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!

The fear 

Five months ago, on a day that should be declared an international holiday (my birthday,) I lost focus for a split second at a first attempt of a push jerk at 60kg and as I dropped the bar, I did some kind of a weird backward bend that clicked something in my back. I was in mild discomfort, a little bit of pain, and from that day I’ve been fearful of anything overhead, and because the weight I failed at was 60kg, that’s the weight that I have for the last few months unable to get past. 

So a couple of weeks ago, when coach programmed 1 rep maxes and a few benchmark wods, I was anything but thrilled. The day came when it was time to test our 1 rep maxes for the squat clean & jerk. 

I have big thighs so lifting is easy peasy, lemon squeezy. I get to 55kg, clean that with ease and then completely freeze when it comes to jerking it. At that point I gave up and now as I think back on that experience, I regret having allowed fear to win. A few things were comforting on that day; the first was how coach #1, Nuno handled that moment. He didn’t bark and shout at me to pick up the bar, but in that moment he understood that I needed to take a step back from the lift today, and get over myself and in particular that past event that had been a swift catalyst in my back injury. 

Fear makes things appear a lot worse than they actually are. Fear puts a magnifying glass on all the things you haven’t yet mastered and when you let it get to your head, like I had on that day, it can and it will cripple you. It stops you from trying, and trying is what needs to happen if you’re ever going to master anything. 

I left the box feeling defeated, disappointed in myself and I cried, the crying is standard for me, I’m a CrossFit drama queen haha. Later that day, I spoke to coach #2, my best franddd Bruno and felt challenged and a touch better. I came to the conclusion that at one stage or another, in life…well CrossFit is life, we’re all scared of something. We all have those moments where fear cripples us and we feel frozen whether physically or mentally. I can’t remember what movie it was that I watched that said the thing you fear is the thing you cherish the most and are most scared of losing (it was ‘The Bodyguard’) While that does make sense logically, on the flip side, as a Christian I’ve also come to realize that the thing that you fear the most, or the thing that you fear losing, highlights that area in which you trust Jesus the least. An area that you think God in all His sovereignty, is unable to protect should life i.e. unfavorable circumstance, should happen to you. An area that He can’t fill with His bravery, His strength and His spirit. 

As I thought of it a little bit more, I felt a little bit of a stir of annoyance: ‘you can’t possibly be telling me that I don’t trust God. Besides it’s CrossFit, what does that have to do with not trusting God?’ and then sweet Holy Spirit reminds me of this verse: 

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]. 

2 Timothy 1:7 (AMP)

I’m grateful for those moments where my faith and my fitness intersect. Regardless of whether it’s a wod at the box, or any other  facet of our lives; God has not given us a spirit of fear. A spirit of cowardice that does not try.  A spirit that does not trust in what or indeed who she/he knows. The fear I felt in that moment may have been validated by past experience, but just like in our faith walk where God doesn’t want us to re-live past experience/s of failure, it’s the same with CrossFit. You can’t dwell on the failed attempts. You will come face to face with fear that can be crippling. What you can’t do is allow yourself to be defeated, to be knocked out, to stop trying. We allow ourselves to be defeated when we allow the fear of a moment, or indeed a past event, to stop us from moving forward: and to get better in anything, we have to move forward, we have to keep trying. A fear filled response is void of calm, it’s void of a well balanced mind because in that moment, it is the fear that’s driving you. 

So next time I have a moment where I’m confronted with fear, what do I do? I want to be calm, I want a well balanced mind, I want self-control. 

