17.1

17.1 is done and dusted…at least for me it is.

Don’t believe me?

I’ve already submitted my score, but before you go search for my name, let’s finish  this fantastic blogpost okay!

Confession, I was not going to do the Open. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love CrossFit. I mean why else would I put up with toes to bar if I didn’t love it? However there is something about competition that makes me sick, sick, sick to my stomach. Sweaty palms, butterflies karate punching me in the stomach, you name it, I have  all the symptoms of a very nervous competitor. In the past year training at Fit 5ive, I slowly learnt to harness that fear & nervousness and turn it into positive energy. Nevertheless I still didn’t feel that I was ready enough for the Open. Hadn’t done a muscle up in ages (4 months to be precise,) and oh dear LORD, let’s not talk about toes to bar. If I’m being completely honest, it was the thought of having to potentially do toes to bar and double swinging there like a monkey, that was keeping me from signing up. I managed to avoid all conversations pertaining to registering for the Open and then the day that 17.1 was released, blackmailed by my box and my athlete* I, Aurélie Ariel, registered for my second Open. On paper 17.1 looked like a dream, I love snatches and surprise I am actually one of the crazies who loves burpees (just don’t make me do them for time okay!)
I go through my first round of snatches and I think to myself:

wow this is beautiful, I’m sweaty but beautiful. Thank goodness I listened to Beyoncé before getting here. I am Beyoncé. I’m representing Africa at regionals aren’t I?

And then came the burpees!!! Oh my goodness, the burpees. I completely gassed myself out, each jump up that wretched box felt like I had already done 71.5 million burpee box jumps before that. I managed to get 185 reps which I must be honest I’m not too proud of but after having attempted 17.1 again this morning,  that’s a score that I will take. Somewhere in between the pain of Saturday and Monday, I finally broke through a wall that I haven’t been able to get past in ages. I competed against myself, for myself and for fun. I can’t remember the last time I truly enjoyed CrossFit. I got so caught up in chasing PR’s, ticking training off my to do list, that I forgot to just enjoy the sport. There’s a lot of talking that I’ve had to do with myself, a lot of behind the scenes work that I’ve had to do and still have to do but I’m listening to my bestie Givs when she told me to slow down and just enjoy the journey.  The journey isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it is DISGUSTINGLY ugly but it ends up being worth it. So I’ve removed my eyes from looking at the end goal and now I focus on being present in every moment, in every wod, in every single rep.

My MVP always? It has to be my LORD and Saviour Jesus. He literally smacks negativity out of my head every single second. On Saturday when I was nervous, He came in with just the right sprinkling of peace to remind me to meditate on all things lovely, honourable and pure (Philippians 4:8) and I read quite a cheeky verse before heading out. It made me chuckle at how witty our God can be and also backs up my theory that CrossFit is biblical and God wants everyone to do CrossFit haha:

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Hebrews 12:12 (NLT)

I had this verse scrawled on my left arm because that’s the side that I usually complain about. Through each rep whenever I felt like my lungs were on fire and I couldn’t squeeze a rep out, I could hear God telling me to take a new grip with my tired hands and to strengthen those weak knees. And do you know what? It totally works listening to God. I don’t know why we don’t do it more often. There is so much foolishness and injury (since we’re talking CrossFit here,) that I could’ve kept myself from if I listened to His voice in those moments where I get carried away by my own foolishness. I had such a blast on Saturday and I cannot wait for 17.2. Whatever it is, I know that I’ll be ready for it.

In this Open, for me it’s not about the leaderboard.  The fact is that it isn’t always about the leaderboard, sometimes it’s about refining and honing the athlete that you are, into the athlete that you want to be.

So let’s goooooooooooo!!! Take a new grip, strengthen those knees, you’ve got it.

I’ve got it!

Oh and here’s some Beyoncé to make your day!

