Saturday, November 24, 2012

What happened to the wishbone?

Making a wish!
So Thanksgiving is over. I can tell you a few things about my holiday. I ate too much. Had plenty of wine. And heard the words “Black Friday” more times than anyone should in a given weekend. No, scratch that. . . In a lifetime. I actually said to the girls this morning, “Please, dear children of mine, do not let me hear the words ‘Black Friday’ from your mouths today. Do not tell me what  ‘I could get for what price.’ Do not ask me to fight the crowds, because it’s THE day to shop. Or tell me that your life is over because everyone else you know is going.”
They think I am a drag. And the holidays have just begun. . .
I’ll tell you what I think of the holiday season. I think unless you are under age 13, they aren’t quite the same as we once thought or remembered. Or maybe it’s just me.
I don’t dislike the holiday season. I love it. When I close my eyes. . . and think about what is supposed to be, or what I thought it was, or what it is supposed to mean. When I think of it like that? I totally dig the holiday season. And then I open my eyes.
Here is what I see. And what I feel. I see a Thanksgiving that has become so overshadowed with Black Friday that my children cannot, despite my efforts, clearly understand that this was once a day that was meant purely to be spent sharing a wonderful meal with family and friends. Not to mention the historical value. And why can’t they see this?
We all know the answer.
It’s become a bit of a misguided holiday in many ways, I truly believe. I am not that old, but the face of
Thanksgiving has changed so much since I was a child, I barely recognize it.
It used to be “turkey day.” Simple as that. It was a day that we either spent at home or travelled to spend the day with family and friends that were special to us.
We got excited about sitting at the “kids table” with our cousins.  Or we had finally made the transition to sitting at the “big table.” Which we quickly realized wasn’t nearly as cool as we thought it would be. Adult conversation is pretty dang boring when you’re just bordering on 13 and you can hear the raucous laughter from the card table just a few fun feet behind you in “ kiddy” land.
We wandered through the kitchen before dinner, eyeing the multitude of pies -- pumpkin, apple, pecan, mincemeat (which I never liked). We placed a single black olive on every finger and held them outstretched proudly to anyone who would look at us – before systematically eating them off each digit. There was the carving of the turkey. And waiting to holler, “I want dark meat!” (or maybe that was only me). Or, “I hate giblets!”
The anticipation of the wish bone was palpable after dinner. Who would get to hold each treasured end? Who would get THE wish of season? This was a big deal!
The” big deal” was side-lined until the clearing of the table. Never a good moment. Especially if you were apart of the kids old enough to participate in this heinous job. But you still giggled. Because it was somehow still a bit fun. That and you realized that your parents wouldn’t serve you the aforementioned pie, until your job was complete.
You get my point. It was different back then.
The TV was on, but a parade or a football game took center stage, not a Target or a Wal-Mart commercial. Not these commercials that are meant solely to taunt our children in to believing that if you don’t stand in line with all of the other shoppers (crazies), they will NEVER, EVER, EVER get that Xbox for Christmas. Because if we wait even ONE day beyond Black Friday, the prices will shoot back up to the prices that make their Christmas wishes “dust in the wind.”  Sorry, I always did enjoy that Kansas song, way back when. And I was about that same age as Stella when I loved it. Long before she wanted an Xbox, but back when I wanted a Stretch Armstrong really bad. I digress.
Here’s the thing. I will reiterate. I do not dislike the holidays. I strongly dislike that my children are being programmed to believe that the entire season is centered around “want” and “buy me” and “the best deal.”
I want them to have the same feelings about Thanksgiving that I did. And I am aware that it’s my job as their Mother to teach them values. The values I want them to have. But it’s a bit of an uphill battle --as times have changed. I need to teach them better.
It’s all about the wishbone.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Don't Play with Scissors.

