Why I probably won’t be going back to CrossFit…at least not in South Africa

Integrity. It’s one of the first things that people mentioned when I first heard about CrossFit almost six years ago. A sport where you’re given crazy workouts, where regardless of how long it takes you to finish the wod (workout of the day) your pride is in the honest effort you gave. I drank the CrossFit Kool-aid and I loveeeed it!!! It was refreshing to be part of a sport where women were encouraged to be strong. A sport that on a larger scale, pays female athletes just as much as male athletes. Equality in almost every sense of the word, I say almost because until recently there was very little representation from minority groups in CrossFit but slowly, I do believe it’s going to get better.

This post is inspired by a blood boiling moment I’ve just had at this lovely hour of the night, 23:54 to be precise, triggered by suddenly noticing that a few members from my old box who in truth were more the owners friends than mine, suddenly unfollowed me on insta. Meanwhile I was there merrily tagging them in posts 😂 These individuals for me have tarnished the love I once had for CrossFit as a community sport. In a South African context, I am about 99% sure that I will not be returning to a CrossFit box anytime soon…covid-19 lockdown or not!

About six or so months ago, the box that I was training at suddenly closed. The worst part about it was hearing from other members that the owners didn’t want to say anything because they didn’t want to lose people’s money. The timing of it was horrid for us as members who now had to scramble to find a box that felt like the home we thought we had. In addition to that, being billed for membership when you haven’t been to the box for 3 months while nursing your injury, is the d*ck move that I just didn’t see coming. As members, it left a bad taste in our mouths. It left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m over the drama but I’m also not, you feel me?

Here’s the thing that’s unique about CrossFit, you’re encouraged more than any other sport that I’ve ever watched, or partaken in, to make connections with the people who will see you shed blood, sweat, and tears, for the 5, sometimes 6 days that you’re there. How real those connections are varies, I know people who’ve met their partners through CrossFit. I also know people who have had their hearts broken through CrossFit. When you really buy into a box, and (sadly) believe the owners care as much as you do, it’s as though you’re seeing ‘la vie en rose,’ a little bit of naïvety, blind faith, and trust in your coach, that the box will always be there.

I think those three traits are reasons why a lot of members are blindsided when they’re kept in the dark about major changes or say in my case, the closure of a box that had become such an integral part of their life. As I detox from this CrossFit breakup I realise now why I can never again join a box in South Africa, I will always see every box owner as more interested in having my money in their back pocket, as opposed to wanting to improve my health markers. I kinda understand the shakeup at CrossFit HQ that Greg Glassman did. It was to remind boxes of what the purpose of CrossFit is, not just forging elite fitness but forging elite health as well. The CrossFit formula only works if you have a coach who is more passionate about improving health markers of his members, than enriching the health markers of his back pocket. It’s always interesting to me how a lot of people will forget to keep the main thing, the main thing when money is involved. It’s not to say that you can live on passion alone because Lord knows if I was just passionate about my job but never pursued excellence in it, I’d never be able to afford my favourite NARS and Chanel makeup items 😂(silly moment there!)

For a long time I held my tongue on writing about this issue because y’all I am trying to be a great Christian, you know: love God, love people? But the people, Lord your people are making it so darn hard for this girl to stay on the narrow road that leads to heaven 🤦🏽‍♀️ I’ve always said that my blog would be reflective of all seasons of my life, and I didn’t think I wanted to post on this issue because of how messy and unresolved it still is, but as I continue to be confronted with duplicitous behaviour from people who are so far from having integrity, it is truly all I can do to write this post and not put any names in. Even though the petty Patty in me wants to put names in… I won’t and trust me it’s not because I don’t want to 🙈🙉🙊

The moral of the story is this: think twice, and then a third time before you join a box started by a friend 😂 it’s not that I’m saying don’t support your friends’ new ventures, I’m just saying if it’s a box, girl!!! You better stay away because you’d be surprised at how much mediocre coaching you’ll put up with when it’s your ‘friends’ box! 🙈

Shout out to Fit 5ive/CrossFit 4E for giving me some really good years of CrossFit before this doozy. Most importantly, shout out to my sister who is less petty than I am, I have zero respect for people who mess with someone else’s hustle. You know who you are. Anyhoo you live and you learn peeps! #throwingshade.

Arvo at Selfridges

I was 17 when I first stepped into Selfridges. Fresh faced and not as wise as I am now, I was a couple of weeks into my degree in London when I walked into the most magical place on Earth.

My first purchase was a paid of £80 thigh highs boots that I definitely did not need but they fulfilled every ‘Pretty Woman’ fantasy that I’d had about thigh high boots completing an outfit.

