Mesmerizing

For as long as I can remember, I have always been part of the club of women that put on muscle (and unfortunately fat,) very quickly. This has meant that even if I go without doing things like push ups (who wants to do those anyway?) my arms are always defined, T-Rex and I are one in the same! The fact that my arms are so defined used to bother me. You’d find me covering up my arms, even on the hottest days. For a long time, I wished that there was a deflate button hidden somewhere in a vein. On those very rare occasions when I’d go on a date, (real ones, not the imaginary ones with James Franco,) and I find myself sitting across the table from a guy with arms smaller than mine, I would feel like Batman, and was there anyone who wanted to date Batman in a dress? I didn’t think so, and for a long time that was the lie that I believed. The lie that somehow in order to make others (in this case, men,) feel secure about themselves, I had to downplay my strength and be the damsel in distress, and I had to have smaller arms…that was until I found CrossFit.

You’ll do the toughest wods, most with female names… Perhaps in acknowledgment to the unrivalled strength and indomitable spirit that every woman possesses, and a nod to the phrase ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ There’s a great sense of empowerment in every class, in the very best boxes (mine,) you’ll have a coach that pushes you regardless of your gender, and you’re not handled with kiddie gloves because you’re a girl. Being a girl means nothing in terms of how hard you’re pushed. In fact what I’ve come to learn is that in the world of CrossFit, if someone tells you to lift like a girl, well Jim* you better be scared of what you’re gonna have to load on that bar! The women of CrossFit are strong; we’ll paint our nails (sometimes,) and then ruin that fresh manicure landing a PR in our squat snatch (that’s the lift I want to PR!)

When I first started CrossFit in 2014, I wore the baggiest t-shirts. I still do now but usually with shorts because I like tricking people with the whole pants, no pants question. In those days I wore the baggy t-shirts because I hated my body. I felt like I needed to hide the way I looked. The fact that I had been vegetarian for two years (vegan for a mere five months,) and still hadn’t whittled down to a size 4, infuriated me. I guess some people are just meant to be built like elephants, or gorillas? I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Fast forward to three years later, we’re in 2018 now and I’ve come to prize function over aesthetic…on most days at least. I haven’t completely thrown caution to the wind. I still have my periods where if I feel a little bit chunkier than usual, I’ll either train more or eat a lot less of my kryptonite…bread, potatoes, pizza…gosh I looooove pizza and anything that has sugar in it.

The best thing I’ve heard all year was that my body is mesmerizing. Now I will say, said person was a bit of a creep but there’s no reason to discount the truth that came from him. Mesmerizing.

Mesmerizing: capture the complete attention of (someone) or to hypnotize someone.

When was the last time you thought of your body that way? Have you ever thought of your body that way? Guess what, your body IS mesmerizing. Your body is strong. Your body is beautiful and I don’t just mean in an aesthetic way but physiologically as well. Have you ever thought of the work that goes into keeping you alive? Little things like being able to breathe, your heart pumping blood around your body without you having to remind it, being able to walk without having to consciously send a message to your brain to put the left foot forward now.

As the years that I have been fitness-ing add up, my nutrition and training habits are starting to get better, and each day I learn to love this body that is doing its best to function and perform as I want it to. Discipline tempered with kindness. Kindness to remember that my body (and yours,) is mesmerizing.

I’ve had people look down on me, put me down because I didn’t look like them- I look stronger. Serena Williams

*Jim is the generic name that I use for any man that dares to think women are the weaker sex.

(Bathtime) Friends With Benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bathtime friends with benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletes’ Corner Part III: Adrian Conway

This final piece of athletes’ corner is the best…okay, I’m going to say that about every athlete that I interview because it’s the truth. Some of the athletes you’ll see in this growing feature, I have the honour of calling them my friends…real friends, not the imaginary kind that solely exists in my head haha! These are people that I hold up in the highest regard and they embody some of the best qualities that I think make them the best kind of people to have in your life. Hardworkers yes, but they’re also just really great at loving people and being great humans, some of them humans that I admire from afar. Hmm…that only sounds mildy creepy, I swear it isn’t.

