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.

Hurt Locker

‘Hurt fuels me. I don’t let it sit and fester. I let it drive me. I let it save me. I’m not gonna sit and lick my wounds here. I’m the one giving the wounds now.’ Charley Bordelone, Queen Sugar.

Never was this quote more true than on the 10th of April when I Aurélie, fully kitted in my MEGA cute Nike outfit (not the one in this post, it’s cute too right?) decided to head out for a run. We’ve all had those tough runs where the starting 10 metres feels like we’re already at the end of an ultra marathon…sounds dramatic but admit it, you’ve felt that way before! Five minutes into this run, maybe even less my shins were howling!!! The day before I had done a wod that had 99 million double unders but I’ve always prided myself on never really feeling doubles the next day. Well, that day must’ve been different. I told myself that eventually my shins would loosen up and ran further and further away from home. Each stride felt like death though, and while I truly wanted to stop, I was really enjoying this guided run (Kevin, We Gotta Go on Nike Run Club) Kevin Hart is a funny guy. So there I am, a million miles away from home, wondering whether I should request an Uber when that voice in my head, we all have it. The crazy one tells me to go, go slow if you have to but just go. At that point I was planning on walking home and it’s what I planned on doing but the more nuggets coach Bennet and Kevin actually are dropping, the louder that crazy voice is getting, fully convincing me that I can run.

A little disclaimer that my coach ALWAYS reminds me about and coincidentally one that Ben Bergeron states: there is a difference between pain and discomfort and you’ll know it. Because of my brush with back pain, I know when my body is telling me to stop. It’s usually when the tears start streaming down uncontrollably, and I can just about breathe through the pain, that I know I’m on ‘team too much’ and ‘girl you better stop before you really wreck yourself!’

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This run started off pretty painful. My shins felt like they were seizing up on me. On fire, a weird feeling of paralysis and the not so gentle reminder of the doubles I had done two days ago. I am usually very hard on myself but this time I knew I wasn’t being a baby, in fact there was a stage when I said that out loud to myself. The people around me probably thought I had lost my mind 😂 after a while, (I don’t know how long or short that while was) the run started to feel easier. My shins FINALLY loosened up, they stopped hurting and I began to smile…okay I was beaming!!!! Those last ten or fifteen minutes were stronger and better than when I had started. I ended that guided run on 5,3 kilometres in 35 minutes (that includes walking,) and then spontaneously decided to add 700 metres to round it up to 6kays, (I told y’all I’m crazy!) During this run, Kevin Hart said something that stuck: when you’re hurt, you don’t stop moving. You don’t let hurt stop you. This can be taken with a pinch of salt of course, if you’re injured, that is not the kind of hurt you want to force yourself to keep pushing through. I did that with my back injury and ended up on the sidelines for 4 months. I’m talking about the kind of hurt that is more discomfort than it is debilitating pain.

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The type of discomfort that you know you can push through and eventually find your groove. If I had walked home and stopped the run, I would’ve been disappointed but not in my effort, disappointed that I was missing out on a chance to get out there. I gained a greater appreciation for my body and the internal dialogue wasn’t one where I berating or critiquing myself harshly. I didn’t see myself completing that run and then before I knew it, I was at the end having completed 6 kilometres. It was a satisfying feeling. It was a great feeling. It’s the feeling we chase as runners. It’s a feeling I didn’t think I’d have on a run that felt like the hardest I’ve ever been on. It felt harder than my half marathon…yup that bad! At the end of it, I didn’t regret having pushed through. I was proud of myself and once again learnt how to temper discipline with kindness. I was in a bit of meditative space as I acknowledged the feelings I was experiencing, I didn’t downplay what I felt but I also wasn’t swayed by it. While emotions are valid, being swayed by emotion is never a good look. It’s about learning how to manage your emotions as opposed to being managed by them.

So here I am, pain free, shins feeling good, already dreaming about my next run.

See you on the road!

Drop it like a squat…

Can you remember the first workout move you ever did? No? Don’t worry I’ll help you out, it was the squat. It’s the first thing we do as babies, we do it  without even thinking about maintaining that 90 degree angle. We’re naturals at that age!  The fairytale would be that we stay that natural forever right? But then life begins , we take different paths, a path that might be void of sports and then one magical day, you find the best sport in the world, *DRUM ROLL PLEASE!* CrossFit!

As CrossFitters we know how integral a good squat is. It’s all over instagram, booty’s are important people! Posts accompanied by one…or in my case, all of these hash tags, #squats #shesquats #asstograss #squatbabysquat…and in my best Sam Smith voice, ‘I know I’m not the only one.’ The squat is an exercise movement that is useful for more than just developing a rounder tush that you can bounce a quarter off of.  You’ll see the squat in everyone’s favourite movement…wallballs, yay! The squat, a shallow form of it, is also present in movements such as snatches, box jumps, cleans, deadlifts and kettlebell swings to name a few. Learning and applying proper squat mechanics means that you will be less likely to injure yourself,  and will be on your way to a nice juicy butt!

What’s so great about the squat?

