Athletes’ Corner: Mitch Spjut

The Open is done and dusted, invitations for regionals have been sent out. The best part of the CrossFit season is almost upon us. In this segment of Athletes’ corner, I have the honour of presenting to you Mitch Spjut. I don’t know about you guys, but there’s something about these segments that has me really excited about the direction that fitness, in particular CrossFit (I’m biased; we have the best athletes)  is headed. I love that I get to hound some pretty INCREDIBLE athletes and ask them all the questions that we’d naturally spew out. 

Mitch Spjut, welcome to the Athletes’ Corner!

A: Hiya Mitch, so before we dive in, give us an intro on who you are.

MS: I am 24 was a member of the Wasatch Brute’s. Been doing crossfit for about two years now and getting ready for individual this year.

  •  As someone whose name gets butchered ALL the time, I’m curious to know, (and I’m sure everyone else is,) how is your surname pronounced

MS: Great question. It is pronounced spute like dispute without the ‘di’.

  • When it comes to your CrossFit journey, why did you start CrossFit, and what was it about CrossFit that stuck?

MS: I got into CrossFit for the act of competing. I was getting bored with only going to the gym to go to the gym, and felt I should be doing something to chase after. I started It when a friend of a friend told me I needed to get into something, I am too strong to not be competing in something. CrossFit stuck because it’s constantly varied it’s never the same and it leaves no room for doubt. You’re either better than the other person or not.

  • Last year you lifted the Affiliate Cup with the Wasatch Brutes; new rules have just been announced for the 2018 Games season, which means that teams will now have 2 males and 2 females to form a 4 member team. How do you think this might impact the competition?

MS: It’ll raise the level of competition tremendously. It’s a lot easier to get 4 really fit people together rather then 6. Also I think a lot more individual athletes will transition over the team side of competition.

  • I was watching a video that the Brute Strength team uploaded on YouTube last year, and in that video you spoke about how had you gone into the Games as an individual, you would have been a lot more nervous. How are you feeling this year, and will we be seeing you competing individually or as part of the Wasatch Brutes?

MS: This year I am going individual and I’m feeling awesome about it. I’m excited and this will be a good year. With last year under my belt I wasn’t nervous because I had 5 other amazing people right by my side. This year I won’t have that, but with the experience that came from that I’m not that nervous going into it. Now as things get closer that might change.

It’s a matter of putting in the work in and allowing that to shine through.

  • What are some of your aspirations as a CrossFitter individually and perhaps as part of a team?

MS: Well as a team we accomplished the ultimate. As an individual the goal is the same, to be the best. Win the south regional this year, and ultimately take the top spot at the Games come August.

  • Let’s quickly talk about that moment where the Wasatch Brutes lifted the Affiliate Cup. What was that moment like and how will you be using that to fuel your 2018 CrossFit season?

MS: Lifting up the affiliate cup was great. It was the culmination of all the hard work, hours in and out of the gym. Yet that one moment wasn’t what made that so great. The fun was the training. Going in everyday working hard with your team and pushing each other to get better. There was such a high standard that we held for each other. The attitude came from Adrian, but we weren’t settling for anything but winning it all. That was the standard everyday going into the gym. That is what made lifting the affiliate cup so great it was all the hard work paying off.

  • As an individual, and an elite CrossFitter, when you notice that you’ve gotten complacent and just that little bit cosy in your comfort zone, whether that’s in your training or your personal life, how do you get yourself out of that zone?

MS: When I get complacent or lazy I notice things aren’t going as well. Workouts don’t go well, recovery isn’t happening. It makes training hard, and not as fun. I know in those moments I need to get my focus back  to constantly push myself. It is easy to get complacent, not do the recovery work, eat the unhealthy food, but that isn’t what makes you better. I feel much better when I am pushing myself to be better in every aspect of training and life. When I get in those times I refocus and think about what I need to be better at and start doing it. It becomes real obvious in my training when I am getting complacent.

  • We’ve all heard/read the quote that says pride comes before a fall. In CrossFit, I’d say that it’s ego that comes before a fall. Do you have any puffy ego moments to share with us, and what/who is it that brings you back down to earth, keeps you humble and working hard?

MS: I don’t really have any moments that really stick out as huge ego moments. There is always someone better then you in a workout. CrossFit is really good at getting your ego in check constantly. There are times when I will think I am doing enough, or I am performing well enough and that is when I get complacent, like in the last question. That is when I know I need to refocus and push myself.