*to find out who my top athlete is, you’ll just have to come visit my box CrossFit 4E

What God Teaches Me Through My Shoes

On the 1st of January, as the majority of the world does, I thought about the things that I want to improve this year; personally and professionally. I love to dedicate a bit of time on the 1st to sit with God and pause, ponder and reflect on all of the things that He has done and what I want to achieve in the coming year. This year before my quiet time with my daddy God, I was in the kitchen talking to my sissy sharing some of my frustrations about work and she said to me something that caused a shift in perspective and the approach that I would have brought to God. She said to me before you go to God and ask Him to change your life; pause and just say thank you. Everything else seems to fall into place sooo much better when we’re in a CONSTANT state of gratitude.

I went into my special time with God void of a prayer list of things I wanted Him to change and instead all I could write in my journal was Philippians 1:21

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

That’s all I want to achieve this year, a life where everything I do, ABSOLUTELY everything represents Christ.

A couple of days later, I went back to work very grateful that I could afford the metcons that I wanted, I call them my rose gold babies, and just like me they’re also black and beautiful haha! All jokes aside, as I revelled in that moment of having shoes that would hopefully help me with my toes to bar, God reminded me of a beautiful ritual that the two of us have. On all of my training or running shoes, I have these four verses scrawled on them: Hebrews‬ ‭12:11;Romans 1:16; Philippians 4:13 and my absolute favorite Colossians 3:23!

I must be honest, as I held the permanent marker in my hand I was a bit shaky about writing on my new rose gold babies. As quickly as that thought had entered, the Holy Spirit came in to convict me and to remind me of how my abilities are all due to Him. He reminded me of times when I truly did wake up on the grumpy side of bed, and would walk into the box with THE stinkiest attitude (hey, I can’t be perfect all the time!) and how through a quick glance at the verses scrawled on my shoes, I was able to check myself before I wrecked myself and was able to be a little bit more of a nicer human than I would be if I didn’t have those verses on my shoes. He reminded me of all the times I wanted to quit during a WOD and the reminder of Philippians 4:13 was enough to carry me through 1 more rep!

The first part sounds really lovely doesn’t it? Just before I gave myself a pat on the back for being a good Christian athlete, who is so ‘easily’ corrected, He reminded me of the flip side days. Those are the days when I am determined to let my feelings rule the day. The days where as much as Jesus would try, that stinky attitude would prevail and come out whether through my demeanor or through the thoughts swimming in my head. Through my shoes, He has been able to convict, correct and humble me. I think most of us, myself definitely included, are prone to occasionally getting on our high horse and thinking we’re amazing humans, so to have God humble us once in a while…every day perhaps, is truly what keeps and will keep us growing. Through my shoes I have learnt (and I am still learning,) to walk humbly, to stand strong on solid ground (the words that my Jesus speaks,) to walk in anywhere with feet that bring good news and refreshment wherever they go and to keep moving one foot at a time.

As I finish off this post, sitting on the floor, listening to “thank you” by Jonathan David Helser. In this moment God is taking me through all the other moments in my life where He didn’t have to come and yet He still did. As I dwell on those moments, a lump starts to develop in my throat and I am ever so grateful that this great Lover of my soul ransomed my heart, walked through all my walls and conquered my shame! How ridiculously good is His love???

From the outset I had already decided that 2017 would be amazing and it already is! My prayer for you today and for your 2017 is that God would pull you closer into Him, no matter what you have been through, I pray that He would restore joy, internal and external peace, as well as a heart of gratitude; whether that be through you hitting numerous clean & jerk PR’s (I’m hinting for myself to God here,) or through new promotions at work, may His love usher in so much goodness that it absolutely takes your breath away and all you’ll be able to say is “thank you, God that was totally you!”

Oops I Did it Again…

I have been a really bad blogger. I almost punched myself in the face (don’t worry, I didn’t, I like my face too much haha, not in a vain way though, in a normal ‘hey girl hey you’re kinda cute’ way) when I realised that I haven’t blogged since April!!! It really has just been an insanely crazy period for me. I started a new job as a product trainer and between store visits and trying to have some what of a social life, blogging feel down the wayside. I’ve had to learn the fine art of balancing, which let me tell you is horribly difficult!

