Our Ancestors Wildest Dreams: Intro

We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen.

Michelle Obama

In a system built to destroy you, joy is rebellion! My family arrived in a post-apartheid South Africa from a war torn Democratic Republic of Congo and the one thing I can always remember from those early years is never feeling as though I could fit in anywhere. I spent a lot of my primary school career trying not to be noticed. Whenever people asked where I was from, I was quick to shutdown anything that linked back to my heritage and answer Belgium. Which is true as my place of birth, but I remember very early on, learning to be ashamed of my blackness. I remember one girl calling me a ‘makwerekwere’, a derogatory term used in South African for foreigners. On the other side of the spectrum, my white schoolmates were being raised by parents who enforced the old apartheid regime. Black was bad, black was dirty, black was wrong. In a few peoples eyes it felt as though I was the ‘dirty black’ who dared to be in the same space that they were in. I was lucky enough to find a group of friends that made surviving high school , and a system that was so against me, much easier!

In my thirty years of being a black woman, I have gone through a plethora of emotions. At times I would wish I was the right type of black to fit in with everyone else, and on the other side I wished I was a more acceptable type of African…whatever that means. Other times I wished my nose was straighter, less bulbous and indicative of my blackness. It took going to study in London to help me find my true identity and to stand boldly in who I was as a black woman divinely crafted in the image of a breathtaking God. My first year in the U.K. was marvellous. I grew up in a tight-laced conservative Christian family. I had my first sip of alcohol at 17 and the lightweight that I am, I passed out (still happens 😂) but somehow I still had enough sense in me to remember to tell my friend to tell my mum that I’d fallen asleep if she came into the room and found me passed out. Such is the fear that having African parents can instil in you 😂. In London, away from my parents’ rule and away from being in the shadow of my siblings, I was my own person. For the first time in my life, I found myself surrounded by people who were from different cultures, but they carried their culture and blackness with pride. The black women I met weren’t ashamed of being black, my goodness they were stunning. I started to wear my hair in its natural texture, I experimented with colour contact lenses (black girl rite of passage…), I embraced not only my features but my skin colour as well. This is gonna sound a touch shallow, but it did boost my ego a lot that people…and by people I mean the hotties on campus, had a bit of jungle fever for the girl from Africa 🤷🏾‍♀️ very much a ‘Mean Girls’ moment! And while 2020 Aurélie has grown so much (praise be to Jesus,) and no longer needs male validation to thrive, I was 18 and very silly at the time.

In those years living in London, I truly believed and embodied a phrase made popular by Dark n Lovely: ‘my black is beautiful.’ Fast forward to when I met my husband. I was a bit jaded by romance and had no strong feelings about getting married. I knew if I wanted to have children, I could do that by myself. My mom was quite horrified by that, which humoured me a lot more than it should have. Hubby is the most refreshing part of my life. The bonus & most importantly: he did not fetishise back women like SOOO many other creeps I encountered before him. Neither of us have ever applied the phrase ‘I don’t see colour’ to our relationship. In fact we’ve always been transparent about the differences in our upbringing, and the lives we have so far led. There are so many things that make being married to Sam wonderful. I’ll gush about that in another post…

Hubby and I had some marvellous plans for the future, and then 2020 hit. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, black people were reminded of an enemy they have always had to face…racism.

The passing of Big Floyd reminded us all of how far we haven’t come since Martin Luther King marched at Selma, and Nelson Mandela become South Africa’s first black president in post-apartheid South Africa. I remember waking up on Saturday morning going for a run in an attempt to forget the emotional and mental trauma of realising once again that to some, black lives don’t matter. I recall coming back from my run the morning after the video of his passing circulated, and started to feel so ill that at some stage I asked myself ‘covid is that you?’ I woke up the next day feeling physically better largely due to a sleeping tablet, and as I continue in my attempts to heal from the collective trauma that the black community is dealing with, I am grateful for the sweet Holy Spirit that continues to remind me of something:

I am my ancestors wildest dreams

As a black woman, I should not be where I am. Free, educated, alive. And sometimes I forget that. I am notoriously bad at slowing down and smelling the roses. It truly takes ALL of heaven’s armies to stop me. This is one of those moments. The realisation that who I am today is what my parents, and grandparents (on my mothers side cause Lord knows our fathers always have messy family dynamics) prayed for.