I feel sad frequently. I try to mostly chalk this up to the fact that I’ve been clinically depressed on some level for many years. A bit of it is beyond my control.  But I also freely admit that I am more of a glass half-empty rather than glass half-full kind of girl, even on a good day. So because I have a fair amount of what I call “bad days” I have learned some things about myself and how I cope with these days. I thought I would share some gems of knowledge that I have learned along my way.

Some things I know that I shouldn’t do when I am having a bad day.

Play with scissors:  We all know we shouldn’t run with them. They should have also warned us to not pick them up when feeling even slightly depressed. Why? Because cutting bangs, trimming bangs, or taking the scissors to your hair in any way when you’re in a bad mood generally doesn’t end well. (note: I did this very thing recently. And yes, I am unhappy with the results.) Shorter bangs will not make your life better. In fact, they will merely give you something else to add to the things you currently hate about yourself at this moment. However, if you decide to ignore my cautionary tale and get scissor happy, I will concede that having bangs that you sincerely hate will temporarily switch your focus away from the feeling bad that you’ve put on 5 pounds. And that your favorite jeans now more closely resemble sausage casings filled with your thighs, than the fine premium denim you paid too much for on a “skinny day.”
Step on a scale:  Anyone who knows me well is aware that I would never do this. But others might, so I put this here as a warning. Never, ever, weigh yourself on a bad day. In fact, throw your scale away. Get rid of it. It is evil and serves no good purpose. Unless you’re trying to stay in a particular weight class – and most of us are not.
Drink wine:  I’m on the fence when I say this, because when handled properly, wine can be a great thing – minus the possible hangover the following morning – or how much you spend on wine. I am a Grocery Outlet kind of woman. If you’re the expensive bottle of wine type of chick, you’re screwed.  But anyway, the cost of the bottle could be the least of your worries. Unfortunately, the “proper” handling of wine isn’t generally the issue. It’s the behaviors that can accompany the “improper” handling of wine that can cause the residual grief I will now discuss.

Things I know I should not pair with wine on a bad day.

Scissors:  See above mentioned reasons. So hide them. Better yet, ask your children to “put them away.” This will never be in a spot they belong. You will never be able to find them.
The phone:  This can sometimes be a good thing, but more often bad. My best advice is to call someone who won’t take great delight in telling you all the idiotic things you said during your wine-induced venting session.
Texting: This is the granddaddy of all things to avoid while drinking wine on a bad day. First, it becomes quickly apparent to the recipient that your senses might be a wee bit compromised. This happens when your texts are riddled with typos, autocorrects that make no sense, and odd one word replies. If that isn’t enough to dissuade you, then this might. There is a written transcript of the dumbass things you typed.  And never, unless you’re a glutton for punishment, reread your conversation(s) the next day. Mortification quickly follows and will make any hang-over way worse than it was when you crawled out of bed and grabbed your phone.  So maybe you should have your kids “put away” your phone as well.
Social media:  Facebook is easy for me to skip. Not a fan. However, I do enjoy a good Tweet or two. The positive is that you can delete something you tweeted in that ultra-reflective deep moment you felt you needed to share with strangers. By the way, I am pretty certain that no one gives two hoots about what those random song lyrics mean to you. Unless you happen to “move” the one other person on the planet who also believes that those words hold some sort of borderline spiritual meaning. You don’t want to meet that person anyway. They are as messed up as you possibly are. So it bears repeating, maybe you should have your kids “put away” your phone.

Some better activity choices on a bad day.

