Archive for the ‘CrossFit’ Category

I just watched two TED talks (which appear below) by Brené Brown, and they made me realize why CrossFit works. When you’re a fattie, working out makes you feel vulnerable, and you don’t want that because you’re often already ashamed because you’re a fattie, particularly if you’re a woman, because women are supposed to conform to the societal norms, to be thin and beautiful.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately not working out and feeling guilty. Guilt, not shame, and as soon as I post this, I’m going to go do my scaled-like-the-dickens workout so I can shed some guilt, if not pounds. Watch this in the meantime:



Collage of several of Gray's muscle pictures, ...

I’m an injury-prone idiot sometimes, but I didn’t suspect that I would be a “weekend warrior”–you know, one of those middle-aged, overweight, out-of-shape guys who decide they can still play [fill-in-the blank; e.g., basketball] like they did in college or high school and end up cloaked in ice packs.

Nope. Athletic activities are dangerous. I tried to get her high awesomeness, Dr. Stephanie the PT, to agree with my theory that I used to try to peddle to myself–that only people who are athletic get really hurt. She laughed. Not the first time (although I prefer laughter to contempt–doesn’t everyone?).

Turns out either extreme ends up messing up their bodies. A confirmed couch potato like me can end up as bad off as the MVP. But where we really get in trouble can be sneaky bad habits.

So I’m typing this with two ice packs on my back and a gutful of NSAIDs because my back is spasming like crazy. I don’t do the sports thing, but I’ve been fairly regular with my workouts. Dr. S has changed jobs, so I’m a little behind on my tune-ups, but still, I didn’t fall or do any other of the klutzy things I’m noted for (I do have several bruises from the sideboard jumping out at me, the little bitch).

What did I do? I had a marathon play-with-the-food-processor day. After several hours had passed, I was pausing and leaning over the counter, spasming from the lower part of my left shoulder to my waist.

My husband diagnosed it; I know he’s right because I felt better when I did what he suggested. I’d been hunching over the counter, not supporting my back with my abdominal muscles. As soon as I sucked in the belly, things came back into alignment. It helped (along with doing my stretches and PT), but now my right shoulder is not happy with me. No carrying of the purse, no lifting of the arm. Even typing isn’t exactly favored by the tweaking muscle group.

So, kids, remember: you can get hurt with bad biomechanics any time, any place, anywhere. If you are engaged in repetitive motion, take a second and think about what muscles you’re using–is it the kind of motion that you may end up hurting yourself from. If so, figure out how to do it right.

In the case of the kitchen counter marathon, you’ve got to keep your weight centered over your legs or you’re going to start pulling your pelvic girdle and back out of alignment. As soon as one thing goes out-of-whack, the rest will follow.

The body is meant for symmetry and balance, and it will work toward resuming that state if you mess with it. Hunching over anything, even a counter or sink or stovetop, is not an activity you should be doing. Suck in the gut, and lean forward using the joints you were given for that: your hips.

I’m off to strengthen those bloody hip flexors and core abdominals and see if I can convince my shoulder to shut up. I bet you can do better than I and identify the bad body movement before your muscles, joints, and ligaments start giving you a talking to.


P.S. If any readers are  military brats (or know them), please take a few minutes to fill out this anonymous survey (or send it to your friends): Thanks! jgm

My son took a course last spring about traumatic brain injury, and we were discussing the mind-body connection. He now has some definite ideas about the brain and the mind.

Synapse. Tweaked version of Image:SynapseIllus...

Synapse.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It’s a silly expression,” he said, referring to “mind-body.” I gave him my “Qua?” look.1 “Thought is a physical act. It’s about the flow of electro-chemical impulses between synapses.”

On some level, I’d known that for a long time. A family friend, a doctor, explained my father’s illness to me that way–that the synapses just weren’t making the right connections. When I repeated my son’s to my mind therapist, she said, “That sounds like a physicist.” However, I found it helpful in understanding myself and my past.

The past. A dreadful word. I’m trying to write past it.

