Sunday, May 8, 2016

Turn and face the strange.... ch- ch- ch- changes......

A long time ago, in what feels like a galaxy far, far away.... a very unhappy and overweight girl walked into a CrossFit gym for the very first time.  She was scared to death, but totally sick of feeling bad about herself and how she looked.  After just a few weeks of collapsing to the floor after every single workout, she was hooked to this new thing that she had found.  Skills slowly developed, weights got heavier, and times dropped. The rest as they say, is history..... or is it? 

The only thing that you can count on to remain the same in life, is that fact that EVERYTHING changes.  For the better part of 2008-2013, I was in love with CrossFit.  I was dedicated.  I  worked two jobs and nearly 90 hours a week and I made time to get to the box at 0515 at least 4 days a week.  Sometimes 5.  I would work until 11 or midnight and be right back up at 0415 and get to the box. Nevermind the beating that I gave my body, I was committed and I was in some of the best shape I've ever been in.  I don't want to say I was slaying workouts because I am far from a metcon ninja, but, my performances were decent and lord knows I could sling some weight around.  I lived it, slept it, and breathed it.  Sometime around 2013 I even got on the Paleo train and started working on my health hardcore.  So you could say I ate it too.  

But, something happened and I can't put my finger on the when or the where, but.... that desire, that burning sense or need for this to be all-encompassing, disappeared.  I don't know when, and I don't know why, but somehow it vanished.  After my foot surgery, I took several months before I could walk properly let alone even THINK about putting weight on my foot to the point where I could workout again.  When I finally did get the nerve up to rejoin CrossFit in June of 2014, I made the decision not to go back to my old box.  I couldn't go back there knowing that there was no way I could live up to what I used to be.  I was a wreck. I had quit my job, started a new one, was way out of shape, and wasn't really even sure how things were going to go.  I wanted a fresh start.  

I found a great gym, with one of my old coaches, and I thought things would just fall back into place.  But, they haven't.  And I'm having a hard time putting my finger on the why.  I have a goal to get back to going to the gym 4 days a week.  That's been my goal for almost a year.  I think in that year, it may have happened twice.  That's not counting the goals I have to get back on my bike and back into running since I did agree that I am going to do the Army Ten Miler again this year.  

For some reason, I am having a VERY tough time meeting these goals.  I know some folks will say that I just need to suck it up and do it, but the reality is, that what I'm so stumped by is WHY this is so hard.  I used to be the girl who could literally beat the ever loving snot out of her body and then get right back up and go work out and do it all over again.  There were plenty of days where I pushed 16-20 hour work days and I NEVER had a problem getting there.  So I don't understand why I can't now.  It just seems like there is a giant roadblock in front of me, and I haven't the foggiest how to move it.  For the girl who used to have no problem popping her eyes open at 0415 to get to the gym by 0515, it feels foreign to struggle to just GET to the gym a lousy 4 days a week.  I don't understand WHY this is so hard.  I don't understand where this change came from or when or how it occurred.  I'm completely flummoxed.  It feels odd and it feels very strange that what was once so easy and so familiar, is now a complete challenge for me.  

My work schedule now is very different than it used to be, and rather than having a set day job, and a relatively set evening job, I jump all over the map.  Some days I have a very early morning job, and some days I have a very late evening job, and then some days I have a very early morning job AND a late evening job.  Maybe what my body is missing is the routine.  Maybe that's what I need? Maybe I need to start getting up at the same time every day regardless and doing the same thing each day.  

Maybe I just need to get back to blogging so that I can hold myself accountable again.... maybe I need to see it in print so that I can force myself to see things in black and white. I truthfully don't know.  But, I know one thing is for sure.  The only thing that stays the same, is that everything changes.  Everything.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

I may have been paranoid, or I may have just saved my own life....

About a month or so ago, I was getting ready to take a shower and noticed a red mark on my back by my love handles.  (Yup, I've totally got those) It looked like I had scratched myself while getting dressed.  It was roughly the width of my fingernail and it just looked like it could have been a spot that I hit while pulling on my pants, or even putting on a shirt. The weird thing was, I had no recollection of doing that.  I thought something like that would have at least hurt somewhat and I would remember it, but I didn't.  So I shrugged it off and went about my daily business.

Well, let's fast forward back into real time, you know like you do on your cable box? (Well, but when will THEN be NOW? Points if you can identify what movie that's from...tehehe....) Anyway, back in the now.... last week I started to get sick.  I felt a cold creeping on.  The acheiness,  the sore throat, swollen glands, you know, the general icky feeling you get as you're getting sick.  I was really tired and in general just not feeling great.  I got through the weekend and on Monday thought, "Well, I feel gross.  I'm going to take as much cold stuff and liquid as I can and go to bed as soon as I get home." I did as I said I was going to do, and was in bed by 5:30pm.  I woke up the next day feeling loads better and thought, "Ha! I showed that cold who's boss!" I went into work that day, and left that day nearly crawling.  I was wiped out.  

The next day I was scheduled off from work but had a meeting to attend.  I went in for the meeting and to get a few other assorted odds and ends done. Again, I started the day out just fine, but could barely stand up by the end of the day.  I just couldn't seem to hold things together.  I went home and went to bed.  Yesterday, I woke up and thought, "Gosh, this house is filthy and I need to clean." So, I loaded up the dishwasher for a run, vacuumed around downstairs, and started to clean the bathroom.  About an hour into all of this, I got so tired I had to stop.  I came into the bedroom to lie down and immediately fell asleep for the next 3+ hours until it was time for work.  

