March 2014

How Do I Love Thee Crossfit, Let Me Count The Ways

How Do I Love Thee Crossfit, Let Me Count The Ways.

How Do I Love Thee Crossfit, Let Me Count The Ways

cf love

Back in July, a new “box” (lingo for gym in Crossfit speak) opened up less than a mile from my house. At the time, I was intrigued, yet, super intimidated about this new place to exercise on my side of town. Thanks to social media, I was soon seeing offers to join up and my curiosity piqued. From those in my own circles, Crossfit seemed to have a love/hate affair – some swore by their relationship with their box and associated family; while others screamed the opposite banter: “Don’t you know you WILL get hurt doing Crossfit?” “Those people at Crossfit are just plain nuts!” “It’s a cult. Don’t do it!”

After a not so gentle push from a friend of mine, I dove in and signed up. I shared that newbie experience here:  After easing myself into the WODs (lingo for workout of the day), coupled with my hectic schedule of working, coaching soccer teams, playing taxi and mom, by November I was able to start hitting my box at least three times a week regularly, sometimes four times a week. Suddenly, I was shifting from “I cannot go today because I have……….<insert random responsibility or excuse here>.” to newfound proclaimations of “Listen, I am GOING to Crossfit today, so everything else is just going to have to wait until I am done!” (and the subsequent racing from the box to dance, or to soccer, or to a board meeting is just that, rushing from point A to point B, but damn, I have fit my WOD in and let me tell you how I feel!

How do I love thee Crossfit? Seriously, let me count the ways for you! 

The team-like environment is unlike any other gym I have EVER been to (and I have been to pretty much all of them in the local area). For those of us who participated in team sports back in the day, well, after the first few times of awkwardness, the team-like environment is part of the appeal. Suddenly, there’s an underlying accountability from your regular WOD-mates. “Hey, I missed you yesterday – it was a tough one!” You begin showing up because you know so-and-so is counting on you to be there to suffer workout with them, or you want to experience the burpee sandwich with someone who is going to despise it relish it as much as you (in the accomplishment thereafter). Even if your gym mates finish their WOD before you, they will come over to cheer you on to finish yours strong; or perhaps, they may even join in and do more with you. Let me tell you, it is very hard to slack off when your gym mate is yelling at encouraging you to finish. Somehow, you dig deeper than you would have for yourself and your WOD is complete. How’s that for love?

The aforementioned sense of accomplishment, how can you not love a feeling of pulling off a workout that includes the dreaded burpees, or TTB (toes to bar), or deadlifts, or any other one of the many elements that make up Crossfit?

Fortunately, for me, I have a great sense of humor so the first million hundred thousand times I have tried to wrestle shimmy freaking move sway my large girth hanging from a pole into a kipping, gymnastic-like being who gets her toes gracefully to that same pole my hands are hanging off of…..well, it was anything but graceful, ok, it is downright hysterical (I now apologize to all of the lovely people of Crossfit978) but damn, I am going to keep trying until I hit that day where the grand choruses of the world start in unison with “Hallelujah!”


Same with C2B (chest to bars), in a few months I have gone from hanging like a lounging chimpanzee (Orangutan? Gorilla?) to……….hanging like a lounging chimpanzee with a mere 2” improvement in my attempt to bring my boobs to that godforsaken pole I am STILL hanging from! Perhaps in another four months, I will be another 2” closer and that, for me, is a sense of accomplishment!


The Opens. A couple of months ago, the same friend who pushed me to sign up for Crossfit in the first place asked me if I was going to sign up for Opens. I cackled. I did. Literally, a loud and annoying are-you-freakin-kidding me laugh (yes, Ashley is out of her mind, bhahahahahaha). Opens is a Crossfit competition! I have only been going to my box regularly for a few months; I am so NOT ready for a competition, even if it’s online. Bahahahahahahahahahahaha. Boy, maybe this friend IS drinking too much of the Crossfit Kool-Aid. She walked me through what the Opens actually are and firmly told me if I did not sign up for the Opens *THAT* night, she would take the liberty of signing me up herself. <Insert my famous eyeball roll right here.>

cf kool aid

I signed up. 2014 is about facing my fears, remember that? So what if I end up in the bottom of the barrel because I am not ready? At least I did it and I have that aforementioned sense of accomplishment I keep chatting about, right? Yes, I think I started having explosive diarrhea at that precise moment because I feared I was in way over my head.

