Fitness Reads: Jog On by Bella Mackie

I picked up this book on Sunday, the day of my flight back to South Africa after spending a glorious two weeks with my very yummy husband, look at him, he’s gorgeous.

No matter how many sleeping tablets I take (don’t take more than the recommended dosage), I never seem to fall asleep on the plane. My last journey, I read ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo.’ A book so beautifully written and in many ways descriptive of the journey many immigrants face when they move to Europe/North Americas. One of my goals this year is to read at the very minimum two non-academic books each month. My partner and I were in WH Smith when my attention was captured by the bright blue cover and title of the book. There are a lot of things I love about my husband, one of them being his accent and classic British slang that I try to implement in my South African/Congolese life. One of those phrases is ‘jog on’ If we’re picking favourite slang phrases, this is mine.

jog on

1. Literally, to run along at a slow and deliberate place.
2. By extension, to make progress slowly, deliberately, or patiently.
3. Go away; get lost; beat it. Primarily heard in UK.

I initially picked this book up as I was looking for motivation to spur me on in my running routine. New year, new me, am I right? And aside from CrossFit, there is no other sport I love more than running. Mackie writes with ease in a comforting and, relatable way. If you think this is a book purely about running, you’re wrong. The book makes me think of one of my favourite phrases by Nike head coach, Chris Bennett ‘this is about running, this isn’t about running.’ Mackie doesn’t claim to be an expert in running or mental health. The fact that she writes from her own experience is what makes this all the more beautiful and is what drew me in as a reader. She gives enough detail on the different mental health illnesses for the reader to have a better understanding of what it means to have a mental illness, as well as tools on how to be more supportive and understanding if you do have a partner that suffers with mental health. As a budding researcher, I appreciated that where she presented findings related to running and mental health, she cites those papers. Minor thing that most won’t care about but definitely did not go unnoticed for me.

I still don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in the midst of misery. I’d never done strenuous exercise before. But I had spent a lifetime holding at bay the need to run away – from my mind, from my negative thoughts; from the worries that built up and calcified, layer upon layer, until they were too strong to chip away at. Maybe the sudden urge to run was a physical manifestation of this desire to escape my own brain. I guess I just wanted to do it for real.

Bella Mackie

At 289 pages, it’s a very light and easy read! Overall I found the book inspiring and it’s reminded me of why I initially fell in love with running. It has also reminded me that this year, whatever levels of toxicity that I don’t want present in my life can ‘jog on’.

Bella Mackie is a freelance journalist and author of ‘Jog On’, a book about running and mental health

Mind The Gap…Long Distance Relationships

Soul mates are not here solely to fulfill your rom-com fantasies. Most are here as teachers. And to help you see where you have given your power away or where you are not being authentic.

Maryam Hasnaa

After spending some time with my bestie, instead of crying on the journey back to South Africa, I used some of that time to write down some thoughts I had swirling around on long distance relationships.

My human and I have been together for 2 years now. There is no other human who is as magical as he is. He is the sweetest part of my life and I love him deeply. The only thing that I would change about our relationship is the fact that we live in different countries. The love of my life lives in the United Kingdom, and I live in South Africa. We see each other every two or so months and while it is hard…harder than hard, there’s no one else for me but him! The past two weeks with my fiancé were nothing short of magical (I promise it’s the last time I use this word…) it was better than I could have imagined.

I’ve had to look at pictures and videos stored on my phone to remind myself that it wasn’t a dream. I can’t explain the pain in my heart that seems to only disappear when I am with him. Each time we part it feels as though the band aid over my heart is ripped off and the days that follow require me to fully immerse myself in busy activity to prevent an extraordinary amount of moping…and maybe some crying!

