P is for positive!

‘Change can be powerful, if we are brave enough to evolve with it.’

The hardest part of CrossFit is finding a box. Finding a coach that you connect with and people that are on the same wavelength as you are. A place where positivity is felt the minute you step in!

In the wake of my sister’s death, I did not want to train AT ALL! When you lose someone you love so dearly, everything reminds you of them. Fitness in particular, was one of the things that my older sister and I had in common. Whenever we trained together, my sister would be the one yapping away and I’d be thinking, ‘shut up and train.’ Now whenever I’m at the box, I’m the one that a lot of people wish would just shut up and train 😂 Her death left me crippled. The first time I stepped into the box following her death, I’d well up and not train. A week turned into a month, a month turned into four 😳

I went into hibernation after my sister passed, it was made easier by the fact that I had resigned from my job as a support trainer for Lush South Africa. Burpees can be scary I suppose, but it wasn’t the thought of getting back to training that filled me with anxiety. It was the thought of having to face people, CrossFit is known for its community aspect and I didn’t know whether I was ready for that. I didn’t know whether I was ready to move on with my life and participate in anything!

I thought about kitting out the garage with equipment and never stepping into a box again, but then I remembered that when Bruno first spoke about his box, I told him that I would 100 percent support him. And if you’re going to call yourself a friend then you might as well put some action to your talk and REALLY support your friends! I’ve had many conversations with Bruno about…well everything, what are coaches for? A topic that always seems to creep up is positivity and how the energy you surround yourself with is just as important as the energy that you’re breeding within you. If you’re around people who complain 100% of your free time, guess what? You’re going to become exactly like them.

The opposite is true. As a Christian, I am very familiar with verses like Philippians 4:13 that states I can do all things through Christ. However, if I’m being honest I never took that verse to heart. In my head, I’d still be playing scenarios of all that could go wrong and how I’d fail. I wasn’t putting in any physical and indeed, mental effort into cultivating an environment that would create and nurture growth. My internal environment was the perfect breeding ground for negativity, mediocrity and a fear of trying anything new.It’s important to note that having a positive mindset doesn’t automatically make things easier or mean that you’ll always win. It does mean that in every situation, you are able to look on the bright side of life and assess whether opportunity for improvement exists as well as better strategy on how to isolate those areas and make it better. On top of that, it allows you to focus your energy and your efforts on completing the task at hand with all that you’ve got! You learn how to chase excellence every damn day.

I’m two months in at Evolve and I am all the more hopeful and excited about CrossFit, about life. I’ve even gotten my younger sister to join the CrossFit cult. That in itself is a victory that deserves its own blogpost! My physical circle of friends (family not included 😂) has whittled down and as this happens, I find that more good things are happening because I now operate in a negativity free zone and the bonus is that it’s with people who want to do life the same way!

What does it help focusing on the negative anyway, to paraphrase this gem in Luke 12:25-26, what do you add to your life by worrying about tomorrow, today?

Nothing.

25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[a]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!

Luke 12:25-28 (NIV)

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 

So Will I

One of my dear friends Eunice, sent me the link to the song ‘So Will I,’ by Hillsong worship. I had seen this on social media, a lot of my friends go to Hillsong so the title was not a surprise to me. I was standing in front of my workplace, waiting for the video to load, and even before the song started playing, I had already decided that I wasn’t going to be moved. I’ve shared in previous posts about the passing of my sister, and everyday has been a wave of emotions that range mostly from sadness, despair, disbelief, anger and then whatever other mix of emotions that are floating around in the atmosphere.

Today was my day to be numb. No crying, no internal angry outbursts, no reaction to anything.

For about a minute…maybe even less, I was okay. I’m watching the video, listening to the words, my heart silently agreeing and as with all things heavenly anointed, my spirit moved by His spirit, tears start to well up in my eyes at this line ‘if creation still obeys You, so will I.’

This past month, I have found it incredibly difficult to sing to the LORD. I have found it hard to declare the good things because right now, I feel enveloped by the pain that grief so abundantly brings. What has been interesting for me is that while I have been sad and angry in regards to the way that my sister lost her life, I haven’t in my heart of hearts felt angry at Jesus. I’ve been battling dark thoughts in my head, biting my tongue from what it truly wants to say to well meaning friends who say that it’ll get better.

