Once Bitten, Twice Shy (or, Joburg’s not so bad)

How often do you try something and fail, then succeed on the second attempt? You know so many failures are mental fails, and fear is the reason why.
Hermann was saying the other night how he was reading about the theory that if you go for a lift and miss it then the next time you attempt that weight you have in your head that you missed the attempt, and it can hold you back. This was shortly after we were at the gym and Chris was saying how if people couldn’t do muscle ups before doing 150 wall balls and 90 double unders they sure as heck couldn’t do them afterwards.
But then, I was watching the Carl Paoli prep video and he made the comment about how many people might get their first muscle up in this workout, given how many have hit PRs in this Open season. How about Suad whose snatch improved from 24 to 33kgs when under pressure in week 2, or Hes, who got her first toes-to-bar last week?
So is trying something you’re not sure you can do a good stretch or a bad one? Obviously you don’t want to be attempting things that are far above your capacity, but what about those slight stretches? You HAVE to take risks and try things you’ve never done if you’re ever going to do them. The best way never to get muscle ups is never to try.
Who’s right? They both are. It depends. On so many things … the person, the mental headspace, the physical capabilities on the day … there are no easy answers. Ever. If there were, this stuff wouldn’t be fun.
And maybe it’s just my Facebook feed but you see this sort of stuff all the time … whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. Don’t let anyone get in the way of your dream. Where there’s a will there’s a way, etc, etc. Wonder what makes people share these sentiments? This is probably one of the reasons CrossFit New England is always so good – they don’t ignore the mental muscle. I can always tell the athletes who not going to do well in competitions – they are the ones with fear and strain on their face. The smiling ones might do well or they might not, but at least they’re having fun. Fear WILL kill you, every time.
Of course there are also the people cheering from the sidelines, of which there are the sort who are actually supportive with constructive criticism, and the sort who just like to criticise, without the aim of helping you improve or helping to resolve the situation … those who are just, well, bitching. There are the second sort in all environments, like it or not. Our gym. Most workplaces. Maybe even some of your friends. Maybe even some of my friends, ha!
Sport is always a good metaphor for life, right? So I hate wall balls, and I hate double-unders, and I did my first ones since the ankle sprain a few days ago. Funny thing about recovering from an injury is even once the injury is healed, the fear remains. Once bitten, right? Remember when we were kids and we were fearless? Walking on our hands wouldn’t scare us then. The Open workout of last week started with 150 wall balls, which was dreadful enough on its own. It was ok until about 100 at which point I just started to get really bored and wanted it to be over already. Then the double-unders began and I’m not very good at those under ideal circumstances. But boy, this was sad. Unfortunately my ankle was not happy, and started to hurt, and that slight pain killed my focus. Killed. Interesting lesson.
I had another good mental fail this morning. Went for a back squat PR, got it, but it was challenging. Not due to strength, due to the fact that I had slightly bad positioning. So I added another 5kgs to the bar … and there was no way in hell I was going to make that lift. In my head, I’d already failed, because the last one was so hard. That’s the reason I still struggle with 1 rep max attempts; my fear level is too high for anything other than safe lifts. Something [else] to work on. But in happier news, I smashed the hell out of my Grace (sorry, 30 clean & jerks for time at 43kgs/95lbs) PR from three weeks ago. 4:05 -> 3:20. Now, I am mostly limited here by my inability to control the bar on the way down to do consecutive reps. Something [else] to work on, right? There’s always something, even for stuff you’re good at.
Which brings me to the next subject: improvement. If you try and work on too many things at the same time it’s going to be hard to improve. Picking and choosing your battles and your areas for improvement is hard. If your squat sucks and your pushups suck and you can’t do a ring dip … where do you start? Probably not by trying to fix all three at the same time. One of the Tom Peters concepts that my old boss Ed Boudrot loved was the: “to don’t list.” There are always FAR more things you can do than you will actually have time to do. By not explicitly choosing what you are not going to do, you’re making some implicit choices. Eish, I know that one well enough by now….
So eat the elephant one bite at a time. And don’t try to sit down to a meal when you’re not hungry: getting 25% of the way in and then having to stop is the same as trying for a max lift and failing. The next time you go in, you’re going to have that slightest bit of fear that wasn’t there to begin with. Apprehension may be a better word.
I did manage to sort out a bunch of things in the last few days: the replacement glass for my car window, finally FedExed some forms to an ex-intern, and I got my data stick and on the mobile phone sorted out. On to the next things on the to-do list.
Turns out I was a tad overtraining last week. I discovered this when on the weekend, when I was in Joburg visiting a friend (and by Joburg I mean Magaliesberg to the northwest). I was absolutely wiped on Saturday, like could barely keep my eyes open wiped. I had about five cups of coffee, just to get to normal. That’s not normal. Saturday night I slept for over ten hours and woke up feeling something like myself again.
But it was an awesome weekend. So cool to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages, and talk, and talk, and TALK (well, we are girls, right?). I think we covered everything from work to training to motivation to family to whether or not Johannesburg would be a pleasant place to live to my recent romantic trauma (that apparently was so bad I nearly blocked it out!) to the relationship-that-isn’t to the striking similarities between the reasons we both ended our previous relationships.
Mainly, though, we relaxed. Listened to some music, ate a lot of food, drank a lot of coffee (and decaf!), drove around, explored some caves. I was fascinated by the giant underground lake in the caves. All I could think about was The Hobbit because if Gollum lived in South Africa it would be in this giant dark, wet, cold, cavern. And, Cape Town being what it is, I ran into someone that I knew from Cape Town while we were having dinner in Parktown. Didn’t see any prawns however.
My conclusion? I could live in Joburg. The level of security is extreme (when my driver picked me up from the airport we were tailed for a while by the local armed security patrol – Tactical Unit!), and you are living in what amounts to compounds. But there are nice areas where you can feel just as safe as Cape Town, and there are lots and LOTS of trees and parks. The city itself has a grit to it that I like, much like New York. But at the end of the day, the weekend accomplished its mission which was to get me out of town, refresh me, and make me appreciate Cape Town that much more when I got back. Even the hornet’s nest I walked into Monday morning fresh from the airport wasn’t enough to make me turn tail and run.
  • “How many homes do you have?” – Ellie (kinda like asking how many pairs of Inov8s I own…)
  • “Oh good, they have CrossFit-branded injury gear now!” – Jon
  • “People tend to bash what they are a little bit threatened by.” – Katharine
  • “You can’t share the office with worms.” – Mawabo 


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