What’s not great about the squat should be the question you’re asking! The squat is considered a compound, full body exercise movement and not just for the great butt benefits, do I say that squats should be part of everyone’s fitness routine!

Here’s why: squats are functional and although the muscles that it primarily targets are your quads and glutes (we’ve felt that with Karen!) Squats can help you in promoting better  midline stability as you focus on keeping you core engaged, i.e. spine straight and neutral, (no hunching forward,) thereby building strength in your lower back.  If you arch your back during your squat, or any movement that begins in a squat, you’re more likely to injure/ hurt your back. Proper squat mechanics should  be centred on bracing through your core and making sure that the largest muscle that you have, your quads, do most, if not all of the work. Squats help in promoting mobility and balance by engaging your secondary muscles, known as stabilizers such as your transverse abdominal muscles (this is a muscle layer, considered to be a significant component of your core in providing strength and stability to your thorax…fancy biology term for your rib cage, which stabilizes your body movements,)  soleus and gastrocnemius (calf muscles,) erector spinae (the muscles that straighten and rotate the back,) your hip flexors which are important for flexibility and an increased range of motion, as well as your hamstrings. They’re an exercise movement that can be easily ramped up by either adding more reps, or more weight. Squats can be done anywhere with very minimal space and equipment, which is great because it means we’ve just scratched an excuse off of our list.

A good squat shouldn’t cause pain or put strain on your knees and/or lower back. When I injured my back last year, I found out that I have an extra vertebra, if you’re normal, you only have 5 lumbar vertebrae.  I have a sixth one, (known as a transitional vertebra) inserted just about my sacrum and coccyx, which can make most movements where I have to bend, i.e. squatting, uncomfortable. My physio taught me this gem of a trick, a hip flexor activation that helps ensure that those flexor muscles are primed and ready to do what they were meant to do. It also takes the strain and pain (nice rhyming skills there right!!!) away from your lower back, which is a common area of pain for those with an extra vertebrae.

How to do it: hip flexor activation

This works best when someone else does it for you, but you’ll reap just as many benefits by doing it on your own/to yourself? Whether it’s you or someone else activating you, you’ll want to lie flat on your back, the floor works best, sometimes I’ve even practiced this standing, keeping a nice tight posture with my core engaged.  If you’re on the floor, the idea is to have zero arch through your lower back, your core is engaged, your spine is keeping everything strong. Almost like if someone had to try tickle your stomach, they’d encounter your rock hard abs. While you’re laying on the floor, take the palm of your hand and rub the centre of your stomach, (your belly button area,) for 30 seconds. Then do the same by rubbing both sides of your oblique’s at a 45 degree angle.

Why this works: Something that I didn’t know prior to physio is that your hip flexors should be the initiators of a squat. A hip flexion is created at the bottom of your squat, with your hip flexor muscles, reach their maximal eccentric contraction, in simple terms, this means that the muscle fibres lengthen as they contract, those are the days when all your squats feels easy. This is generally why the wider the range of motion, or flexibility you have in your hip flexor muscles, the deeper and more comfortable your squats will be. You’ll feel your quads contract eccentrically in this downward squat motion. Coming up, your muscles contract in a concentric form, which means that the muscle fibre shortens and your able to utilise your quad strength to bring that booty up.

So there ya have it kids, for a stronger booty, core and quads, all you have to do is squat!

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

Baby got back (issues)

I’m every woman…just ask my friends about my mood swings 😂 My favorite woman to be is the one that gives a damn about her health spiritually, mentally and physically. The one that tempers discipline with kindness and isn’t obsessing over what she’s had for dinner…even if it was four (okay five,) doughnuts 🙈 My favorite woman to be is the one that is decisive, no dilly dallying, and in control of everything going on in her life because her end goal is to have lived a life that will have firstly made God proud and then herself, I’ve purposely left out making others proud. You’re not here to be Nutella.
As I write this post, I’d love to say that I am always that woman who is in control of everything. Dynamic, minimal tantrum throwing (mine are always to friends thankfully,) and I would love to say that I am the girl who ALWAYS remembers to do her back strengthening exercises 🙈🙈🙈

But I’m not that girl yet.

Most evenings I have to rush through them and then quickly apply my favorite massage bar from LUSH (you can get it here, a treat for sore muscles!!!) and convince myself that I’ve done enough, when in truth I’ve done the bare minimum. 

For the past couple of months, I have been incredibly stressed to the point where I wake up in the middle of the night, heartbeat racing, as though at any moment my body would decide that life is a bit too much and decide to breakdown, if only to get me to stop. For someone with a personality like mine, being out of control is not something that I love or welcome. I don’t like anything being decided for me and I certainly do not like having to stop. Stop is something that I don’t do. Stop was something that I was forced to do when I found out that I have an extra vertebra, it’s called the L6 phenomenon…not really, but I call it the L6 phenomenon. If you remember anything about Biology in high school or maybe went on to study human anatomy in college, you’ll know that the spine is made up of 33 individual bones stacked one on top of each other and beautifully fused as only God knows how. (Ain’t it lovely how God has crafted the human body?) Your spine is divided into 3 parts: your cervical region, your thoracic region and the one that was really important for my L6 phenomenon, the lumbar region/curve. 
Image from Mayfield Clinic 

