It happens nearly every time I go skiing: I’m standing at the top of a run—or I’m midway down, but the terrain has changed—and I look downhill and suddenly fear there is no way I’ll make it to the bottom. I can’t possibly make one more turn on this ridiculously steep slope. I can’t even remember how to turn. What am I doing here? Why is this supposed to be fun? My husband sees me freeze up, and he shouts something encouraging. “You’re fine! You’ve skied way steeper/bumpier/icier! Make a turn!” In other words, it’s all in my head. I’ve psyched myself out. So I try to visualize myself skiing flawlessly down the mountain, rather than twisting my knees, crossing my skis, and somersaulting to my doom. I picture the graceful arc my skis will make in the snow. And then I point my skis downhill and go. Since I’m not typing this from a hospital bed—or a snowbank halfway up a mountainside--the little exercise in self-actualization must be working. So I’ve been trying lately to visualize myself doing a pull-up. I mean, really: How hard can one pull-up be? Yet after more than six months of doing them—hundreds and hundreds of them—with the aid of two large rubber bands that hang from the bar at the gym, I just haven’t been able to do any unaided. CrossFit uses “kipping” pull-ups: Instead of simply hanging and pulling yourself up, you swing yourself up and down. It’s more of a gymnastics move than a traditional pull-up, and it enables you to do far more pull-ups during a workout. I had the kipping motion down. But I couldn’t seem to use it to pull my chin above the bar. Until last week, that is. We’d just finished a warm-up of clean-and-jerks, and I was hanging from the pull-up bar to stretch my back. And then I had a vision: in my mind, I did a pull-up. It seemed pretty easy in my imagination, so I decided to give it a try. I swung my hips and pulled with my arms—and suddenly I was holding my chin above the bar. It was almost as effortless as it had been in my brain. Still holding myself up, I looked out to see if anyone was watching, and found my gym buddy Matt grinning from across the room. It’s a good thing there was a witness, or I might not have believed it myself. I couldn’t manage a second one that day. But a few days later I easily did three. Okay, not in a row—I haven’t quite figured out how to use the kipping to string them together. But still. Three pull-ups! I had passed a CrossFit milestone, one that was both physical and mental. There’s a lot of work ahead: last Thursday’s workout (which I missed), for instance, was Fran—a CrossFit classic that involves pull-ups and thrusters (squatting with a barbell and then exploding up to finish standing with the weight overhead), 21 reps of each followed by 15 followed by 9. I’ve got a long way to go before I can do 45 unassisted pull-ups in a weightlifting workout. But I’m that much closer than I was a week ago. I’ll try to remember the feeling next time I’m staring over the top of a near-vertical mogul field, wishing I could click my boots three times and instead be drinking hot chocolate by the fire.
CrossFit: Do It Yourself
SKI Mag sends a blogger, Hillary Rosner, to do our dirty work: Get in ski shape. She joins a CrossFit gym, which is reputed to be the best—and most brutal—way to get strong fast. It's painful, but the good news is that now Rosner has a backup job...as a brick layer. Or jackhammerer. Or contestant on that reality TV show where they pull trucks of cement. This week she tells us how to try out some CrossFit moves outside of the gym.