For about eight years of my life, I was defined by the circumstances that started shortly before I was thirteen. After I got married, I tried to refer to them as infrequently and as clinically as possible. Even here, I don’t want to get into an emotional recounting, but it was ugly: my much-admired father was medically retired for what we later found out was an infarct (dead spot) in the basal ganglia, but which manifested itself as what the shrinks at the time, before the imaging equipment now available, as atypical paranoid schizophrenia (in other words, the closest thing it came to was paranoid schiz, but it didn’t quite fit in the box). At that time, the “polite” way to refer to it was “nervous breakdown,” a term I still abhor because it sounds as though things just got too rough and the sufferer simply couldn’t hack it. That was not my father.

I was asked in the fall of my eighth grade year, by the most popular girl in school, “Did you drive him crazy?” The carload of kids laughed. I tried to join them, but anyone with a sympathetic nature can imagine the pain such an attempt at wit caused. It was a very public tragedy, and was soon to get worse. By March of that school year,  my 3-year-old sister was hospitalized when she went into a coma with grand mal seizures. She lived in the pediatric ICU for the next eight months, dying less than a month after her fourth birthday. She wasn’t diagnosed until autopsy; hers was as odd as my dad’s: encephalitis, which is rare enough, but instead of being widespread, it was confined to the hypothalamus, making it even more bizarre.

No Me Mireis!

No Me Mireis! (Photo credit: El Hermano Pila)

This brief history of my past is not meant to engender sympathy for me, but to illustrate that everyone walks around with problems or challenges that they may not share. It is also to talk about the injuries to the mind, which, as my son pointed out, are just as much an injury as a broken leg, just far more difficult to see. it’s been hard to think of my difficulties as injuries to the mind when I had two immediate family members die with injuries to the brain. I’m talking about my own with the hope of helping some reader to face theirown mind injuries.

So posted here is more info here than I generally share with people, although I’ve found myself talking about it more over the last year. My theory is that we delay working through certain events in our past until we’re ready. These events have broken through to affect my life ever since they occurred, but I wasn’t ready to consciously address them; I had other things to deal with: marriage, career, child-rearing. It’s not until the crises are over that you can deal with deeper mind injuries. Most of us are just trying to survive today.

The first time I was diagnosed with depression, it was treated as if it were the flu. It’d go away after a course of antidepressants. The short course helped, but it was merely a band-aid. Most drugs for mind injuries are treating the symptoms. But the classic symptoms were predated by what was then called psychosomatic illnesses, now just somatic., mostly because the precise mechanics of how they work aren’t really understood, although mine all seem to do with serotonin production (as do most of my laundry list of chronic ailments). There are subtypes of serotonin that affect different receptors, for one thing, and then there’s the surprisingly common  genetic defect which makes it difficult for some of us to get sufficient folate into our systems. This is a problem because folate is among the building blocks your body uses to manufacture serotonin. Sadly, most insurance doesn’t cover the drug that will give you this important building block.

It makes sense to me why you have weirdass symptoms for mind injuries. Think about it this way: Your body is always trying to communicate with your conscious self. It gives you pain and swelling to tell you to get the hell off that ankle you twisted and give it a rest if you’ve injured it. But mind injuries are harder for the body to talk to you about, so it comes up with novel ways: unexplained stomach aches and nausea, headaches–all those illnesses now linked to stress, a mind injury.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was in my late thirties before I started to get more or less continuous care for my mental injuries. More in that I’ve been constantly drugged ever since with something or other; less in that I’ve floundered through several mental health professionals and only sporadically gotten therapy. And the diagnosis has changed, evolved, and is still a bit uncertain, because diagnosis of injuries to the mind aren’t about the chemistry of your brain, which is probably where the physical injury lies, but about a given set of actions, all of which can be normal unless carried to the extreme.

The first diagnosis of the era of semi-continuous care was bipolar II (what used to be called manic-depressive). Sounded right: I have two speeds, normally: full go or full stop. Then it was clinical depression plus ADHD. I’m definitely both of those things, although the depression is in waves; the ADHD is a permanent state of being for which I’m rarely medicated. And then I was diagnosed with PTSD.