Yet in this season that hurts like hell, there is a hallelujah (הללויה) in me. The word ‘hallelujah’ is the amalgamation of two Hebrew words ‘hallelu’ (הללו) which is an exhortation to praise someone, and ‘Yah’ (יה) which is a version of Yahweh (יהוה) the English transliteration of the covenant name of God. Hallelujah therefore means praise Yahweh. My hallelujah song is not the strongest right now. I can barely get it out, and on the days that I manage to sing, those rare days that my voice somehow finds its way out of my mouth, my singing sounds off-key. The pain masking the beautiful melody that should be there, making me feel as though I’m singing along to a song that I wasn’t given the lyrics to.

In these moments, there is an awkwardness and stumbling in His presence, but I think what God wants me to learn, what God wants us to learn is that there are no pre-written lyrics to my/our hallelujah song. If there was, then it would mean that the individual and personal relationship we have with God is not unique, and is simply a copy and paste of what previous generations experienced with Him. Sometimes the melody to your hallelujah song will sound off-key. Sometimes the melody to your hallelujah song won’t be beautiful because the season you’re going through, is anything but beautiful. These are the highs and lows of life. These are the highs and lows of our walk with God. I am starting to realise that this season of pain is all the same lovely and dare I say a very scandalous thing! Precious, because in this I now get to experience a different facet of this loving God who remains kind, gentle and true even when life does not seem kind, gentle and true.

As I go through this season of a weak hallelujah song, this is what I have to tell myself, this is what you have to tell yourself if you’re going through a season of indescribable pain. It will not last forever.

Do I believe it? No

But do I believe in God, that He is able to turn this season of being covered in ashes into one of beauty*? Yes

This is the God who created the universe from nothing. This is the God who turned water into wine. This is the God who could not be defeated by death.

There are more days to come where I will feel utter confusion at what has happened, and circumstances in the future will probably bring me to a point where the strength of my hallelujah song will be tested again. It’ll happen to you too, and each time though it might not seem like it, though it might not feel like it, your hallelujah song will be strengthened. That is the nugget to hold onto, that Jesus who sustains you, is also able to strengthen you.

I am reminded of a resolve that I made 10 years ago, to follow Jesus. Some seasons are easier to follow and understand than others, but I won’t stop following. If the stars were made to worship, SO WILL I.

If the stars were made to worship so will I

If the mountains bow in reverence so will I

If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I

For if everything exists to lift You high so will I

If the wind goes where You send it so will I

If the rocks cry out in silence so will I

If the sum of all our praises still falls shy

Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

*’to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.’

Isaiah 61:3 (ESV)

Other songs getting me by:

‘Even when it hurts.’ Hillsong Worship

‘God I look to You.’ Bethel Music

‘Holding my world.’ Kristian Stanfill

‘He’s been good.’ Ron Kenoly

‘Desert song.’ Hillsong

Just what is this blog about?

When I started my first blog, I was a confused 23 year old. I had some idea of what I wanted in life, but I was too afraid to go for it. Fast forward a couple of years later, I’m 27 now (my word!) and in some aspects, I’m still as confused now as I was at 23, but I’m no longer afraid…well I’m still afraid but not nearly enough to be stopped on my pursuit of making the world a better place. I know, I know! That last line sounds incredibly cheesy, but it’s the truth. I believe that in all of us, there lies a God-given gift (breathtaking in beauty,) that God intends for us to use to not just serve ourselves and our personal ambition, but to serve people, and better the world we live in. It’s a gift that knows no selfishness, and is abundant, in pursuit of excellence, and extravagant in all it does.

