A week of workouts while in El Paso

I’m freshly back in the Pacific Northwest after a week in El Paso, where I was visiting my oldest kiddo for a combination birthday/Mother’s Day celebration. Some years, her birthday and Mother’s Day are on the same day. Like the year she was born (yes, I became a mom on Mother’s Day). And like this year. Aww!

I enjoyed my time with my kiddo, and time away from the cold and wet of the PNW—and I’m happy to be home, in my own space and a cooler climate. The break from the rain and the wind and the cold was nice but oh man I am not cut out for full-time heat anymore. Especially in a place that has basically no shade/cover. Like the desert.

View of the early evening, cloudless, blue El Paso sky, and the underside of the tops of two palm tree, looking up from the ground.

I’m not an adventurous person. I don’t enjoy adrenaline. It’s overwhelming and dysregulating. I’m also not a travel person. Traveling is not leisurely or fun for me. I do like being outside and exploring and moving my body, though. And because my kids and I all live in different states right now, I’m away from home (to visit them), which technically is “traveling,” more than I ever have been in my life.

Traveling is hard for me because I don’t do well when I’m away from home. I am very much an autistic creature of routine, schedule, and predictability, and do best in my own space, where I’m in near-total control of my sensory environment and experience.

When I’m away from home, it’s important for me to maintain as much sameness as possible, especially when it comes to working out. Working out is my zen. It helps me regulate, and when I’m regulated, I can be more present. So. When I’m away from home, I prioritize fitness. And because I’m a masochist who likes, and seeks out, type II fun, it’s always among the most enjoyable parts of my trips.

I’m happy to report that I got in plenty of fitness while in Texas. Pretty sure I got in more conditioning in the week that I was there than I have in the last few months combined. It felt great.

Day 1: Hike #1

My first full day in town, my daughter and I hiked (“hiked”) McKelligon Canyon Road, a 4.8-mile out-and-back. Personally, I don’t think this is really a hike hike—it’s in nature/the mountains, yes, but the whole thing is on a paved road. Even so, it kicks your ass right away. It’s only about 650 feet of elevation gain overall, but it feels like most of that is all at once and right at the beginning.

My shadow and my daughter's shadow on McKelligon Canyon Road. Her hand is out to the side in a peace sign, and mine is above her head in bunny ears.

We went in the early evening. It took us about two hours, and wasn’t very crowded. Most people were just starting as we were finishing, and we saw both bikers (cyclists) and hikers/walkers. The weather was perfect—mid-80s and shade most of the way.

A desert plant with skinny, upright branches and clusters of orange blossoms, against a saturated blue sky.
Front view of a giant aloe plant with what looks like a giant stalk of asparagus growing up from the center. The Franklin Mountains and the city of El Paso are in the background.
The Franklin Mountains at dusk. Brush, bushes, and desert plants are in the foreground, and the mountains are in the background. The sun is setting behind the mountains.

Day 2: Gym workout #1

I found a local CrossFit gym with open gym hours that worked with my schedule, and retested a workout I did in Portland last summer.

AMRAP 20:00
25 wallballs (14#)
25 burpees
25 kettlebell swings (44#)
25 cal row

When I did this workout last June, it was the first time I’d done a metcon in almost seven months. It sucked. I barely got two full rounds. This time, I got two and a half—50 entire additional reps! And at elevation, in the heat, and with a heavier kettlebell than last time (I used a 35# last time).

This one sucked just as much the second time around. And honestly, it’s supposed to be a 40:00 AMRAP. I cut it in half last summer because it was the first piece of conditioning I’d done in a long time and I wasn’t trying to die. I kept it at 20:00 this time around for continuity. And because while I’ve done more conditioning this calendar year than I did in all of 2021, I haven’t done that much. Twenty minutes was plenty.

Getting two and a half rounds was a confidence boost for me. My training has been significantly limited for the past 10 months thanks to a series of injuries. Mentally and emotionally, it’s been tough. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling extremely out of shape, and like it’s “too late” for me to go anywhere with CrossFit or lifting. Getting a better score using a heavier weight, at elevation, in the heat, and while injured (and without any pain during or after the workout) felt really good.

