10 years of CrossFit

Ten years ago today I walked into my neighborhood CrossFit gym, did a workout, signed up for an unlimited monthly membership, and the rest, as they say, is history. A supremely mediocre, occasionally frustrating, and overall rewarding history.

A couple months ago I had the idea to go through my training notebooks from the last 10 years and pick 10 workouts to re-do this year, with the goal of either beating my previous time, or doing the workout RX, or improving a specific skill or movement in the workout. The plan was to share those 10 workouts in this post, and for this post to be a more comprehensive recap of the last decade of my fitness life.

Me, holding a stack of 10 small wire-bound notebooks in my lap.

I got as far as digging out these notebooks and taking this photo of them. I’m currently in autistic burnout and I just don’t have the cognitive resources or energy to go through all of these and pick out 10 workouts, or to write the commemorative “10 years of CrossFit” recap-ish/look back/highlights post that I want to write. So instead, I’m listing a handful of CrossFit-related goals that I want to work toward achieving this year. If I achieve some (or one (or all)) of them, cool. If I don’t achieve any of them, fine. I’m really just looking for progress here. The idea of setting a bunch of super specific goals with super specific training plans and progressions and milestones, and feeling like I have to achieve anything—or everything—right now, feels way too overwhelming. Incremental improvement, though? That feels doable.

Here are the CrossFit-related things I’d like to work toward achieving this year:

  1. Meet or beat my DT time.
  2. Complete White RX.
  3. Do a Saturday morning Sport class RX.
  4. Strengthen my core.
  5. Improve my gymnastics.

1. Meet or beat my DT time.

DT is a classic CrossFit “benchmark” workout. Benchmark workouts are exactly what they sound like—workouts that are standard across CrossFit that allow you to compare and measure your progress—against both yourself or others—across time. They give you a baseline for your training.

DT used to be my shit. I LOVE this workout. And I used to be really fucking good at it. My time to meet or beat is 8:07.

DT is 5 rounds for time of:

– 12 deadlifts (155#/105#)
– 9 hang power cleans (155#/105#)
– 6 push jerks (155#/105#)

(CrossFit workouts exist within the gender binary. Male/female standards for any given workout are usually given in parentheses after the movement/exercise, and are separated by a slash. The number to the left of the slash is always the male RX standard. The number to the right is always the female RX standard. The standard in this case is weight. Sometimes it’s calories, distance, or reps. Doing a workout “RX” means doing it “as prescribed,” without any modifications to the movement/exercise or weight.)

2. Complete White RX.

White is a Hero workout. Hero workouts are named after and performed in honor of dead CrossFitters, most often members of the military and law enforcement. They are usually extremely fucking hard, even if they don’t look like it on paper.

I attempted this workout in the summer of 2014. I got through two or three rounds of it RX before I had to scale the rope climbs. This one obliterated me. I have no idea what my time was. I couldn’t find it in any of my training notebooks. But I do remember doing it. Vividly.

To do White RX all the way through I need to get stronger at rope climbs, especially when fatigued. By “stronger” I mean “faster, more controlled, and more efficient energy output.” I also need to get my shit together with my toes-to-bar. Mostly this means I need to be able to string more of them together, which means I need to get stronger in my upper body, and I need to figure out how to keep a rhythm.

White is 5 rounds for time of:

– 3 rope climbs
– 10 toes-to-bar
– 21 overhead walking lunges (45#/35# plate)
– 400m run

You can read about the person this workout was named after on the CrossFit website.

3. Do a Saturday morning Sport class RX.

The Saturday morning Sport class at my gym is the class for competitive athletes. It’s 90 minutes long instead of 60, and usually has multiple pieces/workouts that use heavier weights and more advanced gymnastics. I want to be able to drop into one of these classes and complete it RX. Bonus points if I finish in the first half of finishers.

4. Strengthen my core.

Mostly I want to be able to do RX hollow holds and hollow rocks whenever a workout calls for them. I’ve never been able to do a hollow hold, let alone hollow rocks. Ever. I will be elated—ELATED—once I can. Getting these will help me significantly with my gymnastics.

This is the best hollow hold progression instructional video I’ve found, and I’m using the protocol prescribed in it. Right now, I can do the progression she shows at about 2:04 and I can hold my legs up there and maintain a flat back for most of a Tabata (8 rounds/4:00 minutes of 0:20 seconds of work, 0:10 seconds of rest). I’ve still got a long way to go, and I’ve made a ton of progress with these already.

I’d also love to be able to do ab roll-outs. These would never be in a workout. They’re just something I’ve been chasing for a long time and would love to be able to do them without it feeling like my lower abdomen is being pulled/ripped apart.

5. Improve my gymnastics.

Specifically: handstand walks, strict pull-ups, butterfly pull-ups, toes-to-bar, bar muscle-ups, strict handstand push-ups, and strict dips.

Once upon a time I could do everything on this list except for the handstand walks and the dips. Now, I can’t do any of the things on this list! Huzzah!

I think I’m closest to getting handstand walks, though. They’re the thing I’ve worked toward most consistently lately, and I’m feeling pretty good about them. I think the bar muscle-ups and strict dips will take me the longest to get. When I say I want to “get” these movements, I mean “I want to be able to do them properly and efficiently in a workout,” not “I want to get a rep or two one time and call it good.”

Technically, I have my toes-to-bar. I’m just not great at stringing them together/keeping a rhythm. Honestly, that’s the story of my life when it comes to anything on the rig, and also barbell cycling. Coordination and rhythm is something my autistic brain has a lot of trouble with.

As for the other six things on this list, I’ve not put in any consistent work on them—yet.

Oh, also: double-unders. These aren’t a gymnastics movement but they feel like they fit best here. I have-ish these, but not yet consistently enough to do them in a workout. I think these will come back pretty quickly, too—once I start working on them regularly.

And just to clarify, weightlifting is still my primary sport. CrossFit is my first and true love, though, and I’ll absolutely be adding more of it into my training this year.

What we don’t talk about when we talk about the “deficits” of autism

Most of what most people know about autism is that it’s defined by “deficits”—what autistic people can’t do, or don’t do very well. Like. Literally. Autism is literally defined in the DSM by “deficits.” (Notice, too, that the DSM diagnostic criteria is written with only children in mind.)

Screenshot from the CDC's website stating the DSM diagnostic criteria for autism. The heading reads: Diagnostic Criteria for 299.0 Autism Spectrum Disorder. The body of the text reads: To meet diagnostic criteria for ASD according to DSM-5, a child must have persistent deficits in each of three areas of social communication and interaction (see A.1. through A.3. below) plus at least two of four types of restricted, repetitive behaviors (see B.1. through B.4. below).

Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):
Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

The sentences that contain the word "deficit" are highlighted in yellow.

These so-called deficits aren’t deficits. They’re differences. We autistics don’t inherently lack humanity. We’re not less human. We just do shit differently, and have different needs. Difference ≠ deficit. Different ≠ deficient.

(Side note: Despite the specific stereotype that we’re “bad” at communication, we’re not. Research shows that we communicate differently, not deficiently. This is known in the literature as the double empathy problem. You can read an overview of the double empathy problem on the UK’s National Autistic Society website (please never ever get your autism information, news, or research from the US’s Autism Speaks—it is a pro-eugenics hate group). For those of you who prefer academic writing, there’s also this 2020 research paper that reviews the double empathy problem. Basically, the double empathy problem states that autistic-to-autistic communication is as “successful” as allistic-to-allistic communication, and in a mixed group, the trouble in understanding goes both ways. It’s akin to speaking different languages.)

The words we use matter. Language drives perception, and perception is reality. It influences how people—our family members, professional acquaintances, healthcare providers, etc.—treat us. It shapes policy and access and opportunity. It influences funding—how much money is spent, what it’s spent on, and who gets to spend it. Because the “official” language used to describe autism is deficit-based, many (most?) non-autistics think of autism and autistic people in terms of deficits—and outright failures. This harms—and, more often than you might expect, quite literally kills—us.

What we—and by “we” I mean “y’all”, non-autistics—don’t talk about when we talk about the “deficits” of autism are the actual deficits of autism.

So let’s talk about some of them.

Let’s talk about the deficit of kindness, compassion, and actual understanding in the language used to describe autism and autistic people—in the DSM, and by the world at large—and how this type of deficit-based and pathologized language perpetuates negative stereotype and stigma, and harms #ActuallyAutistic people.