As a black woman, I have often found myself in deep need of a pouring into my spirit that I am loved, valued and beautiful. I am grateful that I have very dear and lovely people who have seen this in me when I have not. As black people the world often times wants us to forget that we are loved, valued, and beautiful. This is a world that crushes so much of our spirits that we forget the beauty that being black is. What the enemy wants to do through racism is to break us. He wants to keep knocking us down until we get to a place where the trauma becomes a part of us, a part of our DNA that we continue to pass to our children, and their children, and their children. To get to a point where we grow so tired of fighting the microaggressions that we face on a daily basis that we retreat on the inside and start to feel the years of trauma breaking us down mentally, physically and emotionally. I refuse to be broken. The revolution WILL be televised and I will be part of it. This is where our ancestors wildest dreams comes in. An online space to remind black people of the beauty and magic that lies in their melanin. Some of them I have the privilege of knowing personally, and others I admire from afar. The magic embedded in the DNA of all black people will not be stopped. Our stories of success and overcoming in spite of the odds so heavily stacked against us, will not be erased. I look forward to sharing more from a community who are EVERYTHING that their ancestors dreamt of!

Black Lives Matter

Saying that Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives are valued less, it just means that there is a group of people who for years have been undervalued and exploited and it’s time we stop.

Nathan Ryan

Black Lives Matter is more than a slogan, it is a movement that was founded in the United States of America, after the murder of Trayvon Martin. This movement is about connecting Black people from all over the world who have as their primary mandate to act in the best interests of their community. As a black woman living in South Africa, I am grateful that the levels of racism I have faced, have not led to me losing my life. The unrest in the US has forced us all to evaluate just how clean our hearts are. Now more than ever, I am grateful for the friends/allies who have never pegged me based on my race. As we seek out new actionable ways to embody what Christ instructed us to do i.e ‘love thy neighbor, as you love yourself’ (Mark 12:31) may we not shy away from the awkward discomfort that some of these conversations will bring. It has been heartbreaking to realise over the past few days that there are people who would much rather die than admit that black lives matter. Thankfully in spite of the vitriol of hate that people spew out to black and other non-white people, I am comforted by the words of Maya Angelou:

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

The New Normal

The smile on my face… plastered.

How is lockdown going for you? Over the past three weeks, I have gone through ALL the emotions, and none of them have involved much productivity. There’s a strange thought that started spreading across mainstream social media channels that this is a time to learn a new skill whether that is playing a new instrument, learning a new language etc. Basically if you’re not doing any of the aforementioned things, then you’re a wasteman. Yesterday I was speaking to my supervisor who is part of the covid-19 response task force and he said something that is aiding in shifting my perspective in regards to what life post covid-19 is going to look like. Until we get to a point where scientists have created a reliable vaccine, we are going to have to find a way to go back to living not as we used to , but as our new world requires us to. Life is not going to look like what we previously knew, and in all honesty, we should be very glad about that. The normal that we were used to was unhealthy with ethnic groups with people that look like me, left on the outside. The old way of living was toxic. I suppose if you benefited from the old way of living,, you’d be resistant to accepting the reality that things are never going to be the same again.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

Y’all please don’t come for me and loop me in the same group as the crazy Christians who say covid-19 was sent by God for a mass cleanse to restore the good in humanity. RUN from those peeps!!! What I am saying, like Isaiah writes in the verse above, God can make our world (individual or collective) better in the midst of what feels like a crappy season in the wilderness. The one thing that we do know for certain, and that I think we can find some comfort and safety in is this: things are never going to be the same again, and that’s okay! It might actually be the best thing to come out of this., We’re still gonna have bad days, and that’s normal. It is a global pandemic after all. It’s okay to feel as though you’re not coping, and if you need a little bit more support, don’t be afraid to reach out. The only thing I’m working on is actually found in the title of a very popular Bee Gees song, ‘staying alive,’ and you know what? That is good enough.

