The first CrossFit Games began in 2011. The first I heard of it was two years later after I’d started the sport myself and watched a gal at my gym make it to the regional competition, which was thrilling to watch. In 2014, I competed in my first CrossFit Open and it was an amazing experience. I ended three slots away from making the regionals cut. In 2015, I tried to compete but quickly realized, after completing two workouts, I was not far enough along in my recovery from ACL surgery to participate. This year, still not back to fighting form but well enough to participate (especially since CrossFit has included scaled options for competitors), I threw my hat in the ring again to challenge myself and try and recapture the feeling I had of comaraderie and accomplishment from that first time. I knew I would have to be very conscientious because in the past year, I’ve concentrated mostly on rehab, so I have done very little weightlifting, focusing instead on proper form and bodyweight only movements. I have also done much less of normal CrossFit exercises, such as hanging on bars, jump roping, rowing, etc.
Let me also tell you how vast the sport and competition has become in my short timeframe. In 2014, there were a total of 126 women in my age group (50-54) in the mid-Atlantic vs. 390 this year, and 1,572 in the world in 2014 vs. 4,146 today. Those numbers always whittle down as people drop out.
The CrossFit Open includes five workouts. One is announced each week and you have a few days to do the workout and plug in your score online (where it gets verified). You can watch your rankings as scores are entered, and see how you rate multiple ways in your category: in your gym, state, region, and worldwide. It’s pretty fun if you don’t take it too seriously. The top tiers move on to the regional comps and those top tiers move on the CrossFit Games where winners compete for the title Fittest Man/Woman on Earth. You can either do the workout RX (as prescribed) or scaled (modified movements or weight). Your score will always be higher if you RX, even if you only manage one rep.
When the first workout (15.1) was announced, which included weighted walking lunges, burpees and pull-ups, my heart sank. I haven’t been able to comfortably lunge since my knee surgery, and certainly not weighted. I felt done before I’d even begun. But then I thought, well, let me just see if I can do a lunge so I practiced one in my bedroom, and it felt fine. I decided I’d go in and give it a shot. Much to my surprise and delight, I was able to perform the scaled version of the weighted lunges! I went slowly and deliberately so as not to injure myself, and I definitely finished in the back of the pack, but that workout allowed me to see how far I’ve come. I credit yoga with helping me get back the lunge.
The second workout (15.2) I knew I could do RX, as it involved toes-to-bar, double-unders and squat cleans. My double-unders (jump rope move) had only returned a few days before so they were still a little shaky and slowed me down, but I was happy with my performance, especially my toes-to-bar, since I had done so little bar work. It was nice to know they were still on my side. There are many Crossfitters who cannot do either toes-to-bar or double-unders, so they logged a low score if they attempted the non-scaled version. Seeing some of those low scores touched me, as people fought for many minutes to just get 1, 2 or 3 toes-to-bar. It is the beauty of the fight, the sheer will to try, that gets me every time. Even though I didn’t make it to the squat cleans, I scored top of the pack for this one.
The third workout (15.3) called for muscle snatches and bar muscle-ups. I cannot do a bar muscle up so I easily executed the snatch portion RX, but then also did the scaled version of snatches and jumping chest-to-bar pull-ups to challenge myself and see where I would really rank doing the workout I could complete with more ability. A lot of folks plugged in their score of 10 snatches to get the higher ranking, but it doesn’t really tell you much about your ability or where you place. The best moment of my Open came during 15.3 when I watched my longtime CrossFit pal Vanessa get her first bar muscle-up. It is amazing how often this happens during the Open competition — someone finally gets something they’ve worked on really hard. Vanessa and I both aspired to get our muscle-ups from day one, but my path diverted after my injury while she tirelessly forged on, practicing and practicing and practicing, getting close but never there. Being there to witness her moment was almost as good as doing it myself! I could appreciate all she’s put into it and was a proud friend. So glad I didn’t miss it. Because I opted to use my scaled score, I scored about middle of the pack. Otherwise, I would have tied the hundreds of other gals and been top of the pack.
The fourth workout (15.4) was a chipper, where you do one movement, then move on to another, etc. This one called for 55 deadlifts, 55 wall-ball shots, a 55-calorie row and 55 handstand push-ups. I had to do the scaled version because the prescribed deadlifts were too heavy for me to feel comfortable about, especially banging out 55 of them. The scaled version lowered the deadlift weight to 95 pounds and switched the handstand push-ups (which I can’t do anyway) to hand release push-ups. I crushed this workout, and was super proud of my performance. I’m not great at endurance, but this chipper played to some of my strengths because I am good at deadlifts (which felt super light) and wall-balls. I made it to the fourth part, executing 19 of the 55 push-ups. I placed a little better than middle of the pack in the rankings, but it didn’t change the smile on my face.
The fifth workout (15.5) was a repeat of a workout from 2014 — the toughest one and one I hated the most: thrusters and burpees, a shitload of them. I love thrusters, and can several unbroken, but multiple burpees are not easy for me. I have low blood pressure so the up and down nature of them make me dizzy and disoriented. When you add in a high cardio movement like thrusters, it leaves me gasping for air and a penchant to overheat. Plus, did I mention it was a ton of each? I dreaded doing it, but got my head right, planning to attack it methodically and just get ‘er done. I had slight amnesia from 2014, but that dissipated once I got started. The whole thing was terrible after about three minutes. On the plus side, I am still a bad ass when it comes to thrusters. On the minus side, I am still pretty crappy at burpees. The carnage ended after 25:03 minutes but by then I had heat exhaustion, nearly passed out and it took one full day (plus a second for good measure) to recover. I performed the scaled version with a worse time than I’d done the RX workout in 2014, but only by a couple of minutes. It was a slight letdown, but at least I know I can persevere when it’s necessary. I still ended up about middle of the pack, which shows just how tough this workout was for many.
