Why I do the hard workouts

Zachary Tellier, from what I have been able to gather from various online resources (including the military times), is listed in military memory as the following:

Army Sgt. Zachary D. Tellier

Died September 29, 2007 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom


31, of Charlotte, N.C.; assigned to the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Sept. 29 at Firebase Wilderness, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire.

And, from an obituary, we have this:

FORT BRAGG — An 82nd Airborne paratrooper who pulled two comrades from a burning vehicle in April died Saturday of wounds sustained while on a ground patrol in Afghanistan, military officials said Monday.

Sgt. Zachary D. Tellier, 31, who most recently lived in Charlotte, was a combat infantryman with the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team at Fort Bragg.

“He really just wanted to serve his country,” said wife Sara Tellier. “He felt it was something he should do with his life. … He didn’t like to be called a hero. He was very uncomfortable with that, but he was definitely very brave man.”

Sara Tellier said her husband grew up in New England, but they moved to Charlotte in 2004. He joined the military in 2005.

He was supposed to fly to Atlanta for a brief leave this month. Sara Tellier has been splitting time between Charlotte and Atlanta, where she has family.

In April, Tellier’s unit was on a mounted patrol when one of its vehicles drove over and detonated a bomb, which set the vehicle on fire, officials said.

Tellier pulled two paratroopers to safety, suffering severe burns to his hands. He was awarded the Bronze Star with valor for his actions. Tellier also had received two Purple Hearts.

After he was burned, Tellier jumped up in the turret to return fire, said Sgt. Michael Layton, a member of his unit. A lieutenant made Tellier get out of the vehicle because of his injuries.

He is survived by his wife, Sara; his father, David W. Tellier of Groton, Mass.; and his mother, Pamela Rodriguez, of Falmouth, Mass.

It is difficult to honor someone fully without having known him, and especially so, when only a small bit of text on a screen is all that is provided.  I did read some of the personal notes at the bottom of the obituary page.  However, they somehow felt too personal for such an outsider to be reading.  Nonetheless, one stood out to me in particular, and I think it is what I was meant to see on that page.  Benjamin Shields, a fellow member of the military, commented, “He was one of the most selfless individuals I have ever met and I still think about him to this day.”  And, when Benjamin eventually became a sergeant, he said that he did his best to model Zachary’s leadership.

Originally, CrossFit released what are called “Hero WODs” (workout of the day) to honor and to pay tribute to specific individuals who have fallen and died during active service to our country.  Eventually, the fitness community around the globe began creating their own Hero WODs to honor and to pay tribute to their selected, wonderful individuals who would be missed, due to the same result of falling while serving this country.  It seems Zachary Tellier was one of the second group of individuals, from what I have gathered so far.  Yet his name has become known across the globe, simply because of the workout given to honor him, to pay tribute to all that he was and all that he did, as well as to all that he still today inspires in those he knew.

The workout titled “Zachary Tellier” is not an easy one.  None of the Hero WODs are.  And yet, yesterday morning, as I was crawling back into bed to go to sleep, to take a day of rest from my regular, difficult exercise, I saw his name listed at the top of my gym’s Workout of the Day page, and I jumped into action.  I told myself inwardly to wake myself up, because we are not missing this one, no matter the oh-so-few hours of sleep we had gotten last night.  This was was worth it.  And my body agreed.

I arrived at the gym, excited, almost bouncy.  This was Zachary Tellier, after all – how could I not be?  I had donned an all-black outfit with an American flag scrunchie in my hair.  Today’s workout was to honor the struggles through which so many people go in order to provide for me and for my life.  From the smallest to the largest, their sacrifices, their persistence, their struggles, both won and lost, are all a part of my ability to live a life I love.  Just as mine affect those around me.  Today’s workout was about honoring all of them, while giving special attention and gratitude to this one known but unknown individual, Zachary.

He is a reminder that even the unexpected can be faced effectively, even the worst of our fears can be faced successfully, and, even when we do fail at something, we succeed in something greater than we could have imagined.  He did not consider himself a hero, it seems.  And yet, for so many, he was just that through his daily life, through who he was as a person.  And the world is a better place because he was part of it, and because he showed up in it.

Now, that all being said, let’s look at what this workout actually is.

For Time:

10 Burpees

10 Burpees
25 Push-Ups

10 Burpees
25 Push-Ups
50 Lunges

10 Burpees
25 Push-Ups
50 Lunges
100 Sit-Ups


10 Burpees
25 Push-Ups
50 Lunges
100 Sit-Ups
150 Air Squats

Before I began at the gym, I am almost certain that I would have looked at this workout and thought, No Way.  It was not in the realm of the possible for myself.  And, I likely would have thought that as being applicable for the rest of my life.  It wasn’t just a ‘not today’ kind of thing, but a ‘not ever’ one.  I would not have thought it possible for me to complete this workout in a day, let alone all at once, or even within an hour’s time.  If I had attempted it, I likely would have made it ten to 12 burpees into the thing and given up.  Not for me, I would have determined.

