During the past two-plus years, my focus has been CrossFit. While I’d recommend CrossFit to anyone and everyone, I don’t feel it’s necessary to suggest that it’s the best or only way. Everyone has their own passion and that’s what’s most important.
In fact, my own interests have continued to evolve over the years. When I started CrossFit, I’d been doing jujitsu for years. Before that, I loved basketball. Prior to that, I trained for marathon running.
Looking back, I began to think about all the different sports I’d tried. I wondered, ‘How many sports had I played?’. While some had become passions and others quickly abandoned, I smiled at the memory of playing each game.
Note: My definition and application for qualifying something as a ‘sport’ is purely for entertainment purposes.
Sports that I’ve played:
- Nerf basketball - In my experience, it can be more physical than the standard version and includes bank shots off the ceiling
- Pool basketball - Includes attempted drowning of your opponent as a standard strategy
- Slow-pitch softball
- Fast-pitch - In this variation, standing in the batter’s box is scarier than you might think
- Wiffleball - One of my all-time favorites - I have a good screwball
- Parachuting - Death defying and awesome
- Jarts - Just death defying and now illegal
- Cornhole - Clearly the ‘sport’ with the worst name
- Hot yoga
- Step-up - Yes, I tried it
- Badminton - Although the ‘birdie’ always got stuck in the racquet
- Racquetball - With far too much running and diving in my version
- Handball - I always felt like I’d left my racquet at home
- Ping pong - Played in a basement near a blazing wood stove for added danger and complexity
- Touch football - A hugely underrated sport
- Flag football
- Volleyball - I played a bit too intensely at Friday night beer matches
- Arm wrestling
- Hacky-sack - With Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and old school Aerosmith
- Jiu-jitsu - I was continually choked
- Jujitsu - I earned a black belt
- Judo - My injuries included a broken big toe and a separated shoulder
- Running - Including a couple marathons
- Jogging - believe me, it’s different than running
- Hiking - Most often with a faithful dog along for the trek
- Indoor soccer - Different from soccer due to the boards and ricochets
- Body surfing - With a few sand/face collisions
- Kayaking - Mostly on lakes an salt ponds)
- Canoeing - Almost drown doing this
- Twister - Sort of like free-form yoga
- Tag, hide & seek, snowball fights, cooties, giant steps, hopscotch, marbles and other youthful competitions
- Musical chairs - Which I played again only a few weeks ago
- Ten-Pin bowling
- Duckpin bowling
- Candle-Pin bowling - Were you can really fling the smaller ball
- Lawn bowling
- Jump rope
- Roller skating
- Roller derby - The street version
- Skating board
- Ice skating
- Street Hockey
- Dodgeball - The reason for my concussion history
- Tobogganing - Including a broken wrist from hitting a tree
- Snow boarding - Although I spent most of the time falling on my butt
- Rock climbing
- Horse riding - Considering this a sport since I was hanging on for dear life most of the time
- Miniature golf - Easily more fun than regular golf
- Go-cart racing
- Kickball - My favorite sport until, in the fifth grade, I learned about girls
Life will kick you in the ass from time to time and the past few years have been no exception for me:
- 2009 - My father died.
- 2010 - Diagnosed with kidney cancer.
- 2011 - My beloved golden retriever died of cancer.
- 2012 - Diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
- 2013 - Survived a Jeep rollover.
- 2014 - Adjusting to big career change.
- 2015 - My mother passed away.
Looked at in isolation, this might appear to an overwhelming string of bad fortune. In reality, it's just life. If we live long enough, we will have things like this come across our path.
The challenge is in showing grace, resilience and strength in the face of these inevitable events.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, my sister gave me a medallion with the Japanese phrase 'Nanakorobi Yaoki' meaning 'fall seven times and stand up eight'. In other words, when life knocks you down, stand back up.
This is the truth of life. If you persevere, there's a chance that the valleys will be balanced by the peaks. The sour will be accented by the sweet.
