Monday 150126

Workout
150 – Air Squats
2000m Row
150 – Air Squats

Yes I know we rowed last week…

109-Year-Old Woman Says Secret To Long Life Is Avoiding Men

Posted: Updated:

The oldest living woman in Scotland — 109 — says the secret to her longevity is this: Eat your porridge and avoid men. Centenarian Jessie Gallan, who never married, was born in a tiny two-room farm cottage where she slept “top-to-tail” with her five sisters and a brother on a straw mattress, reported The Daily Mail.

Gallan told the newspaper that her “secret to a long life has been staying away from men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth.” She noted that she also “made sure that I got plenty of exercise, eat a nice warm bowl of porridge every morning and have never gotten married.”

Last year when she turned 108, she credited her porridge — but not avoiding men — as the reason for her longevity.

While the oldest person in Scotland, Gallan is not the oldest person in the world. That honor goes to Misao Okawa of Japan, who celebrated her 116th birthday in March.She has been a widow for 83 years (her husband died in 1931) — suggesting that she perhaps shares Gallan’s view about avoiding men if you want to live long.

Last year, a national survey of centenarians in the United States found that the secrets to long life include plenty of time with friends and family and a commitment to fitness.

Tuesday 141216

PR Testing continues…

5 minutes of Double Under practice.

1.  500m Row AS FAST AS YOU CAN

recover

2.  Press Max

Recover

2000m Row – cool down

Do you think a sub 2 hour 26.2 mile run is possible?  From Sportscience.com

The 2-hour marathon and the 4-min mile

In the last month or so, I’ve been involved in some lively debate about the prospects of the sub-2 hour marathon within five years.  At issue is not whether it will happen some day, because it would take a fool to say with certainty that it will NEVER happen.  At issue is whether it can happen WITHIN FIVE YEARS.

That’s because a campaign to help achieve the sub-2 hour marathon was launched this past week, on the premise that “the project team believe they can achieve this feat within 5 years by applying a dedicated scientific approach“.  That is further expanded on in one of the project member’s newly created website:

“The project is going to select particular runners, possibly not even having currently run a marathon, but having the suitable credentials over a shorter distance. Those runners will then be exposed to the best that medicine and science can currently offer. They will get medical back-up, ranging from injury prevention to treatment, training schedules utilsing the best scientific training methods to refine current programmes, either working with the athletes directly, or through their coaches in the cases where that is applicable; monitoring of training status to prevent over-training or over-racing, the inclusion of refined altitude training techniques (there is more to it than just living at high altitude), monitoring ad refinefent of trainig diet, and importantly, customised recovery nutrition, pre-race nutrition, and in-race nutrition. The runners, in addition, will work with sports psychologists, and biomechanists and be given guidance on the use of legal nutritional ergogenic aids that  have a basis in science for potential benefit”

Science doesn’t offer enough leverage to ‘mature’ practices

All good and well, in principle.  If you are a high performance manager, then the list above is what you should be doing to optimize performance.  You already knew that.  Certainly, I wish the project well.  However, I remain certain that this will not happen in five years, because as much as we as scientists want to believe our interventions make huge differences, they simply do not offer the leverage they are claiming here.  In fact, the kind of thinking above is what oversells and ultimately hurts the application of science to performance coaches.

On first reading the above, I found the entire concept to represent a misperception of science and medicine as a “white knight”, because implicit in the above approach (tactical and operational at best, which is failing – always start with strategic thinking) is that a) the answers reside with a select few, and b) the current runners are far off the ideal standard of those few.

How far off the standard would they need to be in this instance?  Well, in order to hit 1:59:59 by 2019, we are talking an improvement of 2:57, or 2.4% on the current world record, within five years.  That is the equivalent of applying science to help Usain Bolt (or one of his countrymen) to run 9.35s, or to get David Rudisha or Nijel Amos down to a 1:38.5.  These improvements simply do not happen unless there is:

a) emergence of an entirely new population, or;

b) unrestricted application of technology, which in this case could include doping.

The question for the prospects of a sub-2 hour marathon within five years is whether either of these are viable?

The 4-min mile and what it teaches us

This is where the 4-min mile comparison enters the debate.  This has been offered, again on the same website I quoted from earlier, as support for why skeptics of this 2-hour (IN FIVE YEARS) project are like sheep following blindly without doing their analysis (or apparently, understanding the physiology of the marathon.  Go figure).

