Le Féminin

On this International Women’s Day (8th March 2020) I think of what the Duchess of Sussex said on her visit to Robert Clack Upper School in Dagenham on the 6th March 2020, ‘you have your mother’s, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life, protect them.’ So often the directive for women empowerment is geared towards women. It’s time for this message of empowerment to shift towards men.

I live in South Africa, a country where being female has for many years felt like an extreme sport. Last year, University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana was brutally murdered and raped when she went to pick up a parcel at the post office. The fact that such a heinous crime was committed in broad daylight (around 14pm) in an area that many of us frequent, is what made her death even more shocking. Every rape in South Africa, to the women of this country, is more than just another statisitic. As women, we’re told not to walk alone late at night, we’re told not to wear revealing clothing, we’re told to have just the right level of sweetness combined with firmness when we’re catcalled. The message that we get is to be accommodating to men. What if men were taught to be feminists, advocating the rights of women without looking out for their own selfish gain.

I think of Jesus, so ahead of His time when He dared to speak to the woman at the well (John 4:1-42) during a period of time when speaking to women was taboo because of the second class citizens they were thought to be. A man who spoke to women the way He saw them; treasured, intelligent, valuable, and with as important of a role to play as man ever could. When Jesus rose from the dead, the first people to see Him were women. If it weren’t for the women in our lives who have made an impact, where would we be?

On this international women’s day, I hope that you are reminded of your strength and tenacity as a woman. I hope you are able to remember that regardless of how the world seeks to break you, it never will be able to extinguish the fiery flame in you. Happy international women’s day to all you lovely, strong, and breathtaking women.

C’est fort, une femme

Quand on nous blesse et nous accable, on n’se plaint pas

Quand on nous laisse, que tout l’monde part, on reste là

Avec les restes, on reconstruit, on est comme ça

C’est ça, une femme

Vitaa & Slimane- XY

Fitness Reads: Jog On by Bella Mackie

I picked up this book on Sunday, the day of my flight back to South Africa after spending a glorious two weeks with my very yummy husband, look at him, he’s gorgeous.

No matter how many sleeping tablets I take (don’t take more than the recommended dosage), I never seem to fall asleep on the plane. My last journey, I read ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo.’ A book so beautifully written and in many ways descriptive of the journey many immigrants face when they move to Europe/North Americas. One of my goals this year is to read at the very minimum two non-academic books each month. My partner and I were in WH Smith when my attention was captured by the bright blue cover and title of the book. There are a lot of things I love about my husband, one of them being his accent and classic British slang that I try to implement in my South African/Congolese life. One of those phrases is ‘jog on’ If we’re picking favourite slang phrases, this is mine.

jog on

1. Literally, to run along at a slow and deliberate place.
2. By extension, to make progress slowly, deliberately, or patiently.
3. Go away; get lost; beat it. Primarily heard in UK.

I initially picked this book up as I was looking for motivation to spur me on in my running routine. New year, new me, am I right? And aside from CrossFit, there is no other sport I love more than running. Mackie writes with ease in a comforting and, relatable way. If you think this is a book purely about running, you’re wrong. The book makes me think of one of my favourite phrases by Nike head coach, Chris Bennett ‘this is about running, this isn’t about running.’ Mackie doesn’t claim to be an expert in running or mental health. The fact that she writes from her own experience is what makes this all the more beautiful and is what drew me in as a reader. She gives enough detail on the different mental health illnesses for the reader to have a better understanding of what it means to have a mental illness, as well as tools on how to be more supportive and understanding if you do have a partner that suffers with mental health. As a budding researcher, I appreciated that where she presented findings related to running and mental health, she cites those papers. Minor thing that most won’t care about but definitely did not go unnoticed for me.

I still don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in the midst of misery. I’d never done strenuous exercise before. But I had spent a lifetime holding at bay the need to run away – from my mind, from my negative thoughts; from the worries that built up and calcified, layer upon layer, until they were too strong to chip away at. Maybe the sudden urge to run was a physical manifestation of this desire to escape my own brain. I guess I just wanted to do it for real.

