As I wrote about in Why I Let My Weight Go and Why I Stopped Aspiring to an Athletic Physique, I spent most of my adult life exercising to change how I looked. Sometimes it changed how I felt, but I viewed that as a side benefit, and still would feel inwardly frustrated and obsessed when it didn’t change the way I looked fast enough. I would get discouraged and I almost never continued an exercise program for more than a year continuously.
Now, I am doing something different. I took up weightlifting because I find it satisfying and I love the way it makes my body feel. I realized that I really don’t want to run – running does not feel good at all at my current size. That’s okay! Which leads me to…..pull ups.
Being able to do a pull up has been my personal holy grail of fitness for a long time. I couldn’t do them in those elementary school fitness tests. I always fell for the siren song of the gravitron at the gym. The assisted pull up. I could work my way up to an unassisted pull up, I told myself. I never got too far and I didn’t actually enjoy the feeling of the gravitron. The handles were too thick and difficult to grip. Etc.
When I was in my 20s, I was following nutrition and fitness coach who asserted that any truly healthy person should be able to run a mile and do a pull up (among other things). At the time I could run a mile but I could not do a pull up. The assertion that I should be able to do one stuck with me, however. I mean, look at all the action scenes in the Disney movies, for chrissakes. So many characters would be dead if not for their grip strength and their ability to do a pull up. Aladdin. Beast. Simba. Quasimodo. Prince Hans of the Southern Isles. All dead if not for their pull up abilities, right?
When I started doing CrossFit in 2011, the coaches showed me how to do ring rows. Ring rows are used as a scale-able alternative to pull ups in CrossFit. You can make them more and more difficult and use them to build strength if you cannot yet do a regular pull up or assisted pull up. I was excited. I was finally going to be able to pull myself back up onto a bridge should someone chuck me off, Disney villain style.
When I was four months pregnant, I found myself way too exhausted to keep going to the evening CrossFit classes. I bought a set of gymnastics rings so I could continue the ring rows on my own. I think I ended up using them twice during my pregnancy.
A few years later, I dug them out again when I started doing CrossFit on my own earlier in the year. I did lots of ring rows between January and May. I was no longer focused on my weight, but I still had the goal of wanting to be able to do a pull up in my mind.
And then I started training for Olympic weightlifting instead. My body felt 100 times better when I stopped doing CrossFit style metcon WODs. I switched to a Catalyst Athletics weightlifting program…..and still incorporated some pull up training (ring row training, in my case).
But the weightlifting training is both time intensive and tiring, and I realized that if I was going to focus on that, I might have to cut out other training (pull up training), because I needed to have energy for the rest of my life, too. My kid, my marriage, my job, basic functioning. I felt nervous about cutting out pull up training…..until I realized I was doing it on autopilot. Do I even WANT to be able to do pull ups? I don’t know! If so, WHY do I want to be able to do pull ups? I don’t know! It’s just what I have aspired to for the past 15 years….but I am a very different person than I was 15 years ago. I don’t need to have the same goals. It’s okay to move on. I may never be able to pull myself up after hanging on the edge of an icy staircase, Prince Hans style. And I’m willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, that could be an unrealistic goal for me in the present moment.
So, I decided to take a break from pull up training, at least until I figure out the answer to the question “do I actually WANT to do this?” My body is working hard at other things, and I know that if it turns out I actually do have my own inner motivation to one day do pull ups, I’ll be able to accomplish it that much more easily, because I will be more dedicated to the goal.
Or….maybe I can make a habit based goal, not an outcome based goal. 3000 ring rows in 2016….and just see what happens. That’s an option too!
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