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

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.