Usually you have 5 vertebrae in your lumbar region but as you would have guessed with all the L6 name dropping, this girl over here has an extra vertebra. A sixth lumbar vertebra, underneath the fifth (obvs, 6 does come after 5 after all haha!) and while usually this isn’t a problem for most people, I am not like most people 😂 so of course it would wreak a little bit of havoc on me. It started off with mild discomfort, graduating to niggles that would be painful but bearable, and then it got to the point where the pain would be debilitating and I’d cry during wods and sometimes even afterwards 🙈 I remember feeling a horrible pull in my lower back during Karen, (150 wallballs for time,) my bestie standing next to me telling me to stop and I don’t know what I muttered to her,but I kept going and at the end of it, collapsed on the floor and started crying. I even remember what I was wearing on that day…my turquoise blue Nike leggings that make my bum look even more amazing than it usually does.

Now you’d think that an experience like that would cause the alarm to go off in your head and most people would by then, go get their back checked out. Me? I like to live on the wild side and we’ve established, I am not like most people 😂 I suffered (and suffer it was,) for a little bit longer until I finally listened to my coach and went for x-rays, physiotherapy and needling. I was struggling with lower back pain because of this extra vertebra that was never meant to be there. It was creating friction with the first vertebra in my sacral region and coupled with a core that wasn’t nearly as strong as I thought my 6 pack denoted 🙄 it was a recipe for disaster. If I kept medicating the symptoms and never truly dealt with the root cause of the pain, this could have been the thing to rule me out from not just CrossFit, but sports in general. I needed to take care of my back, and properly this time. 

For a month I couldn’t do anything but yoga, and as much as I love yoga, I had a lot of sessions in my room where I’d be yawning endlessly, but I needed to rebuild the foundation. A year of neglecting my back health had culminated to me getting to a point where standing hurt, sitting hurt, everything hurt. I needed to learn how to go slow so that in the future, I could go further. After the month of yoga, I started to add in short runs. The distances or the speed were nothing to write home to your local newspaper about, but it was enough to get my body back into the swing of things. Then another month later, I could go back to my greatest love, CrossFit!!! It was nothing but humbling: a 10 minute row, which I still can’t believe my coach wasn’t joking about and then the slowest, most disgusting Cindy (20 min. AMRAP 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 air squats,) that I have ever done. My body was still trying to remember how to do gymnastics, where was that muscle memory that people spoke of?
For a few weeks…right now even, I still feel like the worst of beginners, and it has been frustrating but I also have in my foundation rebuild corner, the best coaches ever! When I do get down on myself, it never lasts for long because of the guidance that they give me. The phrase that I have to keep repeating to myself is, ‘patience baby chicken. Go slow to go fast.’ Remember my positivity band that I wrote about over here? That’s keeping me in check to not complain and instead do the hard work, attack every wod as furiously as I can and to give it my all. My PVC pipe is getting a lot of action as I fix movements that I thought I knew how to execute. Squatting without pulling my chest forward, and not for a single second compensating on the natural curve that my spine should have. Learning how to have good posture in every single movement and working on technique has exposed major areas of opportunity and I can’t wait to meet the athlete that I will have become in another three months time. I still can’t do a lot of extensions, still hurts but in due time, I know I’ll get there. 

What’s the lesson for you? If you’re suffering with any kind of pain: back, neck, shoulder or even emotional pain, SEEK HELP! Don’t be the stubborn Sally that I am (back pain unfortunately does not get rid of all obstinate tendencies,) when on top of emotional stress now you also have physical stress forcing you into a corner where you have to slow down. It is a beautiful thing to be able to move and while we have these bodies, we should do as much as we can to make sure it’s running as well as it possibly can. 

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

Keep that core tight! 

A couple of days ago I was crying to God because I’m currently nursing a back injury which means that for the past two weeks, I’ve been unable to lift heavy. It is absolute torture!!! Going to the box, watching people throw their bars while I’m there stretching my lumbar spine 😴 and then the torture became too much and I relented to stretching and doing my core strengthening exercises at home…where I could sulk and pour as much as I wanted. All the while thinking, would I ever be able to lift without any pain again? Were my arms going to waste away into tiny little weeds? Were my thighs going to become floppy and forget how to power up when squatting? Was I going to lose all my strength? This was the trajectory that I was scared I’d go down on. 

Later that day, while soaking in the bath (still feeling very much sorry for myself,) I was listening to Ben Bergeron’s podcast chasing excellence and the topic was ‘redefining adversity.’ Ben spoke about how your reaction to failure, in my case, my reaction to injury, is what would define the outcome. One of the examples he used about adversity handled the right way is Katrin not being able to rope climb at regionals in 2014 and not qualifying for the games. She could have easily adopted the ‘woe is me’ attitude, but we all know that she didn’t and that’s why she’s the two time reigning fittest woman on earth! I listened to this podcast and I immediately switched my thoughts to: hey, I can love every single minute of these next few weeks because I’m working on foundational movements that will make me a better athlete. The bar’s still gonna be there when I get back; so will wall balls. 