The Opens is an online competition, however, you are going to do the workout anyway as part of your box’s regularly scheduled WOD, you may as well be scored on your efforts! The rules of the Opens is to report your score by a deadline to see where you stand in the world, in your region, in your state and in your own Crossfit box. I figured at a minimum, I would have a baseline to compare my growth to the next time I repeated any of these workouts in the future.

Enter 14.1, which consisted of 30DUs (double unders; or your ability to jump rope but pass the rope not once, but twice under your feet in a single jump) and 15 snatches; AMRAP 10 (as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes). My sense of humor kicked in with my fellow 4 pm crossfitters as we realized that if you did NOT do 30DUs, you could NOT move on to the snatches. Wait, what?

You see, in prior workouts, if you could not complete a double under you were allowed to single jump rope with attempts to double under every five jumps or so. NOT IN THE OPENS. Since I have only ever gotten four double unders, by some miraculous coming of God freak chance, prior to 14.1 – I figured my 10 minute workout would consist solely of jump roping and I would do something else thereafter.

How do I love Crossfit? Well, let me tell you something – that day, trying to complete 14.1, I was able to get double unders. My score was an 88 (30 double unders, 15 snatches, 30 double unders, 13 snatches). That is the beauty of the Opens – and I now saw it! Focus, determination, drive – these all led me to get 60 double unders in ONE workout when I had never before gotten more than four! Sure, I may have had to get them single double under by single double under, maybe stringing together a few sets of doubles, but damn, man, I got 60! Many of my fellow athletes nailed *their* first double unders that day! I walked out of my box that day with a Cheshire Cat worthy grin.

cheshire cat

The beauty of the Opens is you have until Monday night after the workout is released (on the prior Thursday night) to submit your score. You may *re-do* your workout to get a higher score. Yes, that is when the *sickness* kicks in. Who would want to *re-do* a workout? A box full of crossfitters, that’s who (sick bunch of freaks!). I re-did the workout the following Monday and scored a 128. Having the top woman athlete in our gym judging me was certainly motivational and I was determined to improve my score.

Moving on to WOD 14.2, we can avoid talking about that one if you would like. Do you recall the C2Bs I described above? Well, I was able to get my OHS (overhead squats) without any issue but I was unable to chimpanzee myself enough to get my chest to that bar. Meh. 10 points baby. No matter how much gorilla punching I did on my own chest, I could not garner any acrobatic strength enough to match boobies to bar height. (Can we stop talking about this now?)


14.3 is where I want to be. I missed the Friday performance of the WOD because we were away for the weekend and my family overruled my innate desire to leave AFTER my performance of week three of the Opens. I was anxious about 14.3 ALL WEEKEND LONG and I could not wait to get in to my box to undertake it. This third workout consisted of deadlifts and box jumps, with the deadlifts increasing in weight (i.e. 95#, 135#, 155#, 185#, 205#, etc.) and repetitions (10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc) while doing 15 box jumps in between each set of deadlifts. Strength is my forte and after a pathetic attempt at 14.2, I was ready to redeem myself in 14.3. My coach freakishly demonstrated a perception that I would not reach a certain weight in this particular workout and I was not happy. How DARE he place limitations on me that were not about keeping myself safe or injury-free, but perceived by me to be his doubts about my ability to perform. I would show him he was WRONG. (Okay, so he was right….but just by a mere margin). My performance in 14.3 was exactly where I had set my goal and I walked out of the building as if I were just newly crowned a super hero (and silently whispering that said coach could kiss my ass because *boo-yeah*, I just about nearly nailed what you said I couldn’t).

14.4 was similar to 14.2 in that I handled the 60 seconds of rowing in a fair time, but my repeated attempts to get my toes to the @#(*&$^% bar were silly and not happening. My pride was a bit crushed, but my beloved new friends at my box were quick to remind me that NEXT year at this time, I will be crushing the toes to bar and I was complacent in cursing and moving on accepting that.

14.5 is today. I will admit I am scared and anxious because the workout consists of movements that I am capable of doing. Rumor on the street has it that this WOD is mentally tough. I am mentally tough, should be a good match, right? Burpees, people. A million infinite amount of burpees await me this afternoon. Thrusters and burpees in a descending repetitious manner……..and I am worried. Thrusters are not sexual, although, I almost wish they were……using a #65 pound barbell on my collarbone as I do a deep squat followed by my thrusting of the bar up overhead and back down again and again and again and again is not quite a *pleasurable* experience.