Even when we had been at the gym for almost three months, and we did this workout all together, I was concerned partway through whether I would be able to complete the thing, let alone within any set amount of time.  I did knee push-ups with an ab-mat under my chest (so I didn’t have to go as low on them), and likely really sucky lunges and squats, as well as push-ups, and I genuinely wondered whether I would survive, whether I could make it to the end… several times.  I could barely move or breathe after about halfway through it.

And yet, I did survive.  And I did finish.  It took me 36 minutes and 20 seconds to finish, and my repetitions weren’t great at all, but I had done it.  I had pushed through the intense struggles I was facing – not to mention the mental struggle of fitness that plagued me in the first place – and I had done the best I could, crappy, pathetic push-ups and all.  And I had made it to the other side.  I remember looking back on it afterward, wondering how on Earth I had done it – it had felt like the workout would never end, like I would fall to the ground, defeated long before I made it through to those squats.

Persistence, I thought.  Not giving up, and just going for it… just doing it.  That was how I’d done it.  Certainly, the community around me was encouragement in and of itself.  But, I could have easily seen where I was relative to them – so painfully far behind them – and given up.  Yet I didn’t.  Because something was more important than giving up.  Because I saw that my attitude toward this workout could be no different than my attitude toward life as a whole.  How did I tend to respond when faced with a seemingly impossible task?  When I was faced with intense struggle that seemed like it might not let up anytime soon?  I knew how I usually responded, and it almost made me sick to my core.  My breathing was heavy during that workout for more than just the physical effort it was taking.  I almost always gave up, when things got hard.  I ran away, avoided.  I gave up so many opportunities even for fear of their being too difficult – too difficult being defined as more effort than was easy to give.

This workout was just one step toward letting all of that go, and helping myself to become someone I wanted to be: someone who didn’t give up, who didn’t lose sight just because things got hard and seemed impossible.  I can be strong, I can trust myself to survive, and I can make it through to the other side.  After all, I already was showing myself that I could do that, simply by being at the gym that day, and each day since we had joined.  All those tears shed were for the pain I was overcoming with each workout.  And this one was just another, albeit a much more difficult one.

And so, in the intense heat and humidity that is always July 4th in Houston, Texas, I faced my fears and my stops in life, I pushed through and persisted, trusting myself in a way I was no longer accustomed to doing, and I completed the workout.  In the tiniest of ways, I felt my success to be heroic in its own way.  An inward Thank you… was all I could offer to Zachary Tellier after the workout, but I had meant it with all of my being.  And so, though I did not know this man, and it was likely that he never would know how people across the globe, who never knew him, would be saying his name for years to come, I was grateful to him for the reminder that he forever would be for me: That I could do it, that I could survive, that I could thrive.

Now, roughly a year and nine months later, I found myself jumping out of a beloved opportunity for sleep and rest, donning an attitude of, “I can do this,” and heading into the 5:15am round of the Zachary Tellier workout with intense joy.  My first time through, I had spent 36:20 on the seemingly impossible workout.  The second time, exactly a year ago (nine months after the first time), it was 33:33, and I no longer used the ab-mat for my push-ups.  Yesterday, though I wanted to show Zachary – as if we are buddies who meet up every time I do his workout – that I had improved upon myself, and I wanted to complete the workout faster than before, I knew that the best way to honor him and to pay tribute and true gratitude to him was to focus on my struggles.  How I face this workout is how I face the world, right?  So, let’s face it with confidence, excitement, and a touch of fear, ready to take on the challenge and face the unknown.  In other words, I shall be my best self.

And I was.  When things got really hard, I gave myself the needed breath, and got right back to it.  A cry of pain or exhaustion was merely a release – like that old poster, it was weakness leaving the body – and each one allowed me to keep moving, to keep going.  I knew I wasn’t in danger of hurting myself – I merely was pushing through the discomfort, the fears, the doubts, the impossibilities I had placed upon my own mind.  I still was one of the last ones to finish, but I hardly even noticed that.  It wasn’t about that.  It was about my attitude and what I did in the face of the struggles.  And, because of that, I had an amazing time.  I was baffled when I saw the clock was only at 28:00 exactly after my final air squat.  That was a 16.5% increase in speed from last year, and 23% faster than the first time.  And isn’t that spectacular?  Especially for a workout that had once seemed an impossibility for me.

