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.

 

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…

Be Strong. Unapologetically.

‘And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong.’ Ephesians 6:10 (MSG)

There is a myth that women aren’t supposed to be lifting because it makes them look manly and that it’s not a very feminine thing to do. Women should stick to things like yoga and pilates. The weights room is strictly for the boys…well that’s what they say. If your idea of a woman is one who is weak and follows every opinion but her own, then you’re right, maybe lifting isn’t very feminine. I mean you might just find yourself empowering someone else and who wants to do that?

One of the reasons why I found myself falling in love with CrossFit is because of the fact that it is encouraged to be as strong as you can be. No one apologises for their strength and you worry about the weight on your bar. You’re there to give it your all, not watch what someone else is doing. It’s an important thing to remember that you are not in competition with anyone but yourself. I am fortunate that I have grown up with the strong belief that God wants me to be strong and He delights in me being strong. Granted there have been periods in my life where I have been uncertain about whether this strength that He wanted me to exude, might be too much for people. But God has since taught me that the strength He wants me to have is one that doesn’t have to announce itself, it’s a strength that is loud, boisterous and unstable, a strength that gets lost in the midst of difficult circumstance. The strength God wants me, wants all of us to have, is a strength that is secure, confident and silent. It’s the type of strength that makes its presence felt as soon as you walk into a room. I used to be hate wearing sleeveless tops because I felt as though I would make the men around me nervous because women aren’t supposed to have muscles, I’m supposed to be a delicate flower and what flower has biceps? Over time as I grew in my godly strength, I realised that all that matters is that I become and grow into the woman God has planned for me to be, if that woman happens to have muscles then so be it. Fast forward to the present and all I ever wear are sleeveless tops. In fact if you see me wearing anything with sleeves then it must mean it’s really cold or I’ve lost my mind.

Being a woman isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you carry yourself. My early definition of womanhood has been replaced by a truer definition, which is one that rooted in God. Being a woman means being strong, it means having influence, it means not being afraid to do what YOU want, whether that be lifting weights, karate, yoga, kickboxing. You do what makes you happy not what makes other people happy, you decide what you want to look like. You’re not just strong for a girl, you’re strong period.  So no more apologies, embrace your strength and whoever is intimidated by how ripped (and amazing,) your arms are…well that’s their problem isn’t it?

 

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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