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Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 | Author:

“Walking in the light” — When I was supposed to be running at Crossfit


I was on lap 15 around the track at crossfit last night at the end of our workout (don’t be impressed… these are small laps, 1/6 of a mile each) when I noticed something happen in me.

I was running at the moment, but lots of people were walking at all different points on the track, which I had just been doing, too.  Our trainer yelled across the dark parking lot, “Come on!  Stop walking!  Stop Cheating!  I can see you… you’re not hiding!”

I had fallen into the pattern on the last couple laps of running 3/4 of the lap and then walking around the the last bend (which was the darkest portion of the parking lot and most hidden from view from Troy, the trainer). After he yelled the comment about “I can see you” which wasn’t directed toward me, something happened inside of me without me even being conscious of it.

As I approached the last bend where I’d normally walk, I slowed to a walk for 3 steps to get a few deep breaths, and then I kept running until I was in the light, right in front of Troy. Then began to walk until I hit the next bend where it was dark — then I’d run again.  I kept that pattern for the last 4 laps I had to run.

At first, as I noticed it, I wondered, “what is this… am I being obstinate?” That is like me normally, but in Crossfit, I have a very different personality:  I am not very competitive, I don’t question or challenge, I just do as I’m told. So this seeming streak of obstinance was odd.  And I didn’t feel like I was doing it just to be stubborn. I just needed to walk a few steps each lap.

Then I realized…

I’m an open person. The people close to me know more about me than they may want to know. Believe me. (Ask them about the last time I had the stomach flu… they all know the gross, embarrassing details.) I don’t really keep secrets.  I am independent and I like to not feel tied down or trapped, but I am open and honest

The thing is, I had this one secret that no one knew. I wish I had told it, but I didn’t and the secret got out anyway. It ruined, shattered, decimated my life and the lives of many, many others.  The damage is still very much a part of everyday life for many of us that are left sorting through the ruins, trying to rebuild.  The damage is so much worse because it was a secret for so long.

I made a commitment after that to have no more secrets.  If I’m doing something right, if I’m doing something wrong but don’t want to change it… it doesn’t matter, but I want to be honest about it. It’s a self-protection thing as much as it is an integrity thing. And it’s a practice that I had in place in my life for the most part already, but now I have a knee-jerk reaction against secrecy or the indication of secrecy.

So, put that onto a track in a dark parking lot where we’re supposed to run a 5k after our crossfit workout, and you get me, deliberately walking in the lighted areas where I can be sure that our trainer can see me.

So that’s what I’m trying to do these days: to not pretend to be anything but what I am. In the good ways and the bad ways.

And I believe there’s value in that. I believe it’s even Biblical for those of us of a Christian faith: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

When we walk in the light, we can have fellowship — which means we can be real, be known, and be encouraging to one another.

I’m sure part of it had to do with me being new, too, but Troy never did yell at me for walking when I did. It would be silly to yell, “I can see you” when I was standing in front of him. Instead, he was able to speak words of encouragement at a normal decibal, “Come on, a few more laps, you can make it, good job.”

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.  Other places are

instagram: jrolicious       twitter: jrohanlon


photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 | Author:

So I started Crossfit again last night.

I haven’t done Crossfit in a year and a half.  I stopped in July 2012 because of a car crash resulting in some medical difficulties that have landed me on a nasty drug called a beta blocker. Basically the beta blocker restricts your heart rate and blood pressure (which, I already have really low blood pressure). the downfall to that is that even when I exercise, my heart rate never really goes about 90. That sounds like I’m super healthy, but I’m not.  It just means that not enough blood gets to my brain, and thus not enough oxygen, and I start to get really light headed and the best part — my vision goes — sometimes it just gets blurry, but on the rare occasion, it goes totally black.

I broke my foot in the car accident too, which was the initial immediate reason I had to break from crossfit until it healed.   When my foot had healed, I tried to go on what I thought was going to be a good, pretty moderate run for having been inactive for 2 months. So I ran around my block.  2 miles. Flat. Middle of the day. Safe place to start, I thought.

I got almost to the end of the loop, I was about to turn the corner back onto my street when it happened: my vision went really blurry for about 4 seconds, and then I couldn’t see anything. Pitch black. I was still conscious, but not feeling steady, so I sat down on the side of the street and breathed with my head between my knees, waiting to be able to see anything. After a few minutes, I could see light again, and then I could see — it was extremely blurry, like when you wear the drunk glasses that distort everything — but I could see.  I stumbled home, opened my door, and then laid down across my threshold with the door to my apartment open so that if I passed out, someone would be able to see and get to me (the downside to living alone). I laid there like that just concentrating on breathing for about a half hour until my vision finally returned to normal. Luckily, I lived in a bad neighborhood down the street from the jail, so someone passed out like that didn’t seem out of the ordinary.

That’s when I first realized, though, what a challenge this new life on this new drug was going to be like if I wanted to stay healthy.

Starting a year ago, I began running regularly, which I had never done or enjoyed before.  When I was in Crossfit before, the running was always my least favorite, and most strugglesome part of any work out. Ask my trainer — he’ll tell you.

I’m still not a fast runner, and I don’t really pace myself, but I know how to breathe now, and I’ve been consistent about working on my progress. It’s easier to remember to be intentional about my breathing now, too, since my vision gets real blurry real quick if I don’t. Silver-lining.

I actually have seriously lagged in the health department since November (I reached one of my before-my-25th-birthday goals of climbing my first 14,000 foot mountain in November, and then I slumped). Just last week I started running again. And I could tell I had lost a lot of ground in those couple months off.

But when I went to crossfit last night, and the trainer said “OK. Run 1 mile for your warm up,” I went and I did it, and I almost ran the whole thing without walking, which is a big deal for me in the overall non-running scheme of my life.  (Due to the vegetable curry I had for lunch, I did have to walk a few steps 2 times to slow things down and make sure I didn’t become “THAT girl” on my first day.)  While I SUCKED at the rest of the work out, I walked out and I thought: You know, I can’t move my arms… but I ran a mile warm-up with no trouble at all. I would’ve huffed and puffed the whole way through that (and walked a lot) the last time I was in Crossfit.

It  was embarrassing how much I struggled with EVERY SINGLE pushup I was supposed to do. I quickly got to the point where my arms literally could not do more (I had to roll over and sit up in order to stand up for the next exercise).

It was pretty funny/sad that the trainer finally capped my work out when he had to go home (I believe he said it was at 1hr20min from when I started).

But while all that is true, I still can see that I have made fitness progress in the past year, and I’ve found ways around the effects of a drug that many people report becoming extremely depressed, lethargic, and overweight when they’re on it.

And actually, while I’m sore today, I feel better than I ever have before when I’ve gone back to crossfit after a break (even like a 2 week vacation). And I’m looking forward to the progress that is yet to come.

I did, however, have a comically difficult time trying to raise my arms to wash my hair in the shower last night, but you win some you lose some.

Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.  Other places are

instagram: jrolicious       twitter: jrohanlon