This Week at the Box

My gym peeps remarked this morning that I haven't posted in a while.  They've also noticed my workout times on the whiteboard at the gym this past week.  It's certainly obvious where I've been putting my energy lately.  I'm going for an A in PE, and failing Writing and Photography.


And I'm sleeping on the job, catching a few moments of shut eye while the kids work on their math, hoping that no one needs tutoring. (Photo by Avery.)

It was quite the week at my gym.  A week full of benchmark WODs (workout of day) after a 4 day holiday weekend.  For those of you who don't CrossFit (yet), benchmark WODs are trademark CrossFit workouts, named after women, designed as a way to benchmark performance and track progress over time.

After every workout, benchmark or not, our coach writes our finish times and weight loads on the whiteboard, and checking out these numbers is an unspoken part of our workout.  Who got what time, how much did they lift, who am I competing against today?  Taking it to the next level, CrossFitters around the world post their WOD times online, so if you're a curious student like I am, you can google these numbers.

Today when I walked into the box and saw "Angie" on the board, I almost walked out.  100 pull ups, 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 squats for time.  Then I checked the board to see the finish times for the previous class.  Denise, sweaty and smiling from her workout, teased me that I could beat her time by 10 minutes.  I thought optimistically that maybe, just maybe, I could complete the WOD in under 20 minutes, about 5 minutes less than her time.  I ended up finishing in 21 minutes and 15 seconds (which, according to an old forum post on the CrossFit website, places me #6 among the top women who posted times, if you're into those kind of stats).

Doing the "ladies" this week opened my eyes to a new level of competition present at the gym, and CrossFit in general, but mostly in myself. Yes, I compete with the other athletes at the gym.  But more importantly, I compete with myself.  I don't go to the gym to prove my power, I go there to exercise it.  Yes, I beat others more than I am beat.  Yes, I am proud to write that, though you'll probably never hear me say that at the gym.  I set goals for myself, based on my desire, my performance to date, and the performance of others, and I work as hard and as fast as I can.

For me, competition isn't all about getting the best time, it's about achieving my goal.  Reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand this past week, while lazing on the couch after my workouts, has helped cement for me the importance of competition.  It is vital to progress, and it benefits everyone, not just the "winner".  As Francisco told Dagny,

". . . you know that achievement is man's highest moral purpose, that he can't exist without it . . ."

And as Dagny herself felt upon reaching a goal,

". . . the sight of an achievement was the greatest gift a human being could offer to others."

Take competition out of any system, and what do we have to strive for?  My times and weight loads on the whiteboard motivate others just as their times and weight loads motivate me.  Competition at the gym creates cohesion among the group.  When one of us succeeds, we all succeed, as evidenced by the good cheer and camaraderie following each workout.  Competition is also vital to our individual progress, as evidenced by some amazing numbers this past week on our benchmark WODs.

Surprisingly, the highlight of this past week was not the days I posted the best times, but the day I didn't.   I struggled through "Diane": 21 dead lifts (158 pounds), 21 hand stand push ups, then 15 of each, then 9 of each.  My two competitors finished before I did, and I was almost in tears trying to dead lift that 158 pound barbell during my final round.  My hips were on fire.  I didn't think I could lift the bar one more time, but my friend T looked me in the eye and quietly said, "You've got this.  You can do it."

And I did.  Not with the best time, but with encouragement and support from my competition.

Any gym peeps reading this, I just want to say, thank you all for bringing it to the box.  Enjoy your day of rest tomorrow, and be ready to bring it again on Monday.  I know I'm doing something right by you when you give me a high five or bump my knuckles, look me in the eye, and say with a smile, "I hate you."

Any blog peeps out there interested in trying some CrossFit workouts at home, check out CrossFit Mamas.    I just have to warn you, CrossFit is exhausting, addictive, and one of the best things that will ever happen to you.