  • As an athlete, do you have an pre-wod or pre-comp rituals or practices that you can credit with giving you not just the physical toughness, but the mental drive that is needed in order to stay focused and give your best effort?

MS: As a team throughout the whole summer all of our training days through regionals and the games we would always huddle up before every workout. We’d talk about what we needed to do, strategies, what we do if things went wrong, motivation, and then Adrian would yell ‘WASATCH’ and we all would yell ‘BRUTES’. It became a mantra for us. I’m sure at regionals and the games people would get annoyed or think we were dumb, but it set us up with the mindset to win and dominate. I knew from after that we were ready to go. Then we could be loose and confident in what was about to go down. For me now as an individual I go through a similar thing, I think about what I need to do, how to do it, get ready and know the plan. After that I can be loose and confident, cause I know I can do this.

  • My fitness motto is not necessarily just about fitness. It’s the way that I aim to live my life. Two Bible verses, Hebrews 12:11 and Colossians 3:23. Do you have any fitness/life mottos or verses that you try to live by?

MS: Even though I am a Christian and have a strong belief in Christ, I don’t get motivated by scriptures, or quotes. I love them, and think they’re awesome, but when it comes down to it they give me no power to be better. My actions, what I am doing gives me power. I try everyday to be the best that I can. I make mistakes all the time, but I am constantly trying to get a little better than the day before. All the scriptures give us are things to live by and how to be a better person. I don’t like choosing one specific verse to live by constantly, I think there are many verses to help us and those are constantly changing depending on where we’re at in our lives. I firmly believe we should anchor ourselves to Christ and not to anything else. If we get caught up anchoring ourselves to other things even if it is a scripture then that keeps us from progressing. God gave us lots of scriptures and we should use them all and constantly try to progress in those everyday. In short I try and live by Jesus Christ’s example everyday.

  • What advice do you have for newbees?

MS: The process takes time. You are not going to be great overnight. It takes time, and it can feel long. Everyone is at a different pace, you can’t compare yourself to others. You need to focus on getting a little better everyday. And don’t let fear or frustration take over. It’s a struggle and you’ll get mad and annoyed but you can do it. I remember when I was learning stuff it was frustrating I constantly expected myself to be better then everyone else, but I realized that isn’t the objective it’s a matter of becoming your best. I still get frustrated and annoyed. I have an Instagram post of me throwing my jump rope because I was struggling with double unders on that day. It happens, but laugh at yourself move on and be better.

  • What is your typical pre-workout snack? And what do you have post-workout?

MS: Every morning before I workout I have the am protein from FNX it’s perfect and is just what I need in the morning. I also like to do something like a piece of fruit and sometimes a protein bar. Post workout I do a protein shake and creatine. Nothing too special or crazy just the standard stuff.

  • In closing Mitch, what’s the legacy that you want to leave behind?

MS: Easy question. I want to be my absolute best. Which there is no reason why my best, can’t be the best in the world. I never want to leave a doubt that I didn’t do everything I could to become the absolute best I can be in everything in my life. That’s what I want to leave behind that becoming your best is possible.

Athletes’ Corner: Chloë Hillier

I love social media; Instagram, Twitter, Facebook eh…not so much (how are we still using it?) I love that it’s provided for individuals to connect regardless of where they live. My favourite thing about social media? Connecting with other CrossFitters. That’s not a statement that should come as a surprise; I have said before that CrossFitters are the best humans on earth. It’s best you don’t try to argue on that point haha!

When I first saw Chloë’s account on insta, it was an immediate follow from me. She’s a total badass, and I don’t know about you guys but I love badass people, whether that’s on social media or in real life, they’re great to have around!  So before you even dig into this piece with my bestie from across the pond, do something smart. Go on instagram, (I know you have the app, it’s 2018 people!) and give my girl (c.hills) a follow. You won’t regret it! This year I would love to travel to the UK…return to the UK, and get to train with so many of the lovely people that I’ve had the opportunity to connect with. Chloë is one of those people; it’s probably what fuels my training session’s #mustbeBADASSlikeChloë. On a more serious note, the narrative that CrossFit allows female CrossFitters to partake in is one that is largely positive. One where we’re all rooting for each other, sometimes even shouting at each other to squeeze that last rep in, all because we genuinely want to see each other succeed. We honestly all just want to be faster, stronger and better, don’t we? When I reached out to Chloë for this interview, I was thrilled that she accepted. I know you’ll enjoy reading this!