Everything will be waiting for me when I’m 100% again, and I have a sneaky feeling that I’m going to be stronger, faster and even better than ever. A few minutes later as I was doing my core workout, thinking about how the lack of stability and strength in my core was one of the factors that contributed to my back injury, I began to think about how in life and in our walk with God, a lack of stability in our belief that God’s love is for us; is often what causes us to stumble in life. 

For such a person ought not to think or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable and restless in all his ways [in everything he thinks, feels, or decides].  ‭‭James 1:7-8‬ ‭(AMP‬‬)

To believe that God loves you and that His love is for you, is the foundational truth upon which our lives should be built. This statement is what will cause you to be stable in the face of adversity. 

What does this adversity look like? Very simply, adversity in our Christian walk is anything that threatens to shake our identity in Christ and how we view our beautiful Jesus. This adversity can come in the shape of thoughts where you feel that you aren’t good enough; that you’ll never amount to anything. These thoughts trickle down into the depths of your soul and begin to shape a new identity, a false identity; one where you’re not made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) one where you don’t live boldly and without hindrance (Acts 28:31,) to do all the God has destined for your life. The only way that this can change is by renewing yourself daily with the word of God, putting on your new nature (Colossians 3:10) and trusting in His love for you. Trust in God begins with a thought as simple as ‘God, I’m going to believe that you love me and that you will lead me down the path of everlasting life. I’m going to trust the directive that you have for my life.’

When I repeat such seemingly simple phrases, (the Gospel is after all simple truth,) I find that my anxiety level drops by at least 90% and the striving ceases. Repeating such simple truths daily is what has crafted and is still crafting me into the type of woman that I want to be for Jesus. Notice that I wrote for Jesus! We become unstable and restless in all of our ways (how & what we think, feel & believe,) when we try to gather up all the different selves that people want us to be, into one. 

We’ll never achieve anything by such double minded living; the saying goes you can’t please everyone because you’re not Nutella, so why not choose to live for Christ, to please Him, doing your utmost for the Highest. In making this decision to live just and only for Him; you’ll find that all adversity does is strengthen your identity in Christ and push you closer to what He’s planned for your life but you have to choose. Nothing great ever came forth from being passive, core strength included. So today, on this beautiful Sunday, think about the little changes you can make to put you on the trajectory to an unrivaled life of excellence empowered by God, and as you think of those changes you can make, go ahead and do it! 

Now that we’ve covered the faith part of this post, let’s throw in some fitness. 

Here are 5 of my favourite core busting moves, starting with the move that’s in the image:

1. Wall squats with dumbbell 

Stand in front of a wall and hold a light dumbbell (or kettlebell,) in an overhead position. Keep your core tight and your arm straight as you lower down into a squat. This is mega hard for me and highlighted just how much I tend to lean forward with my back when squatting. I could only do 1 when I first started these and now I’m up to three, I typically do 3 sets of 3 after my main workout which these days is just simple bodyweight and Pilates. I’m working really hard at not leaning to the side, use a light weight for these. My dumbbell was 5kg; pull that tum into your belly, your core will feel it and you’ll get bette each time. 

2. Wall climb 

Start in a plank position or for an even harder progression, start flat on your stomach with your hands slightly outside your shoulders to support them as you start climbing up. Resist the urge to twerk up the wall, you’re not in a hip hop video and you aren’t using your bummy to get you up. It’s all in the core so don’t let your back dip. Using opposite arm and leg, climb up the wall until your nose touches the wall, 3 sets of 10 will set your core on fire. 

3. Downward dog 🐶 

This is a favourite of mine; nothing gets at those hamstrings and lengthens my back, better than this doggie! Start on all fours, your wrists about 15 to 30cm in front of your shoulders. Separate your knees hip width apart, curl your toes underneath. Push evenly into your palms, lifting your knees off the floor. Lift your sit bones and push the top of your thighs back so that your body looks like an inverted V. Slowly start to straighten your knees without locking them, gently moving your chest back towards your thighs. Don’t let your head do a little dangle dance. Lengthen your spine, keep those hips lifted and push strongly into your hands. Hold this post for 10 deep breaths and repeat 5 more times. It’s okay if you can’t keep your heels on the floor, I’m still fighting ridiculously tight hamstrings but practice makes perfect. I’ll get there, and so will you! 

4. Bridge 

This pose is great for spine realignment and teaching you how to use your gluteal muscles. It’s pretty straightforward! All you do is lie on your back with your knees bent directly over your feet, hands by your heels and palms up. Use your abs (I promise they’re there,) and glutes to lift your hips and torso towards the ceiling. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Lower down, starting with your upper back and finishing with your lower back, keeping your pelvis tilted up. Repeat this 5 more times and you’ll be well on your way to building a bridge that’ll get you over troubled waters. Was that mildly funny? No? Okay onto number 5! 

5. Bow 

This pose is one that I really battle with but I love the way my back feels afterwards. Lie on your stomach with your legs hip width apart and bend your knees then reach back and grab the outside of your ankles or the top of your feet. Inhale, pressing back through your legs as you lift your thighs and chest off the floor. Then press your feet back into your hands, drop your chin to your chest and breath deeply. Release and repeat 3 more times. 