Bella Mackie

At 289 pages, it’s a very light and easy read! Overall I found the book inspiring and it’s reminded me of why I initially fell in love with running. It has also reminded me that this year, whatever levels of toxicity that I don’t want present in my life can ‘jog on’.

Bella Mackie is a freelance journalist and author of ‘Jog On’, a book about running and mental health

(Bathtime) Friends With Benefits

As I took the picture for this post, a few thoughts went through my mind:

1. I hope I don’t drop my book in the water. The cover kinda looks waterproof though 😂 should be fine.

2. I’ve already got a bath bomb in the water, can’t drop this one in! Plus it’s ‘Golden Wonder’ this only comes out once a year for Christmas. It’s not the special day that I’ve been saving it for.

3. I had better not drop my phone in the water. When was the last time I ran a back up 🤔 I’m gonna lose everything if I drop my phone…

Back to the intent of this post. In 2016, I started working as the regional product trainer for LUSH Cosmetics and I loved it. The best part for me was reading up on the ingredients, the buying stories behind how products are manufactured (hello!!! where else do you get a cosmetic company that has an ethical buying team?) and lastly, the beautiful videos that show you how their products are made!

When my sister passed away, I was a wreck, most days I still am. This led to me resigning, which I’ll write about one day, pinky promise! In the aftermath of my resignation, I think about just how supportive my parents, siblings and my oh soooo yummy man, have been. He probably bears the brunt of my 18.1 million mood variations, I don’t want to say that I’m like a grizzly 🐻 but I’m also not refuting that statement. He takes it all in his stride, I love that man 😍 But as wonderful as this dreamy man is, this post isn’t about him, it’s about my love for taking baths.

In prehistoric times, as far back as 3000BC, you’d be forgiven for indecent exposure because in those days, seas and rivers were nature’s version of a bathtub. Archaeologists have listed the Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro located in Sindh, Pakistan, as one of the earliest public baths. The Ancient Egyptians placed a lot of value in their bathing rituals and would wash themselves several times a day. I don’t know how credible the source to this fact is, but apparently they believed that the cleaner and more well-oiled you were (they too knew about the problem-solving powers of coconut 🥥 oil!) the closer you were to God, and I am all the way down for that!

I needed some convincing though. Baths weren’t quick enough, showers could be over in five minutes…okay maybe longer if you’re solving the worlds’ problems while you’re in there but my schedule was too busy to indulge in a bath. My alarm rang at 4am to get ready for CrossFit and then afterwards it would be getting in the right headspace for work. By the time I’d get home, it would be close to 19h. There was no room for indulgence. It was a race to make dinner, get cleaned up and pack my bag for the next day…all before 21h.

It was when I injured my back that I was forced to rethink laying in the bath. This was suggested by my physiotherapist to aid in alleviating the pain and insane level of discomfort that I felt. On severely painful days, it was a struggle to stand up. I got home that day and poured in half a packet (250g) of Epsom salts, known to detoxify and cleanse the body, into my bathtub and sat there for ten minutes. It was the longest ten minutes of my life.

From there I began to experiment with different bath products, mostly LUSH because I worked there. Those 10 minutes that I spent in the bathtub seemed to wash away the stress and grime of the day and replaced it with peace, a clearer mind and a very delectable smelling body.

Bath Benefits Laying in the bath is beneficial to your mental and physical psyche due to the fact that it can ease strain and tension that you might be feeling. Warm water stimulates blood circulation which means that your body is getting oxygen rich blood carried to areas that might need it the most. This came in super handy for me in my first few weeks back at training after my sister passed away. I felt like I might as well have been crawling, that’s how sore I was. Jeepers I had forgotten how painful training can be 😅

If you’re struggling to sleep, taking a bath at least half an hour or right before bedtime, can aid in better sleep and if you’ve caught some of what’s going around, a bath can improve cold/flu symptoms through the steam inhalation that occurs.

What you’ll notice is that all my favourite products are from LUSH 🤷🏾‍♀️ can’t help it, I worked there and I’m OBSESSED!!!! It’s the only brand I love to use in my bath and on my body. #LushSnob

Bathtime friends with benefits

Lavender: Whether you get the oil, or pick fresh leaves from your garden, this herb has been around for centuries due to the balancing and calming effect that it has on the nervous system. This positively affects your wellbeing and is great for relaxing trouble minds. It can enhance blood circulation, relieve pain and in some cases has been used to treat respiratory problems. Insomniacs you’ll love this herb because while it isn’t a cure to insomnia, it does help in alleviating it and getting you one step closer to that peaceful night of sleep.

