Thursday, October 25, 2012

Changing Lives

Let me start by saying this post isn’t directed towards anyone specific. This is about what I observed a couple of days ago and what I have experienced over the past 16 months since I decided to get my fat butt off the couch. Hopefully the handful of people that are actually going to read this will understand what I am saying and where I am coming from instead of seeing this as someone with a “better than you” attitude towards others. Hopefully something I say will make sense to someone out there.

On Saturday, October 20th at 1:00 a.m. myself and a number of friends and acquaintances assembled on Fayetteville Town Center for a Goruck Challenge that we had set up custom for ourselves. Meaning, we picked the date, we picked the time, we recruited the participants. It was my second Goruck Challenge after completing my first earlier this year. Twenty Nine of us embarked on the journey, and approximately 10.5 hours and 18.2 miles later, 27 of us finished.

This challenge was different in many ways from my first. This time, I knew most of the people participating (somehow I was able to recruit a number of them myself…suckers!) and most of the participants knew each other as well. By the time the challenge came around, many of us had already attended three “practice” gorucks that one of our participants (the craziest of the crazy) organized. This time I saw a group of people that had a vested interest in seeing each other finish. I won’t lie. Physically our team was weaker than the one I was a part of in Tulsa. But yet when it came down to it, this time our team was so much better and the experience so much more rewarding.

I am not going to blog about the entire experience just like I didn’t last time. Yes, we hiked for hours on end. Yes, we carried a bunch of stuff including each other as we went. Yes, we ended up in a pond in front of a hospital in 42 degree weather so we could get “scuba certified” or whatever. And yes, we froze our butts off for several hours before the sun finally came up. Those things are pretty normal…not normal normal...but Goruck normal. What wasn’t ‘normal’ for my last challenge was for someone to puke at flight #7, #8, and #9 of a nine-story bear crawl up a parking deck stairwell less than an hour into the challenge; to continue to puke several more times throughout the night; to collapse on the ground from leg cramps shortly thereafter, all the while being encouraged by his friends to keep going. What wouldn’t have been ‘normal’ for my last challenge was for that person to go the distance and complete the challenge. He did. It also wasn’t ‘normal’ last time for people to collapse from exhaustion at the end of a 200 meter bear crawl we received as punishment for I don’t remember what, while their "battle buddy" crawled alongside yelling words of encouragement until he finished. And it wasn't normal for someone to show up with an overuse knee injury from a crazy event the week before and hobble, skip, and jump the entire night to complete the challenge, never complaining once and always being encouraged. These people would have quit (or not showed up) last time. Things are different when people care. That is what was different about this Goruck Challenge. I have to wonder if the physical strength of our Tulsa team prevented us from learning much of what the Goruck Challenge is there to teach us.

When people care about you for real, they encourage you and they are there to support you.  Our goal, as a team, was to complete our Challenge and we did it. We finished, and all the while we encouraged each other. Some did more, some did less, but at the end we all celebrated our accomplishment.

Sure our goal, which really just resulted in us getting a little patch to prove we did it, may be pointless to some and silly to others.  Likewise, finishing a half-marathon, a marathon, four Tough Mudders or stripping a few more minutes off a Crossfit wod that almost killed me the first time I did it, is again, meaningless to some. There are certainly a lot of things more important than these. I suppose the only thing I "got" out of my efforts are a couple of medals (which of course my little one took to school and lost), a few headbands (yep, lost a couple of them too), and some personal satisfaction. 

What far too many people are missing out on are the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in setting an "impossible" goal, working towards it, and ultimately achieving it.  Do you really think I thought I could ever run a marathon when I started all this? Really? What far too many people are also missing out on is a "support group" that is there to encourage you and to celebrate your "victories", no matter how small, with you. And what far too many Americans are ignoring are the sad future consequences of a an unhealthy lifestyle. We are the ones called "crazy" while Lipitor and bypass surgery are called "normal". We are told our Crossfit fees are extreme (okay that one is pretty much true) while spending hundreds a month on medications for preventable illnesses are rarely called out for what they are...bad life decisions resulting in bad consequences.


"Crossfit is an obsession". Anyone that participates in Crossfit has heard it (and I mean anyone) and almost anyone that is close to a crossfitter or works with one has probably said it. You can't blame the outsider. Crossfitters tend to never shut up about Crossfit. Ever. And any outsider listening to a typical crossfit workout or conversation could only come to the conclusion that they are nuts. You want me to frog jump 50 meters, sprint the next 750 meters, come in and do 30 pullups and then deadlift 225 pounds 10 times, then repeat the whole thing two more times and do it all as fast as I possibly can so that I am close to passing out and/or puking?  Sure! You mean you start checking online for tomorrow's workout at 9:30 p.m. (hitting refresh every 30 seconds until it is posted) and then sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with butterflies in your stomach because you know how bad it is going to hurt in a few hours? And you like this Crossfit thing!?! To the outsider, crossfitters ARE nuts! 

But you outsiders also shouldn't be so quick to judge us.  We have found a workout routine that gets people in ridiculously good shape, with a ridiculously short time commitment when compared to other fitness alternatives. We have found others who are like-minded and who are there to encourage us no matter how weak, no matter how slow, and no matter how fat we are or were. When one of us posts a new PR (personal record) for a workout, the rest of us celebrate it. When one of us loses another 20 lbs this month, we are excited for them.  When we miss a workout, we have friends holding us accountable asking where we were, and making us feel guilty for skipping.  When one of us is in need, either financial or otherwise, we come together to meet the need be it a fundraising wod or other.  When one of us gets sick or injured, we are constantly asked how our recovery is coming.  All of these things are pretty much the "norm" to us. It is our "culture".  I have attended many churches in my lifetime. Sad to say that many of them could learn a few things from Crossfit.