  1. Molly, Your nap during Math is hysterical. I can usually hold off my nap until most school is done and we are watching Shark Week on DVD! LOL


  2. Oh God, not Ayn Rand.

    1. Oh yes, Ayn Rand. Strong, outspoken, opinionated women with alternative world views fascinate me. I'm left with the impression from your simple comment that you have a strong opinion. Please, speak out and fascinate me!

    2. Sorry to have been away from the Internets and this conversation--I honestly didn't mean to be a nasty troll! I read your post re: sensitivity and also the fact that the backlash makes you more intrigued by Rand's writing, and I completely understand both things. I had to check myself--would I walk into a friend's house and say, "Oh God, not Any Rand"? Because I agree, your blog is YOUR space and I've been invited to visit. I tend to be kind and diplomatic (honestly!), but I still think that might pop out of my mouth if I saw "Atlas Shrugged" lying on a friend's table.

      Here are a few reasons I have such a feeling of distaste for Rand's worldview. First, she expresses great disdain for humanitarianism and non-profits. Her focus on acting in self-interest and her adoration of capitalism really bother me. Also her idea that an elite group of people should control things, her love of private property...And it makes me nervous how many far-right wing Republicans admire her. Mostly, I guess, it's that I'm a democratic-socialist and just disagree with the opposite side of that political spectrum. Again, I sincerely apologize for being rude in your space. I'm sorry!

  3. Molly, I have been hearing about CrossFit from many people, but you are one who has intrigued me the most! I am definitely interested and want to try it out to see what it's all about. However, I am 5 months pregnant right now, so my CrossFit career will have to wait :) I wonder if I will like it? I guess that's why I'm so intrigued; it seems so opposite of the exercising I have usually gravitated towards. Running and yoga mostly. CrossFit seems so intense! (I am kind of a shy person) Well enough of my rambling stereotypes, when the time comes I'm sure I will be excited to get on board! I have not read Ayn Rand, though I have been meaning to for years.

    1. Kim, I know CrossFit isn't for everyone, but you might be interested in reading this post about lifting for two: http://www.walnutcrossfit.com/lifting-for-two/

      My CrossFitting friend, Amy, the Meaty Bohemian, worked out through her second pregnancy. I have to admit, I'm quite curious to see what it would feel like to be CrossFit and pregnant. Not curious enough to have another baby, but . . . I can tell you that I think about labor almost every time I work out. It's physically intense, it pushes me to my limit, it's rewarding, and it feels like what my body was made to do, just like I felt having babies.

      The exercises on the CrossFit Mamas website seem light enough and short enough to experiment with while pregnant, in case you're curious enough to try some moves in the privacy of your own home :)

  4. Yes, you're right Molly. It's not as if I'm on bed rest or anything; just self-induced couch surfing. I will check out that "lifting for two" post, sounds interesting. Thank you!

  5. One day I hope to be as cool as you :) Or at least as fit. Both of which are impossible. lol Keep up the good work Molly! You did awesome this week as usual!

  6. Okay, gonna try this yet again, for some reason my comments don't work. Keeping my fingers crossed....okay, I get what I did wrong :)

  7. I'm 6 weeks into crossfit and yep, it's exhausting, addictive, and one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

