Daddy Ball

To the introvert athlete, surrounded by a supposed sea of extroverts, self-advocacy is the key to improvement
Daddy-Ball is the common phenomenon of when the coach — or the perception of when the coach — favors his kid over others at the detriment of the team. His kid always needs to be the star. His kid pitches the big game when there are better options.
Athletes – youth AND adult, need advocacy that ensures they are consistently challenged

On that first day of peewee football I found a love for sport. Given the chance, if you put me up against a teammate in an all-out balls-to-the-walls challenge, I was going to win or die trying. I don’t think this trait is a sign of over-competitiveness in my younger self, more an exercise in mental preparation to deliver my very best. Beside me was my team mate, my brother in arms, perhaps even my best friend. However in that moment, in my mind, we were at war. Whatever he did – I would have to go one harder. THAT – is how we made each other better. Perhaps he was unbeatable. Perhaps we had ran the same race 100 times before with him beating me in each instance. Regardless I would try to approach each contest as though it was our first and all I needed was that one opportunity to beat him. It’s amazing to me how we can have two simultaneous relationships, two completely different existences. Friends and competitors. He never stopped being my brother and I never stopped regarding him as such, even when I was trying to drive his shoulder pads inches into the turf. Moments later the battle was over and we would help each other up and congratulate our successes.

I yearned for these sort of contests. Not just for the love of the game – but the love of the 1-on-1 race, the Oklahoma drill, the me-vs-anyone contest. It taught me drive, self-esteem, humility, and empathy and it continues to do so even as an over-the-hill CrossFit athlete. Despite all of that passion for contest, there was an underlying lesson that I was slow to pick up on. Politics and disproportionate favoritism was this lesson. Kids were given more opportunities to be tested, more reps to improve, and thrust into prime position because of an outside influence independent of their ability or earned stature.

Prime example- Daddy-Ball: Remember how the coach’s kid always seemed to have a lock on that prized position of quarterback or running back?

As a youth coach, I even sometimes catch myself handing out more coaching ques and opportunities to re-run the drills to my child over anyone else’s. It is an unintentional – naturally occurring tendency to some extent.  In my time coaching youth football this year, our coaching staff had several discussions about it, trying to prevent it from being an unfair dynamic on our team. However, there is a part of me that believes this is just and fair. After all, isn’t that why any parent would coach a youth team with their child on it?

  • To have a first-hand influence over their child’s experiences with sport.
  • To nourish their development and ensure their safety.
  • To posture yourself to be the best front-line advocate for your child.

While I try to be cognizant of this when I coach and make sure that every kid gets their shot, I also feel that I am paying (through volunteering) for a position of front-line advocacy for my child. As a result, I will know the plays and development schemes first. I will have an instant opportunity to adjust the plan according to my own parental feedback and observations. While any team’s success requires that every member develops the ability to perform and any good coach wants all their athletes to flourish, there will always be the subtle (or not so subtle) advantage to the kid who’s parent is their front-line advocate. I am driven to give my children memories and good experiences from which to foster their own healthy love for sport. I believe it to be one of the best lifelong gifts I can give them as a parent. I am their foremost advocate.

How does this apply to the adult CrossFit athlete?

Although a child is naturally unaware and in need of an advocating voice, we are ALL quiet introverts at times. Even the biggest social butterflies have grumpy days on the floor, under the bar, in the box. We chose the class times that suit us – not only because of schedule, but also because of the compatibility of a typical peer makeup of a that class time. I would say that some even unknowingly discover an affinity for a class time because they know what their social-opacity would be in that setting. They have figured out a formula  to workout while remaining somewhat hidden. Some may shy away from too many coaching cues, or chose spots in the back hoping for privacy and escape from scrutiny. “NO”-you may say, “not in our community”, but no matter how many welcoming people and how friendly the gestures – the introvert feels the need to be anywhere but the front and anyone but the coach’s demonstrator. MAKE NO MISTAKE that introverts can still be hell bent on gains and frustrated by stagnation in their progress! The problem is that there is no-daddy coach, or team mom to advocate for their playing time. They have to speak up for themselves – but seldom do.

We are adults and need to be our own advocates!

When a coach’s time is being monopolized by the social butterflies we need to explicitly seek the much needed corrections and technique ques. Speak up! Take responsibility for your progress and needs. While we may have our spot in the back, out of sight, permanently reserved – we need to march our ass up to the front or be heard over anyone else in relentless pursuit of improvement. Training your muscles is only part of a well-rounded regiment.   We hear our coaches preach of mobility – smashing, rolling, stretching on the regular and we frequently take this for granted while we continuously scale to compensate. Focus on the ancillary aspects to round out your regiment. Similarly, we need to get out of our comfort zone and put ourselves in the limelight when self-advocacy is the only thing standing between a much needed coaching cue and stagnation.