I’m not enjoying being injured, but through this I’m still learning more about the athlete that I will become based on the athlete that I was. There probably will be a lot of days where I’m going to cry because I can’t yet do all the things I want to do, there will be days when I’m probably still gonna cry when I watch CrossFit videos, but it’s okay. This isn’t forever. It’s just a little pit stop on the way to greatness. 

The Truth About Oreo’s

Every girl and boy, their mama, grandmothers and even their grandpapi’s, know that I looooooooove Oreo’s. My nickname is Oreo. I am a walking Oreo, just as sweet and D-LICIOUS, confession: I have always wanted to spell delicious like that!

Oreo’s are the easiest thing anyone can use to buy my friendship/my love/my allegiance and undying loyalty. Need me to hide a body for you? Oreo’s. Need me to donate a kidney? Oreo’s!

Oreo’s are the answer to everything!

‘Hey Oreo, would you like an Oreo?’

Me: ‘FORRRRRR SURRRREEEEEE you crazy cat!

Who says no to Oreo’s? Usually… NOT THIS GIRL!

Oreo’s moved from being something that I would have as a cheat, or if I had been exceptionally good (i.e. the perfect instagram vegan: juicing her kale, eating her bananas, dicing her pumpkins, you get the point!) to then over time as the addiction grew, Oreo’s simply became a part of my every day life, now that I think of it…there was a study done by Conneticut College stating that Oreo’s are as addictive as cocaine…hmm, must be why no one ever falls out of love with me 🤔

All jokes aside, I like to think of myself as being very ethically aware. In fact, ethics and my concern of this lack of ethics especially when it comes to the food we consume, was one of the motivating factors behind my decision to switch to a 100% plantbased i.e. vegan lifestyle, (can you guess who celebrated 3 years of veganism on the 18th??? THISSSS GIRL!!!)

Being plantbased presents with it a few challenges, I’ve often had people ask me what I have as a cheat meal and it’s usually bread. Boy do I love my carbs, I like to think bread is the reason why my legs are so strong, now about that strength travelling all the way up to my arms so that they too can be as strong as they look… All the vegan chocolate that I’ve tried thus far, still leaves me wanting for more, so Oreo’s (aside from the little disclaimer that states they’re produced in a factory that handles milk and eggs,) were the closest I could get to a cheat meal.

This morning I’m clearing out my emails (which was about as overdue as the 3 weeks of laundry that I still have to do,) when I opened this email from Crush Mag Online which speaks about the devastating effects that the harvesting of palm oil has on the environment. About a year ago, I started working for LUSH SA as their regional trainer, and with that comes training staff on sustainability and ethical buying practices that the brand employs when it comes to sourcing of natural ingredients. One of those that popped up a few months ago, and again today, was palm oil.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the palm fruit. Although these trees originate from Western Africa, they can pretty much flourish wherever heat and rainfall are plentiful! 85% of all palm oil obtained globally is produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia and most of the time using methods that aren’t sustainable. The palm oil industry is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production.

The lack of sustainable and ethically sound harvesting methods is causing thousands of animals to lose their natural habitat and in turn removing the biodiversity that exists (or used to exist in these countries.) This means that indirectly we’re removing from the enviroment the ability that forests have to capture the carbon that is causing climate change and in turn we see an increase in soil erosion, smoke air pollution (due to the fires used to clear these forests.)

So what’s the fuss about palm oil and why should we all embark on this 28 day challenge that Say No To Palm Oil, has created?

As stated above, palm oil is everywhere, and because it is so widely used and the popular choice amongst manufacturers, the harvesting of palm oil will continue to fuel deforestation. As consumers, the power is in our hands (whether we realise it or not,) and although avoiding all products that contain palm oil is only one half of the solution, (to find alternative sources would require more land and potentially introduce unsustainable methods of development.) Unless a company can validate that they’ve obtained their palm oil through sustainable methods (which unfortunately most don’t want to expose their unethical sourcing,) it’s time we stop supporting these companies, and minimizing as much as we can, the purchasing of products that contain palm oil.

This handy list (which is super easy to print,) gives you the legal names used for palm oil, and sadly my beloved Oreo’s contain palm oil, so guess who’s kissing them goodbye? This girl. Carry this list with you when in doubt and for those of you aiming to be ethically aware consumers, this list will help you when you’re trying to figure out whether your favourite cookies contain palm oil. Every little bit helps.