Resurrection Sunday

Last night my mom asked me what Easter means to me, and I’ve been thinking about it all day. One of my favourite things about this time of the year, (Resurrection Sunday) is the fact that a woman (Mary Magdalene) was the first to have seen Jesus. Throughout the Gospels , I’ve always found it so beautiful (& comforting) to read one account after the other where Jesus saw the value of what was traditionally thought to be the insignificant sex, growing up in a traditional patriarchal African household it was a big deal to know that I was loved and valued beyond measure… beyond just one day growing up, getting married, popping very cute babies out & that’s it Jesus beam me up 😂 Jesus lived in a time when it was scandalous to allow women to speak, let alone treat them with respect, yet He did it… might He have been the first male feminist? On that cross, in a moment that seemed to be marred by darkness, Christ poured out His love for us, placed value on all of us. I suppose you could call it a homecoming of some sorts, one that we work out everyday. A journey of us becoming who we were always meant to be. ♥️

‘Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

What a powerful Name it is
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King.’

It’s All Good

Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because I hurt. I cried because I was hurt.
I cried because hurt has no place to go
except deeper into the pain that caused it in the first place,
and when it gets there, the hurt wakes you up.
I cried because it was too late.
I cried because it was time.
I cried because my soul knew that I didn’t know
that my soul knew everything that I needed to know.
I cried a soulful cry yesterday, and it felt so good.
It felt so very, very bad.
In the midst of my crying,
I felt my freedom coming,
Because…

Yesterday, I cried
with an agenda.

Iyanla Vanzant

It’s getting closer and closer to the time of the year that my sister passed away almost two years ago. During this time of the year, I am a hot mess. During this time of the year my body seems to give into stress, anxiety and nervousness a lot easier. During this time of the year, my body gravitates towards chaos and the collapse that ensues. As I write this I am seated at TreeHouse Juicery patiently (but not really) waiting for my connecting flight to the UK. I am EXHAUSTED. I haven’t slept in hours and the only thing keeping the crazy in, is the fact that I’ve eaten. No sleep & no food is a recipe for disaster that nobody is ready for.

I have felt a mixture of emotions these last few days.. I think about a time in life when my older sister was the only one who believed that I’d be going to the UK again soon. This was after having my first visa application being rejected because LUSH weren’t paying me enough as their product trainer. I remember my manager making it seem as though it was my fault that I hadn’t obtained the visa and then my sister very clearly giving me a pep talk and reminding me that LUSH were to blame, not I. In any case there were a lot of things I was going through at the time that my sister just seemed to know how to take care of. I am trying to celebrate her each year as opposed to mourning her, and this year I am celebrating her life by running a marathon. I don’t know that she would have done it with me but I like to think of her resilient spirit spurring me on through the discomfort and pain that long distance runs bring, her resilient spirit telling me ‘baby girl, it’s all good!’

Live, laugh, cry, repeat.

There’s nothing that has changed my life more than the passing of my sister. She was my best friend, she was straightforward, had the best advice and when she hugged me, she would always go over my 5 second limit. I’m so glad that in her last days, I got to tell her that I love her and hug her for longer than my usual 5 seconds.

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There’s so much that I miss about her. Her warm (long) hugs, her calls and messages to tell me that she was thinking about me, that she loved me or that she was proud of me. One of these ‘I’m proud of you,’ messages came when I was straight out of uni, unable to find a job. I was like ‘gurrrrl, what are you seeing? There is nothing in my life that warrants being proud of.’  My sister then proceeded to remind me of the strength that I had in me, the strength I have in me. She was the one who would help me to see things rationally and with a new perspective. By nature, I am very emotional…just ask my CrossFit coach but somehow my sister Nadege would always remind me to not allow my emotions to lead me. Never make a decision when you’re angry or overly emotional. Whenever she said that, I did not always receive it well. It sometimes felt as though she was telling me to get over myself and sometimes when you want to sulk about life to your older sister, it wasn’t always what I wanted to hear. At times it would feel as though she wanted me to accept whatever situation I was facing and detach myself emotionally. I’ve come to realise that that wasn’t what she was saying. Emotions aren’t evil but being controlled by your emotions was a whole different ball game and potentially dangerous.