My overall rankings at the end of all five workouts place me just above the middle of the pack — not a surprise since I only really did one of the five workouts RX. I think that’s pretty phenomenal for today because I got to see how far I’ve come, and where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I got to hear the good and bad chatter in my head and once again, remind myself of what’s important here. Is it my worldwide ranking? Um, no. It’s that I’m sucking air, happy and healthy and even able to participate in the life I want.
Will I do another Open? I don’t know. Right now, I’m taking a break from CrossFit and focusing on doing functional movements I enjoy that keep me healthy such as walking and yoga with a hope to get back on my bike and hike up some mountains for the first time in a year and a half. I’ve loved most of my CrossFit journey, but it’s been hard on me at the same time. I love throwing weight around, achieving a new personal record, or conquering an exercise I previously couldn’t do. But I’ve sustained a number of injuries and been taken out of commission many times in the past three or four years attempting the sport. Am I wiser? Yes. Has my fitness vocabulary and ability improved? Vastly. It’s up to me to take those two elements and merge them together so I can continue on a strong fitness road, because I plan to be kicking ass and taking names until I’m dead, (otherwise known as being a BAMF). Maybe even longer.
In WV (out of 11 competitors):
16.3: 7 (would have scored higher if I used RX score)
Final ranking in state: 5
In Mid-Atlantic (out of 390 competitors):
16.3: 240 (would have scored higher if I used RX score)
Final ranking regionally: 177
In the World (out of 4,146 competitors):
16.3: 2,672 (would have scored higher if I used RX score)
Final ranking worldwide: 1,987
I’m angry about the health care situation and I’m not gonna take it anymore. I’m about to go to battle, taking on the insurance company, politicians and health care institutions that have put us in this terrible position. Health care should be accessible and affordable for the majority.
Our health insurance for a family of three costs almost as much as our mortgage payment each month. That, in itself, is ridiculous, but by the time the year is over, we will have spent roughly a third of our income on health costs because the financial burden goes far above our insurance premium.
When I was forced to choose this plan late last year, I wondered how we would afford it each month. I became angry and frustrated with the insurance representative when she put me over this barrel. She couldn’t offer any solutions — merely toed the company line, but I’ll bet she went home and poured herself a stiff drink. I couldn’t have been the only unhappy camper on the line.
I am self-employed, and my husband is a contractor with no benefits, so he is also responsible for securing his own health care. We have very few options. None of them are good. None of them are affordable. And since Highmark West Virginia is the only health insurance carrier in my state available to us, I was forced to choose one of their plans.
You might think for the hefty premium, we have great insurance. We do not. In addition to our monthly outlay, we have to pay an exorbitant deductible, and we still have to shell out cash to see doctors and buy prescriptions.
I just learned that an already pricey monthly prescription tripled in cost. They couldn’t provide me with a good reason for this, except to say we hadn’t met our deductible. Our deductible didn’t matter last year for prescriptions, so it would appear Highmark is just making up their own rules at this point to suit them. They sure as heck aren’t trying to suit me.
This particular prescription is life saving. It’s not an option to eliminate it. The option is death. Talk about having us over another barrel. And yet, what am I supposed to do? Where do I suddenly find extra money for my new hefty premiums and prescription costs? Go into debt? Get a loan I can’t pay? Throw it on credit cards? Spend everything in my savings account?
God forbid anyone needs emergency care or contracts a disease. In the last few years, everyone in my household ended up in the ER, and I’m still paying off the bills. Now we have a pact to do anything to stay out of the ER. The next time I feel heart attack symptoms, I’m staying home. I can’t afford hospital prices, and my crappy expensive insurance doesn’t cover much.
Don’t even get me started on all the unnecessary tests doctors can order in the ER. They are the “cover your butt” tests, a fact-finding mission (or expensive wild goose chase) where I’ve had to debate whether the cost was worth the result. Almost never, and sometimes I received the wrong diagnosis. Meanwhile, have you noticed they’re building a new diagnostic center and adding a wing onto the hospital? Gee, I wonder how they can afford that.
Dental care is equally atrocious. Thousands of dollars for a crown. Five hundred for a filing. Pray you don’t need a root canal. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. And dental insurance? It’s a joke.
Herein lies a key problem — the “care” part of the equation is missing. No one cares. The health insurance company doesn’t care if we live or die. The hospitals don’t care if we can afford their prices. The politicians don’t care they’ve put us in a position where it’s easier on the family if we die or drown in debt. They will give lip service to the contrary, but their actions say it all.
Health care was screwed up long before the Affordable Care Act passed, but ten years ago, it was more affordable. Pricey, but possible.
One of the perks of living in our democracy, our nation, is the American dream — the ability to work hard and enjoy the fruits of our labor. This means spending some of our disposable income on pleasure and the pursuit of happiness, not just survival. The health care industry is sucking that dream right out of our lungs, making it easier, and far less expensive, to just stay sick or die. There’s nothing healthy or dreamy about that. It’s time to exert some of those other rights we hold dear and speak out.
This column appeared in The Journal on Sunday, March 13, 2016.
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