In my journey of faith, fitness & everything else, there are certain truths that I have decided, resolved to build my life upon. The most important one being that Christ is enough for me. Now just because my spirit knows this as truth, it doesn’t mean that I breeze through life as a perfectly behaved woman (they don’t make history anyway,) who always remembers this. When I want to be a little bit faster in a wod, in a race, I sometimes forget that Christ is enough. When I feel a stinky attitude cropping up because my snatch still hasn’t improved, do you think I remember that Christ is enough? Nope, I don’t. In fact in those moments where I am a bratty, self-absorbed, greedy (especially when it comes to sharing my food,) little drama queen, God has to remind me of this truth to guide me back home to the place where I am a woman more concerned with helping and serving others, than simply being focused on what the benefit will be for me.

Why have I called this blog, ‘faith, fitness & everything else’ ?

I believe that we are created by a passionate God who is creative, strong, breathtaking in beauty, and irreplaceable. I think that’s how He wants us to live: as strong, creative and breathtakingly beautiful men/women who are irreplaceable because of the unique gifts that they bring to the table in the sphere of influence that they are in. This essence of God is what I want to share with you on this blog. This blog is about my faith journey, my mishaps, and Lord help me, I hope some successes along the way to encourage y’all haha! It’s also about your faith journey, the beliefs that hold you together!

It’s about my fitness journey, but it’s also about your fitness journey. Your personal bests, your feelings of euphoria when you beat the old you that thought he/she couldn’t. And the everything else? Those are the things that make your life memorable, stories about the people that make a difference in your life. The ‘everything else,’ is also made up of those things that can make life difficult, those things that can make life heartbreaking, those things that can make life seem unbearable.

This blog is your outlet to be real, raw, and as transparent as you want to be. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to channel Taylor Swift and write songs about any ex…or person who has ever hurt you, here’s your place to lay it all on the table. This is a place where we will hold each other accountable for the change we wish to make in the world. It’s a place where I hope we’ll laugh together, cry together, grieve together and grow together through each other’s collective stories on how we’re navigating through life. This is a place where we will work out our faith, fitness and everything else, together.

Welcome to your new, (and slightly bonkers,) family!

The fear 

Five months ago, on a day that should be declared an international holiday (my birthday,) I lost focus for a split second at a first attempt of a push jerk at 60kg and as I dropped the bar, I did some kind of a weird backward bend that clicked something in my back. I was in mild discomfort, a little bit of pain, and from that day I’ve been fearful of anything overhead, and because the weight I failed at was 60kg, that’s the weight that I have for the last few months unable to get past. 

So a couple of weeks ago, when coach programmed 1 rep maxes and a few benchmark wods, I was anything but thrilled. The day came when it was time to test our 1 rep maxes for the squat clean & jerk. 

I have big thighs so lifting is easy peasy, lemon squeezy. I get to 55kg, clean that with ease and then completely freeze when it comes to jerking it. At that point I gave up and now as I think back on that experience, I regret having allowed fear to win. A few things were comforting on that day; the first was how coach #1, Nuno handled that moment. He didn’t bark and shout at me to pick up the bar, but in that moment he understood that I needed to take a step back from the lift today, and get over myself and in particular that past event that had been a swift catalyst in my back injury. 

Fear makes things appear a lot worse than they actually are. Fear puts a magnifying glass on all the things you haven’t yet mastered and when you let it get to your head, like I had on that day, it can and it will cripple you. It stops you from trying, and trying is what needs to happen if you’re ever going to master anything. 

I left the box feeling defeated, disappointed in myself and I cried, the crying is standard for me, I’m a CrossFit drama queen haha. Later that day, I spoke to coach #2, my best franddd Bruno and felt challenged and a touch better. I came to the conclusion that at one stage or another, in life…well CrossFit is life, we’re all scared of something. We all have those moments where fear cripples us and we feel frozen whether physically or mentally. I can’t remember what movie it was that I watched that said the thing you fear is the thing you cherish the most and are most scared of losing (it was ‘The Bodyguard’) While that does make sense logically, on the flip side, as a Christian I’ve also come to realize that the thing that you fear the most, or the thing that you fear losing, highlights that area in which you trust Jesus the least. An area that you think God in all His sovereignty, is unable to protect should life i.e. unfavorable circumstance, should happen to you. An area that He can’t fill with His bravery, His strength and His spirit. 

