Re-entry with a bang (by Dana McMahan)

I was worried about losing momentum and falling back when I was away from the gym for two-plus weeks when I went to Thailand. I had full intentions of following the workouts Ben suggested for me while I was gone, and even did one the first day, taking myself in my CrossFit shirt to the hotel gym. Then I sprained my wrist and bruised myself from top to bottom at a kickboxing lesson. And couldn’t sleep and ran around like crazy in Bangkok and Northern Thailand and didn’t take the time to do more than a few stretches every couple days, a few squats and lunges, and some push-ups (once my wrist was better).

I’d made so much progress in the two months before the trip that I had a lot of fear, even before I left, that it would disappear overnight. I might wake up and be a marshmallow weakling again. Although I was having the time of my life while travelling, I worried about losing what I’d worked so hard to build.

Going back to CrossFit for the first time post-trip still sporting blood-shot eyes from jet lag, verging on being sick, and barely knowing was day it was, I didn’t feel confident. Ben could of course tell I was nowhere near on my game, so we took it really easy. “You’ll be back where you were within a week,” he promised. I smiled blearily, feeling about as powerful as a kitten.

Today when I arrived, Ben asked me what day it was. Feeling much more myself, I could laugh at the question (and answer correctly!) And we were off. Back to the chin-up bar and then to my old friend the squat. I had laid off the heavy weights for a little while before I left, so I approached the rack with some trepidation. We were doing sets of five, with increasing weight. The bar, then 65, then 95. I hadn’t ever done five reps of 95 before but it didn’t seem insanely hard. It felt good to be challenging myself again.

“What do you weigh now?” Ben asked. Despite the mounds of fried noodles and endless coconut curries I’d consumed in Thailand, I’d maintained my new weight while away. “108,” I answered. He set about loading the bar with what looked like a very specific combination of plates. “Would that be 108 on there?” I asked. Of course it was. Which made me nervous. Five weeks ago I had squatted my body weight for the first time. Once. And hadn’t done it since.

“You can do this,” Ben said. And even though it’s my body doing the work, I still feel like he knows better than I do what I’m capable of. He’s the expert here after all. “Five?” I asked, not knowing if I wanted him to say yes or no. “Five,” he replied.

Going under a heavy weight like this is one matter when you’re doing it once. Knowing I had to make it through five times was daunting indeed. And it was hard. Really hard. After one I questioned whether I could do another, let alone four more. But Ben was encouraging me, and really, if he’d been worried, he’d have stopped me. So I did another. And another, trying to take a deep breath and visualize filling up my inside with air like a blow-up pillow to support me. Number four was a little scary. I wavered, started to cave in under the weight, and feared Ben would have to take the bar. But I came up.

One more. “You got it. You can do this,” he said. One more deep breath and down, then “drive up!!!” said Ben, and up I came, heart racing with the exertion and exhilaration. Huge high five from a grinning Ben and I could finally acknowledge that my fear could be over. I wasn’t starting at the beginning again. In fact, I was working harder — therefore even stronger — than before. “I have big plans for you,” Ben told me before I left. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

No joke…best set of 5 squats from a beginner I’ve ever seen. Can’t teach guts!!!


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