Hurt Locker

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on the road!

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!

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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!

Genuine faith

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

George MacDonald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletes’ Corner part I: Adrian Conway

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

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

Welcome to the Athletes’ Corner!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2 drops like a hot potato on Monday 

So Will I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I believe it? No

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

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

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

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

If the stars were made to worship so will I

If the mountains bow in reverence so will I

If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I

For if everything exists to lift You high so will I

If the wind goes where You send it so will I

If the rocks cry out in silence so will I

If the sum of all our praises still falls shy

Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

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

Isaiah 61:3 (ESV)

Other songs getting me by:

‘Even when it hurts.’ Hillsong Worship

‘God I look to You.’ Bethel Music

‘Holding my world.’ Kristian Stanfill

‘He’s been good.’ Ron Kenoly

‘Desert song.’ Hillsong

Just what is this blog about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grief. It comes in shades of black

It’s been 16 days since my sister passed away. We’ve received flowers, messages from people we hadn’t spoken to in years, all relaying their condolences. Each person saying how sorry they are and that if we need anything, they’re there. I’ve been mulling over that phrase for a while now. What exactly is there that people can offer at this stage?

It’s a season of pain. A season of unanswered questions. A season of shock, none of us saw this coming. It’s a season of wondering how to go on with life without someone that was a permanent fixture in your life. The common thing I’ve heard is that it gets easier after the funeral, and also that eventually in time this hollow feeling, becomes bearable. Well I’m waiting for those days. I’m waiting to wake up from this dream. I’m waiting to receive a reply from the WhatsApp messages that I’ve sent my sister. I can’t even think of her as deceased. It’s not something I would have ever thought I’d be saying.

She is in every second of my day. On Monday morning, I tried to go back to training and instead I ended up watching my bestie wod. I had moments where my heart felt the pain of being at a place where my sister encouraged me so much. When I started CrossFit she would drive me to classes and give me pep talks in her car. Throughout my life, she has always been there to motivate, encourage and offer me home truths, some of them uncomfortable but done as only an older sister can. I’ve had a few setbacks in my Crossfit journey, but my sister believed that I had what it took to become a top athlete in South Africa. After recovering from a nasty back injury, the rehab and the grind to being better in 2018, had already begun. Now I feel lost. Derailed. Seeing everything in black or variations of it. Being anywhere that isn’t my room, feels like a slap in the face. A reality that I hate to face. A reality that I have to face. A reality that I am forced to face. It’s a reality that means I have to function. It means I have to do something other than think about her. It means I have to go on with my life. It means I have to go on with my life without her.

I haven’t yet had any days that have felt easier or better than the previous one. Each passing day adds to the number of days that we’ve been without my sister. Each passing day adds to the number of days that we are in shock of having so suddenly lost our sunflower. The toughest person you could have ever met. She had a true warrior spirit that seemed to have been what held me together. She was my best friend, a protective older sister, and even though this is generally a tough one, she understood me.

I went for a run on Monday evening, there were heavy rain clouds which afforded some comfort to me that perhaps nature seemed to be grieving too. I ran in silence: fast and hard thinking of my sister who would find my starting pace a bit too fast to be sustained. I thought about all the times that I could have slowed down to accommodate her. I thought about how even with my grumpiness at having to slow down, she treated each run with me as though she were running with her best friend for the first time.

I think of her final words to me a lot. I think of how I didn’t even know that those were her final words. It feels as though there is a tear in my heart.

So when people say ‘I’m here if you need anything.’ Here is the ‘anything,’ that I would like and that I need: I would like for you to piece my heart back together. I would like for you to tell me how one goes on with a ‘normal’ routine when life has thrown in a situation that wasn’t supposed to be part of your normal. I need time to sit. Time to heal. Time to understand and time to grieve. Now is a good time to press the pause button on life. The remote must be hidden.

Grief.

It comes in shades of black.

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

C.S Lewis

The Problem of Pain

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

Baby got back (issues)

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

But I’m not that girl yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)