All of them can co-exist. It’s the PTSD that was both scary and vindication of the trauma of those early years. I spent years with screaming nightmares. I can be triggered to the point of incapacity by certain things that unexpectedly flash that period into my brain as if Scotty transported me into those past situations. People from that era do a great job of doing so, mostly because they want to keep me the victim of my family drama, not seeing the overcomer I try to be. When I’m not, I tend toward taking refuge like an anchoress, walling myself into the house, or, when it’s really bad, into my bedroom.

What to do about mind injuries

You’ll be shocked to know that exercise helps. My daughter-in-law told me that if you watch animals after a flight/fight/freeze moment, they will “dance it out”: jump, run, shake, shimmy and jive. They get rid of the bad chemicals generated by stress encounters of the bad kind, not having the prefrontal cortex bullying them into behaving like responsible adults. Nope. They deal with it then and there.

As I’ve said many times before in this blog, I’m a big mess physically. Much of it can be attributed to a sedentary life, but a larger toll has been taken because of the mind injuries. Untreated, they only get worse, just like any other injury. Yet people still act as though it’s a character weakness. They are wrong, ignorant of how the brain works. They might as well say diabetes is a character weakness–if you just had the right attitude, that pancreas would make you some insulin.

I’m not a wuss, although I can talk myself into believing I am lazy, gutless, and weak. But I survived my personal war, which isn’t at all like the most frequently recognized form of PTSD, combat survivors. The fact that I have scars and need treatment is not weakness, it is reality.

Get help. Drugs are useful, and so is cognitive therapy, but studies show that the combination of the two is the most effective treatment.

Educate yourself. Check out Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unnquiet Mind, Edwards M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey’s Driven to Distraction, or Joseph Le Doux’s The Emotional Brain, all of which are excellent resources.

Also check out, part of what has made me decide to gut up and go to a real CrossFit box as soon as my PT says it’s okay. I’m scared, but avoiding what I fear just makes the fear stronger. It’s no longer a question of if, but when. SuperBetter is a game developed by Jane McGonigal, as she describes in this TED Talk:

Hope your mind injuries improve, too, because that’s the good news: They can!


1, Stolen from Eddie Izzard in “Dress to Kill.”

2. I know there isn’t number agreement between the referent and the pronoun. Don’t care; I predict it will become standard American English within fifty years.

Any of these three get you down? Check out as a tool to fight these three bad boys. Realistic Optimism is the power pack you’ll want to get. There are also packs for motivation and general fitness. Go for it!

Harvardvegan's Blog

Learned Helplessness

Encyclopedia of Childhood and AdolescenceApr 06, 2001

The concept of learned helplessness was developed in the 1960s and 1970s by Martin Seligman (1942- ) at the University of Pennsylvania. He found that animals receiving electric shocks, which they had no ability to prevent or avoid, were unable to act in subsequent situations where avoidance or escape was possible. Extending the ramifications of these findings to humans, Seligman and his colleagues found that human motivation to initiate responses is also undermined by a lack of control over one’s surroundings. Further research has shown that learned helplessness disrupts normal development and learning and leads to emotional disturbances, especially depression.

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Anyone who subscribed to Confessions of a CrossFit Fattie some time ago will know it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted.



From chARiTyelise at

That big motivator of most things bad, fear.  I didn’t want to talk about what was going on. But now that I’m feeling a bit better, it’s time to ‘fess up.

Almost a year ago I was feeling the best I had in years. Well enough to go for a week to Tampa by myself to visit my mom. I was great about staying on my CrossFit workout while I was there.

And then I crashed. It took me two weeks after I came back to do much of anything except sleep. I assumed that I’d gotten those bad habits conquered, what with my regular visits to the physical therapist extraordinaire and my consistent workouts.

But I was wrong.

I hadn’t factored in what would happen when I started trying to resume a “normal” life, one with work in it. I participated in NaNoWriMo, and the writing started to take priority over the workouts. I’m fine, I thought, like any backslider. It’s just a glitch; I’ll get better.