Let’s talk about the deficit of non-autistics who listen to us when we tell them what language we prefer; that ABA is abuse; what resources, services, supports, and accommodations we need.

Let’s talk about the deficit of non-autistics who actively center and platform autistics instead of speaking or writing over us. Y’all think you know better. You don’t. Your experience of an autistic person is not the same thing as—or more important than—an autistic person’s lived experiences as an autistic person. You cannot claim to care about a community, or to design something for a community, without centering that community’s needs as defined by that community. We are so often silenced and spoken over by allistics, many of whom claim to be allies (“allies”) even as they refuse to let us speak for ourselves, or to listen to what we have to say when we do manage to sneak a word in. If you want to be an ally, use your resources to help center and platform us, not to speak over and silence us.

Let’s talk about the deficit of professionals—medical workers, mental health providers, educators, etc.—who actually know what autism is and isn’t, and the harm that’s caused by their constant conflation of autism with other, separate disabilities that commonly co-occur alongside autism. I’m looking at you, people who use functioning and severity labels.

Let’s talk about the deficit of professionals who understand the different ways autism can present in anyone who isn’t a young white boy (which is who the diagnostic criteria was written for), and who are skilled at and specialize in recognizing autism in these folks, especially Black, Indigenous, and brown folks, and women.

Let’s talk about the deficit of autistic folks who know they’re autistic because of the deficit of professionals who understand the different ways autism can present in anyone who isn’t a young white boy. There are so, so many autistics out there who don’t know they’re autistic for exactly this reason, and who are suffering—and I do mean SUFFERING—because of it.

Let’s talk about the deficit of providers who understand that autism is not a pathology, or a mental illness. That it can’t—and shouldn’t—be “treated” or “fixed” or “cured.” That there is no type of therapy for autism.

Let’s talk about the deficit of providers who understand that many traditional approaches to therapy don’t work well for autistics, and can actually harm and further traumatize autistic folks, and who specialize in—or are even experienced in—tailoring traditional mental health services to autistics who seek out mental health care for conditions or concerns that co-occur alongside their autism.

(To be clear: I’m not advocating for “treating” or “fixing” or “curing” autism through therapy or any other means. I’m advocating for autism-aware and autism-friendly mental health professionals—and, ultimately, mental health professionals who are themselves autistic—who can tailor mental health tools and therapies to autistics who also live with mental health conditions or other challenges for which we may seek mental health care (or at least, for which we might seek mental health care if we had a system that we could trust and that empowered and accommodated us).)

Let’s talk about the deficits in our healthcare system and the barriers to accessing care that autistic people face. Trying to find an autistic-aware, or even an autistic-friendly, healthcare provider is An Experience—one with significant potential to cause us real harm.

Let’s talk about the deficit of money dedicated to research focused on areas that #ActuallyAutistic people have spent years begging to be funded: supports and services. In both 2017 and 2018, the most recent years for which data is available, funding for supports-related research received only 6 percent of total funding and accounted for only 8 percent of total projects. By contrast, areas of research that the autistic community keeps begging to not be researched/funded—eugenics-y prevention- and cure-based research—received 73% and 72% of funding in 2017 and 2018, respectively. More from HHS’s Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s 2017-2018 report.

Let’s talk about the deficit of employed autistics, an issue that is largely driven by the public’s inaccurate understanding of autism and unwillingness to accommodate autistic folks in the workplace and in educational settings, and how the deficit of employed autistics intersects with the deficits we face in accessing medical and mental health care and education, and our overall wellbeing and quality of life. Education is highly valued in our society, and employment is essentially required to survive. As a rule, school and workplace environments are inherently inhospitable and inaccessible to autistic folks.

Let’s talk about the deficit of living autistic people. A lot of us don’t make it to 40 years old. On average, we die about 40 years earlier than our non-autistic peers. Suicide rates in our community are “extraordinarily high“—we’re six times more likely to attempt suicide, and up to seven times more likely to die by suicide, than non-autistics. And too many of us are murdered by our families, who see us a burdens. (Google “autistic killed by family”. You will not be in short supply of search results.)

Let’s talk about the deficit in the research re: adult representation. So little of the research is conducted with autistic adults, and that is failing and harming us in real ways.

Let’s talk about the deficit in resources and support available to autistic adults, especially older adults, because the research has failed to consider or include us and our experiences, perspectives, and needs.

Let’s talk about the deficit of social and familial support many autistics experience due to stereotype and stigma, and the trauma and abuse perpetrated against us by those who we count on to care for us. (See also the mention of filicide three paragraphs above.)

Let’s talk about the deficit of positive and accurate representations of autism and autistic people in media. Too often we see only stereotyped autistic characters, like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man and Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Thank fuck for Tyler James Williams‘s character, Gregory, in Abbott Elementary, which offers a positive and accurate representation of a Black autistic adult. And thank fuck for Chole Hayden‘s character, Quinni, in Heartbreak High, which offers a positive and accurate representation of an autistic teen girl. (Fun fact, the actor who plays Quinni is #ActuallyAutistic, which is why her on-screen representation through Quinni feels so real.)

Let’s talk about the deficit of visible autistic joy, and how framing autism and autistic people strictly or primarily through a negative, deficit-based, pathologized lens sets everyone up for failure. How this leads to imposter syndrome and guilt in autistics who aren’t in crisis or distress. How this leads to allistics disbelieving and dismissing autistics who who don’t match the “in crisis/distress” stereotype. How this leads to the withholding of support and accommodations. How this leads to harm.

If you want to talk about the “deficits” of autism, which a lot of y’all allistic people seem to want to do, talk about these things. These are the actual deficits of autism. These are the things that we autistics need y’all non-autistics to be concerned with fixing. Not us. We don’t need to be fixed. We need y’all to fix your understanding of autism and autistic people, and they way you treat and support and accommodate us.

What I’m reading: January 2023

We’re only three days into the new year, I KNOW. Please refer to my note in the previous “What I’m reading” post about how I read a lot. Also, lol, I don’t even share everything that I read here. Only the stuff that I don’t dislike, and the stuff that I actively love. Anyway, I won’t always be able to keep this pace of reading, so I’m enjoying it—and I’m enjoying sharing the books that I enjoy—while I have the time.

How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler.

Magic. Absolute magic. I don’t know who else to describe it.

I saw a tweet about this book a couple weeks ago, read the first essay on Goodreads, ordered the book immediately, started it on a Saturday night, and finished it the following morning. I took a break only to sleep, and to get a manicure that had been scheduled weeks in advance. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop, because the writing is so (SO) good. At the same time, I tried to not read it too quickly, because I didn’t want to finish it, because I didn’t want it to end. The only other book that’s had that type of impact on me, and to that degree, is Maria Popova’s 500-page masterpiece Figuring, which I devoured the moment it was published in 2019 and haven’t read again since because I’m afraid that the magic of the first time can’t be replicated, and that reading it again will in fact lessen, or even ruin, the magic I remember it being.

(I have long loved Maria’s blog The Marginalian, formerly Brain Pickings, although her understanding of autism seems to be deeply misinformed and inaccurate, and she perpetuates harmful stereotypes of autism and autistic people by incorrectly calling autism a mental health condition, and employing euphemistic and insulting “differently abled” language in lieu of the accurate, precise, and overwhelmingly preferred term: disabled.)

Anyway.

How Far the Light Reaches is a memoir of queerness and family and identity and connection and belonging in ten essays. Each essay braids together the author’s personal experiences with a specific sea creature and the life it leads. The result is brilliant, fascinating, immersive, magical. Really, I don’t know how else to describe it.

Also: That cover???? Come on.

Honestly, the only way this book could have been better is if it were a visual and/or aural experience, narrated by David Attenborough and the author, with colorful illustrations of the sea creatures and stories detailed in each essay.

Patriarchy Blues: Reflections on Manhood by Frederick Jospeh.

Another book I learned about on Twitter. That’s how I learn about a lot of what I read, honestly. Someone on Twitter asked about this one, and one of the authors of White Women (which I wrote about in last month’s post) replied that she loved it. White Women is an excellent book. I trust the taste of the women who wrote it, so when I saw one of the authors praise this book, I ordered it immediately.