So here’s the thing about the 4-min mile.  You probably know the basic story – it’s 1954, and the world record is “stuck” at 4:01.4.  The world is watching a race to see who can be the first to crack this mythical four minute barrier.  Down in Australia, John Landy is leading the charge, and runs within 3 seconds of the barrier no fewer than 6 times in an 18-month period.  He becomes the poster boy for the impossibility of the 4-min mile, something he is taken to confirm when he is quoted as saying “The four-minute mile is a brick wall, and I shan’t attempt it again”.

Then a medical student, Roger Bannister, takes to the track in Oxford, on May 6, 1954, and runs 3:59.4.  The barrier is conquered, the wall is broken, and lo-and-behond, John Landy, he who failed six times, goes out and runs 3:58.0 six weeks later!

It suggests, NAY PROVES!!! that the 4-min mile barrier was purely mental or psychological, and it took Bannister’s mental strength to show Landy the way.  Since then, the record has been lowered to 3:43 and 1,034 men have done it.  So much for “impossible”…Right?

At least, that’s what you’ve heard, and been led to believe.  And while I’ve no doubt that mental factors do play a SIGNIFICANT role in performance and our acceptance of limits (there are other cases in history where a broken barrier is followed by a relative deluge), there’s a little more nuance to this story than you might have thought, and it adds some context to our sub-2 hour discussion.

First, Landy had done all his 4:02s in what were effectively time-trials.  He was isolated and alone, and working harder than he might have with the support of pace-setters or the spur of rivals.  Having other runners either setting the pace or challenging you may have a very small effect, but 0.5% would have been worth 1.5 seconds to him.  That puts him right on the cusp.  Bannister, on the other hand, used two Chrises – Brasher and Chataway, to set the race up for his final lap, and they pulled him through three laps in just outside 3:00.  That’s a significant advantage.

Ironically, when Landy eventually broke 4-min with his 3.58, he not only had a pace-setter for 600m (at the insistence of his Finnish hosts), but he had the very same Chris Chataway for company – not as a pace-setter, but as competitor who pushed him all the way through the bell.

Second, Landy would eventually break 4-min running in Turku, Finland, thanks to the assistance of Finnish athletes who brought him over.  In fact, Landy had been enticed to Finland in April 1954, with the intention of training and racing against Finland’s best, because he knew that they might be just what he needed to go 2 seconds faster (see above, re pacing and competition).  What is more, Finland offered Landy something he did not have in Australia – quality track surfaces, at least compared to Australia.

The difference that track surface makes is enormous – biomechanists estimate that modern synthetic tracks are worth 1.5% compared to the cinder tracks that Bannister and Landy ran on (some cinder being better than others, of course).  And that’s why, as my friend David Esptein so elegantly presented at TED, of the 1,034 men who have broken 4-min for the mile since 1954, only 530 would remain if you applied that “correction factor” that predicts that synthetic tracks are worth about 1.5% per lap compared to the cinder tracks of the 1950.

It means only 10 men per decade have joined the club since Bannister created it, and that should give you some context to this argument that “Four minutes used to be impossible, and now it is easy”.

The point is, what we see as huge physiological advances in the 60 years since Bannister’s great run are in fact at least partly, if not largely (50% of the group falls away) driven by technology.

Therefore, for the sub-2 hour marathon debate the question is this: What technology is going to take 2.4% off the time in five years, short of doping?  Remember that the 1.5s that Bannister needed back in 1954 represented a 0.6% improvement in the old world record.  Talking about a sub-2 hour marathon means you believe that 2.4% is possible, from science, applied to a population that is already mature (Kenyans have been running as fast as possible for 20 years with huge economic incentives). When the marathon world record hits 2:00:40, then we can start talking about the small gains and leverage/ROI of science to nudge it down.

I’m afraid science simply does not offer that kind of leverage to mature practice.

Emergence and culture – the key drivers that scientists miss

The final point, and maybe the most important reason why comparing the sub-2 hour marathon to the 4-min mile does not work is that we are now seeing the result of globalization in sport that did not exist in 1954.

You must remember, the 9 year gap between the 4:01.4 world record (set in 1945 by Hagg) and Bannister’s 1954 run was not simply because mankind had a mental block against running under 4 minutes.  There was a huge war in the 1940s, and it took hundreds of thousands of young men, potential athletes, out of the pool of eligible record breakers.  That’s not to mention that running track races was hardly a concern for nearly a decade while war and its subsequent rebuilding took place.

This was particularly relevant and harmful to Europe, of course, which is why Bannister emerged from what was a relatively small population of eligible athletes to take his place in history.

