What Crossfit Is Teaching Me About Writing, Part 1

Photo from SnoridgeCrossfit.com [Note: MY push-ups don't look like that!]

Photo of a studly man from SnoridgeCrossfit.com [Note: MY push-ups don’t look like that!]

Welcome to Thoughty Thursday here at More Cowbell! This is the day of the week y’all get to be privy to whatever thoughts are rattling around in my brain.

Most of you who hang out here know that I’ve been trying to get into some semblance of physical fitness since last September. Hubby and I have been doing Crossfit — through shingles, croup and holiday tribulations.

I can’t claim it’s always been fun, and I can’t claim that we’re any good at it. Well…he kind of is. I’m still suckitude. And you know what? I don’t care.

There’s a lot to be said for just showing up.

We showed up for three months of personal training, just to get us from completely remedial to sort of remedial. Then yesterday, I went to a “regular” class, which means I was with all the normal badass Crossfitters who are BETTER AT IT than I am.

It was my second or third time in a regular class and adjustments had to be made.

Here’s what the workout was supposed to be:

  • Warm-up: 800 meter run, then two rounds of: 10 air squats, 1o push-ups, 15 sit-ups
  • 1st exercise: a thingie called the “push press” which involves lifting the barbell over your head. Recommended novice weight: 65 lbs, scaling up through 5 rounds of three to 110 pounds.
  • 2nd exercise: (3 rounds of the following)
    ~ 20 over-the-bar burpees (meaning you do one, jump sideways over your barbell, then do another one…every time over the bar is “one”)
    ~ 10 deadlifts (“girl” weight: 125 lbs)
    ~ 15 thingies called toes-to-bar where you hang from a bar and bring your toes up to it
    ~ 25 thingies called “double-unders” which is jumping rope where it goes under your feet twice before you land
    ~ finishing out with 20 more over the bar burpees

I can’t do all those things. Hell, I can’t do MOST of those things.

(Note: I gave you links so you can see the moves, if you’d like.)

Sure, I try to do the exercises. I’m plenty competitive after all. But, at this point, to do the workout above, exactly as it’s written, it would either take me two hours of cursing, or I’d have an aneurism. I’m just not that strong yet.

So they modify it for me.

Here’s what I did:

  • Warm-up: Several rounds of 10 air squats, 1o modified push-ups, 15 sit-ups. Then, when everyone else returned from the run, we all did 2-3 more rounds together.
  • 1st exercise: push presses starting at 35 pounds and ending the 5th round at 55 pounds.
  • 2nd exercise: (3 rounds of the following)
    ~ 10 over-the-bar burpees (the coach asked me skip over the barbell after the first round because my jumps barely cleared it and made him nervous)
    ~ 10 deadlifts (85 pounds every round)
    ~ 15 sit-ups
    ~ 25 regular jump rope hops (no doubles for me yet…I might break something)
    ~ finishing out with 10 more modified over-the-bar burpees

I did my 3 rounds of the second sequence in fifteen minutes and thirty-five seconds and I was DAMN PROUD. Seriously…I was delighted to get through all three rounds. And all the other people in class were yelling encouragement on the sidelines because, in their words, at least I was there.

[Yes, I’m finally getting to my point.]

I’m a writer. Some days I’m a shitty one and some days I’m kind of good. And I know if I keep practicing, some day I’ll be a great one.

Writing is like push-ups…

When I first started, I couldn’t even get my chest to the ground once. It didn’t matter what position I was in, I’d pretty much melt to the ground like the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz. It was more of an ooze than a push.

Nowadays, if I modify things with a tall box or against the wall, I can do the full range of motion. If I lay on the ground, I can push myself UP. I’m still an epic fail at the “down and up,” but I can do one direction.

I’ve been assured that (with another 3-4 months of practice) I’ll be able to do wonderful push-ups. Smooth, controlled and continuous.

Right now I’m pretty much taking that on faith. Remember, after almost four months of running, rowing, weightlifting and stretching, I still can’t do a push-up or a great squat. And I’ve only lost two pounds.

But bit by bit, it’s getting easier.
Slowly, I’m getting stronger.
Gradually, I’m starting to not feel so inferior.

As long as I only concentrate on getting through that one hour…

Great writing takes:

  • Daily practice, and an understanding that you might not look good doing it.
  • Lots of exercises that feel awkward the first 10-20 times we do them.
  • Surrounding yourself with people who are better at it than you.
  • The willingness to look like an idiot for a while.
  • A community of support that will help you pick yourself up when you fail, encourage you when you plateau and cheer you on to the finish line. (Thank you, my More Cowbell Posse, my WANA peeps, my ROW80 friends and my gals at WITS!!)