As I was getting in the shower yesterday, I just happened to notice that that same spot from a month ago still had a mark, only this time, it didn't look like a fingernail scratch.  It was no longer red, but it was oval.  The middle was pretty much faded back to skin tone but the outside was ringed with red.  I immediately started searching for online pictures of something similar because it just looked odd to me. I tried to dismiss it as nothing, but it really started to nag at me. I did some google searching and low and behold, it looked identical to some tick bite photos.  What if I had been bitten by a tick and just hadn't realized it? The timeline fit.  I had been hiking on Roosevelt Island outside DC while I had been on staycation a little over a month ago.  I had gotten sick with flu like symptoms that definitely involved some joint pain as I was getting up in the mornings, and the fatigue I was experiencing was beyond just the regular, "I work two jobs and I'm tired" kind of fatigue.  I suddenly became much more concerned.

I went to work as planned yesterday, and when I shared my paranoia with some of my coworkers (one of which has an advanced case of Lyme disease) they immediately told me to go get it checked.  They didn't think I was being paranoid at all.  So, I hunted around this morning for an urgent care center that would take my insurance and luckily discovered that one that just opened about a quarter mile away did.  So, I went first thing this morning.  I expressed my concerns to the nurse who weighed me and took my blood pressure, and the doctor who saw me asked a series of follow-ups based on that.  After seeing the mark, he immediately said that it looked suspect and put me on a 2 week run of antibiotics and requested a tick borne illness panel.  

Now, it may come back that I have a wicked cold that has just been tearing me apart, and the tick panels come back negative. In truth, I'm hoping that this is what happens.  But, it may also come back with a positive identification for Lyme disease or another tick borne illness.  If it comes back negative, hoo-ray! I'll take a cold any day.  But if it comes back positive, then I will thank my paranoid self for speaking up.  Lyme disease is one of those things that not too many people are talking about, but it definitely can have a serious impact on people's health.  My coworker went undiagnosed for over a year.  And in that year, the disease took away her strength, her energy, and her ability to do things that normal people like you and I do every day. I'm hoping that I don't have to experience anything like what she is going through, and I am thankful that, if it does in fact turn out to be Lyme disease, I will have caught it early enough to treat it.  So, the moral of this story is, sometimes you need to listen to your own gut, even if you think you may be being paranoid.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

You don't do WHAT? I don't think we can be friends anymore.....

The other day I wrote my first blog in a really, really long time.  I know I'm a little rusty and my humor and usage of Katieisms is a little off, but give me some time to get these old wheels greased back up and things will be back to normal in no time.  As I get back into this whole blogging thing, it only makes sense to talk about my life now and how CrossFit fits in there, not what CrossFit used to be for me.  And there are some things that I'm going to put out there in that spirit of full disclosure that may sound.... odd if you've been a reader of my blog.  Truth be told, I've taken so many hiatuses (hiati??!?) from blogging that I'm not sure any of my readers from the way back then still exist.  But if you are still here, and wondering what in the hell I've been up to with my life, you may find things are vastly different these days.

The other day I wrote a blog about not being dead.  Shocking I know that I was writing a blog, but yet I wasn't dead.  (This blog is just chock FULL of rocket sciency type stuff folks) It seems to be the consensus of the masses that CrossFit is just, well, it's EVIL and if you try it, well you're going to like, rip an arm out of the socket and just, die a slow and horrible and painful death.  Ok, ok, fine.  They may be a SLIGHT  exaggeration from the articles (HEY, artistic license ok????!?!?!) but you get the point.

Truthfully, I think one of the reasons that I was able to leave CrossFit and still come back after roughly 7 months has to do with my attitude towards CrossFit now, and in particular to how many days I work out.  I'm going to confess to everyone now, that I only work out three days a week.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Yup, you read correctly.  Three days.  Not five, three. Now, if you need to go unfriend me on Facebook because you just can't be friends with me anymore, then please feel free.  While I am an uber competitive person, I'm tired.  I love CrossFit, but I'm tired.  My body physically feels tired by the end of the week.  Hell sometimes it's tired at the beginning of the week.  I have learned that the key to my longevity and my continued success with CrossFit is to only go three days a week.  I would like to work my way back up to four, but even after a year of being back at CrossFit, it's hard for me to do.  See, I've been listening to my body more and more these days.  And my body has been saying, ENOUGH.

As I've gotten older, my stress load has gotten heavier, my work load has gotten heavier, and quite honestly, my desire to be that bad ass chick killin' it at the gym has decreased.  Now, does that mean it's gone? Oh hellz no, but it does mean that I no longer see a point in falling asleep at midnight, waking up at 0400 to go try to get a workout in, then going and working a 14 hour day.  I've learned that that is actually counterproductive.  The amount of stress that I'm putting on my body by doing that is actually undermining the work that I'm putting into my health and fitness.  Making myself go to the gym five days a week is actually not good for my body, and it's not good for my head either,  which whether you want to believe it or not, is a HUGE part of your fitness.  Going to the gym five days a week turns CrossFit into another job, another stressor... and it stops being fun.  It stops being about health and fitness and my journey towards being a healthy individual.  It turns into something completely and totally different, and something that isn't positive.  It turns it into, "Ok, how can I squeeze this in?" and "How much time can I take to relax after the wod before I have to run out the door and get home so I can shower and get to work?" It stops being about the camaraderie and the fellowship, and literally, for me anyway, becomes a walloping stress on my body because my body just can't figure out how to possibly get everything in.