Fortunately, this is what I've seen in my life. Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to:
- Run a half-marathon.
- Earn a black belt in jujitsu.
- Watch my daughter's high school team win a state championship.
- Emcee a successful conference.
- Get a new and lovable chocolate lab puppy.
- Take a family vacation to Bermuda.
- Help my daughter move in to the University of Vermont.
- And countless other awesome adventures both big and small like hurricanes, blizzards, proms, games, concerts and vacations...
I couple years ago, I began CrossFit training. I've never been a naturally-gifted athlete but, ever since I could pick up a wiffle ball, I've loved to sweat and compete. It didn't matter whether it was Nerf basketball, Jarts, parachuting, indoor soccer or marathon running, I was willing to give it a go.
In the 2014 CrossFit Open, I placed 687th worldwide in my division. In 2015, I was 559th. I'm clearly not an elite athlete. As I near my 57th birthday, I have lots of miles on my tires, quite a few scratches on my paint and I'm carrying several extra pounds of cargo on my 5'7" frame. Nevertheless, I've come to love the challenge and community of CrossFit and, in particular, Crossfit Brickyard.
I had every reason to skip out. A blizzard was in the forecast. I wasn't feeling prepared being just on the other side of my mother's death, the Christmas holidays and a ten-day trip to Florida. A couple days before the event, I popped a blood vessel in my eye and the optometrist 'strongly urged' me not to compete. Despite all this, I decided to give it a shot. It certainly helped that my sister offered to drive me through the blizzard.
The first WOD was 15 stone-over-shoulders and as many single unders as you could complete in 90 seconds. I placed 4th despite having to pause to pull up my shorts. I'd forgotten to tie them. I bet that never happens to Froning.
The second WOD was a 7-minute AMRAP of 9 lateral burpees-over-bar, 7 deadlifts and 5 ground-to-overhead. Given my pokey burpees, I finished at the bottom of the heap.
The third WOD was complex of power clean to thruster to shoulder-to-overhead. We had 5 minutes to reach your maximum complex. This was in my wheelhouse and I finished 1st in this event.
Entering the final event, I was barely holding onto 3rd place. The last event was a chipper with a six different components. Coming out of the third event, I was barely holding on but rallied on the wall balls. The last two movements were 20 hang power cleans and 20 front squats. With my coaches and teammates urging me on, I was able to beat the time cap, finish 3rd in the WOD and hang onto a podium spot.
While this is no CrossFit Games-level accomplishment, I appreciate it in the context of the road I've traveled.
I know that more valleys are ahead but will continue to strive to build even more peaks.
We did 'Angie' last night and I really wish that I had film to audit my counts and standards. I'm not a smooth athlete. Most WODs are like me waging a vicious fight against the reps. Did I really do 100 pull-ups? How many should actually count?
"I know that you think that I'm here in a futile attempt to preserve the last vestiges of my vitality. While, in all honesty, I just like the look of muscle and the feeling of strength," said the older, introspective CrossFitter.
"I don't think of it as cheating on reps. I think of it as real-time scaling. We can scale, right?", said the free-thinking CrossFitter.
We've all seen them. They come to the box but they never actually do any CrossFit.
They lay around, play around and mingle for hours but never pick up a weight.
They treat the place like it's a social club and their own personal playground.
Then somehow, despite this, they are the most beloved member.
Yesterday evening, I had my first massage in probably a year or more. It was awesome and my chronically sore shoulders felt awesome today. We didn't really do a shoulder intensive workout but it felt awesome to have much of the tightness and soreness gone.
100 deadlifts at 135 is very doable for me. I broke it down 30-20-10-10-10-10-10.
200 push-ups was tough for me and I'm not sure why. I've been doing 100 GHD sit-ups before many of the classes but had to trudge through. For some reason, my back tightens up when I do sit-ups. I tried with and without an abmat with no improvement. The good news is that I pushed through the last 20 laps despite the pain. Working through the pain will be an important ability for competitions.
