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Posts Tagged ‘rhetoric’

The Jomad’s Journey Continues

In General, Rhetoric, Training, Writing on January 3, 2013 at 12:52 am

Jo bought Jobot Coffee! New wonderful indie coffee discovery in downtown Phoenix.

Activities witnessed in the LA Fitness squat rack, December 2012-January 2013:

– Bicep curls with a straight bar

– Bicep curls with dumbbells

– Bicep curls with an EZ curl bar

– Calf raises

– Unweighted calf raises by the woman that glared at me until I rushed through my good mornings and vacated the squat rack for her. Apparently she can only perform her calf raises while lightly caressing the frame of the squat rack.

– Shoulder shrugs with a straight bar

– Dumbbell shoulder shrugs

– Half squats

– Quarter squats

– Dude-are-your-knees-even-bent squats

My actual favorite:

– Pull-ups (by racking the bar at the highest possible position), since the gym has no actual straight bar available for pull-ups

… long story short, there’s a (un)suprising lack of squatting in the LA Fitness squat racks– the frustratingly limited amount of LA Fitness squat racks, that are somehow, confoundingly, frequently occupied by people who use them for unneccessary exercises.

You’re getting this wrap-up because this morning marked my last LA Fitness visit for a while. Tomorrow, I shall fly for State College and return to home-sweet-box where squatting is a part of everyone’s vocabulary.

Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit a workout in tomorrow (literally traveling from 9am to 9pm), I did my Max Effort lower body work today. It was a deadlift week, but I was really reluctant to deadlift from the floor with the obnoxious decagonal plates that roll off their corners each time they hit the ground. Even when I did dynamic effort work these weeks, the plates really screwed me up– either banging into my shins or rolling away from me before I could set up for the next rep. So… I tried rack pulls for the first time. Unfortunately, the very lowest position I could set up a rack pull was just above the knee, but youtube tells me that’s a legitimate training position, so I tried that and managed to pull 255×3 for a new max. It was an interesting experience– just to hold that much weight in my hands. I don’t think I’m going to keep it in my repertoire though because I’m pretty sure my back is the stronger part of my lifts, and I have more trouble getting my deadlift off the ground than locking out at the top.

I’ll be happy to be back where I can train with familiar equipment and familiar resources– even more happy to be among friends. I’ll even enjoy the small comforts of my little basement space, assuming it hasn’t iced over due to two weeks without heating with all the snow that’s hit PA in the past couple weeks. However, I get melancholy every time I have to leave Arizona. It actually works both ways… I’m always reluctant to leave State College, then I remember how much I love my hometown and want to cling to its security, then our little pocket of Pennsylvania eventually reminds me of all its small joys. It’s really the distance I hate– the fact that I feel constantly incomplete. And that’s a fault of my mindset rather than my situation, I feel…

Honestly, that’s what I’d like to change most about 2013. I want to feel more comfortable with where I am (physically, emotionally, professionally, etc). On the one hand, I’m more determined than every to prove my worthiness. I want to become a better, more capable CrossFitter– one deserving of a coaching position. I want to settle in as a PhD student and really dig into my niche of scholarship. I want to be a better teacher…. I want to structure this creative writing class that I’m teaching so that the students really get something from the experience– so that they walk away with at least a new appreciation/understanding of stories and why we tell them, and how and why they matter. I want all of that and I’m determined to work my damnedest for all of that. But at the very same time, I know and I really want to be able to chill out more. I’m… really, very tightly wound too often. I know. I know. I know. I spent too much of last year– too much of the last two and a half years feeling like I’m madly flailing just trying to keep my head above water. If that’s all life is, it’s not worth living, right? I need to be able to sit back and enjoy. That’s strangely difficult for me. I need to be honest with myself about my faults, but also be able to accept that– for now, they’re there, and I can work on them, but I can’t frantically punish myself for them either. I need to continue striving towards my goals but at the same time learn patience… be satisfied with working towards and hoping that’s enough. I also need to spend less time hoping and more time enjoying the doing because– let’s face it– the PhD is a 5 year degree and after that there’s finding a tenure track job, working towards tenure, etc… even if that’s just an isolated metaphor for all the other aspects of life, we spend more time journeying than we do at the destination, so we must learn to embrace the journey. 

Even just thinking about my neuroses makes me want to apologize to those of you who put up with it all the time. Thank you! Here’s hoping the Jomad’s journey continues with a little more grace, and a little more calm this coming year. Here’s hoping you’ll journey with me– a few steps, or vast distances, your company is always appreciated 🙂

Happy New Year, friends.

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.



Gymnastics: the Anti-CrossFit?

In Rhetoric, Training on July 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I assume that you all are as captivated by the Olympics as I am. Particularly gymnastics. I remember the first time I saw a gymnastics competition on tv as a kid. I couldn’t even conceptualize these athletes as normal, everyday people. What they achieved was so far beyond my understanding of human physical potential that it was akin to watching a superhero movie or a fantasy epic. These were real-world heroes performing superhuman feats. And I think the broadcasters underscore that same drama in their presentation. Have you noticed the melodramatic biographies and narratives? The way they demonize the opposing teams, and the hopeful bildungsroman-esque backstories that they build for each American competitor?

For those of you catching up, I’ve mentioned how my dissertation work regards the cultures and values we enforce or produce in our physical practices… so my thoughts wander into that territory a lot even while watching the Olympics in my basement cave, on summer vacation, with a bowl of coconut mousse. This morning, I also read this article by Dvora Meyers, writer, blogger, and (I believe) former gymnast, which furthered my meditation. In the post, Meyers discusses how the nature of gymnastics distance the athletes from the spectator. Whereas we can watch sprinters and sympathize with the feel of running (albeit much slower), most viewers cannot even conceive of how it would feel to perform acrobatic twists off a high bar, above a balance beam, or suspended from gymnastics rings. The gymnast becomes the Other– so entirely alien from our own perspective. In this way, gymnastics is a bit of the anti-CrossFit. Though we’ve appropriated certain gymnastics elements (the kip, the muscle-up), we’ve only stolen the basics (and they become some of our most difficult movements), and we market the sport as “universally scalable.” Accessible to anyone. I’m thinking of the sledgehammer WOD in this year’s Games. Who hasn’t swung a hammer before?
But there’s another way in which CrossFit appears to be the polar opposite of gymnastics.

Gymnastics strikes me as a sport of perfectionism. Routines are made or ruined by tenths of a point. I marveled last night at how the reporters could remark on so-and-so’s “HUGE mistake” when she took a big step at the end of her dismount. Yes… it was a step. But all I could think about was “wow, this girl launched her body into midair, managed several twists and flips at a speed at which I can’t even count, and didn’t die.” I noted on Facebook how I was surprised that teammates congratulated one another with half-hugs and offhand “good jobs” whereas I wanted to leap up and down with sheer delight at the remarkable, impossible sh*t they were doing. A friend who happens to be a gymnast and capable of said impossible feats commented on my post that gymnasts were expected to perform with precision. Good scores were a given, mistakes were catastrophes.

Not to be too inflammatory, but… I think this is where CrossFit sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. (For more on problematic CrossFit rhetoric, see this post). We have mantras like “Death before DNF” (DNF = Did Not Finish), implying that an athlete would/should do anything rather than leave a workout incomplete– anything at the potential cost of form, technique, safety, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I was awed by the tremendous talent, strength, and endurance of the athletes at this year’s CrossFit Games, but did anyone notice the very, very sloppy ring dips during Elizabeth? Or perhaps the myriad of discussions afterwards regarding the number of no-rep pull-ups overlooked during Fran? We’re criticized widely for bastardizing the Olympic lifts, and yeah… there were some very hideous snatches performed by strong, but exhausted athletes. In CrossFit, we have two ways to measure our workouts: everything is done either “for time” or “for rounds.” This places emphasis on speed or quantity. But what about quality?

I’m not arguing that gymnastics should be suddenly gentler on its athletes, or that CrossFit should change its format. I’m just asking how understanding these values can help us in our training. Perhaps “Elizabeth” should be done for time in a competitive setting, but in training… even when shooting for time, that time should involve quality cleans and dips. By demanding perfection of ourselves in training, we can minimize injuries (and the dreaded no-rep) in actual competition. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, we can be attentive of when perhaps our perfectionism prevents us from celebrating what we’ve already achieved. Yeah, perhaps that Elizabeth time took longer than it should have– but hey, you cleaned 25lbs more than you could last month, for 21-15-9 reps, and followed them with ring dips with precise form.

Just Jo’s thought for the day 😉

As for my own training… The squats are starting to stall out again. I got my first set of five for only four reps on Sunday. I’m not too crushed about it this time because I felt it coming… the weight on Sunday was my former one-rep max. Jefe estimates that I may have reached the end of my linear gains for squat. However, my bench continued to increase, and I deadlifted 190 for 5 reps today. So… I feel like I can milk this program for just a tad bit longer. I may just have to play around with my squats in the meantime. But soon, I will have to make a decision about what to do next with my strength training. I’ve been oggling Outlaw CrossFit’s programming for a long time, but I’ve enjoyed participating in the box’s normal classes again and following Outlaw would prevent me from doing that. I do, however, enjoy CrossFit Strength Bias’s methodology and doing so would allow me to program my own conditioning, which would let me continue to use the box’s WODs. I still realize, though, that this would be a less efficient approach as the box’s programming would not quite align with my different strength days… I’ll think more about it, and am open to suggestions.

Oh! Also, I retested my “baseline” today. For our box, that’s: 400m run, 40 air squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, 10 pull-ups. Rx’d at 4:04. I shaved 6 seconds off my former PR, but I won’t celebrate it too much because I feel like those 6 seconds could come from anything such as having my abmat and pullup bar closer to the door than I did during the last test. But I am relieved that it’s not slower. Next time, though, I’m hoping for a sub 4:00.

(and even as I type this, I realize, I was disappointed that I didn’t hit below the 4-minute mark this time… but neglected to realize that… a year ago, I was doing this workout with banded pull-ups and this time I did them unassisted, without dropping from the bar… I should listen to my own advice more often, huh?)

Today’s message: you do crazy awesome sh*t every day. Revel in it.

No Pain, No Pain

In Rhetoric, Training on July 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

The notorious “Uncle Rhabdo”

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m examining the gym as social/rhetorical space in my PhD work, and now and then I come across something I think worth sharing with my indulgent blog-readers. If this sounds like too much academic fluff, I apologize. What I’ll be looking at in my dissertation is the gym (particularly gyms that market “functional fitneess”– so CrossFit-esque though not necessarily strictly CrossFit) as a social space. And I want to examine how rhetorical practices (verbal and nonverbal) influence physical practices and vise versa, as well as how cultural context impacts all of the above. It’s all very muddled right now, but I’m excited about it because– not only is it something that fascinates me endlessly– it’s very unexamined territory right now, and thus an invigorating place to be in one’s studies. The gym’s such an interesting space because inhabits a borderland between “public” and “private,” and– even more interesting–it’s where we go to change our bodies, for whatever number of reasons… but those changes reflect and enact any number of personal and societal ideals.

Anyway, there’s very little work done on the gym as social space– particularly fitness facilities. Sports theory has focused largely on professional (or collegiate) sports… some of the material I’ve found has been entirely useless while others have presented fascinating kernels of insight without further exploration. One article I read, authored by an English professor/spinning instructor meditated on the vocabulary used by different fitness instructors in their training methodology. How the harsher, drill-instructor types seemed only to recruit already-fit clients. Anyway… she pointed out how much of fitness refers to itself as punishment– how many personal trainers tell you to “work off” the muffin you had this morning, or– even worse– to “earn” the pumpkin pie you’ll eat at Thanksgiving, as if you’re being castigated for a predicted crime. While I’m proud to say that CrossFit eschews much of this (I’ve heard no mention of burning off your morning donuts in the box), it has definitely embraced exercise-as-punishment– or rather, exercise should hurt. However facetiously, this is a sport that’s made a mascot out of rhabdomyolysis.

Another fascinating aspect of studying CrossFit for me is that it’s still an emergent sport. It’s still finding its footing, still in the process of becoming whatever it is it wants to be. I see a lot of CrossFit now taking steps towards caution– more advice about smarter programming, patient training, and fewer glamor shots of ripped hands. Nevertheless, we have many years of that “no pain, no gain” philosophy to counteract. A lot of what I see on the CrossFit forums these days is veteran, more experienced athletes counseling new enthusiasts about moderation. Not every day has to be a metcon, not every workout needs to leave you an incoherent puddle. But is anyone surprised that CrossFit has perpetuated this athletic masochism? We have t-shirts like “Fran Happened” — featuring bloodied palms from 4 minutes of delirious exertion. We’ve adopted slang such as “meeting pukie” as if exhausting yourself to the point that your body rebels is a rite of passage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love in intensity. I’ve written several odes to that meditative state you hit in a particularly grueling workout, but I’m glad CrossFit is beginning to draw the line between pushing your limits and brazenly crashing through them. CrossFit already attracts a certain type– people eager willing to throw themselves through strength programs followed by all-out-intensity rounds of box jumps and thrusters and wall balls. 5 days a week. Perhaps sometimes what we need to reinforce sometimes is not the “pain” but the healing. After all– that’s how we build our strength, right? You get stronger not when your muscles are torn apart, but as they repair.

There’s Jo’s thought of the day.

As for my “Whole 14” challenge, it’s going by quicker than I thought. Soon, I’ll be reintroducing peanuts, then soy, then protein powders and then eventually I work my way through the other banned ingredients to test my individual tolerance. As to how I feel? It’s day twelve and… meh. The sugar cravings are gone, which I appreciate, though I don’t doubt they’ll come back. I just don’t think I’ll avoid all sweeteners everywhere forever… they’re everywhere, and they’re tasty on occasion. My digestive disturbances are significantly fewer and further between. Unfortunately, they’re not altogether absent. I suppose it would’ve been too naive to hope for one of those paleo “transformation” stories where this lifestyle cured me of a lifetime of suffering. Not quite so much. I do feel better–much, much better, but I still have to accept the fact that my genetics suck and my digestive system may always hate me a little bit. But my recovery still sucks. I’m still sore-ish, and really before this I’d long moved past the perpetual soreness you feel upon starting a CrossFit regimen. The recovery drink is probably a crutch and my dependence on it might entirely be placebo effect… but at least it was working? I hope it’s not what was irritating my stomach, but I suppose we’ll found out later in the week.

No really excited WODs to post about today. Yesterday, I worked on O-lift technique– definitely light weights. Today, I did squats (3 week reset), bench (still going up– *knock on wood*), and then I tried an actually fun new exercise: lateral sled drag. Basically, you hook a sled up to your ankles and walk sideways to work your adductor/abductors (I never remember which one’s which). 6 x 20 yards.

Happy Sunday, folks!

The Road Goes Ever On and On

In Food, General, Rhetoric, Training, WOD, Writing on June 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Well, I guess we’re on Day 9 of my “Whole 14” diet challenge. A strange hiccup. Sometime between yesterday and this morning, I experienced a resurge of my IBS symptoms… to be fair, they were milder than they usually are and I feel relatively safe now, but I can’t figure out what must have triggered it. I don’t think I ate anything different than what I have been eating for the other days of my paleo experiment, so… problematic. Ever since being diagnosed with IBS, I’ve worked to accept the fact that sometimes my body rebels and I can’t waste time trying to analyze what set it off or what I’m doing wrong because sometimes there’s no answer other than the fact that genetics dealt me a shitty hand. I guess I’d been a little too hopeful that this new way of eating might entirely cure me of my digestive woes.

Regardless, the fact that I still experience some symptoms (even at a lesser degree) will mean problematic things for when I reintroduce foods… how will I know what’s irritating my gut and what’s just my gut being a natural bitch?

As for the strength progression, I’m not sure how that’s going.

Back Squat 3×5. I failed on the third set of five today. Granted, they felt easier than when I failed last week, but this still means I should reset, which is disappointing. I mean, I’m squatting well over my former one rep max, so I should be happier than I am. I guess I’m being greedy. I’m going to try resetting by 3 weeks on Sunday and see where that takes me.

Press: 3×5. Managed to return to where I was before the vacation, but it did feel a little heavy. Nervous about next week.

Strict pull-ups: These are also returning to where they were before the vacation. Sets of 7, 7, 6. I’m not actually going to “absolute failure” on these anymore… Because I’m “greasing the groove” with shorter sets of pullups throughout the day, I just take these to when they’re difficult but not truly exhausting.

Afterwards, because I was pissed off about the squats, I went a few rounds with the prowler (remember Camille?). For anyone dealing with repressed, uncontrollable rage… (no one? Just me?), quality time with this bad boy is a pretty good aggression-killer.

I actually met an interesting guest at our box today. She’s been around for a little while, but I haven’t had a chance to speak with her until this morning. She’s the daughter of two English professors so I’m actually quite familiar with her parents, and my PhD adviser was apparently once her basketball coach (small world?). Nevertheless, she got my wheels spinning again– and we know how prone I am to overthinking. Sometime midway through my MFA, I experienced a serious lapse, wasn’t sure I’d ever finish my novel, and entertained the idea of dropping out of grad school to become a physical therapist. I was… deterred by the huge amount of course prerequisites I’d have to somehow fund, then the years’ worth of observation hours I would need to even qualify to apply for switching so entirely out of my field.

Apparently this girl has done just that. During graduate school, she discovered CrossFit, became a coach at her box and realized she’d much rather become a physical therapist than continue her deskbound hours in her own field. Bravo, really. I just… struggle constantly with the duality of my world. I can’t imagine a full career where I’m deskbound all day. I’m constantly frustrated by how much of my life requires me to be isolated inside my own head for prolonged periods of time. I love interacting with people. CrossFit has cultivated in me a fascination with the potential and limitations of the human body and the dream of a job as a physical therapist, I guess, would be the opportunity to actually practice that (whereas the niche I’ve found in English has been a convenient way of me bending the field over backwards so that I can talk about talking about it… it’s a sideways methodology of sneaking my outside interests into my research).

Of course, when I came home, I pulled up all the sites for the physical therapy graduate programs I’d been secretly oggling for a while. But the thing is, I’m even deeper into my English career now. And it’s not even that I don’t enjoy my English career. I’m fascinated by the niche I’ve found and I think… I hope… I believe I can make a dent in this field. I love teaching, and I don’t think I could ever give up writing. It just… doesn’t feel complete.

So… I sat down and had the “what are you goals, Jo?” conversation with myself again. And I remembered: write, find time to write, develop and enjoy my own fitness and well-being, help others discover their ability to do so. Sounds like a lot, right? I’m greedy. There are composition teachers that are CrossFit coaches. They exist! I read about one on CrossFit Journal. So… I think I can do it. Keep pushing? I suppose on days like this, I feel like my greediness makes it impossible for me to truly excel at any one thing. Even in the CrossFit microcosm– my strength is not skyrocketing because I like moving too much. I’m doing about 25% the amount of metcon-ing I used to… but I’d probably get stronger if I gave it up completely and just devoted myself to something blunt and linear like Starting Strength. On a larger scale, I’d probably be a much better English/Rhetoric student if I didn’t waste 70% of my days on CrossFit websites, reading up on exercise and nutrition theory. I can explain the difference between Greyskull Linear Progression, CrossFit Strength Bias, CrossFit Football, Westside Conjugate, and Starting Strength. I can tell you 7 different ways to stretch your hip. But I still have to Wikipedia Deleuze everytime he appears in one of my textbooks.

But I suppose we wouldn’t be interesting, unique human beings if we were monomaniacal robots who only focused on one interest…

I am a “wandering” Jomad because where I’d like to go seems so far away and will take so long to reach that I need to remind myself to embrace the journey. I will spend more time traveling than at my destination… so I must learn to live in the moment rather than for the future.

Ah well… I’ve now spent too much time blogging– time that’s better-spent reading, writing, researching… retaining the 200+ texts I’ll be tested on for my comps exam in a couple years…

The road goes ever on and on…

Functional in Formosa

In General, Rhetoric, Writing on May 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm

As fun as kipping pull-ups are, after I’ve incorporated more strict pull-ups into my regimen, I have to admit that they’re not at all the same beast as the real thing. One’s a conditioning movement, one’s strength…

Fortunately, I had a chance to return to Formosa Fitness, where I got to sit down and speak with the owner– Dave Chesser. To be honest, I was relieved to have a conversation in English for the first time in a significant while, and to talk about “functional fitness” which seems a foreign language in and of itself sometimes. Moreover, I was really impressed by Dave and the amount of thought and devotion he has put into his business. Though still somewhat of a niche market in America, CrossFit seems downright mainstream there compared to the fitness culture in Taiwan. When I tried explaining what I was studying to my aunt and uncle (the seminar paper I wrote last semester on CrossFit Sri Ram Ashram), they– very generously though misguidedly– brought me to a tour of the highly exclusive gym atop Taipei 101. There, we were given a small tour of the facilities (a glut of elliptical machines and some globo-gym weight machines). Our neatly tailored, three-piece-suited tour guide informed me that “weight training is not just for men” and “these days, women are starting to try strength training. Women should not be afraid of using the weight machines because they would not make you bulky.”

Anyway, Dave articulated to me precisely the reason I had a difficult time explaining to my aunt and uncle the philosophy behind CrossFit (though eventually I think I almost managed it). The concepts are so foreign here, there aren’t any terms for things like “metabolic conditioning.” Poor Dave first has to define his services before he can market them to the public. Nevertheless, it seems like he’s done pretty well. He talked about what limited access he has to equipment, but (as I mentioned in my last post) he has virtually everything a CrossFitter-away-from-home could hope for, and then some. All the equipment is in stellar condition, and though they’re not branded by Rogue or Again Faster, they’re damned more than I could have wished for thousands of miles from home.

It’s also worth noting that Formosa Fitness is not a CrossFit affiliate. In truth, that’s probably a good choice. The word “CrossFit” has virtually no value here– at least not in any of the conversations I’ve had, so there’d be no reason for Dave to shell out the affiliate fee. Moreover, Dave seems to exercise more freedom in his own programming, tailoring it to the needs of his clients in their setting.

For example, Formosa Fitness seems to make more frequent use of kettlebells– something I actually envy because I wish I knew more/had the technique to actually employ kettlebells to their full potential. KB’s suit Taipei rather well because they take up less space than fully-loaded olympic bars… and space is a rare commodity in this city. Moreover, it may just be my personal experience, but for some reason Taiwanese people seem more intrigued by kettlebells than powerlifting. When I showed CrossFit websites to friends and family, they were immediately curious about the black, steel bells.

I’ve also made no secret about the fact that I have certain reservations about some CrossFit practices. Heavy lifts in AMRAPs, for example, invite poor form and injury. It could be that my own technique and ability just aren’t there for these elements, but I tend to avoid movements that I think carry too much risk. Because Dave operates independently from any overarching “program,” he has even more room to breathe when helping his clients. Just from the materials around the gym, I saw elements of traditional CrossFit, Gym Jones, 4-hour body, Tactical Athlete, and of course Dave’s own approach.

Our conversation also gave me some more ideas about my dissertation research. I’m not going to go too in-depth here, but I’m thinking about looking at the various manifestations/interpretations of “functional fitness”– considering the physical practices as rhetoric and seeing what values are produced, performed, or resisted in different cultural settings…

Also, as a random note on “functional fitness,” I really haven’t done much CrossFit here– if any– but small moments here remind me of what I’ve gained in the past year. I’m certain that, before CrossFit, I couldn’t have cleaned and pressed my mom’s carryon luggage into the train’s overhead bin. I also couldn’t have deadlifted my grandfather in his wheelchair over the curb to get him from the hospital to the restaurant across the street when taking him out for lunch. I would’ve also possibly not made the mad sprint to the bus stop so that I wouldn’t have to wait another 20 minutes for the next one. Not quite the same as chasing mastodons and hunting sabre-tooth tigers, but still… functional fitness in practice :).


In Rhetoric, Training, WOD on April 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm

U.S. Navy Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician David Blake McLendon, 30, of Thomasville, Georgia, assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Support Activity in Norfolk, Virginia, was killed September 21, 2010, in a helicopter crash during combat operations in the Zabul province of Afghanistan. McLendon is survived by his wife Kate McLendon, his parents David and Mary-Ann McLendon, his brother Chris McLendon, and his sister Kelly Lockman.

So, on this strength program, I’ve been avoiding metcons longer than 15  minutes.; most are under twelve. In general, I’ve been avoiding metcons that are really taxing. But I have a soft spot for hero WODs; I’m even willing to forgive their usual avoidance of burpees (perhaps the word “burpee” doesn’t evoke heroism?… actually it more likely evokes a silly Asian girl flopping around the gym floor…) Anyway. Our box once had a tradition of programming hero workouts every Saturday. Though we’ve long since broken that pattern, every now and then, one of the coaches will throw in a hero as a nod to the days when we had nothing more than a lone rower, a makeshift pullup bar drilled to the mezzanine and fewer bars than athletes.*

I’m a little enamored of the principle behind the hero WOD–commemorating men and women who fell in the line of duty (military, police, firefighters, etc…) through physical exertion. It partakes in a historical tradition of paying tribute through physical feats, of honoring people and principles through rhetorical acts. I’m interested in moments in present and past when people are moved to express through physicality– why pilgrims journeyed so far with unshakable faith in their gods, why voyagers set sail with their countries’ banners pinned to their masts in the names of their homelands. Why people today even travel half a globe to touch their ancestral soil.

Anyway… when “Blake” appeared on the box’s website last night, I knew I’d have to participate– particularly because I’d tried it in February an enjoyed it immensely. I actually don’t know why I like it so much even among the other heroes. No burpees, no particularly Jo-friendly movements, but just the right configuration of exercises for the right type of grueling, for immense satisfaction. Also, I guess I do rather like handstand push-ups…

4 Rounds for time:

100m walking lunge with plate overhead (45lb for men, 25lb for women)

30 box jumps (24″/20″)

20 wall balls (20# ball, 10′ target for men, 14#, 9′ target for women)

10 handstand push-ups.

I actually surprised myself on this one. I decided I’d take it at a moderate pace, hoping not to disrupt my strength training. It’s also only been a few months since our box instigated the 9′ mark policy (ever since the 2012 Games. Before that, we were using the old standard of 8′.)  However, Blake didn’t feel nearly as deadly the second time around. I beat my old time by 6 minutes. I’ve been worried that my longer metcons would suffer since I’m avoiding them, but… thus far *knock on wood* nothing too terrible. I’m waiting to see how I feel when I wake up tomorrow. If I feel up to it, I’ll do the squats and bench as scheduled. If not, I may fudge the schedule a bit so I can go at it when I’m fresh.

Happy Saturday everyone.

*It’s a real testament to the dedication of our gym’s staff and owner how quickly we’ve grown. We’re now easily the best-equipped facility in the area, but I still remember having to WOD around dumbell racks and leg press machines…