When I first got off the couch in May of last year, I tried the more "traditional" route. First up, P-90X. That lasted about two weeks. I never even made it through the Yoga dvd once. Two hours of Yoga? Seriously? Globo-gyms? Not for me. Too many people looking at themselves in the mirror...we don't even have mirrors and I am guessing Trevor would lose his Crossfit affiliate if he put some up.  So, I started running instead. I hate running. Scratch that. I hated running.

By any "normal" standards, I was in great shape when I walked into Crossfit 540 a week before Thanksgiving 2011.  I was a couple weeks away from my first half marathon, and by most people's measures, "fit". How wrong I was. I don't think I ever felt so out of shape, weak and slow in my life than during my first few weeks. There is something very humbling about showing up thinking you are in good shape and then getting absolutely CRUSHED by some cutesy little Kindergarten teacher in a workout that is nothing more than 400 meter sprints, pullups, and situps. How is it that some "skinny little girl" can do this stuff better than me!?!  While I beat myself up internally, no one ever judged me at Crossfit. In fact, one of the cool things about Crossfit is that pretty much everybody sucks at it when they start. That being said, progress came quickly and I have yet to plateau. It seems to be almost impossible to plateau since your body never knows what you are going to throw at it from one day to the next.

When I first got off the couch my resting heart rate was 88 bpm and my total cholesterol was consistently right at 200 (want to guess if exercise was the suggested cure?). Now my resting heart rate is 62 bpm and all of my blood levels are at the healthiest ranges of normal. This stuff works.

If "normal" is being overweight and only a decade away from my first heart attack, I will take crazy.

"Extreme" Events

Speaking of crazy...Tough Mudders, Goruck Challenges, etc.  They are all referred to as crazy by almost everyone. I get it. Crawling through water while getting electrocuted will never be "normal".  Throwing a backpack filled with bricks, water, and food on your back and hiking around a city for 12 hours will never be considered "normal" either. What most people don't realize is how many lives have been changed by these so-called "extreme" events.  I can tell you with 100% certainty that if Tough Mudder didn't exist and if they didn't market themselves as an almost impossible goal, I would still be overweight, lazy, and one year closer to my first heart attack. Get on the Tough Mudder bulletin board, Linked in group, or Facebook page. You will quickly find that there are thousands of people whose lives have been changed by these events. Crossfit? Same story. Lives are changed.

As far as our Goruck Challenge is concerned, I know of several lives that were changed.  Many of our participants signed up months ago even though they weren't exercising at all at the time. This event forced them to get themselves off the couch like I did last year. Lo and behold, they enjoyed the experience too. One good friend of mine joined crossfit to get ready for our Challenge. Now he is hooked, and unfortunately for me, beating me in way too many wods already. Another friend just signed up for new member classes at Crossfit and a second one is close to doing the same.  You can make fun of this stuff all you want, but it works. You will never feel more alive then when you feel like you are dying. And of course I can only imagine the sense of accomplishment that some of our participants experienced when our cadre finally said we were done.

Who says this stuff isn't fun!?!

Changing Lives in More Ways Than One

I have to brag on my teammates one more time. We were able to raise a total of just under $1200 through this Goruck Challenge. We split the funds 50:50 between The Green Beret Foundation and "Debra and Ray", the adoptive family I am raising funds for. Again. Lives are being changed. Both charities are helping some really awesome people and I am proud to be part of such a great team!

What Are You Waiting For?

Getting off the couch and taking back your life isn't easy and to be fair I started in a much better place than most.  Again, I am not judging anyone.  Some of you are overweight and perfectly fine with it. I don't have a problem with that. I really don't care.  But if that is you, do one thing for me.  Go to your photo album or computer and take a look at all of the photos that make you look fat.  You mean you don't have any that make you look fat? Well then, maybe that means you aren't fat. Or maybe you are like I used to be and you tend to delete all of your fat photos. Strange how I had myself fooled into thinking I was happy with the way I looked too.


A short video from our Goruck Challenge:

Before the fun (most of our Crossfit 540 crew)...

At the start...

Five minutes later...

We did this a lot...

 Bear crawls up 9 stories. Crab walks down...


  1. Y'all ROCK!!! Even if you are a little nuts ;)
    We are ever so grateful for this amazingly generous donation to our goal of bringing our last 2 girls HOME!!!!

  2. Thank you for sharing this! People like you are an inspiration to people like me who think accomplishing a physical goal is impossible. I recently discovered that the impossible is a frigment of my imagination. I started running. I've feared running for the life of me because of the not-being-able-to-breathe sensation. Guess what? A couple of weeks after beginning my 5k training, that sensation went away! :)

    Now working on the knee pain issue. Thanks for the advice, by the way. I never thought about shoes being an issue.

    1. Glad to hear you are making progress Ashley! Keep at it. I hate to admit it but I actually kind of like running now.

  3. I'm relieved to hear that you "hated running". Maybe there's hope for me after all.

    1. For me, I had to get past the five mile point consistently before things started to change. Once I crossed 5 miles consistently, I found doubling that and even quadrupling it to be pretty easy. It just takes a conscious, consistent effort.