CrossFit’s Pukie the Clown: Your symbols signal what you value

CrossFit's Pukie the Clown and Uncle Rhabdo

Pukie the Clown (via redbubble.com) and Uncle Rhabdo.

I’m one of the humans behind The Dallas Morning News Facebook page, and I posted a Washington Post story we ran that criticizes CrossFit’s … intensity:

It’s getting a great mix of response the comments, some testifying to their individual CrossFit gym and coaches’ legitimacy and skill, some criticizing the entire CrossFit culture and short-sightedness of extreme workouts. One comment is standing out for me: Chuck Swain’s, whose profile says he’s the owner/head coach at CrossFit Fervor in Mansfield, Texas.

Started CrossFit several years ago as an obese executive. Is it intense? Yep. But intensity is in essence the secret sauce. Have I ever met PUKIE? Yep. Fight gone bad September of 2011. But, I have never been seriously hurt. I have been able to reverse illnesses that docs would medicate symptoms. I turn 49 in less than a week and this year I completed my first UltraMarathon, ran The Great Bull run last month in Ennis. Bottom line: it works if you work it. If you have found a crappy CF coach leave there are plenty of good ones. That is my .02 worth.

Talk about intensity. That’s a really intense transformation, going from obese to an ultra runner. I’m drawn to that. I don’t say it out loud/write it too often, but my ultimate fitness goal is to complete an ultra, preferably trail. I draw inspiration from Chuck, who attained that very same goal with more hurdles hindering his journey than mine.

I also have been curious about CrossFit lately. I know; it’s pratically old at this point. Even though sweaty-warehouse/throwing-stuff-around-type of workouts excite me, for the longest there was never anything about CrossFit that made me want to join one. Then I took a look at membership costs and realized I really didn’t want to join one.

So why now am I all of a sudden getting the itch? Maybe it’s because I know more people now who are part of a CrossFit gym and say they absolutely love it. Maybe it’s because, when I lived in Deep Ellum from 2011 to 2013 and would run around the neighborhood, I’d run by the open-air CrossFit Deep Ellum gym and see men and women of various fitness levels discomforting their usually comfortable lives, and I realized that I needed that, too.

Except I really don’t know why spaz-out (and just gross) cartoon mascots are needed in order to encourage and celebrate physical “intensity.” I doubt few people at any CrossFit see the puking of Pukie the Clown and kidney failure of Uncle Rhabdo as fitness ideals; I get it. Intense, shared experiences can create hyperbolic/extreme/over-the-top symbols that signal a specific camaraderie. But these two “symbols” make CrossFit’s culture seem like adolescent amateur hour. Like it’s adherents are just now discovering the concept of pushing their limits but haven’t quite matured into respecting them yet.

I doubt that’s how most CrossFit athletes actually are. At least not the ones I know. Which means that as symbols, Pukie and Rhabdo are ridiculously ill-fitting.

What I’ve learned in the past year about running (and not running)

Been a long time! And it’s been a long year. Lots has happened in the life of Christy, and unfortunately, most of it has had nothing to do with running. Maybe I can share some of those things in a future post.

But as of May 7 I’m back in the saddle, and I’m mulling my previous inactivity so I can better understand how to stay consistent moving forward. I’ve let my lack of movement discourage me and even depress me at times, but I can’t afford that anymore. I’m done.

So, in no particular order, here’s what stands out as I look over my shoulder.

1. I need external motivation.
As much as I’d love to lace up and pop out of bed before the sun on nothing but sole gumption and discipline, I’m not that person. I need a cattle prod (“Omg, I’ve gained 10 pounds and can’t afford to gain any more”) or a shiny, sparkly object dangling in front of me (“Cool! I get a tan even on a 6:30 p.m. run!”). I love running for the sake of running, yes. But it simply isn’t enough to crack me out of my calcified state and put me back on the road or trail, at least not at first. I know this about myself, and I don’t beat myself up for it anymore. I simply seek out sources of external motivation now, harness them, and use them to my advantage.

2. Gear and technology matter to me.
I’d love to be an unencumbered runner who doesn’t care about carrying music or GPS or other “things” with me. But yep, I’m that runner. If I’m going to put in the effort and the miles, I want to know exactly how many miles I ran, what the elevation was that tortured me, how many calories I burned in the process. And I don’t want to have to manually map out my route before or after to find that out, either. I want to know I’m not going to crash and burn early because I relied too heavily on infrequent water fountains in the searing Texas heat, so you’re going to see a water bottle in my hand, and likely you’ll see a G2 packet sticking out of the little zippered pocket on the bottle’s hand-wrap as well. And yes, if I need that extra push, I want to know Gaga or Bun B are just a “play” button away from giving it to me.

