Athletics, Motherhood and Other SuperFantastic Subjects

Archive for October, 2011

“It would be better if you had a penis”

Yes, that is a real quote from my son…it’s a long story.

Anyway, after writing and discussing last week’s blog with people it occurred to me that female athletes seem to be more likely to downplay themselves.  I had the opportunity to chat about the confidence/humility balance with a multiple-Games competitor and she mentioned that it was something that had impacted her as well.  I started thinking about women in sports specifically and women in general and how we socialize our boys and girls to behave- I would say girls are often expected to be more reserved and gracious and less aggressive and assertive than males.

This socialization makes us into a different breed of athlete than men are.  Of course men and women are different and that’s great, I just hate to think that the way we’ve been socialized could get in the way of being fully self-confident athletes and proudly claiming our athleticism.  Many doors are open to women athletes both at the collegiate and professional levels, but there seems to be more drama involved with women’s athletics than exists on the men’s side.  When I was in college there was always talk about women athlete’s sexual orientation, especially those who played certain sports.  Then we have things like the lingerie football league, which, from everything I gather is made up of some women who are legit athletes, but why do they have to play half naked to draw an audience?  Hide your children, this video represents numerous things I have problem with.   

Ok, Crossfitters are half naked too, but you get my point.  The reference above is just one example, there are plenty of others, like the pole dancing fitness classes and such.  Although our athletes are at times scantily clad, overall the Crossfit community does so much that advances women in sport.  First, we are teaching our kids through words and action that women are athletes.  The family friendly atmosphere that’s created in our boxes facilitates this.  I have yet to visit a box that doesn’t welcome kids. Crossfit children have the opportunity to regularly see women working hard, sweating, and picking up barbells, which sets the stage for these kids to expect women to be athletes and capable of performing physical tasks.  My personal experience is that my son could not care less about me competing in Crossfit (although he is a Cherie Chan fan), but I know it’s all rubbing off on him.  I’ve caught him checking out my arms and then respond by showing me his muscles.  He apparently thinks I’m infinitely strong because he can see me carrying 200 pounds of groceries up three flights of stairs and still ask, “will you carry me?”  He has named his Lego people things like “Push-up” and “Burpee”.  He regularly sees strong women of every shape, size and age doing real work and I love that!  Perhaps he is a budding feminist (despite the previous quote).   I’ve even heard him refer to God as “Her”.  But I digress.  Even without delving into the fantastic program that is Crossfit Kids, just by being around it our kids are being indoctrinated with Crossfit culture and one of our beliefs is that women are strong, capable athletes.

Crossfit women are the shiznit

Crossfit is also providing a platform for women to make an impact on the business side of athletics.  There are many strong female affiliate owners, headquarters trainers, coaches, Crossfit media personnel and entrepreneurs in a variety of Crossfit related endeavors from equipment, to apparel to non-profit organizations.  Totally inspiring!  I don’t know what kind of female presence there is within the headquarters leadership.  I would be curious to know that, as well as what the numbers look like gender-wise with affiliate ownership, who’s getting certed, etc.  (Maybe if I were a real writer I would research it and try to find out). 

I have heard, however, that male Crossfit athletes are a bigger spectator draw.  I was surprised to hear that, it never occurred to me, but there’s some evidence it may be true.  For example, I think there are more male sponsored athletes than female.  Also in the Games final the men competed last so maybe that was the “main event”.  Do you guys think male Crossfitters more exciting to watch?  Are they more inspiring?  Are both equally entertaining?  Just curious…

Crossfit guys are cool, too

I think it’s very meaningful that the prize money at the Games is the same across the board.  You don’t see that in every sport.  Achieving parity is not a given- Fortune 500 Companies, the Government, educational institutions and other sports can’t seem to do it, but perhaps as a new and developing sport/industry Crossfit can.

Oh, and stay tuned, we’ll be tackling race and class soon so as to complete the requisite race, class and gender trifecta.

“I can kill the spider above my bed/although it’s hard because I’m scared.”- Jill Scott

“Is milk just for babies?”

My weekend is fully booked with Barbells for Boobs events here in Illinois.  Saturday at my home box, Crossfit Chicago, and Sunday I will have the honor of supporting B4B and representing Reebok at Crossfit Dupage.  Mammograms In Action is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide low-income or uninsured women and men with access to life saving mammograms.  Barbells for Boobs- Amazing Grace is a major fundraising event held at Crossfit affiliates worldwide. 

