Baby got back (issues)

I’m every woman…just ask my friends about my mood swings 😂 My favorite woman to be is the one that gives a damn about her health spiritually, mentally and physically. The one that tempers discipline with kindness and isn’t obsessing over what she’s had for dinner…even if it was four (okay five,) doughnuts 🙈 My favorite woman to be is the one that is decisive, no dilly dallying, and in control of everything going on in her life because her end goal is to have lived a life that will have firstly made God proud and then herself, I’ve purposely left out making others proud. You’re not here to be Nutella.
As I write this post, I’d love to say that I am always that woman who is in control of everything. Dynamic, minimal tantrum throwing (mine are always to friends thankfully,) and I would love to say that I am the girl who ALWAYS remembers to do her back strengthening exercises 🙈🙈🙈

But I’m not that girl yet.

Most evenings I have to rush through them and then quickly apply my favorite massage bar from LUSH (you can get it here, a treat for sore muscles!!!) and convince myself that I’ve done enough, when in truth I’ve done the bare minimum. 

For the past couple of months, I have been incredibly stressed to the point where I wake up in the middle of the night, heartbeat racing, as though at any moment my body would decide that life is a bit too much and decide to breakdown, if only to get me to stop. For someone with a personality like mine, being out of control is not something that I love or welcome. I don’t like anything being decided for me and I certainly do not like having to stop. Stop is something that I don’t do. Stop was something that I was forced to do when I found out that I have an extra vertebra, it’s called the L6 phenomenon…not really, but I call it the L6 phenomenon. If you remember anything about Biology in high school or maybe went on to study human anatomy in college, you’ll know that the spine is made up of 33 individual bones stacked one on top of each other and beautifully fused as only God knows how. (Ain’t it lovely how God has crafted the human body?) Your spine is divided into 3 parts: your cervical region, your thoracic region and the one that was really important for my L6 phenomenon, the lumbar region/curve. 
Image from Mayfield Clinic 

Usually you have 5 vertebrae in your lumbar region but as you would have guessed with all the L6 name dropping, this girl over here has an extra vertebra. A sixth lumbar vertebra, underneath the fifth (obvs, 6 does come after 5 after all haha!) and while usually this isn’t a problem for most people, I am not like most people 😂 so of course it would wreak a little bit of havoc on me. It started off with mild discomfort, graduating to niggles that would be painful but bearable, and then it got to the point where the pain would be debilitating and I’d cry during wods and sometimes even afterwards 🙈 I remember feeling a horrible pull in my lower back during Karen, (150 wallballs for time,) my bestie standing next to me telling me to stop and I don’t know what I muttered to her,but I kept going and at the end of it, collapsed on the floor and started crying. I even remember what I was wearing on that day…my turquoise blue Nike leggings that make my bum look even more amazing than it usually does.

Now you’d think that an experience like that would cause the alarm to go off in your head and most people would by then, go get their back checked out. Me? I like to live on the wild side and we’ve established, I am not like most people 😂 I suffered (and suffer it was,) for a little bit longer until I finally listened to my coach and went for x-rays, physiotherapy and needling. I was struggling with lower back pain because of this extra vertebra that was never meant to be there. It was creating friction with the first vertebra in my sacral region and coupled with a core that wasn’t nearly as strong as I thought my 6 pack denoted 🙄 it was a recipe for disaster. If I kept medicating the symptoms and never truly dealt with the root cause of the pain, this could have been the thing to rule me out from not just CrossFit, but sports in general. I needed to take care of my back, and properly this time. 