In fact, I credit two pieces of gear that I discovered recently with getting my butt of the couch again. They were the external motivators that got me going, and I’m grateful to them. More on those in a near-future post.

3. Clothes matter to me.
Not necessarily the cuteness of the clothes, really. But having comfortable, functional and non-homely ensembles that I can quickly throw in a bag or throw on as soon as I come in from work is key. If I need a new sports bra or if my usual running shorts are too tight right now, those are barriers. Where I spend money is on good, hearty sports bras and quality shoes: Even though I didn’t pay for them, I can now vouch for the greatness of Nike Frees for both support and lightness. Under Armour makes great pullover bras that keep me still (as much as possible). The Nike running capris in this review were too big for me when I first got them, but now they fit perfectly. Sigh. But I can at least now vouch 100 percent that they’re comfortable, airy and supportive. I also found some gray and bright fluorescent yellow running shorts from Target: cheap, really comfortable, the cut is great, and they’re darn cute. I also bought a package of colored men’s Fruit of the Loom A-line undershirts (tank tops), trimmed the hem at the bottom since they’re super-long, and wear those over my sports bras. They’re cotton but they’re so airy and comfy that it doesn’t matter.

4. Route variety matters.
I started off in May walking and running around my neighborhood here in Deep Ellum (northeast of downtown Dallas). It was great, it was exciting, it was easy to just walk out of my door …. then it wasn’t. It got old real quick and I realized that I needed to branch out. I’m ADD when it comes to routes, and I know that now. And it’s ok. I simply make sure I don’t wear out the same old paths. If I think I’m going to see or experience something a little different from before, that gets me out the door more quickly.

5. Marriage can really wreck a routine. At least mine.
I married in my early 30s. That meant I had my solo routines down pat before I aligned myself with another (albeit wonderful) human being who had different solo routines. It became a clash of the solo routines. Part of my adjustment period was re-learning some solo routines and carving out a separate, solo mindset even though I was no longer solo. It was difficult. But now I’m no longer a newlywed, and I’m learning to compartmentalize better: No, the person I’ve aligned myself with doesn’t run. No, that doesn’t mean I have to stop running, or only run with the same frequency that he does (read: hardly ever). Yes, the two shall become one, but remember: There are still two people in the equation. Christy the individual didn’t go anywhere. She can still do the solo things she used to do (sans other men! Rimshot), even though it doesn’t feel that way. For some reason, that break from an enmeshed mentality has been difficult for me.

6. I must have grace with myself or not even do this.
Without getting into a bunch of navel-gazing on how harsh and critical I am with certain aspects of myself, I can be pretty unrealistic. I haven’t run or worked out much in a year, I’ve gained 10 pounds and it’s 100+ degrees outside; I can’t expect a 10-minute mile out of myself. I can’t expect myself to finish a run without stopping and walking some for now. My big goal has always been to be able to run around the 10-mile White Rock Lake loop. A few weeks ago I completed the loop, albeit with many walking breaks and one large sit-down break where I paused my GPS/timer altogether to rest for 10 minutes. I have to be happy that I completed it and slowly work toward straight-up running the loop. Slowly. As slow and as long as my body needs. My other goal is running __ miles per week — the __ needs to be realistic, not idealistic. That fill-in-the-blank is set at 10 miles a week for now. If I run three days a week, I make that goal. It makes me feel good, and I pat myself on the back. If I don’t make that goal? I’ll smile and tell myself “next week.” The Nazi Running Marm act I’ve given myself in the past hasn’t worked as well for me as I’d like to think. It’s ultimately sidelined me in the form of discouragement, and I see that now.

Group counseling + boot camp = better body and mind

My latest for The Dallas Morning News, this time about a group in Plano, Texas, that combines group counseling with fitness and nutrition. The results? A better emotional state than solely counseling, and better fitness than just hitting the gym. Click here for a link to the story instead.

I’ve been terribly absent here for a while. I plan to hop back on soon with an update on my own personal fitness/running state.

The Dallas Morning News | Fitness | Team Move profile by Christy Robinson