As I thought of it a little bit more, I felt a little bit of a stir of annoyance: ‘you can’t possibly be telling me that I don’t trust God. Besides it’s CrossFit, what does that have to do with not trusting God?’ and then sweet Holy Spirit reminds me of this verse: 

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]. 

2 Timothy 1:7 (AMP)

I’m grateful for those moments where my faith and my fitness intersect. Regardless of whether it’s a wod at the box, or any other  facet of our lives; God has not given us a spirit of fear. A spirit of cowardice that does not try.  A spirit that does not trust in what or indeed who she/he knows. The fear I felt in that moment may have been validated by past experience, but just like in our faith walk where God doesn’t want us to re-live past experience/s of failure, it’s the same with CrossFit. You can’t dwell on the failed attempts. You will come face to face with fear that can be crippling. What you can’t do is allow yourself to be defeated, to be knocked out, to stop trying. We allow ourselves to be defeated when we allow the fear of a moment, or indeed a past event, to stop us from moving forward: and to get better in anything, we have to move forward, we have to keep trying. A fear filled response is void of calm, it’s void of a well balanced mind because in that moment, it is the fear that’s driving you. 

So next time I have a moment where I’m confronted with fear, what do I do? I want to be calm, I want a well balanced mind, I want self-control. 

Taking tips from my bestie, Brunzzz, in those moments you just have to do it. Decide to be a person that will go for it all the time! Give yourself a pep talk if you have to, psych yourself up to try. Psych yourself up to succeed. The worst thing that could happen is you fail that attempt, but it doesn’t make you a failure. The thing that is worse than failing, is not trying. A person who fails is not defeated. A person who doesn’t try, is. To echo what Nuno said, it truly does become a case of ‘getting over yourself.’ Forget your ego, forget the doubt and focus on the heat and now (here’s where you practice that mindfulness,) Focus on executing that lift, or movement using good technique. For a while after I injured my back, I had to strip back the weights, scale movement and work on my technique. Technique is what I had to remember in that moment, not how I had failed that attempt on international Aurélie day…which to be fair was because of shoddy technique 🙈 

I have to trust in what my coaches have taught me, so now I can honestly say that I am ready to PR my jerk. I’m no longer acting in response to fear, and there’s something about the word ‘cowardice’ that has added an extra ounce of bravery, strength and calm in me to try in CrossFit, and in life. 

I have learnt from experience that fear gets you absolutely nowhere.

Serena Williams

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)

I Won’t Forget…Whispers of Love 

It’s my birthday today!!!!
I’ve been excited about this day from the 1st of January 2017 😂 . So excited in fact that I started writing this post on the 11th of April, 7 days before my special day. I was on my way back from work listening to ‘I Won’t Forget,’ from Brian and Jenn Johnson’s album ‘After All These Years,’ and boy I’ve gotta tell ya; this song is everything that I would hope, intend and will endeavor for my walk with God to be as I enter into a new year where I’m older and if you’re asking me, looking even better than I did 10 years ago. My worst birthday was the year I turned 23, we’ll talk about that some other time okay! After I turned 25, something clicked in me and I just knew that birthdays from there on would be different.
I will confess to being a very weird breed of female; there are two things that I’ve always wanted to do in my life:
1. Switch to a plantbased i.e. vegan diet. ✅ next month on the 18th will mark 3 years as a vegan.

2. Make it to 30 and enjoy the journey to 30. The age 30 has always had a magical appeal to me. I don’t know if it was enhanced by watching ’13 going on 30′ , but for me that age represents maturity and a stage in your life where you no longer care what people think about you. I’m now 3 years away from this milestone 💃🏾

In the midst of these silly “life goals,” there have been a few more serious ones such as adopting kiddies, learning how to farm bees 🐝 adopting a million fur babies 🐶 and one that I am constantly working on: remembering to remember God in and through everything. To love Him deeply and celebrate Him passionately through and in every season of my life.
So as I’m listening to ‘I Won’t Forget,’ so many things that Daddy God is whispering to me. Some that He has permitted me to share with you. Grab a cuppa, it’s quite a read!
The first one that isn’t so much of a whisper than it is a shout. I can hear His voice roaring like thunder as He declares that *drumroll*; He’s excited about my birthday!!! Even for those years when I haven’t been on board about adding another year to my age; He has been excited about my birthday. God celebrates me!