Products I swear by: lavender essential oil (I add 4 drops in my bath water,) fresh lavender!!!! So worth getting a plant, nothing beats a sprig of this on your pillow, Twilight bath bomb by LUSH Cosmetics, Sex Bomb bath bomb by LUSH Cosmetics, and Sleepy body lotion by LUSH Cosmetics

Peppermint: In my injured state, I needed something that would ease the tension I felt in my lower back. Luckily the type of back injury that I have is one that I was born with…don’t actually know if that’s lucky? The ridiculously popular bath bomb by LUSH called ‘Intergalactic.’ is great for easing tension. It boasts fun and environmentally friendly. ingredients such as popping candy, biodegradable glitter and peppermint oil. This bath bomb is out of this world and the best for warming and soothing those achy muscles. It stimulates blood circulation to that area, delivering fresh oxygenated blood and in turn easing the tension and pain in that area.

Products I swear by: Intergalactic bath bomb by LUSH Cosmetics, Pink Peppermint foot lotion by LUSH Cosmetics, peppermint essential oil.

Geranium: This is an essential oil that shares similar aromatic properties to that of rose oil. The first thing I noticed when I opened my bottle of geranium essential oil was how beautiful floral it smelt. I could not get enough of it!!! The smell instantly perked my mood up and while I am not opposed to using medication to alleviate mood swings, I like using homeopathic remedies too. Geranium oil is also helpful in fading of scars, promoting an even skin tone, minimising inflammation, balancing hormones (I need ALL of that,) and also helpful in treating stress and depression. I’m particularly fond of the Dis-Chem and SoiL brand for all my essential oils.

Products I swear by: Rose Jam bubbleroon 😍😍😍 by LUSH Cosmetics, Ro’s Argan body conditioner by LUSH Cosmetics and Pearl massage bar by LUSH Cosmetics

I hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to share what you love to add to your bathtime ritual and how you make it special! I’m always open to suggestions…even if it’s not LUSH 😉

Genuine faith

Trusting even when it appears you have been forsaken; praying when it seems your words are simply entering a vast expanse where no one hears and no voice answers; believing that God’s love is complete and that He is aware of your circumstances, even when your world seems to grind on as if setting its own direction and not caring for life or moving one inch in response to your petitions; desiring only what God’s hands have planned for you; waiting patiently while seemingly starving to death, with your only fear being that your faith might fail — “this is the victory that has overcome the world”; this is genuine faith indeed.

George MacDonald

At the start of this year I did what has become a ritual for me, which is to write down my dreams, hopes and plans for the year ahead. As the year draws to a close, I think about how 2017 was a year full of unexpected moments, some of them pleasant, like falling in love with the most wonderful man 😍 and some not so pleasant, one of them being the passing of my darling older sister. There is so much that I remember about my last conversations with my sister, so many lessons and words of wisdom to apply to my life, that she left me with. As the middle child in a blended family of 8 children, I am accustomed to being the peacemaker. In the midst of temper tantrums being thrown by my younger siblings, I never felt as though there was room for me to throw a temper tantrum. Over the years it meant that I would bottle up my emotions, retreat into a corner and then come out when I had processed through whatever situation I was dealing with. My older sister Nadege, she was the best at teaching me that while throwing a temper tantrum would be satisfying in the moment, in the long run  it meant that you were always at the mercy of your feelings. My sister taught me that in order to make it through life without getting offended at absolutely every single thing, one needed to have the right balance of resiliency and vulnerability. Resiliency to recover quickly from difficulties, being able to spring back into shape; and vulnerability in order to learn that sometimes you recover quicker when you let others in, as opposed to doing what I did for a long time, isolating yourself.