I want to do my best! I know I will do my best, but the pattern of 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 keeps surging through my ears and I am replaying over and over again how I *think* this WOD is going to go down. In my mental head, I am strong, I am fast and I will finish the WOD in XX:XX. Again, I feel the need to redeem myself after a poor showing in 14.4 – but will this be my opportunity? That bitchy gremlin that lives in my brain keeps trying to show up and offer poor excuses, namely, that I ran 16+ miles on Saturday and that my joints are not ready for this showcase; or perhaps that I just need to work on my burpees. However, my rational side of me tells her to literally STFU quiet herself and I am positively confident that I will do *my* best.

After five weeks, my first Opens experience is nearly over. I cannot wait to get myself re-focused and start working on new PRs, new firsts (like a @#@*#!@#&@* TTB), and to continue walking into my box strong, but walking out stronger. My muscles continue to earn more definition and contour, my inches are finally starting to drop, my innate ability to be hard on myself continues to wean and my love for myself is growing.

THAT is how I love thee Crossfit. Are you ready to join me?

start to be great

(*Ask me about their On Ramp program for newbies!)

Why I Run

The 2014 slogan of the Boston Marathon is “We Run Together” as the Boston Athletic Association announced earlier this year.  After the horrific tragedy, the terrorist attack at the finish line of our beloved race; a stretch of pavement where the world comes together in peace every Patriots Day in Massachusetts, we are more determined than ever to rally and demonstrate precisely what we mean by the words #BostonStrong.

ImagePerseverance.  Resilience.  Determination.  Strength.  All words of profound impact that any runner knows deep within his or her heart; and what she defines with each foot that drops in front of the other on every single run. On April 21st, 2014, #weruntogether as athletes, volunteers, fans and spectators to demonstrate the meaning of these powerful words; you, me, the Elite, the newbies and everyone else in between.

There’s the question:  Why do I run?

Why do I run?  The simple answer is because I can.   However, running is something that brings me right back to my twelve year old self, when it all started.  As a seventh-grader, I decided to try track at my little Oklahoma school because everyone just did it.  I discovered I liked running during my soccer team days when I could outrun the boys easily.  My coach put me in the mile run as I had no clue what event I wanted to do at that young age.  Placing 3rd  with a 6:21 finishing time in that mile, in my first track meet solidified that my running days were just beginning for me.

Why do I run?  I will never forget my arrogant self at the age of sixteen lining up for the Annual Christopher’s Pub 10k road race in my now hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts and noticing a man next to me who was going to push his son in a modified wheelchair type stroller next to me.  I was impressed that this man was going to push that extra weight for 6.2 miles, but I figured I would run faster than him without more than a second thought.  Little did I know that man was Dick Hoyt and he pretty much blew my socks off, despite a fast sub-40 minute finishing time for me.  Every road race that I encountered Mr. Hoyt’s presence at thereafter earned him the great deal of respect he deserved and I relished in the joy his son, Rick, displayed by running with his beloved dad as a pure testament to determination.


Why do I run?  I will never forget being part of an All-American Cross-Country team that ran in Germany.  Imagine being fifteen years old and warming up in the Olympic Stadium in Munich for a 10k race around Olympic Park.  Knowing the history of the 1972 Olympics and what awful events transpired on the property before I was born; and yet, being able to represent my country alongside of countless other countries in my race was resilience.  Eating a fresh, homemade bratwurst after hearing chants of “USA, USA!” while I finished my race is a priceless memory forever tucked in my book.

Why do I run?  I will never forget my high school and college teammates asking me if I would get electrocuted as I quickly whipped my hearing aid out in countless rainy practices and long runs in the elements (I quickly asked them where I was plugged in, what source of electricity would shock me from my battery operated hearing aid).  Losing my hearing at age four and being told I would not play sports afforded me the resilience necessary for adaptation in what could be a cruel world.  As bullying ensued about my hearing loss, I simply showed them I could run faster and harder.  You tell me I cannot and I will show you I can.

Why do I run?  I will never forget the day I was told I had breast cancer while fourteen weeks pregnant with my third child.  Somehow I got very much caught up in making a living and I was forgetting to live my life.  My cancer diagnosis and my unexpected third child forced me down a path that I had not planned for and new limitations were being doled out; whether by my medical team or the very treatments and surgeries that saved my life.  I lost control of my health.  I run to regain control of my health.  I push myself through physical limits afforded by long runs, hilly runs, cold or hot runs, and wet runs to show myself that limits are meant to be pushed and broken through.  I endure through my Crossfit workouts because it allows me to continue to push those limits and it makes me a better runner.  I run for each of my beloved friends who have succumbed to their cancer.  When I start to break down and feel like I cannot do it, I simply remind myself that Cara cannot or Jackie cannot, so I better get my act together because I CAN!