I'd love to come five days a week.  I love the people who coach me, and I love the people I work out with.  But the truth is, that just isn't in the cards for me right now and that's ok.  If it's not in the cards for you either, that's ok too.  I think the one thing that we lose sight of in CrossFit is the fact that, this is not a sprint.  Health and fitness are lifelong goals. The more stress you put on yourself to get to these goals RIGHT MEOW, the less fun it's going to be.  The more like a job it's going to feel.  At least that's what happened to me.  I love working out three days a week.  I enjoy going.  I still get a good sweat on, and I am still pretty doggone strong, which I love.

Having said that, am I as strong now as I could possibly be? No.  Am I as fast now as I could possibly be? No.  But, I will say that I enjoy CrossFit more now than I used to going five days a week.  It's easier for me to go to the box now than it was before.  I also don't feel as beat up and abused as I did when I was going five days a week.  See, when I jumped ship out of teaching last year, I wound up in a job that's actually much more physical than teaching.  I actually work in a grocery store.  I can tell you that it's critical that I'm able to move and lift and function.  I can't afford to be so sore from workouts that I have to sit or not walk, or not be able to carry.  It's important.  Five days a week would honestly cripple me.  I think four would be feasible and even better for me, but I'm working my way back up this ladder. For awhile, there were some weeks where two days was just all I could manage.  But the important thing is, I went.  This is a marathon.  I want to be healthy and have a great relationship with my food and my body for the rest of my life.  I don't want to get so focused on the short term goals that I get there and then go, ok that was great.  And I'm done.  Unfortunately, health and fitness don't work like that.  They are constantly in flux, and constantly require attention and care.

So what's the point of all of this you ask? My point, you see, is that your CrossFit training should be about you.  Screw the white board, and screw the main site. Yes, yes, blasphemy, I know.  But here's the deal.  There is only one name, and one number on the board that matter, and that is yours.  For me, in order to maintain a long lasting relationship with CrossFit, I can't burn out, and I can't turn this into another job.  Believe me, I KNOW that HQ says 3 on, 1 off.  I know that.  I know that the white board is always a source of inspiration, but it's also a source of negativity sometimes.  Don't let these things take over your thoughts.  CrossFit is about you, your health, your fitness.  And honestly, if it doesn't fit into the 3 on, 1 off mold, then eff it! I'm learning, God but it's so slow, that the only person who can take care of me, is me.  I have to find something that works for me, and right now, it's three days.  As I said earlier, I'd love to add a fourth day back, but, quite honestly, it's hard.  But regardless of whether or not I get four, the point is, do your own thing.  Don't worry about what the sites and the white boards say.  Do what is going to continue to help you on the path towards your health and fitness goals, and screw everybody else.  (Not literally, I definitely meant figuratively) As Aerosmith says, "life's a journey, not a destination, and how high can you fly with broken wings?" If you're constantly injured or tired from trying to wod everyday, cut back.  Do you and find what makes you happy.  The relationship you are in with your health and fitness is the longest one you will ever be in, so make it a good one.  Make yourself happy.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

According to, well, EVERYONE, I should be dead by now.... but, good news, I'm not!

I can't tell you how many times I see articles swearing up and down that CrossFit is bad, and that it causes more injuries than any other sport.  Not to mention, it's helping to pave the way for some very lucky doctors' children to go to college! Thanks CrossFit! Ugh, every single time I see one of those articles it makes me want to start punching the computer screen.  Ok, well, maybe not that.  I would have to pay to replace it, and yeah... about that.  But, you get the point.  It makes me angry.  According to all of those people, and all of those articles for that matter, I should actually be dead.  No, seriously!

According to all of these people, there is no way that someone could do CrossFit for a long period of time.  According to all of those articles, the injuries will get me, and I will realize the evils of CrossFit, and decide that there are far better uses of my time out there, because CrossFit is bad.  I don't really want to ruin all of, well, we'll just keep calling them "those people's" day, but.... I have a very deep, dark secret I want and NEED to confess to the world.  Are you ready? Of COURSE you are.  You were born ready..... deep breath... here we go..... I'VE BEEN CROSSFITTING FOR OVER 7 YEARS! (almost 8).

Wait, wha? Yeah, you read that right...... 7 flipping years.  There was a minor hiccup in there with that whole foot surgery thing, but that actually was not a direct result of CrossFit.  That was a direct result of me not having an arch in my foot and doing a lot of walking for the past x number of years.  But back to my point here.... 7 years is a long time.  And here's the thing I don't get.... if CrossFit is so evil, if CrossFit is just going to lure me down the dark and dangerous road to rhabdo and injuries and totally ruin my life..... uh, why has it not ruined my life and killed me yet?

My relationship with CrossFit throughout the years hasn't always been rosy.  We've had our ups and downs just like any relationship would, mostly due to work and schedule related issues, but in the end, it's never broken me.  Have I had injuries? Legitimate ones? Yeah.  In 7 years, I've had 3.  3 injuries that actually required the care of someone smarter than me.  1 of those injuries actually wasn't really even CrossFit related, but CrossFit was more or less the straw that broke the camel's back.  I had tried to move and set up my classroom the week before the competition.  Is it any wonder my back was really sore after the weekend? Of course not! I'd spent the whole week prior using improper form to lug around boxes of crap, not to mention desks, chairs, and other assorted classroom items.  It's sort of a no brainer.  I should have pulled out of the competition and I didn't, so I don't blame CrossFit for that one at all.  The other 2 were honestly more my fault than CrossFit's.  It's true.  I'm a stubborn individual.  And I paid the price for that.