Welcome to the Athletes’ Corner Chloë!

  • Hey Chloë, so give us an intro on who you are and what you do?

CH: Hey Aurélie! Thanks so much for asking me to feature on your blog – what a privilege! So a little about me… I’m a 27 year-old CrossFit-loving dogmum from the UK! I live with my partner and our dog in Old Basing, in Hampshire. For those unfamiliar with UK geography it’s about 45mins west of London by car. At work I’m a full-time communications manager for a security company, but outside of work is where my passions are! Namely my 2 year-old cocker-spaniel called Roxy (those who follow me will know her well!) and CrossFit. I’ve been doing CrossFit for 4 and half years now (time flies!!) and I love it just as much as I did when I first started…perhaps even more!

One thing I love about your account is that the things you post are a genuine reflection of who you are. Fun posts; CrossFit, holidays, work, and my favourite-doggy posts!!! In the age of carefully curated instagram accounts that seem ingenious, yours is amongst those that aren’t contrived. You keep it real (…that phrase is sooo played out!)

  • It’s easy to start doing/posting things for the ‘gram, but you don’t.  What or who keeps you grounded?

CH: Thank you so much! In all honesty, for me social media is about having fun and showing others what you’re all about. Let’s be honest, most of us will never have more than a few followers so what’s the point in being anything other than true to yourself?!  As long as my account is providing a bit of inspiration, happiness and humour to those who have chosen to follow me then it’s all good for me J Although I’m sure I’ve lost a few followers due to excessive CrossFit posts…their loss. Some people just don’t get it 😉

I’m obsessed with deadlifts. High rep, low volume or high volume, low reps. Whatever the combination is, that’s the move that I would do for the rest of my life…big statement to make. In fact I would even go as far as calling it the world’s most perfect lift/move. Firstly I’m not the tallest person in the world so I don’t have to get that far off the ground haha, and also thigh power!

  • What’s your favourite move/wod?

CH: As much as we get on Aurélie I could not disagree more! Haha! I HATE deadlifts with a passion – I think it’s something to do with my long legs but oh man they always seem so hard. For me, I have two favourite movements…HSPUs and snatches! I just think there is something so great about being able to compete in a sport where one minute you’re performing a heavy Olympic lift and the next you’re upside down doing handstands against a wall! Name one other sport with that level of variety…nope, didn’t think so!

  • What’s one move that you can think of that didn’t look the best when you first started, and now after a lot of discipline and consistency, you’ve improved in?

CH: Funnily enough this is the one I hate the most…deadlifts! A lot of people would argue that this is one of the easiest movements in CrossFit but for me it’s one of the hardest. I really struggle to keep good form with a flat back when the bar gets heavy. I tend to round my lower back and cause unnecessary stress on it. Whilst it has never hurt me, I know it isn’t the right way to be lifting…especially as it also translates into the initial ‘pull’ phase of my Olympic lifts, thus giving them bad form too. It has taken a LOT of frustration and drilling good form at lighter weights but I feel like I’ve started to crack it. My instinct is still to pull from my lower back so it’s something that I will always have to work on but I feel that it’s so much better than when I first started CrossFit and I’m proud of that.

There’s a misconception that exists that in order to excel at CrossFit, you have to quit your day job…the temptation is great right? You haven’t quit your day job, you’re enjoying it and you’re KILLING it at comps. We’ve seen it with Brent Fikowski, he’s a financial controller, and he’s the second fittest man on earth. It can be done!

  • A: You’ve gotta share your secret with us, how do you find that balance between work and play?

CH: Don’t get me wrong, if someone said to me ‘hey Chloë, quit your job and I’ll cover all your costs while you train all day everyday’ of course I would bite their arm off! But, let’s be real here, that’s never going to happen! So for me it’s all about finding a routine which works and sticking to it. My typical day is…get up, walk Roxy, spend the day at work, get home and walk her again, train at the gym and then by the time I’m home in the evening I usually have a couple of hours to have dinner, relax and unwind for bed. It does sometimes seem like these days are very full on, but that’s why it’s important to make sure you have rest days! BALANCE IS KEY!