What she wanted me to learn was to stop allowing my emotions to control my reaction to every situation or to every annoying person haha. Sometimes you need to give yourself a time out to better assess a situation without the cloudiness of mind that being overly emotionally can bring. I will spend the rest of my life thinking and probably writing about all the lessons that I learnt from my beloved sister. Her life motto was to keep going even when you want to stop, she was relentless and the bravest person I knew.

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you. The reason for that counsel is 1 Thessalonians 4:13, where Paul says, “We do not want you to be uninformed . . . about those who are asleep” — about those who have died — “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” So, there’s real grieving, which he expects, and there’s hope. Grieving is real, losses are real, pain is real — really felt, really expressed — and hope is real that changes it profoundly. John Piper

It’s a year since she’s passed and we’re all still learning how to live, laugh, cry and repeat the whole cycle again without her. In the thick of it all, I am constantly being reminded that there is hope, and that as John Piper puts it, changes things profoundly.

Hold on to the bar

If you’re a CrossFitter you’ve probably been here, you’re halfway into a wod with heavy snatches (arch nemesis,) and let’s throw in muscle ups because this is a badass wod, and you hear your coach say ‘hold onto the bar!’ I don’t know about you but with my forearms burning, calluses daring to rip, the last thing I want to do is hold on. By some miracle, I hold on and survive another day at the box. I’ve had days, weeks… okay let’s keep it real, months where like at CrossFit I’ve had to teach myself to hold on.

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A season where I’ve wondered whether my faith will survive another day. The combination of still (almost one year on) having unanswered questions on my sister’s death, questions on my own life combined with an environment at home that on most days leaves me spiritually laying on my back, has altered my relationship with God. I’ve felt like a spiritual yo-yo. I’ve had my days where I believe in God with everything that’s in me, and then on some days I become so overwhelmed at the thought of all the things that need to be fixed. It’s a never ending question that I ask myself, is God truly in control? If He is, how has He allowed so many areas of not just my life but my family’s life to spiral out of control? There is a persistent faith though that has meant right now, in the haze and fog of it all, I have felt free enough to explore what this means to my walk with God. A couple of years ago when I lived in London, I was at Hillsong Church when I think it was Christine Caine…or maybe Lisa Bevere that said something that I’m remembering in this season, Jesus is truly not afraid of any questions or doubts that I may or may not have about Him.

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This has been a season fraught with questions on an almost daily basis where I’ve wondered sometimes aloud, just what is God up? I’ve felt myself being spiritually swayed to and fro. Nights where saying a short prayer seems to be the hardest thing to do because in my mind is a vicious vortex of unanswered questions. Questions that I will at some point have to accept that I may never in this lifetime get the answer to. As I write this I can’t help but think of the prophet Habakkuk who in Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT) boldly wrote ‘even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!’ It is a faith that endures, persists and perseveres. A faith that in the thick of it all, when all seems lost can say; ‘So God, physically there isn’t much to sing about. You see that right? There literally isn’t anything going on here. Yet here I am with all I have left in me finding myself coming back to You for that peace that only You can give.’ It’s crazy that for as many questions as I’ve had, as many doubt-filled days where I’ve felt even further and further away from God, He’s still felt there, the anchor that I had forgotten had said would always be there. (See Hebrews 6:19 & 13:5)

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I consider myself very lucky that in the thick of it all, in this season where I have felt as though I’m hanging onto Jesus for dear life, just surviving, I have somehow managed to meet the love of my life. The unique way that this man seems to have been made for me does nothing but confirm the fact that somehow God is knitting together special and beautiful parts of my life that I am unaware of. I could gush about my man all day, in fact I think I will, grab a cup of coffee if you wish!

