GOATs Reprised

One of my VERY first posts to this blog over a year and a half ago was about GOATs. (As in the things that “get your goat,” not the cute, prancey, furry kind you meet at the San Diego Zoo…though I’ll go ahead and share this photo again because there is happiness making power in a real live goat. You’ll see that I was hot and sunburned with 2nd grade style scraped knees from surfing lessons. But petting a goat still made me smile.)

CIMG1755I’ve been doing CrossFit since August of 2012 and have made significant progress in so many ways. My endurance is stronger, my form is better. I’ve seen my one-rep maxes climb for pretty much every lift and I’ve improved on skills that once seemed impossible like handstand push-ups, rope climbs and double-unders.

But chin-ups…Ugh. I can’t tell you how frustrating it’s been to hang there and jerk around like some spastic weirdo. Month after month, I got nowhere on my own and had to resort to using one of those big rubber bands to sling-shot me and my chin up over the bar. Then, before and after workouts, I started experimenting with jumping from the ground while gripping the bar. At first I jumped a lot to get my chin up over the bar. Then a little less. And soon I just needed to stand on my toes so I could start with slightly bent arms.

Then, this week, on the eve of my 34th birthday, I just did it. I went off to the far end of the gym and, while no one was looking, I did one. And then I was immediately flooded with “tree falling in an empty forest” brand of self-doubt. Did I actually do that? I called over my coach and had her watch me. She gave me a big hug and told me she was proud of me. I did a freakin’ strict chin-up, dude!

It’s kind of a perfect way to start this next year of life. It’s a reminder of all the things you’d expect: certain things take time and failure is part of the process. Of course, of course. But, also, it’s kinda like “Great! OK…so…now what?” It feels amazing to achieve a goal, but how long can I really rest on the laurels of a single chin-up? Or any other accomplishment, big or small. Maybe I’m a total masochist, but I like to maintain some level of restlessness. Otherwise I start to feel stale and like I’m wasting time (aka life).

So, what’s next?

Book #2. I’m recommitting. I’m reclaiming my writing days. Revised timeline TBD.

Also maybe, like, 2 chin-ups.

Question: What are your freakin’ GOATs?





This is me with a goat.

I met him a few years ago on a trip to the San Diego Zoo. He was incredibly sweet and patient even though I’m sure he had to be tired of sun-burned tourists pawing at him, offering only meager handfuls of those little food pellets. I remember thinking that if I lived in a big old farmhouse on a few acres (instead of a 1.5 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn) I might get a pet goat.

But, alas, this post isn’t about that kind of goat.

It’s about GOATS – the things that “get your goat.” The stuff that bugs you and always trips you up. I first learned the term at Cross Fit, which I started doing a couple months ago. My coach was showing me how to keep track of my workouts in my notebook. He told me to dedicate one page to goals and another page to GOATS. As a beginner, I didn’t know what my GOATS might be. I mean, Cross Fit is tough and everything seemed hard. But, as I’ve started to build strength and get (slightly) better, I’ve found that I do indeed have GOATS.

At the top of the list: Pull-Ups.

This does not surprise me, as pull-ups haunted me all through elementary, middle and high school. I’m sure most of you know exactly where I’m going with this.

That stupid president’s fitness challenge thing.

I have no problem with this type of test in theory. Fitness is important. But every year it would just sorta come out of nowhere and we’d go from playing halfhearted indoor volleyball to pull-ups, like it was a transferable skill. I remember watching some girls – they were usually the tiny, compact gymnast types – hop up on the bar and crank out 15 like it was no big deal. I, unfortunately, was never a gymnast. Nor was I ever tiny or compact. I was tall and gangly and uncoordinated (I’m still those things) and would just sort of pathetically hang there, desperately trying to flex my non-existent biceps. Eventually my gym teacher would give me a disgusted nod and mark a big, fat zero in his ledger. I’d walk away embarrassed, but mostly relieved that it was over. Time would pass, we’d play some more halfhearted volleyball and I’d forget all about pull-ups until the next year where I’d repeat the same dreadful performance.

So, how are pull-ups different now that they’re a GOAT?

1. You’re supposed to have GOATS. There’s a whole page for them, right? When you’re working towards something that’s really difficult, you’re building strength. And, when you conquer something that was once difficult, you build confidence.

2. Everyone’s got GOATS. Everything’s relative. Even the strongest person at my gym has a GOAT page in their notebook and groans a little when a work out contains a specific exercise.

3. With a GOAT, you don’t just accept that you suck. You don’t ignore the GOAT, pretending it doesn’t exist for a year and then just feel disappointed when nothing’s changed. You work at it.

You feed it little food pellets and scratch it behind the ears until one day it’s working for you instead of against you.

For now, I’m practicing with these giant rubber band things, but I think my muscles are starting to get it. One day soon I’ll do a real president’s challenge -worthy pull-up and we’ll all celebrate. Then I’ll cross it off my GOAT page and move on to the next thing.

Question for the day: What’s your GOAT? (Maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with exercise or fitness.)