All you need to do is focus on that one page, a single scene or your current chapter. The rest will come later, as you get stronger and faster and better.

Push-ups are teaching me that lesson, one agonizing session at a time.

What life skills or hobbies have taught you the most about accomplishing goals? Do you have “sure-fire” methods for staying inspired when you fall on your face? Who is your cheering squad? Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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61 Responses to What Crossfit Is Teaching Me About Writing, Part 1

  1. Laura Drake says:

    This post is SO inspiring, Jenny! You know I have my too-tight cheerleading skirt on for you, right? (Thanks to your amazing Almond Rocha, the zipper is even LOWER!)
    YAAAAaaaayyyy Jenny!

    You hear this all the time – ‘just hang with it, it’ll get easier.’ You proved it!

    As a person who learns ONLY from making mistakes, my whole life has taught me to put my head down and barrel on.

    Butt in chair, butt in chair, butt in chair. (can you tell I’m in revision hell?)
    Thanks for the compelling post – I needed it!
    I’m going to work now!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Well, you have the best work ethic of anyone I know. You inspire ME daily. 🙂

      And I’ve been meaning to tell you…you’re looking pretty sassy in that cheerleading skirt!


  2. K.B. Owen says:

    Holy crap, Jenny! The warm-up would kill me. Good for you, girlie, for sticking with it! I love the connection you made to writing. I sure as heck don’t look good doing it (in my yoga pants and no shower, LOL) – kinda looks like I’m flailing around, still trying to find my start-to-finish method for doing this efficiently. My goal is to write two books a year (hey, a girl can dream, right?), but I’m not there yet. And, of course, just like anything that doesn’t come easily, your mind can start messing with you…what if you don’t have what it takes? What if you don’t have enough good book ideas for a lifetime of authorship?

    It’s a battle, but the struggle is worth it. Thanks for the inspiration!


    P.S. – be careful around those barbells!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      It sounds like we need to get another round of Fast Draft on the books!! What do you say to March?


      • K.B. Owen says:

        Fast draft was the only way I got book #2 finished, LOL. It’s agony while you’re going through it, but boy does it help you make progress! I think March would be great – I’ll be done with all the book #1 business of getting it self-pubbed, book #2 will probably be in the hands of editors, and I can use the time until then to outline book #3 (right now, I do not have a clue what it’s going to be about).

        Fab idea!


  3. Yikes, Jenny. I do some fairly extreme exercises for my workouts, but they’re nothing compared to that! I have to say, though, that since I don’t want to be a competitive weigh-lifter, I’d never be able to lift 110 lbs. I only weighed 10 lbs more than that back before I got married (put on some flab since then…) and at my lightest weight, I weighed less than that. I’m assuming they would lower the weight levels for a short person like me?


  4. Wow, Jenny, that’s a wild ride! I can’t do burpees at all, let alone “over the bar.” (I can do push-ups, tho!) I love the connection with writing, and this one will stay with me. Thanks!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m completely impressed with your push-ups, Jennifer. I’m just suckitude at them. My burpees are getting a little bit better, slowly. Thanks for taking a moment to comment…I was thinking hard about this during my drive-time yesterday.


  5. Jenny, you are my hero. You have come so far! I have decided I’m going to join you (not in crossfit, but in getting fit). It’s time to start showing up to the fitness routine. Hugs hon!


  6. Ginger Calem says:

    Now you KNOW I’d have to LOVE LOVE LOVE this post, Jenny! I’m so thrilled and proud of you for sticking with it. So often, showing up is the hardest part. Sometimes new members will lament the fact that they always come in ‘last’ but I always remind them they are ahead of all the people who never show up!

    Absolutely great analogy to writing. I think about that all the time, especially after a longer, grueling workout. Just like writing, one element at a time. I don’t think 50 burpess, I think 5 at a time! Or one scene at a time. One page at a time. Just show up!

    That looks like a great workout that I might have to give to our people! Do you do the bar-burpees each round, so you end up with 80 total or are they they bookends to the workout, so 40 total?


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      They bookended the workout, Ginger. But if you wanted to properly torture your peeps, you could just do 10 each round.

      We do an X-Diesel class focused on cardio and they do a minute each of max reps for thrusters, burpees, box jumps, pullups and the Airdyne bike. Rest for 3 mins and do it again. We did 25 mins of that and it was a great workout. They started with a warm up and ended with alternating 100 meter sprints with 15 sit-ups.