Growing up in church I recall a group of women I encountered in my twenties who had a prayer group with their sole focus being to find a husband. While I appreciated and understood why they formed the group, I knew that for me the focus needed to be internal. In fact a lot of the time in my relationship with the most magical man ever, I find that I often have to search inwardly before looking to him for anything. I wanted God to change me and I firmly believed that when I was ready, the man for me would be too. The most important thing to do when single is to work on yourself. The work doesn’t end when you get in a relationship. I want to be the best partner for my darling fiancé and we’re all our best when we’re content and at home in our skin.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have hiccups, I like to think I’m perfect but I’m not. However we’ve learnt and are still learning to communicate with each other in better ways for the other person to understand. I am absolutely besotted with this man and that I believe is the key to making a long distance relationship work…matching as often as you can is also key 😂

Don’t look at the negatives 🎞 they will eventually develop to discontent and dissatisfaction in your relationship. Believe that you are with the best person for you, that is true for anything in life. If you believe that you’ve got it good, you’re less likely to nitpick and find things to be unhappy about.

My love, you have been the best gift God has thus far given me. You have taught me so much about myself that I didn’t know. You light a fire in me that gives me the courage to pursue my passions and stand in my truth and convictions on unashamed and courageously, you have managed to pour water and quell the wildfires of insecurity and immaturity. There is no one I love more than you. I will always fight for us and never against you. I will always protect your reputation and your character. I fall in love with you more and more each day. The fact that I get to do life with you is a gift I will always be grateful for.

Yummy!!!

Black, Fat & Living with HIV

I apologise for the click baity title however I am hoping that if you clicked on the link, you’ll stay and read this post.

I have set for myself a target to run a marathon…forty two kilometres (yikes!!!) in order to raise funds for POWA, an organisation that helps & empowers women who have been abused, as well as an organisation supporting those living with HIV. I have been in contact with a very special charity and once they have confirmed their participation in this, I promise to give you guys ALL the juicy details and the why behind this. I was on Facebook this afternoon and read a piece posted by the South African HIV Clinicians Society on how obesity and HIV are linked.

As a black woman I am all too aware of how unpopular exercise is in my community. Yes we have Serena Jameka Williams 🎾 but on a smaller scale, black women have very few role models motivating them to shift the weights at the gym/box (if you CrossFit).

The rise of ‘thic’ being in, as well as the very unnecessary butt shots, has led to very unhealthy behaviour gaining momentum and thriving at such a rate that globally obesity is on the rise. Until this article I was completely oblivious to the fact that women living with HIV experience the weight stigma in a different way.

Things you might have known: South Africa has the largest HIV population globally, in addition to that, it also holds the record for the most obese and overweight nation on the African continent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist 👩🏾‍🔬 to figure out that people living with HIV (PLWHA) need to take control of as many health markers as they can, nutrition and physical exercise being the most important ones.

People living with HIV need to ensure that they remain as physically fit as possible.However, due to weight loss stigmas predominately in the black community where thin = sick, clinicians are now faced with treating patients who are living with HIV and also overweight. With just 6 months of 2019 left, and as much as I hate to be a Debby downer, the reality is that time is running out towards achieving the 90-90-90 targets set by the UN towards eliminating HIV. Recommendations are to diagnose, treat and achieve viral suppression in 90% of people diagnosed with HIV. In my opinion, the solution lies not in the development of new treatment therapies, or even new antiretroviral drugs (although those are great too,) but rather in attacking the various cultural stigmas that prevent people (especially women) from getting tested and treated for HIV. In my eyes & experience as a budding researching in HIV, the problem lies mainly in getting people to accept that they are infected and this can only happen through more awareness and education of what HIV is, and a vast improvement in the access to health facilities particularly for those living in areas that are isolated and far removed from clinics and/or hospitals.

Isolation, stigma and a lack of support are still haunting black women living with HIV/AIDS, and now it seems so is obesity. As a black woman working in the field of HIV research, this has increasingly become something that I cannot ignore. Ensuring that no one gets left behind, has now become my cross to bear. It’s your cross to bear too. We’re all in this together!