CaptureI was never one of those girls who prayed for her future husband. I inwardly and maybe sometimes outwardly rolled my eyes whenever anyone mentioned that. I remember a less wise and younger me, jokingly telling one of my friends that there were more important things to pray for, like an end to extreme poverty, world peace? When my boyfriend and I started speaking, things fell into place effortlessly. It didn’t feel forced; I didn’t feel an uneasiness in my stomach. It felt right, he felt right. The deal was sealed when two weeks after we’d started speaking, I confided in him that I had been sexually abused. Such trust doesn’t come easily and I’m sure doesn’t happen as frequently as Hollywood rom-coms would like for us to believe. In a couple of months, it’ll be a year since the boy and I started dating and I couldn’t be happier. I woke up early this morning and while there was a part of me that thought it a good idea to call him and wake him up because I was awake, the part of me that cares about him getting enough sleep, stopped me. Instead I spent that time reading messages that he had sent me and watching videos he had previously sent me. There are some pretty hilarious pictures, I haven’t yet found any messages to explain why I went through a short lived phase of sending my boy pictures of lambs, puppies and all other fur babies.

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This love is special, not just this morning but on a daily basis, I find myself experiencing an emotion that is akin to when I first fell in love with him. I’ve heard it said before that choosing the person you marry is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. The wiser and older me agrees and is willing to go one step further; not only is it an important decision to make on who you marry but also on the person you choose to date. This is the person who will see you at your best and at your worst. For the first time in my life I understand what it means to be loved by someone who embodies the unconditional love that Christ has for us and will one day embody this verse when he becomes my husband: ‘love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,’ see Ephesians 5:25-33 (NIV)

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The only other love I’ve known this deep and pure is Christ’s love and to have my very own human that I would gladly do anything for kind of makes me feel like a very lucky girl. Does the boy get on my nerves? Yes…sometimes, when he doesn’t do things my way…I can be a brat sometimes! But I love him more than anything. He’s shown me more love than I could’ve ever expected for myself. I have my crazy moments, they’re few and far in between because I’m perfect remember 😉 and even then my boy is patient, understanding, kind and loving. This post is slightly longer than I planned but this is what love does to you, it reignites the parts of you that you thought were dead and fills you up with more of the goodness we all deserve from life and love.

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My tip for what to do when you’re in the thick of it all? Just keep holding on for dear life, darling it gets better!

Arms like aunty a.k.a black, female & strong

Aunty* just turned 60…

Simmer on that. Yes, my eyes popped out too!

Capture

I was about six months late on watching Black Panther. While I understood the cultural significance of Black Panther, I am not one of those people who will rush to the cinema for new releases. When I finally watched it, I left feeling as though an incredible opportunity to feature more of aunty Angela was missed. I don’t have any doubts that CrossFit, running, Nike training club workouts and the occasional Jillian Michaels workout here and there will keep me fit until the day I return to God, but whenever I feel myself getting lazy, somehow as if by magic a picture of aunty Angela pops up out of nowhere. As a black female constantly at odds with the stereotype still running rampant that black women don’t work out or have a high sense of health prioritisation, seeing a black female icon (my others being Serena Williams obviously, G.O.A.T!!!  Elisabeth Akinwale, Massy Arias and Lita Lewis,) breaking this stereotype is representation that truly does matters!

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In an interview with Essence magazine, Angela spoke on her confidence on the red carpet;

Sometimes, if you don’t feel it, you gotta do it and then the feeling will come. I’ll say to my glam team, ‘I have great arms, you might want to show that!’ I believe we all have something—great legs, beautiful hair—so find your something, be proud of it, and accentuate it.”