      It’s making me stronger FOR the regular classes and I love it. These classes are gaining huge popularity.


      • Ginger Calem says:

        Got it. I always love seeing what other CF gyms are doing and getting fresh ideas. We are in our 2nd week of Benchmark workouts. We did this last year where they start the year with 2 weeks of specific workouts and we repeat them every quarter to test their progress and improvement. Keep up the great work!!! 🙂


  7. filbio says:

    Congrats on the fitness program! As a former personal trainer I can relate and appreciate what you are doing. It’s all about sticking to it and making gradual gains. Just like writing. You get better with persistance and practice.



  8. Okay, that workout would kill me. Don’t feel bad about the push-ups and squats Jenny. They’ve never been my strong point either. And hey, congratulations on the lost poundage. Remember, you’ve probably gained a few from all the muscle you’ve developed through your training. Keep it up girl! I’m in your cheering section! Oh, and did I see Fast Draft in March?!?! The timing would really work out awesome for me. Please count me in. 🙂


  9. patodearosen says:

    Here I was so proud of myself for doing Zumba twice a week. Your workout would leave me a quivering mass. I’m impressed with all you’ve accomplished, and the comparison of Crossfit to writing is oh so apt.


  10. Diana Beebe says:

    Thanks, Jenny! I needed that kick in the pants for both working out and writing more consistently. I’m very impressed with your workout goals. Someday, I’ll be able to do a real pushup….


  11. emaginette says:

    Nice, I never thought of it that way. Once said, of course, it’s true. Thanks for the post.


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  13. Karen Rought says:

    It probably wasn’t your intention when you wrote this, but you definitely just brought tears to my eyes! Serious ones, too. Not the laughing ones I usually get when I read your posts. What an inspiration. And what a thing to put yourself through – its so, so easy to feel worthless and like a failure. But it’s hard to feel that way and continue on. Building confidence and ability is a slow, agonizing, painful process. But it’s one of the most rewarding feelings a human being can have when they’ve pushed past all that and have come out in top. Pretty soon you’re going to have that Crossfit in a submission hold. I have faith in you, Jenny. You’re amazing – and don’t you ever forget that!!!


  14. I finished your post, and have read through all the comments…and my stomach muscles STILL ache from watching the toes to the bar video. All I can say is WOW! I have never been able to do a push up on the floor. If I start out in the up position…have you ever heard of a ‘belly smacker’ in the pool…when you jump off the diving board and land flat out instead of head or feet first? Well that’s what my ‘push down’ looks like. So I just do ‘push ups’ against the wall.

    I might someday do Crossfit. Hell might freeze over someday, too… 😉 For now I’ll just stick with my sissy workout of reading on my treadmill, two minutes of curls with one pound hand weights, a minute or two on my wobble board, and stretches.

    Seriously though…way to go, Jenny! Someday I really WOULD like to get into Crossfit. Not likely to happen, but it’s a goal. 🙂

    Good comparison to writing. I’ve said…for a long time…that writing can be a million times harder than any physical work(out) I’ve ever done. I can actually be more exhausted from three hours of serious writing than I would be from a three hour spring cleaning marathon.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, Kristy. I can’t do the toes to bar thing yet either. They just have me do sit-ups instead. But…you’ve got to start somewhere. And be willing to come in LAST for a while. At least that’s what I keep telling myself… 🙂


  15. Julie Glover says:

    This is so awesome, Jenny! Great advice here.

    It also makes me think of how this is true of any change you want to make. For instance, if you want to have a better marriage, just get through the next disagreement peacefully and successfully. Don’t try to solve the whole relationship issue in one argument. But when you have one success, then another, then another, eventually you get a pattern and things turn around. True with individual stuff, relationship stuff, and in all kinds of areas of life.

    You are so wise, Grasshopper.


  16. Whoa, that is some heavy warmup. Mad dibs for keeping up! Investing in your fitness pays off in every field of life, including writing. Great analogy.
    My best writing endurance builders have been my batchelor’s thesis (I hated that thing by the end :D) and kids. I am not a domestic whiz and staying at home for 2,5 years and cooking for bebes pretty much every day (sometimes twice) has been a real challenge.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Wow, Reetta! I only have one and I wanted to get away from her for at least a few days each week. Mad dibs for YOU, doing that with more than one. I’ve heard a thesis is a wicked thing to finish. Lena Corazon is finishing hers right now and it’s been driving her crazy.


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