By Bruce Overstreet
I should have adopted the philosophy of “Lift It Like Litsa” for the third round of the CrossFit Open.
Litsa Olsson is the CrossFit Marysville marvel who dead-lifted 205 pounds more times than all but 12 women worldwide in her 50-54 age group. That put Litsa solidly in 15th place out of more than 1,500 competitors.
Litsa was there in my corner and everyone else’s as about 20 of us pushed ourselves to our physical limit in workout No. 3, mixing box jumps and dead-lifts in an increasing amount of reps and weight.
While Litsa can lift, unfortunately, I can’t.
So, even though Litsa was giving me some excellent advice on maintaining my form as the weight increased, my back felt the strain as my form started to deteriorate. And eventually my back started to take the shape of a chocolate éclair.
And eventually, my less-than-solid core limited my dead-lifts to single lifts followed by a drop.
For the record, I finished 1,667th in workout No. 3 for my 50-54 age group which puts me 1,701st worldwide.
That’s actually an improvement from week No. 1, but that’s mainly because many competitors have missed one of the weekly competitions of the Open. I guess, in a way, this CrossFit Open comes down to a kind of convoluted Darwinian Survival of the Fittest competition where I simply last longer than others.
One individual who is learning to last is Jacque Knight, 35, the person who I judged during workout No. 3.
Jacque was in the same OnRamp class with me back in January, so I have a soft spot for her and the incredible improvement she is making at CrossFit. I so clearly remember the first time the OnRamp class took a 400-meter jog around the block on a dark night back in January. The thing is that Jacque couldn’t make it but a couple of meters before she had to walk. So the 400 meters was greatly scaled down to a 200-meter walk for her.
Fast-forward to just last week when I saw Jacque actually run almost 200 meters. At that moment, I threw out the challenge that I will get ten consecutive pull-ups before she can run 400 meters non-stop.
“This is the longest I have ever stuck with any kind of program to improve my health,” she shared with me. “I’ve tried almost every diet plan out there and this is the first time I’ve stuck with it.”
At the rate Jacque is improving, it’s safe to say she will reach her goal before I reach mine. And if she does, I plan on being the first one to congratulate her.
Someone else who should be congratulated is Laurie Eisenhart, 52, who has been doing CrossFit for a little over a year. As I judged her effort in round No. 4 of the CrossFit Open this past Saturday, it seemed as if every one of her 50 very difficult “toes-to-bar” attempts were performed to Nadia Comaneci perfection.
Heck, if this were gymnastics, I would have enthusiastically stuck a “10” up for her execution of this exercise.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t muster even one “toes-to-bar,” which was the second of five exercises in workout No. 4. I flew through the first required exercise—- the rowing portion. In fact, I was easily first off the rowing machine. So, you can guess that I had more time than anyone in the gym to get done with the “toes-to-bar.”
But, try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to get my two feet up to the bar at the same time.
It’s not that I was short on advice. In fact, I got plenty of input from lots of people who can easily do this exercise. Some encouraged me to swing with emphasis on keeping my core tight. Others suggested that flexible shoulders were the key, so I had no chance of ever doing this. Another suggested that I first get my knees to my elbows and then do a donkey kick to the bar. And even another said it may be easiest for me to simply flex my arms and try to muscle my feet up.
At one point, as the 14 minutes designated for workout No. 4 ticked away, I felt the same way I had felt when I had tried to master the golf swing. And just like my golf swing that has difficulty getting the ball in the hole, my toes never made it to the bar.
In one final effort, I simply closed my eyes and tried to “become one with the bar.” That was more out of desperation than anything else. But that strategy was my most successful as I got within a couple of inches of completing one “toes-to-bar.”
It just wasn’t meant to be.
But it wasn’t because I was lacking in support and encouragement. And that’s really what this CrossFit Open is all about. By building a stronger sense of community it fuels the passion. And, baby, I’ve got the passion, just not the core strength.
But give me a year. At least that’s what everyone is telling me. And at least they’re all in agreement on that.