I had initially intended to talk merely about the difficulty of this workout here, and yet, here we are, having talked first about the man for whom it was named, and then the workout itself…  I suppose that man is half the reason my heart is in it, though, so it only makes sense.  Without his name, it merely would be a list of activities.  With his name, however, it gains a life of its own, and it reminds me to work on myself so that I might serve others in my world through my life.  When I improve on this workout, I can see how, through my physical fitness and mental growth, I am better able to serve and to love those around me, better able to be patient, to endure, to work through the pain of what once seemed impossible.  I can see how I am better able to be my best self.

Post-a-day 2021

Oblivion

A friend of mine today shared with me what felt like a somewhat desperate opinion about death.

He said that, since someone important to him died a while back, he is now the only person who knows certain things about her… there is no one left on the planet to carry forward these pieces of her, these memories of her… and, when he dies, all of these parts of her – parts that he finds to be spectacular and worth keeping alive – will be lost to oblivion… much like the great Augustus Waters feared for his own life.*

I, however, have found that I do not see things so desperately as my friend does.

For one thing, I never fully understood Augustus Waters’ fear of being lost… In everything I do, I affect the whole world around me… Whether people know my name or not, whether the trees talk or not, part of me exists in all of them, simply because our paths have crossed… Whether I like it or not, parts of me are spread throughout the world, and those parts will travel on forever, no matter whether my physical body is still breathing and pumping blood.

In a way, I always will exist in this universe… and I do not feel separate from the rest of what is here within it now, nor do I feel like a spectator – I am part of this universe, and it is part of me…

A single drip onto a pond sends ripples that change the whole… even if the fish doesn’t know it, his path was altered because of a drip on the far side of the pond…

And I already know that most of my ripples are more like waves in this life…

Now, for another thing, if things are as this friend expressed them to be, is that not all the more reason to value the unparalleled opportunity it was for him to have been witness to these parts of her?… these beauties are only in existence for this short and brief time in the world… let them not go to waste by brooding over their eventual loss… instead, embrace and love them while they are here now, and be grateful that he had the opportunity to be the one to know them.

Otherwise, it is almost an insult to the beauty of the memories and to the person of whom they are remembered – she was amazing, so let us be amazed…. and the memory of her only lasts so long, so let us embrace it while it lasts, and be grateful that we were honored with such a unique and limited experience.

Just my thoughts from this morning… I think they are part of why death has always been a sort of mixed bag for me… I simultaneously and terrified of it, and feel oddly connected to it and rather unafraid… when it is time, it is time, because a body is ready to move on to the next stage of things… it’s almost not even personal…, even though it is…

::sigh….. oh, well… that’s all I have to say on that for the moment…

*If you don’t get the reference, Google it, and help yourself onto the young and hip bandwagon. 😉

P.S. Turns out that I had something else to say on this… I remembered just now what a friend of mine shared years ago, after her mother died… it is something that resonated with me then, and still does today (specifically the sections in bold, with a big bam on the underlined part at the end)… it is from 2005 by Aaron Freeman:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

-Aaron Freeman.

Here’s a link to the piece of NPR for “All Things Considered”, one of my favorite segments on NPR, in which this all was originally said publicly by Aaron Freeman… it is a lovely three-minute listen. 🙂

Post-a-day 2020

Lingo-bot Life

Occasionally, I feel a bit lame and down about my seemingly lessened and lowered Japanese skills.  But then I have experiences like tonight, where, when speaking with a Japanese man, he was unable to come up with the right Japanese words immediately or at all – we all take longer to process, when we aren’t using a language all the time; even native speakers.  When it happened tonight, I told of the many times I, myself, was unable to come up with an English word while living abroad.  When immersed in one language, it id much more difficult to recall another, native or not, language.  So, I just need to immerse myself more often in each of my languages, and that will help significantly – it is all still there; it just needs a bit of encouragement and exercise.  😛

Not that this is news to me – it was merely a welcomed reminder.  🙂

Post-a-day 2019

Being remembered

I regularly feel as though I am a rather unnoticed individual, and I especially felt so throughout school… I am surprised whenever someone from high school remembers me or even knows my name.

And yet, the other night, I was delightfully* accosted by a gorgeous girl from my high school, who declared that I went to that high school, class of ’08, right?.. no, not ’08…, but I went there, right?

I told her that I had, and we exchanged names, unsure as to how she recognized me so easily, knew my face so well…

She pointed out her husband, who was in school with us, and I told her how that made so much sense, since I had known he looked familiar, when I’d seen him earlier.

Up close, I discovered that he had an amazing tie covered in penguins.

It was a great few minutes of the event.