Taking tips from my bestie, Brunzzz, in those moments you just have to do it. Decide to be a person that will go for it all the time! Give yourself a pep talk if you have to, psych yourself up to try. Psych yourself up to succeed. The worst thing that could happen is you fail that attempt, but it doesn’t make you a failure. The thing that is worse than failing, is not trying. A person who fails is not defeated. A person who doesn’t try, is. To echo what Nuno said, it truly does become a case of ‘getting over yourself.’ Forget your ego, forget the doubt and focus on the heat and now (here’s where you practice that mindfulness,) Focus on executing that lift, or movement using good technique. For a while after I injured my back, I had to strip back the weights, scale movement and work on my technique. Technique is what I had to remember in that moment, not how I had failed that attempt on international Aurélie day…which to be fair was because of shoddy technique 🙈 

I have to trust in what my coaches have taught me, so now I can honestly say that I am ready to PR my jerk. I’m no longer acting in response to fear, and there’s something about the word ‘cowardice’ that has added an extra ounce of bravery, strength and calm in me to try in CrossFit, and in life. 

I have learnt from experience that fear gets you absolutely nowhere.

Serena Williams

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.’

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)

Keep that core tight! 

A couple of days ago I was crying to God because I’m currently nursing a back injury which means that for the past two weeks, I’ve been unable to lift heavy. It is absolute torture!!! Going to the box, watching people throw their bars while I’m there stretching my lumbar spine 😴 and then the torture became too much and I relented to stretching and doing my core strengthening exercises at home…where I could sulk and pour as much as I wanted. All the while thinking, would I ever be able to lift without any pain again? Were my arms going to waste away into tiny little weeds? Were my thighs going to become floppy and forget how to power up when squatting? Was I going to lose all my strength? This was the trajectory that I was scared I’d go down on. 

Later that day, while soaking in the bath (still feeling very much sorry for myself,) I was listening to Ben Bergeron’s podcast chasing excellence and the topic was ‘redefining adversity.’ Ben spoke about how your reaction to failure, in my case, my reaction to injury, is what would define the outcome. One of the examples he used about adversity handled the right way is Katrin not being able to rope climb at regionals in 2014 and not qualifying for the games. She could have easily adopted the ‘woe is me’ attitude, but we all know that she didn’t and that’s why she’s the two time reigning fittest woman on earth! I listened to this podcast and I immediately switched my thoughts to: hey, I can love every single minute of these next few weeks because I’m working on foundational movements that will make me a better athlete. The bar’s still gonna be there when I get back; so will wall balls. 

Everything will be waiting for me when I’m 100% again, and I have a sneaky feeling that I’m going to be stronger, faster and even better than ever. A few minutes later as I was doing my core workout, thinking about how the lack of stability and strength in my core was one of the factors that contributed to my back injury, I began to think about how in life and in our walk with God, a lack of stability in our belief that God’s love is for us; is often what causes us to stumble in life. 

For such a person ought not to think or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable and restless in all his ways [in everything he thinks, feels, or decides].  ‭‭James 1:7-8‬ ‭(AMP‬‬)

To believe that God loves you and that His love is for you, is the foundational truth upon which our lives should be built. This statement is what will cause you to be stable in the face of adversity. 

What does this adversity look like? Very simply, adversity in our Christian walk is anything that threatens to shake our identity in Christ and how we view our beautiful Jesus. This adversity can come in the shape of thoughts where you feel that you aren’t good enough; that you’ll never amount to anything. These thoughts trickle down into the depths of your soul and begin to shape a new identity, a false identity; one where you’re not made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) one where you don’t live boldly and without hindrance (Acts 28:31,) to do all the God has destined for your life. The only way that this can change is by renewing yourself daily with the word of God, putting on your new nature (Colossians 3:10) and trusting in His love for you. Trust in God begins with a thought as simple as ‘God, I’m going to believe that you love me and that you will lead me down the path of everlasting life. I’m going to trust the directive that you have for my life.’

When I repeat such seemingly simple phrases, (the Gospel is after all simple truth,) I find that my anxiety level drops by at least 90% and the striving ceases. Repeating such simple truths daily is what has crafted and is still crafting me into the type of woman that I want to be for Jesus. Notice that I wrote for Jesus! We become unstable and restless in all of our ways (how & what we think, feel & believe,) when we try to gather up all the different selves that people want us to be, into one. 