  1. Elaeis guineensis
  2. Etyl palmitate
  3. Glyceryl
  4. Hydrogenated palm glycerides
  5. Octyl palmitate
  6. Palm fruit oil
  7. Palm kernel
  8. Palm kernel oil
  9. Palm stearine
  10. Palmate
  11. Palmitate
  12. Palmitic acid
  13. Palmitoyl oxostearamide
  14. Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3
  15. Palmityl alcohol
  16. Palmolein
  17. Sodium kernelate
  18. Sodium laureth sulfate
  19. Sodium lauryl lactylate/sulphate
  20. Sodium lauryl sulfate
  21. Sodium palm kernelate
  22. Stearate
  23. Stearic acid
  24. Vegetable fat
  25. Vegetable oil

Greenpeace have these beautiful pictures of the Orangutans and the Sumatran tigers that lose their homes due to the deforestation caused by high demand of palm oil. These pictures for me were enough to convince me that I will no longer buy Oreo’s. On the plus side, at least I’ll have .5% less junk in my trunk and maybe my running will get faster because I will be .5% less weighed down by the booty! 😂

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GP04U1T_Low_res_with_credit_line

Keen for more info? Want to check the facts for yourself? Here’s some great resource: saynotopalmoil.com | mongabay.com | greenpeace.org |whatispalmoil.weebly.com 

Post-Open Reflection 

Two weeks have passed, the Open is over and training has gone back to its usual schedule. I’ve read a few posts on post-Open reflection, so here’s mine: I hated the Open 😂

This year, a recurring injury flaring up, partly…if not solely because of my inconsistency in keeping up with my strengthening exercises and yoga 🙈 kept me from feeling like I was Open ready, and I know you’re never ever truly ready for the hell that Castro unleashes, but prior to signing up for the Open, I didn’t feel fit enough or strong enough. I didn’t feel like I had enough. I finally signed up for the Open after chatting to one of my coaches at CrossFit 4 Elements, Nuno. One of the best coaches you’ll ever have, and ever since he started coaching us, first at Fit 5ive and then at CrossFit 4 Elements, there hasn’t really been a day where I don’t like King Louie 🐒 sing:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ooh be doo, I wanna be like you ooh ooh! I wanna walk like you *cheep*, talk like you too. You see it’s true, someone like me…


Stop, stop, let’s get back to the bare necessities of this paragraph at least!  In my opinion, it’s a great box where you want to be like your coach (and now I have two great coaches, the other being Bruno Calha) but being like coach means hard work and let’s be real, hard work isn’t as fun as posting inspirational quotes about how the lioness in you must roar louder than your fears. This is the reality that I have had to face. There is definitely a place for inspirational quotes but they don’t come before hard work, consistency and diligence. I have never been as emotional as I was this year and as I set my sights on the better athlete that I want to be; warning ⚠️ to the coaches, there are more tears and tantrums on the way 😂 #sorrynotsorry but with the tantrums, I know that there will also be growth. Where I was at 90% in terms of caring about what everyone else thought of me as a CrossFitter; I’m now at 85% 🙈 The narrative in my head was one that was highly critical, self conscious, so much negative talk going on in my head. Failing even before I begin: this is the story that I’m having to rewrite not just for CrossFit but in all areas of my life so that I’m always functioning at what works best for me, not what would accommodate everyone else’s schedule or preference.

And do you know what I’ve discovered? It is really hard! I’ve always been someone who’s cared more about what people think of her than what she thinks of herself…I think they’re called people pleasers 🤔 I’ve been making a more concerted effort to kill that part of me. I’ve realized this, or should I say, I am realizing this: it is not selfish to take care of your soul first and establishing the values that are important to and for you, before you take care of anyone else. It’s actually healthier to do things from a place where your spirit is balanced. The increase in confidence, though be it rather slow (feels slow from my side,) is the overflow from my time with God. I shared a few posts back about my battle with depression and as I make the baby steps to everyday not allowing those dark demons to win; God gives me strength enough not just for that day but for every moment that is encapsulated in that day. Music sounds sweeter, life seems sweeter, Jesus feels and is sweeter and nearer. Getting back to knowing my old Friend again is doing something to my insides that just makes it seem so disrespectful to this temple that He created, to be negative or to berate it for not being able to do 50 muscle ups…can we get there though God?

This walk back to the Saviour has been hard work; hard in the sense where I had forgotten how important and vital it is to have Him as my compass and as the one who calibrates me when my settings need a reboot. This principle is one that I am trying to apply to CrossFit. Talent is fantastic and if by any means you are naturally gifted to wack out those 50 muscle ups, by all means do it! But the still small voice of God that I’m starting to hear again during my wods, reminds me that there is no substitute for hard work, discipline and a little bit of optimism never hurts. It’s time to believe that I am a great advancing soul, and guess what? So are you!

I did have a little bit of a cry (on my own,) when the Open scores were finalized and I compared how much I had dropped from last year. And then I put on my big girl pants and decided to move forward; attack the weaknesses, do the accessory work and JUST MOVE ON.

Constant reminders like the white rubber band that I just bought help. Katrin wears one that reads “CFNE- Complaint Free world” and each time you complain you have to move it to your other wrist. The goal is to keep it on the same wrist, that translates to no complaining. For me this will be serve as a visual reminder to work hard, stay positive, believe I can and continue to build on my mental strength. I will do whatever it takes to get to the stage where it matters less and less what people think about me. So I’m excited, a bit scared but at this point; the only thing that I stand to lose, is a negative mindset.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

THIS SONG IS PERFECT!

17.1

17.1 is done and dusted…at least for me it is.

Don’t believe me?

I’ve already submitted my score, but before you go search for my name, let’s finish  this fantastic blogpost okay!