The same cannot be said now.  Since 1990, Kenyan men in particular (more recently, their women too) have dominated track and road distance events.  My friend Jordan Santos and I recently wrote a paper look at just how staggering their dominance has been – in some years, 80% of the best marathons performances come from one tribe in Kenya, the Kalenjin.  All 25 were Kenyan.

Now, the thing to appreciate here is the big picture – Kenya’s dominance is unquestionably the result of many, many factors.  If you say altitude, OR economics, OR culture, OR diet, or GENES, you’d be only partly right.  The interaction of all these factors have created a perfect storm to produce outstanding runners from a very small portion of the world’s population.  That’s something I’ve written on in the past too – this BJSM review article describes the relative contribution of genes, and arguably, the body type of the Kenyans (genetic) is a crucial factor too.  We only beginning to understand the physiology (and genetics) of these runners, but it all points, I hope we agree, to SOME CONTRIBUTION from genes.

Therefore, what has changed in athletics and running between 1954 and 2014 is not only technology and knowledge, but also that a new population, perhaps better endowed or predisposed to distance running success have targeted distance events as a means to earn a living.

The economic factor is huge – it means, literally, that thousands of Kenyans aged 18 to 25 are training with current champions (that’s culture, and it creates a staggering “institutional memory” across generations) to break records and win big races.  This drives performance more than science ever could – it is truly a high leverage input, because when you have culture plus economics, you have the two ingredients to grow knowledge through “institutional wisdom”.

The point there is that the athletes learn what works.  I was lucky enough to spend an hour with Haile Gebrselassie in 2012, and two hours talking to Wilson Kipsang in 2014, and these men know how to train.  They already receive advice from very good coaches and scientists, and they learn through their own mistakes and those of others, what works and what does not.

That is why I get so annoyed by claims by scientists that they can ride their white stallion of knowledge into Kenya (or Ethiopia) and simply help them by doing good science and monitoring recovery.  These are runners who laugh at westerners for their heart rate monitors and gadgets, because they understand their bodies so well already.

Back to the 4- min mile analogy, the key point is this – a new population came along, and so of those 1,034 men who have run under 4-min, or better still, of the 530 who have done so even after technology is corrected for, many of them are African-born.  In fact, I’d say most will be African-born.

So when you point to 1954 and say “the 4-min barrier is no different to the 2-hour barrier of 2014″, you are in fact wrong, because you have not recognized how emergence of a new population into a professional sport has driven performance and culture (and thus knowledge).

This is the macro-economic view of sports performance.  The analogy here is that an economist who tries to predict and then alter the future behaviour of the US Dollar based on what happened in the 1950s is going to be totally wrong, because the world has changed – it’s flat!  New markets emerge, globalization occurs, and for instance, in this analysis, the impact of China, India and other BRIC nations was not a factor in 1954, they are now.  Similarly, we can’t infer much from a “limit” or barrier in 1954, because 2014 has seen the sporting equivalent of “globalization” and new market emergence.

The greatest leap in performance in the last 50 years (outside of technology and doping) has come not because of science but because of this expansion, part of the maturation of sport – the world of sport is now flat, and so the best athletes, genetically, are focused on their optimal events.  Changing that, to the tune of 2.4%, is simply not possible, in my view.

That’s why the comparison between horses and greyhounds is so important.  Since the 1970s, horses have not gotten faster.  Since the 1960, greyhounds have not gotten faster.  What does this tell us?  It says that despite the incentives to get faster (there’s plenty of money in both), a limit has been reached, because horses and greyhounds have always been bred with a specific purpose.  Thus, in a rapid form of evolution, the genetic pool was first expanded, then filtered, to the point that a limit was reached.  Emergence was made impossible because the genetics were “maxed” out, and so there is no longer a possibility, within that very best, “optimized sample”, of advances.  Nor is it likely that a new sample will emerge.

Similarly, unless you can find a new population, emergence is nearing its end in humans too.  Jamaicans and African Americans never used to dominate sprints, now they do.  East Africans dominate distance races.

Bottom line – a disingenuous campaign

It is disingenuous to compare Roger Bannister looking for 0.6% to a project looking for 2.4%, when world records are already becoming asymptotic (there are a lot of papers showing this).

It is disingenuous to overlook the culture of running that has emerged over ten generations of champion runners to think that typical sports science will make that kind of difference – it over-estimates the leverage.

It is disingenuous to have ignore the fact that emergence of a new group is a driver of progress, and that is not worth 2.4% in five years, at this stage of the life cycle of marathon running.