The aim behind athletes’ corner is to encourage and give you beautiful readers a healthy dose of inspiration, sometimes a kick of motivation in the booty, and home truths (some old, some new,) that you can apply to your life in order to keep growing, and enable you to enjoy this journey that we’re on. There’s an old saying that says we can’t possibly have it all, and often times (especially as a woman,) I have had the thought that maybe I can’t have it all. I’m gonna have to choose the parts of life that I’m going to be good at, it’s one or the either. One cannot possibly pursue all of their passions, 1 or 2 will do. This last piece with Adrian taught me that I can absolutely have it all. The thing that will determine how well you handle everything that will inevitably land up on your plate, is the balance that you have with God, yourself, and the people that you allow to speak into your life.

I hope you’ll enjoy this and I’ll see you in a blogpost…or pretty soon a box near you!

Last part of athletes’ corner with Adrian Conway, LET’S GO!

img_0987-1
Adrian, his son Alijah and his wife Ashley.

  • You’re a family man, you have your own company, you’re a competitive athlete and you also coach. How do you find balance and what is it that you focus on to excel at being someone who in truth is  ‘all things to all people?’

AC: I put God first. There are certain times that you must draw the line with what you can do and what you won’t do. I don’t coach on Wednesday nights ever because I have church obligations, I won’t work more than 1-2 weekends a month for CrossFit HQ because it takes me from the body of Christ and the ability to serve and worship with like minded people too much. So for me, that looks like turning down work and more chances to make money, but it is always worth it. As I do this as a priority, it honestly helps me then balance everything else. In my marriage, when competing with friends with family, if I keep putting God first, he always provides the answers and the structure for me to be better and more present in each aspect. It is not easy.

  • Ambition and Christianity, is it okay to want more? Are we ‘allowed’ to want more?

AC: It is God’s desire for us to want more. It is not a sin to want more, it is a sin to love money. When the root of your desire is to serve, create influence, lead people to Christ then ambition is your friend. In fact I’d argue most Christians aren’t ambitious enough about their salvation and getting others to Christ. We need to be more ambitious in sharing the gift we have! Most people show up to church to serve themselves not to serve others, we use our relationship with God to serve our needs and wants and not to go seek and save the lost, LIKE WE ARE CALLED TO. I am as guilty as any. So first I want ALL OF US to have a greater ambition for the lost and getting them to know Christ. And another sad truth is that money makes the world go round. If you pursue your passions and work for everything as if you are working for God and you put your money and give your first fruits back into the Kingdom there is nothing wrong with having or wanting more.

As Christians we have to know that there is money to be had, who would we prefer to have control of it? Those who do with it what serves them? Or those who seek after God’s desires and visions and want to be able to put it to great use in aiding others or helping to fuel efforts to spread the Kingdom of God?

  • In light of this ambition, what is it that continues to drive you forward and what are some of the daily habits that you have implemented in order to keep growth sustainable and everything in the order that it should be in?

AC: I wear many hats professionally. My simple pursuit to want to be a Games Athlete has opened many, many doors for me. I am newly a gym owner “Live in Victory CrossFit”, I am an owner in FNXfit supplement line, I am a key aspect of the Brute strength training team, I teach L1’s for CrossFit Head Quarters and still help run and coach at Wasatch CrossFit. Almost each one of these avenues were opened due to my hard work and abilities as an athlete.

Because I pursue everything as I give it up to God with relentless effort, I was ready when opportunities presented themselves. Day to day right now it takes planning and organization to stay on task and be able to be successful in each aspect. As an athlete over the next year that will take a backseat. I’ll use the next 12 months to heal, rest and focus on the new business opportunities I have. I measure success only by my relationship with God and my family life. If I am ever losing in those aspects then I’m completely lost or very close to on my way. Again, I am a Christian, this is who I am, everything else is merely what I do. I hope to able to use every avenue that has been opened to me in order to lead people to a relationship with God or to help them strengthen it. If I can provide for my family, create an income that can support others, run companies that serve the community, then all of that stuff is simply icing on the cake.

  • In closing, Adrian what is the legacy that you want to leave behind?

AC: I want to be known as a man who loved God, and lived to the best of his ability to love others and lead others to him while I was here. I hope I can continue to find ways to use my talents and the abilities God has given me in order to that. And that I can lead a life so that my family and those others who know me closest would admire those qualities the most.

Catch up on our inaugural instalment of Athletes’ Corner with Adrian Conway by clicking on the links below:

Part I

Part II

I’ll be sharing the link on twitter for an article for BoxRox magazine that I wrote, where  Adrian shares advice for CrossFit athletes! You’ll know when I share it if you follow me 😉 tweet, tweet!