Funny movies:  Horrible Bosses. This movie makes me laugh for all sorts of inappropriate reasons. Watch and then rewind the scenes that make you laugh.  I do this several times.
Sitcoms:  New Adventures of Old Christine. It’s hilarious. Particularly the episode in which Christine declares herself a 5 dating a 10. Watch it. Just trust me. Same with “That 70’s Show.” Although, it might make you want to smoke a bowl. But refrain.
Online shopping:  Only if you can afford it. Otherwise just place things in online “bags” and dream of the day you can click “place this order.”
Heavy lifting: However, if you happen to have a crappy lifting day, you may be reduced to tears in your garage with old school Metallica playing in the background, as loud as it can, on your iPod dock.
Run:  If you can. I used to. If you’re not a runner, this will make you curse yourself for every miserable stride, telling yourself you are pathetic, and a cardio loser. And then you'll spend the rest of the time reminding yourself that your cardio abilities are poor because you are a weightlifter, goddamn it.
Write:  If you’re a writer. Or even if you think you are. And I think I am.
Loud music:  I often pair this with writing. Of course I gravitate towards songs that make me want to cry. I may tell myself I’m “self reflecting.” In actuality I’m more often feeling sorry for myself. And no, sometimes it’s just not healthy to sit and rehash every bad decision you’ve ever made, while listening to Jim Croce or Tracy Chapman, with tears rolling down on to your desk – that you will then notice how filthy it is when you smear your hand across the surface – which will inevitably make you feel like a terrible housekeeper. Don’t go down this path. Stay away from your dust covered mini-blinds, shelving, window sills and baseboards. This is not the time! Anyway, avoid this secondary problem by choosing from an array of old metal bands instead.

Finally, one simple request.

Since I never listen to my own advice and certainly no one else’s, I’ve been known to employ all of the things listed above -- sometimes simultaneously -- on a particularly rough day. After all, if a little is good, than a lot is better right? It’s been my life’s motto and has mostly worked . . . not at all.
So if it’s you I decide to keep me company when I’m sad, take pity on me and don’t make me hear verbatim what I said the next day. Delete my texts before you go to bed, never to be read again.
Or just don’t answer. Dodge the bullet all together. I thank you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

An awkward marriage.

Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit? This topic seems to come up in my little world more and more these days. What do I think about this? As usual, I have several opinions.

First, I would like to acknowledge that there are many people, myself included, that would have never been introduced to the Oly lifts without CF. I had never heard of a clean & jerk or a snatch, ever in my life, before I became a CrossFitter over 4 years ago -- and I was a gym regular for years. So the exposure to weightlifting that CrossFit has provided, has been beneficial to the sport, I am certain. And I am grateful, because in learning to lift, I found my passion.

That being said, there are ongoing problems with CrossFit regarding the Oly lifts that cannot be denied. Let’s talk about some of those things.

Teaching the lifts: Currently, when one receives a CrossFit level 1 certification, it “qualifies” them to be a CrossFit trainer. The level one cert does not introduce the Oly lifts. By the way, a medicine ball clean is nothing like a clean. And a push jerk isn’t nearly as useful when someone doesn’t know how to get the bar from the floor to the racked position. CFHQ does not require any sort of proficiency in the lifts. However CrossFit regularly programs Oly lifts in wods. Are we to assume that the level one trainer is equipped with the basic knowledge to teach a clean, a snatch, and a jerk? The vast majority are not. But they are CrossFit certified trainers. So how do these new CrossFitters learn to lift properly? Many don’t.

Misinformation/representation regarding Oly lifts: I cannot count how many times I have seen video links to wods that are not a representation of how the wod is actually written. A clean & jerk is a clean & jerk. It is not a thruster. Yet a CF newbie who viewed the video would assume that what they see from this “elite” CrossFitter is a technically correct clean & jerk. CrossFit needs to say “ground to overhead.” That is what they generally mean.

Incorrect terminology: Why, oh why, does CFHQ not get the terms correct? It’s far from rocket science, yet they seem to take great pleasure in confusing the shit out of the mass CF main site followers. If they just used the correct terms, they would eradicate all of the ridiculous posts that ask, “It says ‘clean,’ does that mean I can ‘power clean’ it?” Or “It says ‘clean.’ So do I ‘squat (don’t get me started) clean’ or ‘power clean?”’ It is so simple. I could go in to the explanation, but I have in a previous blog. So I won’t. But I am left to believe that CFHQ enjoys the message boards being clogged with stupid questions. It’s either that, or they love to f@#K with the lifting community. I personally believe, it’s a combination of the two.