Confession, I was not going to do the Open. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love CrossFit. I mean why else would I put up with toes to bar if I didn’t love it? However there is something about competition that makes me sick, sick, sick to my stomach. Sweaty palms, butterflies karate punching me in the stomach, you name it, I have  all the symptoms of a very nervous competitor. In the past year training at Fit 5ive, I slowly learnt to harness that fear & nervousness and turn it into positive energy. Nevertheless I still didn’t feel that I was ready enough for the Open. Hadn’t done a muscle up in ages (4 months to be precise,) and oh dear LORD, let’s not talk about toes to bar. If I’m being completely honest, it was the thought of having to potentially do toes to bar and double swinging there like a monkey, that was keeping me from signing up. I managed to avoid all conversations pertaining to registering for the Open and then the day that 17.1 was released, blackmailed by my box and my athlete* I, Aurélie Ariel, registered for my second Open. On paper 17.1 looked like a dream, I love snatches and surprise I am actually one of the crazies who loves burpees (just don’t make me do them for time okay!)
I go through my first round of snatches and I think to myself:

wow this is beautiful, I’m sweaty but beautiful. Thank goodness I listened to Beyoncé before getting here. I am Beyoncé. I’m representing Africa at regionals aren’t I?

And then came the burpees!!! Oh my goodness, the burpees. I completely gassed myself out, each jump up that wretched box felt like I had already done 71.5 million burpee box jumps before that. I managed to get 185 reps which I must be honest I’m not too proud of but after having attempted 17.1 again this morning,  that’s a score that I will take. Somewhere in between the pain of Saturday and Monday, I finally broke through a wall that I haven’t been able to get past in ages. I competed against myself, for myself and for fun. I can’t remember the last time I truly enjoyed CrossFit. I got so caught up in chasing PR’s, ticking training off my to do list, that I forgot to just enjoy the sport. There’s a lot of talking that I’ve had to do with myself, a lot of behind the scenes work that I’ve had to do and still have to do but I’m listening to my bestie Givs when she told me to slow down and just enjoy the journey.  The journey isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it is DISGUSTINGLY ugly but it ends up being worth it. So I’ve removed my eyes from looking at the end goal and now I focus on being present in every moment, in every wod, in every single rep.

My MVP always? It has to be my LORD and Saviour Jesus. He literally smacks negativity out of my head every single second. On Saturday when I was nervous, He came in with just the right sprinkling of peace to remind me to meditate on all things lovely, honourable and pure (Philippians 4:8) and I read quite a cheeky verse before heading out. It made me chuckle at how witty our God can be and also backs up my theory that CrossFit is biblical and God wants everyone to do CrossFit haha:

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Hebrews 12:12 (NLT)

I had this verse scrawled on my left arm because that’s the side that I usually complain about. Through each rep whenever I felt like my lungs were on fire and I couldn’t squeeze a rep out, I could hear God telling me to take a new grip with my tired hands and to strengthen those weak knees. And do you know what? It totally works listening to God. I don’t know why we don’t do it more often. There is so much foolishness and injury (since we’re talking CrossFit here,) that I could’ve kept myself from if I listened to His voice in those moments where I get carried away by my own foolishness. I had such a blast on Saturday and I cannot wait for 17.2. Whatever it is, I know that I’ll be ready for it.

In this Open, for me it’s not about the leaderboard.  The fact is that it isn’t always about the leaderboard, sometimes it’s about refining and honing the athlete that you are, into the athlete that you want to be.

So let’s goooooooooooo!!! Take a new grip, strengthen those knees, you’ve got it.

I’ve got it!

Oh and here’s some Beyoncé to make your day!

*to find out who my top athlete is, you’ll just have to come visit my box CrossFit 4E

Skinny vegan

Very early on, at the start of my vegan journey, I remember someone asking me how come I wasn’t a skinny vegan…almost three years down the line, I still haven’t figured out how all this kale and broccoli can be so disrespectful to me, and hasn’t yet caused my butt to whittle down at least a size down. I must be honest, one of the (very selfish,) motivating factors for me about becoming vegan was the success stories I had read about people who had lost a ton of weight simply by cutting out animal products, and if you read my previous post (barbells & eating disorders,) you’ll know that for the bulimic girl that I was, to lose weight while embarking on a path that would reduce cruelty to animals and to the environment, was one that I was more than ready for! I’ll admit that it wasn’t the healthiest start. I was more fixated on being skinny than any other factor. A skinny me, imagine that! A me that would be able to find jeans that would finally get over my thunder thighs, and my butt. Imagine that; a me that would wear jeans, that was completely unheard of! 

