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.

Fight

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Fight for what you want your life to look like.

A couple of weeks ago I deleted all of my posts on Instagram. We’ve all been on a page before and thought the person who deleted all their posts to be a bit of an attention seeker (CONFESSION: I’ve thought that!) I promise that wasn’t my intention. I had a moment of madness and felt that my account no longer reflected who I was, who I wanted to be. Social media doesn’t have to be serious, but sometimes it can become a place where we very easily spew out every single emotion we are feeling. How many of us have ranted about a bad day (or bad colleagues,) on Twitter (SO GUILTY!) Ever since the passing of my sister, I wake up most days feeling dangerously close to the edge. The horrible thing about depression is that, once it has tainted you it feels as though there will always be something to tip you over the edge. There will always be something that threatens to throw you off the edge. Notice I said threaten. This means that it can be avoided. One of the ways that I continue to avoid being thrown off the edge, is through CrossFit and my faith in God. I’ll admit that during this seemingly never-ending season of grief, I have sometimes drawn on CrossFit a lot more than on God, for sustainable strength. This is due to the feeling as though God doesn’t have time to listen to me and if He had listened to me, then perhaps my sister would still be alive. There’s a longer post on that coming up, I’ll aim to post it on Wednesday, pinky promise.

Until then (please be patient,) I’ll tell y’all what I have so far learnt: faith and fitness definitely work together and this has probably been the reason why I’m not in as deep and dark a hole as I would be without these two. Social media doesn’t have to be shallow and superficial, it can be a positive space where we’re inspired, challenged and dare I say, even pushed to grow. A place where strength is found by being the person you are online, as you are in real life. Going forward, my social media accounts will continue to more accurately reflect this journey of light that I am on and the fight to being the best version of myself. I will aim to inspire and challenge you as much as I can.

This is your life, you decide what it looks like!

Mesmerizing

For as long as I can remember, I have always been part of the club of women that put on muscle (and unfortunately fat,) very quickly. This has meant that even if I go without doing things like push ups (who wants to do those anyway?) my arms are always defined, T-Rex and I are one in the same! The fact that my arms are so defined used to bother me. You’d find me covering up my arms, even on the hottest days. For a long time, I wished that there was a deflate button hidden somewhere in a vein. On those very rare occasions when I’d go on a date, (real ones, not the imaginary ones with James Franco,) and I find myself sitting across the table from a guy with arms smaller than mine, I would feel like Batman, and was there anyone who wanted to date Batman in a dress? I didn’t think so, and for a long time that was the lie that I believed. The lie that somehow in order to make others (in this case, men,) feel secure about themselves, I had to downplay my strength and be the damsel in distress, and I had to have smaller arms…that was until I found CrossFit.

You’ll do the toughest wods, most with female names… Perhaps in acknowledgment to the unrivalled strength and indomitable spirit that every woman possesses, and a nod to the phrase ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ There’s a great sense of empowerment in every class, in the very best boxes (mine,) you’ll have a coach that pushes you regardless of your gender, and you’re not handled with kiddie gloves because you’re a girl. Being a girl means nothing in terms of how hard you’re pushed. In fact what I’ve come to learn is that in the world of CrossFit, if someone tells you to lift like a girl, well Jim* you better be scared of what you’re gonna have to load on that bar! The women of CrossFit are strong; we’ll paint our nails (sometimes,) and then ruin that fresh manicure landing a PR in our squat snatch (that’s the lift I want to PR!)

When I first started CrossFit in 2014, I wore the baggiest t-shirts. I still do now but usually with shorts because I like tricking people with the whole pants, no pants question. In those days I wore the baggy t-shirts because I hated my body. I felt like I needed to hide the way I looked. The fact that I had been vegetarian for two years (vegan for a mere five months,) and still hadn’t whittled down to a size 4, infuriated me. I guess some people are just meant to be built like elephants, or gorillas? I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Fast forward to three years later, we’re in 2018 now and I’ve come to prize function over aesthetic…on most days at least. I haven’t completely thrown caution to the wind. I still have my periods where if I feel a little bit chunkier than usual, I’ll either train more or eat a lot less of my kryptonite…bread, potatoes, pizza…gosh I looooove pizza and anything that has sugar in it.