It’s good! Through a collection of essays, letters, and poems, the author writes about his experience with the patriarchy, which, as a Black man, is inextricably intertwined with another oppressive system: white supremacy. I think he does a really good job explaining the similarities that oppressive systems (white supremacy, capitalism, the patriarchy, ableism, etc.) share and how they reinforce each other. I also appreciate his discussions on both Christianity and social media, and how both contribute to the aims of oppressive systems—and how “Christianity reigns supreme as a pillar of capitalistic, patriarchal, and white supremacist oppression.” I also really liked his takes on white feminism, which echoed what Regina Jackson and Saira Rao say about white feminism in White Women; gender; and the never-ending pressure of the never-ending process of becoming—how the best/ideal you is always just out of reach.

The downside to this book: There were several sections that I had to skip over. I didn’t read most of the epigraphs, which preceded each essay, letter, and poem, because they were printed in a “playful” font (that I think was meant to mimic handwriting (maybe?)) that was really difficult for my eyes to focus on, and made my head actually hurt. Ditto for the large sections printed entirely in italics. People in charge of book design: Please remember that typeface choices are part of accessible design!!!

Book cover of "The Best American Essays 2022" edited by Alexander Chee.

The Best American Essays 2022 edited by Alexander Chee.

Look. Listen. I know that I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of anthologies. I’m not. This one though? SO GOOD. But I mean. It’s edited by Alexander Chee, so are we surprised? (No. We are not.) (Some of Chee’s own essays are here.) Seriously, the writing is so good—evocative and relatable, even (especially?) when difficult, uncomfortable, sad.

Some of the essays that stuck with me the most: Vauhini Vara’s “Ghosts,” in which she uses an AI chatbot to help her write about her sister’s death; Gary Shteyngart’s “My Gentile Region,” about his botched circumcision (at age 7) and its aftermath (in the present day, which for him is middle age); and Anthony Veasna So’s “Baby Yeah,” about creativity/creating, friendship, and navigating grief after suicide.

So you see??? The writing??? So good!!!

This book is also a tactile delight. The cover has a very slight/fine texture to it that makes it easy to grip, the paper feels slightly softer than usual, and the book is the perfect kind of bendy. It just feels good in your hands.

My only complaints: The font is a teensy bit too small for my taste and sometimes made the page feel dense and visually overwhelming, and—this one is very much just my preference, and very superficial—I hate when new chapters or essays start on the left-side page. New chapters or essays should always start on the right-side page!!!

Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency: Poems by Chen Chen.

I am not a poetry person. Mostly because I don’t think I’m smart enough to understand it. I’m not good with metaphor, so a lot of poetry goes right over my head. I also struggle with the formatting/spacing of poems. I don’t know how to read it in my head, and when there’s a lot of space between words or phrases, or a lot of line breaks with words indented all over the place, it’s hard for my eyes to follow and sometimes makes my brain hurt (sorry!) and I end up reading it in a halted cadence and usually have to re-read every line a thousand times and even then I’m not totally sure that I’ve understood what I’ve read. But I love language, and I’m endlessly fascinated by how we use it, so I keep trying.

All that being said, I enjoyed this collection of poems! I didn’t understand all of them, but I did like them. The themes that stood out to me the most: grief, loss, and (non)belonging, specifically through the lens of a queer Chinese-American man living through our current era of white supremacy, all sorts of -isms and -phobias, gun violence, and the pandemic. Sometimes very gut-wrenching, sometimes literally laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes both in the same piece. Also, can we please talk about how great that title is? A little existential crisis-y, no? Which is to say: It’s perfect and superb and I wish I’d thought of it.

Why I stopped wearing a mask at the gym—and then started again

Long story short:

At first I didn’t know better. Now I do.

Long story longer:

In the beginning, I masked. That entire first year, I masked nearly everywhere I went. Everywhere indoors, anyway. The only exceptions were private homes, and aside from my own, I only went to a few of those—my dad’s, my coparents’, the homes of two close friends—and everyone who lived in those homes masked outside of them, too. (Which: It was rare for any of us to leave our homes in the beginning. With the exception of my dad and my kids’ dad, all of us worked from home, and we had our groceries delivered. Unmasking in each other’s homes at that time felt safe because it largely was.)

I was living in Virginia when Covid first hit, and when the gyms there closed, I worked out in my garage. There, in my own garage, I didn’t mask. A few months into the pandemic, I began to split my time between my home in Virginia and my dad’s home in Oregon. We knew very little about Covid at this point, just that it was killing a lot of people and it was doing so quickly. Vaccines weren’t available yet, and I didn’t feel safe flying between Portland and DC, so I drove. While at my dad’s, an arrangement that lasted only a few weeks, I trained in his garage. He’s been into lifting longer than I’ve been alive, and he had a decent setup for to build off of. I brought my own barbell, bumper plates, kettlebells, and wall ball with me in my car. While in his garage, I didn’t mask. I did mask—with a KN95—whenever I went running in his neighborhood. I just didn’t mask inside the garage.

Me, standing against a squat rack in my dad's garage, summer 2020. I'm wearing spandex workout shorts and a floral-print sports bra. My hands are on my head and I'm smiling at the camera. I'm not wearing a mask.

At the end of summer 2020, I joined a gym in Portland. I was no longer staying with my dad during the weeks and months that I was in Oregon, and I needed a new place to train. At the time, mask mandates were still in place in Portland, and very strictly enforced at the gym I’d joined. This particular gym also strictly enforced capacity limits (seven people at a time, max), wiping down of all equipment after use, and cleaning the floors between athletes. And they had each workout/training “station” clearly marked and taped out.

I trained at this gym, in a cloth mask, until November 2020, when, following the WHO’s acknowledgement that Covid is airborne (something aerosol researchers had been screaming about since April 2020), Oregon went into another lockdown and gyms here closed again. I spent the next few weeks working out in a friend’s driveway, using my own equipment, which I continued to lug around with me, coast to coast, in my car.

Selfie of me in late 2020, sitting on a bench at the gym, wearing a cloth mask.

In early 2021, as things reopened, I joined a different gym Portland. For the first few months, I was strict about masking. Mostly I stuck with my cloth mask. Sometimes, when I forgot my mask at home, or couldn’t quickly find it in my gym bag, I’d wear a surgical mask, which the gym provided at the front desk.

Beginning around mid-2021, I’d sometimes take my mask off at the gym—usually when going for heavy sets, or doing conditioning on the Echo bike, which I did next to a wide-open bay door. I felt safe, and, I suppose, invincible. At this point, I didn’t personally know anyone who’d caught Covid—and I didn’t yet realize/understand that this was because I don’t know very many people, not because Covid “isn’t that bad” (it is that bad, and probably worse than that)—and much of the media buzz around Covid had started to shift in tone. It was dangerous, sure, but we were nearing the end of it, making our way back to The Before Times. And anyway, I reasoned, I’m young and healthy and fit. I’ve never had a serious illness. The only times I’ve been hospitalized were when I was pregnant. It was unlikely, I felt, that I would catch Covid at all, and certainly not in those few minutes here and there when I unmasked at the gym.

The gym I trained at during this time was huge, and at the time of day I trained, there usually weren’t many people there. At the time, mask mandates were still in place in the city, and more than a few businesses were requiring proof of vaccination to enter. I felt justified in occasionally unmasking at the gym for exactly these reasons—everyone had to mask everywhere else they went, which meant, in theory, we were all masking most of the time, which meant, in theory, it was safer to (occasionally and briefly) unmask indoors around others. The gym was (and still is) the only social thing I do, and I felt that I was making an informed, risk-based decision—in putting myself in that space in the first place, and in sometimes unmasking in it. And, I believed, people at the gym were more likely to be cautious about their health outside of the gym, the gym being full of people who care about, you know, health (O! The naivety!). Plus, the gym was the only place I didn’t mask, and it was only sometimes. I felt no responsibility toward the health of others, and accessibility wasn’t a concept that was even on my radar at this point. I was focused only on my individual risk, and I’d assessed that to be basically zero.

Me, mid-2022, deadlifting alone in an empty gym. I'm not wearing a mask.

In January 2022, I began lifting in a neighbor’s garage. I lifted alone, so I didn’t mask. I also didn’t mask when I dropped into gyms in Virginia and Texas while visiting my kids earlier this year. Especially when I was the only person in the gym, which happened more frequently than you might expect. (One thing I like about CrossFit and CrossFit-adjacent gyms? Many of them participate in a program that allows members 24/7 access to participating facilities through an app that unlocks the door, which is particularly convenient to me, a person who keeps a rigid schedule and routine, even when (especially when) away from home.)