The programming of lifts at high repetitions/intensity: This is a recipe for disaster in many circumstances. Let’s take people who can’t even tell you what a snatch is and have them do it 75 times during “Randy.” Awesome idea? Not hardly! Yet, it’s being done over and over by CF affiliates worldwide. If your affiliate is better than that, I applaud you. But don’t be pissed because I am speaking the truth about the vast majority.

So, it’s my opinion that the biggest CF problem, by far, is not taking the time to teach people how to lift correctly. And I believe this to be such, primarily because it’s a long process, and needs to be taught in a progressive manner. Most affiliates do not have trainers or the resources to spend the time necessary to teach new people. Newbies are pushed into classes well before they should be, either based on economics or scheduling -- which I understand to a point. I was trainer at a small affiliate and I understand the challenges -- so I’m speaking from experience, not out of my ass. But regardless of the excuses, affiliates need to do a better job. It isn’t their fault entirely, however. I blame CFHQ for not policing the quality of movement being taught, or more specifically, for the fact that the Oly certification is a separate entity from the Level 1. You simply cannot be a good CF trainer, if you don’t have the necessary basic knowledge of Olympic weightlifting.

I realize that many, many CrossFit trainers have taken it upon themselves to further their education regarding the oly lifts. And that is awesome. I have been to the CF Oly cert. I am USAW level 1 certified, and I just recently attended the Catalyst Athletics seminar. I watch videos, read everything I can get my hands on, and I follow a lifting training program. Does this make me flawless at teaching the lifts? Unfortunately, no. But I do my best -- and I continually try to become better and continue to educate myself.

I have a great deal of respect for the sport of weightlifting. And although I have been lifting regularly for a few years, I know that I have so much more to learn. So when I was asked recently, “Don’t you ever ‘just lift’ without worrying about your form?” My answer was, “Uh, No. Never.” That’s like asking me if I go anywhere without wearing lip-gloss!? You get my point. It matters to me. Always.

CrossFit continues to introduce the lifts to its massive followers – which is super great. What they don’t do well -- is communicate to them that it takes lots of time (years) to get proficient at them. And that’s IF you practice. And have a DECENT trainer. And CARE about it.

So, herein lies why I say that Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit are an awkward marriage. The two are linked now -- for better or worse. There is an undeniable bond between them. Weightlifting is benefiting from the exposure that CrossFit has given them. CrossFit continues to flaunt their relationship all over the internet in a way that isn’t always accurate or beneficial. But the two are linked. Good or bad. If only they could find a way to come together and form a cohesive union. Find what is good between them. And fix what isn't.

Maybe CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting need a couples retreat to try and mend the vast differences in this troubled twosome.

Or maybe they will continue to live in limbo.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My so very AMAZING Catalyst experience.

Lori and Loraine
Most people long for thrill rides and cotton candy, or sandy beaches, sunshine and a cold cocktail in their hands, when they go on vacation. I opted for black mats, lifting platforms, overcast skies, a tepid water bottle. . . And the super awesome company of Aimee and Greg Everett. I traveled to the happiest place on earth for lifters. . . Catalyst Athletics!

Getting there wasn’t easy however. Loraine, my lifting partner, and I arranged our trip months beforehand. Booked seminar. Check. Air travel. Check. Hotel and car. Check, check. Massive snow and ice storm in the Seattle area 3 days prior to our departure? What?!?!? No! We did not plan for this.

After our flight was cancelled, we contemplated that maybe our trip was not meant to be. Not wanting to wait until the next seminar in July, we opted to fight the nightmarish roads to the airport and the even worse nightmarish temperaments of the Alaska airlines employees -- and ended up flying out of SeaTac on standby to San Jose. A very lucky break!

The next morning, when our cab dropped us at the front door of the CA gym, we were a mixture of excitement and a dose of nervous energy. We walked in the front door and saw Aimee’s smiling face behind the front counter. She said, “You made it!” We had exchanged several email and tweets regarding our travel dilemmas. I was immediately warmed by her friendly demeanor. It seemed to melt away a bit of the intimidation I was feeling.