For a month I couldn’t do anything but yoga, and as much as I love yoga, I had a lot of sessions in my room where I’d be yawning endlessly, but I needed to rebuild the foundation. A year of neglecting my back health had culminated to me getting to a point where standing hurt, sitting hurt, everything hurt. I needed to learn how to go slow so that in the future, I could go further. After the month of yoga, I started to add in short runs. The distances or the speed were nothing to write home to your local newspaper about, but it was enough to get my body back into the swing of things. Then another month later, I could go back to my greatest love, CrossFit!!! It was nothing but humbling: a 10 minute row, which I still can’t believe my coach wasn’t joking about and then the slowest, most disgusting Cindy (20 min. AMRAP 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 air squats,) that I have ever done. My body was still trying to remember how to do gymnastics, where was that muscle memory that people spoke of?
For a few weeks…right now even, I still feel like the worst of beginners, and it has been frustrating but I also have in my foundation rebuild corner, the best coaches ever! When I do get down on myself, it never lasts for long because of the guidance that they give me. The phrase that I have to keep repeating to myself is, ‘patience baby chicken. Go slow to go fast.’ Remember my positivity band that I wrote about over here? That’s keeping me in check to not complain and instead do the hard work, attack every wod as furiously as I can and to give it my all. My PVC pipe is getting a lot of action as I fix movements that I thought I knew how to execute. Squatting without pulling my chest forward, and not for a single second compensating on the natural curve that my spine should have. Learning how to have good posture in every single movement and working on technique has exposed major areas of opportunity and I can’t wait to meet the athlete that I will have become in another three months time. I still can’t do a lot of extensions, still hurts but in due time, I know I’ll get there. 

What’s the lesson for you? If you’re suffering with any kind of pain: back, neck, shoulder or even emotional pain, SEEK HELP! Don’t be the stubborn Sally that I am (back pain unfortunately does not get rid of all obstinate tendencies,) when on top of emotional stress now you also have physical stress forcing you into a corner where you have to slow down. It is a beautiful thing to be able to move and while we have these bodies, we should do as much as we can to make sure it’s running as well as it possibly can. 

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

All Pain No Gain

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

*didn’t really kill anyone…

Be Strong. Unapologetically.

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

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

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

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

 

This Isn’t Fun

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

4 min. AMRAP + bonus time

25 toes to bar

50 double unders

15 squat cleans

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

 

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

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

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

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

16.1

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

Stronger, faster and more confident in my abilities.

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

Back to the open.

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

16.1 [20 minute AMRAP.]

1 round consists of:

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

8 bar facing burpees

25 feet overhead walking lunges

8 chest to bar pull-ups

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Green beans and radishes on a bed of spicy brown rice and Fry’s thick cut chunky strips

In this post I’ll be sharing a recipe of one of my favourite things to eat: green beans and radishes on spicy rice. This recipe is great if you do meal prepping as it yields a large quantity. It freezes well without losing flavour. Quick plug for Fry’s…they are my favourite brand of vegetarian/vegan frozen foods. I’ve been a vegetarian for 2 years and 1 month. I am currently transitioning to vegan and I love that Fry’s provides food that is free from genetic modification, MSG (it really does taste good, no trick chemicals needed,) artificial colourants or preservatives. It’s also been a great way for me to get my protein intake, something I had been struggling with. On to the recipe…

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Green beans and radishes on a bed of spicy brown rice with Fry’s thick cut chunky strips

  • 1kg green beans
  • 500g radishes
  • 380g (1 box) of Fry’s Thick Cut Chunky Strips
  • 2 tablespoons of Mrs. Balls Chutney
  • 1 tablespoon of Ina Paarman’s vegetable seasoning
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Check your green beans for any that may be bruised and discard those. Top and tail the beans and blanch them in boiling water. Cut the radishes in slices. Coat the vegetables with sunflower seed oil and the vegetable seasoning. Heat a large frying pan and place all the ingredients in the pan, fry until the chunky strips have cooked through and serve on top of the rice.

Spicy brown rice

  • 1 teaspoon of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of chilli paste*
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 cups  brown rice washed and drained
  • 2 cups of a tomato and onion mix*
  • 3 cups of vegetable broth

In a large frying pan, add about 2 tablespoons of sunflower seed oil. Once the pan gets hot, fry the rice until it has browned or you hear a faint popping noise. Once the rice has browned add the garlic, the chilli paste and cayenne pepper making sure to coat the rice evenly. Add the tomato and onion mix, the vegetable stock and the tomato paste and leave to simmer for five minutes on the hob. Remove from the hob and place in a preheated oven (180 C) for fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes stir the rice and cook for an additional 15 minutes. If you find that your rice is not soft after the cooking period, add a little bit of liquid and cook for another 15 minutes. You’ll be left with soft, very spicy rice. *I make my chilli paste from  scratch using habañero chillies and a little bit of onion, if you want something milder use jalapeños. My tomato and onion mix is also made from scratch. I whizz up 2 tomatoes and 1 onion in the blender with water.