Speak Up – Reach Out – Claim Your Gains!

Fighting the Quitter in Me

I have to be honest.
I’ve been struggling.
Big time.

After five years of CrossFit, I’ve never faced an injury from this sport.  At the beginning of my CrossFit journey, I fractured my ankle during an obstacle race.  I did take some time off then, but it was before CrossFit was my job and my main emotional outlet.  That was long before I needed CrossFit.

I began having what I thought was shoulder soreness about 6 weeks ago.  I found myself having to modify certain movements at the gym.  My trap, lat, deltoid and scapula on my left side was irritating me (I didn’t want to call it hurting).  Any kind of movement where the barbell was behind my neck hurt.  This included back squats which are my FAVORITE.  This also included Olympic lifts which I love deeply.  It hurt to do hand stand push ups and muscle ups.  All movements I’ve worked for the past 5 years to learn and master.  To try to help with the soreness, I decided on a treatment plan that has worked for me in the past.  Dry needling, physical therapy, resting the area, massage and I tried cupping for the first time.  All were working well and my shoulder area began to feel better after about three weeks.

I wasn’t born with any patience, and I’m not good at resting.

Now let me tell you something about me.  I’m not good at patience (as I told Adam the other night…I wasn’t born with any patience) and I’m not good at resting.  So when my shoulder started to feel better, I started to add back in movements which I’d been avoiding.  And I did too much too quickly.  Not only was I back where I’d started, but I was actually hurt more.  The loss of ability to move my arm in certain ways really scared me.  It went from soreness to weakness.  It went from soreness to injury.  I’ve feared that word.  That word wasn’t for me.  I was too strong to even be injured, right?  What did I do?  How did I do this?  As I began to have to change my workouts and reduce and remove movements, I began to notice a change in my mental health.  I was frustrated, angry, discouraged, and immensely sad.  My range of emotions transformed daily, hourly even.  I was mad at my body.  How could you betray me like this?  I was mad at CrossFit.  This is your fault, CrossFit.  And so began my battle within myself.  A battle I’d never faced before.  A battle to be a new me.  Not the me I’d always been.

I should have listened to my body.
I should have rested longer.
I pushed too hard too soon.

You see, I’ve always been a quitter.  When things in my life got hard, I continually quit.  Instead of bucking up and fighting, I walk away.  My fight or flight response has repeatedly been flight.  I’ve quit jobs.  So many jobs.  I’ve quit relationships and friendships and pets.  I’ve quit schools and diets and sports.  Maybe it was part of being young?  Maybe it was part of who I was.

As this soreness has turned to injury and I am facing (worst case) surgery and more patience, rest, and rehab…I want to quit CrossFit.  I want to walk away.  Screw you (CrossFit).  I gave the last five years to you and how do you repay me?  Injury.  Loss of movement.

How can I coach CrossFit and weightlifting when I lack the basic ability to demonstrate?
How can I preach to the goodness of this sport when I can’t move weight above my head or press out of a dip?

Old me wants to just run away and hide in my room and cry.  Old me wants to vanish and start over with something else.  Old me feels sorry for myself and blames…blames persistently instead of taking ownership.  I should have listened to my body.  I should have rested longer.  I shouldn’t have pushed so hard so soon.  As the word “quit” creeped into my mind, my sadness grew.  “Are you really going to quit this?  This is your life.  Your passion.  One set back and you’re going to quit?  Is that who you are and is that who you want to continue to be?” I asked myself.  Because at the end of the day, even if I can’t control this injury or this recovery, I can control how I choose to address it.  I am fighting the quitter in me.  That bitch needs to go.  Bye Felicia.  This is the new me.  The five years of building a better me.  I don’t quit.  I seek help.  I modify.  I rest and recover and work hard to get back to where I was.  When I see my favorite things programmed and I know I can’t do them (right now), I show up anyway because I’m fighting that quitter bitch in me.  Maybe I can’t back squat 90% right now, but I’m going to show up and back squat what my body will allow.  No, I can’t do touch and go cleans because bringing the barbell back down kills my shoulder.  But I can still clean and drop between reps.  I can get through this.  And I have to say thank you to our community.  I’d be in bed, quitting if it weren’t for you.  You all keep checking in with me, encouraging me, telling me I can do this.  You’re helping me fight the quit and I couldn’t do it without you.

This is just another step in my CrossFit journey

While it sucks…a lot…right now, I know it will only be another stepping stone for the better, stronger, faster, healthier me.  Injury is a lesson I needed to learn.  Embracing this journey is hard and I’m struggling with it daily.