As I live in the aftermath of my sister’s death, the biggest challenge for me is believing that God is here, in the middle of the ‘suck,’ with me. In the days following my sister’s death, I would listen to ‘even when it hurts,’ by Hillsong Worship incessantly. It became the soundtrack for my grief, and while I don’t recall feeling angry towards God when it first happened, and even right now I don’t feel any anger towards Him, there is however a piercing pain that gives way to numbness, not wanting to process this unsavoury part of life and ultimatly not wanting to process through this with God. It’s a strange feeling to know in my heart of hearts,  that He is here with me, yet on days where the pain feels too much to bear, my heart (so fickle that it is,) begins to doubt and wonder whether God is here but just not here with me. This season is shaping out to be a painful one in which I am learning what it means to be called a person of faith. It’s a lesson in learning or perhaps a better word is discovering what the substance of my faith is. This last part of 2017 has marked my soul more than any other experience in my life. There’s a feeling of disconnect not just between God and I, but with people too. The latter part of the year has been eye opening, painful and the biggest test I’ve yet had in my walk with God. It has and is still revealing the substance of my faith. It’s easy to call yourself a person of faith when life is playing according to the script that you’ve written. It’s a different thing to still have this faith that believes God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18,) and can heal all wounds, wipe away your tears (Revelation 21:4,) when you’re hit with tragedy.

The gentle reminder that I try to hold onto is that God’s love is complete and He is able to bring me back to Him. I don’t have the energy to fight the gentle waves of comfort that the Holy Spirit brings, the only energy that I am willing to expend is that which I will be using to wake up everyday and believe (with a deep conviction,) that eventually everything is going to be okay, and we’ve all heard the second bit ‘if it’s not okay then it’s not the end.’

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (KJV)

I don’t know that I can say that I am excited about 2018. There’s a little bit of fear as to what the next year might hold. There’s an anxiety that I have to quieten as my mind wonders if there is anyone else that I will lose. As I wrote this post, I resolved in my spirit to not allow myself to live in this state of anxiety and constant dread. Going into 2018, the only mantra I’m adopting is that of the verse above (Romans 8:28) and that below, if God who loves me, and is indeed sovereign and in control of everything, started it then He will complete it beautifully and lovingly as only He can.

There’s good to come out of this year (even as it draws to a close,) that will lay a strong foundation for the next year. There’s more to come out of you to get you closer to your dreams, to get you living out your dreams! There’s more, and it’s going to be good. I believe that the only thing God wants us to truly focus on, is Him. It does say in His word to seek first His kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and everything else will be added. I believe that to seek His kingdom means to be in pursuit of Christ, but also remembering that we too are being pursued by a breathtaking and passionate love. This is the belief that I pray will carry you through this last portion of the year, as well as through 2018. I’m praying that you would be steadfast in staying on the path that Christ has laid out before you, and for Him to use those unsavoury bits of 2017 to bring out a beauty and strength that you never knew existed, in you. I’m praying for more of His favour in your life, more of His peace, love and comfort.

Here’s to 2017 ending on a high note, and to 2018 being a strong, fierce and beautiful year for you!

I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. Philippians 1:6 (AMP)

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 

Integrity: doing what you say you’ll do 

This morning (and every morning for the past two months,) I have made it a daily habit to listen to podcasts that start my day off with either laughter, (Russell Brand on Radio X) or aligns my focus so that I can get the maximum benefit from tasks that I get to complete. I’ll be honest, when you wake up at 4:15 every single morning to make it in time for the 5am class, you have to coax you brain into deciding that you will apply the same (if not greater,) level of focus, determination and joy that early, as you would for a later time when you’re slightly more awake and pleasant to be around without the need of caffeine. 
When you train that early, you have to be mindful in every single thing that you get to do. In previous posts, I’ve touched on how practicing mindfulness, (i.e. changing my mindset) has helped in improving my performance as an athlete and recently my quality of life. As I progress on this journey, developing a healthy mindset (not just for sports performance,) is becoming increasingly important. This morning I was listening to a podcast by Brute Strength on ‘mindsets and gaining the edge,’ with 2nd fittest woman in the world, Kara Webb and there was so much gold in this podcast that I found myself having to do more reining in than I typically do, to my ridiculously ADHD brain that wants to spew out everything all at once! 