For the first few months at my current gym, which I joined in May 2022, I didn’t mask at all (though I did mask for the two or three observational visits I made before deciding to join the gym). Most of my training sessions were outdoors, or near wide-open bay doors. For the same reasons I mention above—a sense of invincibility; a focus only on my own risk/health; an assumption that people at the gym were also limiting their exposure to other people, and consistently masking, outside of the gym and therefore safe to be around unmasked—I felt justified in not wearing a mask at the gym. I continued to mask (indoors) elsewhere. Just not at the gym.

Me, fall 2022, setting up to lift a loaded barbell at the gym. I'm wearing a KN95 mask.

I started masking again at the gym at the end of the summer. Since then, I’ve masked every time I’ve gone to the gym, and for the entirety of every training session. I put my mask on before I get out of my car, and if I need to take it off for any reason—to drink water, to eat a snack, to pop in a new piece of gum, to catch my breath, whatever—I go outside and walk away, or go sit in my car, before pulling it down or taking it off to do any of those things.

My masking habits changed outside of the gym around this time, too. Since the end of the summer, I mask everywhere that isn’t my apartment or car. I mask in my apartment hallway. I mask to check the mail. I mask to take out the trash. I mask to walk to and from my car. I mask when I’m standing in an outdoor line. I mask when I go for a walk through my neighborhood.

What changed?

  1. Our understanding of Covid (and Long Covid),
  2. My definition of “health” and my understanding of health as a collective responsibility, and
  3. My access and exposure to Covid-related news, information, and research.

I started paying attention. I started spending A LOT of time in online disability spaces (#LongCovid, #DisabilityTwitter, #NEISVoid), and I chose to heed rather than ignore both the science and the stories shared by people with first-hand, lived experience of chronic illness, disability, Covid, and/or Long Covid.

Around the same time, I had, over the course of about a week, a series of in-real-life experiences that (1) reminded me that as an anxious autistic, I lead a very different life, especially socially, than most (which is to say: I don’t have a social life at all outside of the gym), and (2) made it very clear to me that the dominant ideas about “health” and what it means to be “healthy”—which until recently I fully bought into and actively supported—are incredibly narrow and ableist (and therefore exclusionary), and don’t consider, include, or accommodate people who fall outside that definition. Many, many people are operating as if the lives of those who are chronically ill and/or disabled count less, or don’t count at all. Many, many people believe, incorrectly (obviously), that “health” is an innate character trait and individual responsibility, and that “bad” “health” is a personal failing and/or deserved.

Why so serious about my masking protocol?

Because Covid is really fucking serious!!! I read the science. I understand the science. I believe the science. And you know what? It ain’t great, folks! A sampling:

Kids are suffering—and I do mean suffering—too.

I could go on and on and on and on—and then some. There is no shortage of Covid-related news, information, and research. Here are a few places to start:

@Dr.EricDing
@loscharlos
@mandatemasksus
@PeoplesCDC
@TRyanGregory
@wsbgnl

I wear a mask because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t want to catch Covid, I don’t want to spread Covid, and I want chronically ill and disabled folks to have a shot at living their lives more fully and more safely than they’re currently able to. If we, as a society, are going to insist on returning to life as if the pandemic is past tense (which: it’s not (and, sorry to break it to you, life will never again be like it was)), the least we can do is ensure that people with less privilege can live their lives too.

“Less privileged” does not mean “less than” or “less worthy.” “More privileged” does not mean “better than” or “more worthy.” Those of us who have more privilege in any given context or domain of life should be using that privilege in a way that considers, accommodates, and includes people who have less privilege.

This is a basic tenet and function of accessibility. And accessibility isn’t—or at least, it shouldn’t be—an after thought. Making sure spaces are accessible is the bare fucking minimum. And honestly, y’all??? A really easy, low-effort, and affordable way to make literally any space safer and more accessible in the middle of a mass-disabling, deadly pandemic is to wear a mask.

I understand that it might annoy you to wear a mask. Maybe physically, maybe psychologically, maybe both. But that annoyance is not actual harm. Not wearing a mask causes actual, material, real-time harm to other people.

We know that being vaccinated isn’t enough. We know that being boosted isn’t enough. We know that the vaccine and boosters do not make you immune to catching or spreading Covid. We know that they do not protect you against the silent and long-term damage Covid does—and we know that that damage is abundant, pervasive, and persistent (and, way too often, fatal). We know that the vaccine and boosters work to lessen the severity of your symptoms if/when Covid gets inside your body. We know that masks help prevent the virus from getting inside your body in the first place. We know that any mask is better than no mask. And we know that N95 masks (respirators) are better than cloth and surgical masks.

Too many people are focused on the fact that Covid isn’t killing as many people during acute infection as it did at the beginning of the pandemic, and are ignoring (or ignorant of) the silent and long-term damage it does. Again: Neither the vaccine nor the boosters protect you from this damage. You are at risk of both (1) developing Long Covid, and (2) Covid-related death, even if you’re vaccinated, even if you’re boosted, even if your acute infection was “not that bad,” even if you “feel fine,” even if your case wasn’t symptomatic at all—and so are the people around you. If you’re walking around without a mask, you’re putting other people at risk, too.

Places and spaces that don’t require masking are inaccessible by default (and sometimes—more often than you might believe—by design) (honestly, it’s wild to me that gyms—places that claim to care about health and wellness—don’t require masking). Chronically ill and disabled folks—WHO HAVE THE SAME RIGHT AS EVERYONE ELSE TO LIVE A LIFE—have no shot at safety when masks are not required. Wearing a mask keeps you safer, and it keeps the people around you safer. It is a gesture of respect and compassion, in addition to being a demonstration of basic scientific comprehension.

Community health is a collective responsibility. A group project, if you will. Right now, only one or two members of the group are doing all the work. We need everyone to step up and participate. Part of living in a society and being a part of a community is protecting the community, especially the most marginalized. If your risk assessment doesn’t include consideration for the risk that your choice to not wear a mask poses to others with less privilege, you need to go back to the drawing board. Here is a good Twitter thread that explains why mitigation measures are about the collective, not individual, risk.

It’s true that there’s a lot about Covid that we don’t know. It’s also true that there’s a lot about it that we do know, and what we do know boils down to: Covid is bad (RILL bad), and masks work. Once I understood these two things, I updated my personal protocol to reflect what we know. Before, when I didn’t know better, I didn’t mask consistently, and I didn’t wear a high-quality mask. Now, I know better, so I do. I sincerely hope more people (you??? 👀) will do the same.

Here’s a U.S.-based distributor that sells high-quality (N95) masks in both kid and adult sizes. Their prices are very reasonable, you can buy in bulk, and they ship/arrive quickly.

Training diary: December 2022

Not gonna lie, I’m frustrated about this block of training.

Mostly because there was A LOT of change during this block, and I don’t handle change well. For example, a number of my sessions were changed last minute—always after I’d already arrived at the gym, and sometimes after I’d already started training. Reps and exercises were cut, weights were changed, and, once, all of those things were changed all at once!!! WHAT!!! WHY!!! Autistic people do not handle change well!!! Especially when that change means deviating from A Confirmed Plan!!! Extra especially when that change happens all of a sudden with no discussion or warning or time to prepare!!! Double extra especially when we’re already dysregulated from other shit!!! Like being on our period!!! And not sleeping or eating well!!!

Also, this block of training was only two and a half weeks instead of the four it was supposed to be, which made me feel rushed and pressured to perform come Test Week. Feeling rushed and pressured brought me right back to previous experiences with former coaches who’d rush me through training, dismissing my concerns that we were moving too fast, and my requests to slow down. Not a great headspace to be in.

Kelsey, in a CrossFit gym, clean and jerking 67 kilos. The barbell is overhead, and she's in the split jerk. She's wearing an N95 mask.
62kg clean and jerk

Two good things about this block:

One: I got to keep training at the time of day that I’ve been training at, which is also the time of day that I like to train. I was supposed to start training at a different time of day at the start of this block and I was really stressed about it (see the paragraph above about not handling change very well). I tried training at the new time. It didn’t work. So I went back to my regular training time.