And finally, the promise is not benign.  Yes, I am being cynical, but when sports science promises and then under-delivers, it actually hurts us in the long run.  That’s the issue to me.  It’s not the science, or the scientists, despite what you might think.  In fact, many of the scientists on the project are outstanding, and I have the greatest of respect for their work.  Highly published and deserving of their reputations, all of them.

This is a PR, marketing issue, dealing with the translation of science and its “sale” to the sports world.  I just don’t think it’s helpful.

However, I with the team luck, I’d love to see a 1:59 by 2019, but I say it won’t happen.  In fact, I’m offering a $1000 bet to Dr Andrew Bosch on that – if it happens, I pay you.  If not, that’ll buy me some nice dinners.

Oh and finally, also for Andrew, since the sheep have followed without any analysis, here’s my attempt at a different viewpoint – a little bit of history, economics, culture and physiology.  It includes some mention of horses and greyhounds.

Ross

Monday 140224

Workout

Row 2000m

REST and RECOVER

21 – 225 lbs DL
42-HR Push-ups

15-225 lbs DL
30-HR Push-ups

9-225 lbs DL
18-HR Push-ups

From The Atlantic

How to Save Marriage in America

Traditional matrimony—he brings home the bacon, she cooks it—is dying. But college-educated couples are pointing toward a new model with children at the heart of the union.
Hellolapomme/Flickr

What’s happening to American matrimony? In 1960, more than 70 percent of all adults were married, including nearly six in ten twentysomethings. Half a century later, just 20 percent of 18-29-year olds were hitched in 2010. Marriage was the norm for young America. Now it’s the exception.

American marriage is not dying. But it is undergoing a metamorphosis, prompted by a transformation in the economic and social status of women and the virtual disappearance of low-skilled male jobs. The old form of marriage, based on outdated social rules and gender roles, is fading. A new version is emerging—egalitarian, committed, and focused on children.

There was a time when college-educated women were the least likely to be married. Today, they are the most important drivers of the new marriage model. Unlike their European counterparts, increasingly ambivalent about marriage, college graduates in the United States are reinventing marriage as a child-rearing machine for a post-feminist society and a knowledge economy. It’s working, too: Their marriages offer more satisfaction, last longer, and produce more successful children.

The glue for these marriages is not sex, nor religion, nor money. It is a joint commitment to high-investment parenting—not hippy marriages, but “HIP” marriages. And America needs more of them. Right now, these marriages are concentrated at the top of the social ladder, but they offer the best—perhaps the only—hope for saving the institution.

The Marriage Gap

Matrimony is flourishing among the rich but floundering among the poor, leading to a large, corresponding “marriage gap.” Women with at least a BA are now significantly more likely to be married in their early 40s than high-school dropouts:

During the 1960s and 1970s, it looked as if the elite might turn away from this fusty, constricting institution. Instead, they are now its most popular participants. In 2007, American marriage passed an important milestone: It was the first year when rates of marriage by age 30 were higher for college graduates than for non-graduates. Why should we care about the class gap in marriage? First, two-parent households are less likely to raise children in poverty, since two potential earners are better than one. More than half of children in poverty—56.1 percent, to be exact—are being raised by a single mother.

Second, children raised by married parents do better on a range of educational, social and economic outcomes. To take one of dozens of illustrations, Brad Wilcox estimates that children raised by married parents are 44% more likely to go to college. It is, inevitably, fiendishly difficult to tease out cause and effect here: Highly-educated, highly-committed parents, in a loving, stable relationship are likely to raise successful children, regardless of their marital status. It is hard to work out whether marriage itself is making much difference, or whether it is, as many commentators now claim, merely the “capstone” of a successful relationship.

Three Kinds of Marriage                 

The debate over marriage is also hindered by treating it as a monolithic institution. Today, it makes more sense to think of “marriages rather than “marriage.” The legalization of same-sex marriages is only the latest modulation, after divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, step-children, delayed child-bearing, and chosen childlessness.

But even among this multiplicity of marital shapes, it is possible to identity three key motivations for marriage—money, love, and childrearing—and three corresponding kinds of marriage: traditional, romantic, and parental (see Box).

Traditional marriage is being rendered obsolete by feminism and the shift to a non-unionized, service economy. Romantic marriage, based on individual needs and expression, remains largely a figment of our Hollywood-fueled imaginations, and sub-optimal for children. HIP marriages are the future of American marriage—if it has one.