The best thing I’ve heard all year was that my body is mesmerizing. Now I will say, said person was a bit of a creep but there’s no reason to discount the truth that came from him. Mesmerizing.

Mesmerizing: capture the complete attention of (someone) or to hypnotize someone.

When was the last time you thought of your body that way? Have you ever thought of your body that way? Guess what, your body IS mesmerizing. Your body is strong. Your body is beautiful and I don’t just mean in an aesthetic way but physiologically as well. Have you ever thought of the work that goes into keeping you alive? Little things like being able to breathe, your heart pumping blood around your body without you having to remind it, being able to walk without having to consciously send a message to your brain to put the left foot forward now.

As the years that I have been fitness-ing add up, my nutrition and training habits are starting to get better, and each day I learn to love this body that is doing its best to function and perform as I want it to. Discipline tempered with kindness. Kindness to remember that my body (and yours,) is mesmerizing.

I’ve had people look down on me, put me down because I didn’t look like them- I look stronger. Serena Williams

*Jim is the generic name that I use for any man that dares to think women are the weaker sex.

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.

Drop it like a squat…

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

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

What’s so great about the squat?

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

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

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

How to do it: hip flexor activation

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

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

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

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 III: Adrian Conway

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

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

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

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

img_0987-1
Adrian, his son Alijah and his wife Ashley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part I

Part II

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

Athletes’ Corner part II: Adrian Conway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindfulness, what’s it all about?

In my efforts to be the best athlete I can be, I have explored different things that can help in legally enhancing your mental and physical capacities during a wod, and especially for the competitive athletes, during a competition, one of these things or techniques, is mindfulness. Due to a back injury, 2017 was a year that I had to rule out competing. When I started my rehab,  in the back of my head, I had the memory of what had happened when I last competed in 2016. It was at Last Man Standing, a 2 day CrossFit competition, and that year the wods favoured what I excelled in, or at least what I thought I excelled in : short quick wods with heavier weights. My training was consistent, however (isn’t it horrible that there is always a ‘however,’)  coupled with an erratic work schedule…hmmm that’s probably why I resigned (that’s a post for another day!) I fell sick with the worst flu virus that took me until the day of the competition to shake off. I suffered with feelings of nausea throughout the day but I chalked some of it up to nerves. The highlight of that weekend was throwing up on someones car, I’m sorry whoever you are. During that weekend, one of the wods we had involved pulling a sled with a rope, and an odd object overhead carry.  I was ahead with the sled pull until my rope got tangled on the sled and the very temperamental CrossFit diva that I was at that time, threw the towel in. I remember crying after that wod, hating CrossFit for about a minute and then having that mood trickle into all the other wods that weekend.

A couple of months later while taking inventory of the things that I could have changed prior, during and after the competition, I came across a post on social media where Ben Bergeron, owner of CrossFit New England, and coach of 2X Fittest Woman on Earth, Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir,  wrote about the technique of mindfulness that he uses with his athletes to keep them focussed during wods/competions on giving their very best effort, focusing on the things that they have control over and not variables that are subject to change. On that fateful day in September, I had no control on my rope getting tangled on the sled, but I could have controlled the trajectory of my thoughts, instead using that experience to fuel me to push harder and pace myself in a smarter way in the following wods, as opposed to having thrown a hissy fit, shedding a few tears, thereby  sabotaging myself for that weekend.

Mindfulness can best be described as the art of being present in the moment, it’s a training and disciplining of your thoughts so as to not allow them to wander off into thoughts of past efforts or future efforts. Mindfulness is focussing on the here and now. Being present, mind, body and soul, in the activity that you are partaking in. Mindfulness is an awareness of everything that is going on in your body. It’s a shift from doing things in response to what others are doing, and instead doing things in response to what will work out best for you. I’ve found that as I practice mindfulness, I care less about measuring myself up to other people victories and instead, I’m focussed on my path, my victories and my effort/s.