In review: intermittent fasting

It seems as  though there’s a new diet almost every single day. If you’re a 90s baby you’ll remember the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, the Blood-Type diet, the Zone diet, the list is endless. One of the reasons why I’ve never stuck to any of these diets is because I don’t like being told what to eat. In the blood type diet my blood group (A+) is meant to avoid mangos and potatoes which is crazy for me. Intermittent fasting is less about what you eat and more about when you eat. It’s not a diet but an adaptation to your eating pattern. I became curious about intermittent fasting after having picked up a tiny bit of weight that made me feel uncomfortable in my skin. I love having breakfast…when I remember to prep so IF seemed like a good way to eliminate my morning forgetfulness around eating. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital have found out in a study called HELENA – the largest investigation on intermittent fasting to date, that there are many paths leading to a healthier weight and it’s all about finding the path that fits you best.

Right now, IF is the path that fits me best. I was interested in losing weight and keeping it off, with intermittent fasting because you’re not constantly eating, you give your stomach and gut a chance to recover from the usual churning of stomach acids to digest food which in turn can reduce inflammation. The first week of IF, I watched a million and one videos on IF (my favourite being anything by Dr. Jason Fung, I even follow him on Twitter!)  and read countless articles (I would recommend that before you commit to IF, do as much research as you can and consult a doctor or nutritionist if necessary) on the experiences that people have had with IF.

There are three main ways to do an intermittent fast: the 5:2 diet, in which you eat regularly for five days a week and reduce your intake to 600 calories during the next two; alternate-day fasting, where you rotate between standard and 600-calorie days; and time-restricted eating which is what I’m doing where you limit your eating periods to four-to-eight hours. What works best for me (since I wake up at 5 and am in bed by 22h on most days is to fast from the time I wake up until 12 noon and on some days I’ve even pushed that time out to 14h. This gives me a total of 16 hours fasting and on some days when I’m a superhuman…17 hours.

How am I feeling?

The first two weeks were hard. I had to make a conscious effort to drink not just more water (which is something I’m constantly practicing) but also more tea to ‘fill’ me up. One thing I realised is that once I made the decision that I wouldn’t be eating before 12/13h, it’s almost as though my stomach shut up aka stopped grumbling. The less I thought about food, the easier it’s was for my stomach and the less it complained. The mental aspect for me is what plays the biggest role in ensuring that you commit to IF. In terms of my weight, I have managed to lose centimetres that I gained on that glorious holiday to Cape Town and I’m feeling happy in my skin again. I wake up with zero bloating which does a lot to lift the mood. Whenever I get a little bit fluffy I have this moment of not knowing who I am anymore (I know that sounds very dramatic haha!) IF helped with the calorie reduction that I needed in order to shed those extra kilos. I’ve been on this IF journey for almost a month and I’m going to see this through till the end of the year and then re-evaluate. In the first two weeks I battled with extreme fatigue and feelings of hanger (hunger that leads to anger), luckily having to maintain good work relationships was enough of a reminder to keep me from lashing out in hunger!

In terms of my weight, I have managed to lose centimetres that I gained on that glorious holiday to Cape Town and I’m feeling happy in my skin again. Whenever I get a little bit fluffy I have this moment of not knowing who I am anymore (I know that sounds very dramatic haha) IF helped with the calorie reduction that I needed in order to shed those extra kilos. I’ve been on this IF journey for almost a month though.I’m going to see this through till the end of the year and then re-evaluate. I am not a fan of the feeling of hunger that is present during non-eating periods and in light of my 2019 body goals (which I’ll share in a later post) IF just isn’t going to work for the long-term. A girl is trying to get stronger and fitter as she approaches 30…damn did I just address myself in 3rd person!

For an eating plan to be successful, it should be sustainable and improve your performance not just as an athlete (where I’m concerned,) but as a human. This is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt through IF, food should be tasty yes but it’s even more important for the food you eat to fuel you. When I am eating, I am 100% more conscious about what I put into my mouth. Along the way I have had some treats but what I’ve noticed is that I have more self-control and those naughty treats are few and very far in between in comparison to when I was eating whenever I wanted. I will say the one thing I truly miss is having breakfast at breakfast time!