Now, before everyone goes around shouting, see! She did get injured, also understand that while these injuries did require some attention, they were not life-threatening, nor did they actually keep me from working out.  They also happened at competitions where I was away from my home box, and my inner "Just DO it!" kicked in.  So before anyone accuses my coaches of not watching me, understand that this was something different entirely.  These injuries were minor dings and tweaks that required a little working around.  I had to get creative sure, but at the end of the day, I could have done the same damage to myself in my classroom alone as I did in the gym.

So what's my point? My point is, if I listen to everyone else out there, the naysayers, the "fitness experts", the bloggers, the article writers, and the self-proclaimed couch experts, I should, for all intensive purposes, be dead.  CrossFit, in this length of time, should have debilitated me to the point where I shouldn't be able to move or enjoy life.  So in other words, dead.  But I'm not.  SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! NO WAY! Yup, way.  I'm not dead.

So what does that mean exactly? Well clearly, this must mean that I'm a freak of nature with extraordinary athletic prowess. Really? I'm over here rolling on the floor at that one.  It couldn't be farther from the truth.  Ok, so then, I must have a private doctor who helps me every day? Seriously, do you have any idea how much that would cost? I don't know if you all know this or not, but uh, I'm not Dana Torres.  Well then clearly, I must be lying.... nope, not at all.

So this begs the question then, of why am I not dead? Because I said so! Kidding, but I've always wanted to use that as a legitimate answer to a question.  I don't have kids so I may never get to use that one.  I had to... But back to the matter at hand... me being dead, or not rather. Why am I not dead?

I think that my story illustrates what a lot of us have known for a really long time.  CrossFit, when done as it's intended, isn't a bad thing.  CrossFit can be an important, and long lasting, part of your life.  CrossFit can be a tool of your health and fitness.  And when I say your health and fitness, I don't just mean for your body, but for your mind too.  The story of the past year of my life is an interesting one, and maybe some time I'll get around to writing about it, but I know that without CrossFit in my life, there are times when my mental fortitude would have probably broken.  I know that there were times were I treated what I was going through much the same way I treat those difficult wods in the gym.  I put my head down, gritted my teeth, and found a way to just keep moving.  Without CrossFit in my life, I'm not sure that that strength would have been there.

Now, this doesn't mean that CrossFit is without risks, absolutely not! But any CrossFitter or coach worth their salt will tell you that the key to longevity in CrossFit is acknowledging those risks, and working to minimize them.  And THAT is exactly what I've done.  I am absolutely not super human, and I am by no means rich enough to provide myself with daily personal care from an advanced team of doctors.  What I have done is talked extensively with my coaches about what I've got going on in my life.  They know and understand that my schedule is insane.  They know what the limitations are for someone like me who is working out the number of days I work out, and they are quick to tell me if they think I'm out of line.  I've taken rest days when I'm tired, and I've stayed in bed on some days rather than coming to the gym because I understand the inherent risks and long term affects of working out when your body is suffering from sleep deprivation.  I've changed my diet, and I've developed the attitude that what I can do on any given day is simply what I can do.  These things have enabled me to be able to continue to CrossFit, despite the fact that, according to everyone else, I should be dead.  There is longevity to be found in CrossFit, without a doubt, and I'm living proof.... literally.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Stages of CrossFitdom

I'm not sure if it's just me, but it seems like lately, I've seen a ton of articles written about CrossFit. CrossFit is bad, CrossFit is evil, CrossFit causes injuries, and everyone who does CrossFit never shuts up about CrossFit. I'm not going to write a blog screaming that CrossFit is the best thing and that everyone who wrote those articles is wrong, because I think there is some truth to them. But I think the truth has to do with what stage of Crossfitdom you're in. I know, I know, I just invented another new're welcome. But I think that honestly and truly, CrossFit is kind of like grieving, in a way. They always talk about the stages you go through with grief, how it's a progression. I think the same can be said with CrossFit. By now I'm sure you're scratching your heads and going what in the world is she talking about. Well, allow me to humbly explain what I think are the stages of Crossfitdom.

Stage 1- The Window Shopper
CrossFitters in this stage aren't really CrossFitters....yet. These are the folks who are pretty curious about CrossFit. They heard about it through a friend or coworker and are wondering about this mysterious cult like thing. They do a little light digging on the interwebs and perhaps ask a question or two of the friend or coworker like "How often did you go when you started?" Or "How sore were you when you started?" From their inquires, folks can tell they are interested but need a little help jumping into Stage 2. These people can often be easily spotted doing a slow drive by or by pressing their faces to the glass of local Crossfit boxes. These CrossFitters are harmless to non-CrossFitters and can still function in outside society.

Stage 2- The Newb
As the name implies, these are folks who are brand spankin new to CrossFit. These folks are often found in elements class or doing trial classes at local boxes. Their curiosity has grown to the point where they have decided to dip their toss in the CrossFit Kool-Aid and they are learning whether or not they like the movements and atmosphere enough to stay. CrossFitters in this stage will begin to have discourse surrounding their exercise as they may begin to be noticeably sore or notice an increase in energy. The CrossFitters in this stage are still relatively harmless to non-CrossFitters and can still function in outside society.