1. Traditional Marriage: Going, Going…

The traditional model of marriage is based Read more Monday 140224

Wednesday 140212

Babs was hard.  Today 2000m row for active recovery and foam roll.

Tomorrow we SQUAT!

CrossFit debate not going away

Critics cite injuries, unorthodox programs; supporters point to results 

CrossFit Games
Courtesy CrossFit, Inc.Olympic-style lifts like the snatch are a CrossFit staple, but some question their safety.
Almost 10 years ago, a story about CrossFit in the New York Times was headlined, “Getting Fit, Even if it Kills You.”In the years since, CrossFit has been at the center of a public feud between its legions of believers and its critics, each arguing that: (A) CrossFit is the best and most challenging fitness program they’ve ever found, or (B) it’s a program that recklessly pushes practitioners into danger zones.

Since that Times article in 2005, other pieces about CrossFit have carried headlines such as “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret” and “Can CrossFit Kill You?” More often than not, the comments sections on those stories online have degenerated into nasty digital duels between the passionate supporters and detractors. The only absolute certainty about CrossFit seems to be that it’s a polarizing topic.

So when a CrossFit athlete and trainer named Kevin Ogar was injured seriously in a recent Southern California competition that featured CrossFit-like events (but was not sanctioned by CrossFit), the tragedy sparked yet another series of national stories and a war of words.To Dr. Andrew Galpin, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Cal State Fullerton — in Orange County where Ogar’s injury occurred — the latest stories were to be expected.

“You don’t like CrossFit, so you see this thing and there you go, it confirmed your bias,” said Galpin, who is familiar with CrossFit and specializes in the study of performance enhancement and strength and conditioning.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s nothing wrong with CrossFit, he says, adding there are “a lot of things that CrossFit does really, really bad.” But he says it’s “a massive failure in logic” to single out one injury in one event and declare it to be proof that the program is dangerous.

Since Ogar was injured on Jan. 12, Galpin says he hasn’t noticed any increase in negative buzz about CrossFit from his students or the people he talks to. And, in fact, the incident doesn’t seem to have dissuaded people from trying CrossFit. Down the road in San Diego, for instance, Aush Chatman, who owns and operates the CrossFit San Diego gym, says he had more newcomers in January 2014 than in any previous January.

Galpin says questions about CrossFit haven’t increased because it’s always being questioned.

“You know, honestly it hasn’t picked up that much because actually it’s pretty prevalent as it is,” Galpin said. “We get it quite a bit, and honestly I get a lot of that question from even my grad students or my senior-level kinesiology students. They’ll say, sort of tentatively, ‘What’s the deal with that CrossFit, is that all right?’

“There’s a lot of unsurety behind it and I tell them the same sort of thing: there’s some really bad CrossFit and some really bad CrossFit trainers, and there’s some really bad tire companies and some really bad insurance companies and there’s some really bad computer makers. It’s just like anything else. You have to be an aware consumer.”

A “tragic, freak event”

The injury to Ogar — Read more Wednesday 140212

Friday 140207

Workout
2000m row – Set damper at 1 and do not strap in.

BSquat
60% x5 x5
it is light so work on getting proper depth on each rep

Throw in 10 Burpees between working sets…

Thanks Chris Ann for the link.  From Fit Nation

Why the toughest CrossFit women are rarely toothpicks.

I’m no toothpick. And I’m not trying to become one by doing CrossFit.

I CrossFit because I’m thick but strong, and I like being strong, and in the CrossFit community, being able to lift heavy things is seen as something great. So I fit in.

For me, it’s a place where I don’t have to hide that I want to be powerful, strong, a superhero. It’s also a place where I don’t have to hide the generous circumference of my thighs.

I want to give every woman out there, no matter what you look like, permission to say, out loud: “I want to be a bad ass.” Go ahead, say it. I’ll say it with you. My mid-30s, mother-of-two-kids, casserole-making self still wants to feel like a superhero. No, not feel like one, I want to BE one. And I’ve pretty much wanted to my whole life.

When I was little, my mom signed me up for the Super Summer Soccer clinic. It was the early 80s and soccer was still catching on in the U.S., so I was the only girl on my team. I remember being vaguely confused about which way I should face and which goal was mine, but by the end of the summer I got the “most improved player” trophy. After the awards ceremony, one of my fellow kindergarten athletes proffered this compliment: “I don’t usually like girls, but you’re ok.” That was the first time I felt like a bad ass.