We’ll never achieve anything by such double minded living; the saying goes you can’t please everyone because you’re not Nutella, so why not choose to live for Christ, to please Him, doing your utmost for the Highest. In making this decision to live just and only for Him; you’ll find that all adversity does is strengthen your identity in Christ and push you closer to what He’s planned for your life but you have to choose. Nothing great ever came forth from being passive, core strength included. So today, on this beautiful Sunday, think about the little changes you can make to put you on the trajectory to an unrivaled life of excellence empowered by God, and as you think of those changes you can make, go ahead and do it! 

Now that we’ve covered the faith part of this post, let’s throw in some fitness. 

Here are 5 of my favourite core busting moves, starting with the move that’s in the image:

1. Wall squats with dumbbell 

Stand in front of a wall and hold a light dumbbell (or kettlebell,) in an overhead position. Keep your core tight and your arm straight as you lower down into a squat. This is mega hard for me and highlighted just how much I tend to lean forward with my back when squatting. I could only do 1 when I first started these and now I’m up to three, I typically do 3 sets of 3 after my main workout which these days is just simple bodyweight and Pilates. I’m working really hard at not leaning to the side, use a light weight for these. My dumbbell was 5kg; pull that tum into your belly, your core will feel it and you’ll get bette each time. 

2. Wall climb 

Start in a plank position or for an even harder progression, start flat on your stomach with your hands slightly outside your shoulders to support them as you start climbing up. Resist the urge to twerk up the wall, you’re not in a hip hop video and you aren’t using your bummy to get you up. It’s all in the core so don’t let your back dip. Using opposite arm and leg, climb up the wall until your nose touches the wall, 3 sets of 10 will set your core on fire. 

3. Downward dog 🐶 

This is a favourite of mine; nothing gets at those hamstrings and lengthens my back, better than this doggie! Start on all fours, your wrists about 15 to 30cm in front of your shoulders. Separate your knees hip width apart, curl your toes underneath. Push evenly into your palms, lifting your knees off the floor. Lift your sit bones and push the top of your thighs back so that your body looks like an inverted V. Slowly start to straighten your knees without locking them, gently moving your chest back towards your thighs. Don’t let your head do a little dangle dance. Lengthen your spine, keep those hips lifted and push strongly into your hands. Hold this post for 10 deep breaths and repeat 5 more times. It’s okay if you can’t keep your heels on the floor, I’m still fighting ridiculously tight hamstrings but practice makes perfect. I’ll get there, and so will you! 

4. Bridge 

This pose is great for spine realignment and teaching you how to use your gluteal muscles. It’s pretty straightforward! All you do is lie on your back with your knees bent directly over your feet, hands by your heels and palms up. Use your abs (I promise they’re there,) and glutes to lift your hips and torso towards the ceiling. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Lower down, starting with your upper back and finishing with your lower back, keeping your pelvis tilted up. Repeat this 5 more times and you’ll be well on your way to building a bridge that’ll get you over troubled waters. Was that mildly funny? No? Okay onto number 5! 

5. Bow 

This pose is one that I really battle with but I love the way my back feels afterwards. Lie on your stomach with your legs hip width apart and bend your knees then reach back and grab the outside of your ankles or the top of your feet. Inhale, pressing back through your legs as you lift your thighs and chest off the floor. Then press your feet back into your hands, drop your chin to your chest and breath deeply. Release and repeat 3 more times. 

I’m not enjoying being injured, but through this I’m still learning more about the athlete that I will become based on the athlete that I was. There probably will be a lot of days where I’m going to cry because I can’t yet do all the things I want to do, there will be days when I’m probably still gonna cry when I watch CrossFit videos, but it’s okay. This isn’t forever. It’s just a little pit stop on the way to greatness. 

Right handed

I remember the day I started wearing the black band on my wrist…okay maybe I don’t remember the exact date BUT I do know that it was a couple of days before my 27th birthday (loved that day!!!) I was on ‘fuel for fire’s’ Instagram page where they wrote about the white rubber band that reigning fittest woman on earth, Katrin Davidsdottir wears on her wrist to keep her from complaining or having a negative mindset. 

