Brave…So Brave…

“Heels over head” has never been my jam.

Point of fact – I’ve actually never dived (diven? dove?) into anything. (Well, except for Love but I’m not quite sure that counts.)

Even as a little kid, the idea of doing something that would put me in the “heels over head” position terrified me. I’d get into the position that you see with these kids here – then I would jump into the pool (feet first) with my hands in the same position. 

Also – since I went to a Catholic school where Gymnastics was a pre-requisite – I was basically an outcast.

I was a pretty smart outcast though – I did things like clean the gym, clean the equipment, spot others – anything to get away from the dreaded “heels over head” possibility.

The nuns figured this out at one point though – and they “made me” do a “flip” on the lowest bar of the uneven parallel bars. Since I couldn’t get into the position on my own, and was petrified to boot, 4 nuns had to basically haul my close-to-6-foot self (8th grade) to the bars, hoist me up until my stomach was on the bar and my hands white-knuckle gripping it, then two nuns dunked my head down and the other two threw my feet over my head. Everyone else in the class was cartwheeling, flipping, balance-beam-handstanding, vaulting, etc. but of COURSE stopped long enough to see me in this ignominious position. It was just GRAND.

When I was doing vertical gymnastics (a/k/a Pole Dancing), I was okay. Interestingly, I JUST figured out WHY.

To get into the position that you see in the photo, you don’t “dive your head down” into anything. Instead, you hold onto the pole, swing one leg up and above your hands, kick the other foot behind the pole to lock yourself in, and then slowly lower your head down. I could never do the moves that were the reverse – go into a handstand next to the pole, lock your legs onto it, then sit up from there.

Today was “upside-down day” at Crossfit.

The good part about my Monday and Wednesday morning classes is that I have my favorite coach, and I have my ‘Crossfit husband,’ who is better than I am with some things, worse with others, but we have the same sort of mentality and dynamic when it comes to Crossfit. If it weren’t for my coach and my ‘Crossfit husband,’ I’d still be snuggled up in bed now, not back home an hour after the workout. (Thank you Chelsea and James . . . )

Today two other guys were in class as well. (Normally, it’s just my ‘Crossfit hubby’ and me.) One is a guy I’ve been doing Crossfit with off and on for about three years. He, my ‘hubby,’ and I are about the same age. Then, there was a guy who I’ve worked out with a couple times, who is a few weeks out of On-Ramp. (He could be our son, age-wise, EASILY.)

Our workout today started with a “Skills section”:

Do three sets of:

3 wall walks
3 “skin the cats” on the rings
(and then some other, non-threatening, moves)

A “wall walk” is when you start out lying on the floor, with your feet against the wall. Then you “walk your feet up the wall” as you’re pushing back with your hands, until, in the end, you wind up in a handstand position against the wall. Then you walk back down.

A “skin the cat” is when you hold onto rings, bring your feet up in front of you and over your head (already bad), then back. Here’s a video (you need to click on it):

downward dog

When it comes to Wall Walks, I actually can kick my feet up onto the wall. Think basically like a downward dog, but my feet are up on the wall. I just can’t move any closer. So I’m kinda in an inverted “L” against the wall.

I practiced trying to take my weight off my hands a tiny bit, one after another. But just being my inverted-L-self against  the wall is an uncomfortable position for me, and even taking a tiny bit of weight off of each hand in turn is a big, grunting effort. (Yes. I grunt.)

I watched my ‘Crossfit husband’ do three legit wall walks, getting all the way up to the wall in a full handstand upside down, and back. It was amazing! I was so proud for him!

And then, it was “skin the cat” time.


The “scaled” version of this is that you sit with your butt on the ground, and hold onto the rings hanging from the pull up bar above your head. Fingers out/back of hand towards you. Then, you kick up and basically hook one foot onto the strap that’s holding the ring above one hand, then you use your abs (!!) to hold that all together while you get the other foot and leg wrapped around the other strap on the other side. In this position, you’re off the ground, though your back is still basically facing the ground. As you move your feet up the straps/lean your head backwards, you ultimately wind up upside down. Then, you can take your legs off the straps and lower them over your head to the ground (and, theoretically, back up – hello, Abs). Again, to use a yoga analogy, it’s kinda like a plough . . . but in the air . . . and your feet keep going until your head is back up and your feet down, but your hands still holding onto the rings.