  8. Molly, I have not read Atlas Shrugged but I have been told that it is based on Ayn Rand’s philosophy that government should get out of the way and allow full individual rights so people can pursue their self interests, work for their own happiness based on their individual judgment, and keep the rewards of their efforts. Furthermore that the intelligent ruling class should protest the unfairness of government regulation and taxation by refusing to ever again create anything productive, thereby causing the whole system to grind to a halt as punishment for the rich being treated so unfairly. I sort of wish that would happen because then we wouldn’t be facing global warming from industrialization, everything would slow down, natural deaths would skyrocket because modern medicine would go back to the level of bleeding people with leaches so we wouldn’t have the impact of over-population, and we could go back to killing each other with sticks instead of nuclear weapons and unmanned drones, which just seems to me the way it ought to be. Similarly the manual labor class could also go on strike and refuse to do the sweaty grunt work for the rich class, thereby decreasing obesity, heart disease, hypertension and stroke rates among the wealthy, which would be healthier for everyone who didn’t die outright. My problem with the promotion of Ayn Rand is that people seem to take one fragment of her philosophy and wave it like a banner without embracing the whole philosophy. She was an atheist whose idea of morality was rational self interest. I don’t think it is rational for her followers to wave the banner of No Taxation or No Regulation while also wanting government services like Medicare, an interstate highway system, and clean air to breathe. If we were to allow each individual to use their own judgment to decide what consequences they were willing to accept, as if those consequences did not directly impact the people around them, we would rapidly devolve into chaos. We live in community. My actions affect my neighbors and theirs affect me. I believe that, because we do have higher reasoning than the other animals, we have an obligation to rise to a higher level than mere animal self-interest. I admire Mother Theresa more than Donald Trump. And finally, I just don’t think the affluent are as put upon as their whining suggests. Let them dig the next trench themselves, or apply hot asphalt to their road on a 105F degree summer day, and then reassess the unfairness of their elevated position. Competition has its place, for sure, but so does team work and helping the crippled. – Mark V.

    1. Thank you. I couldn't have said it better.

      I also object to the glorification of rape in AS. Strong women? In my world they do not fall in love with their rapists.

    2. Rosesmama,

      There is no glorification of rape in Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps you are referring to the much discussed sex scene in The Fountainhead? The sex scenes in AS, of which there are few, are no doubt intense, but not rape. Adulterous, yes, but consensual.

      As for the alleged rape scene in The Fountainhead, I cannot speak about a book which I have not read, but prompted by your comment, I searched the internet and read several essays regarding the sex scenes in Ayn Rand's novels. From what I read, including Ayn Rand's own responses to objections like yours from her readers, I am not left with the impression that Ayn Rand glorifies rape. I will form my own opinion about the book when I read it.

    3. Mark,

      I agree with many of the things you wrote, though I would love some clarification on some of your points. I realize that your personal philosophy might dissuade you from reading Ayn Rand's novels, but I as I find it difficult to discuss a book I haven't read, I don't see how you and I can have an informed discussion about Atlas Shrugged.

      Community is not an element missing from Atlas Shrugged. In fact, community is a very important part of the character's lives. The industrialists are interdependent upon one another for materials and transportation of goods, just as industrialists and their employees are dependent upon one another for their livelihood. Neither the industrialists or their employees would have a livelihood without consumers, and of course, the government is dependent upon all of the above for their tax base. Yes, this community is primarily based on commerce, but I would argue that most communities larger than the family unit are based on some sort of trade, whether it be goods, skills, or time.

      I understand your problem with people touting individual ideas from Ayn Rand's novels without embracing the whole of her philosophy. Then again, I have found many good ideas from people without agreeing with them 100%. In fact, I don't know anybody with whom I agree 100%. Your point makes me think about religious people who single out a few ideas from a sacred text and use those ideas to support an agenda which is not in alignment with the whole of the sacred text.

      It's interesting that you mention Mother Theresa. I admire her as well, and I could probably write an entire paper on how Mother Theresa and Dagny Taggert (main character of Atlas Shrugged) are on opposites sides of the scale measuring self sacrifice to self interest. The ideal - and most realistic - balance probably resides somewhere in the middle of the two women. But that might be a topic for an entirely different paper.

      I certainly have more to say on this topic (shock, shock), but I'm going to save it for a future post.