(This wasn’t quite that simple. To continue training at the time of day I’ve been training, I had to officially change my hours at work and Coach had to change the hours that he’s at the gym. Prior to this block of training, I’d been working 1:1 with a different coach, and because that setup was temporary, so too were the changes I’d made to my schedule at work to accommodate my training. Coach changed his schedule to stay a bit later at the gym than he usually does in the morning, because I start a little later than the rest of the class and therefore finish after they’re already done. I’m immensely grateful to have both a boss and a coach who are so understanding and accommodating.)

Two: at the end of Test Week, after my final squat rep, Coach took me aside and complimented and thanked me for my discipline and dedication, and for being a coachable athlete. It caught me completely off guard and I almost started crying. After a decade of being gaslit and invalidated and dismissed, it feels really good to have coaches who believe in me, who listen to me, who validate my experiences, who take the initiative to learn more about the intersection of autism and athleticism on their own, and who recognize the effort that I put in, too. Weightlifting is incredibly important to me and it’s a new and nice (and weird) experience to have coaches who see that.

Training

Duration: 2.5 weeks
Frequency: 3 days a week
Format: Group setting (barbell club)
Focus: Technique, mechanics, body awareness (same as last block)
Starting total: 107kg (50kg snatch, 57kg clean and jerk)
Ending total: 114kg (52kg snatch, 62kg clean and jerk)

Here’s what this block was supposed to look like:

Day 1Day 2Day 3
Week 1Power snatch (blocks)
Snatch pull (deficit)
Clean & jerk
Front squat
Power clean (blocks)
Clean pull (deficit)
Snatch
Back squat
Bench press
Barbell strict press
Snatch deadlift (deficit)
Snatch balance (rack)
Week 2Power snatch (blocks)
Snatch pull (deficit)
Clean & jerk
Front squat
Power clean (blocks)
Clean pull (deficit)
Snatch
Back squat
Dumbbell overhead press (seated)
Barbell strict press
Clean deadlift (deficit)
Jerk (rack)
Week 3Power snatch (blocks)
Snatch pull (deficit)
Clean & jerk
Front squat
Power clean (blocks)
Clean pull (deficit)
Snatch
Back squat
Bench press
Barbell strict press
Snatch deadlift (deficit)
Snatch balance (rack)
Week 4Power snatch (blocks)
Snatch pull (deficit)
Clean & jerk
Front squat
Power clean (blocks)
Clean pull (deficit)
Snatch
Back squat
Dumbbell overhead press (seated)
Barbell strict press
Clean deadlift (deficit)
Jerk (rack)

And here’s what it actually looked like:

Day 1Day 2Day 3
Week 1Power snatch (blocks)
Snatch pull (deficit)
Clean & jerk
Front squat
Dumbbell overhead press (seated)
Barbell strict press
Clean deadlift (deficit)
Jerk (rack)
Week 2Power snatch (blocks)
Snatch pull (deficit)
Clean & jerk
Front squat
Power clean (blocks)
Clean pull (deficit)
Snatch
Back squat
Bench press
Barbell strict press
Snatch deadlift (deficit)
Snatch balance (rack)
Week 3Power snatch (blocks)
Snatch pull (deficit)
Clean & jerk
Front squat
Power clean (blocks)
Clean pull (deficit)
Back squat
Snatch
Clean & jerk
Back squat

So……..four entire days of programmed training that just…didn’t…happen.

Le sigh.

Why the short block? Because of the holiday, coaching availability, gym hours, etc. I get it. I don’t like it. I do get it. I wish that there had been a more open conversation about this leading up to it, though, instead of it being sprung on me on a Friday that I’d be testing my lifts the following Tuesday. When I went into my final training session of the week in Week 3, I fully expected to have another entire week of training before testing. I was told, after I’d arrived at the gym and warmed up for the day of programming that was on the books (overhead press, clean-grip deads, jerks from the rack), that I’d be doing totally different lifts that day (snatch, C&J, back squat) and that I’d be testing the following week, instead of finishing the fourth/final week of training for the block. What.

Extra work. I didn’t add in as much extra work this block as I did last block. I took two gymnastics classes, did a couple long (10,000-20,000 meter) C2 Bike rides, and half-assed my way through a teensy tiny bit of core work literally once.

Test Week. I tested the Olympic lifts and both squats at the end of this block. I added 2kg to my snatch (52kg) and 5kg to my clean and jerk (62kg). (For those keeping track, I’m up 10 kilos on both lifts since being cleared in mid-October to begin putting weight overhead after a year of rehabbing an injured shoulder.)

Two true things: Both of my lifts looked better on video than they felt in the moment, and they didn’t look as good as I wanted them to. They felt so slow and heavy and difficult in the moment, and I was shaky as shit overhead. I’m surprised I only missed one snatch (my first attempt at 52kg; made the lift, couldn’t stand it up) and one clean and jerk (one attempt at 65kg; made the clean, missed the jerk).

Kelsey, in a CrossFit gym, snatching 52 kilos. She's in the bottom of a deep overhead squat, and wearing an N95 mask.
52kg snatch

I front squatted 75kg and back squatted 90kg. Allegedly. Those squat numbers are real sus to me. Coach spotted me on both and I’m positive that he helped. He says he didn’t. He says his hands were beneath the bar, not touching it. But when I re-racked the bar his hands were very clearly touching it and also the reps before my top sets were heavy and hard and grindy and those top-set reps felt FAR easier. I’m convinced he helped.

Also??? I tested my squats at the end of the summer (Labor Day-ish). It was the first time I’d squat with a loaded barbell in nearly a year, maybe a little longer. It was also the first time I was squatting even remotely correctly, having finally been given cues that made sense to me. As such, my numbers were small. My front squat that day was 60kg and my back squat was 65kg. I do not believe that I added 15 kilos to my front squat and 25 kilos to my back squat since September. No way.

I think my front squat is closer to 67kg, and I think my back squat is closer to 75-80kg. That 90kg back squat number seems particularly and impossibly high to me. I’ve never in my life come close to back squatting 90kg, even when I was in better shape, had more meat on me, and wasn’t both on my period and stumbling through the world on very little food or sleep like I was last week. I’m terrible at math, and even I know enough to know that that math doesn’t add up. I’m real curious to see what squat percentages are programmed for me next block, and how they feel. Pray for my legs (and perhaps also my patience).

Nutrition

Absolute shit. Food is a real struggle for me. I have a really hard time getting enough food in general because my sensory needs regarding food are so specific. It’s even more difficult for me to eat when I’m dysregulated. Some things that dysregulate me, and therefore make it harder for me to eat: changes to my schedule and routine, being on my period, and shitty sleep. Guess what? All three of those things happened for me during this block—at the same goddamn time.

Sleep

Also absolute shit. I’ve barely slept at all the last two weeks. I don’t know why, and I don’t like it. I’ve been here before, though, and I know it’ll pass. Eventually.

Honestly, I’m surprised that I lifted as well as I did, and that I hit the numbers that I did during Test Week last week, with such shit sleep and nutrition for so much of this block.

Mobility

Lol. I’m going to keep including this section until I get my shit together with this.

Pelvic floor

My pelvic floor did a good job holding itself together this block. No issues during training. One small issue on my last (heaviest) clean and jerk. I was on my period last week, though, so I don’t know if what I felt was pee or period blood. Regardless, my pelvic floor did a great job again this block.

I’ve been hesitant to definitively declare my year of pelvic floor physical therapy a success because I hadn’t, until recently, been lifting “real” weight. But I’m back to lifting the weight I was lifting before all my joint injuries, and I was peeing my pants all the goddamn time back then. So. I think it’s time to declare pelvic floor PT a win. That being said, I will not at all be surprised if I start peeing my pants more often during training as the weights get heavier.

Changes this block

Lots of changes to my programming. But that’s not what I mean by “changes” here. No changes to my setup or technique or approach this block.

Improvements this block

I didn’t really notice any??? I feel like that’s the wrong answer, and also the truthful one???

Areas of focus and goals for next block

My primary focus is to make progress in my pulls. For me, this means strengthening my posterior chain and my lats. I’ve got to be able to pull more weight off the ground, and quickly, and I’ve got to stop rounding my shoulders forward and learn to pull them up.

My goal for next block is to lift with better technique. Maybe that happens with more weight on the bar. Maybe it happens with the same weights I just hit. Maybe it happens with less. Whatever. I don’t care about the weight right now. I care that I’m executing the movements with technical proficiency.