And then November ended, and with it NaNo, and I’d completed the fifty-thousand words. And I looked upon it and found it good. I really thought I could go back to my old ways of spending nonstop hours at the computer without harming myself.

I started picking up more freelancing work. I started planning an AWA-style workshop for the new year. It didn’t happen. I kept doing the freelance copyediting1 and writing because it was fun, and it had been so long, but for the gigs with Thomson Reuters, since I’d been consistently earning any money. And I was doing work I enjoyed.

I’d hated becoming the unreliable employee that illness had made me into. I was able to be reliable as a volunteer at because it was a telecommuting job. I didn’t have to get dressed and drive; I just had to have enough energy to make it through my shifts and organize my work around my down times.

Now I was taking on more responsibility, and what was the mistake? The same one I’d made my entire life — that I could escape the consequences of ignoring my duties to my health. I’d think about it tomorrow.

As the new year came, I left the routine of regular workouts, becoming more and more sporadic. Not surprisingly, I started feeling worse. I was annoyed that I was losing what definition I’d gained in my arms and legs. But I kept telling myself that the occasional workout that I was getting in was going to help me maintain until I had time for more.

Yeah, right. That’s worked so well for me in the past.

And the migraines started getting worse again. And I had to be responsible, take care of the clients who expected their work to be done on time and well. So that became a priority. The excuse I’d tried to tell other people not to use, “I don’t have time,” was returning to my vocabulary, even though I knew that it was a lie. I didn’t have the time NOT to work out, because failing to do so ate into the rest of my life, taking time away to be sick or alternate between insomnia and hypersomnia. And sleepy editors are sloppy editors, so I’d be waiting for that window of time when everything was working to work.

Then I had a couple of weeks of something I hadn’t done in years, not since I’d figured out my food sensitivities and sworn off corn and dairy and kicked my Coca-Cola habit. I went on an eating binge.

cupcake tier

Cupcake tier from The Cake Shop.

That’s my oldtime modus operandi for weight gain. It had been years, truly, years since I’d last been a bitchy binger. “Bring me baked goods,” I demanded of my husband in a take-no-prisoners way. He did. I’d eat a six-pack of cupcakes and want more. I put on ten pounds in a week. Turns out one of my drugs had pooped out on me (okay, that’s not the technical term, but it captures what I mean), and it took me while to figure it out. The first thing you look for is something new, not something old, when your behavior goes wonky.  But now I’ve figured out that the first thing to think about if I get bingey is to consider any drugs that work on neurochemicals, but particularly antidepressants. It was the Wellbutrin that my brain had started to ignore, and the first thing my body did was say, “Send me sugar.” Turns out the brain’s its own sweet tooth, using a disproportionate amount of glucose, which I learned from a TED Talk2:

I don’t want one of those nasty things in my brain, although if you told me it was the only thing between me and a daily migraine, I’d seriously consider it.

At any rate, the next clue was complete lack of energy and motivation, accompanied by showers of weeping eyes. No good reason, just started crying anytime I wasn’t distracted. So I went to my friendly pill prescriber and spent the  next three months getting titrated up to an effective dose of Viibryd. It’s new, and I almost said, “No, thanks,” when she told me about it, because I didn’t want a new thing on the market. No one knows what’s wrong with it yet. All I knew right away was that it made me queasy and gave me the worst smelling flatulence I’d had in my life. Powerful bastards, too: the farting would wake me up at night as if a cannon had been shot out of my…well, you know. And I put on another ten pounds of fluff eating starchy stuff to combat the constant nausea.

About the time I finally started to feel normal again, I was knocked down by an allergic reaction to the bloody stuff.  Itchy everywhere, including my throat and mouth, which is a bad sign. I develop drug allergies every so often, and this one was acting suspiciously like the one that gave me blisters all over the inside of my mouth. Because of the depression symptoms, I’d started counseling right around the same time, and that helped me get through the tsunami of helplessness and hopelessness that attacked me.

