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January 2016

How Many Sports Have You Played?

P1232652During the past two-plus years, my focus has been CrossFit. While I’d recommend CrossFit to anyone and everyone, I don’t feel it’s necessary to suggest that it’s the best or only way. Everyone has their own passion and that’s what’s most important.

In fact, my own interests have continued to evolve over the years. When I started CrossFit, I’d been doing jujitsu for years. Before that, I loved basketball. Prior to that, I trained for marathon running.

Looking back, I began to think about all the different sports I’d tried. I wondered, ‘How many sports had I played?’. While some had become passions and others quickly abandoned, I smiled at the memory of playing each game.

Note: My definition and application for qualifying something as a ‘sport’ is purely for entertainment purposes.

Sports that I’ve played:

  • Basketball
  • Nerf basketball - In my experience, it can be more physical than the standard version and includes bank shots off the ceiling
  • Pool basketball - Includes attempted drowning of your opponent as a standard strategy
  • Horse
  • Baseball
  • Slow-pitch softball
  • Fast-pitch - In this variation, standing in the batter’s box is scarier than you might think
  • Wiffleball - One of my all-time favorites - I have a good screwball
  • Parachuting - Death defying and awesome
  • Jarts - Just death defying and now illegal
  • Horseshoes
  • Cornhole - Clearly the ‘sport’ with the worst name
  • Yoga
  • Hot yoga
  • Step-up - Yes, I tried it
  • Spinning
  • Badminton - Although the ‘birdie’ always got stuck in the racquet
  • Tennis
  • Racquetball - With far too much running and diving in my version
  • Handball - I always felt like I’d left my racquet at home
  • Ping pong - Played in a basement near a blazing wood stove for added danger and complexity
  • Football
  • Touch football - A hugely underrated sport
  • Flag football
  • Volleyball - I played a bit too intensely at Friday night beer matches
  • Billiards
  • Darts
  • Arm wrestling
  • Wrestling
  • Frisbee
  • Hacky-sack - With Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and old school Aerosmith
  • Jiu-jitsu - I was continually choked
  • Jujitsu - I earned a black belt
  • Judo - My injuries included a broken big toe and a separated shoulder
  • Running - Including a couple marathons
  • Jogging - believe me, it’s different than running
  • Biking
  • Hiking - Most often with a faithful dog along for the trek
  • Soccer
  • Indoor soccer - Different from soccer due to the boards and ricochets
  • Swimming
  • Diving
  • Body surfing - With a few sand/face collisions
  • Kayaking - Mostly on lakes an salt ponds)
  • Canoeing - Almost drown doing this
  • Tubing
  • Twister - Sort of like free-form yoga
  • Tag, hide & seek, snowball fights, cooties, giant steps, hopscotch, marbles and other youthful competitions
  • Musical chairs - Which I played again only a few weeks ago
  • Ten-Pin bowling
  • Duckpin bowling
  • Candle-Pin bowling - Were you can really fling the smaller ball
  • Lawn bowling
  • Jump rope
  • Roller skating
  • Roller derby - The street version
  • Skating board
  • Shuffleboard
  • Bocce
  • Ice skating
  • Hockey
  • Street Hockey
  • Dodgeball - The reason for my concussion history
  • Skiing
  • Sledding
  • Tobogganing - Including a broken wrist from hitting a tree
  • Snow boarding - Although I spent most of the time falling on my butt
  • Rock climbing
  • Horse riding - Considering this a sport since I was hanging on for dear life most of the time
  • Golf
  • Miniature golf - Easily more fun than regular golf
  • Go-cart racing
  • Kickball  - My favorite sport until, in the fifth grade,  I learned about girls


Fall Down 7, Get Up 8 (and Onto the Podium)

Life will kick you in the ass from time to time and the past few years have been no exception for me: 

  • 2009 - My father died. 
  • 2010 - Diagnosed with kidney cancer. 
  • 2011 - My beloved golden retriever died of cancer. 
  • 2012 - Diagnosed with thyroid cancer. 
  • 2013 - Survived a Jeep rollover. 
  • 2014 - Adjusting to big career change.
  • 2015 - My mother passed away.

Looked at in isolation, this might appear to an overwhelming string of bad fortune. In reality, it's just life. If we live long enough, we will have things like this come across our path. 

The challenge is in showing grace, resilience and strength in the face of these inevitable events. 

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, my sister gave me a medallion with the Japanese phrase 'Nanakorobi Yaoki' meaning 'fall seven times and stand up eight'. In other words, when life knocks you down, stand back up. 

This is the truth of life. If you persevere, there's a chance that the valleys will be balanced by the peaks. The sour will be accented by the sweet. 

Fortunately, this is what I've seen in my life. Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to:

  • Run a half-marathon.
  • Earn a black belt in jujitsu. 
  • Watch my daughter's high school team win a state championship. 
  • Emcee a successful conference. 
  • Get a new and lovable chocolate lab puppy. 
  • Take a family vacation to Bermuda.
  • Help my daughter move in to the University of Vermont.
  • And countless other awesome adventures both big and small like hurricanes, blizzards, proms, games, concerts and vacations...

I couple years ago, I began CrossFit training. I've never been a naturally-gifted athlete but, ever since I could pick up a wiffle ball, I've loved to sweat and compete. It didn't matter whether it was Nerf basketball, Jarts, parachuting, indoor soccer or marathon running, I was willing to give it a go. 

In the 2014 CrossFit Open, I placed 687th worldwide in my division. In 2015, I was 559th. I'm clearly not an elite athlete. As I near my 57th birthday, I have lots of miles on my tires, quite a few scratches on my paint and I'm carrying several extra pounds of cargo on my 5'7" frame. Nevertheless, I've come to love the challenge and community of CrossFit and, in particular, Crossfit Brickyard

This past weekend, at the urging of Coach Jodie Winters, I entered the Northeast Masters Throwdown at CrossFit Shoreline in Branford, CT.

I had every reason to skip out. A blizzard was in the forecast. I wasn't feeling prepared being just on the other side of my mother's death, the Christmas holidays and a ten-day trip to Florida. A couple days before the event, I popped a blood vessel in my eye and the optometrist 'strongly urged' me not to compete. Despite all this, I decided to give it a shot. It certainly helped that my sister offered to drive me through the blizzard. 

The first WOD was 15 stone-over-shoulders and as many single unders as you could complete in 90 seconds. I placed 4th despite having to pause to pull up my shorts. I'd forgotten to tie them. I bet that never happens to Froning. 

The second WOD was a 7-minute AMRAP of 9 lateral burpees-over-bar, 7 deadlifts and 5 ground-to-overhead. Given my pokey burpees, I finished at the bottom of the heap. 

The third WOD was complex of power clean to thruster to  shoulder-to-overhead. We had 5 minutes to reach your maximum complex. This was in my wheelhouse and I finished 1st in this event. 

Entering the final event, I was barely holding onto 3rd place. The last event was a chipper with a six different components. Coming out of the third event, I was barely holding on but rallied on the wall balls. The last two movements were 20 hang power cleans and 20 front squats. With my coaches and teammates urging me on, I was able to beat the time cap, finish 3rd in the WOD and hang onto a podium spot. 

While this is no CrossFit Games-level accomplishment, I appreciate it in the context of the road I've traveled.

I know that more valleys are ahead but will continue to strive to build even more peaks.