The workout being performed is “Grace”, 30 reps for time, ground to overhead, Rx 95# for women, 135# for men.  The workout can be scaled to any fitness level, I may even have my 4 year old do it!  Here is a video of the last time I performed “Grace”.

 Register here participate in the fundraising workout.  Please consider taking part, no matter what your fitness or experience level is, we’ll help you through the workout.  I look at it as a celebration of our health for those of us who are privileged to be able to do this, and as a way to honor and recognize those who are fighting for their health.  For anyone who cannot make the event, please consider making a donation.  If you reference Crossfit Chicago your donated funds will be dedicated to assist men and women in the Chicago area.   Whether you appreciate breasts for their life sustaining nectar, aesthetic beauty, or because you love the women that they’re attached to please support this fundraising effort and help save some boobs!

“Just because you’re excited doesn’t mean you have to lick me a lot and smell me.”

For the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about how critical the “right” mental state is in Crossfit.  But what is the right mental state?  Thoughts about confidence, pride, humility, conceit and how those qualities interact, started bouncing around in my head after reading a couple of athlete’s post-Games blog entries.  Ricky Frausto’s reflections on his and the Crossfit Omaha team’s performance at the Games was really informative ( and of particular interest was Lindsey Smith’s “I Wrote My Own Fate and Here Is Why”  (  Lindsey talks about her mindset for the year of training leading up to the 2011 Games being focused on finishing top 16 and qualifying to compete in all the workouts for the weekend (although as it turned out, this year only top 12 moved on to the final workouts).

2011 Games- Lindsey, with me in the background

What was so striking to me in reading this was that Lindsey Smith, a Rogue Athlete ( and multiple Games competitor wouldn’t have been gunning for the podium.  As a Crossfit newcomer, I 100% view her as a podium contender every time.  It doesn’t take much interaction with Lindsey to observe that she’s an incredibly gracious, kind and humble athlete.

“Humble?” said Charlotte.  “’Humble’ has two meanings.  It means ‘not proud’ and it means ‘near the ground.’  That’s Wilbur all over.  He’s not proud and he’s near the ground.”  -Charlotte’s Web                                                     

It’s this last attribute whose role I started to question in an athlete’s life.  I wondered if it’s possible to be too humble, and how does humility coexist with confidence?  Sometimes apparent contradictions can and must coexist.  It reminds me of when I snatch, I think about being both patient and aggressive at the same time- on the surface these things seem contrary, but like humility and confidence they work together.  I have always considered myself to be a very humble person and have even gone too far at times to ensure that I never come across as if I think I’m better than anyone else.  Seriously, I think it’s a complex from being called stuck-up when I was a kid.  Humility keeps you working hard, but confidence is essential, too.   A number of years ago I read Matthew 5:16, a Bible verse that reminds me you should never dim yourself for anyone, or be ashamed of your abilities or talents.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”- Matthew 5:16

Reebok showed out taking care of Games athletes with gear.

As I continue to develop as a Crossfitter I feel my confidence growing and I won’t lie, it feels awesome and pretty remarkable given the amount of time I spend working on things I’m not good at.  Maybe that is what the challenge of Crossfit does for all of us– it forces us to rise to the occasion and break down physical and mental barriers and by doing so we build ourselves up.  Very predictably though, as soon as I start feeling myself something in the cosmos is set off and I catch a dose of reality.  I also have people around me who will quickly and consistently check me, and I receive the message—I have a TON of work to do.  In the brief time I’ve been competing in Crossfit, at least one thing has become unequivocally clear.  I perform better when I act with confidence and self-assuredness.  Think about getting under a lift- what happens when you’re not quite sure you really want it overhead?  It’s not going, that’s what.  Self-confidence doesn’t have to translate into arrogance, but I think it’s ok to carry yourself with a little swag if that’s who you are.  Besides, if you don’t believe in yourself who will?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”- Marianne Williamson

“Will you play with me?”