Yesterday I was talking to my bestie and she reminded me of how much I love blogging, well…how much I used to love it when I blogged…That conversation with her was all the push I needed to get back into doing something I love. It got me thinking, sometimes in life we find ourselves becoming so wrapped up in our roles (whether that be work or not,) that we stop doing the things that ignite the fire in us. For me, the crazier work got, the more I found myself sacrificing the things that I love doing. One of them was blogging, and even my time with God suffered as I tried (in vain,) to juggle all the balls that were suddenly in my hand. I am constantly fighting to avoid being a people pleaser and I found myself saying yes to so may other engagements which after they were done, left me feeling depleted and in some ways resentful of the things I used to enjoy doing and a tiny bit more irritable.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark  8:36 (KJV)

It took my body coming dangerously close to breaking point and a conversation with two very wise friends, for me to realise that I was sacrificing the most important things, i.e. my walk with God, and my health to a certain extent; to gain things that at the end of the day didn’t define me. What was the point of advancing in work, if I was too tired to enjoy the fruits of my labour? Yes, work is important but it isn’t everything! It isn’t what life is about. I am so grateful that I have such great friends who remind me of what life is truly about, those moments that take your breath away, the things that put a smile on your face, those are the moments and things worth pursuing. Lately I am so much more protective of my personal time.

These are some of the measures I’ve put in place:

-My time with God is not up for grabs. I’m a lot kinder, a delight even when I’ve spent time with Jesus. He has a way of spreading His sweetness all over me, it’s almost like He spreads spiritual nutella all over this elephant*  and this sour puss functions a lot better when she’s spent time with Jesus. A sweet Aura is a delight for everyone.

-My time training is also not up for grabs. Whether it’s at the box or even out going for a run or doing one of the workouts on the Nike training club app, the healthier my body is, the better I function and the better I function, the more balanced I feel; and I don’t need to speak about how important balance is now do I?

-My time with friends and family is also not up for grabs. This is an area that I must be honest, I was very quick to neglect because naturally we all just assume that our family and friends are always going to be there for us, and its true, they are always there for us, but it’s important that we have quality time reconnecting with them, keeping those beautiful connections alive.

The moment I made my not up for grabs list, the more clarity I felt in my mind. So even though I still have my responsibilities, because I have my non-negotiables, I function better because I’ve learnt (the hard way,) that my time is precious, and time my friends, is something that we should guard fiercely!

*I call myself an elephant because I love elephants and I aspire to be like an elephant…strong and able to eat more than twice my body weight #lifegoals!  

In pursuit of happiness. ..

Happiness. If I had to ask you what it means to be happy or what happiness is, what would you define it as? Is happiness a dress size, a new job or even a new partner?

The dictionary defines happiness as ‘prosperity or a state of well-being and contentment.’

For a long time my definition of happiness was based on how I looked. I would change my hair 3 times in the space of a month (not good for the bank account,) because I was never satisfied with what I saw in the mirror. I never felt as though I was enough. My butt was too big, my chest was too flat, my nose too wide…the list was endless. I felt as though I needed to get to a certain size before I could find true contentment in who I was. My happiness and state of mind was heavily linked to how much I weighed that particular day and if I felt fat on that day then I couldn’t find any happiness in being alive and robbed me of the joy present in so many experiences that God had allowed me to partake in.

Now I have come to realise that happiness should not be what I pursue.  If my soul is set on pursuing happiness then it will be set on pursuing a list of things that I believe will make me happy. Things like new shoes, a new job, a new partner etc. All those things are good but the happiness those things bring is fleeting. In the Bible God tells us what we should be in pursuit of:

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides. Matthew 6:33 (AMP)

Another definition for the word ‘seek’ is  the word pursue.

Pursue first, strive after God first, His ways, His spirit and then all these things (whatever it is that you need,) God will add unto you.

When we run after God, He adds happiness to our lives regardless of whatever we are facing and He teaches us what it means to have joy. Joy is an emotion more stable and constant than happiness because it is not based on what you have or don’t have and remains even when you’re going through a difficult period. This week seek God, seek His ways and watch how He changes you from the inside out, and teaches you what it means to be happy.

 

Will You Flex For Me?