With my family, team of healers, and our community, I’ll come out on top.
Not a quitter.
Definitely a crier.
But a more whole ME

Choice Vs. Chore

I started CrossFit in May of 2013.  At the time, I was a single mom to a 3-year-old.  When I wasn’t with my son, I was out having “fun”.  I put fun in quotes, because I have very different criteria for fun now

My “fun” in 2013 included large amounts of drinking and smoking cigarettes.  I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  I didn’t consider the effects of drinking, smoking, and eating garbage.  So many nights I was in the drive through of Taco Bell, McDonald’s, or the like.  And a lot of the time, I was in the drive through with a road beer.  Many a night, when I didn’t have money for fast food, my dinner was popcorn and beer (yes seriously).  As a divorced and single mom, I was feeling sorry for myself.  Sorry for the choices I’d made that led me to the life I was living.  For the choices I continued to make that only made me feel worse.  I smiled when I felt like crying and I didn’t know how I’d ever get to the life I desired.  What life did I want?  Who was I?  I think many people struggle with these feelings.  I would be lying if I said I never felt like that, even now.

Searching for some kind of escape,
I decided to give it a try.
What did I have to lose?

After my divorce in January of 2013, I lived with my sister and her husband (Jill and Graem) for a few months.  At that time, Graem was really getting into CrossFit.  I wasn’t interested in exercise AT ALL.  I was only interested in when I’d be getting my next beer.  When the WOD Garage opened in Jill and Graem’s garage, he kept asking me to come try a class.  “It’s free!”, he said.  Searching for some kind of escape, I decided to give it a try.  What did I have to lose?

Until you start removing toxicity from your body, you won’t understand how important the choice to change is

I was immediately hooked.  I liked the exhausted, sweaty Julie.  I liked the Julie who tried new things and worked hard.  I wanted more of her.  I quickly realized that if I wanted to live through more workouts, I’d need to give up the cigarettes.  That was the first choice I made to better my life.  And it was a great!  When we live in a constant state of survival, we don’t realize how terribly we feel.  Until you start removing toxicity from your body, you won’t understand how important the choice to change is.

One small change can go a long way

You all have heard the term, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” And the same is true for yourself.  Start your journey with small choices to change.  Changing everything in your life at once is a sure set up for failure.  I’ve been on this journey for 5 years and I’m still working at it!  I decided later in 2013 that I was going to stop drinking diet soda.  I loved me some Diet Coke!  For breakfast, lunch and dinner.  All day long.  Once I started going to CrossFit more regularly, I realized that Diet Coke didn’t make me feel good.  I also used artificial sweeteners in my coffee and iced tea.  Bob Harper writes in “The Skinny Rules” that if you don’t like your coffee black, then you don’t actually like coffee at all.  This was a big pill for me to swallow.  So, when the diet coke went bye-bye, so did the Sweet-N-Low…so long little pink packets (tear).  I switched to regular sugar in my coffee.  What a difference (gag) and it took me a long time to get used to it.  But I did.  One small change can go a long way.  If you’re drinking several sodas a day, trying limiting it to one a day a first.  After you get there for several weeks consistently, try cutting it back to once every other day.  Notice the changes you feel in your body, your energy, your workouts and your mood.

Think about how to balance your overall health

Nutrition has by FAR been my biggest and most constant struggle.  Do I eat 100% clean every meal?  Nope.  Do I ever plan to?  Nope.  That’s my choice and you have to find your happy medium too.  My small choice changes have morphed into this:  am I eating veggies with every meal?  What whole foods have I consumed today?  Is what I’m eating right now something processed?  What are the ingredients and how much sugar is there?  Internal dialogue is super important.  When I’m eating a donut, I ask myself, “how is this going to help you reach your goals?” and I know the answer.  It’s not.  Do I dwell on one donut a week and chide myself over it?  No.  I accept my sugary snack as a fail and move on with my life.  Balance.  Think about how to balance your overall health.  Eat more veggies than donuts.  Drink more water.  Limit your alcohol and fast food or eliminate it altogether.  When you want a snack, grab an apple instead of a bag of chips.  One choice at a time.

Meal prep is a huge part of keeping nutrition on track.  If you have good, whole foods ready to eat in the fridge/cupboard/countertop, you are so much more likely to eat them as opposed to that bag of chips or package of cookies (throw those cookies away).  When you’re checking out at the grocery store, review your basket.  How much of what you’re buying is fresh, real food as opposed to packaged processed food?  Can you do better?  Then do better.  The prep may feel laborious and tedious but trust me…it’s WORTH IT.  This is the key my friends.  It is not a chore.

Choose better for your family and your kids.
Have the baby carrots on hand.
Cut up those bell peppers.
Fresh, real food.
One foot in front of the other.
One small change at a time.
Do it for you.
You deserve it!