Easter, a birthday, and how not to do things

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sunday went wine touring (well, photographing, and I got some nice ones!), and concluded that another trip in two to three weeks when at peak foliage is definitely called for. Had a splendid dinner at La Petite Ferme in Franschhoek. Stunning. I should really get out to that side more often. I even had crème brulee. Well, all work and no play …. But you know what, it was worth it. Damned good crème brulee.
Early to bed and early to rise; Monday I had my friend Tammy’s birthday brunch at 10:30am in Constantia and before that I had some fun planned in the form of back squats, front squats, and some overhead presses. Overhead press you no longer scare me (OK I lie … but I managed 4 and almost 5 reps at 43kgs which is 2 kgs less than my 1 rep max … shoulder rotation issue is improving, AND I’m getting way stronger).
The brunch itself was lovely. Great setting (la Belle at the Alphen Hotel), some good food, great company … but I’ll admit to some weather confusion. I was at home trying to decide what to wear, and I thought of putting on a nice spring dress, because it’s Easter which means it’s springtime, right? Hmm, not so much. Wore the spring dress anyway but got a little bit cold after a while (we were sitting outside).
A friend of mine was in town this weekend and at one point she was talking about a car crash that her ex was in (it was a bad crash and he fell asleep). She was talking about receiving that call you never want to get; the nightmare call from the hospital. This made me immediately think to the night that I got the 3am call that you never want to get, and how deeply embarrassed I was to relate that incident to the group. Which is exactly why I decided to do it. I suppose the reason I was so embarrassed is that in the case of my call the accident wasn’t caused by tiredness but by drunkenness (the inability of the Fitchburg police to notice his inebriation when he was pulled over 20 minutes before the crash aside). But someone else’s accident isn’t embarrassing. What is embarrassing is a) how many times I myself have gotten behind the wheel drunk (something I really don’t ever want to do again) and b) how I willingly helped cover up after. Because that’s what you do, without thinking.
A local friend of mine here has just been through a breakup, and a rough one for a lot of reasons. But she’s strong and is already the stronger for it. We were on chat and through a series of comments I realised that many people, even many of my friends, are much better takers than they are givers. They have no problem asking for things, which is usually but not always just a shoulder to cry or an ear to talk off. Which is fine by me because I gravitate towards that because, well, because I need to feel needed. It’s one of my insecurities.
But we all know this. My insight was to realise that not everyone is like me. If I’m going through a rough time and I really need to talk to someone, I don’t push it if my friends seem to have other plans, or if when we get together they are busy talking about themselves. I guess I’m just so used to being self-reliant that I literally don’t force the issue when I need help. Tough medicine but maybe I should work on asking others for help more often. The irony in all this is how much I like the CrossFit team competitions, although maybe I prefer the ‘being needed’ aspect to the ‘relying on others’ aspect. Probably so because you can’t control your teammates … their performance on the field or their lifestyle off.
Not that you can completely control yourself either …. Some days you just don’t have it (like when you try and do Fran, which is 21-15-9 thrusters and pullups), the day after doing 5 minutes of as many pullups as possible. Or, how to make Fran even more painful than it should be! That horrible b*tch always rips my hands.
Monday I went out to Neil’s gym in Somerset West, just for variety and to say hello to the crew out there. We started off with 3 rep max touch-and-go clean & jerk. My form felt rusty to begin with (wonder why …) but I worked up to 55kgs which was quite easy. Then I got one rep at 60 and my grip essentially gave out. Of course once I realised the weight was 60 I failed to clean it again. Seriously I have a mental block, this is just stupid. That 60kg power clean was EASY … until I realised it was 60kgs. Moving on … we did a team workout with kettlebell swings, tyre flips, push presses, more tyre flips, and then the aforementioned pullups. It was good fun, and I left feeling happy to be back in the game.
Not so much so on Tuesday evening when firstly Fran was dreadful (I couldn’t do pullups to save my life), and then we moved right into the team workout. This involved squat cleans & ring dips, rope climbs, and a team 2000m row. After I finished I was feeling completely numb. Like absolutely destroyed. It was a bit comical in retrospect, trying to row with a cramping calf, then getting off the rower and all my muscles started cramping in sequence … first the calf again, then the right quad, then the left quad, then the abs …. I don’t usually cramp so that was a bit weird.
I can’t fault myself for not going all-out because I did … but my body wasn’t quite responding the way I wanted it to. It’ll be back, though. And the good news is firstly that 21 ring dips no longer take me longer than 21 squat cleans, and I can slide down the rope if I tape my hands right. THAT is definitely a good skill to have. Oh, and next Monday’s squat clean Grace is going to be the worst thing EVER.
So when practicing qigong, as I’ve been doing, you are supposed to keep your mind blank. The sort of meditation that I find difficult, in other words. But it’s been interesting to see what subjects (and places!) keep coming up in my thoughts over and over again. Some of it is CrossFit-related, some of it deals with specific frustrations at work (things or people who seem ‘stuck’), and some of it is specific locations: Concord Road in Billerica (!), and a couple places in and around Berkeley. The subconscious is a strange thing.
I read an interesting article recently that explained why you need to overtrain to be your best. Illogical you say? Well, read it yourself but essentially what it says is not that the overtraining itself is good for you, but to be your best you need to understand where ‘the line’ is past which you can’t push yourself, and to train as near to that line as possible, and with the appropriate rest periods. If you never get overtrained, you’re taking it too easy.
So the good news is I’m not taking it too easy. But the flip side, of course, is that constantly overtraining is also stupid so for this philosophy to make any sense you must use the data you gather to figure out where your ‘line’ lies, and do your best not to overstep it. My shift this year to recording all my data electronically helps with that tremendously. My other recent conclusion … sadly, I do need to be getting more like 9 hours of sleep a night. Not enough hours in the day … forces you to prioritise and be efficient at what you do choose to do.
Short week this week, and I have a lot to do at work but it’s also all good. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as finishing up something you’ve had on your to-do list for ages. The thing about training is that it’s a continuous process. It never finishes. You train, maybe you hit a PR, maybe you don’t (stupid Fran!), but it’s always forward-looking. As much as new beginnings are fun and all there’s something that’s just so nice about finishing what you start.
  • “We’re drinking wine instead of going to church.” – Katharine
  • “…the first 30kms are really easy …” – Katharine (yes, she really said this. Multiple times in fact!)
  • “In all fairness, Fran will make you feel sick.” – Chris
  • “Good luck, with your ripped hand.” – Anton     
  • “But eating popcorn won’t make you fat. Right?” – name omitted to protect the no-longer-so-ignorant
  • “So are you popping around sometime for pizza and a pint?” – Jaco
  • “That sounds terrible!” “Well it doesn’t sound good!” – Ellie & Stuart (one of those ‘it sounds worse than it is’)
  • “I do have some sort of filter.” – Ellie 


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