I can’t tell you how many times daily my son asks me that.  I guess it’s the curse of only childhood- constantly having to get adults to play with you.  This kid is really creative and has an incredibly good imagination, so playing with him is pretty entertaining.  He is still asking for a twin brother and since I can’t give him that I participate in his games as much as I possibly can.  He has countless make believe games that we play around the house or in the parks nearby.  He loves animals, so often he is an animal and I am a pet owner, zoo keeper or mother animal.  His favorite for the past week or two has been being a monkey named Alexander.  Don’t ask me how he selected the name, but just know he is serious about this.  If you address him as other than Alexander you will not get a response.  If you try to feed him people food instead of monkey food he will get sick and “throw up for days.”  Poor Alexander! 

In addition to engaging in his games I try to set aside days where we can do an outing together and this past Saturday was the zoo.  This type of outing also allows him to gather more material for his pretend games.  If anyone has brought their kid to Brookfield Zoo they know about the great playgrounds there.  There are at least three of them, and on this visit we spent significantly more time playing and climbing than looking at animals.   I had so much fun watching him play.  While I am completely open to him not being a serious competitive athlete (well ok, I’d be a little disappointed) it would really be a shame because he moves so well and with such confidence.  Am I biased?  Probably, but this little dude is awesome!  I love that he climbs on the equipment not only in the obvious/intended ways, but he climbs up and down the sides of things, hangs upside down, does toes to bar for fun, and he’s got sick grip strength.  I watched him do a move about 12 times where he slid down the outside of a railing, then jumped down.  When I tried to capture it on video  of course he didn’t do the cool thing, and he suddenly put on this production about needing my help.  I realize this makes look like a horrible parent, but he really didn’t need help!

Probably like every Crossfitter, even when I’m doing activities that are completely not CF related, training/paleo/fitness related stuff still permeates my thoughts.  So I thought it was pretty funny when I saw this display while walking through the primate house.  It was a series of primates with images of their stomachs and what their diet consists of.   Check out the depiction of the human diet.  

Human diet per the Brookfield Zoo display: Hamburger on a bun, ice cream cone, french fries.

On the way home from the zoo we stopped at the toy store to take a look and saw some interesting sports/fitness related toys.

Playmobil guy getting in some ring dips

Depicting seniors being active? Great! But the "crippling speed" thing may be taking it too far

I feel so fortunate to have days that I can focus on nothing but my son.  I would have loved to lift in the in-house Olympic lifting meet that we had at my box that day, but instead my time was reserved for The Boy.  Going back to my post the other day, it’s a constant struggle to achieve balance and prioritize.  So instead of lifting with the CFC community on Saturday, I lifted by myself with my coach on Sunday.

*photo gangstered from CFC blog

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”- Jackie Kennedy

“Can you please be quiet, I’m thinking”

The past few weeks I’ve really been grappling with finding a sense of balance in my life and figuring out the best way to make things run smoothly, be productive, and be happy- and maintain some level of sanity, if that’s possible.  We’ve just wrapped up our busiest time of year at work, a period of about 2-4 weeks that triggered all these questions.   My training has also shifted post-Games and these days it’s taking me much longer to get in and out of the gym every day.  Add to that my son’s constantly changing needs and I’m left feeling like there’s a lot to evaluate.  I don’t believe you can have it all and certainly not all at once, so my family, work and Crossfitting are the things on the top of  my priority list right now.  (My work is only on the list as it directly facilitates the well-being of my family and my Crossfitting- not because it is a passion like the other two items.  But that’s an issue for another blog post).

I will be honest; this is the first period of time in my short Crossfit life that balancing training, working and being a mother has been difficult.  Last year I wouldn’t even call what I was doing “training.”  I was just working out.   I didn’t have specific goals and I would basically be at the box for my one hour class.  I did what my coach said and didn’t put a whole lot more thought into it than that.  When I spent extra time on Crossfit and fitness it was because I had extra time to give, with the exception of pre-Games training, of course.  Pre-Games I had a little taste of this juggling act.  I remember one particular Friday night I had to fit in a second workout and brought my son along to play at the box.  He fell asleep on the way, I carried him into the gym and he slept through my entire workout, blaring music and all.  As parents everywhere know, a long, unexpected nap might seem like a good thing at the time- but just try getting the kid to go to bed that night.  Mommy fail.

The grocery store is boring? Well wake up, Mommy needs you to sleep tonight!