Honestly, I don’t want to test again in four weeks. I’m still in my head about how short this block of training was, and four weeks feels too quick/soon. The things I need to improve will take time, and I take longer to learn. Things just take longer to click for me. I worry that four weeks isn’t enough time for me to make real improvement, and that if I test again too soon, I’ll walk away frustrated and discouraged. I’d feel better with six, maybe eight, weeks.

What’s next

An easy week of light technique work this week, then a new program in the new year.

I can’t sleep, send help

I’ve had an absolute shit time sleeping for nearly two weeks now. I have no idea why (is there something happening with the planets???) or when it’ll unfuck itself. What I do know: this isn’t new for me (unfortch), I don’t know how to fix it (dizazz), I want it to stop, eventually it will.

Overhead view of a slept-in bed with white sheets and bedding, blue-and-white striped pillowcases, and oversized muted gold-yellow decor pillow.

I’ve had trouble sleeping my whole life. It’s one of the most autistic things about me. About a year ago, I stumbled into some semblance of stability and safety in my life, and my sleep improved drastically. I went from literal decades of an average of three to four hours of sleep a night (not consecutive or uninterrupted hours, by the way) to sleeping seven to nine hours a night, usually waking only once or twice along the way. There’ve been a few instances over the past year of restless and sleepless nights, but nothing like the last week and a half; nothing sustained. Overall, this last year of sleep has been GLORIOUS. Which is why it’s so frustrating to be back in a cycle of sleeplessness.

Mostly, my problem—historically and currently—is getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. I almost always wake up in the middle of the night at least once. It is exceptionally rare for me sleep through the night. Mostly, I wake up to pee. Sometimes, I wake up STARVING. Maybe I am a baby?

I’ve learned, over many years of disordered sleep, to not fight it when these nights happen. Fighting it is futile. If my mind is awake, even if it’s exhausted, there’s no point in trying; once I’m awake, I’m AWAKE. I’ve also learned that the standard sleep advice—especially the advice for falling back asleep after waking in the middle of the night—is useless for me. That advice is for allistic brains. Not autistic brains. Autistic brains are wired differently, so they function differently. This difference in wiring means a lot of standard advice, not just the sleep-related stuff, doesn’t work for us autistics.

When these nights happen, the best I can do is stick as closely to my schedule and routine as possible, and ride them out. This requires a level of patience and self-compassion that I have yet to master, or even employ consistently.

As you can imagine, and perhaps even know from experience, when you don’t sleep well, it throws everything off—athlete or not.

I’m fortunate to have the privilege to be flexible during the day when this happens. I work from home and my boss is incredibly accommodating, so when I need, last minute, to take time off, or sign in late, or sign out early, it’s not a problem. I am so grateful to have this privilege. I haven’t always, and I know that I likely won’t always.

Technically, that flexibility extends to other parts of my day/life, too. Theoretically, I could just, you know, take a nap and try to play catch up. In reality, lol no. Napping doesn’t help. It actively makes things worse.

Even with the privilege of flexibility, when my sleep is fucked up, it’s a domino effect of dizazz. There are, of course, the obvious implications re: training. Training aside, it makes my life a trillion times more difficult. Shit-ass sleep makes me cranky and impatient, exacerbates my sensory issues, impairs my ability to mask (in the autistic way, not the Covid way, which: good in the long term, not good, sometimes devastating, in the short term), and fucks—hard—with my already very fucked-up eating habits. That last one is a particular bummer.

My eating is extremely and autistically disordered, even on the best of days and after a good night of sleep. When I’m struggling with sleep, it’s significantly harder for me to eat. I lose my appetite, which is unreliable in the first place, and my already shit-ass executive functioning becomes even less reliable, which means I lack the cognitive energy that goes into preparing and cooking food on top of the physical energy required to get up and make it (or go buy it). When I don’t eat well, I don’t sleep well. But if I’m not sleeping well, I can’t eat. Pain.

Lack of sleep also messes with my fine motor skills, which are a particular train wreck in the kitchen already and become even more of a safety issue when I’m low on sleep.

So no. In this context, flexibility isn’t particularly helpful for me. I need structure. I cannot function without it. This is, for me, one of the most disabling aspects of being autistic. The more my daily schedule and routine change, the more I’m thrown for a loop and the harder it is for my nervous system to stay regulated. While it’s an incredible privilege to have the option of flexibility, enacting it across the board, without careful consideration, especially when I’m already in a dysregulated state from a lack of sleep and food, can cause more problems for me than it might solve.

The good news, this time, is: From a work perspective, this week in particular is a good week to have a bad week of sleep. Things are slow, most people are out/off until the new year, I don’t need to be as on top of my shit.

The not-good news, this time, is: From a training perspective, this week in particular is a terrible week to have a bad week of sleep. It’s Test Week. Sleep and nutrition are the two most important pieces of training, and right now—and for the last week and a half—both of those things have been A MESS for me.

Did I mention that on top of it all, I unexpectedly started my period a few days ago? Or that since the summer I turned 30, my period presents with an excruciating migraine that makes eating nearly impossible because each bite sends a searing, white-hot pain through my jaw?

Have I told you yet about how periods are particularly and distinctly terrible for autistic people? That they amplify our anxiety, exacerbate our sensory issues, and make it difficult for us to regulate our emotions and behavior—beyond what’s typical for non-autistic period-having people. That all of these period-related problems can interfere with and negatively impact sleep, the thing I was having trouble with already for an entire week before my period showed up a couple days ago. Seriously, my period, with its accompanying migraine, could not have picked a worse week to surprise me. Rains/pours, etc.

Does this all sound like a lot?

I KNOW.

Does it sound like I’m complaining?

I AM! This sucks! I don’t like it! In fact, I HATE IT!!!

I haven’t had a stretch of non-sleep like this in a long time. I’m no longer used to it (I cannot believe that I used to “be used to” this, and operate like this at all times. FOR YEARS. While working outside of my home. HOW.), and I’m having a hard time dealing with it. I don’t want to be here, somewhere in the middle. And yet, I am. Here’s hoping I’m closer to the end of it than the beginning.

“You may be early, but you’re not wrong”

I’ve been trying to write this post for months. I keep putting off publishing it because I want so badly for it to be perfect before I send it out into the world. That is an impossible task, though. And anyway, a better writer than I has already published a resource very similar to the one I wanted to make.

You May Be Early, but You’re Not Wrong: A Covid Reading List” summarizes (and links to) 14 peer-reviewed studies on Covid and Long Covid in both kids and adults. It is very much worth the 10-ish minutes of time it takes to read. (When you’re hit with the subscription pop-up as you scroll, click or tap “Continue Reading >” to continue reading. No subscription/sign-up required.)

The tl;dr of it (sources to each of these nine key points are linked in the article):

  1. You can catch Covid multiple times.
  2. Reinfections are common, not rare.
  3. Breakthrough infections are common.
  4. Covid can kill you months after you recover.
  5. It can cause brain damage.
  6. It can cause blood clots and heart attacks.
  7. It doesn’t spare children.
  8. Vaccines help, but only some.
  9. Masks work.

Public health is a group effort. I am begging y’all: If you’re not already, get vaccinated, get your bivalent booster, and WEAR. A. MASK. Always. Every single time you’re outside of your home or your vehicle. Yes, even outside. Yes, even in the lobby or elevator or hallway. Yes, even if it’s just you and one or two other people. Yes, even if you’ve been vaccinated and boosted. Yes, even if you’ve already had Covid. Yes, even if you feel fine (and especially if you don’t—in which case: stay your ass at home!!!).

Covid isn’t “over” or “mild” or even “under control.” If you think it is, you are part of the problem. Don’t be part of the problem. It’s not too late to learn more and change your behavior. You can start in three (3) easy steps: Read this article, share it widely, AND MASK THE FUCK UP. Please and thank you.

How much money I spent on my injuries this year: July through October 2022

$3,168.32.

Before we break that figure down, two notes:

  • This post covers injury-related training expenses through October rather than through the end of the year because I was discharged from PT at the end of October. There are no additional injury-related expenses to include after that because I’ve not incurred any.
  • I debated whether or not to publish this post for the same reasons I debated whether or not to publish the first installment. Ultimately, I decided to share this information for the same reasons that I ultimately decided to publish the first installment: because (1) I want to, (2) it’s the type of information I would like to read on someone’s personal blog, and (3) I wish more people were honest about the enormous amount of privilege and resources that go into “health” and training, even as an amateur or recreational athlete.

