Why? Why not?


About ten years ago, in response to a question of ‘Would you ever…’ I recall, right around 3am, shrugging and saying: ‘Why not?’

It was a cop-out non-answer, but the sentiment was accurate.

Sometimes the biggest risks are the things we choose not to do. But then again, you never know what’s down the path not travelled, now do you?

This week the cult leaders at CrossFit HQ released our workouts for the Regional competitions. So of course you train all year for the unknown and the unknowable…. And of course, some workouts speak to your strengths (workout 4!!!), and some to your weaknesses (1 & 2), and some just make you go ‘uh-oh’ (the legless rope climbs in workout 5, in my case). Oh, or the ones with muscle ups and ring dips, considering my current complete lack of strength in the rings.

Legless rope climbs! Time, perhaps, to go on a diet. There is a gymnastic technique that can be applied … but one battling shoulder injuries should not be practicing that. It’s never a good thing when you see a workout where you’re like: ‘huh … I can’t do that.’ But, we’ll see what I can do in a few weeks. Happily for me, between injury and that thing called LIFE, I’m not going to Regionals to win or to end up on the podium. I’m going to have fun, and see how well I place. It’s a competition yes, but my expectations are realistic. So if I can’t do a rope climb in the end it’s not the end of the world.

There's always another lousy Cape Town sunset after all!

There’s always another lousy Cape Town sunset after all!

Now I also realise just exactly how crazy this sounds. My sport is asking me to climb a rope with no legs, and I am gamely going to try. A few years back I couldn’t climb a rope with legs!

And let’s look at the various things I can now do without question (or without much question) that I couldn’t do when I started: muscle ups, pullups, 61kg overhead squats, 52kg clean & front squats, strict handstand pushups, one-legged squats, etc. To be honest, in looking at this Regional programming, I couldn’t have hoped to complete much of it at all two years ago, let alone four years ago.

That last workout? 61kg overhead squats after doing 64 pullups with a 6 minute time cap? Not saying this will be a breeze and I hope my shoulders hold, but years ago I would have thought that was for elite people only, and a mere mortal like me couldn’t even finish the pullups.

Just a cool sky.

Just a cool sky.

So: progress! And to be honest, rope climbs aside, if my shoulder gets through the muscle ups, it scares me a lot less than Monday’s public holiday workout. I was in Stellenbosch for a breakfast meeting; oddly enough an all-expats club. An American living in Cape Town, a Rhodesian (yes….) living in Dubai, and a Canadian living in London. Strange how that works!

Afterwards, Lara, who has been my sometime training partner (on weekends when I have time to train for 3 hours a day!) came to join me for an evil workout of 8 rounds of 200m sprint, 10 burpees. Partner workout. She suggested we race each other and I talked her out of it because we surely would have smoked ourselves in the first two rounds. Pacing goes out the window when you throw down, and throw down it would have been. Since the track was locked we had to climb over the fence, which had barbed wire. That was the agility drill of the day. Once a hasher ….

Proof :)

Proof 🙂

Again in all seriousness, this sort of a workout definitely took its toll on the central nervous system (I crashed a few hours later and barely managed to get the braai going, I would not make a good pyromaniac at all!), but most people would have quit part way through, or been jogging or moving slowly and wouldn’t have finished anywhere near as fast as we did. That feeling of being able to look almost any workout down is a good thing.

Then there is the basic body maintenance aspect. Want to lose extra body fat? Want to understand how the body is put together enough that you can keep good range of motion and mobility into old age? Well, a few days earlier I was meant to be doing a drill of high rep/low weight overhead squats, and darned if I could even do one. Got halfway down, lost balance, and had to drop the bar. Five minutes later I was onto my drill. Why? Because after this much time I can diagnose, and quickly correct, a range of motion problem caused by mobility/flexibility (or lack thereof). In this case, my shoulders were too tight to move as they needed to move in order to allow me to keep the bar in balance overhead.

The scene of our torture

The scene of our torture

This is probably the best part about CrossFit, is the body awareness it teaches. Sure, right now, I’m training for a competition, so my preparation the next few weeks will be geared towards that. But in general, I know my various weaknesses and what I must practice. The things I haven’t been practicing due to injury (muscle ups, ring dips, and legless rope climbs), will hold me back, but I do understand my own strengths, weaknesses, and limitations as an athlete. That competence is what was promised when I started at Cape CrossFit four years ago.

What I didn’t know at the time, and wasn’t told, is that you become all too aware of the non-obvious weaknesses. The specific mental and emotional ones, inside the gym and outside. Which I guess is not a bad thing, but, like all self-reflection, it can be a painful thing.

Reflection isn't always unpleasant

Reflection isn’t always unpleasant

On the flip side, looking in from the outside, this has got to look pretty crazy. It wasn’t always like this, our strange sport of competitive exercise. When did we go from running and deadlifts to handstand walk and legless rope climbs? It’s not just about strength and conditioning any more, it’s now about testing competencies at the range of normal, and we’re doing things at Regionals now that they didn’t even do at the world champs a few years back.

And that progress of ‘me against me’ is really what this game is all about.

So why do this crazy stuff? Why not? Plus it makes for good stories.