‘Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.’  Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is not only learning how to perform anything and everything with purpose and joy, but the idea behind it is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is, moment to moment, and so help with pain or moments of discomfort, both physical and emotional.  In those moments you are, (as you can probably guess,) mindful and acutely aware of everything that is going on around you, but most importantly in you. Mindfulness can be helpful in positively changing the perception you have of the world and yourself. In these moments of self-evaluation, you are able to pay attention to your why and (hopefully,) find the good, no matter how small it is, in whatever you’re doing.

Genetically, I consider myself exceptionally lucky to be able to build strength as easily as I do. Squats, deadlifts and donuts, that’s all that makes me happy. However (ooh there’s that word again,) ask me to do a wod that has running AND strength, and my mind immediately runs to the worst case scenario, where I’m left completely destroyed by Helen…that’s the wod that fills me with fear haha! In an effort to have and sustain the joy and gratitude that exists whenever I have a bar, kettlebell or dumbbells in my hands, I began to explore mindfulness as a means of learning how to transfer these happy emotions to any wod that has running.

Mindfulness & CrossFit, match made in heaven?

CrossFit is great for developing attributes such as endurance, strength and metabolic fitness, but in order to become a great athlete, when you’re taking stock of your progress (which we should all be doing,) you’ll discover that it is important to pay some attention to the external factors that can impact your training and therefore your performance on the comp floor. We’ve often heard it before that your mind is the most powerful weapon you have. Mindfulness is a way to make this muscle stronger. I’m a firm believer that an empty mind, very easily becomes the devils playground. An empty mind is easier to fill with junk. These junky thoughts start off with negative thoughts that you believe about yourself, and then eventually they become thoughts that you believe about other people. This highlights how important it is to be aware of what you’re choosing to focus on and giving your energy to. Mindfulness can form part of ones meditation practice in that for an extended period of time, using techniques such as journaling or deep breathing, you are aware of what’s going on with yourself. This technique of mindfulness is one that sports psychologists have studied and confirmed as a contributing factor to excelling in your training and competitive performances. In honing in your thoughts you become someone who will constantly show up at the box to be first. The definition of what it means to be first is that you’re an athlete who shows up to give their all. An athlete who as frustrated as they are at their rope getting tangled on the sled, is able to push those feelings of frustration aside because she realises that right now giving into that particular feeling will sabotage and not fuel her efforts when not harness correctly.

Ready to get mindful about what’s in your head?

Next time you’re headed to the box, aim to get there five minutes earlier. Pick a spot, put the timer on for five minutes, alternatively you can use a meditation app, I’ve listed my favourites at the end of this article. As you lay on the floor, allow your eyes to gently close, taking a few deep inhalations and exhalations, hands on your stomach, focussing on the movement of your stomach up and down with each breath. Your ribcage taking in that precious oxygen that is going to fuel you during that wod that you’re going to crush, think of a positive event that happened during the course of the day. It doesn’t have to anything grand, although if it is, that’s great! It can even be the fact that you woke up this morning. Focus on the emotions that you experienced when that event happened, reliving that moment in your mind, allowing it to vividly remember every aspect of that moment. At the end of your five minutes,  focus on holding on to those positive emotion through every movement that your wod will consist of.

A different way of practicing mindfulness is through something that I’ve learnt from Katrin Davidsdottir, she wears a white rubber band on her right wrist that she has to move to her left wrist anytime she has a negative thought or complains about a movement or wod. The goal is to keep it on the same wrist; it’s a lot harder than anyone would think!  This practice will create in you an increased awareness of the words that come out of your mouth and forces you to focus on the conversation going on in your head. The interesting thing is that even though I sought out mindfulness to improve my sports performance, eventually it trickled into my everyday life where I have been able to remove myself from people and surroundings that were adding to the strain that I was under mentally.

Favourite meditation apps:

Simple Habit

Zensong

Rain Rain

A few good reads to hone in your thoughts:

 The Champions Mind by Jim Afremo

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel

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