Definitely Not Gabby Douglas…

I am definitely NOT Gabby Douglas.

You remember Gabby, right? She won the individual all-around Gymnastics Gold Medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Ring a bell? Gabby the “Flying Squirrel”Douglas, nicknamed such by the great Marta Károlyi, long time coordinator for Team USA and wife of the equally fantastic Béla Károlyi. In a nutshell, she’s the gymnastic wunderkind that earned every accolade the hard way: sacrifice, blood-sweat-tears, extensive practice, innumerable drills and a personal drive that could inspire even the most jaded among us.

Me?  I’m more “Jumping Wolverine” than “Flying Squirrel. I’m short, somewhat uncoordinated, less flexible (way less!) than a pre-teen, cautious about falling on my head and going “boom” and definitely older than 16.

Gabby, by age 8, managed to squeeze in more v-ups, handstands, walking handstands, splits, straddles, bar muscle-ups, etc., (and won a state championship!) than I have in my entire 30+ year life. Such a thing would make most people depressed and feeling as if, at this stage of the game, there is not much that I can do to catch up to, or compete with, that.

It’s a good thing that CrossFitters are not “most people”.  

We are, if nothing, a determined and stubborn folk; both competitive and hard headed enough that when confronted with a new movement, we say “screw it” and give it a try.  At first, we just want to get the movement by any means necessary; muscles bulging, face red (or a lovely smurf-like blue) due to lack of oxygen, but eventually we strive to get it right.  We learn that the effortlessness that athletes exude is the culmination of good coaches, constant practice, a few spills, the steely will to get back up over, and over again, striding to the bar a little bruised, but a lot more resolute.   

As hard charging as we are, every so often (typically after an hit to the ego…) we recognize that we need more help.  We realize that we have to practice outside of the WOD structure to improve in the more technical, skill-heavy aspects of Gymnastics, Weightlifting, etc. I personally learned, the hard way, as a 2013 CrossFit Open competitor, that gymnastics and the coordination and skill inherent to it, will always rear it’s ugly head (CrossFit Open 13.3 and 13.5!!!).

Enter my extra Gymnastics classes. I take my perfectly clear and easy going Sunday afternoons and choose to work with a certified gymnastics coach to get better at my chosen sport. The class is small and focused. I work on my individual weaknesses with a coach that critiques my form, fixing my head placement and explaining the gravitational dynamics of a kipping pull-up in such a way that even an 8-year old would get it.  My coach’s knowledge, experience and simple joy in teaching, gives the confidence necessary to try something that you never thought you would or could do…at least not beyond second grade.  What’s more is that it’s included in my normal fee (#winning).

Occasionally we end with a WOD, but the point of the class is to to focus, identify, dissect, adjust and implement…and laugh.  A lot.

I make it a point to hit that class and as a result, I’m improving.  I’m using less “muscle” and becoming more proficient.  By the end of summer (August 2013) I will have my Muscle-up, my Hand-Stand and my Kipping Pull-up.  This is me, putting it out there, loud and clear. That class is a huge reason why I know that I’m going to hit my goals.  

So, here’s the thing: Gabby did it as a teen-ager.  I’m doing it when  puberty is CLEARLY not on my side (that boat has long since passed!).  And really quick: a wolverine is one of the most ferocious creatures on earth, often taking down prey much larger than it. Once it has it’s teeth in you, you can’t shake it loose because a wolverinIe just doesn’t quit; it doesn’t back away slowly or give in to self-doubt. It. Just. Fights.  The Wolverine is “the best there is at what he does…” (#nerdgirl). Can you see the “Jumping Wolverine” appeal now (beyond the obviously hairy, carrion-eating aspect of it all)?

I am definitely not Gabby Douglas and really, so what?  I have my own training team: my coaches are my Béla/Marta, and my box mates are my gang, crew, and competitive menagerie: my very own CrossFitting fantastic five.

I think I’m set.

Bring your butt to Gymnastics if you have the opportunity.

M^2

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My First Affiliate League Competition

Today was an eye-opening experience.

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I observed my first Affiliate League Competition at CrossFit Balance in Washington, D.C., and I gotta tell you, it was fun, scary AND exhilarating.  Those are three very different feelings, but at various times I had all three coursing through my body.

Affiliate comp bars and bumper platesCompetitors from four boxes, and family members, were all over the place.  People were amped up, ready to rock and nervous about finishing their WODs.  I saw my role as that of an observer, cheerleader and wannabe; as in “I wanna be” there someday.  Chalk dust floated in the air as competitors chalked their bars and hands. The clock was set, the judges demonstrated the WOD (Snatches, Muscle Ups, Thrusters, etc.) movements, the difference between a “rep” and “no rep” and it was game on!

These Boxes competed in individual and mixed (men and women) partners events, on the Affiliate and Social level.  It was pretty dope seeing so many people, but there were some very unique situations that I HAVE to mention:

  1. This is the friendliest group of people I have ever seen.  Let’s be honest: everyone did not complete their WODs under the time requirement, but everyone and I do mean EVERYONE cheered, box mates and competitors alike, and encouraged competitors to give it their all and that was amazing to see.  I met some funny and sarcastic folks, that were all too ready to introduce themselves and chat for a few.  What global/regional gym do you go to that even remotely comes close to that type of atmosphere?20130105_135623
  2. The competitors come in all shapes, size, colors, types, body weights, and levels of expertise.  No matter where you might excel in one particular event, let’s say box jumps (vertical jump onto a 20 or 30 inch box), there is always another event that will slow you down and “equalize” everyone (definitely “muscle ups”).
  3. By far the most awesome moment was watching a competitor that was a double amputee.  His legs were amputated below the knee; with two metal  prostheses and he went HARD in da paint on everything he did!!!  More, he was funny as hell; cracking jokes that would likely offend a more sensitive person [blush level y’all] and doing it with aplomb.  I barely noticed his lack of “legs”; I really didn’t even see that he was different until he decided to change the internal rubber casing that went over his stumps and help them fit/hold the prosthesis.  I don’t know his story; to be honest, I can’t remember his name, but I sure as hell respect his heart and competitive drive.
  4. These men and women trained for weeks, if not months, for something that took less than 14 minutes in one instance and less than 10 minutes in the other.  It takes a lot to dedicate yourself to something that takes so little time to complete.

Sidebar: I bet yClayDavis picou thought, from the post title, that I was actually competing today, huh? See the pic on the left.  Basically: not yet.)

Q: What the hell do I need to do to mentally and physically prepare myself for a potential?

A: Not sure yet. I’m going to ask my coaches; and focus on my weak spots (Muscle Ups, Kipping (butterfly and pull ups), and cleans.  You have to practice what you’re weak in, so maybe try an active rest day, i.e. work on progressions vs. completely taking the day off.  I’m also considering a Paleo challenge to lean out.

Consider this: How much time, effort and sacrifice you are willing to make to attain something that few people even recognize they are capable of achieving?  Are you willing to be uncomfortable?  Confront change?  Sacrifice your hair?  Study the mechanics of the movements to get results safely?

What?