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Posts Tagged ‘George Bryant’

Skeletons and Personal Demons (Happy Halloween?)

In Rhetoric, Training on October 31, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Remember my post about George’s struggle with bulimia? Well, he took it upon himself to tell his story in his own words, on his own blog: here. The post is beautifully written and refreshingly honest. I told him, and I will tell you all now, that I admire him so much for his courage and his candor. I aspire to approach the world as he does– to be as honest with myself and with others as he is. It crushes me to know that someone with so much heart can suffer from such self-doubt and self-deprecation. But I find hope in knowing that he overcame it all, and is now encouraging others to make peace with themselves.

I’m always surprised to find the skeletons locked in others’ closets– not because I think less of them for it, but because I (and I assume others) often have that feeling that… everyone has it all together and here I am struggling with the pieces of myself, everything crumbling apart like dessicated clay. But that’s not the case at all… people put on brave faces for the world because they feel as if they must– because they’re afraid of who they might burden with their troubles, or because they’re afraid even of even acknowledging for themselves the demons that lurk in their shadows. The fact that someone who seems as “together” as George– an active duty Marine with a flourishing caveman/paleo-expert alter-ego, a successful CrossFit competitor and talented photographer, a chef extraordinaire, etc– can still feel self-doubt reminds me that we’re all… strangely human. You don’t know what the firebreather athlete at your box thinks when he finishes the WOD five minutes ahead of everyone else… Sometimes he’s second-guessing his own pace, wondering why he didn’t push harder through the second round, or questioning his conditioning routine. That straight-A student in the desk beside you may agonize over each of her assignments, may crumble when she realizes she picked the wrong argument or chose the wrong tack. What I’m discovering more and more is just that… the world is so much more beautiful, more complex, more worth living in when viewed with an open mind– just a willingness to understand all the many ways in which people feel and think and live differently than you do. At the end of the day, no one’s really out to get you (or rarely, anyway)… everyone’s just wrapped up in their own neuroses. Perhaps instead of looking inward with self-criticism, we should try looking outward, with acceptance… 🙂

 

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On a much lighter note, it is my absolute pleasure to follow up on my pull-ups post with a few fantastic responses from the CrossFit universe. Particularly, this video made my morning:

I’m pretty in love with the girl who starts off with a strict muscle up. The weighted pull-up was also a lovely touch.

And, though this video existed long before Weir’s silly article about how women can’t do pull-ups, I’d like to share Annie Sakamoto’s “pregnant pull-ups”:

 

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Hug someone today– and do a pull-up! 😉

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Dear World,

In Rhetoric, Training on October 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm

This post spawns from many recent tidbits of my life , so I may meander a bit… but if you trust in me, I promise I won’t lead you too far astray. We will eventually return to CrossFit– there’s metaphorical cheese at the heart of this labyrinth, or perhaps a paleo-friendly, irresistibly delicious, pumpkin butter cup.

This semester, I’m enrolled in a cross-disciplinary seminar about social justice. We just read James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. I can’t call this book a novel, or a work of journalism… it cannot be contained by the term “art,” nor is it a study of truth. Our professor described it as “an experiment,” but I like to think of it as more of a response. In the 1930s, the privileged-born, well-to-do reporter James Agee spent 8 weeks living among white tenant farmers in the deep South. From it, he produced this haunting book that accounts, in loving detail, the many intricacies of these families’ lives. Agee agonizes over the human condition, over the painful impossibility of ever truly understanding another person, but also the unrelenting will to try. He reminded me so much of why we write– how sometimes the awfulness of everyday life feels so unbearable that it must effuse onto the page– or how, amid all that terribleness, you can find these surreal, wondrous miracles, and how you want to eulogize them, screaming, with every breath in your body.

I’ve been told often that I think too much–and it’s true. I can have a perfectly mundane, otherwise harmless day, and be suddenly struck and broken down by the tiny ways in which we wound one another. Sometimes I feel irreparable with the epiphany of how often and easily we break and how unrecoverable it all seems (yes, that seems hyperbolic and hopeless… I promise I’m not actually moping around all the time, but sometimes, I’m struck by these things). But I found it oddly uplifting to know that Agee has felt this way too– has felt that the world was too much, that it needed to be sung about, even if that singing does nothing but echo life’s miracles and miseries.