Day 3: Hike #2

Day three, my daughter and I hiked the Tin Mines Trail, a 6.6-mile out-and-back, also in Franklin Mountains State Park.

The Franklin Mountains and surrounding desert against a saturated blue sky.

There are multiple paths you can take at the trailhead, and none of them are marked—the first “Tin Mines Trail” sign we saw was at a cattle gate about halfway in. We ended up taking a wrong trail at first.

Eventually, I pulled out my phone and we figured out our way by following the red line on the map in the AllTrails app. Which: it’s great that we had service the whole time so that we could use my phone as a map, or for emergency reasons, had we needed to. But also: the trail should be marked—and clearly so—at the outset and all possible points of divergence, no???

But I digest.

A brown wooden sign with yellow writing that reads "OLD TIN MINE ROAD HIKE & BIKE TRAIL." The Franklin Mountains are visible in the background.
The Franklin Mountains and surrounding desert against a saturated blue sky.

I liked this one. Not a ton of elevation gain—about 1,000 feet overall—but you feel the uphill-ness of it the entire time. The last little bit right before you reach the mines is especially vertical.

This one took us three and half hours total, including getting lost and then un-lost, stopping for photo ops, and exploring the mines. We started a little bit before 8:00 am. By the time we made our way to the correct trail it was closer to 8:30 am. We were back at the car by 11:30 am.

Even though we went early, it was HOT. We each brought a liter of water, which wasn’t enough. Also, there’s no shade until you get inside the mines—if you’re able to hike all the way to them and have the mobility and flexibility to make your way inside them.

Me, bent over with my hands on my knees, looking at the camera with a playful and exhausted look on my face. Behind me in the distance is a stretch of desert, the Franklin Mountains, and the city of El Paso.
Me, perched on a level edge of a wall of orangey-red rock inside the Tin Mines.
Me, standing on a piece of rock on a wall of rock inside the Tin Mines. The rock is grey and brown. I'm looking behind me and up, at the height of the wall.
Orange rock inside the Tin Mines, leading up to the surface. The light is shining down into the mines.
Desert plants in the foreground, a saturated blue sky in the background.
Desert in the foreground, the Franklin Mountains and a saturated blue sky in the background.

Day 4: Hike #3 (an attempt was made)

Mid-afternoon on day 4 we decided to hike Sugarloaf Summit. It’s a short trail, only 1.1 miles, but, according to many comments around the internet, it’s basically completely vertical the entire way up, and there are patches of scramble along the way.

The trailhead for this one wasn’t marked either. We had a really tough time figuring out where the hell we were supposed to start. By the time we did, the wind had picked up and the sun was HOT. We decided to save this one for next time, and headed to Scenic Drive Overlook instead.

Reader, I don’t know what it is but the older I get, the less I’m able to handle things that involve height, motion, and speed. Like flying. Or driving up/down an incredibly steep and winding road that’s on the side of a literal mountain. My body can sense the smallest shifts in movement and noise, and my OCD brain does not interpret or respond to them positively or in a remotely helpful manner.

I’m fine if my feet are on the ground and I’m the thing that’s in control of moving my body. But Jesus H. Styles Christ, being in some type of moving vehicle/mode of transportation at elevation is terrifying to me. And it’s only getting worse as I age. Disaster.

Anyway.

The scenic overlook overlooks El Paso and Mexico. See the red sculpture in the photo below? That’s Mexico. See the tan/gray-colored area that looks kind of bare to the left of it? That’s The Wall. If you look closely, you can see it curve along the border in both directions. Everything to the left of The Wall is Texas, everything to the right, Mexico. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it when I saw it (the wall). In my personal and correct opinion, it’s so fucking dumb. People cannot be illegal????

From the top of Scenic Overlook. A rock/concrete viewing area is in the foreground. El Paso, The Wall, and Mexico are visible in the background. The sky is bright blue and cloudless.