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My something has for a long time been my arms, however it isn’t always an asset I flaunt because of past insecurities on my arms being too muscular for a girl, add to that a very strange experience where a man I do not know came up to me and touched my arm and proceeded to ask how I got them that way. Lord knows I wanted to say ‘if you train, you too can have arms like mine.’ Unfortunately, it’s only in my head that I’m extremely snarky to intrusive strangers. How can I forget a blind date gone wrong where I was asked to flex? That is exactly what every woman wants to do on a date…

Lately I’ve started to care less about what people think about my arms, about me. At the end of the day, my body houses my spirit, my thoughts, my emotions, my intelligence (both intellectual and emotional.) Our physical appearance, our physical make up is secondary to our spiritual make up. Internally, (not just about my arms,) do I love the physical manifestations that I am responsible for on this glorious journey of life that I get to experience every day? It’s the opinion that you have in relation to your life and the things you can control that matter the most. There are circumstances and people that are out of our realm of control. The things that we can change, requires strength from us to take that first step towards boldly walking towards those things we know will fulfill us. I love Beyoncé (you’re crazy if you don’t) and I love what she said in her interview with Vogue magazine. Queen B said that she wants her son to realise that the real magic he possesses in this world is that power and ability to affirm his own existence.

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image courtesy of Vogue magazine

I believe this is the boldness and confidence that exudes so visibly from the women that I’ve mentioned in this post. The ability to claim the space that you take up unashamedly and unapologetically being true only to yourself. This act of taking up space and claiming it is one that I am currently learning. I work with the most intelligent people, yet they’ve maintained a humility that you wouldn’t expect from people of their calibre. The boss lady is a woman who astounds me each time I speak to her. I gush A LOT about my bosses to my boyfie. When I first started my contract, I would have this ‘deer caught in headlights’ look whenever I spoke to her and now I’m finally moving to a stage where because I’m growing in confidence simply by listening to the knowledge they impart, the fear-filled look on my face has all but disappeared and I am learning to use the responsibility I’ve been given to speak up when needed, without fear or apprehension.

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G.O.A.T

Positive images of blackness are affirming, positive images of womanhood are affirming. Positive images of what it means to be black and female, even better! In a world that doesn’t immediately (and often times does not at all,) appreciate blackness, seeing black women thrive whether they be artists, sportswomen, academics or the girl next door, is empowering and validating. To see women who are as committed as you are in looking after the body that houses their spirits, the very essence of their being lends to your own stamina and endurance on this journey of life.

You can recognize strength by it being juxtaposed against vulnerability, vulnerability is sensitivity and tenderness and all those things, there’s great strength in that. It ebbs and flows, it’s just being human. Knowing that whether I’m strong, whether I’m weak or I’m tender, I’m enough. Angela Bassett

aba*you’ll get the aunty reference if you watched Black Panther 🙂 

Fight

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Fight for what you want your life to look like.

A couple of weeks ago I deleted all of my posts on Instagram. We’ve all been on a page before and thought the person who deleted all their posts to be a bit of an attention seeker (CONFESSION: I’ve thought that!) I promise that wasn’t my intention. I had a moment of madness and felt that my account no longer reflected who I was, who I wanted to be. Social media doesn’t have to be serious, but sometimes it can become a place where we very easily spew out every single emotion we are feeling. How many of us have ranted about a bad day (or bad colleagues,) on Twitter (SO GUILTY!) Ever since the passing of my sister, I wake up most days feeling dangerously close to the edge. The horrible thing about depression is that, once it has tainted you it feels as though there will always be something to tip you over the edge. There will always be something that threatens to throw you off the edge. Notice I said threaten. This means that it can be avoided. One of the ways that I continue to avoid being thrown off the edge, is through CrossFit and my faith in God. I’ll admit that during this seemingly never-ending season of grief, I have sometimes drawn on CrossFit a lot more than on God, for sustainable strength. This is due to the feeling as though God doesn’t have time to listen to me and if He had listened to me, then perhaps my sister would still be alive. There’s a longer post on that coming up, I’ll aim to post it on Wednesday, pinky promise.