Since August 1, 2011 I’ve been training.  It’s very focused, and although there are events, fundraisers and competitions along the way the entire focus is July 2012.  So this is the beginning of my first full training year as a Crossfitter.  That being said, it makes sense that I have many things yet to figure out.  Over the past couple of months I’ve gained even more respect for the athletes who’ve been to multiple Games.  It’s amazing to see athletes who have sustained their training and maintained their health and come back year after year.  When I arrived in LA this year,  before the Games even started I knew I wanted this to be a debut year, not a one-time shot.   No matter how many times you do it, I don’t think competing in the Games ever becomes blasé.  You could see it in the faces and hear it in the voices of the athletes who’ve been back year after year.  It was a beautiful thing at the pre-Games athlete dinner seeing the excitement and humility in all the competitors.  From those of us who were complete newbies and had no idea the awesomeness we had gotten ourselves into, to the most experienced and accomplished Games veterans, everyone was absolutely honored to be there. 

I say all that to emphasize that all the juggling is worth it.  It’s going to take a lot of persistence and commitment.  What I’m realizing is that the commitment doesn’t simply mean coming into the gym and hitting it hard every day.  It means skipping a social function so I can sleep.  It means setting aside time to get my shopping and cooking done so I can quickly access the food I need throughout the week.  Sometimes it means actually “penciling in” special times with my son to ensure he’s not getting short changed as my schedule fills up.

“We can be sure that the greatest hope for maintaining equilibrium in the face of any situation rests within ourselves.”- Francis J. Braceland

Yeah, I can balance

I know these are universal issues and my approach addressing these issues is not rocket science.  Frankly, I’m fortunate that these are my “issues”.  Pretty basic stuff in the grand scheme of things.  But somehow when times get busy I just need a reminder for myself that with commitment across the board, 24/7, I can manage everything on my plate.  When all else fails, I remind myself of some of the amazing moms who were at the Games this year, a number of whom were top 10 finishers: Angie Pie, Annie Sakamoto, Lindsey Smith, Cheryl Brost.  I really admire these women (and the other moms at the Games) because they’ve demonstrated longevity as Crossfitters while also raising kids.  Encouraging and inspiring!

My question is:  has there been a mom on the podium yet?

“I would be a duck so I can go on land, water and sky.”

He already understands the value of being well rounded.

Thinking about what things I will do today to be the strongest, most versitile, and most well rounded Crossfitter.  On a mission to eliminate weaknesses!

“Smack me in the face, ok?”

Saturday October 1st Crossfitters from throughout the Midwest gathered at Crossfit Freedom in Libertyville, IL for the Life AsRx Tour-Chicago competition.  My first surprise upon arriving was that the entire competition was being held outside.  This plan could have been playing with fire weather-wise in October in Chicago, but we ended up with beautiful weather.  It was really fun arriving and catching up with folks from Regionals last year, some Games athletes and other CF peeps I don’t see very often.  There were a number of things I thought were really exciting and inspiring:

  • The athlete competing with a prosthetic leg.  I haven’t seen that in a CF competition before, it was awesome;
  • Watching the crew from Crossfit 515- they’re legit;
  • Competing with some girls in their very first Crossfit competitions;
  • Competing side by side with/against my training partner for the coming year.  This is gonna be sick!;
  • Competing with that really uncomfortable feeling of being way behind your competition.  Valuable stuff!

The competition was set up with 3 WODS, followed by a final WOD for the top 10 ten athletes, however at the conclusion of my day I had done 5 workouts.  I’ve debated with myself a bit about how much detail to provide about the events of the day and how I ended up doing an extra workout.   Overall I walked away with some very valuable lessons about competition, but unfortunately also came away with some bad feelings about the day.  Forgive the length here,  I tried to be as concise as possible, but I still feel like I’m leaving out a lot of detail.

The issues started with WOD 2, the first workout of the day that involved judges actually counting athlete reps (the first event scoring was based on row for calories).  WOD 2 was an 8 minute AMRAP of fat bar deadlifts, GHD sit-ups and double-unders.  This workout was super fun to do as I was in the lane immediately next to my box-mate and training partner and we spent the 8 minutes going rep for rep trying to beat one another.  At the conclusion we finished 2 reps apart.  However, when we checked the posted standings my score was shorted 60 reps.  Yes 60.  An athlete in another heat was apparently “gifted” 40 reps above her actual score.  I have no idea how either of these errors occurred, but event organizers conferred with the judges involved, agreed that the scores were erroneous and indicated that corrections would be made to the scores.  It was voiced to me how cumbersome and inconvenient it was for event organizers to contact my judge, who had left the venue.