The Black CrossFitter & Her Hair (Mishaps)

I am a black girl.

Oh you noticed.

Yay! We can proceed.

Black girls unfortunately have a reputation for choosing to preserve their hairstyle over working out. I have never really been that girl, except for when I got my eyebrows microbladed. Those two weeks of very minimal sweating was SO worth it because I have eyebrows that anyone would be (and rightly so,) should be, jealous of.

Microblading incident aside, I am a huge proponent of health over everything. When my hair was longer, I would rock up to the box with the dodgiest looking cornrows, twists, looking crusty as anything, and I must be honest I didn’t really care. It’s easy now, to stand on this pedestal, preaching to all who will read this blog that health should be a priority over everything, however (remember how I wrote in this post, that there is ALWAYS a ‘however’ in life!) when I first started CrossFit, I foolishly believed that I could look cute while working out.

The year was 2013, I had just moved back to South Africa from the UK and after watching a RIDICULOUS amount of CrossFit videos on YouTube, I bit the bullet and joined a box that was a stone’s throw away from home. I had no idea what a black female CrossFitter was supposed to look like, (do you see why representation is important?) I hadn’t yet discovered Elisabeth Akinwale, Quiana Welch or Deborah Cordner-Carson.

The funny thing about being the only black person anywhere is that sometimes you feel as though you’re there as a delegate to represent all black people and naturally you have to be good at everything AND look the part.

On that day I decided that I would wear the new silky black and stupidly long wig that my sister had bought for me. I had just chopped off all my hair for the umpteenth time so while there was nothing to secure that wig to, I had tied a headband around the perimeter to sort of secure the wig. I’ve never been one to cherry pick my wods, so on that day I rocked up to the box ready (or so I thought,) for whatever would be thrown at me. I’ve been active my whole life, not as much as I am now, so I foolishly believed that I had encountered every move possible in the world of what my narrow definition of fitness was. On that fateful day, in the elements class, we would be learning how to do handstands. I was excited until the coach began to demonstrate the warm up. It involved forward rolls. I only really started to panic when I crouched down, attempted to roll forward and as I did, felt my wig start to shift. That wig shifted all the way off my big ol’ head. I had just revealed a black girl secret. After that day, I would love to say that I learnt my lesson but I didn’t…I haven’t! When my hair grew long enough, I dipped in the box braid trend, (thanks Solange,) only to get the worst neck ache from the weight of the braids whipping back and forth whenever I did pull ups, and I’ll never forget 16.4, where I hoped to never get to the HSPU. How would I be able to do those with the weight of these insanely long braids?

I’ve had wods where my braids have flipped in front of me, blocking my vision and effectively ruining my life. Wods where all I could think about was the pain of those fresh braids. I’ve even suffered from slight chafing on my back from the friction caused by having the bar on my weave. You’d think all these things would cause me to call it quits on looking cute while working out, but they haven’t deterred me. I am on an eternal quest to work hard without looking like I’m working hard and I have learnt a few things from these hair mishaps and luckily (unless you want to,) you don’t have to go through what I did, to find out what works best for a black female CrossFitter.

Tip #1: Box braids will never be your friend! The sooner you accept this, the better. In last years Open, I (still being ever so brave, foolish perhaps, and not willing to accept this,) had box braids. They made everything that much harder, annoying, and hotter. The amount of times my rope got caught in my braids during 17.5, wasn’t that high but in a wod where you’re racing against the clock, that second spent on re-adjusting a stray braid was one second too long. At least I looked cute right?

img_3919

Tip #2: Go natural. I’ve worried the least about how my hair is going to surprise me, or what it’ll do during a wod, when I’ve worn it in its natural state. There are no movement restrictions and I know for a fact that I don’t have to worry about whether my hair will get caught on my rope, chafe my back, or block my vision. Afros are a beautiful thing, they defy gravity, it’s part of that black girl magic.

my face of disbelief during 17.1

Tip #3: Remember to cleanse and moisturize. If you’re anything like me and you sweat when you work out, this is an important (and obvious,) one to remember. Natural hair  gets dry quickly and because sweat contains salt, it can cause further dryness. You’ll want to use products that inject moisture every step of the way. I wash my hair once a week, and will use shampoo every second wash. My choice of shampoo is the Aussie Moisture Frizz Miracle shampoo, and more recently Shea Moisture’s Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow & Restore Shampoo. On the days that I don’t wash my hair, I make sure to rinse it with lukewarm water and apply a leave in conditioner like my absolute favorite again by Shea Moisture, the Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow and Restore leave in conditioner. Firstly, it smells like vanilla cookies (SO IMPORTANT!) and with water as its first ingredient, it provides maximum hydration and softness to your hair because of the shea butter & coconut oil in it. A great bonus to this product is the addition of the Jamaican black castor oil and peppermint oil which are helpful in stimulating blood circulation and in turn boosts your hair growth. I should really do a review on this…

