Learn,  Lift

After the Calm

It’s been just over one month since I hurt myself training. I’m proud of myself for taking a good, solid break, only focusing on low-impact, upper body work from time-to-time so as to give my poor ankle a rest. I may recognize the signs of overtraining, but that doesn’t mean I listen to them.

When I got back to New Jersey after my trip to Puerto Rico, I decided I was ready to get back at it. I walked into my old CrossFit gym just in time to spend a week ramping up for an attempt at 18.5. In what I’m now going to call the Varlese Method, I did only the first and last WODs of the 2018 CrossFit Open. And you know what? I didn’t do so badly. (18.1, 161 reps Rx and 18.5, 160 reps scale.)

It’s been both a joy and a challenge to get back into a routine. On the one hand, it’s not just the challenge of creating a new routine after a prolonged break, it’s also a routine after coming back to the United States. I don’t have a car here, so that means I’ve shifted my training schedule to a time that works better for borrowing my mom’s car, which she has kindly put up with me doing about four to five times per week so far.

I’ve also been feeling pretty unmotivated. Movements feel different, but also more challenging. Rx workouts in the US, especially NJ, are beyond my reach – as they should be. I find that the weights in Brazil tend to be lower, especially for women, and I’m usually able to do it since strength is one of my, well, forte’s. My conditioning and cardio haven’t been good for a while, but after a month off, I feel more out of breath than ever. I get tired faster. I’m frustrated.

At the same time, I’ve gotten so much feedback in the past few weeks that I’ve desperately been craving. My coaches here tend to be more hands on, offering cues on various movements and even sharing additional programming for me to work on to help with skills that I’m lacking. (I’ll get a strict pull-up before I leave if it kills me.) The quality of coaching is different. The US has more resources and the competition is more fierce, so there’s a lot more expected from students. We also tend to have a much more strict approach to the workouts as compared to my box in Brazil. If it’s on the white board, and you showed up for class, you do the work. There’s no arguing with the coach because you don’t like a movement.

I’m not sure if it’s just perception or if it’s cultural, but the biggest difference for me is the amount of feedback I get here. In Brazil, there’s a language barrier. In theory, that barrier should only rest on my shoulders, but I find that a lot of people are, quite frankly, afraid to talk to me for fear they may mess up, be judged, or handle the situation poorly. At least, as far as I can tell. So unless I specifically ask a coach to watch me do a movement and give me every single pointer they can, I don’t get a lot of feedback. For example, I just learned this past week that I’ve been bringing my legs only halfway down on handstand push-ups, even though I’ve been performing them for about five months.

Something I struggle with a lot in Brazil – for reasons I’m still untangling – is not getting as much attention as my partner. A lot of it is personality and, again, language. My hunch, however, is that it’s also related to being a woman. Machismo is very, very real to an extent that I’m not used to as an American. My desire to simply be strong for myself – as in, not for aesthetics, not to lose weight, not to “get a guy,” not because my boyfriend does it, etc. etc. etc. – seems more than just a little uncommon. Paired with all the other complexities of my situation, I often feel like I don’t get the same amount of care, feedback, and encouragement. In addition to being hurt by it, it frustrates me so much because I want so badly to improve.

So while I’m here, I’m taking my time to really appreciate the equality we share between athletes in the US. I’m asking more questions than I ever have. I’m connecting with those around me to ask about their own experiences and how they think I’m doing. I’m not an expert at the sport, but I’m moving away from being a novice as well. I’ve signed up for another competition in July and I graciously invite the feedback from those around me to help me get better. I know I have it in me and I’m happy to be in an environment where that can be cultivated.

I still have yet to try back squats since my injury and I know the time is nigh, else I’ll start developing a mental block around one of my favorite movements – just like I had with cleans. Until then, I’m steadily increasing my intensity and frequency of training so I can be extra strong and ready to go by July for WOD Sunset 🙌🏻


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