  • I’m pretty notorious at packing EVERY thing in my sports bag. At one stage I had two skipping ropes, different colours because hey, on Wednesdays I like to use a pink skipping rope. It got to a point where even if I wasn’t going to work after the box, I’d have things like 3 different shower gels, 2 different training tops. It is RIDICULOUS, and I can’t be the only one that crazy! What do you pack in your sports bag?

CH: I think this is a girl thing! My gym bag is usually pretty full too! I tend to train in the evenings so fortunately I don’t need to pack all of the shower and work stuff but somehow I still manage to fill up a bag! In mine you’ll find the ‘CrossFit essentials’ like wrist straps, lifters, skipping rope, etc, but then you’ll find what others may describe as ‘a lot of unnecessary crap’ too! This often includes things like running trainers (as much as I adore Metcons they aren’t the best if you’ve got a WOD with 5x800m runs!), about a million hair ties (if you know, you know) and a variety of snacks (because, duh, food). Obviously I think it’s ALL essential but there you go…

  • My power song is Beyoncé ‘who run the world.’ Scratch that, my power artist is Beyoncé haha. If I think of training that I’ve done to the tune of Beyoncé, they’ve always been great. What/ who do you like to listen to while you’re training?

CH: This is why we need to train together one day! I love Beyoncé more than life itself. If ever I’m allowed to be gym DJ then I head straight for the Queen Bey playlists. I would have her on repeat all day, every day if I could…

In an interview with the CrossFit Games media team, Brent Fikowski said: ‘training yourself on a daily basis to deal with a little bit of failure will definitely help when it comes to competition because how you dealt with adversity the entire year-inside and outside the gym-is going to determine how you deal with adversity. You can’t be situationally mentally tough.’  I will go on record with calling myself the CrossFit drama queen, I learn my mental toughness through tantrums, and while tantrums are great haha, a great thing that my amazing coach taught me is to never throw a tantrum so great and (let’s call it what it is,) so childish that it gets into your head, ruins your game plan and negatively impacts your performance, i.e. save the (physical,) bucket kicking for when you’re at the Games. I have a rubber band that I wear, and should I complain, I have to switch wrists.

  • Do you have any practices that you adopt in terms of being mentally tough not just in the box, but outside of training as well, and how does that filter through to the mindset that you have when it comes to competitions?

CH: I think I’ve always considered myself as quite a tough person. I’ve always been up for a challenge. But CrossFit has definitely helped to develop that even more. There’s something very special about doing a sport which educates you about what your body is capable of (especially as a woman). It’s extremely empowering and a mindset which translate into every walk of life, not just in the gym.

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS

Fran or Cindy? Cindy. Fran is the work of the devil.

Cleans or snatches? Snatches all day everyday

When I’m not at the box, I can be found… Out and about walking with Roxy

Dream escape? I’d love to spend some time exploring South East Asia.

IN THE FRIDGE:

The tastiest thing in there is… Either chocolate or cheese, depending on the mood!

The best superfood in there is… Water. Does that even count? If it doesn’t then it should!

Every week I need to buy more… Bananas…because I use them in everything! Pancakes, smoothies, just on their own…

You won’t find… Fish or seafood of any sort. I wish I liked it because it’s so healthy but I just can’t stand it.

  • In closing Chloë, what’s the legacy that you want to leave behind?

CH: To have made at least one person (or doggy!) smile every day of my life J

Athletes’ Corner Part III: Adrian Conway

This final piece of athletes’ corner is the best…okay, I’m going to say that about every athlete that I interview because it’s the truth. Some of the athletes you’ll see in this growing feature, I have the honour of calling them my friends…real friends, not the imaginary kind that solely exists in my head haha! These are people that I hold up in the highest regard and they embody some of the best qualities that I think make them the best kind of people to have in your life. Hardworkers yes, but they’re also just really great at loving people and being great humans, some of them humans that I admire from afar. Hmm…that only sounds mildy creepy, I swear it isn’t.

