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Barbara Clough

Muscle memory

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On Friday, I had my coached session at CrossFit, and then my regular workout, so on Saturday morning I was already physically tired showing up for the 8:30 AM WOD. Saturdays tend to be either long workouts, which I like, or they're partner workouts, which I don't like. Long workout it was with five rounds for time of the following:

  • 16 Kettlebell Swings 70/53
  • 14 Toes to Bar
  • 12 Shoulder to Overhead 70/53
  • 3 Rope Climbs
Once upon a time, when I was younger and braver, I could climb ropes, but I hadn't done to in probably a decade. I settled for pulling myself off the floor with the rope. The good part? You won't fall off the rope and break your neck. The bad part? It's all dependent on upper body strength.

I chipped through the workout to the best of my ability, and hung around afterwards, putting away my gear, cooling down on the bike, making small talk. But I kept looking at the ropes dangling 15-20 feet from the ceiling beams, like giant plants growing down instead of up. Could I still do this? Would I fall off and break something? Would I just get stuck there, halfway up and halfway down? 

With only a few people left in the gym, including the owner, I decided to just try a climb. I jumped up, trying to remember how to loop the rope around my ankle and foot, floundering a little before muscle memory took over. I stepped on the rope, held tight with my hands, pulled my knees to my chest, stepped again, and moved my hands up. In four knees-up, I reached the top, slapped the rusty I-beam, and slowly slid down the rope, careful not to shred all the skin off my ankle. 

My coach was watching me, amazed, almost as amazed as I was myself. 
"Have you done that before?" he asked, "you did great." 
"Not in a decade," I said, "I didn't think I could do it. I'm as surprised as you are." 
"Great work," he said.

I realize so many of my limitations, mental, physical, educational are my own self doubt, my loss of confidence or lack of confidence that I never had. My muscles had remembered how to shimmy up a rope. Only my heard had forgotten that I could still do it. 

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Barbara Clough

WODs and Boxes

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I found the box by the sound of the weights hitting the floor. There's a thud-clang when the bar is dropped from a deadlift, and the plates shift, bouncing against the metal bar. Even though the rubber matts are thick and cover every inch of the bare concrete, the thud vibrates a little bit, enough to feel it. I walked down the hall, away from the Art of Drumming, on the other side of the basement in this old Art Deco building on the Hudson, long past its prime - now home to nonprofits, drumming schools, and CrossFit. It seems fitting the banging of drums and thudding of weights share space, the sounds bouncing and echoing off each other down the long hallway of polished concrete and soaring 20 foot ceilings.

Then I heard the coach shouting encouragement and clapping as the lock ticked down to the 20 minute mark before the buzzer rang. Whatever WOD I'd walked into had just finished and the smell of rubber and chalk and sweat greeted me at the door that also opened onto the loading document, the northern line of the MTA barreling past, and I knew I was home. Even after fifteen years of off and on CrossFit, the visceral sensation of walking into a new box is still exciting. I've done CrossFit in both hemispheres and on three continents, and I've yet to walk into one without feeling like I've come home. The pounding music that I never listen to anywhere else, the grunting as you pull the bar into a flat-back deadlift - these are the familiar sounds that ground me. 

Over fifteen years, I've gotten older and slower as we are all destined to, but as long as I can still do 30 sit ups on an abmat, 15 deadlifts, and 400 meter sprints in 90 degree heat, I'm not nearly as old as I think I am. 

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