“You lost your pot,” my mom said.
“What?” I said.
She’s famous for her non sequiturs. We were gathered in her Florida driveway with a group of friends who had volunteered to help with her epic moving sale. I thought maybe she was talking about a Dutch oven gone missing. I started to look around the garage sale tables for the missing pot.
“Your pot belly,” she said. “You were starting to get one. Did you know that?”
Thanks, Mom, for Exhibit A: the first piece of subjective evidence worth presenting in my mid-term evaluation.
We are officially halfway through the Operation Iron Tribe project.* I’ve been WOD-ing three times a week for three months now, with no spinning classes and very little outside running or cycling (as in, a very occasional social ride on the weekend). I repeated the battery of fitness tests and measurements we took before training commenced, and I’ll share those in the next post. But first, here are some subjective observations:
I feel stronger. I know: Duh. But it’s really noticeable. From lifting my squirming 5-year-old (the thing that threw out my back 16 months ago) to putting a rolling carry-on in the overhead compartment, everyday tasks that once required straining now feel fairly effortless. I remember an ITF believer telling me, “The first time I noticed it was when I was running through the airport carrying a heavy bag, and it felt easy.” Now I get what he means.
I feel more balanced. When I started this training, I could still do a few pull-ups, thanks to the residual strength from my water-skiing days. But I couldn’t do “real” push-ups. I could out-run most of the guys in my workouts, but I did most of the Olympic weight lifting moves with a bare bar. My abs were strong, but my back was weak. In short, my weaknesses were exposed. Through the constantly varied WODs, I couldn’t avoid them, but also didn’t focus on them exclusively. Those weak areas have been the most to improve (makes sense, because they had the most room for improvement). But I truly feel more balanced, and no longer worry about throwing out my back every time I wrestle my kid.
I still feel strong on the bike. I have done no spinning classes and very little cycling, and the few times I’ve been on the bike, I surprised myself. About two months in, I hopped on the mountain bike for the old red loop at Oak Mountain. I didn’t have enough time for a time trial of the whole thing, but I remember thinking on the ride, “This is the best I’ve felt on the bike in two years!” I had more power on the climbs. But my endurance didn’t seem to have suffered nearly as much as I expected. In a 20-mile practice road race, I was able to hang with the fasties. I got third, deftly out-maneuvered in the sprint finish—but I was really happy that I got that far.
I feel more powerful. Any quick-twitch movements feel more explosive. I noticed this while running up some stairs, or having to power up a short, steep hill on a bike. For a while, when I needed to stomp on the gas, there was nothing there. Now, I feel like I can surge when I want to, and I feel more horsepower. This is great for cycling.
I still get nervous about injury. Every time I have to do squat a heavy load, some subconscious governor clicks on and I just cannot squat to full depth. No matter how many times the coaches assure me my knees are not going to explode, I sometimes feel a little twinge that makes me really, really nervous. Likewise with snatches—I just can’t do a squat-snatch to save my life. And regular snatches make me feel like I’m going to throw out my back. My pre-existing injury explains my paranoia. And it’s either protecting me, or holding me back.
I’m having fun. I’m not bored, because The Coach keeps it interesting. Every WOD is different—you may repeat the same workout maybe twice in a year, for benchmark testing purposes. Some of them see me leading the pack (See: anything that involves running). Others I’m DFL (See: anything that involves heavy weights and lots of reps). But I love the learning process, and the competition, and the fact that workouts never last more than 25 minutes, and are sometimes as short as 4 excruciating minutes that wring you out and leave you limp on the floor. The camaraderie is high, and I enjoy seeing the same people at my home gym, Downtown.
My pants fit better. Aside from the dress whose sleeves my guns have out-grown, my clothes fit better. Sleeveless shirts no longer shame me. My belly is still not fit for a bikini, but there’s progress (See: Exhibit A). Exhibit B: My toddler poked my stomach and said, “Mommy! Your tummy’s less squishy!” And that’s all I have to say about that.
* Stay tuned for the objective results. We repeated most of the tests on March 10 (I’m late in posting—sorry, y’all) and have some hard data up for you next.