Tip #4: If you’re gonna fake it out with hair that’s not your own, make sure that your cornrows aren’t so tight that they give you a facelift. You’re black. You’re not gonna crack, so your cornrows don’t have to feature in your anti-ageing regimen. You’re just gonna end up bald 😂 #realtalk. Cornrows done in a circular pattern help in alleviating the strain on those precious edges, and if done neatly, you can even rock that as your protective style. If you decide to go the wig route, PLEASE for the love of preserving all black girl hair secrets, secure that bad boy correctly!

Tip #5: Accept that it’s a losing battle. If you’re going to choose your health over your workout, you will have days where your hair is going to look like a hot mess, you will have days where because your hair looks like a hot mess, you’ll look like a hot mess, BUT that’s okay because at least you’ve got a bangin’ body!

Athletes’ Corner part II: Adrian Conway

If I had to ask you about the most important part of a CrossFit box, what would your answer be? Facilities? Location? And then maybe after a little bit more thought, you’d say the coaches. In my opinion, CrossFit coaches are what make this sport unique and unmatched by any other. My first foray into CrossFit, at my very first box, I remember a coach who would be on his phone during wods, he spent the first part of the class with the competitive athletes so beginners that came in, never lasted for longer than two or so months. In this first year of CrossFit, as much as I would come to the box because I wanted to be fit and strong. On the flipside, I’d also approach each class with dread as to what movement I would be berated on for not being able to do it as he saw fit with very minimal instruction. One of those movements was the snatch. I would cherry pick and any wod that had a snatch in any shape or form, would see me skip that day. I wouldn’t even come for open gym sessions.

Frustrated I got a PVC pipe and learnt how to master these moves by watching videos on YouTube and reading CrossFit articles online. It wasn’t long before our box had to relocate and we got a new coach, Nuno. He will always be my OG coach, regardless of where I find myself in the future, I call him my first coach because  it was only when Nuno started coaching me that I began to see myself as a CrossFitter. A coach who cared about how his athletes, (ALL OF THEM,) moved. The pressure to load the bar for the sake of loading it disappeared, in fact I can remember wods where he would tell me to strip weight off after seeing horrendous technique and sure it meant sometimes I wanted to throw the weights he told me to take off at him, but it also meant that for the most part, I remained injury free. I have a separate article on this very special coach coming up so I won’t say too much about him, although I kinda feel like I have haha! The point I want to make is this, in CrossFit especially, coaches matter! They’re a big deal, they’re the real MVPs. The success you have as an athlete is down to the work you put in, but you need people in your corner who help you work on those barriers stopping you from progressing in a sustainable and healthy way. In this part of athletes’ corner, Adrian tells us on what it takes to be a good coach!

  • What are the skills/characteristics a coach needs to in order to better relate to individual personalities at the box?

AC: No skills. You have to care. Coach Glassman said in order to be successful as a coach, “you have to be interesting, and you have to be interested.” To me this is a lot like Paul teaches us in the New Testament that we must be “all things to all men”. We need to care about who they are, get to know them and be willing to share ourselves with them as well.

  • A statement that often swirls around is that CrossFit isn’t for everyone. You’re a coach and a competitive athlete, in your own words, what is the appeal of CrossFit for someone who maybe doesn’t have any competitive aspirations, and is out to improve the quality of their life? How do you as a coach relate to those who don’t have as a goal to compete or make it to the Games?

AC: CrossFit isn’t designed to get you to the Games. CrossFit is designed to increase your work capacity across broad time and modal domains and do so for as long as you live. This training regime is designed for EVERYONE to live a longer fuller life. I don’t glamorise competing, it is not glamorous. I glamorise those that come in 5/7 days of the week, eat well and have great performance results to show it. I don’t create an ultra competitive environment, that is not the purpose. I don’t even talk about competing, there are many members at my own gym that don’t know I was at the Games as an individual or even what the Games truly are. And for that I’m proud because the Games and CrossFit in my gym are very different and I hope they always are. People having the ability to RX a workout here and there, people who get their first pull up, or their first real burpee, those people are the foundation of my community, those are our all stars. As long as coaches and box owners understand that and lead by example with lifting that up, they will have success at communicating that it’s for everyone.