Stage 3- The Novice
These are the folks who have graduated elements and have been doing CrossFit for 1-3 months. In this stage they begin to dabble a bit with the idea of making some dietary changes, or coming in more often to the gym. CrossFitters in this stage are seeing noticeable changes in their bodies and are beginning to become more and more in love with the CrossFit world. While they are not chugging the Kool-Aid from the bottle, they are sipping the libations quite freely and are beginning to discuss what they are doing, as others are noticing changes too. It is in this stage that we first begin to see the "conversion" factor. It is in the "Novice" stage where we begin to see CrossFitters begin to try to bring new members into the fold. They tell everyone that they've "never felt better" and that they (their friends, family, coworkers, SO's) should really think about giving it a shot. CrossFitters in this stage can still function in outside society, but can at times be annoying to non-CrossFitters.

Stage 4- The Honeymoon Stage
Depending on the CrossFitter, this stage can last anywhere from month 4-years. In this stage, EVERYTHING about CrossFit is the best. This is the stage in which the first rule of CrossFit becomes crucial. The first rule of CrossFit is.... always talk about CrossFit. And why not? CrossFitters in this stage are in love with EVERYTHING! They're making great gains. Times are dropping, weights are increasing, they've discovered Paleo and the whole world is their oyster. They feel so damned fantastic that they want EVERYONE else to feel just as freakin' amazeballs as they do. These CrossFitters have the best of intentions, they really do, but unfortunately they routinely piss off outside society and can only be seen with other CrossFitters because of.... the first rule of CrossFit. And perhaps we should include in the first rule of CrossFit, always talk or FACEBOOK about CrossFit. If the only thing you ever talk about is CrossFit, well eventually those people who DON'T CrossFit will get annoyed hanging out with you. At some point, this stage will end, however, this may be the WORST of the CrossFit stages.

Stage 5- The "CrossFit Competitions are FUN" Stage
Now, the interesting thing about this stage is, some people skip this stage and head straight for stage 6. Others skip 5 an 6 all together. But, with the rise of CrossFit competitions, it's only natural that many CrossFitters will at some point wonder just how well they would do if they competed against other people who were doing the same thing. These CrossFitters have set goals for themselves and really ought to be commended for setting goals and working hard. However, in this stage, the first rule of CrossFit still applies, and even though they are not serious about competing at high levels, there is still a lot to worry about in this stage.... particularly competition day outfits. To outsiders, this type of conversation is both baffling and frustrating. Who really needs to know where to get knee high socks? Ah yes, CrossFitters. CrossFitters in this stage have limited success interacting with outside society, and although again they are competing just for fun, they tend to intermingle with just their own, especially as during this stage diet is key. Eat for performance. Paleo only. No, I will NOT be going out for wings and beer....mmmmmmm beeeeerrrr.....

Stage 6- The "This shit is serious, and I mean business"
For people in this stage of CrossFit, rules #2-3 of CrossFit become important, in addition to the first rule of CrossFit. Always talk about CrossFit, always be doing CrossFit, and when you're not doing CrossFit, read up/watch up on CrossFit. These CrossFitters really want to be the next Rich, and take it very seriously. Diet is key.... must get protein and my Progenex. True story? Sometimes these people are annoying even to other CrossFitters. It's great that they have goals, but if their goals are causing them to judge others, it can become a bit dicey. CrossFitters in this stage do not interact with outsiders. They're too busy talking about CrossFit, doing CrossFit, or reading up/watching up on CrossFit. Not all, but many CrossFitters in this stage simply need to be left alone.

Stage 7- The Healthy CrossFitter
The CrossFitters in this stage have come full circle. They have had the honeymoon stage where they have been in love with everything, and more than likely they've gone through one of the competition stages at some point. They've realized that while training and diet are important, there is a balance to everything. These CrossFitters realize that it is possible to be stupid, and know when to back off (probably because they learned the hard way once). They also respect things like rest days, and understand that even at this stage, scaling is an option. These are the people who want to be fit for the sake of being healthy and having a great life. They understand they have limits, but that CrossFit is a fantastic way to help them maintain an active lifestyle and still be pretty damned ripped. These CrossFitters are fully integrated into society and you probably wouldn't even realize that they were walking among you, except for the fact that you just saw a totally normal looking office chick save a child's life by deadlifting a car off his small frame while wearing 4 inch heels. Dead give away.

Now, some may ask if it is possible to revert through the stages. Absolutely. Full blown injuries (ie bone spur removal!!!) can definitely take you back a few stages. It can seem frustrating to have to go through it all again. A healthy CrossFitter can also decide to re-enter the competition world. The important thing to understand is what stage a CrossFitter is in so that you understand how to approach them. Asking a honeymooner about CrossFit may wind you up in an hour long conversation about CrossFit. Approaching a serious competitor may wind up with a "do you even CrossFit bro" look. But, if you keep your eyes peeled and know the signs, you'll know which stage a CrossFitter is in, and be able to gauge their ability to interact with you on a non-CrossFit level.

******In the spirit of full-disclosure, I have been in all of these stages, except for the really serious stage. I have however, watched many people go through that stage, and at times, it can be very off-putting. Everything I say about the stages, is said very tongue in cheek. Well, except about the beer. I never joke about beer. In all seriousness though, all CrossFitters though do deserve to be commended for finding something they enjoy and working towards being healthy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Leaving Education Behind

A short while ago, I wrote a blog about slowing down my life, and I mentioned in that blog that I had made the decision to leave education. I also mentioned that there were many reasons that ultimately I decided to make that choice. I never got around to writing about why I ultimately decided to leave the education field, but with school returning in the DC metro area last week and this week, I've been seeing a lot of links to articles about teachers. More importantly about good teachers and bad teachers and who is responsible for students' learning, and why we are failing our students. A lot of fingers are pointed at the teachers, and it is very frustrating to me. I would challenge anyone to step into the life of a teacher even for just one day before they start blaming them for the evils of the world. Teachers have so many things on their plates, that many people don't even realize how difficult it is to be a teacher. Instead it's just so much easier to blame them for everything that goes wrong with our schools, regardless of the fact that so much is out of their hands. I got so incensed by some of what I read, especially some of the comments, that I felt that it was time to blog about why I left. I know I don't have many readers, but if my ramblings can help people have a better understanding of what it's like to be in a school, and what it's like to go through this on a daily basis, then the time it takes me to write this will be well spent.  Perhaps it will even help to shed a little light on things like teacher retention, and why it's so hard to keep people in this profession. There are many reasons that I left teaching, and if I listed every single one, this blog would be pages long. I'll try to give probably the most compelling reasons (at least for me).