How to make IF work for you?

  • I cannot stress this enough: plan, plan plan! You’ve heard this cliché before and it’s because it’s true: fail to plan/prepare and prepare to fail. Fill your water bottle the night before, make sure that the tea you have is one that you won’t get sick of drinking during your fasting period and prepare your meals in advance.
  • If you’re going to snack during your eating period, make sure your snacks are healthy. I love to stick to raw nuts. Cashews, walnuts and almonds are my favourites but you can go with whatever you like best. Hummus & carrots will also NEVER go out of style. 
  • Get an accountability partner. Friends, I consider myself so lucky to be with the man I call my boyfriend. I tell him about every single lifestyle change that I make and he holds me accountable; whether it’s running more often, eating healthier and now sticking to this new eating pattern, he is SO good at reminding me of the goals I set for myself. I can’t tell y’all how much I love this man!
  • Plan your training at least an hour after you’ve had your meal during your eating period. I found that this worked best for me. Training in the morning while still in a fasted state left me feeling hungrier than usual and we all know that hunger can quickly transform to hanger. I also found that when I took pre-workout on an empty stomach, it’s almost as though I could feel my body disassociating with reality, can’t explain that.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt in this intermittent fasting journey? A healthy lifestyle is not just about the food you eat but the choices you make in your everyday life. It’s not just about losing weight, although it does start that way. When you remove the toxic elements that aren’t serving you well in your nutrition (if you’re consistent enough), it then extends to your physical environment. One day you’re making healthier food choices and the next you’re making healthier life choices! Constantly work towards being in the best physical, mental and emotional shape of your life, it’s what I’m focussing on and it’s what you should be focussing on.

YOUR journey.

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)

(Bathtime) Friends With Benefits

As I took the picture for this post, a few thoughts went through my mind:

1. I hope I don’t drop my book in the water. The cover kinda looks waterproof though 😂 should be fine.

2. I’ve already got a bath bomb in the water, can’t drop this one in! Plus it’s ‘Golden Wonder’ this only comes out once a year for Christmas. It’s not the special day that I’ve been saving it for.

3. I had better not drop my phone in the water. When was the last time I ran a back up 🤔 I’m gonna lose everything if I drop my phone…

Back to the intent of this post. In 2016, I started working as the regional product trainer for LUSH Cosmetics and I loved it. The best part for me was reading up on the ingredients, the buying stories behind how products are manufactured (hello!!! where else do you get a cosmetic company that has an ethical buying team?) and lastly, the beautiful videos that show you how their products are made!

When my sister passed away, I was a wreck, most days I still am. This led to me resigning, which I’ll write about one day, pinky promise! In the aftermath of my resignation, I think about just how supportive my parents, siblings and my oh soooo yummy man, have been. He probably bears the brunt of my 18.1 million mood variations, I don’t want to say that I’m like a grizzly 🐻 but I’m also not refuting that statement. He takes it all in his stride, I love that man 😍 But as wonderful as this dreamy man is, this post isn’t about him, it’s about my love for taking baths.

In prehistoric times, as far back as 3000BC, you’d be forgiven for indecent exposure because in those days, seas and rivers were nature’s version of a bathtub. Archaeologists have listed the Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro located in Sindh, Pakistan, as one of the earliest public baths. The Ancient Egyptians placed a lot of value in their bathing rituals and would wash themselves several times a day. I don’t know how credible the source to this fact is, but apparently they believed that the cleaner and more well-oiled you were (they too knew about the problem-solving powers of coconut 🥥 oil!) the closer you were to God, and I am all the way down for that!

I needed some convincing though. Baths weren’t quick enough, showers could be over in five minutes…okay maybe longer if you’re solving the worlds’ problems while you’re in there but my schedule was too busy to indulge in a bath. My alarm rang at 4am to get ready for CrossFit and then afterwards it would be getting in the right headspace for work. By the time I’d get home, it would be close to 19h. There was no room for indulgence. It was a race to make dinner, get cleaned up and pack my bag for the next day…all before 21h.

