habit of working out. I’d go to the gym, bike around town, run a bit, and cross-country ski when there was snow (and I had time – a rare combination with two kids and an academic career). It’s been a pretty exciting life here, with some dramatic ups and downs personally and professionally, but fitness-wise it was mostly steady and dutiful. And, over the years, increasingly boring. I had a routine I’d do at the gym, or I’d run, at a pace that was getting slower and slower and slower. Finding excuses not to workout was getting easier.
I’d heard about Crossfit, and when I turned 50, a bit over a year ago, I decided to join. Though it was rather intimidating, I liked it tremendously from the start. It’s never boring (well, 100 burpees can be kind of boring, but the pain helps distract from that). Not only is every day different, but it’s a constant learning experience, with so much to focus on with each move. What are your shoulders doing? Where is your weight centered? What grip should you use Is the bar on the right path – and why not? The coaches are amazing – I don’t think there has been a single class in which I have not learned something.
The competitive aspect of Crossfit is terrifically motivating, and a fascinating balance between competing with other athletes and with yourself. Part of my surprise at being athlete of the month is that I’m often to be found right there at the bottom of that Wodify screen. But even if I’m among the slowest, it’s often still a victory for me, because it’s better than my last attempt. Perhaps I got in only a few overhead kettlebell swings – but a year ago, I couldn’t do them at all. I’ve gotten stronger in this last year at Crossfit, and I’ve also learned so much about the combination of balance, power and control that makes it possible to move a lot of weight – or yourself – around. I’m still struggling with actually performing much of what I learned and I have a very long list of skills yet to be mastered: kipping pull-ups, double-unders, handstands (handstand push-ups are off in some distant horizon), overhead squats with any significant weight, and many more. Knowing this list will never end is actually very encouraging ; I see that the best athletes have equally long lists – there are always higher weights, more reps, better form that they struggle to achieve.
One of the things I like most at Crossfit is being with people of such wide variety of abilities, each of whom finds their challenge in the day’s workout. The community is incredibly encouraging and motivating. When I think that I’ve done my last thruster, that I could not possibly do another pull-up, I see all around me others who are sweating, struggling – and still going. And I realize that one more is indeed possible.
Thank you all!