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

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