Selfridges was where I discovered French luxury makeup brand NARS. My love for NARS has remained along with other brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, Dior and Chanel. All of which I discovered at Selfridges. It’s my favourite place to do a spot of shopping when I really want to treat myself and I can’t wait for one day in the future, to have a girl that will love shopping at Selfridges as much as I do.

The Struggle Is Real…Isn’t It Always?

Knowing things will go wrong is what keeps most people on the sidelines. Most people seek to avoid the struggle. But we are not most people. When the fists fly, we charge headlong into the fray. Because we saw the struggle coming. Because we want what’s on the other side more than we want to stay comfortable. Because we know a secret. That adversity is the only shortcut to greatness. CompTrain.

I have a confession to make. One that I’m hoping I won’t be stoned for. Lately I’ve hated CrossFit. I love watching it, the Games this year was one of the best in my opinion, I love the athletes (Bethany Shadburne is my new face,) but I started to notice that whenever I walked into the box, I would feel ‘meh’ about the wod before it even started. I didn’t say anything to my coach at first but eventually my face began to betray me. I have quite an honest relationship with my coach and on that day when my stank face was in full force, I told him about how I had been feeling. I’ve now come to the realisation that it isn’t CrossFit that I hate, it’s the pressure that I’ve piled on myself, it’s the little niggles creeping up whenever I improve a little bit more that I hate. The tiredness and crankiness from a life lived saying yes to far more than I should have been, was what I hated.  To me, everything felt like it was a test to break me. The reality was that I had begun to view adversity as an enemy as opposed to the friend that it could be to get me closer to the goals I have for myself.

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‘The fastest way to get in the way of your own potential is to view everything as a test. If you look at something as a test, then you will focus only on passing the test instead of maximizing your growth through the experience. – The secret is to understand that nothing is a test, but only an opportunity to learn and grow. Over time, the person who is simply focused on maximizing what they can learn and how they can grow will become much greater than the person who sees life as one continual test to prove themselves.’ CompTrain

Right now I’m nursing an oblique strain and while I am annoyed at how it has derailed my ‘8 pack by summer’ plan. This temporary setback has provided me with time to reflect on what I’m doing well, and plan and execute what I could be doing better. The niggles that I seem to constantly be plagued with was the first thing that came to my mind. Injury is something that I’ve been battling with since last year injuring my lower back. Now that I’m developing a better relationship with my body, I know that the reason why I keep getting these niggles is because I can be neglectful when it comes to stretching especially on days when I’ve lifted heavy. It’s not that no fudges are given, I just struggle to slow down and have often found myself yawning mid-stretch. In order to maximize my athletic potential, this life of not stretching is no longer a luxury that I can afford, and speaking about afford, if you can I would recommend a ROMWOD subscription if you’re all swole and not yet flexy!

The first three days of this oblique strain were painful as fudge: standing sucked, sitting sucked, breathing sucked. In fact just being alive on these three days sucked. There wasn’t a single movement that didn’t hurt. Anti-inflammatory medication, deep freeze and my hot water bottle were my best friends.  On Monday I could finally walk without feeling too much pain and began my ROMWOD journey. It honestly hasn’t been that long, 2 days to be precise BUT my hips feel so much better and there’s tension in my lower back that eases up after each session. My body feels better already, and I’m excited to see where I’ll be in a couple of months. There are some stretches like the saddle eagle and the more obscurely named fragon, that remind me of just how much mobility I’ve lost due to being neglectful but remember how I said we’ve gotta learn to look at the opportunity in every occasion as opposed to the failure that may lay in it? I’m doing that. It’s healthier for your mind and body to focus on what you can improve, celebrate those improvements and restart the cycle again. If you’re getting 1% better each day, that’s still something to celebrate.

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Going through the struggle? Here’s a few things to remember:

  1. The struggle isn’t permanent, on the other side of it should you persevere, is your goal.
  2. Smile. Don’t allow the adversity you’re facing to take away the joy and love you have for the sport.
  3. Rehab that injury properly. Do your stretches, do your strengthening exercises and don’t neglect your nutrition.
  4. Listen to your coach, sometimes he knows what he’s doing 😉

Athletes’ Corner: Mitch Spjut

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

Mitch Spjut, welcome to the Athletes’ Corner!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What advice do you have for newbees?

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

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

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

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

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

Athletes’ Corner: Chloë Hillier

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

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

Welcome to the Athletes’ Corner Chloë!

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What’s your favourite move/wod?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS

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

Cleans or snatches? Snatches all day everyday

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

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

IN THE FRIDGE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 II: Adrian Conway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletes’ Corner part I: Adrian Conway

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

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

Welcome to the Athletes’ Corner!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2 drops like a hot potato on Monday 

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.’