Okay. So. During the four months spanning July through October, I paid $3,168.32 of my own dollars, straight out of my pocket, on treatments, services, and products directly related to my injuries and other body-based training limitations, and the issues, imbalances, and weaknesses that caused them. That is both a lot of fucking money and only a fraction of the full financial cost incurred during this four-month period. Altogether, everything enumerated below cost $8,146.32, which is also a lot of fucking money, especially for only a four-month period.

The tl;dr of it:

CategoryTotal cost (Jul-Oct)Percent of total costCovered by insuranceOut-of-pocket cost (Jul-Oct)
Health insurance$186.802.3%$0$186.80
Physical therapy$4,978.0061.1%$4,978.00$0
Mobility and tissue work$630.007.7%$0$630.00
Gym, etc.$2,056.6025.3%$0$2,056.60
Supplements$294.923.6%$0$294.92
Equipment$00%$0$0
Total$8,146.32100%$4,978.00$3,168.32

Most of the same caveats as last time:

  • All figures that follow are exact. No rounding or guesstimating. (Percentages are rounded in the table above.)
  • Some of the things listed below were necessary for my rehab and recovery. Some were not.
  • When applicable, taxes and shipping are included in the figures below. 
  • One figure below reflects a military discount.
  • This list does not include money I’ve spent on other training-related things that aren’t directly related to my injuries and rehab, like training gear, my full supplement stack, food, tech, hiking gear, and tangential expenses, like gas and parking.
  • This list includes only the financial investment I’ve made in my rehab and recovery during July through October. It does not reflect the other resources required to focus on rehabbing my injuries, including time, energy, executive functioning, and a regulated nervous system. 
  • All of my accounts are current, and I paid cash (“cash”) for everything listed below (nothing was financed).

Health insurance: $186.80

RIP to my very affordable health insurance that covered a lot of stuff. I’ll be on new insurance beginning in January, and it won’t be nearly as affordable or comprehensive. I’m incredibly grateful to have had this health insurance this year, and I really hope I don’t re-injure myself because I probably wouldn’t be able to afford treatment for it with my new insurance.

  • Monthly premium: $46.70
  • Deductible: $0.00
  • Copay: $0.00
  • Total out-of-pocket cost: $186.80

*

Physical therapy: $0.00

I had only shoulder and glute + hamstring PT this time around—I wrapped up my year of pelvic floor PT in June (I still want to write a recap of that year-long experience), and had no imaging after March. Beginning in September, I transitioned from twice a week to once a week, which lasted through the end of October when I was discharged from PT.

I hit some cap in June (idk, don’t ask me, I’m very confused about how insurance works) and didn’t have any out-of-pocket financial costs associated with PT from that point on. See note above about how grateful I am to have had the insurance that I’ve had this year.

Shoulder and glute + hamstring physical therapy

  • 19 visits
  • Total billed: $4,978.00
  • Total out-of-pocket cost: $0.00

*

Mobility and tissue work: $630.00

Only massage this time around, no chiropractic visits or subscriptions to stretching apps. I cut way back on massage after June, going from every other week to only three times during this four-month period. This was mostly for money-related reasons.

Massage

  • 3 visits, not covered by insurance
  • Total billed: $450.00
  • Gratuity: $180.00
  • Total out-of-pocket cost: $630.00

*

Gym memberships, programming, and 1:1 coaching: $2,056.60

I only paid for 1:1 coaching during these four months, which included the cost of my custom programming. I didn’t drop in at any gyms during this period, or pay for any online/mass programming. The figure below reflects a military discount.

1:1 coaching

  • 10 one-hour sessions per package
  • 3 10-session packages
  • Total out-of-pocket cost: $2,056.60

*

Supplements: $294.92

  • Turmeric and curcumin: $62.42
  • Collagen: $31.72
  • Fish oil: $20.42
  • Total out-of-pocket cost: $294.92

What I’m reading: December 2022

I know, I know. I just published a “What I’m Reading” post. So what!!! I read a lot!!! Sue me!!!

Book cover of "Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice" by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

A collection of essays that make an excellent introduction to disability justice, which is a theory and a practice/movement that is distinct from disability rights, as it centers sick and disabled folks who are queer and trans, and Black, Indigenous, and brown. It opens:

“What does it mean to shift our ideas of access and care (whether it’s disability, childcare, economic access, or many more) from an individual chore, and unfortunate cost of having an unfortunate body, to a collective responsibility that’s maybe even deeply joyful?

What does it mean to wrestle with these ideas of softness and strength, vulnerability, pride, asking for help, and not—all of which are so deeply raced and classed and gendered?…

If collective access is revolutionary love without charity, how do we learn to love each other? How do we learn to do this love work of collective care that lifts us instead of abandons us, that grapples with all the deep ways in which care is complicated?”

Extremely yes to all of this.

Personally, I’ve found this book instrumental in helping me address my own ableism, racism, and internalized ableism, and in reinforcing the reality that the health and wellbeing of our community is a collective responsibility.

If you’re curious about the ways in which different aspects of identity and existence intersect and interact in the context of disability—the joys and the challenges; the nuances and complexities; and the whitewashing of health, wellness, and healing—this book is a great place to start.

Book cover of "Thick: And Other Essays" by Tressie McMillan Cottom.

Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom.

[Content warnings for this book: racism, rape + sexual violence]

WOW WOW WOW. I inhaled this book. I appreciate writing that makes me think, and each of the eight essays in this book did exactly that. A mix of history, cultural analysis, and philosophy through the lens of white supremacy (and anti-Blackness in particular) and capitalism, the writing in this book is sharp and witty and smart.

Book cover of "Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity" by Dr. Devon Price.

Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity by Dr. Devon Price.

[Content warnings for this book: ableism, mentions of: disordered eating, self harm, suicidality]

I’ve read a lot of books about autism. This is easily one my Top Three (Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You and We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation are the other two).

The focus of this book is the phenomenon of autistic masking, which is a trauma response and “a camouflaged version of” autism, and, because it’s neglected by many researchers and mental health professionals, a big reason why so many people are misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed, or go undiagnosed for so long.

In the context of autism, masking refers to “any presentation of the disability that deviates from the standard image we see in most diagnostic tools and nearly all media portrayals”—which is, like, A LOT. Seriously. There is a massive fundamental misunderstanding among the general population about what autism is and isn’t, who can be autistic (literally anyone), and what autistic people look and sound and act like (there’s no special look or sound or behavior that is exclusively autistic), because there is a massive lack of accurate representation of autistic people and our experiences. This book does a good job of calling those misunderstandings out and providing accurate information.

This book also does a fantastic job at describing how autistic people process information: from the bottom up, rather than the allistic way of processing information from the top down. Understanding this difference in how our brains intake, process, and associate input is so, so important to understanding autism and autistic peoples’ experiences.

I really like the way that this book is structured and formatted. Each chapter builds on the preceding one, and interviews with a variety of autistic people from different backgrounds and with different support needs are included throughout. This gives a much richer, more accurate representation of autism, and autistic people and our experiences.

While Unmasking Autism is written for autistic readers, specifically those who learn they’re autistic later in life, I think allistic (non-autistic) people would get a lot out of this book, too. In fact, if you’re not autistic, this is the book I think you should start with.

Book cover of "White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better" by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao.

White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao.

If you’re white, and especially if you’re a white woman, you should read this book. It will not be an easy or comfortable read. You may not make it past the first few pages, or paragraphs, the first time you pick it up. Keep trying. It’s worth it.

This book is from the women behind Race2Dinner, and it’s an excellent, straightforward resource for better understanding white supremacy and how we white people uphold it—via our fragility, our entitlement, our silence, our (one-dimensional) feminism, our “allyship” and saviorism—in every facet of life, from our relationships with our friends and neighbors, to schools, to the workplace.

The entire book is *chef’s kiss*. I especially liked the discussions about niceness v. kindness; white feminism; the hollowness of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), especially when it comes to anti-racist work; and hyper-indivudalism and toxic positivity. These are all things I spend A LOT of time thinking and writing about, and I appreciate the depth and dimension the discussions about these things in the book have added to my own understanding of each. Absolutely one of my favorite reads this year.