An odd request right? I remember staring at the guy in disbelief when he asked me that. I’ve always been very conscious of my arms. I used to be scared that it would intimidate whoever i was crushing on. Now I don’t care, if any man feels that my arms are too muscular, the easy thing to do is for him to start lifting!

My obsession with my weight started when I was in high school , I struggled with my weight for years. It was a vicious cycle of being happy with myself when I managed to survive on that one meal a day, (most days it was a bowl of cereal heavily laden with sugar.) Then there would be the days of self-loathing when I felt that I had eaten too much and the quick fix solution was to bring it all back up. A day turned into a week, a week turned into a month and before I knew it I was bulimic. It was easy to hide, you excuse yourself from the table just before everyone finishes eating, or you offer to help with cleaning up the table. No one ever asked any questions.

This is what I did for 3 and a half years, up until I graduated from high school, and moved to London for university, I realised that I had to work on the relationship I had with my body. I’m glad that I wasn’t too stubborn to hear God speaking to me in those dark twisted moments in the bathroom, that I needed to stop. I couldn’t carry on this way. Bulimia gave way to binge eating, and I would go through periods where I would eat healthily for a few days and then I would binge on chocolate, Kit Kats were my favourite. In 2012, I read ‘You Are Not What You Weigh,’ by Lisa Bevere and it completely changed the way I saw my body. I began to see myself as the spiritual being that God saw me as. I no longer sought to find confidence based on what I looked like, whether I was 2 kilograms lighter or if I could zip up those skinny jeans. I started to focus more on who I was on the inside and I know that sounds like a horrible cliché, but it’s what matters the most.

The less I worried about stepping on the scale, the better I felt. I started to focus on eating for energy and performance as opposed to eating for aesthetics. One method can be very detrimental and the other is healing.  The more I focused on how I could better fuel my body for performance, the less I cared about the number on the scale.

When I became a vegan, I thought that I’d finally become as skinny as I had always dreamt of being. The weight dropped but not how I expected it to. I was leaner and my body eased into a weight that I have been able to maintain without any huge effort on my part, for the past 5 years. It’s the funniest thing when people say that I look healthy. I have to stop myself from laughing or from spewing out a sarcastic comment, I mean I’m eating healthier, am I supposed to look emaciated? Or perhaps people kind of expect your muscles (and your ass,) to waste away. That didn’t happen with me. In fact if you look at any pictures I had pre-vegan days, my butt was probably just a little bit smaller…okay I’m lying, I’ve never known what it is to have a small bum…I probably never will. I have found comfort in knowing that my butt gives me that extra boost I need when I’m squatting haha, those thighs have to be good for something right? The biggest lesson that I have learnt is that I am more than the number on the scale. I’m more than a dress size or a pant size. We all are. It would be such a shame for us to go through life never realising the worth and potential that lies in us. All because we have allowed ourselves to become fixated on a number that bears no importance on who we are as people. I have found greater joy in focusing on being strong. Physically yes but most importantly mentally and emotionally

So to answer the question of whether I flexed or not…I didn’t and I kind of regret it, I mean how many more opportunities will I ever get to flex again? Or be asked to flex? Except maybe here on the blog, you guys won’t hold that against me will you?

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All Pain No Gain

As we draw to the close of the CrossFit Open, with 16.5 being released this Thursday, (early Friday morning in South Africa,) I think about all that I have learnt thus far in my first Open journey. There have been tears, feelings of helplessness, wondering whether I can really still call myself a CrossFitter, yet after 16.2 (those disgusting toes to bar,) I couldn’t help but think this portion of scripture in Habakkuk 3:17-19

‘Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.’

What does this passage mean? In short, it means that sometimes you will give it your all but it just won’t be good enough. The fruit of all those hours that you’ve been training won’t be measurable or evident in the amount of reps you achieve. Does it mean that you stop training because of a bad WOD?

No.

You keep going back because even though the pain of that moment didn’t bring with it any ‘gains’ you are getting stronger and you are learning. I remember the feeling of despair and hopelessness I felt after 16.2, I told myself that if I tried it again a whopping third time on Monday I would do better. I had a plan, I had a strategy. I was going to beat myself. When Monday came, I was ready. My toes to bar were still as shoddy as ever but I told myself that if I just kept moving then everything would be okay. I needed to get to my second round of squat cleans, I was excited about those.