Reason #1- Carrying the load
I know this may sound like an odd way to explain why I left teaching, but it's the honest to goodness truth. I could not carry the load that I was carrying any longer. I don't mean physically carrying my bag and papers to the car, I mean the emotional load. If you think that when teachers leave at the end of the day, they stop thinking about teaching, you are very, very, very wrong. It got the point in my life where I was constantly thinking, talking, and worrying about my kids and how I was going to reach them. I couldn't go a weekend, or a weeknight, without texting a fellow teacher and asking them about a lesson to help so and so get this hard concept, or a plan to get so and so more focused in class. As teachers, we carry the emotional burdens of our students as well. We know that our kids don't always have everything at home, and so even when we are taking the time to do things in our lives that we need to do, ie groceries or a Target run, we are thinking about our kids. We're picking up the little extras, notebooks, crayons, snack bars etc for the kids we know need it. We're staring at a sale rack of items, wondering if we buy these, if it will help so and so learn better. We often put the needs of our kids ahead of ourselves, or our families. We so badly want to help them and reach them that they take the front seat, while everything else takes the back seat. If you've ever been a caregiver, you know how it feels to constantly put others first. It is exhausting. As teachers we worry about the types of home lives our kids have, and when we know certain things about our students, we try to help, and we worry. We worry about the bruises, or the uncle who seems just a bit off, or we worry about the cleanliness of our students when we see them in the same clothes for the third day in a row. We want to help them all and we try. We know when there are divorces and we open our ears and our hearts, and when we hear stories of parents and siblings who are dying, we take their pain and make it our own. We are teachers but we are friends, and sometimes ears, and sometimes we are more parents than we ought to be, but we do it because we care. But caring and carrying others burdens has a price. And after 9 years, I simply could not pay it anymore.

Reason #2- Pass that test!
I'm sure that no one is surprised that I mentioned standardized testing. Truthfully, I never minded the implementation of state standards. The state could certainly tell me what to teach, but they never told me HOW to teach it. It was up to me and my creative brain to accomplish that. And truthfully, I think that this is something I was good at, being creative. But at the end of the day, they wanted to measure what I taught, and here is where we butt heads. I understand the reasoning for the testing, however, expecting the pass rates that they do, is simply absurd. Time and time again I was told I needed better pass rates. Time and time again I was told to "help them get over the hump" but no one ever stops to think that not all of these students came to me with the same set of skills. Last year for example, only 34% of my students had PASSED the math test the year before. So according to the state only 34% of my kids were ready for 4th grade math, but yet, by the end of the year, 100% were expected to have mastered 4th grade math. So those students who were not proficient in 3rd grade math, are now somehow supposed to be proficient in 4th grade math? How does that work? How do you fix all of the issues from the previous year, and KEEP GOING? How does that work? In addition, the school that I was a part of was a focus school in the state of Virginia. This means we were being closely monitored due to our low standardized testing scores. We were subject to county and state walk throughs on a regular basis. We were constantly giving more and more and more assessments to gauge the progress of our students. The county and state scrutinized test scores on everything from county benchmarks to end of unit math assessments. Time and time again I was asked to explain my low pass rates. Why weren't more of my students doing well? It was terrifying, it was exhausting, and it was stressful. Stressful to the point where I would wake up at 2:30-3:00 in the morning because of the anxiety about the test scores. I began to see my students, not as people anymore, but as numbers. Pass rates, and fail rates, and it saddened me. At 32 years old, I felt as if I was headed for a full scale heart attack. To put it simply, my life was worth more than those test scores.

Reason #3- 100+ hour work weeks
I hear people say all the time, that teachers are so lucky because they're done at 3:00 and walk out the door without a care in the world. I want to set the record straight, NO ONE, not even the worst teachers out there, are capable of actually doing this. Why? Because quite frankly there just simply is not any time during the day to do half of the things that you are required to do. There is no way to return calls, answer emails, make copies, write lessons, cut out lesson materials, hunt down books and resources, make new resources, collaborate, desagregate data, hold meetings, grade papers, update websites, attend professional developments, read to continue educating yourself, and teach a class of 25+ students in a 7.5 hour work day. Teachers literally put in hundreds of hours worth of overtime in a year. It's almost as if it's an expected part of the profession. It's expected that they will arrive early, stay late, meet at any given moment, work weekends on lesson plans, and take any work that doesn't get done in the classroom home to work on at night. My contract hours never officially started until 8:40, however, I was in the building by 7:00, if not earlier, almost every day. Most days, unless I had an appointment or had to go to my other job, I was in the building until well past 6:00. And yes, I logged time at home, and on the weekends as well. Even on breaks, it was hard for me to go a day without picking up my school work. In the end, the number of hours that teachers put in is insane, and I just couldn't do it anymore.