  • As a coach, how do you know when to draw the line between encouraging & pushing your members, to knowing when they’ve had enough and need a bit of a breather?

AC: Experience is key for this one. We all learn hard lessons through experience. I’m sure I’ve almost killed a few people. Haha. But, again….people come to my gym to pay for my service, so they WANT to get better. I don’t need to do much to fire them up. I do this by being excited about what I teach and empowering their training. I’m very informative with the why’s behind what we do in my gym, this helps them own their workouts. They then know why we are doing something and what they should be getting out of it. There are some people who need a kick in the butt, and some people I need to tell to calm down….you learn that through genuine relationships and getting to know them. It takes simply time and effort.

  • What habits can be created/implemented in a box that can help in creating the sense of community and motivation that CrossFit is so well known for in order to create a culture where members keep coming back?

AC: Who you are, is who your community will become. If you are serving, honest, engaged, and caring….they will become that OR they will not like your gym. To me culture is what you create by who you are. You can’t tell people to be a certain way, you show them, and then they follow suit if they respect you. As a good leader you understand and see the balance of being a little of the lion and little of the lamb. I say that because you want to serve, care, love and help everyone….but at times you must remove cancers or dangers to your community from it. And being stern and honest can cut some to the heart, but those are hard things a leader of a community must do to protect the rest of the flock.

The next part in this series will be with you in the new year. Happy holidays lovelies. Enjoy this time with your family and see you in 2018! 

Mindfulness, what’s it all about?

In my efforts to be the best athlete I can be, I have explored different things that can help in legally enhancing your mental and physical capacities during a wod, and especially for the competitive athletes, during a competition, one of these things or techniques, is mindfulness. Due to a back injury, 2017 was a year that I had to rule out competing. When I started my rehab,  in the back of my head, I had the memory of what had happened when I last competed in 2016. It was at Last Man Standing, a 2 day CrossFit competition, and that year the wods favoured what I excelled in, or at least what I thought I excelled in : short quick wods with heavier weights. My training was consistent, however (isn’t it horrible that there is always a ‘however,’)  coupled with an erratic work schedule…hmmm that’s probably why I resigned (that’s a post for another day!) I fell sick with the worst flu virus that took me until the day of the competition to shake off. I suffered with feelings of nausea throughout the day but I chalked some of it up to nerves. The highlight of that weekend was throwing up on someones car, I’m sorry whoever you are. During that weekend, one of the wods we had involved pulling a sled with a rope, and an odd object overhead carry.  I was ahead with the sled pull until my rope got tangled on the sled and the very temperamental CrossFit diva that I was at that time, threw the towel in. I remember crying after that wod, hating CrossFit for about a minute and then having that mood trickle into all the other wods that weekend.

A couple of months later while taking inventory of the things that I could have changed prior, during and after the competition, I came across a post on social media where Ben Bergeron, owner of CrossFit New England, and coach of 2X Fittest Woman on Earth, Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir,  wrote about the technique of mindfulness that he uses with his athletes to keep them focussed during wods/competions on giving their very best effort, focusing on the things that they have control over and not variables that are subject to change. On that fateful day in September, I had no control on my rope getting tangled on the sled, but I could have controlled the trajectory of my thoughts, instead using that experience to fuel me to push harder and pace myself in a smarter way in the following wods, as opposed to having thrown a hissy fit, shedding a few tears, thereby  sabotaging myself for that weekend.

Mindfulness can best be described as the art of being present in the moment, it’s a training and disciplining of your thoughts so as to not allow them to wander off into thoughts of past efforts or future efforts. Mindfulness is focussing on the here and now. Being present, mind, body and soul, in the activity that you are partaking in. Mindfulness is an awareness of everything that is going on in your body. It’s a shift from doing things in response to what others are doing, and instead doing things in response to what will work out best for you. I’ve found that as I practice mindfulness, I care less about measuring myself up to other people victories and instead, I’m focussed on my path, my victories and my effort/s.