Then, you do the whole thing backwards, until you’re standing back at the rings like normal.

We were doing this whole progression three times.

The first time around when we got to the skin the cat, the coach came over to help me, but I couldn’t get my second foot off the ground. I’d get my right foot off the ground and onto the strap, but the best I could do was get my left toe weightless. Couldn’t move from there. I think that we both thought that this was going to be the best that I would get.

Now, mind you, this was a BIG DEAL because even in that position, I was “almost” upside down.

The second time around, our coach thought that our newbie could do it from the rings hanging in the middle of the room – so, legit going from standing holding the rings (instead of lying on the floor), hoisting himself up and then his legs over his head, and then back over his head and down. (Like in the video, above.)

And he DID IT.

I was SO proud for him. (He looked super surprised when he did the first one.)

Our coach moved from spotting him to coming back over to spot me. I was so excited for him, that the excitement kinda carried over and scared away the scared feeling. I also had a second of clarity, and remembered that I very much have a “good side” and a “not so great” side when it comes to all things Crossfit.

So, I started with my left foot up, first.

And, miracle of miracles, I felt a LOT more stable. I also realized that I could definitely get my right foot off the ground. And so, I did.

Everyone in the gym already knew that being upside down was NOT my jam. (Even the new guy.)

So the fact that there I was, hanging upside down from the rings, was a REALLY emotional moment. EVERYONE was excited for me (including me!)

I did it 2 more times with my coach spotting me, and even got my legs up and over my head (though I didn’t have the core strength to get them back over).

And then I started to feel dizzy. And sick.

the view outside the garage doors at our Crossfit gym


I hung out for a bit, but realized I had to get out of Dodge, just in case I threw up. I went outside, and it was really nice looking at the mountain. As I was heading out the door to get some fresh air, our coach said something really profound. She said:

Getting dizzy is your brain’s way of being sore . . . it’s a good thing.

I was able to get things under control, and luckily didn’t throw up. (You know that feeling you get in the back of your jaw, though, and you start salivating a lot? Yeah, not pleasant – I got that far but no farther.)

When our coach came out to check on me, we talked about how it was basically being scared that had made me feel so sick. The dizziness was likely from the upside down stuff – but the nausea?


I was one of those kids with lots and lots of fears.

Fear of public speaking. Now I’m a public speaker in front of thousands – it’s a great story, if you want it, let me know.

Fear of heights. That one I gave away to Pachamama to take care of, on a mountaintop in Peru. You still won’t find me oh, say, free climbing, but I can cross a bridge or stand on a balcony without having a panic attack.

aaaaand, Fear of Heels over Head. Now, I’m still not going to be cartwheeling or diving into any pools in the near future. However, I definitely feel that I will try this “scaled” skin the cat again.

Because I feel like having been coached through it, I have broken the attachment to the fear.

When I was in the Marines, we were told that fear was a “useless” emotion, because it was scenarios we were making up in the future that might never come true. Our D.I. said that if the feared scenario came to pass, it was better to deal with it then (once) rather than obsessing about it over and over and over and it maybe never even coming true – and changing yourself and your Life because of it.

I even remembered what we were taught in Boot Camp about Fear as I was writing this.

We were told that if you sing a song, you are actually legit Fearless. The words take up one half of your brain, the tune the other half, and so whatever part of your brain is obsessing about the thing that you’re afraid of can’t get a word (or tune/feeling/emotion) in edge-wise.

Humming won’t do it, or “whistling in the dark” – unless that’s the side of your brain that is generating the chemicals that make up your Fear. You need both words and music to lock it down totally.

The key? You gotta know all the words. If you falter, the Fear can rush back in.

I’m going to have to give some thought as to what my Fear-banishing song should be.

Now it’s your turn…

* What are you afraid of?
* Who can coach you through an exercise addressing this fear?
* What song are you going to sing?