I shakily planted my hands on the floor, head aiming for the ab mat, and willed my legs to flip up over my head, putting me into a handstand supported by the wall... except on this first attempt, my legs wouldn’t move. My kick pushed my legs only inches above the ground, instead of above my head and through the arc that would put me where I was supposed to be. A second attempt failed as well, and I found myself consumed by fear.
When was the last time I did a handstand? I thought to myself as my failures replayed in my mind. It was at least 20 years ago that I last attempted a handstand, and probably at least as long ago that I experienced the feeling of my legs flying overhead. As a 5’11” adult, gymnastic movements are not a part of my everyday life. Needless to say, I was freaked out.
Going into Monday’s WOD, I knew I’d have no problem with the prescribed movements, including working to a one-rep max front squat. Even though I hadn’t recorded a front squat max attempt with a barbell since I was swimming in college in 2005, I knew I could trust my body to complete the movement. I knew that I had a PR in me, even. The handstand work that our coach added to the WOD at the last minute, however, was a different story.
We’re all familiar with the saying, “Do something each day that scares you,” or a variant thereof. CrossFit is forcing me to embrace this philosophy, since I’m faced with a new movement or something I haven’t done in years almost every day. There’s the familiar, of course—lifting with a barbell or kettlebells, or even box jumps—but it’s the things like handstands and roll to candlestick that catch me off guard. There are movements that scare me far more than any number of pounds I’ve loaded on a barbell.
But each attempt and each modification slash ego check is making me a better athlete. Bodyweight work has stabilized my once-shaky lunges, and I’m becoming more confident in the movements I attempt. As a former swimmer with questionable skills on land, this is a big deal.
Mostly, I wish I had gotten back to strength training and truly challenging myself sooner. Years of primarily running and using the elliptical for exercise took a toll on my body, and I had the misfortune of experiencing just about every overuse injury under the sun. I wish I’d taken the initiative to maintain my strength; seven years removed from competitive swimming, rebuilding upper body strength is proving to be a challenge. But this isn’t entirely about building up that strength. It’s about the feeling that was familiar as an athlete that I’d forgotten: the discomfort of trying something new and failing.
Without the opportunity to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we remain the same. One of my favorite quotes from my swimming days is something like, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be what you’ve always been.” It’s easy for most of us to get comfortable in a strict cardio routine or lifting light dumbbells, neither of which actually help us reach our goals. Sometimes the reality of what we really must do to get to point B is scary, but I encourage you to take the jump. Whether it’s putting some serious weight on the bar, pushing to complete a set with the heaviest dumbbell you can hold, or facing a fear of a handstand, just try it.
Take the leap, fail, and grow.
DubyaWife's Take: There's still a stigma among females that heavy lifting is for men and cardio and yoga is for women. Break the mold! I can attest that strength training really helps in overall fitness. Not to mention getting outside your comfort zone and doing something new and different. You can find Katherine on her web-site or on twitter @katherinemccoy. Thanks for the call to action, Katherine!