‘Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.’  Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is not only learning how to perform anything and everything with purpose and joy, but the idea behind it is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is, moment to moment, and so help with pain or moments of discomfort, both physical and emotional.  In those moments you are, (as you can probably guess,) mindful and acutely aware of everything that is going on around you, but most importantly in you. Mindfulness can be helpful in positively changing the perception you have of the world and yourself. In these moments of self-evaluation, you are able to pay attention to your why and (hopefully,) find the good, no matter how small it is, in whatever you’re doing.

Genetically, I consider myself exceptionally lucky to be able to build strength as easily as I do. Squats, deadlifts and donuts, that’s all that makes me happy. However (ooh there’s that word again,) ask me to do a wod that has running AND strength, and my mind immediately runs to the worst case scenario, where I’m left completely destroyed by Helen…that’s the wod that fills me with fear haha! In an effort to have and sustain the joy and gratitude that exists whenever I have a bar, kettlebell or dumbbells in my hands, I began to explore mindfulness as a means of learning how to transfer these happy emotions to any wod that has running.

Mindfulness & CrossFit, match made in heaven?

CrossFit is great for developing attributes such as endurance, strength and metabolic fitness, but in order to become a great athlete, when you’re taking stock of your progress (which we should all be doing,) you’ll discover that it is important to pay some attention to the external factors that can impact your training and therefore your performance on the comp floor. We’ve often heard it before that your mind is the most powerful weapon you have. Mindfulness is a way to make this muscle stronger. I’m a firm believer that an empty mind, very easily becomes the devils playground. An empty mind is easier to fill with junk. These junky thoughts start off with negative thoughts that you believe about yourself, and then eventually they become thoughts that you believe about other people. This highlights how important it is to be aware of what you’re choosing to focus on and giving your energy to. Mindfulness can form part of ones meditation practice in that for an extended period of time, using techniques such as journaling or deep breathing, you are aware of what’s going on with yourself. This technique of mindfulness is one that sports psychologists have studied and confirmed as a contributing factor to excelling in your training and competitive performances. In honing in your thoughts you become someone who will constantly show up at the box to be first. The definition of what it means to be first is that you’re an athlete who shows up to give their all. An athlete who as frustrated as they are at their rope getting tangled on the sled, is able to push those feelings of frustration aside because she realises that right now giving into that particular feeling will sabotage and not fuel her efforts when not harness correctly.

Ready to get mindful about what’s in your head?

Next time you’re headed to the box, aim to get there five minutes earlier. Pick a spot, put the timer on for five minutes, alternatively you can use a meditation app, I’ve listed my favourites at the end of this article. As you lay on the floor, allow your eyes to gently close, taking a few deep inhalations and exhalations, hands on your stomach, focussing on the movement of your stomach up and down with each breath. Your ribcage taking in that precious oxygen that is going to fuel you during that wod that you’re going to crush, think of a positive event that happened during the course of the day. It doesn’t have to anything grand, although if it is, that’s great! It can even be the fact that you woke up this morning. Focus on the emotions that you experienced when that event happened, reliving that moment in your mind, allowing it to vividly remember every aspect of that moment. At the end of your five minutes,  focus on holding on to those positive emotion through every movement that your wod will consist of.

A different way of practicing mindfulness is through something that I’ve learnt from Katrin Davidsdottir, she wears a white rubber band on her right wrist that she has to move to her left wrist anytime she has a negative thought or complains about a movement or wod. The goal is to keep it on the same wrist; it’s a lot harder than anyone would think!  This practice will create in you an increased awareness of the words that come out of your mouth and forces you to focus on the conversation going on in your head. The interesting thing is that even though I sought out mindfulness to improve my sports performance, eventually it trickled into my everyday life where I have been able to remove myself from people and surroundings that were adding to the strain that I was under mentally.

Favourite meditation apps:

Simple Habit

Zensong

Rain Rain

A few good reads to hone in your thoughts:

 The Champions Mind by Jim Afremo

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel

Athletes’ Corner part I: Adrian Conway

In light of what this blog covers (faith, fitness and everything else,) as a Christian first and athlete second, I can attest to the fact that 9 times out of 10, God has taught me the most when I am training. There exists a beautiful intersection between faith and fitness, one gleans the physical body, and the other gleans the spiritual body. If it wasn’t for God, I would be the sorest loser haha, and if it wasn’t for fitness, I would have a very unhealthy relationship with myself, others and food. I’ve always thought of fitness as the cheapest form of therapy. I love reading about other people’s faith and fitness walk and I cannot think of anyone better that I could have gotten to inaugurate this new feature on the blog than Adrian Conway!