And some cool videos

And some cool videos

Chris was absolutely right in saying that these events were well-designed in that they take you back to where you were when you started CrossFit, thinking, where you can’t necessarily do everything in a workout. So as fit as we think we are, I guarantee you there’s at least one workout many people are looking at thinking: ‘Huh. NOT good.’

And Enrico was absolutely right in saying that it’s sort of like frogs being slowly boiled in water. Not unlike our crazy telecoms life.

But I’m proud to say that while I do train for CrossFit, compete at CrossFit, and use CrossFit methodologies, I am no longer part of the cult. I recognise that I once was, but I’m out now, and I’m much happier that way.

Although damned if I don’t get enraged by all the haters. I mentioned CrossFit to a guy I’d never met in the week and nearly the first words out of his mouth were “dangerous” and “rhabdo.” Maybe the next time someone tells me they mountain bike I should mention “dangerous” and “broken bones” or running “dangerous” and “repetitive motion injury.” Sigh. Yes, every sport is dangerous. Hate the game, not the player, for heaven’s sake.

This week was pretty well a write-off work-wise. OK, I did have a bunch of meetings and drafted and revised quite a few legal docs but due to two public holidays (Monday and Thursday), most people took the week off and, as a result, not much got done.

We did go for what might best be called a field trip to Khayelitsha, to meet with some guys working there in the community and to check out the terrain for an upcoming project or two. Funny to go from a shackland right to a beach bar to say hello to a friend visiting from London to a jazz bar for ladies in tech night drinks, which wound up with more men than women after not too long! Whatever; gave me a chance to catch up with two ladies I hadn’t seen in far too long. Lots of interesting changes afoot, that much is clear.

R10 cappuccinos. And good, too!

R10 cappuccinos. And good, too!

My latest thing has been a proper shifting of sympathies to the telecoms industry. It used to be that I hated the mobile carriers as much as the next person for high prices and price-gouging. That first R2,000 bill from MTN a few years ago for data they claimed I used and I was sceptical made me a hater, and it’s true: no one trusts their mobile carrier as far as they can throw them.

At the same time, someone has to pay to put up and maintain hugely expensive infrastructure, with a 10-20 year ROI on the capital expense. Yeah the profiteering can be excessive but at the same time, as a capitalist, I know – money will go where there are profits to be made, all else being equal. Sometimes it’s not all equal, but if we want the mobile networks to work, we can’t be celebrating the mobile carrier’s demise as WhatsApp starts to move into ‘free’ voice calls.

What to do with this market? Interesting question.

What to do with this market? Interesting question.

It will be very interesting to see what the mobile industry does. The ‘net neutrality’ debate and Netflix/Comcast battle in the U.S. bears watching. I love seeing how the mobile industry is reacting. For the most part, they are not, and I had a pretty heated debate (oddly enough, with a guy at a bar after the Jeremy Loops show) about whether the mobile carriers will innovate, or whether they even need to.

Time will tell, as with all things.

It’s May. Time to turn it up a notch. I’ve got an action bias and the time is nearly here.


  • “I’m going to wash my hands now. Excuse me if I scream.” – Ellie (dumbbell Fran + ‘Additional Hell’ = re-ripped my hand)
  • “So I’ll feel like I’m cheating really badly, and then I’m like: ‘I’ll have the Health Breakfast.’” – Lara
  • “You don’t expect someone wearing a Reebok CrossFit shirt to be doing bicep curls.” – Lara (bru, do you even LIFT? LOL!)
  • “’If someone shows you who they are, believe them.’” – Carla, quoting someone else
  • “So you’re going to be very disruptive.” “That’s the idea.” – Spencer & Ellie
  • “There’s paved roads and street lamps. This is not Africa.” – Spencer
  • “I’m taking my clothes off so I don’t tear them.” – Ellie
  • “But the riffraff doesn’t care.” – Lara
  • “I’m allergic to grass!” – Lara
  • “’Knitted Sweater?’ Who comes up with these names?” “JJ.” – Kate & Ellie
  • “Are they malicious or just stupid?” – Kate
  • “You f-up your hang squat snatch and you’re toast.” – Craig
  • “If they said Don Cherry hated French people, no one would be surprised.” – Ellie [NHL playoffs]
  • “I don’t believe dishonesty is sustainable.” – Tristan
  • “Oh. Yeah. I know who you’re talking about. I don’t like him either.” – Joh (reputations …)
  • “135 OHS!” – Lara
  • “Is there any way to get out of telecoms once you’re in?” “I’m sure it’s possible. I just don’t see how.” – Ellie & Enrico
  • “We only have one national broadcaster.” “True.” – Enrico & Donovan
  • “I’m sure when you got into this it wasn’t like this, and it happened gradually. Like a frog in water.” “Yes. I do actually feel like a frog in water.” – Enrico & Ellie
  • “Anything worth doing has a 20-year time horizon.” – Enrico
  • “It takes you back to when you just started CrossFit.” – Chris
  • “Your shoulders …. It’s f*cked in a different place.” – Grant
  • “I can’t eat just one sweet potato.” “… Huh?” – Lara & Ellie
  • “Uhhhh. I forgot about the wall balls.” “Only 100.” – Ellie & Lara (*sigh*)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: