Deadlifting in a Tiara

I’m a poet-princess-She-Hulk. For two nights a week anyway. That’s when I trade my glitter for chalk, and glide – ok, stomp, lifting shoes are clunky – onto the wooden floor of the gym where I do my lifting.

Do princesses chalk up with glitter?

Do princesses chalk up with glitter?

Tonight is a good night; it’s deadlift night. Actually, here, every night’s a good night.

Behind me the sound of chains – moving in a way that makes me lament the absence of a dungeon – tell me Jimmy Neutron’s got a few metres of the stuff hanging over the bar while he squats. Jimmy is one of those people who won the genetic lottery, while most of us came up with three numbers and (inexplicably) a handful of Fruit Loops and some red-rope licorice. If there was a space-ark leaving to colonise distant worlds with our buffest, most beautiful and brightest, Jimmy Neutron would be on it. But he might make the voyage in stasis, standing up: he strikes me as the kind of guy who’d offer you his seat if he saw you standing out in apocalyptic rain of fire and brimstone, and then still help to carry your bags.

This is the kind of person I lift with.

Is it easier to do push-ups in space?

I’m pondering the possibility of sneaking onto the ark, when I spot Paul Bunyan ambling across the floor. His place is probably secured too; he could push-start a spaceship.

(I am of course comparing him to the legendary lumberjack who created the Grand Canyon when he dragged his axe behind him on the way home one night. I have a flair for understatement.)

The last time I saw him was a week ago, while I was lying on my stomach attempting a push-up that was hopefully more plank and less soggy cardboard. I’d positioned myself behind a pillar in the hope that no one would see me taking them two at a time. Two is … uh … OK a lot of percentages down from what I could do before I took five months off from training. More percentages than I can count on my fingers and toes. Or mine and Paul Bunyan’s. Or mine and Paul Bunyan’s and Jimmy Neutron’s. (Of course, if I had Jimmy I wouldn’t need fingers and toes.)

Unfortunately the pillar’s girth was no match for mine, and Paul Bunyan spotted me and strolled over. I shouldn’t feel bad, he assured me, any number of “strict” push-ups are good. Really good. I should keep going. The fact that he can probably do a hundred with me – and my luggage, still attached to Jimmy Neutron – on his back, didn’t make him sound less sincere.

Never sick of here

That’s just the way it is here. I love here! And how the people are here. I love the way here makes me feel.

And of course, more than here, I love my coach! He’d never admit it, but I suspect he’s the guy who trained Mr Miyagi and Yoda.

How do I explain the kind of person he is? I remember when I was younger, hearing my gran describing, what sounded like, the most perfect woman since Eve (in her pre-apple days) to someone; only to realise she was talking about me. My coach is like that. He makes me feel like he sees potential in me that I can’t even catch glimpses of. Like if I was Eve I’d be farming strawberries on Sandy Bay with Beau Brummel, and not an apple in sight.

My coach believes in me more than I believe in myself. And then at some point, I find myself believing it too. It’s that simple. And that powerful.

What did Eve wear to her 40th?

Why am I telling you all this? Because in two days’ time I turn 40, and I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the decisions I’ve made in the last 10 years, and to where they’ve taken me. Deciding to sign up for weightlifting, and to do it at this particular gym, was one of the top 5 best decisions of the last decade!

This is the last place I thought I’d be at my age

OK that’s not true. The last place I thought I’d be was the 4th level of Dante’s Inferno. Or Oz. Or a space-ark. But for the sake of clichés – and owing to a momentary lapse of literary capability brought on by a power failure and subsequent lack of caffeine – let’s go with it.

I never thought I’d be here with a bunch of boys, sweating testosterone and slamming weights. (Go ahead and play peek-a-boo with that comma; the sentence works both ways.)

But I am. And incredibly, so are a bunch of other women my age. We’re all enjoying getting older and still being able to throw our weight around. (OMG! And now a pun? Quick, Paul, scoop up a coffee plantation and carry it over.)

Squat like a princess

This place makes me feel young. Feeling my body get stronger as it gets older is insanely empowering! Looking in the mirror and seeing muscle in new and exciting places, makes me content to allow softness to settle in others. And of course, it feels fantastic to wake up in the morning and know the aches and pains are from using my body, not losing it to neglect.

Look, I’m probably never going to score an invite for the space-ark. Unless Jimmy Neutron makes me his plus-one. I’m too old to help colonise a new world. Although I could knit baby booties for the space sproglets. Make that beanies. Oh who am I kidding? With my low threshold for boredom we’re looking at egg cosies at best.

Don’t laugh; knitting is something women my age do. In between squatting. And deadlifting. And shopping for a tiara for our 40th party. If I find it, I might just wear it to gym. Diamantes work so well with chalk!

Breasts Gone Lemming

There was a time when I needed a sports bra for doing sport, not watching it. Sadly that time is past. Of course I didn’t know it until last week when my gynea – wearing a look of concerned pity that said “at least you don’t have ebola” – told me I did.

“You’re getting older,” she announced. Apparently this means the puppies need a firmer harness; the equivalent of moving from a silk cord to a choke chain.

If this is how they plan to behave, I think they need more than that; they need linguistic reassignment! The zest with which they’re heading South suggests lemming more than puppy. I shared my thoughts with Dr R, whose muttering I took to mean that no matter which furry mammal I named them after, my breasts needed firm, functional support, not the rainbow bits of silky magic lining my drawer.

The lemmings are being a pain in the breast.

And that’s why I went to see the gynea in the first place. I pointed out to her that I hadn’t suffered this kind of pain or enjoyed this kind of plumpness since I was pregnant. She said, a little too quickly, that she didn’t think pregnancy was a possibility. Now I know it’s not, unless sperm has a 10 year hibernation period, but I expected her to be a little more optimistic. Hell, I’m paying her for optimism! And apparently for corsetry advice.

I feel the lemmings are letting me, and of course themselves, down. Not because they’re succumbing to the flirtations of gravity, but because they’re blatantly displaying the fact that my hormones are going from crazy to lazy. (Odd though how my mind still opts for the former.)

What do I wear on that side of the hill?

By way of explanation she drew a graph that looked suspiciously like a hill. She explained about oestrogen and progesterone and peri-somethings and other things I would have paid attention to if not distracted by the fact that the little red dot representing me was just over the pinnacle of the hill-graph, on the downward slope.

Dressed to travel, because it's hot on the other side of the hill.

Dressed to travel, because it’s hot on the other side of the hill.

I’m not ready for all of this. For discussions on pills that regulate periods. And wondering if it’s really hot or if it’s me having flashes. And I’m definitely not ready for sports bras that make my chest look like something that’s been bandaged up under a pyramid for a few thousand years.

So I’ve taken to walking around the house without a shirt on and taking selfies of the lemmings wearing gorgeous bras and occasionally glitter. If I’m heading to the place where I’m gearing up to go over that hill, then I claim the right to do it with awesomeness!

Yup, we’ve got out travelling clothes on, the lemmings and me. We’re admiring the view and planning our wardrobe for the downhill slalom.

Do Popstars Want My Panties?

Right now, while I'm braving the toxic waste depository that my son calls a bedroom, my 21 year old self is back stage with Skrillex.

Right now, while I’m braving the toxic waste depository that my son calls a bedroom, my 21 year old self is back stage with Skrillex.

Here’s why I won’t fling my bra or flash my boobs at Skrillex: because as the 80’s song says, “some things hurt more, much more, than cars and girls.” And bouncing around braless at age 39, with 2 years of breastfeeding in your past, definitely qualifies as one of those things.

I won’t wear anything I need a Brazilian for

I suppose there’s always the option of throwing panties instead of bras. But that’s only sexy if they’re made of sunshine and silk. Unfortunately I moved from fun to functional in the underwear department years ago. If it can’t go in the washing machine then it can’t come into the house. There was a stage when I had the time to lovingly hand-wash my delicates in lemon-scented soap. That was back when I didn’t yet know that Barney loved me … or that I loved him too. Back before I knew the joys of eating the gobby bolus my two year old spat into my hand because the art gallery we were in at the time didn’t consider dustbins modern or arty enough to feature. Back when I could still pee in peace without the Elf Lord on the other side of the door begging me to help him punch in the cheat codes on his new xbox game.

In other words, back when Skrillex was still in nursery school.

As matter stand now though, I have a choice of assorted colourful but comfortable (slightly faded by my fabulous washing machine) Woolworths’ panties. Not the sexy teeny tiny kind; the type that comes in packs of five in a cut no-doubt designed to double as birth control.

39 going on 21

Ejecting Skrillex from my laptop – in favour of someone I once owned on vinyl – I’m thinking that I lost I decade somewhere. 39 has arrived suspiciously quickly! And although my body apparently got the memo that I’m getting older, and responded with the unlikable haste of that hand-waving kid at the front of the class; my mind is still dawdling along, peeling a popped chewing gum bubble off her nose and imagining that time is meandering slowly in her wake.

The possibility that our minds exist in a different reality and time-stream from our bodies is one of those strange temporal phenomenon that quantum physicists are working to unravel. In our teens and early twenties our minds are years older than our bodies. And then at some point our minds get caught in a forever-young time loop and our bodies surge ahead at warp speed. Right now my mind is happily weighing up the pros and cons of blue versus silver body glitter and marrying either George Michael or Freddy Mercury.

The two worlds only collide for brief moments when, for example, I face the terror that is the change room mirror. Or when Skrillex is in town.

Don’t call me mommy

This makes me wonder if there’s really a chance of me braving a Skrillex concert; other than to drop my son off I mean. And I suppose not. There’s always the embarrassing possibility of a bouncer singling me out and leading me quietly backstage; not because Skrills wants me in his dressing room, but because they have moral issues with adults taking pics of the kids.

Argh, why I am even agonising over this? Skrillex isn’t even my type! I usually apportion my groupie love based on beautifully written lyrics. If a song has less than 30 words and a fair percentage are bleeped out, then you didn’t really “write” a song did you? You scored some music. (Possibly, along with some high-quality narcotics.) You know what I mean right baby, baby, baby, oh, like baby, baby, baby, oh? Still, there’s something about this cute boy with a half-shaved head, geek glasses and piercings that makes me want to dance like no one’s watching and slip the word “bangarang” into sentences.

Rest your guitar on the zimmer frame

So in an effort to coerce my body and mind into occupying more or less the same time and space, I’ve decided to stick to bands I listened to when I was 16. Back when bras were an optional extra and panties looked like dental floss. And if I see them live and I’m in the Golden Circle the only thing I’ll flash is a smile. And I’ll throw something better than a bra onstage; maybe liniment rub or corn plasters. Then maybe I’ll come home, let my 21 year old dance topless, make sure my 39 year old self has the presence of mind to close the blinds, and let both of them play the music so bleep, bleep, bleep-bleeping loud that the neighbours complain about the bangarang!

Will Zombies Eat CrossFit Brains?

Thanks to the Shelley Vernon and the CrossFit Platinum ladies for including us in your team. There I am in my favourite pink CrossFit community shirt.

Thanks to the Shelley Vernon and the CrossFit Platinum ladies for including us in your team. There I am in my favourite pink CrossFit community shirt.

If the zombie apocalypse happens today I’m screwed. So are boxes full of CrossFitters around SA. While the rest of the country will be running, scaling buildings and piloting jumbo jets to freedom with the grace of Mila Jovovich, we’ll be laying groaning on the ground moaning like beached whales.

Why? Because so many of us celebrated Mandela day with a full 67 minutes of CrossFit on Saturday. That means this morning squatting to pee without screaming is at best an improbability; outrunning brain-hungry zombie hordes a definite impossibility.

On the other hand, so many of us celebrated Mandela day with 67 minutes of CrossFit on Saturday. That means we’re almost certainly missing the part of our brains responsible for logic and common sense. So maybe the zombies won’t want our brains after all.

Burpees and other nasties

In the Cape, where the scenery is pretty, the air is soaked with wine, and penguins roam free; the coaches need to find particularly vengeful ways to remind people that the world out there isn’t all sea-spray and bare feet. So I wasn’t surprised that CrossFit Tokai’s idea of fun to raise funds for school fees and supplies for the kids in their community was doing 67 minutes of burpees.

When Kirsty Elliot contacted me to say she and Gina Goosen were taking insanity to a new level with their Burpees4Bursaries event I was eager to help. I could have sponsored some buckets. (No one wants to miss reps by running all the way to the bathroom to puke.). I could have simply sent the number for a good psychiatrist in the area. But I didn’t, I did the next best thing; on Saturday morning I checked into the trauma ward – “trauma” as in causing not curing – affectionately known as CrossFit Bryanston.

Here Tulip Pugs Albert van Zyl and Dave Ayres (they make me as happy as a pug in a field of tulips) were running an event in support of Tokai’s Burpees4Bursaries. But in an effort to prove that Joburg CrossFitters are rougher and tougher – our bodies run on diesel not blood – they added other nasty stuff to the burpees.

Burpees and other Nasties involved 67 reps at each of 10 stations with 67 minutes to do it in. I would say they planned 67 minutes of hell, but that’s being a little hard on hell, after all they don’t have thrusters down there.

Is my sweat angel your sweat, Angel?

The morning went as these mornings tend to do. People I’m sure I’ve never even seen before kept referring to conversations we’ve apparently had. Glassy eyed, drooling people I’m sure I know fairly well walked straight past my frantically waving self without greeting. (Maybe the zombies got them already.) And at some point I realised the puddle of sweat I was doing push-ups in wasn’t mine.

Love over zombies and chalk over grey matter

But as always, if I closed my eyes while I did my goblet squats and blocked out the screaming and grunting of a box full of people, if I silenced the sound of a room full of chalked hands slamming and swinging and throwing heavy stuff, I could hear it … one sound throbbing beneath the cacophony of sounds. One steady, pounding sound reverberating through my body and filling my chest.

Behind the hundreds of sounds assaulting my mind there was one sound ringing loud and clear. Just one! The sounds of our combined heartbeat.

Because on days like this we’re not working on getting ourselves stronger of fitter or faster. On days like today we WOD to make someone else feel stronger, better, hopeful.

On days like today we’re not a bunch of boxes, we’re one community. And even if we WOD with our teams and our friends, we all WOD with our hearts. And when we do it with one purpose, one passion, one love; those few extra reps we manage won’t change the world, but they will change someone’s.

And so this morning, behind the barking of my dogs and the trance pumping in my car and the cappuccino machine bubbling and screeching, I sweat I can still hear that beat. And the love is following me like a bobbing sherbet pink helium balloon.

To donate towards Burpees4Bursaries visit CrossFit Tokai’s Facebook page!/CrossFitTokai

Love You Hate You Love You CrossFit

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with CrossFit for the past 6 months. The love part usually involves rest days. (Which I’m currently stringing together 6 at a time.) The hate part involves pretty much everything else.

Yes, there have been brief resurgences of passionate longing for wall balls and lusting after rope climbs during that time, but they faded fairly quickly.

Couples therapy for CrossFit and me

So there I was at my Level 1 Cert, the butterflies doing a manic tabata in my stomach having less to do with excitement and more to do with a fear of squatting in public.

I’d spent the month before studying my Level 1 manual. I love studying! I’m good at studying! And the chance to curl up in bed at the end of a long day with a box of coloured pencils and a hunger for knowledge was … is it overkill if I use the word “orgasmic”?

Every day I learned a little more about CrossFit. About the beauty of CrossFit. About the way it changes your body and challenges your mind. About what makes it special. And as my mind wrapped itself around the exquisite, glittering beads that are artfully strung together to create this unique, amazing thing we call CrossFit, so did my heart. In bed at night, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars in my ceiling, I could finally imagine a future for CrossFit and I again.

Until I actually walked into B4C for the cert! It didn’t take long to figure out that I was the slowest, weakest, clumsiest, chubbiest girl there. Perfect! It was like being back at the box, consistently bringing up the rear. And sure, people will tell you that it’s always me vs me in the WOD, but those people generally aren’t putting up single figure AMRAP scores while everyone else’s are way up in the doubles.

Yes, I was at the cert wearing my best CrossFit gear, wondering if my inov-8s would work just as well in a Zumba class.

Look everyone, I squat like a llama

Full points and a minute off your Fran time if you picked up that llama don’t squat. What they do is stand around looking awkwardly surprised, then fold forward on bent legs, neck and head down like shaggy parallelograms. And in between they spit. That’s pretty much me. Which is why I avoid squatting whenever possible. (Show me something you need to squat to pick up and I’ll show you something I can deadlift or hang-clean.) It’s also why I knew Jobst was going to use me as the how-not-to example of the basic squat in the first group exercise of the day.

As I huddled there in front of everyone – in what, if you look at it creatively enough is the lesser known yoga position “Pose of the Llama” – I thought to myself that there must be more to CrossFit than this! At some point all the beautiful theory I mastered and all the limb mangling movements I haven’t, must intersect.

And then it struck me: I’ve been trying too hard!

Woo me like you want me

For as long as I’ve done CrossFit it’s been about the WOD for me. About ditching the PVC for the barbell. About packing on weights. About PBs and benchmark times. And that means I’ve been going through the motions, forgiving the poor squat or the laboured box jump in favour of banging out a few more reps, figuring that at some point they’d fix themselves. Not because the coach told me to, but because I didn’t want to keep being the one who considered lying about her score on the whiteboard.

And then I thought to myself (on account of lacking in the split-personality department and therefor having no one else to think it to) I thought: what if I just forget all of that? What if I take it right back to the basics? What if I start all over again, working on my squat? What if from now on, my focus in every class is finding the magic in the movement? Finding that moment when my body feels light and the movement just flows. What if my mantra is “core to extremity core to extremity” instead of “faster heavier faster heavier”?

After all, CrossFit didn’t start with a list of WODs. It started with basic, functional movements. It started with the simple realisation that if you give your body the freedom to move the way it was designed to move, and you help it move well, then fitness and health will follow of their own accord like eager puppies.

I look beautiful in chalkdust

So yes, in Saturday’s Filthy Fifty WOD (which I scaled to a Dirty Thirty) I still squatted like a Llama when I did the wall-balls. But I just took it, one slow rep at a time. And I paused a lot, marvelling at how incredible my body is. How it bounces back from a box jump. How my feet can fly over a rope moving too fast for my eye to see. And how in between the fumbled lifts and broken kips, there are always a few moments when my body just glides through a movement. When my self-doubt is suspended in the arc of a kettlebell. When my heart feels light. When my body feels beautiful.

And I suppose that’s what I really want in a relationship. Not tokens to tell me how amazing I am. Not little scribbles of affection. I want something that makes me feel beautiful! Think this CrossFit thing might work out after all.

Fran Ate my Sugar Butterflies

I don’t like Cindy. She can be a bitch! I don’t like Fran. Or Jackie. Or Murph. They don’t tell me the things I really want to know. My CrossFit ladies include Caileigh and Lisa. My heroes have names like Shane and Marcus. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them, if you’re not from my box you probably wouldn’t have.

And I’m happy to say that this past Saturday I added Storm and Ray Robertson to my benchmark list.

Would you like to see my pain face?

It took me 2 hours to get to CrossFit 10 Star, Ray’s box. I arrived; wearing what probably looked like my pre-WOD fear face, but which was actually my need-to-pee face. Not the look I was hoping for walking into a box full of new faces for the 1st time.

But hey, that’s what happens when you drink your litre of workout water while you’re lost on the highway. Suddenly you find all kinds of new and hidden meanings in unwritten CrossFit rules, like: “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”.

Yes I’m late! Damn, I’m not!

I admit; as I pulled into the parking lot to see a row cones marking out shuttle runs; part of me was a little glad I was late. I’d been so preoccupied with my bladder I’d forgotten to remember how much I don’t enjoy CrossFit WODS. I’d also forgotten that when Ray decided to celebrate his birthday with a WOD he figured he could get more love into 48 minutest than, say, a respectable 6. 12 x 3 min AMRAPS with a minute between each set to glug some water and contemplate how much CrossFit sucks sometimes.

But as I sprinted to the bathroom, realising that I was not in fact late (“expect the unexpected”) I did remember. And I wanted to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Which is why, when Storm split us into heats, I volunteered to go first. Because I’m brave that way; like the guys on the front-line in a military assault.

Just me and GI Jane

The other heat 1 volunteer, who for the duration of this blog shall be known as Kick-Ass, was an enthusiastic looking girl in a lot of pink. I like pink. I thought this was a good sign and maybe we were more or less on the same level. Turns out not so much. Turns out girls who wear light colours to CrossFit are the ones who know they won’t get blood all over themselves from falling off boxes or dropping kettlebells. So what actually transpired is that while I worked on turning every 3 min AMRAP into 3 X 30 second AMRAPS with a liberal sprinkling of rest time thrown in, Kick-Ass just kicked ass.

Fries with your Fran?

Then came the best part of the WOD: it ended. And the high 5s and hugging began. And soon, thank the Paleo gods, the box party became a Spur party and I was RXing a cream cappuccino. Sometime in the afternoon it all finally ended with visit to a sugar art shop. I stood there between the sparkle of edible “emeralds” and rainbows of sugar sparkles and felt a warm tingling in my fingers and heart.

I know this warm, glowing feeling by now: it’s what the magic of CrossFit feels like.

Love you more than cupcakes

I always feel vaguely guilty admitting it, but I don’t enjoy CrossFit WODS very much. (Unlike Olympic Lifting where I’m happy to train for 2 hours and keep going until the coach throws me out.) Which is probably why I don’t do them very often. The WODS are just my entry ticket to the box; on account of the fact that simply loitering in the box will at some point be considered stalking.

But I love CrossFit! I love the people. I love the community. I love that I can walk into a box as a stranger and leave as family. That I went to Ray and Storm’s box and came home feeling like it was my box.

I probably have as much chance of RXing Fran as I do of doing her in Jimmy Choo stilettos, but that’s ok, I’m not here for Fran. Or Cindy. Or Jackie. I’m here for Lynda and Tanya and Mike and all the other people who give CrossFit its magic. And when it comes to squeezing all the love and wonder and miracles I can from this amazing community, I’m PBing every day.

Teaching the Puppies to do Double Unders

On Sunday someone asked if I was my 28 year old friend’s mother. I suppose I could be. If I had her around the time I had my braces off. So this week I’m feeling … what’s the word … starts with an “o” …. At my age it’s so hard to remember things.

Fading like a … that thing with a stem and petals and nice smelling centre

So it’s been one of those weeks! When the woman in the mirror looks a lot older than the one who was there a few days ago. I can’t exactly say I have a double chin, but it’s definitely at least a chin and a half. Maybe even three-quarters. The “melons” are looking more like “pears”. And although I tell people I’m a natural brunette, that hasn’t been true for several years; snowy-grey not being a shade of brown on even the most adventurous colour chart.

Yes. This week I’m feeling faded and old.

Young of heart and fleet of skipping foot

Except when I’m skipping! It’s impossible to feel old when you skip. Well, unless you forgot to put on a sports bra and one of the pears is flung from its packet. When I skip I feel like a kid again. And when that skipping turns into double unders I feel like Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons.

Double-unders were thoughtfully added to CrossFit by Coach Glassman for women such as me. Women who fall and drop and cry their way through WODs feeling far more Cross than Fit. After a year and a half I still can’t do pull ups. I still come last in runs. I still feel kettlebells would work better if they had little bells tied on with ribbons like my one at home. But I can smash out 30 double unders in a row on a good day! (In fact they make me feel so young I slipped the word “smashed” in there as if I was a 21 year old box bunny.)

I can pick up boys … if they lay like planks

I can also deadlift 110kg. The fact that most of the small melon-chested girls I know can’t, makes it seem like 220 kg. With everything else slip-sliding down the gentle slope of the years, I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been. And I expect I’ll be saying that next month. And the month after. Especially now that I’m focussing on my Olympic weightlifting.

Lifting makes me feel young! Somehow having that heavy weight overhead makes me feel light inside. Maybe it has something to do with discovering new ways to use my body. You know: sit, crawl, walk, lift. Or maybe it’s about challenging my preconceptions and doing this thing I always thought only young people could do.

Or maybe it’s just because when you enjoy something so much that you lose yourself in it, then your soul sings and your heart ends up bopping to the beat like a delirious teenager.

Pouncing on life like a puppy

Of course, I’ve considered that the cure for this week’s feelings of aging inadequacy is to simply stop playing with the puppies. Start running (or walking, or maybe just sitting and playing scrabble) with the old dogs. But then I had to admit that when they’re not making me feel old, the puppies keep me feeling young.

So maybe the secret to eternal youth isn’t avoiding anything that highlights my age, but seeking out those things that fill me with all the giddy feel-good energy I took for granted when I was young and a natural brunette.

And maybe I need to hang my skipping rope in the bedroom. So that every time I wonder idly if I could make charcoal rubbings of my wrinkles, I can spend a few minutes skipping in the passage. And maybe then I’ll skip until I feel I feel frisky enough to pounce. Because I’m still young enough to run with the puppies, chase butterflies, and get my clumsy muddy paws all over life!

Ride Your Unicorn To Work

When I was 12 I realised I was never going to be the prettiest girl in the room. So I promised myself I would be the smartest. And of course I was; more often than not.

(At 12 you don’t yet know that every woman out there thinks every other woman out there sees someone prettier in her mirror than she does.)

Only now, at 39, do I realise that had I made the same deliberate, conscious decision to be the prettiest girl in the room, I would have found a way to be her.

Why? Because we become who we decide we are. Who we define ourselves as. Who we believe we are.

Who needs beer when you have books?

At university I told myself I was a scholar. I sailed through with A+s in languages that made other students consider careers in fast food. University was easy for me. Of course it helped that I was the smartest kid in the class.

It also helped that I studied for 15 hours a day. While my res friends were waking up in strange men’s bedrooms I was falling in love with the Greek philosophers, enjoying passionate trysts with Feminist poets and taking moonlight strolls back from the library with Jewish mystics.

I was enamoured by their brilliance. And mine. My mother was less so; she offered to buy me beer if I promised to get drunk with my friends instead of hiding in my books.

I explained that the books were my friends. And told her no. In several languages.

I was, by definition and by the callus left by my fountain pen, a scholar, not a party animal.

How do I get baby puke off my keyboard?

Sometimes however life comes along and redefines us. That happened many studious years later when I became a mother. Suddenly my brilliant grey matter was replaced with a porridge brain. (I believe this is the medically accepted term for the stupidity that settles in with pregnancy.)

Having giving up copywriting for nappy changing I felt I’d gone from being the most intelligent person in the room to the one with the most vomit down my back.

Which is why, a few months into mommyhood, I found myself crying in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. The form I was filling in asked for “occupation” and I didn’t have one. My sleep-deprived mind was tempted to fill in “stripper” on account of the fact that I was flashing my breasts more than one. But I didn’t. I decided to fill in the thing I wanted to be most in the world. (Even more than cleverest girl in room or scholar.)

I filled in: “writer”.

“Writer” was what I filled in on every form after that. It’s what I told people I was.

I never told them I meant “aspiring” writer. I never added the word “unpublished” in front of the word. Because, I rationalised (as only smart kids can), that if I wrote, then I was a writer, whether it was published or not.

And so I wrote!

Hesitantly at first. When your body’s got more padding than your couch and your literary interests extend to a large purple dinosaur, confidence isn’t something that comes easily. But I worked it! I was a writer. I was writing.

Do angels read magazines?

The more I defined myself as a writer the more I wrote. The more I wrote the more I owned the right to be a writer. Then at some point it wasn’t enough just to write. I wanted to be read! So I started sending work out to anyone who would accept it.

Finally someone asked me to write for their library newsletter. Rate per word: R0. Audience: app 20. Fan mail: 1.

Yes! I wasn’t only a writer. And I wasn’t only a writer with readers. Turns out I was even a writer with a fan! Which put me roughly in the same bracket as Stephen King, except that my work is funnier and more niche market.

And then the magic happened and my words made their way from my keyboard out across the world to websites and magazines. For good money. To hundreds of thousands of readers.

Ride that Unicorn

Now that I’m older I’m finally clever enough to realise that we become what we define ourselves as. It doesn’t matter what it says we are on our degree or CV. It doesn’t matter what we do to earn money every day.

What matters is where our thoughts are. Who we dream we can be. Where we direct our energies to.

What matters is that every single day we do at least one thing that takes us one step closer to living the life we want so desperately. Even if that “thing” is just taking a few minutes to dream and remind ourselves that we are already the person we want to be, we just can’t see it yet.

At any moment, all around us, are infinite possibilities. Galloping like unicorns, still just fantasy, on the fringe of our vision. Once we can see them, once we believe we can own them, then we own their magic.

Right now I’m redefining myself again. Still just in whispers to myself. In eagerly typed words at four in the morning. I don’t know how long it will take before I see this new version of myself in the mirror. But I already see her in my heart. Because it’s easier to see what’s real and what’s not, up here from the back of my unicorn.

13.4: I’m Gonna Lick You Like a Lollipop!

When you’re lifting overhead, every extra 1kg weighs about the same as a bear … juggling Atlas stones … on the back of an elephant.

So this morning when the 13.4 CrossFit Open workout (45kg clean and jerks plus toe-to-bars) was unleashed like a virus it spread fear and panic of epidemic proportions.

45 Kilograms is heavy! Luckily so am I, so I might make the lifts. But if I do then I’ll need to haul my very ample ass up to the rig for toes-to-bar. It’s going to be an interesting and expletive filled 7 minutes.

I was feeling nervous about it this morning. And when I get nervous the little voice in my head bitches like a snotty teenager. So it’s surprising that I heard Antoinette over all that mental-door slamming and foot-stamping when she said: “Forget about the weight.”

Damn these thoughts are heavy

She’s right of course! It’s what Andrew, our Olympic lifting coach, is always saying. That you’ve got to focus on what you need to do to get the bar up and not psych yourself out focussing on how much weight is on that bar.

But it’s one of those ironies of CrossFit isn’t it? When you load the bar, the part of your brain that can count shuts down. Presumably because it’s rerouting energy to the part that deals with gross motor coordination and not losing a finger to a stack of bumper plates. (Which means you think that loading two 10kgs on a 15kg bar gives you 25kgs.) But when the bar is in your hands you’re suddenly hyper sensitive. Suddenly you’re calculating extra grams of chalk dust and lint and the exact measure by which it’s going to throw off your lift with the accuracy of a cyborg.

That weight is often much, much heavier in your mind than it is in reality. And the longer you stare at it, the more times you add up those bumpers in your mind, the heavier it gets.

So yeah, that’s what you need to do: remember everything you’ve learned about lifting and forget about the weight for a while.

I love the bar lots like Jelly Tots

Ok so what if that doesn’t help? What if no amount of thinking or crying or swearing is going to get that bar up? Here’s my plan …

Do you remember being a kid and having a toffee apple or candy cane or giant lollipop that lasted for days? Do you remember licking it until the sweetness coated your brain, then hiding it in the fridge for later? Well that’s how I’m going to take on 13.4. I’m going to get through it bit by bit.

I don’t know what that “bit” will involve. Maybe I’ll be slamming out toes-to-bar with such grace I’ll run away to join the Cirque de Soleil. Or maybe it will involve 7 minutes of enthusiastically transferring chalk from the bucket to the bar.

Either way, at the end of it I’ll have 13.4 licked! Like a lollipop! And you know what? Courage tastes just as sweet as success.

Skin-the-Cats and the Zombie Apocalypse


In our house massacring zombies has been the main form of physical activity for my 12 year old son. Until recently that is.

Our kids are growing up in a world where “go play outside” means moving your Minecraft character from the underground tunnels of your fortress to a field of oddly cube-shaped cows.

Last year, in an effort to encourage more time with his imagination and less time with flame throwers and machine guns, I hauled my son off to Exclusive Books. He interpreted my instruction to “pick a book” a little more loosely than I’d planned and chose an audio book. For the next few weeks he prowled the landscape of X Box Live hunting for the living dead while listening to detailed instructions of how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

So you can understand that if getting him out of the bedroom was and into the real world was a battle, getting him onto a sports’ field was an impossibility!

Argh! The soccer ball! It burns!

My son hates sport with as much passion as he hates losing his last life to the lurching dead. Maybe even more, because there are no power-ups out there on the field. Out there it’s just you against the blistering sun, a vicious expanse of knee-grating grass and a coach who trained in a Russian labour camp.

As someone who spent my childhood hidden in books, I felt his pain. But as a mother I also felt it was my duty to inspire/coerce/cajole/bribe/threaten him into some kind of physical activity.

Working your thumbs doesn’t qualify as sport

Then came CrossFit Kids! I watched in amazement as my son – who apparently lacks the flexibility to bend down and pick up his dirty clothes – hung upside down from the rings, legs stretched backwards over his head, performing a very beautiful “skin-the-cat”. There was my little zombie slayer, hanging and squatting and running and jumping and rolling. And it wasn’t even because he was fleeing a marauding bloodless horde with automatic weapons. He was doing it because he liked it. Because it felt good! Because it was fun!

 Which is of course why he continues to head off to CrossFit Kids Jozi week after week, with a kind of enthusiasm that was once reserved for placing land mines and using invincibility cheats.

Catch me if you can

And that I think is the key to getting kids to exercise: give them the kinds of things they love doing naturally. The kinds of things they did spontaneously when they were little. Because those things feel like fun, not work. And those are the movements their bodies instinctively want to do; need  to do.

So they go from hanging upside down on the jungle gym to doing it on the rings. From hopping over puddles and up stairs to jumping onto boxes. From hurling Teddy around to swinging a kettle bell. From tumbling on the grass to doing forward rolls.

And if there is a Zombie Apocalypse my CrossFit kid is going to be well prepared. His head is crammed with vital information … that zombies can’t jump, for example. Which means a quick pull up onto the garage beam followed by an inchworm crawl across to our emergency supplies is all we need to survive.

Yup, that’s us, killing zombies one skin-the-cat at a time!

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