Well when the 3…2…1 went and I got through the toes to bar and double unders, squat cleans destroying my soul but still getting every rep out, I could feel myself edging closer to beating my old score. With 10 seconds or so to go, I lost focus, came up from my squat, lost my footing and just about almost killed* someone as I watched my bar travel in front of me. I felt as though I had failed myself and had failed CrossFit as a sport. I wanted to skip training for a week and lick m wounds, maybe even not ever do another open WOD. Those feelings of despondency and inadequacy, miraculously gave rise to a more tenacious spirit. I began to realise that what counts is giving my full effort. Now of course, you don’t win the CrossFit Games or any competition for that matter, by being the person who put in the most effort but when you focus your mind on what you can control (your effort) , you’ll find yourself feeling less anxious or scared about what you’re about to face. Sometimes the dedication that you’ve applied to your training won’t yield any blossoms or great results immediately, but it always creates in you a stronger work ethic and when your work ethic is strong, it may take you longer to get to the place that someone with more talent is, but once you get there, you’ll stay there and there isn’t anything anyone can do to take from you what you have earned.

As the days roll out and we all live in anticipation and excitement of 16.5, I want to challenge you to focus on what you have to bring, you may not be the fastest or the strongest but you are the best at being you so be you FULLY. In every WOD, in every rep, you bring all that you have to the table. Maximum effort will always give you maximum results.

*didn’t really kill anyone…

This Isn’t Fun

This past weekend, the second open workout of the CrossFit Games was released:

4 min. AMRAP + bonus time

25 toes to bar

50 double unders

15 squat cleans

Time extends 4 minutes each time a round is complete. Reps decrease. Load increases. The starting weight for cleans (RX,) was 38kg, then 52kg, 65kg, 79kg and ending off with 93kg.

 

I could have cried when I read the first part of the WOD: 25 toes to bar. Even though I can do toes to bar, stringing them together has been something that I’ve been struggling with for a long time. Sometimes I’ll get two in a row and then all the other times are double swings, wasted energy hanging on the bar trying to gain momentum and most importantly, fighting that voice on the inside that wants to drop off the bar because things just aren’t clicking.

I walked into my box nervously, with zero excitement…well if I’m being honest I was excited about the squat cleans but I had to get past the toes to bar and double unders first.  3…2…1 and GO! I was 4 reps shy of finishing a round and afterwards I cried. All I could think was about how I felt I had failed with my toes to bar, it wasn’t supposed to have gone that way, ‘this isn’t fun.’

I spent the whole weekend thinking about 16.2 and when I re-did it on Monday, ending up with the same score I realised something very important not just for CrossFit but for life. Sometimes you give your best and it just isn’t enough, but you have to be mature enough to pick yourself up from that disappointment, learn and try again another day. 16.2 has highlighted something that my coach has always told me, you can’t train for what you’re good at. You have to be a well balanced athlete, a well balanced individual. Life will always throw the good with the bad and it’s up to us to learn to master our emotions and to not get overwhelmed by the task that’s in front of us. It isn’t easy and it isn’t going to be fun but it’s the only way to grow.

This week as I went to God to recalibrate my emotions and my ego that was so sorely bruised by not having done as well as I wanted to in this WOD, I was reminded that it will take time for me to become a competitive CrossFitter but I have to keep pushing and I need to be patient. Greatness doesn’t happen overnight, greatness happens when you give your all in every WOD. Giving your all means that even on the days that you feel empty, you push and leave it all on the floor. This is the only way to live in such a way that you never have regrets because you know that at every try, you gave it your all.

16.1

I entered the CrossFit Open with a lot of fear running through my blood. I’ve been doing CrossFit for a year and 2 months, of this time; it is only in December of last year that I started to take my training seriously. The fact is not everyone gets to go to the CrossFit games but everyone can call themselves an athlete and everyone can call themselves a CrossFitter, and I had the goal in mind to be able to call myself a decent CrossFitter.