Reason #4- Finances
A lot of people talk about the median salary of teachers, and talk about how it's so awesome, and how it's pretty sweet that we get summers off too. I am someone who put myself through school, paid for my first car, apartment, move to Virginia, etc. Because of this, and also a few other poor decisions upon moving to VA, I am in debt up to my eyeballs, and quite frankly, my salary didn't cut it, especially after it was frozen for consecutive years. I've worked a second job for years, trying to get ahead. But in truth, the second job actually hurts me because I wind up owing in thousands of dollars in taxes each year. It's kind of crazy. I need the second job, but yet, the second job puts me even further in debt. One might say that I should change the second job, but, the second job provides the finances that I need in the what do I do? In the summer months, I worked even more at the second job so that I would have money to open my classroom in the fall. Teaching is a profession where it's customary, nay, almost expected, that teachers will buy their own supplies and materials. I can't tell you how many thousands of dollars worth of materials I purchased and put back into my own classroom over the years. Everything from arts and crafts supplies, books, games, puzzles, furniture, carpets, software, movies, and even bulletin board supplies. It's crazy to think that the salary I did receive was expected to then be spent on things for my job. How many other professions out there buy their own supplies? Do secretaries buy their own pens and paper? Do doctors buy their MRI machines? No, their employers do, and then they use them. Why in the world do schools expect teachers to foot the bill for so many things? Fiscally speaking, I just couldn't do it anymore.

Reason #5- Being a personal punching bag
If I had to recount every time I took a verbal lashing from a parent, I'm not sure that I could truthfully recount every incidence. I understand that parents are very protective of their children. I can only imagine how I would be if I had any of my own, but I think that truthfully parents sometimes forget that teachers are human beings as well. I can't tell you how many times students went home and told half truths about things that happened at school, which then prompted angry emails and phone calls from parents. They couldn't believe how oblivious I could be to things going on in the classroom or in the lunchroom, and they couldn't understand how I could be such a horrific person. They accused me of being unfeeling and not caring about their children, they accused me of being mean to and not liking their children, and they said that I wasn't doing what I could to meet the needs of their children. I can't tell you how terrible it feels to work almost 12 hours everyday, and feel like you are doing so much to try to help your students, and then to receive emails like these. It feels like no matter what you do, you simply can't do enough. It hurts when you feel like you are making creative lessons and doing everything you can, only to basically be told you are worthless and a terrible person for doing what you are doing. I can think of no job where people have as much free reign to harass employees as in the teaching profession. If you try to step to a server, or bartender, or a nurse or a doctor and tell them they are a horrible person, someone else will get involved. A manager, a supervisor, SOMEONE. But with education, it's perfectly acceptable for parents to belittle and berate teachers as they see fit. Emotionally, it's very hard to deal with this type of thing all the time. I carried those emails with me, when I left the building, when I was in the building, and when I tried to sleep at night. I will never forget, so long as I live, the email from a parent saying they wanted to sue me because another child had made a racial comment to his son. At the time, I was not present in the classroom because I had been pulled for a special education meeting, so I had to try to investigate the situation. When I returned, his son was pulled for early dismissal before I could investigate. He emailed me that evening threatening to sue me because no action had been taken. Nevermind the fact that I couldn't take any action because I couldn't investigate what had happened because his child wasn't in school. I cried that night, and did not sleep after that email came through. I worried about it for two days until the situation was resolved. I was a terrible wreck. Emotionally speaking, I could not be the punching bag for people anymore.

Reason #6- Love and Life
Since moving to Virginia 9 years ago, teaching has been my life. I don't mean that in a figurative sense, I mean that literally. It has been the focal point of everything I do, and it has dictated my life. I would go to school early and stay late. I worked my second job because teaching didn't pay enough to pay the bills and have anything left over. I worked in the summers to try to save up money and try to get out of debt. I went to the gym at 0515 so I could stay late at school and have time at night to work. But mostly, if it didn't have anything to do with teaching, the gym, or my second job, I largely ignored it. That means family, friends, hobbies, and also love weren't really anywhere in the picture. At the heart of the heart of me, I am a hopeless romantic. I am a one and done type of girl, and I want love and a happy marriage at some point in my life. For the past 9 years, I have dated people only when it's fit into my schedule. I've had long distance relationships with the wrong people because it fit into the schedule. I could call or text when I had time, see them when I had time, and truthfully it didn't really interfere with my day to day operations. That type of relationship is never going to end the way I want. Working every minute of every day and focusing on nothing but teaching and students and money is NEVER going to make me truly happy. At the end of the day, my emotional needs are important, and it took me a very long time to realize that. Not having anything in my life except work will never fully satisfy me and will only lead to resentment and regret for opportunities missed later on down the line.

I think that in my time, I was at least a decent teacher. Some would say I was good. In my opinion, I never had the pass rates to consider myself good, and I know in my last year of teaching, my stress level was so high that I was a lot harder on my kids than I should have been. But regardless, I think I was decent, and there was a period of time where I really did enjoy my work, but that time is not now. Now I need to focus on me. I don't think that I'm alone in how I feel about teaching right now. I've seen many people leave the profession and move on to other things. Happiness and health, those things are important to have in life. Unfortunately, teaching can take those things away from you without you realizing it has happened. I'm glad I realized it before it was too late and made the choice to move on. In a few years, my mind may change. I may be more financially stable and able to have a less stressful teaching career. Maybe I'll be married and I won't feel like teaching is keeping me from finding a piece of me that's missing. Who knows.... but I know for now, this is the path I'm on, and these are the reasons that quite simply I cannot continue to do what I have always done. I hope that if you are friends with, or know, a teacher, you take the time to really understand what they do instead of making blind statements. In all of these reasons above, there is a lot of self-sacrifice. I can't make those sacrifices anymore. They still are. So be kind, and let them know they are valued and appreciated.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Living, for time

If you've been a long time reader (truth I'm not sure those exist anymore after my long hiatus) you've probably noticed a little bit more of a serious tone on my blog for awhile. I'm not sure what happened exactly, but somewhere along the line, I think I may have grown up a bit. Is this what happens when you hit 30? Don't get me wrong, I still love glitter (ooh! Shiny things!), loud music, heavy weights over my head, and inventing my own words. But my desire to blog about shiny things every day has diminished, if that makes sense.  