ImageWhy do I run?  I will never forget April 15, 2013.  I will never forget the pain in my heart once I read the breaking news that our race in Boston was bombed.  I will never forget the confusion, the disbelief and the suffocating fear I experienced as I came to realize the act was of terrorism and how many people were killed, injured and impacted that very day.  I immediately started following the stories of Roseann Sdoia, Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, Jeff Bauman, JP and Paul Norden, and the Martin Family.  Watching as these survivors employed every ounce of perseverance, resilience, determination and strength in the ten months that have followed since last year’s Boston Marathon.

Why do I run?  Because I can.  I may shuffle through many of the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston.  I may endure blisters, cramps and more discomfort.  I will not break any speed barriers.  However, I will cross that finish line and I know I will have run with my heart (despite what my legs may try to say).


Perseverance.  Resilience.  Determination.  Strength.

I am fortunate enough to have earned a number for this prestigious race by being a part of Team Eye & Ear from the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.  Mass Eye & Ear not only treated many of the injured from last year’s race, they are on the breaking edge of treatments for those with hearing and sight impairments from many different causes, including head and neck cancers.  I was incredibly intimidated by the daunting fundraising goal Mass Eye & Ear set for me, but I knew that with some of the traits I inherited from my own ordeals of adversity, I would seek out to blast past this fundraising “limit”.  Thanks to so many of YOU who wish to take this epic marathon journey with me, I am at mile 23.4 of my epic fundraising goal.  Yes!  I not only met the original goal set by my Team, I have surpassed it and I remain a mere 2.8 miles from my monetary finish line.  Because of your belief in me, because of your determination in helping me cross that beautiful finish line on Boylston Street, we will be changing the lives of so many that come through the doors at Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.  Because we can.

Why do I run.  Because I can.  Won’t you join me?  Because YOU CAN.

#weruntogether (Yes!  That’s Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick, still running together nearly twenty-four years after I first encountered him on the streets of Leominster!)

Here are some beloved “Why Do I Run, Because I Can” memories:


Let It Go

Many of us have been impacted by a song, right?  A particular song  that resonates with us for a particular reason; whether it’s the lyrics or the story behind the song itself that makes us relate to a time in our lives or a feeling we have had.

How often is it that we are moved by a Disney song?  Not often.  Sure, we all enjoy “Hakuna Matata” and wish we could live life with no worries.  Enter the recent release of “Frozen” and the song “Let It Go” that is sweeping the world by storm (pun intended).

We, ourselves, rarely get to the movie theaters these days, and despite a strong desire to want to view “Frozen” based on the repeat trailers on TV, we never made it.  A friend lent us a pirated, flea-market copy of the movie and the six year old resident of my house insisted on watching it IMMEDIATELY.

The quality of the illegal copy of the movie was just terrible, but the movie devoured me from the get go and my attention span overlooked the dark and fuzzy screen in front of me.  The story line of two young sisters captivated me and before I knew it, I was mesmerized by the song of the lead character, Elsa in “Let It Go”.


Listening to the lyrics, I felt the pull on my heartstrings as Elsa sings about hiding her emotions, shoving the strong feelings deep down inside so no one else may see anything but the strong exterior.

“The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know”

Why are many young girls and young women forced to put on that strong exterior?  I personally recall the need to be that perfect daughter to my parents.  Having the odds stacked against me from my hearing loss at age 4 made my desire to be perfect that much stronger, and the need to please my parents was my ultimate goal.  I am unsure where the need to be perfect started or how, but the stories about how my half- siblings from both of my parents’ prior marriages made me want to be that “good” girl that did everything right.  I heard often about how these siblings made mistakes, from getting pregnant at an early age to having alcohol/drug problems to moving out and being independent at seventeen.  My parents placed extremely high expectations on me, as well as even tougher restrictions so that I would be that “good” girl.

Being bullied in grade school for my hearing loss also fed my desire to be the perfect child.  With each taunt thrown my way, I pushed harder to excel in my academics and I was successful by skipping fifth grade as a result.  I ran harder and scored more in my co-ed soccer games, because whatever the boys could do, I could do better.   I ran faster because I was told I could not.

