Back in July we posted an article by Saxon member Sheila detailing her journey towards achieving toes to bar. This week she’s written a little update for us – whilst her progress and her work on toes to bar is great the most powerful thing about this post is Sheilas comments on how Saxon CrossFit and its community have helped her through a difficult time for her family over the Christmas period.

Comfort zones: I’m discovering more and more that the things I do not enjoy so much are the things that I find hard and which push me outside of my comfort zone. Doing workouts with heavy weights and kipping practice are both things I do not enjoy and subsequently find challenging. However, it seems to be that progress is made at the very edge of my comfort zone so that next time, that comfort zone is slightly bigger.

During a stretching session at the end of a fairly intensive wokrout I suddenly realized I could reach down from a sitting position and get hold of my feet (one side at a time). I definitely couldn’t do that before I started at Saxon! Afterwards I checked toe touching from standing and found I could do that without too much problem too!

By August I realized that I could touch my toes every time when doing straight leg sit ups and pretty much every time when doing v-ups! (As someone who is not naturally flexible I can relate to Sheilas joy at achieving consistent toe touches. For many people flexible hamstrings are the norm but for the less flexible among us this is a huge achievement!)

With a re-test of toes to bar I can now get my feet to chest height too, slowly getting closer to that bar! I have booked a one to one coaching session for next week with Tim to try and boost my performance and get them higher still. Watch this space!

I have found that one to one sessions definitely help to target the areas that need work and Tim soon identified that my upper core strength was where I needed to focus. He set me some exercises to do two or three times a week – one of which was a terrifying move in which you lean back from a machine of demonic origin held only by your feet (the chair of demonic origin is a GHD machine, it’s not demonic I promise). Doing these exercises regularly, I could see noticeable improvements – being able to hold longer hollow holds, and touch my toes in straight leg v-ups.

Then, as Christmas started to loom closer, three things happened which impacted my fitness journey:

The first was our Million Burpee Challenge in aid of the Big C. Doing between 200 and 500 burpees every day shifted the focus away from my toe to bar goal and core work.

The second thing that happened was that my beloved uncle died having suffered from cancer over a period of years. This renewed my determination to raise as much as possible for the Big C.

Then, the day before my uncles funeral, on 2nd December, our whole family was side-swiped by the terrible news that our much longed-for, and already dearly-loved granddaughter, Leah, had died in the womb just hours before being born at full term. I have never known such depth of grief, not only for the loss of our beautiful and perfect little girl, but also for our son and his wife who were and still are beside themselves with grief.

I have no scientific basis for thinking that grief like this can affect your physical strength, but I noticed that I could not seem to lift as heavy as I had been and I struggled to achieve previous PBs. However, I do know that coming to CrossFit helped by focusing my mind on the physical. There was also the amazing support from the fantastic community here, both coaches and members which really has helped. So many have just been there with a hug, a quiet word, or a text message saying they are thinking of us. What a wonderful group of people and it is such a privilege to be part of Saxon.

(As Head coach at Saxon I was continually impressed not only by the resilience Sheila and her family demonstrated through this time but by the outpouring of support and friendship from the membership and staff. It is cliche in CrossFit to continually talk about community but times like Sheila mentions here is where the true power of our group comes through.)

Christmas was best forgotten, but afterwards, and in a strange way, suffering from Burpee withdrawal symptoms, I came back determined to refocus on toes to bar. Well, I am definitely improving on the kipping and getting my legs higher, but still not quite there. BUT- as a side goal, I have also been working on pull-ups (since doing Tim’s accessory class on it a while back) and I am delighted to have achieved my first pull up this week!! In fact, the whole gym must have heard me shout!

The thing is, many people believe that getting older inevitably means decreased fitness, mobility and cognition. Looking around at other more mature members and thinking about my own journey, I can honestly say that this is not true. If I can radically improve my fitness and strength then age alone does not have to be a barrier, but you do have to be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and try.”

As always it’s a pleasure to hear about Sheilas journey at Saxon and we are continually impressed by her work ethic, determination and progress. Keep it up dude!