Do you want to know what’s even better?

He celebrates you! (but hey! Don’t get too excited; it is MY birthday after all 👱🏾‍♀️)

Have you ever thought of that? On the days when you feel alone; sitting in your room wondering when life will be what you dreamt it would be; that there is a Friend closer than a brother who desires intimacy with you? A friend who wants to partake in the highs and lows of life with you? And while we’re talking about the lows; a very quick mention that believing in God doesn’t mean that you now have a magic wand to wave away/keep you away from harm and/or danger; a post on that will be coming up soon. It does however mean that you now have with you someone who even in the most disgusting of situations, will be with you always! Our perspective just tends to become blurry in the face of hardship. He celebrates your existence and is glad you’re alive.

For the past few months; I’ve been telling all my friends and family, that they’re so lucky they get to be alive to celebrate me 😂 ; and although I was saying that in a (semi) joking manner; I truly do believe that my squad are amongst the most blessed people to have me in their lives, and do you want to know something else? Your friends, your family, your circle; they are the luckiest and most blessed people to have you in their lives! Everyday wake up with the thought, belief and hello! A generous helping of confident swagger, and belief that just by being alive and ACTIVELY present in someone’s life, you make a difference. Believe that your life matters, because it does! Believing that my life matters is one that I struggle with. We’ve become a society known for being master players at the comparison game. So one day I’ll be on Instagram or Facebook and start to measure the difference I’ve made in my life to what someone else is doing and 9 times out of 10, the Holy Spirit has to fiercely reel me in and remind me that my story, my path, my difference is unique. I mean hello, you don’t get a special name like Aurélie and then want to throw it away to be like everyone else! It’s the same for you; you do not get a special name like *insert name here* to throw away all of your potential and talent, to be like everyone else. You are a one of a kind creation. The world needs you! Your quirks, your flaws, your brand of weird. The world needs that!
And then the most important whisper of love today; He will rescue me always.
This is a vital one for me. I’ll always make reference to my past (and present,) experience with depression because that’s part of my story and it will always be an important issue for me to address; without the stigma, without the awkwardness or judgment. It’s sticky tar this depression, you feel like you’ve left it but somehow there’s residual tar that seems to always be there and never fully comes off. This residual tar is what can sometimes cause me to on some days be so overly bratty with and to God, that it can only be because He loves me ever so much that He hasn’t lightning bolted me 🙈 I will be the first to admit that sometimes I can be a bit emotional, I wear my heart not just on my sleeve but ALL over me. Just last week I was telling my CrossFit coach B that “I’m not a cry baby, I just feel deeply.” The truth is however deep our emotions, they were never meant to rule us. I’m guilty of throwing tantrums or indulging in a pity party when things don’t go my way. We’ve all done that and I’m not berating myself for those moments, because there are occasions when we need to let go of all that pent up frustration and maybe even throw our toys out of the cot. What needs to stop is the 80% hold that our emotions, the negative ones in particular, can have on our view of God, and in my case; life, my hair 😂 CrossFit, the list is extensive and seemingly endless…see how negativity can trickle into all areas of your life?
Our emotions were never meant to cause us to forget that after all these years, God has never given up on us; that after all these years, He’s still and will continue to be constant in His love for us. We’ve got to be able to break away and shake off negative emotions that would love for us to forget all that God has done for us in the past, all that He’s doing in the present, all that He will do in the future, and how after all these years, He still runs after us. *