A word that came up in this podcast, and stuck with me, is the word  ‘integrity.’

integrity

– The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. 

– The state of being whole and undivided. 

It’s a word we use to describe people that we respect, admire or simply want to be like! I am very blessed to have coaches (and people,) who are loaded with this trait, and I’ve learnt (and continue to learn,) so much from them. If you have people like these in your life, treasure them. These people are great! These people are important, make sure to high 5 them next time you see them! Do you know what else is great & even more important? Personal integrity to yourself (comes in at about 35:02 minutes in the podcast…I’m on my third listen of this 🙈)
What you tell yourself you’re going to do AND then carrying out that action, speaks volumes about the person that you are to yourself. Are you undivided, honest and steadfast to the word or promises that you make to yourself? Are you a person of integrity to yourself? Do you honor the promises you make to yourself whether health wise or (for me especially,) in your faith walk? 

When you honor the promises that you make to yourself, and do them CONSISTENTLY, you begin to build personal trust in yourself, in your efforts, in your entirety as a living being. 

I had to ask myself this question: 

‘Do you trust yourself? Are you a person of integrity to Aurélie?’



Here’s the thing that I discovered as I attempted to answer this question; I couldn’t come up with a solid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. In my head these two answers were swirling around : ‘sometimes when I know I’m good at something, yeah then I definitely trust myself’ or ‘yeah when things are going well and usually when I feel like it, I’d say I have good personal integrity to myself.’  The goal is to get to a place where you can say: ‘YES I am a person of integrity to [insert your name over here] all the damn time!’ 

Life will offer you a multitude of situations (and people too haha,) to test the mettle of your character. Who is the person that rises up when demands are made on the moral fabric that ties you together? A great question to ask yourself when these situations (or people crop up,) occur: ‘is this true to the person that I want to be to myself? Will this enhance the relationship that I have with myself as a person of integrity?’ If it doesn’t fulfill that criteria, don’t compromise, no dilly dallying over here, say no! 

I am at a beautiful stage in my life where (slowly…slow doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,) I’m cutting off all the things that don’t align with the person I want to be (firstly) to myself, and then to others. I’m learning to match every moment of my existence to the purposes that I would most like to pursue. It’s what we all need to do, not the purposes that have been assigned to us based on gender, race and/or socio-economic status, not the purposes that people would like you to pursue. You have to be the one that decides these purposes. 
I’ll be honest, I don’t always get it right, habits take time to change (don’t make that your excuse/crutch though,) but I’m chasing greater personal integrity & excellence to myself and that’s something that should never stop. 
Not for me. Definitely not for you! 

The aftermath of listening to this podcast was a 5K run that I had half-heartedly planned 🙃, hence the post- run image for this post. Only subscribe to the Brute Strength podcast if you’re serious about bettering yourself; you just might end up going for a 10K run 😉 

Recommended reading: ‘Getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity.’ David Allen 

‘A champion is not the winner. A champion is a person who comes through in the final hour.’

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. 

Right handed

I remember the day I started wearing the black band on my wrist…okay maybe I don’t remember the exact date BUT I do know that it was a couple of days before my 27th birthday (loved that day!!!) I was on ‘fuel for fire’s’ Instagram page where they wrote about the white rubber band that reigning fittest woman on earth, Katrin Davidsdottir wears on her wrist to keep her from complaining or having a negative mindset. 

I very heavily document the highs and lows of my emotions, and having suffered with depression; sometimes it can feel like you’re just never getting better, I have days where I seriously question whether there might just be a very hormonal pregnant woman hiding in the deeper parts of my belly 🤔 However I have begun to ACTIVELY work on healing myself; no longer the passive bystander, constantly coming up with excuses on why things will always stay the way they are. 
For me; one of my excuses was: ‘hey I’ve suffered with depression and I’ve been through so much, people don’t know what I’ve been through. Besides I’m kind of trying to improve my mental game, I haven’t said can’t in agessss. At least I’m trying!’ 

Was I really trying? 
Are YOU really trying? 