Now here’s where you’ll have to stick with me. I’ve told you about my little podcast addiction, and my fondness for George Bryant. He made a recent appearance on an episosde of Live. Love. Eat. in which he gives just this beautifully candid interview. I won’t go too in-depth into George’s history since he tells it much better himself (on his website and in the podcast), but he’s an active-duty Marine who’s been everywhere between 150lbs-250lbs, who spent a year in a wheelchair and the subsequent years relearning his body. In the podcast, he discusses– I think, for the first time– his history with body issues and with accepting himself. As a bit of a sidenote, I’ve always been a bit irked by the gender bias in terms of body image. Yes, women get crapped on in terms of societal constructions of body and physical “beauty,” but men do too and there’s so much less out there supporting self-acceptance in men because we’ve stigmatized the need for reassurance as “weakness.” But I suppose that’s a topic for a different day. Anyway, George had issues (as we all do). George, like a real man, dealt with his issues. He said something in this podcast that really resonated with me– how he’s had a hard time forgiving himself for giving anything less than “everything.” And how he needed to address that to find peace.

I know I struggle with that as well. I’ve said that I’m not competitive, and I’m not in the sense that I don’t compete against other people… but I’m a basketcase when it comes to self-comparison. For example, I have this powerlifting meet coming up in a week and a half. Last night, the PSU powerlifting coach briefed me and the two other members of my box who will be participating (Jefe and Zebrapants) on what we should expect from the meet. Basically, we shouldn’t expect overall PRs. We’ve never lifted under these conditions– technically, what we’ve done in our box isn’t comparable to what we’ll do next Saturday, and we have no real powerlifting-meet-standards PRs, no extant records to which to compare ourselves. We should just go and do our best and those will be our numbers. Of course, I’d been hoping for at least a deadlift PR– to beat my previous 225… but I’ll be lifting with foreign equipment, after a full day of competition, in a strange environment, adhering to new standards and technicalities, etc. I know myself, and I know that… if all the other women in my weight class go out there and lift a gazillion pounds (technical measurement), and I hit 230, I’d walk away pretty happy with myself. But if all of them eeked out 150, and I failed at 200, I’d be beating myself up all evening for missing a lift I know I’ve made before.

When I allowed myself to take CrossFit seriously– to investigate and implement my own programming, to give a damn about how I fuel and recover, etc… I told myself that I’m doing this for self-improvement. I’m doing this because I enjoy it. I’m doing this because it’s good for my health– physically, emotionally, mentally, and I will only continue doing it so long as I keep that in mind. I will not let my own neuroses get the better of me. I will not let a bad day or a failed lift or a bad time eat away at me because I “could have done better.” And I need to remember that again– next weekend, and all the many weekends that come afterwards with all the many other things I try. If I don’t… if I continue beating myself down about these minutiae, I not only rob myself of the experience, but I get so trapped in this absolute meaningless bullshit that I don’t have the mental or emotional space that I want to devote to the ones I care about in my life.

What I loved so much about George’s interview is that, like Agee, he reminded me that… I’m not alone. We live in a world that’s afraid to talk about “feelings”– that’s embarrassed by them. Adults suck it up and get shit done. But you know what? Here’s my declaration: you’re not fucking alone. Sometimes the world sucks… sometimes it pounds on you. Sometimes, life thrusts upon you something truly monumental and seemingly insurmountable, or sometimes it’s just the little things that you know you should get over and can’t. But no matter the case, your suffering doesn’t make you weak and it doesn’t make you lesser… If you reach out and speak about it, you’d be surprised who’s willing to listen. And you’d be surprised what catharsis you find in the process– and by who you might help or touch along the way (thank you George and James).

George ended his interview with a touching portrait of CrossFit– and one with which I agree. I’ve mentioned a lot how this sport attracts a certain type. I refuse to believe I’m the only relentless perfectionist in the gym– we’ve all got a dose of masochism in us somewhere to return to these WODs day after day. But what’s so wonderful about the CrossFit gym (at least in my experience) is that members are never really competing against each other— they’re striving to improve themselves. The firebreather next to you doesn’t give a damn if you’re lifting two tons or a training bar– s/he’ll congratulate you regardless when you finally drop the weight and slouch, huffing, against the wall.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men reminded me how terrible it all is– the quiet ways in which we suffer, but also… that there’s hope in there too– that we, as human beings, are capable of reaching out and sympathizing– perhaps never truly understanding– but connecting, sharing the indescribable burden it is just to breathe in this bizarre little universe.

So… in summary:

Dear World,

You’re not alone.

Love,

Jo

Westside Change-up and The New Love of My Life

In Food, Training on September 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I need to publicly and shamelessly declare my undying love for The Civilized Caveman. Seriously, if George Bryant ever wants to elope with me and spend our days swinging kettlebells, spreading the good word about functional fitness, and making pulled pork, the offer’s on the table. I’ve been following his website for a while now. He’s a fantastic chef, and most of his recipes are accessible to culinary-bumblers such as myself. Seriously… they’re delicious, but relatively simple. In addition to that idiot-proof pulled pork recipe, I recommend the holiday Lara Bar and the bacon-wrapped tahini and sundried-tomato stuffed chicken breasts (yes it’s appropriate to drool). I’m not much of baker, but for those who miss more baked-good-like things, he has quite the selection of paleo-friendly brownies and scones and other such goodies as well.