I love that in the Bible, we see in Jesus the perfect example of what it means to live controlled by the Spirit, to have a mind that is sound, filled and ruled with power and love from above (see 2 Timothy 1:7), and not by general annoyances that He had about the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus definitely felt things deeply but what He felt was compassion. The Greek word for compassion is splagchnizomai** (σπλαγχνίζομαι), and translates to being moved in the inward parts; this compassion (so gripped by the things that grip the Fathers heart,) is what always prompted Jesus to action. Whenever He encountered a lame person or my personal favorite, the woman at the well in John 4; He was able to connect with these people, understand what they were feeling and then from that place of deep compassion, He always provided that healing ointment that to this day our hearts so desperately need. The very same way that He rescued then and has rescued me (and you,) before, He will continue to do so. He isn’t my back up plan, He is my only plan, and depression or any other mental illness, no matter how dark, can never pull you or keep you away from His love for you (Romans 8:38-39.) He’s going to keep coming for you; to rescue you, to revive you and to restore you. You’re gonna be ok.
Sometimes the only other voice you’ll hear cheering you out of any dark hole, will be God’s and even then sometimes it’ll feel like He isn’t there. But He is. I’ve been through stages in my life where I’ve had to force myself to believe that present sufferings would not be greater than God and my view of Him. This wasn’t blind faith because I was very much aware of the carnage that still lay around me, but because I was focused on seeing Him through and in everything, He started to feel close again until I came to the realization that He not only feels close but He is close. He’s always there.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans‬ ‭8:18‬ (‭KJV‬‬)

So today as I look at myself in the mirror, I think: ‘girl you’re mighty fine!’ 😂 look at how the good LORD has improved not just my looks (guys, pause on how I used to channel that inner cute but psycho/serial killer vibe…) but my heart as well.

One of my favourite songs is one by Bethel Music (in a spontaneous worship moment), called ‘You Are Growing Me Into A Beautiful Garden,’ and today I feel like a beautiful sunflower 🌻 , I’m happy. At times I can’t see progress, but God sees the rapid growth. I’m not a little girl anymore; I’m a warrior woman. You can’t wipe the grin off my face. Today’s whispers of love, they’re going to carry me through the year and I hope that in the moments that I somehow managed to break away from birthday selfishness haha, they’re whispers that will do the same for you too, you are the universe in ECSTATIC motion.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. Rumi

 

*paraphrased from “After All These Years,” sung by Brian Johnson 

**Strong’s Concordance 

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

Going It Alone 

There’s a saying that goes “if you want to go further, go together…” hang on while I get the correct quote from google…

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

I find that this quote is applicable in all areas of life; whether in fitness, your professional life or your personal life. In general, I am very much okay with being an island. I don’t like the thought of having to inconvenience anyone because of something I can’t solve or do. Self sufficiency is something that I used to strive for; to the point where I would be physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to do everything on my own. In those moments of complete exhaustion, ego and pride worn out, only then as a last resort would I seek help or advice. 

Praise be to God for real that as I get older, He is adding wisdom to this vessel and I have finally gotten to a stage in my life where I make a conscious effort in reminding myself that it’s okay to need people. It’s okay to not be a self-sufficient island. It’s okay to be the island that sometimes needs to get more supplies from a neighboring island, just to make it through the month. It’s okay to get by with a little help from your friends. The problem with wanting to go it alone all the time is that you miss out on having access to the knowledge present in other people about how they’ve made it, and sometimes even how they’ve navigated situations where they were in the same place that you’re in right now. 

The biggest thing that keeps us from seeking help or advice from others, is shame. It’s the culture we live in; we worry about what people would say, whether we’d still be accepted; seen as less; seen as weak. To worry about all of these things is human nature but it’s possible to change that! A mantra that I repeat to myself is “screw what people think.” What matters is whether you’re being true to yourself. What matters is whether you’re being true to the person God wants you to be. It’s what I think of more and more each day; am I the Aurélie that Jesus wants me to be? Am I being true to that image that He has of me? 

I don’t always get it right, but the more I meditate on doing my utmost for His highest, the more I enjoy the journey of life. The more He awakens my spirit to knowing when I should be asking for help, and when He would rather for me to walk that road with Him. The interesting part of all this is that even when physically you’re walking through a difficult period alone; you never really are alone. 

We are so wired for connection that in those moments of what feels like separation from everyone else, if we would allow for Christ’s Nutella like sweet tenderness to sweep over our hearts, we will realize that we never walk alone. We will realize that for every season in our lives, we are never forgotten or alone.