Training diary: November 2022

I officially wrapped up my first official post-injury block of training (hype!) about a week and a half ago. Last week I tested my (Olympic) lifts. Overall, I’m really happy with how my training’s been going and I want to document each block of it here. So that’s what I’m doing. Ideally these posts would include videos from my training. Maybe future ones will??? I’m still trying to figure out if I want to get back on IG (or YouTube, I guess) in that public of a way. Much to consider.

Training

Duration: Four weeks
Frequency: Three days a week
Format: 1:1 personal coaching (exception: Week 4 was in a group setting)
Focus: Technique, mechanics, body awareness
Starting total: 94kg (42kg snatch, 52kg clean and jerk)
Ending total: 107kg (50kg snatch, 57kg clean and jerk)

Here’s a basic overview of what I did in training last month:

Day 1Day 2Day 3
Week 1Power snatch
Snatch pulls
Snatch balances
Front squats
Power clean + jerk
Clean pulls
Jerks (from rack)
Back squats
Snatches
C&Js
Snatch balances
Front squats
Week 2Power snatch
Snatch pulls
Snatch balances
Front squats
Power clean + jerk
Clean pulls
Jerks (from rack)
Back squats
Snatches
C&Js
Jerks (from rack)
Back squats
Week 3Power snatch
Snatch pulls
Snatch balances
Front squats
Power clean + jerk
Clean pulls
Jerks (from rack)
Back squats
Snatches
C&Js
Snatch balances
Front squats
Week 4Power snatch
Snatch pulls
Snatch balances
Front squats
Power clean + jerk
Clean pulls
Jerks (from rack)
Back squats
Snatches
C&Js
Jerks (from rack)
Back squats

I really liked the way this program was designed: A ton of repetition in movements, rep scheme, and weight. In past programs (with other coaches at other gyms), only the movements stayed consistent. Rep schemes and weights changed from week to week. I always felt frustrated and discouraged by this because I could never keep up. It just takes me longer to learn things. This program differed in that the rep scheme and the weights remained the same throughout the entire four weeks, too. Everything staying consistent for the entire block allowed me to really get a feel for each movement at specific weights, which helped me improve my technique, my mechanics, and my body awareness, which in turn helped me gain confidence.

Another thing I really liked about this block: The coach I spent the last several months working with 1:1 ran this block of training in a way that prepared me for moving from a 1:1 setting to a class setting. Mostly this meant I was responsible for pacing the session: taking myself through the warmup, changing my own weights, etc. As an autistic, change is often extremely distressing for me, especially when it involves changes to the social or sensory environment (or both). I’ve been anxious about the transition from 1:1 to a group setting, because I knew that both the sensory and the social environment would change: I would begin working with the head barbell coach in a group setting, and I’d be training at a different time of day, which meant a whole new group of people and a whole different vibe at the gym. My coach knew I was anxious about all of these impending changes so she helped me prepare for them, which was an extremely autistic-friendly and all-around kind thing to do. (Also, the last week of this block, I lifted with the class, to help prepare me for the transition.)

Beginning Week 2, I stayed after most days—and came in on days I don’t normally train—and added in:

  • Posterior chain work: barbell glute bridges, single leg RDLs, lunges. I tried—and failed—to add in reverse hypers. Even with no plates on, my legs weren’t strong enough to get the damn thing up, and also I wasn’t coordinated (or patient) enough to loop my feet into the footpads. Better luck later.
  • Core work: hollow body holds, dead bugs, assorted types of planks, assorted GHD work.
  • Upper body work: dead hangs from the rig (with a focus on properly setting/engaging my lats), handstand holds (against the wall), ring rows.
  • Strongman-ish stuff: yoke carries, farmers carries, D-ball carries (D-balls are kind of like very heavy medicine balls (100+ pounds)).
  • Conditioning: rowing, C2 bike, fan bike.

None of these extras were specifically programmed *for* me—I just worked in with a couple of people and their programming, and scaled as necessary to reduce the risk of fucking up my shoulder or fatiguing my body to the point of negatively affecting my actual training. 

Nutrition

Nothing fancy or extra special. Mostly more of the same—most days I ate the same food at the same time, prepared the same way. Some nights, when I was particularly low on time or energy, I ordered pizza. Or picked up a Chipotle bowl. Or ate a random assortment of snacks instead of a “proper” dinner.

One thing I did differently this block: I supplemented with creatine and a protein shake literally every day. I didn’t time these in any special way, I just made sure I had a scoop of creatine and a scoop of casein (with a scoop of Genepro thrown in (I’m trying to use up the last of what I have)) every single day. None of these supplements are new to me. I just haven’t ever been very consistent with them. I decided to be consistent with them during this block because I struggle to (1) eat enough food each day, and (2) gain muscle and strength (these things are not unrelated), and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add them to the mix. Did they work/help? Probably. My total went up 13 kilos over the course of four weeks. How much of that is due to improved technique and how much of it is due to an increase in strength (and how much is an increase in strength associated with these supplements)? Who’s to say.

Sleep

Overall, pretty damn good. Most nights I slept most of the night (at least 7 hours), which is a huge improvement for me, a chronic insomniac. I feel like I finally have my sleep under control. I’ll write more about this in a separate post.

Mobility

Lol. I did really good with mobility earlier this year when it was all I could do. Since I’ve been back in the gym and training training, I’ve slacked off with this. I know that I need to prioritize this. It’s just so goddamn boring!!!!!

Knee

No problems or pain—finally!!! I haven’t had to wear sleeves or wraps, not even during my heavy sets. I’m super happy about this, and super proud of myself for being so patient for so long and putting in all of the work that I did to get to where I am now.

For nearly a year, I couldn’t go up or down stairs without pain in my knee. I couldn’t sit down or stand up without pain in my knee. I couldn’t jump or lunge or even do a bodyweight/air squat without pain in my knee. I’m thrilled to finally be consistently pain-free, and squatting and lunging and jumping without any issues.

Shoulder

Same as above. No problems or pain—finally!!! I spent nearly a year unable to lift a barbell overhead. For most of that time, I couldn’t even reach my arm across my body or above my head without intense pain. Now I’m snatching and jerking and handstand holding and pressing overhead. Go little rockstar.

I spent seven and a half months going to physical therapy two times a week to unfuck my shoulder injuries, and I’m so damn happy to be where I am, and proud of myself for getting myself here. And to make sure I stay here? On the advice of my physical therapist, I use the exercises from my final PT home program as a warmup each training day.

Pelvic floor

I absolutely mean to brag when I say: I didn’t pee my pants at all during this block of training. Not even during my heavy sets, or on Test Day. This is another huge accomplishment for me. I spent an entire year in physical therapy to address multiple pelvic floor-related issues. That year was so, so slow and so, so frustrating. I’m happy to be on the other side of it—and hoping that my pelvic floor holds as the weights continue to get heavier.

Changes this block

  • Added in the Burgener barbell warmup for both lifts.
  • Widened my starting stance in the jerk.
  • Widened my grip in the clean.
  • Widened (slightly) my (very narrow) squat stance.

Improvements this block

  • Consistently staying tight and controlled in the bottom of the squat.
  • Consistently driving my knees out and chest up in the ascent of the squat.
  • Consistently standing up the snatch without rotating my shoulders.
  • Consistently keeping my chest over the bar in the pull (both lifts).
  • Learning to stay tight in my hips in the jerk and the catch of the snatch.
  • Not needing a spot on squats the last two weeks of the block.
  • Jumping out instead of back in the catch (both lifts).
  • Getting a hollow body hold!!! It’s only for a few seconds at a time, but still! I’ve NEVER been able to do this before.
  • Developing body awareness, especially re: my hip positioning in the setup, knowing when I hit parallel in a squat, and my shoulder positioning in the pull.
  • Confidence.

Areas to keep improving

  • Posterior chain strength.
  • Posterior chain mind/muscle connection.
  • Upper body strength and stability.
  • Core strength.
  • Shoulder positioning in the pull (both lifts).
  • Tight hips in the jerk and the catch of the snatch.
  • Body awareness.
  • Confidence.

What’s next

Another four-week block, which already started. I’ll test again a few days before Christmas. More kilos on the bar would be cool. Improved technique, mechanics, and body awareness would be cooler.