As I've gotten older, I've changed. Most recently, I've changed careers. And if you ask me point blank why I've changed careers, the answer is not as cut and dry as you might think. Yes, it was ultimately because I wasn't happy, but it was a lot more than that. It's a complex tirade (which for now I'll spare you from) that would include the phrase "living, for time". As CrossFitters, everything is about AMRAP and FT! We're competitive little buggers, and sometimes that competitive tendency spills out into the rest of our lives. One of the reasons that I quit my job, and my career, is because I was tired of living life, for time. 

Everyday I had to have conversations with myself. "At what time do I need to be up if I'm going to get to the gym? I need 15 minutes drive time, and is my bag already packed? Ok, no, then I need 15 minutes to get mobile and pack. Ok, oh shit wait. Today I go to Dogfish after school. Ok, I need to pack that bag too. Let's back up the alarm another 15 minutes. " Later in the day, "Ok, at what time do I need to be out of school to make it to Dogfish on time? I need to be there by 5, so I need to leave no later than 4:15." "Oh, I have to work this weekend, where can I cram in running to the store and getting over to the dry cleaners to get my choir dress done." "Oh and crap, I said I would meet ____ (insert name here) for coffee this week. Where can I do that?"  

That was my life. It was for time. How much time do I need? What's my work load? I have to complete these tasks under my time cap because I've got to move onto the next task, and if there's not enough time in the time cap, we just need to move faster. I was constantly moving through my life at a break neck pace. Constantly doing everything quickly. Now, I know I live in DC and it seems that everyone is always moving fast, but life isn't meant to be lived "for time". I shouldn't be rushing through things on a daily basis. I should be able to take some time to slow down and smell the roses so to speak. And with my old job, I couldn't. I simply couldn't. I was tired, and I didn't want to live my life "for time" anymore.  

Yesterday's wod hit me pretty hard today (HELLO walking lunges with 130 on the bar.... ooops) and I thought, today would be a great day to not fall asleep on the couch after work and get in a recovery wod of sorts on the bike. So I put TT on the back off my car and away we went. Oh, how rude, I'm sorry. I don't think you've met TT. Here she is!

While I was on the bike tonight doing my "recovery" wod, I caught myself trying to pedal faster, and hurry up. Why? I have no flipping idea. The purpose was to ride slow, let my legs loosen up, get the lactic out. But no, next thing I knew, here we were. Going for a "for time" kind of bike ride. So you know what I did? I stopped. I stopped because I need to remind myself that this isn't how life is supposed to be. Life isn't a "for time" type of wod. I pulled off the trail, and looked around. And you know what I saw? Beauty. The sun was setting and filtering through the trees, which by the way did I mention that they were next to the Potomac? Rowers were out on the water, and a huge flock of Canadian Geese were busy eating and pooping on everything! (Ok, the pooping part isn't beautiful, but they totally were.) And of course, in the background were the monuments. With a small turn to my left or right, I was within plain sight of the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and also the Washington Monument. How can you not just stop and take pause when you realize the enormity of that? People travel thousands of miles to come see these historic landmarks, and here I am so worried about getting my bike ride in for time, that I miss it. I ignore it. Life is not a sprint. It's not a wod where you get a chance to hit it again another day. If you're like me, maybe you should join me in NOT living life "for time" and actively taking a moment to try to slow things down. In my opinion, which is of course ever so humble, there are many things in life that shouldn't be for time. I've made a small list, just in case you were curious ( :) ) about what I think is worth slowing down for. You may disagree, you may agree, or you may want to add on, so feel free to comment. The purpose of my blog, well there are many, but the main purpose is to share my experiences with others, in hopes that someone may learn from the path I've already taken. Take this list, and maybe revisit it from time to time, and try to find some time for you to slow down. Life is never "for time".  

Katie's List of Things that are Totally and Eternally NOT for Time
1. Good cups of coffee
2. Good hugs
3. Breakamafast/Lunch/Dinner with good friends/company
4. Hikes
5. Bike rides (unless it's a race, then totally different)
6. Ice cream (in addition to getting a head rush, it's gone too fast!)
7. Slow dances whether in public, or your kitchen
8. Saturdays/Sundays/any day of the week where you don't have to work. Put the to-do list down. Target and Wal-Mart will still be there tomorrow!
9. Cuddling
10. S'mores (see #6)
11. Good books
12. A 1RM deadlift (DEFINITELY not for time)
13. Decorating for the holidays
14. A good date
15. A good kiss
16. Phone calls/Face Time with friends/loved ones
17. Puzzles
18. Good glasses of wine/whiskey/bourbon or your other beverage of choice
19. The day (once it's gone, it won't come back)
20. Baths (the door is locked, there is a book on the floor, and I lit the candles for a reason. Come back later.)