I very heavily document the highs and lows of my emotions, and having suffered with depression; sometimes it can feel like you’re just never getting better, I have days where I seriously question whether there might just be a very hormonal pregnant woman hiding in the deeper parts of my belly 🤔 However I have begun to ACTIVELY work on healing myself; no longer the passive bystander, constantly coming up with excuses on why things will always stay the way they are. 
For me; one of my excuses was: ‘hey I’ve suffered with depression and I’ve been through so much, people don’t know what I’ve been through. Besides I’m kind of trying to improve my mental game, I haven’t said can’t in agessss. At least I’m trying!’ 

Was I really trying? 
Are YOU really trying? 

The dangerous thing about excuses is that if we repeat them to ourselves long enough; they condition our minds into believing that these excuses are the gospel truth. Luckily for me, Jesus really loves me, (I mean I know we have the childhood song ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…’ BUT this girl over here, I’m His favourite!) and it is because of this fierce and passionate love that He will 9 times out of 10, swoop in like the hero that He is to destroy the excuses, as well as the wrong mindsets [strongholds] that oppose the great plan that He has for my life. Sometimes Jesus (along with some very wise friends,) has to remind me to drop the crutch. Don’t try, no excuses, just do it! 

So when I started wearing my rubber band; (mine is a black one that I got from A21, an organization that fights human trafficking, a cause very important to me,) I evaluated the things that are important to me not just as a human but also as a daughter deeply loved and highly favoured by God. These things are: Jesus, CrossFit, doughnuts and Jesus. Everything begins and ends with Him. As I questioned my motives and searched my heart in what has been a turning point in my spiritual health; I came to the realization that not only in CrossFit, but even in my walk with God, I had applied a lot of excuses, cutting corners where I could, sugar coating what was indeed laziness, with a WHOLE lot of excuses. Excuses that seeped into (and were threatening to derail,) my pursuit to become a top CrossFit athlete. 

My most popular excuse: I just don’t have time; I’m always working, and you know what? It might seem like a valid excuse (and for those who know me; they’ll know that I am indeed almost always working,) but whether you’re working or sitting on your 🍑 at home; life goes on, people go on. As you neglect to do what you can to ensure healthy spiritual growth or in the case of my fitness pursuit, better athlete ability; it doesn’t mean that everyone else is neglecting those areas.  

People were getting their muscle ups strung together. People were falling deeper in love with God. 

And me? 

I had a tug of war going on in my head. The very things that I wanted to achieve, I couldn’t even visualize myself doing. There would be a nervousness that would gnaw so viciously at any confidence that I had in myself; leaving me with just enough to get by (you’re survivin’ honey, but not thriving.) Not enough to excel, just enough to not completely sink. 

It was time for a mindset shift; for good this time. I hate to give this guy credit 🙄 but coach 1/2, Bruno, has been someone who I am learning a lot from in terms of creating in your mind a space where the energy that you draw from while training, while living, is always positive and life giving. A few weeks ago, I walked into the box for the best class; 5am and looked at the wod. This was a spicy one that was 10 rounds long, and because it had one of my favourite moves; front squats, I didn’t even bother reading twice before deciding that RX+ was going to be my portion that day; front squats at 40kg , easy for girls with thighs and just my kind of weight; (heavy just how I loooves it!) thrown in were double unders & handstand push ups. Now I don’t hate handstand push ups but in my head (on that particular day,) I felt that I had regressed. I wasn’t looking forward to the HSPU, but when you love squatting (or deadlifts;) you’ll go through any ugly movement (toes to bar are there,) to get to your cake, and front squats…that was MY cake, cake, cake! 🎂 

Front squats done, quads singing 🎤 and then I walk to the wall. Handstand push up timeeee!!! At least that’s what I thought; I could barely get on the wall which was frustrating to me because I have video evidence of me stringing 6 kipping HSPU together. On that day; I couldn’t even get 2. I could feel myself getting more and more frustrated each time I had to approach the wall, but before I could start crying (I cry a lot at the box haha,) I looked at my band and as much as my coach offered the scaled options to me; I (like to think that I was polite,) declined. Today was a great day to practice not allowing my mind to wander off into negativity land, and potentially even quit; I was not going to do that, ESPECIALLY because I had in my tank, the memory of being able to do HSPU’s.  

Wearing my black band (and telling my coach about it,) held me accountable; it meant that everyday I would choose  positivity. I had to keep my band on the right, which meant no complaining, no sucky attitude approaching any wod or movement. Now more than ever, I feel accountable to God. Am I squandering what He has given me? What did I believe, what do I currently believe? About who I can become as a Christian woman. About who I can become as an athlete? 

It’s no longer about not verbalizing the negative comments but also not thinking negatively! It was hard when I started and it’s still hard now. It’s going against what used to be your normal, it’s going against everything you’ve ever known as the right way to think. It’s fighting the battle within, and winning. Your mind doesn’t control you, you control it! 

The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself- the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us- that’s where it’s at. 

Jesse Owens 

Post-Open Reflection 

Two weeks have passed, the Open is over and training has gone back to its usual schedule. I’ve read a few posts on post-Open reflection, so here’s mine: I hated the Open 😂

This year, a recurring injury flaring up, partly…if not solely because of my inconsistency in keeping up with my strengthening exercises and yoga 🙈 kept me from feeling like I was Open ready, and I know you’re never ever truly ready for the hell that Castro unleashes, but prior to signing up for the Open, I didn’t feel fit enough or strong enough. I didn’t feel like I had enough. I finally signed up for the Open after chatting to one of my coaches at CrossFit 4 Elements, Nuno. One of the best coaches you’ll ever have, and ever since he started coaching us, first at Fit 5ive and then at CrossFit 4 Elements, there hasn’t really been a day where I don’t like King Louie 🐒 sing:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ooh be doo, I wanna be like you ooh ooh! I wanna walk like you *cheep*, talk like you too. You see it’s true, someone like me…


Stop, stop, let’s get back to the bare necessities of this paragraph at least!  In my opinion, it’s a great box where you want to be like your coach (and now I have two great coaches, the other being Bruno Calha) but being like coach means hard work and let’s be real, hard work isn’t as fun as posting inspirational quotes about how the lioness in you must roar louder than your fears. This is the reality that I have had to face. There is definitely a place for inspirational quotes but they don’t come before hard work, consistency and diligence. I have never been as emotional as I was this year and as I set my sights on the better athlete that I want to be; warning ⚠️ to the coaches, there are more tears and tantrums on the way 😂 #sorrynotsorry but with the tantrums, I know that there will also be growth. Where I was at 90% in terms of caring about what everyone else thought of me as a CrossFitter; I’m now at 85% 🙈 The narrative in my head was one that was highly critical, self conscious, so much negative talk going on in my head. Failing even before I begin: this is the story that I’m having to rewrite not just for CrossFit but in all areas of my life so that I’m always functioning at what works best for me, not what would accommodate everyone else’s schedule or preference.

And do you know what I’ve discovered? It is really hard! I’ve always been someone who’s cared more about what people think of her than what she thinks of herself…I think they’re called people pleasers 🤔 I’ve been making a more concerted effort to kill that part of me. I’ve realized this, or should I say, I am realizing this: it is not selfish to take care of your soul first and establishing the values that are important to and for you, before you take care of anyone else. It’s actually healthier to do things from a place where your spirit is balanced. The increase in confidence, though be it rather slow (feels slow from my side,) is the overflow from my time with God. I shared a few posts back about my battle with depression and as I make the baby steps to everyday not allowing those dark demons to win; God gives me strength enough not just for that day but for every moment that is encapsulated in that day. Music sounds sweeter, life seems sweeter, Jesus feels and is sweeter and nearer. Getting back to knowing my old Friend again is doing something to my insides that just makes it seem so disrespectful to this temple that He created, to be negative or to berate it for not being able to do 50 muscle ups…can we get there though God?