The dangerous thing about excuses is that if we repeat them to ourselves long enough; they condition our minds into believing that these excuses are the gospel truth. Luckily for me, Jesus really loves me, (I mean I know we have the childhood song ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…’ BUT this girl over here, I’m His favourite!) and it is because of this fierce and passionate love that He will 9 times out of 10, swoop in like the hero that He is to destroy the excuses, as well as the wrong mindsets [strongholds] that oppose the great plan that He has for my life. Sometimes Jesus (along with some very wise friends,) has to remind me to drop the crutch. Don’t try, no excuses, just do it! 

So when I started wearing my rubber band; (mine is a black one that I got from A21, an organization that fights human trafficking, a cause very important to me,) I evaluated the things that are important to me not just as a human but also as a daughter deeply loved and highly favoured by God. These things are: Jesus, CrossFit, doughnuts and Jesus. Everything begins and ends with Him. As I questioned my motives and searched my heart in what has been a turning point in my spiritual health; I came to the realization that not only in CrossFit, but even in my walk with God, I had applied a lot of excuses, cutting corners where I could, sugar coating what was indeed laziness, with a WHOLE lot of excuses. Excuses that seeped into (and were threatening to derail,) my pursuit to become a top CrossFit athlete. 

My most popular excuse: I just don’t have time; I’m always working, and you know what? It might seem like a valid excuse (and for those who know me; they’ll know that I am indeed almost always working,) but whether you’re working or sitting on your 🍑 at home; life goes on, people go on. As you neglect to do what you can to ensure healthy spiritual growth or in the case of my fitness pursuit, better athlete ability; it doesn’t mean that everyone else is neglecting those areas.  

People were getting their muscle ups strung together. People were falling deeper in love with God. 

And me? 

I had a tug of war going on in my head. The very things that I wanted to achieve, I couldn’t even visualize myself doing. There would be a nervousness that would gnaw so viciously at any confidence that I had in myself; leaving me with just enough to get by (you’re survivin’ honey, but not thriving.) Not enough to excel, just enough to not completely sink. 

It was time for a mindset shift; for good this time. I hate to give this guy credit 🙄 but coach 1/2, Bruno, has been someone who I am learning a lot from in terms of creating in your mind a space where the energy that you draw from while training, while living, is always positive and life giving. A few weeks ago, I walked into the box for the best class; 5am and looked at the wod. This was a spicy one that was 10 rounds long, and because it had one of my favourite moves; front squats, I didn’t even bother reading twice before deciding that RX+ was going to be my portion that day; front squats at 40kg , easy for girls with thighs and just my kind of weight; (heavy just how I loooves it!) thrown in were double unders & handstand push ups. Now I don’t hate handstand push ups but in my head (on that particular day,) I felt that I had regressed. I wasn’t looking forward to the HSPU, but when you love squatting (or deadlifts;) you’ll go through any ugly movement (toes to bar are there,) to get to your cake, and front squats…that was MY cake, cake, cake! 🎂 

Front squats done, quads singing 🎤 and then I walk to the wall. Handstand push up timeeee!!! At least that’s what I thought; I could barely get on the wall which was frustrating to me because I have video evidence of me stringing 6 kipping HSPU together. On that day; I couldn’t even get 2. I could feel myself getting more and more frustrated each time I had to approach the wall, but before I could start crying (I cry a lot at the box haha,) I looked at my band and as much as my coach offered the scaled options to me; I (like to think that I was polite,) declined. Today was a great day to practice not allowing my mind to wander off into negativity land, and potentially even quit; I was not going to do that, ESPECIALLY because I had in my tank, the memory of being able to do HSPU’s.  

Wearing my black band (and telling my coach about it,) held me accountable; it meant that everyday I would choose  positivity. I had to keep my band on the right, which meant no complaining, no sucky attitude approaching any wod or movement. Now more than ever, I feel accountable to God. Am I squandering what He has given me? What did I believe, what do I currently believe? About who I can become as a Christian woman. About who I can become as an athlete? 

It’s no longer about not verbalizing the negative comments but also not thinking negatively! It was hard when I started and it’s still hard now. It’s going against what used to be your normal, it’s going against everything you’ve ever known as the right way to think. It’s fighting the battle within, and winning. Your mind doesn’t control you, you control it! 

The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself- the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us- that’s where it’s at. 

Jesse Owens 

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!