The funny part, though, was that I had no recollection of her face whatsoever… her name was vaguely familiar, but nothing else.

(And we really didn’t discover anything that would have linked us back in high school, so it made sense that I wouldn’t know her in the first place.)

How totally odd to be on the opposite end of the remembering… for the first time in my life, I wasn’t the person calling out someone who had no idea who I was. 😛

It was weird, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it – disappointed that I had ‘let her down’ by not remembering her, flattered that I was remembered by someone so distantly connected to me, or something else altogether…

Whatever the case, it was nice to visit the other side and to see how it is on that end for once… perhaps people are as excited when I approach them as I was at the initial encounter with this girl… perhaps so…

*As is in true fashion of graduates from my high school

Post-a-day 2018

What(-anabe)?!

And, yet again, 渡辺 謙 Ken Watanabe has shown up in my life.

I was visiting a friend in her classroom today at lunchtime, and some kids needed instruction and practice on how to do quick-changes for a theatre contest this weekend.  (We won’t discuss how they’re only just learning this skill, despite their not being new to theatre and despite their being enrolled in that particular contest [of many contests] over the weekend.)  I happen to have a rather strong background in the workings of theatre, and so I took over helping them, while my friend worked with other kids on tying knots (No idea, but maybe it connects with lighting in theatre?)

Anyway, as we were about to do a practice run-through of the quick-change I’d set up, using clothing items I’d found around the classroom, one of the kids with me asked, – and somewhat snarkily (though not rudely) I might add – ‘Are there even any shows that actually need this?’ I responded with an immediate affirmative, to which he queried, ‘Like what??’
Again, immediately, and out of seemingly nowhere in my brain stores, I said, “‘The King and I’… Yes.., Yes! ‘The King and I’!”
Somewhat chastened, though still quite happy, he said an, ‘O-kay…’
I had surprised even myself with my immediate response, and wasn’t entirely sure of how I’d found the video of that memory so quickly.  “There’s actually this really great video,” I said, “of a somewhat famous quick-change from it.  I’ll pull it up in just a minute, so you can watch it.  It’s actually really cool.”

And so, I pulled up the video and played it, admiring the quick-change and the whole concept of Broadway and fabulous singing voices and all that jazz, and explaining to the students what was happening and why.  Then, we resumed our practicing.  The video, however, continued on to another video, as YouTube’s auto-play feature does.  It was the same quick-change again, causing us to look briefly at it once more, but with the scenes before and after it included.  I happened to glance up after the quick change finished, and what did I see?

You guessed it: The leading lady dancing in the arms of 渡辺 謙 Ken Watanabe.

And I was blown away doubly.  Because, despite the fact that I was remembering this quick-change video from “The King and I” at (I think) the Tony Awards, I had not made the connection from having read 渡辺 謙 Ken Watanabe’s Internet info pages the other night that his being the lead in “The King and I” several years ago was the same production.  I’d even told my mom just this weekend about his having been in it, and we talked about it briefly.

But the two pieces of information were stored in such separate cabinets and files that they hadn’t linked up yet in my head.  Until, of course, I saw the video with him in it, and it all clicked.  And then I was actually jumping up and down, declaring that it was ‘渡辺 謙 Ken Watanabe, it’s 渡辺 謙 Ken Watanabe!’

Boy, I’d really like to interview him.

I wonder how he’ll pop up next into my life.  I can hardly wait to find out. 😀

Post-a-day 2018

Days we’ll remember forever

My housemate and I were flipping through our senior yearbook tonight (instead of getting ready for bed), looking for the last name of a certain girl who’d come up in conversation.

I was amazed at how few people she seemed to remember (or even to know in the first place) – I felt as though I had specific memories of each and every girl whose picture we crossed, all 200 of them (including myself, that is).

Maybe I really do just remember more than the average person…, and maybe I take note of more in the first place…

Post-a-day 2018

Smells of me

It’s funny to me, the things that make me feel so comfortable, so at ease, that it feels like everything is okay and is going to be okay.  Tonight, not for the first time since I have returned to living in Houston, someone told me, “You still smell the same,” and followed up my question about it with, “You still smell like you.”  And this is a comment I’ve had from lots of people over the years.  I have a very distinct smell.  It’s mostly just my deodorant and essential oils and oil blends that I use for various things in my life, but there is something special-feeling about the fact that people associate those smells with me.  It is as though one of my favorite parts of me and my life is something that people not only notice, but usually really like.  And, most of all, they remember it.  That to me is special, and I so love having it happen, it makes me feel whole and complete in the present moment… even though I have no idea what is next for me in life, and even though I’m not too glad or proud of where things stand for me in my life in this moment, people still remember and love me.

Post-a-day 2018