The aim behind athletes’ corner is to encourage and give you beautiful readers a healthy dose of inspiration, sometimes a kick of motivation in the booty, and home truths (some old, some new,) that you can apply to your life in order to keep growing, and enable you to enjoy this journey that we’re on. There’s an old saying that says we can’t possibly have it all, and often times (especially as a woman,) I have had the thought that maybe I can’t have it all. I’m gonna have to choose the parts of life that I’m going to be good at, it’s one or the either. One cannot possibly pursue all of their passions, 1 or 2 will do. This last piece with Adrian taught me that I can absolutely have it all. The thing that will determine how well you handle everything that will inevitably land up on your plate, is the balance that you have with God, yourself, and the people that you allow to speak into your life.

I hope you’ll enjoy this and I’ll see you in a blogpost…or pretty soon a box near you!

Last part of athletes’ corner with Adrian Conway, LET’S GO!

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Adrian, his son Alijah and his wife Ashley.
  • You’re a family man, you have your own company, you’re a competitive athlete and you also coach. How do you find balance and what is it that you focus on to excel at being someone who in truth is  ‘all things to all people?’

AC: I put God first. There are certain times that you must draw the line with what you can do and what you won’t do. I don’t coach on Wednesday nights ever because I have church obligations, I won’t work more than 1-2 weekends a month for CrossFit HQ because it takes me from the body of Christ and the ability to serve and worship with like minded people too much. So for me, that looks like turning down work and more chances to make money, but it is always worth it. As I do this as a priority, it honestly helps me then balance everything else. In my marriage, when competing with friends with family, if I keep putting God first, he always provides the answers and the structure for me to be better and more present in each aspect. It is not easy.

  • Ambition and Christianity, is it okay to want more? Are we ‘allowed’ to want more?

AC: It is God’s desire for us to want more. It is not a sin to want more, it is a sin to love money. When the root of your desire is to serve, create influence, lead people to Christ then ambition is your friend. In fact I’d argue most Christians aren’t ambitious enough about their salvation and getting others to Christ. We need to be more ambitious in sharing the gift we have! Most people show up to church to serve themselves not to serve others, we use our relationship with God to serve our needs and wants and not to go seek and save the lost, LIKE WE ARE CALLED TO. I am as guilty as any. So first I want ALL OF US to have a greater ambition for the lost and getting them to know Christ. And another sad truth is that money makes the world go round. If you pursue your passions and work for everything as if you are working for God and you put your money and give your first fruits back into the Kingdom there is nothing wrong with having or wanting more.

As Christians we have to know that there is money to be had, who would we prefer to have control of it? Those who do with it what serves them? Or those who seek after God’s desires and visions and want to be able to put it to great use in aiding others or helping to fuel efforts to spread the Kingdom of God?

  • In light of this ambition, what is it that continues to drive you forward and what are some of the daily habits that you have implemented in order to keep growth sustainable and everything in the order that it should be in?

AC: I wear many hats professionally. My simple pursuit to want to be a Games Athlete has opened many, many doors for me. I am newly a gym owner “Live in Victory CrossFit”, I am an owner in FNXfit supplement line, I am a key aspect of the Brute strength training team, I teach L1’s for CrossFit Head Quarters and still help run and coach at Wasatch CrossFit. Almost each one of these avenues were opened due to my hard work and abilities as an athlete.

Because I pursue everything as I give it up to God with relentless effort, I was ready when opportunities presented themselves. Day to day right now it takes planning and organization to stay on task and be able to be successful in each aspect. As an athlete over the next year that will take a backseat. I’ll use the next 12 months to heal, rest and focus on the new business opportunities I have. I measure success only by my relationship with God and my family life. If I am ever losing in those aspects then I’m completely lost or very close to on my way. Again, I am a Christian, this is who I am, everything else is merely what I do. I hope to able to use every avenue that has been opened to me in order to lead people to a relationship with God or to help them strengthen it. If I can provide for my family, create an income that can support others, run companies that serve the community, then all of that stuff is simply icing on the cake.

  • In closing, Adrian what is the legacy that you want to leave behind?

AC: I want to be known as a man who loved God, and lived to the best of his ability to love others and lead others to him while I was here. I hope I can continue to find ways to use my talents and the abilities God has given me in order to that. And that I can lead a life so that my family and those others who know me closest would admire those qualities the most.

Catch up on our inaugural instalment of Athletes’ Corner with Adrian Conway by clicking on the links below:

Part I

Part II

I’ll be sharing the link on twitter for an article for BoxRox magazine that I wrote, where  Adrian shares advice for CrossFit athletes! You’ll know when I share it if you follow me 😉 tweet, tweet!