It was when I injured my back that I was forced to rethink laying in the bath. This was suggested by my physiotherapist to aid in alleviating the pain and insane level of discomfort that I felt. On severely painful days, it was a struggle to stand up. I got home that day and poured in half a packet (250g) of Epsom salts, known to detoxify and cleanse the body, into my bathtub and sat there for ten minutes. It was the longest ten minutes of my life.

From there I began to experiment with different bath products, mostly LUSH because I worked there. Those 10 minutes that I spent in the bathtub seemed to wash away the stress and grime of the day and replaced it with peace, a clearer mind and a very delectable smelling body.

Bath Benefits Laying in the bath is beneficial to your mental and physical psyche due to the fact that it can ease strain and tension that you might be feeling. Warm water stimulates blood circulation which means that your body is getting oxygen rich blood carried to areas that might need it the most. This came in super handy for me in my first few weeks back at training after my sister passed away. I felt like I might as well have been crawling, that’s how sore I was. Jeepers I had forgotten how painful training can be 😅

If you’re struggling to sleep, taking a bath at least half an hour or right before bedtime, can aid in better sleep and if you’ve caught some of what’s going around, a bath can improve cold/flu symptoms through the steam inhalation that occurs.

What you’ll notice is that all my favourite products are from LUSH 🤷🏾‍♀️ can’t help it, I worked there and I’m OBSESSED!!!! It’s the only brand I love to use in my bath and on my body. #LushSnob

Bathtime friends with benefits

Lavender: Whether you get the oil, or pick fresh leaves from your garden, this herb has been around for centuries due to the balancing and calming effect that it has on the nervous system. This positively affects your wellbeing and is great for relaxing trouble minds. It can enhance blood circulation, relieve pain and in some cases has been used to treat respiratory problems. Insomniacs you’ll love this herb because while it isn’t a cure to insomnia, it does help in alleviating it and getting you one step closer to that peaceful night of sleep.

Products I swear by: lavender essential oil (I add 4 drops in my bath water,) fresh lavender!!!! So worth getting a plant, nothing beats a sprig of this on your pillow, Twilight bath bomb by LUSH Cosmetics, Sex Bomb bath bomb by LUSH Cosmetics, and Sleepy body lotion by LUSH Cosmetics

Peppermint: In my injured state, I needed something that would ease the tension I felt in my lower back. Luckily the type of back injury that I have is one that I was born with…don’t actually know if that’s lucky? The ridiculously popular bath bomb by LUSH called ‘Intergalactic.’ is great for easing tension. It boasts fun and environmentally friendly. ingredients such as popping candy, biodegradable glitter and peppermint oil. This bath bomb is out of this world and the best for warming and soothing those achy muscles. It stimulates blood circulation to that area, delivering fresh oxygenated blood and in turn easing the tension and pain in that area.

Products I swear by: Intergalactic bath bomb by LUSH Cosmetics, Pink Peppermint foot lotion by LUSH Cosmetics, peppermint essential oil.

Geranium: This is an essential oil that shares similar aromatic properties to that of rose oil. The first thing I noticed when I opened my bottle of geranium essential oil was how beautiful floral it smelt. I could not get enough of it!!! The smell instantly perked my mood up and while I am not opposed to using medication to alleviate mood swings, I like using homeopathic remedies too. Geranium oil is also helpful in fading of scars, promoting an even skin tone, minimising inflammation, balancing hormones (I need ALL of that,) and also helpful in treating stress and depression. I’m particularly fond of the Dis-Chem and SoiL brand for all my essential oils.

Products I swear by: Rose Jam bubbleroon 😍😍😍 by LUSH Cosmetics, Ro’s Argan body conditioner by LUSH Cosmetics and Pearl massage bar by LUSH Cosmetics

I hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to share what you love to add to your bathtime ritual and how you make it special! I’m always open to suggestions…even if it’s not LUSH 😉

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 

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