Now that’s cleared my system, and a new/old drug seems to be working. I’m slowly working my way back up from zero, starting out at the exact same weight I was when I started this blog. But unlike days past, I refuse to stop. I refuse to let the bad juju win. I’m back to more healthy eating (no more Mr. Gutsquirm) and, ooo-rah, working out.

And life, with its odd synchronicities, sent me a client whose wife is a CrossFit instructor at the box closest to me. I pass it every time I go to a physical therapy appointment. As soon as it cools down, I’m going to gut up with my big gut and go workout in public. Then I can talk more authoritatively about putting yourself out there. Time to stop denying the importance of the social structure, time to stop assuming they’re all going to judge me, time to overcome inertia. (Or maybe just defy gravity — whatever it is that’s keeping you away from health..)

1. Every time I mention copyediting, I cringe to think that someone will read my blog and think “Who the hell is she to call herself a copyeditor?” My errors on my blog are evidence that everyone needs a copyeditor, even a copyeditor. Oh, and “copyeditor” and “copy editor” are both used by the people calling themselves that. I won’t bore you with the details. If you want me to bid on copyediting work for you, please contact  Amy at and tell her you’d like me to work on your project.
2. I’m hooked on TED Talks. Awesome info in twenty minutes or less.

English: WPA poster warning cancer patients to...

WPA poster warning cancer patients to be wary of persons claiming to be physicians and promising to cure cancer. Check with your internist or oncologist before beginning any particular exercise program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s post is from guest poster Melanie Bowen, a regular blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Although this is not a cancer-related blog, I don’t know anyone whose life has not been touched by cancer, whether as a patient or as a loved one of a cancer patient.

Exercise has all kinds of benefits and can continue under unusual circumstances. I’d say cancer qualifies as “unusual circumstances,” although, sadly, not a rare one.

And, with that introduction, here’s Melanie:

In the past, patients with a cancer diagnosis were often advised by healthcare professionals to avoid any kind of physical exertion in order to preserve as much energy as possible.  No longer.

The medical community is finding a wealth of evidence showing the importance of exercise for the cancer patient to maintain weight and maximum health, endure short- or long-term medical interventions, and to improve their quality of life. All exercise programs should have well-defined guidelines and approved by a physician. Each person and diagnosis is unique, and therefore should have an appropriate regimen to follow.

Maintain strength and fight fatigue

Cancer patients may receive long-term medication, chemotherapyradiation therapy, or a combination of treatments. Although cancer itself can induce fatigue, cancer treatment itself  often increases weakness, lack of motivation and immobility.

Steps can be taken to help counter and cope with the side effects of cancer treatment. Daily walking, for example, can increase the drainage of toxins from the body and stimulate circulation to renew muscle tissue with oxygen.

In addition, research has shown that immobility restricts the lung function and may cause pneumonia as a complication. Patients with mesothelioma are especially prone to decreased lung function and may only tolerate exercises performed in bed. It is important to find physical activities that you enjoy: walking, weight lifting, yoga, water aerobics, CrossFit or something else.

Chair yoga, for example, is a form of yoga that helps compensate for health issues. Look for things that sound like fun and which emphasize meeting you at your current state rather than competitive exercise programs. If you are interested in CrossFit, it can be tailored to your situation. Whatever choice you make, be sure to find an experienced coach.

Maintain healthy weight to complete cancer treatment

Physical activity can promote appetite and help the patient maintain a healthy weight. Many cancer therapies and procedures are particularly difficult for the body to endure, and as patients lose weight and sometimes struggle to stay nutritionally balanced.

Patients with serious weight loss and nutritional problems may find their therapy postponed until they resume a healthier weight. The main goal of being physically active is to keep your body in a healthy overall state, which may not always entail losing weight — especially when battling cancer.

Maintain healthy immune system and avoid cancer complications

The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and is a network of vessels similar in structure to the veins and arteries of the body. Without a healthy heart to circulate and cleanse the lymph fluid, this system uses the activity of muscle and skeletal movement to cleanse the body of toxins and fight off the bacteria and viruses that enter the body. Simple movement and exercise of the body boosts this process and provides the cancer patient with a vital immune system.