Our new friend Corey.
This wasn’t my first Olympic Weightlifting seminar or cert, but this was Catalyst Athletics! I have been visiting their website almost daily for around 3 years. I’ve bought the book, the videos, read every Performance Menu article. I scrutinize every collected training video and search out every Aimee YouTube video I can find. I’ve even written a blog a couple years ago entitled, “I want to be Aimee.”. Needless to say, I have felt motivated by and in awe of this group, from a far, for a very long time. So to be actually standing inside waiting to get hands on training from them? Well as I said, it was simultaneously, intimidating and also very, very cool.

We found a place to set our bags, and were asked to circle up. I didn’t want to miss a word, so it wasn’t by accident that I found my place at the front of the room in close proximity to Greg. I quickly realized that Greg was not only a gifted and knowledgeable coach, but he was also very, dryly, hysterically funny. And Aimee reminded me of a bubbly  fairy -- a freakishly strong fairy -- flitting and bouncing around the room, spreading joy, and giggles, and making everyone feel like they truly belonged there. Greg and Aimee are a dynamic duo, to say the least.

As Greg taught the progressions and the lifts, we had the opportunity to interact with the other coaches. They were all helpful, knowledgeable, and spot on with critique. For me it was awesome to meet them and see them in person after watching them lift in videos for so long. I found them as personable as I hoped they would be. And they made everyone feel completely incredible when they gave out a complement.

It was amazing to have such talented eyes watching you lift. Telling you what you did well and what needed to be better. I tried to soak up as much as I could every minute. I felt like the attention was distributed equally around the gym, among all of the attendees. Although I did ask Steve, if perhaps he didn’t like our end of the room because he’d been rather scarce. Of course he stayed and watched our jerks. And I’m so glad I cornered him. Because his personality is infectious and just makes you smile! That being said, absolutely everyone we were able to interact with, was great beyond belief.

With so much to learn and remember, Loraine and I sat in the Embassy Suites bar at the end of both days, writing notes to ourselves of cues that resonated with us, and technical issues we were having and how to fix them. We talked at great length about the amazing lifters we were about to become. Some of the best life plans are made in bars. I truly believe this.

Anyway, I ended my last day at Catalyst with a couple videos of me lifting on one of the platforms. I bought my CA sweatshirts that I proudly wear. I thanked Greg and Aimee for the wonderful weekend, and I said a silent prayer that this wouldn’t be the last time I was going to see the inside of this incredible place. And I left with a skip in my step and fresh goals in my head. To say I was inspired by this experience doesn’t seem to do it justice.

Yeah! Me!
For anyone who loves to lift, this seminar is something you should not miss. Go!!! You will learn from the best. You will be made to feel at home. You will laugh. You will meet remarkable people. You will take away a love for the sport of weightlifting, even greater than you had. You will wish you lived in Sunnyvale CA, and could be around these talented people on a weekly basis.

I walked out of Catalyst Athletics feeling like it was possible to be an Olympic Weightlifting rock star. This morning, in my little garage, lifting alone, I am back to feeling a bit more like a fan. . . But a fan who got to interact with the coolest cats in the weightlifting community!

Thank you, Greg and Aimee and all of the Catalyst coaches, for an unforgettable experience.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I'm a not loser, baby.

I "teach" bear crawl. Don't love it!
I hate to lose. And when I say “lose,” what I mean, is that I have performed poorly.  I can do this all by myself, or this can be accomplished in a group. Anyway, I really hate it. No matter what I try and tell myself. No matter what I try to tell you. I hate it. I have a competitive drive that is like a fire burning inside me. I can’t put out its flame. Not with common sense. Not with what’s rational. Not with reason. Not with any form of anything. When I say I don’t care, I am lying. Because I always care. Always.

