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Barbara Clough

Bodyweight Deadlift!

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Earlier this year, not at new years, but maybe February or March, I set myself two physical goals. February and March are dark and cold and windy and winter seems always to have gone on forever in New England. Even though I was off sailing in the Caribbean and trying to power through mentally, I couldn't shake the winter blues. Even my light therapy lamp wasn't helping.

I decided that I wanted two things before I left for Ireland. Before I officially turned 60. Before I switched my life up yet again.

1. Deadlift my bodyweight. 

2. One unassisted pull up.

So I started working with my coach at CrossFit Merrimack, once a week, in addition to my regular WODs, then only about 3 x per week. Each week he'd put me through strengthening or mobility or technique exercises and sometimes they were nearly impossible for me to do and left me gasping in a hot sweat, and sometimes they were terrifying (sits ups on a GHD) but most times they were exhilarating. 

I learned so many things but the big one was this: I won't break. As I've gotten older and then with two years off CF because of the pandemic, I had this irrational fear that if I lifted too much, I'd hurt myself. Maybe it was loss of confidence; maybe being away for too long; maybe not feeling like I had a CF home. Hard to know but it doesn't really matter. 

During this time of coached sessions, I upped my attendance from 3 x a week to 5 x a week plus the coached session, and usually yoga or active recovery on another day. One full day of rest. Over time I realized I didn't need as much recovery time as I thought. That I wasn't sore every day from hard workouts but my body was tired. That I could lift so much more than I thought I could. 

So today, my nearly 60 year old body, on a 6'2" frame, lifted 173 #, which is what I weighed when I stepped on the scale this morning.

I am a Glamazon. 

The pulls up are still a stretch, but I didn't think I'd get to my body weight inside of 8 weeks, so who knows? I know I often undersell myself, even to myself. 

As I sit down tonight to fill out an application for a writer's residency, I remind myself that maybe not today or even tomorrow, but maybe in six weeks or six months, I'll be lifting my pen in a room overlooking the Pacific Ocean, one of a select few accepted. I just have to do the daily lifting. 

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Barbara Clough

Deadlifts and writing

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Today's WOD was 5-5-5-3-3-2-2 deadlifts at increasing weight, but starting heavy. My goal by the end of June is to deadlift my body weight - roughly 170lbs. It fluctuates daily, but not by much. The conundrum is that the more lean muscle I put on, the more my weight increases, even though my body stays the same. In some ways, I am chasing an ever increasing goal, thus the decision to just cap it at 170 lbs. 

Last week, during my coached session, I hit 163 lbs. That's the most I've lifted in probably 10 years, because of course, I am 10 years older. So again, chasing an ever increasing goal with a much older body. 

And yet, much like this MA degree I'm working on, I'll always be chasing in some sense an unattainable goal. As I learn to write better and to read more carefully, I realize how much more writing I need to do to get to where I want to be. And to write better, I have to read more and with greater discrimination so I know what is out there to be chased in a sense. As I read more widely, I find new genres, new forms, poetry, graphic novels, novels with visuals, nonfiction that reads like a prose poem. 

Maybe that's what this life is all about. Chasing the unattainable but in a good, positive, challenging, don't stop believing way. There's so much out there about which I am completely clueless! Why keep doing the same when I can always be switching it up?

I'll likely hit my deadlift goal next week, considering I did 25 heavy deads and still hit a PR. I won't hit my writing PR that soon, but today, after discouragement yesterday that left me lost, I feel like I can hit my writing goal, too.

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Barbara Clough


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As I get older, I find the things I once did are no longer easy. On FB, a "memory" popped up from 8 years ago. Part of the CrossFit WOD was fireman's carry your partner across L Street Beach in South Boston. I threw Claire over my shoulder like she was a 145 lb. side of beef and carried her however far it was. And she the same. 

Yet today, at the box, I was thrilled I could deadlift 112 lb. I should be able to deadlift my bodyweight, which is 167 lb. And yet, 112 lb. was the best I've done in years. Even before the pandemic, I'd had a hard time finding a box I really liked. I was used to competition level CrossFit coaches - not that I competed but coaches who were at that level. I think here in Lowell, I may have found the type of CrossFit box I like. Personal coaching, everyone does the same workout - not a fitness WOD for the skinny minnies, a real range of skills, but all being treated like we're competition material. So deadlifting the 112 # felt good. 

I have to remind myself that for almost 15 months, I did no weight lifting at all. I biked and walked and gardened and hiked and snowshoed, but now, it's like I'm back at the beginning, when I first started CrossFit in an effort to battle depression and midlife woes. I don't have those, but the muscles need time to readjust.

And I have to remind myself that we did the SAME deadlift workout last week, and I only lifted 90#. I'm going to attribute my stellar increase to my whey protein recovery shake. Maybe if I double up, I can do 125# next week. 💪

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