Sunday, October 14, 2007


My flight is delayed. Not really but it’s a stall as I cooling my jets in a departure terminal where all I can do is make up interesting lies about the people around me and justify the consumption of comfort food just for something to do. It takes a very dedicated chunk of time and the memorization of multiple formulae in the mastery of calorie calculus just to convince myself that frozen yogurt counts as a protein or that Nachos can somehow meet 40/30/30 requirements. But it becomes so much easier to sit around and I become so much more compliant when I’ve been numbed by carbohydrates and boredom. That’s me in the gym right now – bags packed with 90K, waiting for progress and trying not to put the kind of non-nutrients in my mouth that will just make the job of pushing weight even harder.

I’m trying not to know – if ‘knowing’ makes it so – that the Monday Night Squat progression is going to be a battle as I revisit 90K over and over again. I’ll either push like hell to keep the weight moving up or it will push like hell to keep me stuffed in a compact little bundle buckled beneath the weight. It takes an excruciatingly long time to decide whether or not I’ll bail. At this point, I’m the Susan Lucci of squat night and I smile at each failure like I’m just happy to be nominated.

Nothing personal, I’m sure. 90K and I greet each other politely and I try to pretend we’re working together. I saunter up to it in a friendly enough way and make like we’re pals. I even drape my arms over the bar sometimes and lean casually as if we’re that comfortable with each other. But secretly I think it mocks me and talks behind my back. I want to get passed it. I want to be able to talk about it in breezy tones as if I barely remember our meeting. But somehow 90K knows that I’m only three beers away from drunk-dialing it and simpering about why it doesn’t like me.

I ask myself a lot of questions in the postmortem about what I ate, how I slept, how I trained. These are the kinds of variables that affect me on any given day. At first the notations in my training log were sensical and almost sciency. “DOMS from Friday” but after awhile the shaky and frantic script became a muddled mix of paranoia and superstition like, “the rack was moved into a hell mouth,” “Saturn’s rising and it unbalanced my aura.”

I’m not sure people want to work at my rack anymore and it’s not just for fear of falling objects. I think they fear I’m a contagion of calamity. I’m funking the bar with a heavy residue of a glute deteriorating bacteria or I’m plagued by the ghosts of failed lifts past. Either way, I’m messing with Chi especially my own. And it’s like tripping in public or whatever other graceless act you care to commit, you figure if you jump up immediately it somehow diminishes the memory in other people’s minds so that, if you’re fast enough, it’s like you never did it at all. Um, sure.

About a month ago, it was time to do the CrossFit total. I initially approached it with the same zeal and enthusiasm I’d muster for root canal. With my rotator cuff injury, the only positive thing I can say about the Overhead Press is, at least my arms are short. That makes the process of pushing things to lockout painful but not prolonged. My body generally rejects the effort at about the point when the bar reaches my eyeballs and my brain decides to detour around the supraspinatus by taking some indirect and unsuccessful path around the bar. It’s ugly and relatively harmless. The Deadlift is something I haven’t been dying to do since the strongman competition when I didn’t feel as if I was lifting weight as much as birthing it. And the squat, well, you know about the squat.

I considered the ever appetizing no-show served, to anybody who asked, in a big steaming ragu of reasons and excuses and seasoned with drama. My inner Diva was cooking up a heart wrenching tale of rotator cuff betrayal and the unrequited love of 90K; complete with big dance numbers all bollywood style. But then, unlike the average diva, I considered the other people in the room. First, there was the poor bloke who walked in with a simple question of “are you doing the total?” and ended up with the time-suck of bullshit. Yeah, that shoulda been a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ moment. And, second, all the other women who are looking for a template of what to do when it starts to get hard. ‘Quit, cry on a shoulder, and have excuses ready’ isn’t what they deserve for an answer.

If I’m not remembered for getting passed 90k on the protocol, I’ll be remembered for never letting it drop me. There’s a lesson in this and I’m not going to let that lesson be about how to quit. If other women show up and see me struggle maybe they’ll understand that struggle is part of it too. Or maybe they’ll get that this is about work and not about genetic blessings. Whatever they get, it’s more valuable than anything they’d get from me not showing up.

In the end, I met my goal of 561 pounds. The Squat was a PR, the Overhead Press was disappointing but respectable and the Deadlift, though not a PR, was significantly heavier than my last combined effort. In total, it’s what I set out to do though with a different breakdown than I imagined. It hasn’t stopped the 90K from hitting the floor though. What will keep the weight on my back is this: limit my metabolic conditioning, eat to support what I’m doing which will likely mean a push to gain weight and manage my sleep to ensure at least eight hours. It means becoming a sport-specific athlete.

These aren’t all sacrifices I’m willing to make so in the meantime I’m listening to my coach and doing what I’m told. After all, the point of having a coach isn't to ignore the expertise, do what I want anyway and keep the guy around just to fight with. The carnival ride in my cranium is usually a dizzying tilt-o-whirl of nonsense. In twelve hour bouts that turns out to be fun for only a little while. While I’m busy trying not to throw up on the ride, let him operate that part of my life for awhile. In order to get passed the things I’ve failed at, I’m going to need better inputs then the ones I’ve already used to fail with.

And that brings me to the other lesson I learn as I hang out in this holding pattern: If it’s true that the universe line-drives you with the same crap you’re belting out, then perhaps, as a coach, I should consider how coachable I’m being. Otherwise, my schedule could soon be filled with ornery foot-stompers with questionable fortitude. Hmmm, I’d rather give that 90K another go.