I seriously struggled with my DUs on Saturday- it was kind of embarrassing.

WOD 3 was another AMRAP- 5 minutes of 24” box jumps and 1 pood kettlebell snatches.  Again, my training partner and I were basically neck and neck throughout the workout, but at the conclusion my score was shorted a round. Yes, not a rep a ROUND.  That’s 34 reps short. 

For anyone who has not competed in a Crossfit competition, every event I have participated in the judge has a scoring sheet where reps and rounds are (supposed to be) accounted for.  Following the workout the athlete is asked to initial the scorecard.  You know that moment immediately after a workout when you often see Crossfitters lying on their backs making sweat angels or writhing around?  That is when you review the scorecard and verify your score is correct by initialing.  This is where my responsibility for the day’s events comes in- I initialed my scorecard even though I had doubts about what the judge had recorded.  I stood there panting and sweating and questioned her about it but I didn’t want to be “that” person arguing about judging so stupidly, I initialed.  After talking to my Crossfit Chicago people who had been watching I realized I was indeed shorted a round as I had suspected.  A competitor even came over to offer assistance since she had counted my workout and knew I was shorted.  I went to discuss the matter with officials and my judge.  My judge stated that she thought she had counted right, but it’s possible an error had been made (of course it’s possible, we’re all human).  Event organizers did not want to correct my score because I signed the sheet.  Things got SO uncomfortable for me here because I don’t want to appear as if I’m requesting special treatment or asking for something I didn’t earn.  However, it’s absolutely unacceptable for a judge to lose track of an entire round!  I can see if there is a dispute about an athlete meeting proper range of motion standards or something subjective, but a judge straight up sleeping on the job?  How does that happen and how is it acceptable?

The more the issue was discussed, frankly I started to feel insulted.  As if I would ever ask for credit for work I didn’t do.  I would think officials would want to correct erroneous scores, but we kept going back and forth with them saying there’s nothing they can do, and me saying that is unacceptable.  It was SO uncomfortable going through that, but if I hadn’t stood up for myself I would have been shorted 94 reps on the day.  That’s off the chain.  I can’t imagine anyone with a competitive bone in their body participating in an event and not expecting their work to be accurately accounted for.  I felt bad for my judge as I know it was an honest mistake, but still unacceptable.

We work too hard for our reps to not be accurately accounted for. I don't care if it is a free event.

After some time, event organizers told me since I didn’t have a video of the workout my only alternative would be to repeat the workout.   I wasn’t immediately sure what to do in that scenario, but a quick look at my coach and I knew.  I repeated the workout.  The individual heats had already concluded, so I jumped in on a team heat and demonstrated that the score they recorded was indeed incorrect.

Now I’m left feeling uncomfortable about winning the competition because some may feel it’s unfair that I repeated a workout.  However, integrity is a big part of Crossfit, and I feel confident that no athlete there would want to win because another athlete’s score was shorted.  Secondly, repeating a workout puts you at a distinct disadvantage for subsequent workouts (a fact that was highlighted to me by event organizers when they presented me with that option), so in that regard I don’t think it was unfair to the other competitors.  The scoring issues put a huge damper on the entire experience.  Am I off base here?  I would love to know what people think.

I signed up for this event to have fun,  support a local Crossfit competition, and hang out with other Crossfitters.   But through this course of events, I really gained a lot more than I anticipated I would in experience.  My take away for future competitions would be:

  • Count your own reps/rounds as you workout (this is hard for me, I may need to work on that skill);
  • Have someone on the sidelines count for you, so you can quickly verify numbers with them before you sign off;
  •  Video record all your workouts in competition.  There’s really no way around the need for this, it seems;
  •  When in any doubt don’t sign your scorecard

Everything happens for a reason, so maybe this experience will help me or someone else in a future competition.  This event has made me really curious about what rules are written by our governing body regarding this kind of thing and if invitational competitions can be sanctioned or non-sanctioned, similarly to USA Weightlifting, so athletes can get a sense of the caliber of event they are participating in.

Thinking about sportsmanship reminded me of this awesome competitor Annie Sakamoto who won the “Spirit of the Games” award this year.  Besides being blown away by her athleticism (let’s face it, the lady puts on a clinic in technique) I was blown away by how genuinely excited and enthusiastic she was about the excellent performances of others.  What a great role model!


“What is left when honor is lost?” –Publilius Syrus


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