But that’s beside the point. The Civilized Caveman is a man of many talents. He also is a US Marine, owns and runs his own photography company, and is a mischievous, covert philanthropist. I listened to his recent podcast on Abel James’s show (which I’d never heard before), and shared a lot about his life philosophy. Apparently he partakes in regular, anonymous acts of goodwill. He’ll buy $25 gift cards for Trade Joe’s and tell the cashiers to apply them anonymously to anyone’s cart at their discretion. He goes into coffee shops and treats strangers to their morning cup ‘o Jo(e). But it’s not just a money thing. He made a point about how… you can tell if someone looks a down and might need a extra dose of kindness for the day– or when someone is walking insecurely and might delight in being told she (or he, you never know) is beautiful. We so often overlook the small, but truly pivotal ways that we can impact someone’s day– or week. A smile, a few words, a tiny gesture of generosity can turn someone’s day around. About a week ago, before I even heard the podcast, I’d had a long and shitty day of work. It was my off day, but I still swung by the gym just to say hi. Everyone was busy, so I didn’t stick around long, but there were a few friends who greeted me with such effusive smiles that I left in a drastically better mood than when I stepped in. After a day of feeling overlooked, mired in my own thoughts and issues I’d magnified in my head, I just needed the reminder that there were people who cared. Small differences.

He also talked a bit about the motivation behind his training: he wants to be a giant, grown-up kid. And honestly, I agree. After a year of CrossFit, I’m proud of where I come, but I also know I’ll never be anything close to a Games competitor– nor do I really have that impulse to compete. I want to be fit so I can celebrate and enjoy my good health–particularly with friends and family. So… I’m trying to keep that in mind, even as I encounter frustrations with my strength gains (or not, as they may be).

About the strength training…

It’s  been perplexing me lately. Since I’ve started my tentative Westside Conjugate programming, I’ve seen some awesome PRs. I quickly hit new highs on my squat and my press, and I tried some variations (safety bar squat, swiss bar press) with positive results. However, my biggest fear in undertaking a westside-based program is that, with only one max-effort lift per week, I’d be neglecting some of the major lifts. After three weeks of concentrating on squat for lower body and press for upper body, I finally returned to deadlift and bench (which were my two better lifts before). However, though I hit my landmark 225 (a bit over 2x bodyweight) right before starting Westside, I could barely manage 205 on Monday– and the form was atrocious. My bench has not moved. I think I’m not strategizing well.

After for too much time perusing Westside templates and more methodology, I think I’m going to try alternating squat varations and deadlift variations each week– same with press and bench. Additionally, I’m going to try a four week cycle so that I revisit the same lifts every four weeks. Jefe keeps pressing me about “variety” and how I should take advantage of the wide range of options that Westside gives me… but the problem with being such a novice at all these movements is that I have no idea whether I’m hitting a PR because I’m getting stronger or a PR just because I’m very unfamiliar with each lift and the learning curve is steep. Revisiting after four weeks will give me a better gauge on things. If it seems to be going well, I might try to extend the cycle by adding more variation.

So… I’m thinking something like this for my max effort lifts:

Week 1: Squat / Press

Week 2: Deadlift / Bench

Week 3: Safety Bar Squat / Swiss Bar Press

Week 4: Deficit Deadlift (or deadlift with chains) / Floor Press (or close grip bench)

I may be naturally adding more variation anyway by switching between 1 rep maxes and 3 rep maxes. I read something about how novice lifters might want to shoot for a 3 rep max as opposed to a one rep max because we need to spend more time under tension. It also appears that common wisdom says that dynamic effort benches should be done for sets of three– as opposed to the two that I’ve been doing– so I’m going to try 3×10 starting next week.

Before I start my next cycle, though, I may spend this week’s max effort day retesting my deadlift. It’s a matter of pride… I wasn’t really warmed-up when I tested and I started my first warm-up weight too high… I was anxious about squeezing my lift in before the group class started… which may be me making excuses for myself, but I’m going to move my lower body Max Effort days to Sundays so I can use the open gym time rather than trying to rush to the box after class so I have enough time to fly through the movements before the group WOD. It’ll throw off my weekly timing a bit, but I’ll still have 72 hours between working the same muscle groups, so I think it should be all right.

That said, I’m not absolutely devastated by the backslide on my neglected lifts because I know that I’m getting stronger. I can consistently add weight on my assistance exercises, and I PRd my power clean at 95 lbs today. Grace– I’m coming after you :p.