In my first year of veganism, I dropped 4kg (my cheeks held all my chubbyness,) and I started to feel a lot more confident and comfortable in my body, I started to run more. I started to run in shorts. I bought crop tops. I wore crop tops… I was obsessed with crop tops. I became a lot more body confident and wanted to get stronger. 
Enter the beautiful sport of CrossFit. In September of 2014, when I started CrossFit, I felt that this (CrossFit,) would galvanize me to the pulpit where I would gain the title of hottest vegan the world had ever seen, and the bonus… my butt would shrink. My butt goal was Kylie Minogue in “spinning around.” I may or may not have wanted to buy myself a pair of gold hot pants…

Well a month or so later, my arms getting a lot more defined, my stomach even flatter; during a session of back squats, I decide to do as Beyoncé tells you to do in “get me bodied,” drop down almost hit the floor with it (aka ass to grass,) and my body naturally being too bootylicious for the world, I hear a rip. Yup, I had just ripped my tights, I had to think of very strategic ways to squat without exposing anything. Let’s just say that on that day, I did not break 90 😂 It was on that day that I realized that I would never be a skinny vegan. To be fair I still have days where I’m convinced that if I just eat a little bit less, I’ll drop more weight, but then I get hungry and forget that resolution. This plantbased diet of mine has allowed to put on weight when I feel like I look too lean, which by normal definition of the word, isn’t even what a true lean looks like…whatever a true lean is anyway. This plant based diet has also allowed me to lose weight when I feel like I look too heavy; that’s when I cut down on pasta, bread and potatoes. 

I have to be honest, I was mildly devastated when 1 year later I was still the same size I was when I first became a vegan. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that God obviously wants me to have a booty and that no matter how hard I pray, my weight gain will always be booty first before it travels up to my pancake chest. I have had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you’re just always going to be that girl with the “big, big booty, what you got a big booty” 🎶 and that’s okay, because let’s face it, and we know this; no one ever writes songs about small bottoms. I’ve had to choose strength over aesthetics every single day because 9 times out of 10, when you have suffered with an eating disorder, you battle body dysmorphia every single day. You have to choose to see your body differently, see yourself as a racehorse, not just looking like one but being one. This has meant that I have had to learn to prioritize my body performing well, over aesthetics. I will be honest, there are days when I want to cry at how my body looks like. Crying is next level isn’t it haha, but on some days, particularly my hot pink shorts days that I do love so much, I look at my bum and I feel like a pink elephant and I adore elephants 🐘 but on some days you do wish that you were a lithe gazelle. It’s not gonna happen for me though and I think I’m FINALLY truly okay with that. My goal is strength, speed and better gymnastic ability. My goal is no longer a size that has been stitched on a label. There are days when I try on clothing and I have to do some deep belly breathing to not go into a panic attack about now having to try size L. Once I get over that I am able to appreciate how strong and ready for life my body looks. I look rock steady and even if I have my emotionally charged days where I feel like the wheels are coming off my train; at least my body fools people into thinking “hey this girl has it together!” It must also be the highlighter that I apply, it makes me look alive even on my insanely dead feeling days. 

I thought I’d end this post with an example of what I eat in a daily basis. As much as I adore my doughnuts and French fries, 🍟 I am 9 times out of 10; a very healthy eating vegan. I love my kale smoothies, my freshly pressed green apple and pepper juices (try it, it’s yum!) I don’t believe in the starving vegan misconception. There is so much to eat and I eat a lot of it. The only supplement I have to take is a vitamin B complex, other than that, my iron levels are normal (even donate blood regularly,) I’m as fit as a fiddle and my blood pressure is also within the healthy range. Eating vegan helps with my depression too but we’ll talk about that in another post. 
Breakfast: massive bowl of oats, I’m assuming that I measure out roughly 500g. I’m a little bit of a 🐷 To my oats I add cocoa powder, a vegan protein powder (currently using the vanilla ice cream flavored one by Biogen,) chia seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds. I sometimes add brown sugar if I have a sweet craving. Sugar is probably my biggest weakness.
Snacks throughout the day: fruit (apples are my faves,) and grapes. 
Lunch: I usually have a sandwich with a stir fry mix inside,( peppers, kale & Frys chunky strips.) Depending on what I made for meal prep, I have that too. Usually pasta with a tomato based sauce. 

Dinner: this also depends on what I’ve made for the week. Sometimes I’m not even that hungry to have a full meal. What I have noticed though is that I am always hungry. Sometimes that’s the biggest struggle as a vegan; always being hungry but having to travel 6 million kilometers to find a place that hasn’t caused harm to animals in order to feed you. 
What saves me is meal prepping, in my early and inexperienced days as a vegan, I would be lazy with my meal prep and I would not only starve, but my energy levels were deathly low. When life gets busy, I sometimes forget this and then I have to give myself a swift kick in the booty and prep. 
The point that I am trying to make through this post is that being vegan (especially if you’re an athlete,) will not result in you losing your gains. Look at my butt and arms for proof. It is possible to be ripped and shredded even more than a grater, without causing harm to animals. Being vegan is one of the best decisions I could have ever made not just for myself, but for the animals too. I do not at all see myself ever turning back because that to me would be a massive step backwards. I proudly wear my vegan badge and will ensure all the vegan jokes, I’ll endure my bum seemingly getting bigger because it isn’t about the size of the vegan, but the size of the heart in the vegan and while I will never be that girl who picks up worms and takes them home 😂 I just can’t stand slimy creatures, they scare me 🙈 I am however that girl who wants to see the end of animal cruelty. Vegan and proud of it!