Athletes’ Corner part II: Adrian Conway

If I had to ask you about the most important part of a CrossFit box, what would your answer be? Facilities? Location? And then maybe after a little bit more thought, you’d say the coaches. In my opinion, CrossFit coaches are what make this sport unique and unmatched by any other. My first foray into CrossFit, at my very first box, I remember a coach who would be on his phone during wods, he spent the first part of the class with the competitive athletes so beginners that came in, never lasted for longer than two or so months. In this first year of CrossFit, as much as I would come to the box because I wanted to be fit and strong. On the flipside, I’d also approach each class with dread as to what movement I would be berated on for not being able to do it as he saw fit with very minimal instruction. One of those movements was the snatch. I would cherry pick and any wod that had a snatch in any shape or form, would see me skip that day. I wouldn’t even come for open gym sessions.

Frustrated I got a PVC pipe and learnt how to master these moves by watching videos on YouTube and reading CrossFit articles online. It wasn’t long before our box had to relocate and we got a new coach, Nuno. He will always be my OG coach, regardless of where I find myself in the future, I call him my first coach because  it was only when Nuno started coaching me that I began to see myself as a CrossFitter. A coach who cared about how his athletes, (ALL OF THEM,) moved. The pressure to load the bar for the sake of loading it disappeared, in fact I can remember wods where he would tell me to strip weight off after seeing horrendous technique and sure it meant sometimes I wanted to throw the weights he told me to take off at him, but it also meant that for the most part, I remained injury free. I have a separate article on this very special coach coming up so I won’t say too much about him, although I kinda feel like I have haha! The point I want to make is this, in CrossFit especially, coaches matter! They’re a big deal, they’re the real MVPs. The success you have as an athlete is down to the work you put in, but you need people in your corner who help you work on those barriers stopping you from progressing in a sustainable and healthy way. In this part of athletes’ corner, Adrian tells us on what it takes to be a good coach!

  • What are the skills/characteristics a coach needs to in order to better relate to individual personalities at the box?

AC: No skills. You have to care. Coach Glassman said in order to be successful as a coach, “you have to be interesting, and you have to be interested.” To me this is a lot like Paul teaches us in the New Testament that we must be “all things to all men”. We need to care about who they are, get to know them and be willing to share ourselves with them as well.

  • A statement that often swirls around is that CrossFit isn’t for everyone. You’re a coach and a competitive athlete, in your own words, what is the appeal of CrossFit for someone who maybe doesn’t have any competitive aspirations, and is out to improve the quality of their life? How do you as a coach relate to those who don’t have as a goal to compete or make it to the Games?

AC: CrossFit isn’t designed to get you to the Games. CrossFit is designed to increase your work capacity across broad time and modal domains and do so for as long as you live. This training regime is designed for EVERYONE to live a longer fuller life. I don’t glamorise competing, it is not glamorous. I glamorise those that come in 5/7 days of the week, eat well and have great performance results to show it. I don’t create an ultra competitive environment, that is not the purpose. I don’t even talk about competing, there are many members at my own gym that don’t know I was at the Games as an individual or even what the Games truly are. And for that I’m proud because the Games and CrossFit in my gym are very different and I hope they always are. People having the ability to RX a workout here and there, people who get their first pull up, or their first real burpee, those people are the foundation of my community, those are our all stars. As long as coaches and box owners understand that and lead by example with lifting that up, they will have success at communicating that it’s for everyone.

  • As a coach, how do you know when to draw the line between encouraging & pushing your members, to knowing when they’ve had enough and need a bit of a breather?

AC: Experience is key for this one. We all learn hard lessons through experience. I’m sure I’ve almost killed a few people. Haha. But, again….people come to my gym to pay for my service, so they WANT to get better. I don’t need to do much to fire them up. I do this by being excited about what I teach and empowering their training. I’m very informative with the why’s behind what we do in my gym, this helps them own their workouts. They then know why we are doing something and what they should be getting out of it. There are some people who need a kick in the butt, and some people I need to tell to calm down….you learn that through genuine relationships and getting to know them. It takes simply time and effort.

  • What habits can be created/implemented in a box that can help in creating the sense of community and motivation that CrossFit is so well known for in order to create a culture where members keep coming back?