This walk back to the Saviour has been hard work; hard in the sense where I had forgotten how important and vital it is to have Him as my compass and as the one who calibrates me when my settings need a reboot. This principle is one that I am trying to apply to CrossFit. Talent is fantastic and if by any means you are naturally gifted to wack out those 50 muscle ups, by all means do it! But the still small voice of God that I’m starting to hear again during my wods, reminds me that there is no substitute for hard work, discipline and a little bit of optimism never hurts. It’s time to believe that I am a great advancing soul, and guess what? So are you!

I did have a little bit of a cry (on my own,) when the Open scores were finalized and I compared how much I had dropped from last year. And then I put on my big girl pants and decided to move forward; attack the weaknesses, do the accessory work and JUST MOVE ON.

Constant reminders like the white rubber band that I just bought help. Katrin wears one that reads “CFNE- Complaint Free world” and each time you complain you have to move it to your other wrist. The goal is to keep it on the same wrist, that translates to no complaining. For me this will be serve as a visual reminder to work hard, stay positive, believe I can and continue to build on my mental strength. I will do whatever it takes to get to the stage where it matters less and less what people think about me. So I’m excited, a bit scared but at this point; the only thing that I stand to lose, is a negative mindset.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

THIS SONG IS PERFECT!

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

#Goals

I love the word goals.

Last night as I watched Beyoncé’s Grammy performance, I thought #pregnancygoals. Her dance moves…#goals, her body pre-pregnancy, you guessed it…#goals! A couple of weeks ago at the box, I was admiring Andreia’s butt! If you have been lucky enough to see her butt then you’ll understand why; #buttgoals. A few moments later I was on instagram, mildly stalking Sam Briggs, going through a heavy bout of muscle up envy, and as soon as I saw her abs, do you want to know what I thought…#goals, #goals, #goals. And then I thought about how much cardio (which is hardio,) that I’d have to do in order to have abs visible through whatever I’m wearing…one day! This is where the part of me that is a little bit wiser stopped me in my tracks and asked me a question that I’m gonna unpack with you today: what if you were your goals? What if (if you’re pregnant,) you were your pregnancy goals? What if your body was your dream body? What if your life was your #goals? What would happen then? Would you have to take some time to truly work on yourself and the things that you can change in order to put that hashtag on your life? What if  instead of dissecting your life, and thinking about how far you still have to go, you used that time to celebrate your achievements, and if we’re still talking about CrossFit, what about celebrating the body you’ve worked so hard for and are still working hard for?

 

Because of the nature of my relationship with God, 9 times out of 10 when He knows I need to be corrected, it’ll be through something that happens at the box. Well yesterday after the WOD, I was talking to my coach and he asked me if I would be entering the Open. For those of you not into CrossFit (not judging you…a lot) the CrossFit Open is a five week competion, five workouts, one released each week, and it is without a doubt, the highlight of the CrossFit calendar. I said to my coach how I didn’t feel ready and how I just knew that I would suck, I would not be entering the Open because in my mind, I had already decided that I would bomb out. My toes to bar, they aren’t anybody’s goals, my deadlifts…maybe on a good day. I bet he didn’t know I could see that far into the future. Naturally I got a bit cocky and thought “well that settles it, I have presented valid points as to why I should not do the Open. I win.” Now if you have a great coach, you will NEVER EVER win any argument like that where you belittle yourself, highlight all your weaknesses and throw yourself under the bus. For the sake of not making this post too long, I will share one thing that my coach said that I’ve been mulling on for the past 24 hours and what my plan of action is. He told me to stop being so hard on myself, to stop thinking that everyone is judging me. To stop thinking that everyone is judging my failures as harshly as I do. Did I mention how much I hate my coach sometimes?  This morning when I got to work, I started a devotional by Craig Groeschel entitled ‘Words to Live By,’ and as I watched the video (which you can do by clicking on this link,) it is as though God crept into my mind to remind me how my stinking thinking was keeping me far from living a life that I could be proud of calling my own, and placing that goals hashtag in front of it. This is but one of the things the stuck out:

Our lives move on in the direction of our strongest thoughts. Your life is moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts. Are you excited about the direction your thoughts are taking you?