    4. OK, I read Atlas Shrugged. Aiyaiyai. Now we can talk about it if you want to -- it could liven up Thanksgiving dinner (nyuk nyuk). I had a completely different understanding of the book's 'community' theme than the one you describe above. The three themes I heard were: 1)taxation is robbery; 2)"My Brother's Keeper" is a philosophy for idiots; 3)99% of the people are so incompetent as to starve to death if there isn't a momma bird chewing their food for them so we better treat the 1% better than they currently enjoy or they will let us starve to death. I think any conversation about the book will need to include a side bar about the communities that promote her themes, and how funny that is considering their combination of religion and politics. -- Mark V.

  9. I'm sorry. I'd forgotten how irritating it is to new Ayn Rand acolytes for people to make mistakes. I'll bow out now, as I can't find much good to say about this writer, and, while I love a good conversation about literature, I don't much fancy an argument . . .

    1. That is too bad. Good conversations are hard to come by these days. I responded to your comment for the sake of clarification, not to instigate an argument, and I didn't realize my comment sounded irritated. Originally, I wasn't going to say anything, but the more I thought about the "glorification of rape", the more it bothered me. I can't imagine having anything good to say about a book or an author who wrote about rape in a positive way. I don't fancy an argument either, but I also don't fancy being called something I'm not. Me? An acolyte? No. I'm a curious reader. I seek out opinions that are different than mine so that I can better understand people who are different from me. The next book on my reading list is written by the Dalai Lama, which I hesitate to share as I'm sure there are readers out there with strong opinions about His Holiness.

  10. Dear Molly,
    I read Atlas Shrugged more than forty years ago...yes, damn, I am that old. I am sure that I hardly understood it. I do respect so much your strength (in many ways) and your wonderful curiosity for learning.
    We can and may embrace or reject so many books...and is that not the blessing of our lives to have that absolute privilege? We live in such a wonderful world that we may read whatever we wish to read. It is a freedom that many do not have. I know that you and others believe that that freedom should not be taken for granted. Let us respect each of our choices and give thanks that we do have those choices.
    I look forward to reading your responses to His Holiness.
    Love to you.

  11. "I don't go to the gym to prove my power, I go there to exercise it." YeahYAH!

  12. ah. I see now. I don't even think that your mention of that book is scandalous in the least bit. People are funny.
    Anyway you have me curious about cross fit. I'mma check it out.
    My exercise habits include yoga and running but frankly, I am super bored with running these days.

  13. Hey Molly, I just lurk here, but the Ayn Rand business brought me out. Every book might contain ideas embraced and ideas rejected by the same reader. Your post didn't seem to endorse any right-wing justification of social darwinism based on the works of Ayn Rand, but I guess just mentioning her name touched a nerve! Heaven forbid people avoid reading books on the basis that they might not agree with them.

    You're smart, I started reading for the knitting and coincidentally went paleo about the same time, and I admire you, especially after your fierce literariness here.


  14. When I think of Rand and her writing, these are the associations I automatically make.

  15. I hear what you are saying with the competition. . . I relate more-- though-- to that person who looked you right in the eye as you were doubting yourself and said "you got this." THAT's my idea of a utopia. A place where we were all challenging each other and ourselves to improve. Rand got that piece right where there was a friendly--albeit real-- competition amongst the job creators in their hidden utopia. Her utopia is like the person who encouraged you; it's like when we were little, playing on the monkey bars or playing hop scotch, each showing the other what we were made of and each really needing the other to try their hardest for the games to be fun. Imagine a world like that! A place where we looked people in the eye and said "You got this."

  16. I hear what you are saying with the competition. . . I relate more-- though-- to that person who looked you right in the eye as you were doubting yourself and said "you got this." THAT's my idea of a utopia. A place where we were all challenging each other and ourselves to improve. Rand got that piece right where there was a friendly--albeit real-- competition amongst the job creators in their hidden utopia. Her utopia is like the person who encouraged you; it's like when we were little, playing on the monkey bars or playing hop scotch, each showing the other what we were made of and each really needing the other to try their hardest for the games to be fun. Imagine a world like that! A place where we looked people in the eye and said "You got this."


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