Shout out to my daughter for taking some standard tourist pics of me. Can we please have several moments of appreciation for her, and for this collab she captured between my hair and the wind?

I'm facing the camera, leaning against a rock retaining wall, next to a viewfinder. El Paso and Mexico are behind me. My hair is blowing in the wind.
I'm facing the camera, leaning against a rock retaining wall, next to a viewfinder. El Paso and Mexico are behind me. My hair is blowing in the wind.
I'm facing the camera, leaning against a rock retaining wall, next to a viewfinder. El Paso and Mexico are behind me. My hair is blowing in the wind.
I'm facing the camera, leaning against a rock retaining wall, next to a viewfinder. El Paso and Mexico are behind me. My hair is blowing in the wind.

Day 5: Gym workout #2

Today I did the Hero WOD Kalsu, but with dumbbells.

For time:
100 thrusters
5 burpees EMOM, starting at 0:00

The RX female weight for the OG/barbell version of this workout is 95# (CrossFit works on a binary male/female system. I’m sorry.), which: Lol.

I’ve never done one (1) thruster at 95#, let alone literally 100??? Please. For that reason, I scaled the weight. For shoulder-injury reasons, I scaled the movement, and used DBs instead of a barbell. Neutral grip is okay for my shoulder. Pronated grip is not (yet).

My goal for this one wasn’t time-based. My goal was to do as few sets of thrusters as possible. I did 15 my first round and 10 my second, and then fell off to sets of five or seven for the rest of the “rounds” (except for the one round that I only did three).

My time was 13:45. Not terrible for someone who’s been injured for almost the entire last year, and who hasn’t consistently CrossFitted since 2020. Also not where I want to be/not where I know I can be. Overall, I’m happy with today’s time.

Day 6: Gym workout #3

Today’s metcon was another couplet. I saved it from @sergewod on Instagram. (While in between coaches, programming, and a gym, I’ve been supplementing my PT home programs with 5×5 squats, and metcons I find on IG.)

10 RFT:
8 DB goblet squats
16 alternating DB snatches

I used a 25# DB and did every movement unbroken each round. Who is she?! It’s been A LONG time since I’ve been able to do movements unbroken. Things are looking up, bay-bee!

My goal for this one was sub-12:00. I got 13:04.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be, but (BUT!!!) during this workout I was able to brace my core while under load and moving, my pelvic floor did what it’s supposed to do, and I had NO shoulder or knee pain—NONE! All of those things are A Very Big Deal for me. So what that I moved a minute slower than I wanted to. I’ll get my conditioning back.

*

I worked out at the east side location of CrossFit Uncommon. I loved it. Immaculate gym vibes.

The main workout area of CrossFit Uncommon (East). Flags and rings hang from the ceiling. A large fan is in the center of the gym. Stacks of bumper plates, the white board, the kids area, and a rig are visible along the periphery and in the background.

They have a great space and plenty of equipment (no platforms or kilo plates though, and I didn’t see any jerk blocks), including a separate area for accessory work. The accessory area has a wall-to-wall mirror, which I, a person with poor propriocpetion and in physical therapy for multiples issues and injuries because of it, found extremely helpful.

The main workout area and the accessory area of CrossFit Uncommon (East). Flags and rings hang from the ceiling. A large fan is in the center of the gym. A rig, a line of Ski Ergs, and th are visible along the periphery and in the background.

Everyone I encountered was super nice and welcoming, the house WODs looked terrible (in a good way), and they have a HUGE FitAid case. Pretty sure they stock every flavor of every FitAid product. I like to reward myself with a FitAid or Kill Cliff after every workout, so this was a big bonus for me.

The accessory area of CrossFit Uncommon (East). A line of Ski Ergs, and turf with traditional exercise machines, are in the foreground.

I also really liked that they’re not another red and black gym. So many CrossFit gyms are red and black and I hate it. For those who care (me): they have two bathrooms and two showers (separate rooms), and parking was never an issue (I went at 3:00 pm all three days). Also, they had THE BEST music during class. 12/10. I’ll for sure be back.

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