I just about started to cry as I thought about the HONEST answer to that question. There is not a part of me that is excited about the direction my thoughts are taking me. For the purpose of this article, let’s keep it as CrossFit related as we can. If I think about the athlete I am right now and my current thought process, nowhere in the picture that I paint or have painted in my mind, is there an emotionally sound athlete. Nowhere in this negative picture driven by my thoughts, is there an athlete who does not easily get rattled. Nowhere in this picture is there an athlete who I would place the hashtag, goals in front of a picture of her. This is the reality. I would do the work but in the midst of buckling down and working, I would berate myself for not going fast enough, for not being strong enough, for not being good enough. And you know what, even though no one else can hear your thoughts audibly, (that would suck,) your body can! It begins to behave in the direction that your thoughts are telling you it’s going to behave. It’s great to be aware of my stinking thinking, to a certain  extent I’ve always known how detrimental I am to myself, it’s so much more easier for me to believe in others, see the good in them and celebrate their successes, than it is to celebrate (humbly,) my achievements. This awareness is great BUT what is the solution? Well after watching Pastor Groeschel’s message, I finally know what to do. Positive affirmations said aloud, each and every single morning until my words match God’s words about my life. This is one that I will be repeating for however long it takes for me to get it through my thick skull that I am enough.

My words, thoughts and imagination are under the power of Christ. I take all thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.

 

It lines up to Romans 12:2,

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

My prayer for you and for me especially today, is that God would renew your mind, renew your thinking, especially if it has been stinky like mine, and for Him to show you just how strong, beautiful AND capable you are. YES YOU ARE! 

In the words of Barack Obama; YES I CAN! YES YOU CAN! YES WE CAN!!! 

Motivation: How to find it, how to lose it and how to keep it!

You’re in the final minutes of a WOD* (one word…Karen) and if you haven’t yet fallen in love with CrossFit (I don’t understand why not?) perhaps you have a few more reps, or a few more minutes (if you’re doing endurance training,) left in your workout. In those final minutes, or those final reps, there’s a lot going through your mind. For some it might be the agony of still having ‘X’ amount of reps  left to complete, it might be a thought on how you’re going to push past that level of discomfort and not start to cry like a baby…I have found myself on this side of the spectrum more often than not, CrossFit and running in particular, unearths the weepy girl in me!  It’s especially hard during those last few reps of a disgusting WOD, where everyone is cheering for you to finish (which I always think is such a beautiful moment,) and I can sometimes become so overwhelmed with emotion (maybe it’s the adrenaline?) that I can feel tears pooling up in my eyes, on the verge of coming out! Thankfully at that point, I’m sweating so much that no one ever knows that I’m dangerously close to crying…well now they know!

Motivation is what will keep you going in those moments where perhaps you do have tears streaming down your face (masked within the sweat of course!) Motivation is what will keep you going even when you’re uncomfortable,  in that moment when 3 more thrusters might as well be 300 more! Motivation is what will keep you going even when you would much rather throw in that towel, in spite of what people say to use that towel to wipe the sweat (tears in my case haha,) off of your face.

But hang on, what is motivation and how do we find it?

motivation noun a desire or willingness to do something; a force or influence that causes someone to do something

Here’s how I found my motivation; i.e. my desire or willingness to do something; and these things can range from tasks such as completing a WOD, preparing for a presentation at work as efficiently as I can and many  other things in life! I found this desire through spending time with God. It was really when I read Colossians 3:23-24 (which I consider as my life verse,) that I began to understand how desire and willingness sustained by God, never wanes. This is what it says:

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart (work with willingness and desire,) as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ (emphasis added)

Through this verse, God showed me how in everything that I did and do, if I have the mindset of doing it all for Him, whether it is in CrossFit or at work, or even in a relationship (when I eventually get into one,) if I have pleasing God as my one and only goal, doing EVERYTHING unto the LORD, that passion, willingness and desire to do something extraordinary in life, will always be there. This is the sure-fire way to keep motivation. By focusing on something and someone way bigger than my ambitions and always having in my mind, how what I’m doing can glorify God; this motivation becomes something that is sustained by God and the Holy Spirit. This motivation, this drive and willingness is no longer something that I, Aurélie, have to keep alive through my own strength that on some days will fail me.