AC: Who you are, is who your community will become. If you are serving, honest, engaged, and caring….they will become that OR they will not like your gym. To me culture is what you create by who you are. You can’t tell people to be a certain way, you show them, and then they follow suit if they respect you. As a good leader you understand and see the balance of being a little of the lion and little of the lamb. I say that because you want to serve, care, love and help everyone….but at times you must remove cancers or dangers to your community from it. And being stern and honest can cut some to the heart, but those are hard things a leader of a community must do to protect the rest of the flock.

The next part in this series will be with you in the new year. Happy holidays lovelies. Enjoy this time with your family and see you in 2018! 

Athletes’ Corner part I: Adrian Conway

In light of what this blog covers (faith, fitness and everything else,) as a Christian first and athlete second, I can attest to the fact that 9 times out of 10, God has taught me the most when I am training. There exists a beautiful intersection between faith and fitness, one gleans the physical body, and the other gleans the spiritual body. If it wasn’t for God, I would be the sorest loser haha, and if it wasn’t for fitness, I would have a very unhealthy relationship with myself, others and food. I’ve always thought of fitness as the cheapest form of therapy. I love reading about other people’s faith and fitness walk and I cannot think of anyone better that I could have gotten to inaugurate this new feature on the blog than Adrian Conway!

Adrian wears many hats, as a competitive CrossFit athlete, he has won the affiliate cup with the Wasatch Brutes at the CrossFit Games 3 times. He is part of the Brute strength training team, and the CrossFit HQ L1 seminar staff. Adrian is an owner in the FNXfit supplement line,  recently became a gym owner ‘Live in Victory CrossFit’ , and if that wasn’t enough, he still helps run and coach at Wasatch CrossFit. The common thread in all of Adrian’s answers is this: hard work pays off but the way to have longevity is found in being consistent and being a person of integrity not just to others but to you. Massive thanks to Adrian for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions. I was left inspired and motivated to do more and be more not just in my fitness, but also in my faith walk, which at the end of the day is what sustains it all. I am incredibly honoured and tickled pink to share this with y’all.

Welcome to the Athletes’ Corner!

  • So let’s start with a hash-tag that some of us will have seen on social media platforms, #Christianathlete. As spokesperson for the masses, I know that we’re all curious to find out your tips on what it takes to win the CrossFit Games, but before we delve into that,  let’s talk a little bit about your faith walk. What does it mean to you to be a Christian athlete, and how does that influence not just your training, but your life?

AC: I’m a Christian. That is what defines me, my actions, my words and my thoughts. An athlete isn’t a part of my identity, it is just something that I “do”. To answer your question directly, being a Christian man influences everything I do, so being an athlete is a very small part of that. It does reflect traits that carry well into my athletic pursuit however. I am a hard worker, always going to be THE hardest worker in the room or even in my field of current pursuit. I do this not because I want to be great but because as a disciple of Christ I’m called to “do all things as if doing them for the glory of God.” (Colossians 3:23).

I also know that how I win, how I lose, how I interact with my peers, the way I serve my community all have to be done in this way as well.

I tell people, and a lot of time I think they assume I’m being sarcastic and joking, that everything good you see in me comes from God. I mean it when I say it. My nature is not that of my actions, I have to make several internal decisions to be Christ like all the time, it doesn’t come easy, especially in the heat of a competition.

There’s a song called ‘One Sixteen’ by Trip Lee, that personally for me was a game changer. I recall being a young girl in church believing that the best place (the only place,) that I could honour God was there in church, but I couldn’t sing as well as the others and I wasn’t really a fan of people. So I said to myself perhaps I could volunteer somewhere in Africa…ironic seeing that I live in South Africa but it had to be somewhere more remote and more African…and then I heard this song. This was (as Oprah loves to say,) my ‘aha!’ moment, I realized that even in my training, I could honour God unashamed, fitness could be the way that I honoured Him and celebrated all the things that He had allowed this body to do and then by careful discipline, work on the things that it couldn’t yet do. This meant (and still means,) that anytime I want to have a stank attitude, I can almost audibly hear the Holy Spirit telling me ‘girrrlll is this really honouring me?’ and then the brat pipes down for a bit…

  • Can you pinpoint when you had your ‘aha!’ moment, how did that define your journey as an athlete then, and does it define/shape where you’re at as an athlete today?