Until then (please be patient,) I’ll tell y’all what I have so far learnt: faith and fitness definitely work together and this has probably been the reason why I’m not in as deep and dark a hole as I would be without these two. Social media doesn’t have to be shallow and superficial, it can be a positive space where we’re inspired, challenged and dare I say, even pushed to grow. A place where strength is found by being the person you are online, as you are in real life. Going forward, my social media accounts will continue to more accurately reflect this journey of light that I am on and the fight to being the best version of myself. I will aim to inspire and challenge you as much as I can.

This is your life, you decide what it looks like!

Athletes’ Corner: Mitch Spjut

The Open is done and dusted, invitations for regionals have been sent out. The best part of the CrossFit season is almost upon us. In this segment of Athletes’ corner, I have the honour of presenting to you Mitch Spjut. I don’t know about you guys, but there’s something about these segments that has me really excited about the direction that fitness, in particular CrossFit (I’m biased; we have the best athletes)  is headed. I love that I get to hound some pretty INCREDIBLE athletes and ask them all the questions that we’d naturally spew out. 

Mitch Spjut, welcome to the Athletes’ Corner!

A: Hiya Mitch, so before we dive in, give us an intro on who you are.

MS: I am 24 was a member of the Wasatch Brute’s. Been doing crossfit for about two years now and getting ready for individual this year.

  •  As someone whose name gets butchered ALL the time, I’m curious to know, (and I’m sure everyone else is,) how is your surname pronounced

MS: Great question. It is pronounced spute like dispute without the ‘di’.

  • When it comes to your CrossFit journey, why did you start CrossFit, and what was it about CrossFit that stuck?

MS: I got into CrossFit for the act of competing. I was getting bored with only going to the gym to go to the gym, and felt I should be doing something to chase after. I started It when a friend of a friend told me I needed to get into something, I am too strong to not be competing in something. CrossFit stuck because it’s constantly varied it’s never the same and it leaves no room for doubt. You’re either better than the other person or not.

  • Last year you lifted the Affiliate Cup with the Wasatch Brutes; new rules have just been announced for the 2018 Games season, which means that teams will now have 2 males and 2 females to form a 4 member team. How do you think this might impact the competition?

MS: It’ll raise the level of competition tremendously. It’s a lot easier to get 4 really fit people together rather then 6. Also I think a lot more individual athletes will transition over the team side of competition.

  • I was watching a video that the Brute Strength team uploaded on YouTube last year, and in that video you spoke about how had you gone into the Games as an individual, you would have been a lot more nervous. How are you feeling this year, and will we be seeing you competing individually or as part of the Wasatch Brutes?

MS: This year I am going individual and I’m feeling awesome about it. I’m excited and this will be a good year. With last year under my belt I wasn’t nervous because I had 5 other amazing people right by my side. This year I won’t have that, but with the experience that came from that I’m not that nervous going into it. Now as things get closer that might change.

It’s a matter of putting in the work in and allowing that to shine through.

  • What are some of your aspirations as a CrossFitter individually and perhaps as part of a team?

MS: Well as a team we accomplished the ultimate. As an individual the goal is the same, to be the best. Win the south regional this year, and ultimately take the top spot at the Games come August.

  • Let’s quickly talk about that moment where the Wasatch Brutes lifted the Affiliate Cup. What was that moment like and how will you be using that to fuel your 2018 CrossFit season?

MS: Lifting up the affiliate cup was great. It was the culmination of all the hard work, hours in and out of the gym. Yet that one moment wasn’t what made that so great. The fun was the training. Going in everyday working hard with your team and pushing each other to get better. There was such a high standard that we held for each other. The attitude came from Adrian, but we weren’t settling for anything but winning it all. That was the standard everyday going into the gym. That is what made lifting the affiliate cup so great it was all the hard work paying off.

  • As an individual, and an elite CrossFitter, when you notice that you’ve gotten complacent and just that little bit cosy in your comfort zone, whether that’s in your training or your personal life, how do you get yourself out of that zone?