Adrian wears many hats, as a competitive CrossFit athlete, he has won the affiliate cup with the Wasatch Brutes at the CrossFit Games 3 times. He is part of the Brute strength training team, and the CrossFit HQ L1 seminar staff. Adrian is an owner in the FNXfit supplement line,  recently became a gym owner ‘Live in Victory CrossFit’ , and if that wasn’t enough, he still helps run and coach at Wasatch CrossFit. The common thread in all of Adrian’s answers is this: hard work pays off but the way to have longevity is found in being consistent and being a person of integrity not just to others but to you. Massive thanks to Adrian for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions. I was left inspired and motivated to do more and be more not just in my fitness, but also in my faith walk, which at the end of the day is what sustains it all. I am incredibly honoured and tickled pink to share this with y’all.

Welcome to the Athletes’ Corner!

  • So let’s start with a hash-tag that some of us will have seen on social media platforms, #Christianathlete. As spokesperson for the masses, I know that we’re all curious to find out your tips on what it takes to win the CrossFit Games, but before we delve into that,  let’s talk a little bit about your faith walk. What does it mean to you to be a Christian athlete, and how does that influence not just your training, but your life?

AC: I’m a Christian. That is what defines me, my actions, my words and my thoughts. An athlete isn’t a part of my identity, it is just something that I “do”. To answer your question directly, being a Christian man influences everything I do, so being an athlete is a very small part of that. It does reflect traits that carry well into my athletic pursuit however. I am a hard worker, always going to be THE hardest worker in the room or even in my field of current pursuit. I do this not because I want to be great but because as a disciple of Christ I’m called to “do all things as if doing them for the glory of God.” (Colossians 3:23).

I also know that how I win, how I lose, how I interact with my peers, the way I serve my community all have to be done in this way as well.

I tell people, and a lot of time I think they assume I’m being sarcastic and joking, that everything good you see in me comes from God. I mean it when I say it. My nature is not that of my actions, I have to make several internal decisions to be Christ like all the time, it doesn’t come easy, especially in the heat of a competition.

There’s a song called ‘One Sixteen’ by Trip Lee, that personally for me was a game changer. I recall being a young girl in church believing that the best place (the only place,) that I could honour God was there in church, but I couldn’t sing as well as the others and I wasn’t really a fan of people. So I said to myself perhaps I could volunteer somewhere in Africa…ironic seeing that I live in South Africa but it had to be somewhere more remote and more African…and then I heard this song. This was (as Oprah loves to say,) my ‘aha!’ moment, I realized that even in my training, I could honour God unashamed, fitness could be the way that I honoured Him and celebrated all the things that He had allowed this body to do and then by careful discipline, work on the things that it couldn’t yet do. This meant (and still means,) that anytime I want to have a stank attitude, I can almost audibly hear the Holy Spirit telling me ‘girrrlll is this really honouring me?’ and then the brat pipes down for a bit…

  • Can you pinpoint when you had your ‘aha!’ moment, how did that define your journey as an athlete then, and does it define/shape where you’re at as an athlete today?

AC: I’ve had a lot of ups and downs as a Christian athlete. When I first studied the Bible with a few men who were gracious and brave enough to invite me to, that changed my entire life. I grew up knowing of only hypocritical types of Christian worship which unfortunately is the majority of self-proclaimed Christian lifestyles out there. I saw men and women who claimed to know of Jesus not living anything like the Bible taught but showing up to church on Sunday and putting on the best front you could ever see. So as I studied with men that showed me on a day to day basis what it looked like to be a disciple of Christ, it strongly impacted me and encouraged me that I could do the same. Because becoming a Christian changed me so much, it changed how I competed. I often used rage, anger and fear as fuel on game day. I literally lined up against others with “hate” in my heart. In a violent sport line division like football in the US can be, it played to my advantage, but what it was doing to my heart and what I was reflecting wasn’t right. After I was baptized and my perspective on life and eternity really transformed I couldn’t pull on those “negative” emotions anymore. So much of my past that I had now forgiven or moved on from couldn’t be my fuel.

My passion took a shift from being self-focused, and hate filled to being the best instrument for Christ that I could be. He blessed me with gifts, it is my obligation to get the most potential from those gifts and allow them to be a tool to share his word and who he is with others. My aha moment was in 2007 at Weber State University.