100 calorie row sounds worse than it really is. A good pull can get me a calorie on the rower. I believe that I didn't use more than 150 pulls and was able to finish fast.
All-in-all, it was a good day. A hard workout but nothing I couldn't do (see muscle ups). Now I just need to figure out way my back muscles tighten up on sit-ups.
Earlier this year, I attended CrossFit's Eastern Regional at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. At the time, I prepared a presentation about what I'd experienced for a speechmaking club. Below is an attempt to move that speech into a blog post. I took most of the CrossFit photos from my seat in the stands.
Most sports fan never were or are no longer active participants in the sports they love. They tend to focus their energy on tailgating for hours before and after watching their beloved athletes.
On the flip-side, CrossFit fans have probably done a workout the day of the event. They will also come dressed as though they’re ready to participate should Froning pull up with an injury. Pre-viewing snack? Likely to have included bacon, Kill Cliff bars and FitAid drinks.
Many of our most beloved national pastimes feature plus-size athletes with physiques that only an offensive line coach would fully appreciate.
CrossFit athletes are all about ‘booty shorts’ and ripping off their shirts to reveal abs-for-days.
CrossFit has been called a cult but it’s a cult of crazed exercisers. There is no Red Sox versus Yankees rivalry in the stands. We’re cheering for the best teams to break records and the lesser teams to finally make their way to the finish line.
I found the team events the most compelling. What was their strategy for excelling? How did they decide on the make-up of their team? How was their chemistry as they faced the misery of seemingly impossible workouts? Three women and three men working together to complete a gauntlet for physical feats.
CrossFit isn’t just about speed or strength. You need to have a bit of gymnast in your repertoire to do things like muscle-ups, toes-to-bar and handstand walks. This isn’t about brute force but overall athleticism.
CrossFit is also about doing things that you never imagined personally possible. For the beginner, this can be things like your first rope climb. For the elite athletes in this weekend’s competition, it can be the possibility of setting records in front of thousands of cheering CrossFit fanatics.
Throughout the games, I witnessed teams pulling for the teammates, teams pulling for other teams and fans cheering for whoever needed the inspiration. It was an enthusiastic outpouring from every angle.
Observing from the stands, the average CrossFitter could feel the pain to the competitors because we often struggle ourselves. It was somehow reassuring that even the best athletes were humbled by the hurdles that CrossFit can present.
Another nice things about CrossFit is the all the hugging. Competitors hugging each other. Teams hugging each other. It’s a big hug-fest. It makes you want to join a team to get in on all the hugs.
I texted a photo of a female CrossFit athlete to a friend and he commented that she ‘looked like a man’. I told him, “One, 99.9 percent of men are nowhere near that fit. Secondly, they are what a woman can look like without the shackles of old-fashioned, outdated perceptions. What they are is amazing.'
After the CrossFit regionals were over and to honor the purpose of the Memorial Day weekend, CrossFit locations across the country take on a workout named after a ‘hero’. These workouts are tough but they’re intended to be as a reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of our heroes. It’s tough to whine about pull-ups when you understand the meaning behind the task.
Lastly, people will tell you that CrossFit can be dangerous. This is a photo of a nasty injury I sustained this past Saturday. How did this happen? What devilish CrossFit workout caused this? It didn’t. I didn’t go to CrossFit on Saturday. I got this injury while hiking with my dog. Anything can be dangerous when you don’t give it the proper attention and respect. My recommendation? Go Crossfit. Be careful. Pay attention. Get strong. Get fit. Get some hugs.
This morning, I took my niece Nika to her first CrossFit class. Unless you count horseback riding, she doesn't really do any sports. She did pretty good with four rounds of 3 push-ups and 5 front squats with a PVC pipe plus some interval sprints. I'm hoping that she decides to attend more classes.
Personally, I just sat and watched along the Brickyard WODog Sarah.