No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my chest to touch the pull up bar.
It was the third workout of the CrossFit Open; an annual fitness test involving judges and score cards where over 300,000 CrossFitters worldwide do the same prescribed workout once a week over a five week period, or as in my case, a scaled version of said designated torture.
The 2016 Open was the first time I paid the twenty bucks and entered my name in the system. After 4 years of pursuing evidence based fitness, participating in mild competition holds me accountable to an exercise routine. Besides, the Friday Night Lights set up gave me a reason to forego evening parenting responsibilities. Plus, the coach stores beer in the gym fridge.
I felt confident going into this third Friday. The task at hand involved jumping chest to bar pull ups. I’m 5’9. I can jump. I know how to do a pull up. I thought; piece of cake.
But I underestimated the importance of the angle of the pull toward the bar. Perhaps during my pre-kids, D cup days it wouldn’t have been an issue, but now a deflated C, I left a sizeable amount of air between the girls and the iron.
Each unsuccessful repetition of the movement resulted in a “no rep” from the judge. I hung from the bar like a sloth, praying for the clock to run out while convincing myself to go at again. Then, 15 seconds before the final buzzer the coach said, “Switch your grip.” I held on to the rig in chin up position and jumped. Slam! My chest hit the bar with ease. Unfortunately, my renewed optimism was short lived. “5-4-3-2-1…” The music went silent.
Afterward, a young lady who assists with the kids’ class asked, “How’d it go?”
“What a debacle,” I huffed. “That switch grip was the golden ticket, but I ran out of time.” I skipped the beer and went straight home, determined to improve my score.
Two days later, I did what any self-respecting, half crazy CrossFit disciple would do; I went back to redo the workout during open gym. The same young lady was the designated judge for the morning.
When I was ready, she cranked up the tunes and started the clock. I made my way through the jumping pull ups using the reversed grip. After a few rounds my forearms stiffened and quads stung. My chest began to miss the bar.
“No rep!” she called. “Almost there.”
I tried again.
“No rep! Let’s go, Red. You got this.”
But I didn’t “Got this.” My thoughts turned dark. Who does she think she is with the no reps? I’m not an uber-athlete. I skipped my morning newspaper to be here. Not to mention the fact that I could be this girl’s mother.
I wanted a break and I wanted her to give me one. Miss teenager could have let the no reps slide. She could have turned a cheek. But she didn’t. She could have felt intimidated. But she wasn’t.
So, I took a few breaths, regrouped and forged ahead. By the end of the seven minutes, I had a beautiful battle scar of bruise on my chest. What I also had was a legitimate and nearly doubled score compared to Friday night. And I had my judge, who held me to the standard to thank for it.
The following week, I took note of the young CrossFitter’s approach during regular sessions and the remaining Open workouts. Each time she completed an Olympic lift or moved through a workout, she held herself to a high standard of form and function; and when she made a mistake, she no repped herself. Turns out, my judge hadn’t asked me to do anything she didn’t expect from herself.
At seventeen, this young lady already owns the integrity and courage that took me half a lifetime to cultivate, making her a powerful role model for girls and us masters, alike.
Soon, she will apply to college, graduate high school and move out on her own. As she cycles through life events, I hope she highlights these qualities when speaking with admission officers and future employers. And I hope she seeks out similar traits in others as she builds friendships and falls in love. Resume worthy accomplishments, physical strength and youthful outer beauty will fade; character will endure.
Integrity and courage are sometimes met with gossip, envy, and judgment. So when she catches slack for the high standards or the backlash cracks her confidence, I encourage my judge to hang tough and perhaps recall the time she refused to let this old timer break the rules during the CrossFit Open; because young lady, when it comes to life, “You got this.”