On the flipside, motivation can also be lost. We’ve seen it in movies or perhaps we’ve  been guilty of uttering this phrase about someone who’s looking lacklustre…I am rather ashamedly, guilty of having uttered such a phrase:

‘What happened to Jenny? She really has  let herself go, it’s almost as though she’s lost the will (motivation/desire/willingness,) to live.’

In my experience, this loss of desire and willingness to do anything, usually happens when we’ve put other people’s expectations of us on a pedestal. What they think of us, and what they want of us, has become of higher importance than the great call that Christ has placed on our lives. We get caught up in being this person whose desire to do something, is dictated by another human’s expectation. Expectations that often reflect fickle emotions that can change overnight. We begin to live in a way that cultivates insecurity, breeds suspicion, until we find ourselves out of touch with the true essence of our being. Motivation based on what or who people want you to be, places you on a dangerous path of being more focused on what people think is best for you, as opposed to what you, as a beautiful and strong individual, knows is best for her or indeed himself! You’re living but it never is really for yourself. You’re driven, but it’s never because of any desires of your own. You’re ambitious, but ambitious to be the you that everyone else wants you to be, and motivation fuelled by such expectations, is unrealistic.

Keeping motivation, a desire to live your best life, is no easy task. It requires an awareness of all those things, and in some cases, all those people who are draining life from you. A great place to start if by doing an evaluation on what you’re filling your head with. Right now, as you’re reading this post, take a minute to write down on a piece of paper (or on a blackboard with chalk, if you’re me,) WHAT AM I FILLING MY MIND WITH? Filling our minds with negative thoughts will only ever breed negativity. These thoughts can easily pollute and derail any good thoughts that run through your mind. These thoughts can so easily become destructive and before you know it, you too have become like Jenny 😉 In some cases, (I like to think of those as the really drastic situations, so drastic that I’m even going to invent an acronym for it right now! RDS.) In the event of an RDS, it might even be necessary to stop hanging around with certain people that might have your best interest at heart, but are misguided in how they’re delivering that message and again the negativity that those intentions can often be shrouded in, will never be conducive to cultivating a healthy you. When you find yourself in an RDS, it can also mean that spiritually, physically and emotionally, you’re never truly connecting with the deeper parts of you (the part of you that God created as unique, breathtaking in beauty and not based at all on anyone’s expectation of who you should be.)

I’ve had to take time to think about this post, what is it that motivates me? Who is it that motivates me? Amongst the names that popped through my head, it all came back to one person. The lover of my soul, Jesus. Now, I want to say that I have completely mastered the art of relying on Him for motivation…for everything but hey I am a work in progress, and unfortunately, it pains me to say that I am not as perfect as I love to think I am. I still fall prey to seeing ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ everyone else is doing what they’re doing, as opposed to my ‘why’, the Jesus given ‘why’ behind everything I do. Thankfully every now and then, this elephant** remembers her source of motivation. Jesus. My dreamboat. As many times as I forget, He is still always there being my biggest cheerleader, alongside with the Holy Spirit, always reminding me of Colossians 3:23-24. He is, and will forever be, the reason why I desire to be a better woman in all aspects of my life! In the long run, you’ll find that though you might get weary sometimes, you’ll never truly feel as though you’re done with your journey, the desire and motivation never truly leave, because you’ll always be thinking about how you can do your utmost for His highest.

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Photo credit: Luke Venter (@fruitlukes)

*workout of the day

 **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!