MS: When I get complacent or lazy I notice things aren’t going as well. Workouts don’t go well, recovery isn’t happening. It makes training hard, and not as fun. I know in those moments I need to get my focus back  to constantly push myself. It is easy to get complacent, not do the recovery work, eat the unhealthy food, but that isn’t what makes you better. I feel much better when I am pushing myself to be better in every aspect of training and life. When I get in those times I refocus and think about what I need to be better at and start doing it. It becomes real obvious in my training when I am getting complacent.

  • We’ve all heard/read the quote that says pride comes before a fall. In CrossFit, I’d say that it’s ego that comes before a fall. Do you have any puffy ego moments to share with us, and what/who is it that brings you back down to earth, keeps you humble and working hard?

MS: I don’t really have any moments that really stick out as huge ego moments. There is always someone better then you in a workout. CrossFit is really good at getting your ego in check constantly. There are times when I will think I am doing enough, or I am performing well enough and that is when I get complacent, like in the last question. That is when I know I need to refocus and push myself.

  • As an athlete, do you have an pre-wod or pre-comp rituals or practices that you can credit with giving you not just the physical toughness, but the mental drive that is needed in order to stay focused and give your best effort?

MS: As a team throughout the whole summer all of our training days through regionals and the games we would always huddle up before every workout. We’d talk about what we needed to do, strategies, what we do if things went wrong, motivation, and then Adrian would yell ‘WASATCH’ and we all would yell ‘BRUTES’. It became a mantra for us. I’m sure at regionals and the games people would get annoyed or think we were dumb, but it set us up with the mindset to win and dominate. I knew from after that we were ready to go. Then we could be loose and confident in what was about to go down. For me now as an individual I go through a similar thing, I think about what I need to do, how to do it, get ready and know the plan. After that I can be loose and confident, cause I know I can do this.

  • My fitness motto is not necessarily just about fitness. It’s the way that I aim to live my life. Two Bible verses, Hebrews 12:11 and Colossians 3:23. Do you have any fitness/life mottos or verses that you try to live by?

MS: Even though I am a Christian and have a strong belief in Christ, I don’t get motivated by scriptures, or quotes. I love them, and think they’re awesome, but when it comes down to it they give me no power to be better. My actions, what I am doing gives me power. I try everyday to be the best that I can. I make mistakes all the time, but I am constantly trying to get a little better than the day before. All the scriptures give us are things to live by and how to be a better person. I don’t like choosing one specific verse to live by constantly, I think there are many verses to help us and those are constantly changing depending on where we’re at in our lives. I firmly believe we should anchor ourselves to Christ and not to anything else. If we get caught up anchoring ourselves to other things even if it is a scripture then that keeps us from progressing. God gave us lots of scriptures and we should use them all and constantly try to progress in those everyday. In short I try and live by Jesus Christ’s example everyday.

  • What advice do you have for newbees?

MS: The process takes time. You are not going to be great overnight. It takes time, and it can feel long. Everyone is at a different pace, you can’t compare yourself to others. You need to focus on getting a little better everyday. And don’t let fear or frustration take over. It’s a struggle and you’ll get mad and annoyed but you can do it. I remember when I was learning stuff it was frustrating I constantly expected myself to be better then everyone else, but I realized that isn’t the objective it’s a matter of becoming your best. I still get frustrated and annoyed. I have an Instagram post of me throwing my jump rope because I was struggling with double unders on that day. It happens, but laugh at yourself move on and be better.

  • What is your typical pre-workout snack? And what do you have post-workout?

MS: Every morning before I workout I have the am protein from FNX it’s perfect and is just what I need in the morning. I also like to do something like a piece of fruit and sometimes a protein bar. Post workout I do a protein shake and creatine. Nothing too special or crazy just the standard stuff.

  • In closing Mitch, what’s the legacy that you want to leave behind?

MS: Easy question. I want to be my absolute best. Which there is no reason why my best, can’t be the best in the world. I never want to leave a doubt that I didn’t do everything I could to become the absolute best I can be in everything in my life. That’s what I want to leave behind that becoming your best is possible.