Is this a curse? Maybe? Possibly. My sister is a perfectionist. I am not. I have often thought of her being “cursed” with this. Maybe we are all cursed to some degree – with something. We all have our “things.” One example that comes up in the gym or garage, is that I can’t stand plates being put on a bar wrong. Numbers on the outside for bumpers. Numbers on the inside for metal plates (they butt up against the collars better this way). We all have our idiosyncrasies. The things that makes us who we are. Things that make us crazy. Things that define our lives to some degree. Or maybe to a large degree.

My competitive nature? It has both served, and ruined, me at times. Being a competitive person can either make you euphoric, or make you feel like a complete failure. There is rarely an in-between. Does this mean I cannot lose graciously? No, I can. And I do a lot. But it always bothers me. I rethink what I could have done better. What went right? What went wrong?

So what brings me to this topic today? Well, last week’s workout. What was it? It was my dear friend, Loraine’s birthday WOD at Sumner CrossFit.

So, here is the way it went. . . Loraine invites me to do her birthday WOD with the group that I train (with her) every Wednesday night. How can I say no? I can’t – and I actually want to do this -- even though I’ve been on 4 month lifting-only program. I thought it would be fun. I’ve actually missed that “pre-WOD-anxiety” that a metcon brings.

But my pre-WOD anxiety included some knowledge of where my cardio ability is right now. Not good. By choice, mind you. But that is beside the point. The WOD included “bear crawls.” A LOT of bear crawls at a significant distance. I knew what this meant. Cardio taxing. Muscular endurance taxing. Both of which I am lacking at this point because I haven’t been training in those realms. The WOD also included several rounds of the “bear complex” (power clean, front squat, push press, back squat, push press) of lifting. My wheel house! I thought this would be my “balancer” in the workout.

3-2-1-GO! I blaze through the first 3 bear complex. On to the bear crawls. One lap. Not so bad. On to the the next 6 bear complex. Feeling okay. Bear crawls, 2 laps. Getting a bit bad. Nine rounds bear complex. Not as easy as I expected. At all. Not really loving the rapid fire lifting. Kind of thinking about how much I love my breaks between lifts in my usual workouts. Then 3 laps of bear crawl. This was ugly. I was angry after one lap. Seriously pissed after lap 2. Lap 3 left me in the fetal position at every freaking corner of that stupid lap. Even with Loraine, watching, and giggling, and cheering me on, I still curled myself up at every corner, and cursed her very existence for creating this heinous workout. Six bear complex. Sweating so bad that the bar wanted to slip off my back. Two laps bear crawl. Beyond words mad at myself for being so cardio/endurance weak. Three bear complex. One lap bear crawl – slow as a sloth. A sloth! Touched the tape. Done.

As I sat there panting, in the very familiar way of days long ago, I thought about how I felt. What was my very first thought? What was my freaking- awful-freaking-time?? I had not even looked at the clock when I finished, but I knew it was bad. I already knew I wasn’t happy with my time or my performance. And when my friend Barry said, “Good job Lori!” I wanted to scream, “That’s bullshit. I sucked,” but instead, I said “thank you.” And I even laughed a bit -- because it was rather funny. Kaylor, another SCF trainer even said to me, “You were SO slow on those crawls!”

So although, I can experience this type of “failure” with composure, I will never embrace losing. I will never feel good about performing at what I feel is beneath what I am capable of. I set a high standard for myself. I can’t change that. And I don’t believe that lowering my personal “bar” will result in anything beneficial in the long run.

When I lose, or am disappointed with myself, I am seriously pissed. When I perform under par, it bothers me. I don’t care that I haven’t been training for that type of workout. I sucked. And I hate that feeling. But hating “that” feeling is what drives me. It drives me to be better. It drives me to want to be the best -- even when being the best in the room isn’t possible.

And being “the sloth” will always piss me off. Because the competitor in me is always present. Always.

Because, I'm not a loser, baby.

PS: Loraine’s time was 13-something. Mine was 19-something. Enough said. Still love you Birthday Girl. My Birthday is in April. . . Heavy Snatches Baby! Be ready. . .