The Love and Hate of a Challenge

I have always liked to challenge myself although sometimes I take it too far, like in high school when I decided it would be good to push myself with two semesters of calculus—not such a good idea! So much conceptual math showed me just how frustrating certain challenges could be for a person. Today’s CrossFit WOD (aka “workout of the day”) reminded me of the frustration involved in a particularly challenging aspect in your life, whether it’s in the brain or the body. No wonder they call this workout the “Filthy Fifty.”

Filthy Fifty- For Time

50 box jumps (20 inches)

50 jumping pull-ups

50 kettle bell swings

50 walking lunges

50 knees to elbows or atomic sit-ups

50 push press (45 lbs)

50 back extensions

50 wall balls

50 burpees

50 double unders

I felt pretty good, or at least I didn’t feel awful, until I got to the burpees. I can’t do regular burpees since I have bad wrists so I scale to reverse burpees, which look like this:

For me, reverse burpees are challenging to the point of frustration. I’m not very strong in my core yet, and also I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my ankles. Flexibility in my ankles, you say? Indeed. I first heard it in swim class when my coach and I were talking about kicking. Kicking isn’t my strong suit, and he mentioned that it had to do with “stiff ankles.” Stiff ankles? I don’t have stiff ankles! I thought and dismissed it. But today, after some awful-looking reverse burpees (50 awful-looking reverse burpees feel even worse than they look), I asked my coach what I could do to get better. She showed me how to sit into a squat (which I can barely do without pointing my toes way out) and told me it’s all about ankle flexibility. Ouch.

So it turns out that I’ve got a new challenge on my hands. I will learn to do bad-ass reverse burpees! I was definitely frustrated after this workout, but it’s important to remember that challenging yourself can also be very rewarding. When I see a workout like “Filthy Fifty” I wonder if I’ll even be able to complete it. But when I finish the workout (I clocked in at 32:14), I feel super empowered—I can’t believe what I’ve accomplished. Knowing I’ve overcome a huge physical challenge makes everything else seem easier, and delivers a great boost of self-esteem.

The love-hate relationship with challenges is applicable to all aspects of life. As a sommelier and someone who studies wine seriously, blind tasting is challenging for me and it can be frustrating and humiliating to crash my blind tasting for the week in front of my peers. I try to remember the phrase, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time. How do you finish a monster workout? Just keep moving. How do you become a better blind taster? Taste and taste and taste some more. My coach today remarked, “Don’t get frustrated guys, just get zen with it!” I’m going to be spending lots of time getting zen with reverse burpees.

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