Integrity: doing what you say you’ll do 

This morning (and every morning for the past two months,) I have made it a daily habit to listen to podcasts that start my day off with either laughter, (Russell Brand on Radio X) or aligns my focus so that I can get the maximum benefit from tasks that I get to complete. I’ll be honest, when you wake up at 4:15 every single morning to make it in time for the 5am class, you have to coax you brain into deciding that you will apply the same (if not greater,) level of focus, determination and joy that early, as you would for a later time when you’re slightly more awake and pleasant to be around without the need of caffeine. 
When you train that early, you have to be mindful in every single thing that you get to do. In previous posts, I’ve touched on how practicing mindfulness, (i.e. changing my mindset) has helped in improving my performance as an athlete and recently my quality of life. As I progress on this journey, developing a healthy mindset (not just for sports performance,) is becoming increasingly important. This morning I was listening to a podcast by Brute Strength on ‘mindsets and gaining the edge,’ with 2nd fittest woman in the world, Kara Webb and there was so much gold in this podcast that I found myself having to do more reining in than I typically do, to my ridiculously ADHD brain that wants to spew out everything all at once! 

A word that came up in this podcast, and stuck with me, is the word  ‘integrity.’

integrity

– The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. 

– The state of being whole and undivided. 

It’s a word we use to describe people that we respect, admire or simply want to be like! I am very blessed to have coaches (and people,) who are loaded with this trait, and I’ve learnt (and continue to learn,) so much from them. If you have people like these in your life, treasure them. These people are great! These people are important, make sure to high 5 them next time you see them! Do you know what else is great & even more important? Personal integrity to yourself (comes in at about 35:02 minutes in the podcast…I’m on my third listen of this 🙈)
What you tell yourself you’re going to do AND then carrying out that action, speaks volumes about the person that you are to yourself. Are you undivided, honest and steadfast to the word or promises that you make to yourself? Are you a person of integrity to yourself? Do you honor the promises you make to yourself whether health wise or (for me especially,) in your faith walk? 

When you honor the promises that you make to yourself, and do them CONSISTENTLY, you begin to build personal trust in yourself, in your efforts, in your entirety as a living being. 

I had to ask myself this question: 

‘Do you trust yourself? Are you a person of integrity to Aurélie?’



Here’s the thing that I discovered as I attempted to answer this question; I couldn’t come up with a solid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. In my head these two answers were swirling around : ‘sometimes when I know I’m good at something, yeah then I definitely trust myself’ or ‘yeah when things are going well and usually when I feel like it, I’d say I have good personal integrity to myself.’  The goal is to get to a place where you can say: ‘YES I am a person of integrity to [insert your name over here] all the damn time!’ 

Life will offer you a multitude of situations (and people too haha,) to test the mettle of your character. Who is the person that rises up when demands are made on the moral fabric that ties you together? A great question to ask yourself when these situations (or people crop up,) occur: ‘is this true to the person that I want to be to myself? Will this enhance the relationship that I have with myself as a person of integrity?’ If it doesn’t fulfill that criteria, don’t compromise, no dilly dallying over here, say no! 

I am at a beautiful stage in my life where (slowly…slow doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,) I’m cutting off all the things that don’t align with the person I want to be (firstly) to myself, and then to others. I’m learning to match every moment of my existence to the purposes that I would most like to pursue. It’s what we all need to do, not the purposes that have been assigned to us based on gender, race and/or socio-economic status, not the purposes that people would like you to pursue. You have to be the one that decides these purposes. 
I’ll be honest, I don’t always get it right, habits take time to change (don’t make that your excuse/crutch though,) but I’m chasing greater personal integrity & excellence to myself and that’s something that should never stop. 
Not for me. Definitely not for you! 

The aftermath of listening to this podcast was a 5K run that I had half-heartedly planned 🙃, hence the post- run image for this post. Only subscribe to the Brute Strength podcast if you’re serious about bettering yourself; you just might end up going for a 10K run 😉 

Recommended reading: ‘Getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity.’ David Allen 

‘A champion is not the winner. A champion is a person who comes through in the final hour.’

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

Sundried tomato pasta salad

You’ll need:
-500g pasta (I used fusilli, but any pasta is fine)
-Sundried tomato quarters
-500g brown lentils
-Vegetable stock
-Fry’s chunky strips (2 boxes)
-Stir fry mix of green beans, red cabbage, julienne carrots, red peppers and cut baby corn)

For the sundried tomato and black salt dressing:

-Vegan mayonnaise (I used B well canola mayonnaise)
-Half the liquid from the sun dried tomatoes
-Black natural sea salt

METHOD

In a big pot, pour about 750ml of water, add in about 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil and a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a fierce boil and then add in your pasta. Once your pasta is cooked, drain your pasta and keep half of the water. Put the pasta aside. In the remaining pasta fluid, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable stock and the 500g of brown lentils, you might have to add a little bit more water as it cooks, although I like my lentils on the al dente side. I haaaate mushy lentils!!! While that’s cooking (it takes roughly around 20 Minutes,) using kitchen scissors, cut your sun dried tomatoes into bite size chunks and add it to your pasta, don’t forget to keep half of the fluid that the sun dried tomatoes came in. Once the lentils are cooked, add it to your pasta, draining some of the cooking fluid to be used later.

Get a pan and add in sunflower oil. Once the pan is nice and hot, add the Fry’s chunky strips and get some browning on them. When that’s done, add the leftover fluid from the lentils and allow the strips to soften. Add in your stir fry veggie mix and cook for 10 minutes. Place all the ingredients into a massive mixing container…I have Congolese heritage, so we always seem to have these lying around. You’d swear we have a catering company…

To make the sundried tomato and black salt dressing:
Mix 4 tablespoons of vegan mayo with the reserve fluid from the sundried tomatoes and mix well with a fork. Then add a tablespoon of black natural sea salt and stir through. This dressing is the perfect amount to coat the pasta without making it too creamy. Pour the dressing over your salad and stir though.

This salad is perfect warm or cold. The addition of the brown lentils and the Fry’s strips answers the question of where vegans get their protein from. Pasta is ALWAYS a great idea! It also makes this salad very filling and perfect for taking to braais, or barbecues if you’re in a country other than South Africa.

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!  

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…