Through college and into my late 20s, I played intramural soccer. I loved being part of a team. I loved the way the better players pushed me and made me run so hard my lungs burned. I secretly imagined myself at the Olympics, the World Cup, ripping my shirt off after making a winning goal while my rock-hard abs glistened.

But I got older and life got complicated. I lost sports from my life. I had kids, a demanding job (or three) and I started to make excuses like: “I am so tired of paying team fees,” or “I just can’t fit it in at the end of the day.”

At the same time, I stopped meeting people my age that played on teams. Why is it that at 30, everyone stops playing sports and starts running marathons? I joined the herd, ran the marathons and biked the century rides and I liked it, but it wasn’t the same. I became a regular gym person. Aerobics classes. Free weights. Cardio machines. Repeat. God, it was boring.

Also, somewhere in there, I started to believe that a workout was about me carving my body into some acceptable shape. I lost the girl that played sports for the high of making a goal. It didn’t matter to me that I ran my first marathon, what mattered was that my dress size was in the double-digits while doing it.

I started hearing about CrossFit a few years ago. I did some powerlifting in college and I thought CrossFit sounded dangerous—doing heavy lifts as fast as you could. I mistrusted the weird lingo, old-fashioned, Arnold Schwarzenegger-inspired equipment and the Spartan decor of these “boxes.” Needless to say, I was not an early adopter.

But one day, my gym’s courtyard was populated by a group of very normal, but fit-looking ladies, working out. There was a lot of instruction going on—how to do a clean. How to squat correctly. They were pinwheeling their shoulders, shaking out their legs. There was a lot of encouragement, but not a lot of chatting. I stalked them for a bit. Then, I saw one of them do a kipping pull up.

I wanted so badly to fly up to that bar like she did. She looked like a bad ass. As a bottom-heavy weightlifter, nature made me for the squat and dead lift. I’d never done an unassisted pull up and I thought it wasn’t possible. But these ladies were doing it. I wanted in. The superhero in me woke up.

The rest is history.

What keeps me excited about CrossFit, even three years later, is its focus on the fun of working out, of play, of being an athlete. The CF culture values what you are able to do, not what you want to look like. Because if you want to do a 250-pound dead lift, you’re going to need the beefy legs to back it up.

For me, the reason why those lose-the-baby-weight workouts at the gym sucked was because I did them to become a different person, or at least a different version of myself. It was a chore, something I had to do. CrossFit, on the other hand, is about me rediscovering the strength I had all along, pushing my boundaries and proving to myself again and again that I am still strong and can still surprise myself. (And surprise my husband, who I text immediately every time I get a PR. His response—every single time—is “that’s my girl.”)

We CrossFit women are the high school jocks, the thick girls, the tomboys, the kids from the street who grew up tough. But it also IS for the toothpicks, the skinny girls who were never told that they could be bad assess too.

women carrying an other women workingout

Women love CrossFit, and I think it’s because it fights the odd misconception that we girls have some sort of aversion to hard workouts. Many of us would choose a hard workout over an easy one if it were more fun. We’re not all after the path of least resistance and most calories burned.

Triathlons, century rides, adventure races all appeal to the inner bad ass, too. But you can’t just walk in to a triathlon and from day one and feel like: “Holy crap. I just conquered something.” CrossFit can start giving you the gratification that comes after a long training season and a big race, but right away.

One of my best days was when I hit a back squat PR. I remember some of the girls gathered around, watching. They called me a beast. I don’t look like much; you’d never be intimated by me at the gym. But in the CrossFit community, I’m accepted as awesome during those heavy lifting days. Better yet, I have something to contribute. The girls ask me how to stand, how much weight they should go up. On those days, the girls that are slender look at me and wish they could do what I’m doing.

Other days, the twiggy girls are rocking out a billion handstand push-ups—a move where you do a handstand, against a wall, completely inverted and then try to make your body go up and down. And while I’m struggling to kick up onto the damn wall, they will come over and hold my legs up and tell me what to do.

I’ll tell you, there’s no high like the one that you get when you do something you’ve never done before. You feel it when the jump rope makes that zinging sound as it goes around twice, because another girl told you to focus on your wrists, not your feet. You’ll feel it when your chin finally gets above the pull-up bar because your coach told you to focus on rotating at your shoulder instead of pulling straight up.

That’s the feeling of being an athlete again. It’s reconfirming, over and over, that I work out for the fun of sport again. And now, doing another workout that focuses on the external just doesn’t seem good enough.

CrossFit women don’t look like toothpicks because this workout isn’t about how we look. It’s about who we are, and that looks different.