Stronger, faster and more confident in my abilities.

I want to be a CrossFitter who can do muscle ups (bar and ring, still working on those,) strict handstand push ups, knock out pistols at an insane rate and for my snatch to become even deadlier…speaking of snatches, I hit a new 45kg on my power snatch. I was so ecstatic, I went home and cried.

Back to the open.

I woke up early on Friday morning to see what Dave Castro had planned for us CrossFitters.

16.1 [20 minute AMRAP.]

1 round consists of:

25 feet overhead walking lunges (43kg M, 30kg F)

8 bar facing burpees

25 feet overhead walking lunges

8 chest to bar pull-ups

 

It was better than I expected and not as bad as I expected. The night before the open, I read this:

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. Eric Thomas

For a while now, I’ve been reading a lot of sports psychology related articles because I began to realise that the one thing holding me back in my CrossFit career and in my running was my mental strength. I believed I could but never past the point of pain, and I’ve never thought myself capable of achieving anything spectacular. I am so grateful that even when I didn’t believe that I could, I had friends that believed in my abilities, and believed that I could do it, that I could become better. It was time that I started to believe in myself.  For a long time, I have always felt as though the one of the places where I get a chance to connect with God has been through physical activity. So often times when I’ve been on a gruelling run, I’ll have my Christian music playing and it is as though in that moment when I want to turn back or quit, legs aching, lungs revolting against you and your heart beating at a ridiculous pace, I can hear God loudly cheering me on and telling me that I can and I will complete those 16km’s.

For CrossFit I began to train with the mindset of encountering God through every difficult movement. I had to retrain my brain to become stronger than whatever weight was loaded on the barbell. It wasn’t easy but nothing is impossible with God. So I began to actively seek out verses prior to heading out to the box and being proactive in applying whatever I had read, to my training. This meant that I could no longer say (whether aloud or to myself,) ‘I hate this WOD,’ or ‘I hate this movement.’ Even if it meant that in the beginning it felt awkward to pretend that I was looking forward to toes to bar, I kind of like them a bit more now… Just a little bit.

This change in mindset completely shifted the way I performed in WODs, I no longer cared about how I had failed or under-performed in the past, I just wanted to give my all in that moment, in that WOD. The here and now began to hold greater weight than the ‘what ifs’ of the future.  The verse below is one that is become very pivotal in my CrossFit career;

For I can do EVERYTHING through Christ (the One), who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

When I read this verse or journal on it, it is not ‘I can do everything through Christ, so that I can become stronger than [insert person’s name here]’ It is ‘I can do all things through Christ so that His strength, His perfect unbroken strength will be seen through me even when and especially when I fail or when I fall short.’  It is being confident in Christ and being content in the abilities you have that though they might not be perfect, you are willing to do the hard work and hone them so that Christ is glorified through everything you do. At the end of the day, that’s what my goal is; that Christ would be glorified, His name, His strength, His abilities in absolutely everything that I do. It means that His spirit makes me aware of how I behave when I am the best and when I’m not the best. It means that His spirit of excellence is carried through on my good days and on my bad days. Everything I am and everything I become as an athlete is all because of Him and how He has changed and is still changing and transforming my mindset, from the inside out.

So when I read 16.1, I wasn’t thrown into a panic, I remember thinking ‘God as long as I don’t cry for my chest to bar pull ups, then we’re good.’ The first time I did C2B in a competition, I cried so much, I think my judge felt bad for me and gave me those pull ups just so I wouldn’t have a complete meltdown. It’s funny because I’m trying to remember whether I was in pain when I finished 16.1, but I can’t remember. All I can remember is looking at my wrist in that overhead lunge position, on the verge of tears and seeing Phil. 4:13 scrawled on it. It is as though in that moment, Jesus whispered to me, ‘a few more feet baby doll, you can do this. Everything through me, I’m the one who gives you strength.’ I feel satisfied and I can say that I gave it my all. I showed up and made those 20 minutes count but more than that, because I gave room and made room for God to speak and breathe through me. He also showed up.

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