Exercise increases survival rate for cancer patients

More cancer patients are surviving than ever before. With evidence-based research* in exercise and fitness, patients are successfully completing cancer therapies and prolonging their lives. Not only that, patients are reducing the risk of recurrence through healthy activity.

As always, consult with your doctor to find the most beneficial exercise plan for you and to ensure you maintain a healthy weight during and after treatment.

*[Ed. note: Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park is an excellent book for non-scientists about evaluating medical claims (and other scientific theories).]

It’s like this.

This is the Tune Belt I use. Love it, but read the post for the warning!

Quick version: I’m an idiot.1

Longer version: I was in Tampa visiting my mother and went to her condo’s well appointed workout room, including industrial strength treadmills. No one there but me. View out the window of the pool and a very pretty tree2. I’ve got my Tune Belt on my arm, my earbuds in and my exercise mix playing with the volume turned up to the point just before it inflicts pain.

Now my treadmill in my home is nice, but it wouldn’t stand up to constant running and has a very laid back traction surface, one that doesn’t seem to be all that interested in doing its job. It also is a little narrower than the bad boy I was using that oh-so-fateful day. So if I do stupid stuff on my home treadmill, I usually brush some portion of the side of my body against the arms and can correct.

This kind of rasp. One for horse hooves.

This monster treadmill I was using was great — like getting to drive an old car with far more cylinders than you’re used to. “This is bad ass,” I thought, perhaps not consciously, but I was pretty pleased with myself. I’d been consistent with my exercise routine during this entire visit. And now I’m working out in what would be my fantasy home gym, all by myself.

What I didn’t take note of was that the embrace of this bad boy was several inches wider than the one I had at home, and the tread on the sucker looked like a rasp. If treadmills had bouncers, this treadmill would have its arms crossed outside the trendiest treadmill bar in town.

And then the fateful moment occurred: “ABC” came up on my mix.3

Maybe it’s because the Jackson Five’s tune hit the top of the charts in 1970. I was nine. When we got back to the states4, one of the last cartoons I gave up was the Jackson 5ive5, and it was the theme song.  For those of you who didn’t know Michael Jackson was born a poor black child, here is a video from back in the day, purportedly from the Ed Sullivan Show:

Whatever the deal is, I cannot seem to keep from dancing (badly) whenever that song comes on. It goes from audio processing in the brain straight to the movement center without consulting the part of my brain that says, “Whoa, fella, slow down.” So I started dancing within the wide arms of the treadmill and caught some part of my foot on the non-moving portion of the dance floor, sending me to my knees.

Mostly my left knee. The bad one. It’s probably a good thing I had on my yoga pants; even so, I ended up scraped by the bite the treadmill’s surface gave me, holding me down a few seconds while I processed what had happened and how the hell to get my knee detached from rotating blades6.

It didn’t bother me all that much at first; I iced it and by the next day had a big C-shaped bruise circling my knee. Bruise? No big. But when I went to see Stephanie, queen of the physical therapists, she said it was a lot looser than it had been and that I may have sprained my ACL. It’s not gotten much better since I saw her a couple of weeks ago and I’m guessing she’s going to tell me to get it evaluated by the doc when I see her next week.

I’ve been through a scaled down grief cycle and am back at acceptance. Every setback makes you want to throw up your hands and say “Why bother?” But not doing it means there’s no chance; you can’t win if you don’t play. So after enough of a pity party, and a couple of workouts I cried through, I’m back on the upswing, even though icing my knee is the order of the day and I’m going to have to rebuild it.

Too bad you can’t order bionic parts off Amazon.

1. If you’re familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, think a zero for bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
2. Think it was an oak, but my knowledge of Gulf Coast Florida’s flora is limited.
3. Just finding it on YouTube has me dancing at the keyboard.
4. I’m a military brat. Our family lived in Japan at that time.
5. It was cancelled about the same time I gave up Saturday Morning Cartoons. Yes, boys and girls, there was a day when cartoons were restricted to just after school and Saturday mornings.
6. Shocked by the exaggeration? I’m from Texas;  hyperbole is practically mandatory.