However, the physical abuse I suffered, namely at my mother’s expense, forced me to protect myself by hiding deep within my being.  I could not escape the beatings.  After being hit on my little body with everything from her hand, to cast iron pots, to wooden dowels and wooden clogs, I was forced to hide the blood, the welts and the humiliation by keeping these feelings all locked away.  Why did my mom beat me?  At the time, I did not know and the answers were clearly nowhere to be found until a bit later in my life (see:

In my later twenties  I realized that I did not have to be that perfect person; and that in fact, being perfect was actually boring.  I like the quirky quirks of my being!  However, I still shoved my feelings deeper down within myself and used food as an emotional clutch to literally stuff away any uncomfortable emotions.  Conceal, don’t feel, right?  Isn’t that what I was indirectly taught by my mother?

Just how much did I conceal?  Frankly, way too much.  My life had gotten very much out of control and despite compliments from friends on how I seemed so well put together for a woman who had a full time, very demanding corporate career, two young children at the time, aging and ill parents living with me, coaching soccer and all the other *stuff* that comes with being an adult woman.


“Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway”

How do I admit that during the 2003-2007 years, my commute to and from work were often laden with thoughts on how I needed to just check out of my life for a bit.  Yes, I had those actual thoughts:  if I could only escape the day- to-day burdens that were literally weighing me down, even if just for a small bit of time it would be glorious.  I was tired of putting on “the face” and plowing through my life without living.  Ah, careful what you wish for, as I was given a cancer diagnosis shortly thereafter.  As a result, I was forced to literally check out of my life for the raging roller coaster ride through Cancerland during an unexpected pregnancy.

“It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all.”

Despite my illness and the fact that it brought my life as I knew it to a screeching halt, it really put everything into relevant perspective.  When I actually feared I had no control over my life, it was crystal clear lesson that I possessed that power all along, but I simply had no idea how to use that strength to my benefit.

elsa frozen let it go

The next five years after the diagnosis proved more difficult to cope with the suffocating emotions that came to the surface.  Cancer deaths surrounded me in friends and family close by.  My father’s dementia and my inability to care for him were hurtful, and I wondered if I did the right thing by having him move out of my home and into senior living.   My mother was thriving in her senior housing, but the emotional mind games she continued to play with me were overwhelming at best.  I was still operating under the “conceal, don’t feel.”  I STILL function as a matter of being hard-wired that way to shove my ugly or uncomfortable feelings way down deep into my belly (that is the blame of my thick mid-section, not the food I consumed when I could not cope).  <Insert eye-ball roll.>

2014 brings a new year of embracing a new motto:   Facing my fears, feeling them, not feeding them, and finally moving on from these ill feelings.  My parents have both passed away, my dad in 2011 and my mom in 2013.  Why are the unhealthy patterns and emotions they inflicted still regularly surfacing in emotions that I encounter?  Is it not time to just let it go?

“My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone”

The past is in the past.  INDEED!  That perfect girl is gone.  VOILA!  Rebecca, it’s really as simple as singing the lyrics of this Disney song!

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on”  


Here I stand.                      Here I’ll stay.                     You bet your ass, I will.            Time to believe I can.

I have surpassed being an abused child.  I have grown from being bullied by my unfortunate hearing impairment.  I am stronger than ever after pushing through a raging cancer diagnosis.  I am free from the emotional turmoil of my parents.

However, being the over-analytical thinker that I am – how do I teach this lesson to my children; especially my daughters?  Don’t we all wish for our children to be empowered and carry this message with them now and continually throughout their lives.  Don’t we want our kids to NOT wake up and be forty one day and be in a better place than we are now?  I want my children to be strong emotionally but also be equipped and have the ability to let it go.  There will be storms all around them during their growing years, but shouldn’t we enable them to stand strong and stay firm during the swirling winds of adversity?

How do I teach my children the opposite of conceal, don’t feel when that is all I have ever known?  Am I a hypocrite to instruct them to let it go when I still struggle myself?  Perhaps we will rise together, face our fears as one and weather the storm in unison.

Watching as “Frozen” takes our nation by windstorm and as the song, “Let It Go” continues to gain momentum and popularity, I smile and I am warmed as thousands of young girls hear the message behind the empowering lyrics.

Are YOU ready to LET IT GO?



Watch as the world does it, here:

Here’s two adorable twins doing THEIR version:

Watch the national sing-along here:–awards.html

Here’s the official (UK) Disney video:

Here’s my youngest showing us how to “Let It Go”:

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