AC: I’ve had a lot of ups and downs as a Christian athlete. When I first studied the Bible with a few men who were gracious and brave enough to invite me to, that changed my entire life. I grew up knowing of only hypocritical types of Christian worship which unfortunately is the majority of self-proclaimed Christian lifestyles out there. I saw men and women who claimed to know of Jesus not living anything like the Bible taught but showing up to church on Sunday and putting on the best front you could ever see. So as I studied with men that showed me on a day to day basis what it looked like to be a disciple of Christ, it strongly impacted me and encouraged me that I could do the same. Because becoming a Christian changed me so much, it changed how I competed. I often used rage, anger and fear as fuel on game day. I literally lined up against others with “hate” in my heart. In a violent sport line division like football in the US can be, it played to my advantage, but what it was doing to my heart and what I was reflecting wasn’t right. After I was baptized and my perspective on life and eternity really transformed I couldn’t pull on those “negative” emotions anymore. So much of my past that I had now forgiven or moved on from couldn’t be my fuel.

My passion took a shift from being self-focused, and hate filled to being the best instrument for Christ that I could be. He blessed me with gifts, it is my obligation to get the most potential from those gifts and allow them to be a tool to share his word and who he is with others. My aha moment was in 2007 at Weber State University.

In my faith/fitness walk, I have two central verses that I always go back to, Hebrews 12:11-12, paraphrased it reads ‘no discipline is enjoyable while it is happening-it’s painful (yes!) take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.’ and Colossians 3:23, doing everything heartily as to the LORD. In a way it has strengthened my belief that through physical discomfort, there is a gleaning and strengthening of the spirit that happens, and whenever I come dangerously close to throwing an ugly tantrum, thankfully the part of my mind that remains under Christ’s control always goes to these verses.

  • What is the inner dialogue that you have whether it is during a wod or a competition, that keeps you centred and focused on giving it your all?

AC: I have always loved the verse Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I loved it even before I was a Christian, not fully understanding the meaning, I took it as God would give me the ability to do literally ANYTHING almost like a superman type of perspective. Now it means much more. I like to look at the verse in the full context. Prior to verse 13 Paul describes that through his walk with Christ he has both been in situations where he has had great needs and also where he has had plenty but that through Christ he knows he can do anything. So, from my perspective no matter what I must endure in order to improve or to seek victory, I know Christ provides that for me. I love many scriptures though, and I think about a few others while competing as well, but for life in general, and when competing that is my favourite as I rock that verse on my inner left wrist.

About two months ago, I injured my back and I remember my coach telling me to scale the wod, but we’ve all unfortunately at least once, listened to the egotistical voice inside of us telling us to keep going. I recall stopping mid-wod and crying because I was in so much pain. I very sheepishly realized that had I listened to my coach (sometimes they know better haha), I would not have ended up in tears, aggravating an existing injury, I’m sorry Bruno. I’d like to say that it was on that day that the stubborn streak died, but I went through a few more months of painful training sessions, back getting worse, for me to finally put to the grave… ok partially put to the grave my stubborn streak.

  • Have you ever had moments similar to mine, where against your better judgement, you pushed through pain, (maybe you didn’t cry like I did…or maybe you did,) and suffered a setback? What did you learn from that situation?

AC: Of course I’ve had moments where I don’t listen to my instincts and others advice, I’m a boy! Haha. I joke but it’s true. Pride is the fall of all men. And I battle with it daily. I have had a few instances, one specifically that led me to injuring myself prior to the 2014 regional days before the competition. I trained so much that I beat my body down, the week out instead of resting, trusting my training and de-loading, I trained hard and kept up my attack. I did this really out of insecurity. I was worried I wouldn’t win the regional, and that was my goal, crush everyone. (See I’m ruthless still in my own mind, dominance is always the goal, not mere OH HEY, let’s just do our best…..sounds again brutal but its quite cowardly for me to claim that’s all I want when it’s not true.) So out of my inability to trust the process, I trained on, and had to end my season very early. That year I was the fittest of my career and the programming at Regionals and at the CF Games was likely the best if I could have chosen the events, that I could have asked for. I look back thankful for the missed opportunity because again, I’m grateful for where God has put me. And what if I had made it? And then gotten top 5 at the Games? I think my life would have made several different turns, I’d rather be no where else than here, right now.

Part 2 drops like a hot potato on Monday