In my faith/fitness walk, I have two central verses that I always go back to, Hebrews 12:11-12, paraphrased it reads ‘no discipline is enjoyable while it is happening-it’s painful (yes!) take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.’ and Colossians 3:23, doing everything heartily as to the LORD. In a way it has strengthened my belief that through physical discomfort, there is a gleaning and strengthening of the spirit that happens, and whenever I come dangerously close to throwing an ugly tantrum, thankfully the part of my mind that remains under Christ’s control always goes to these verses.

  • What is the inner dialogue that you have whether it is during a wod or a competition, that keeps you centred and focused on giving it your all?

AC: I have always loved the verse Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I loved it even before I was a Christian, not fully understanding the meaning, I took it as God would give me the ability to do literally ANYTHING almost like a superman type of perspective. Now it means much more. I like to look at the verse in the full context. Prior to verse 13 Paul describes that through his walk with Christ he has both been in situations where he has had great needs and also where he has had plenty but that through Christ he knows he can do anything. So, from my perspective no matter what I must endure in order to improve or to seek victory, I know Christ provides that for me. I love many scriptures though, and I think about a few others while competing as well, but for life in general, and when competing that is my favourite as I rock that verse on my inner left wrist.

About two months ago, I injured my back and I remember my coach telling me to scale the wod, but we’ve all unfortunately at least once, listened to the egotistical voice inside of us telling us to keep going. I recall stopping mid-wod and crying because I was in so much pain. I very sheepishly realized that had I listened to my coach (sometimes they know better haha), I would not have ended up in tears, aggravating an existing injury, I’m sorry Bruno. I’d like to say that it was on that day that the stubborn streak died, but I went through a few more months of painful training sessions, back getting worse, for me to finally put to the grave… ok partially put to the grave my stubborn streak.

  • Have you ever had moments similar to mine, where against your better judgement, you pushed through pain, (maybe you didn’t cry like I did…or maybe you did,) and suffered a setback? What did you learn from that situation?

AC: Of course I’ve had moments where I don’t listen to my instincts and others advice, I’m a boy! Haha. I joke but it’s true. Pride is the fall of all men. And I battle with it daily. I have had a few instances, one specifically that led me to injuring myself prior to the 2014 regional days before the competition. I trained so much that I beat my body down, the week out instead of resting, trusting my training and de-loading, I trained hard and kept up my attack. I did this really out of insecurity. I was worried I wouldn’t win the regional, and that was my goal, crush everyone. (See I’m ruthless still in my own mind, dominance is always the goal, not mere OH HEY, let’s just do our best…..sounds again brutal but its quite cowardly for me to claim that’s all I want when it’s not true.) So out of my inability to trust the process, I trained on, and had to end my season very early. That year I was the fittest of my career and the programming at Regionals and at the CF Games was likely the best if I could have chosen the events, that I could have asked for. I look back thankful for the missed opportunity because again, I’m grateful for where God has put me. And what if I had made it? And then gotten top 5 at the Games? I think my life would have made several different turns, I’d rather be no where else than here, right now.

Part 2 drops like a hot potato on Monday 

Wilt, fall, root, rise, bloom

My sister passed away on the 30th of October. It is a date that I won’t soon forget. The painful part of this grieving process is far from over. In fact, I am starting to believe that grieving never truly ends, you just learn to push back thoughts of your loved one and for a small part of the day, it is as though you have forgotten that they are no longer here.

Death of a loved one whether expected or unexpected is painful. There is no way to prepare your heart for the painful reminder that lives in every old message, every item of clothing, every single belonging, that they are not coming back. It’s a tear in the heart.

A book that I have been reading as a sort of escapism is ‘the sun and her flowers,’ by Rupi Kaur. It is a straightforward read, explores grief, self-abandonment and honouring your roots, more than anything it is a book about being raw and as honest as possible with yourself. The book is divided in sections that reflect the cycles of life that we go through; wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming. The days following my sister’s passing, I would re-read every single poem in the wilting section because that is how I felt without my sunflower. Slowly losing a piece of myself each day. Wilting.

The resiliency and graceful strength that my sister had is unmatched by any other human that I have the pleasure of knowing. Reading this book, I am slowly starting to accept the fact that my sister is no longer here. It is a painful acceptance because there is a part of me (perhaps brainwashed by childhood dreams) that believes she’s going to come back, the belief rooted in what we’re fed in superhero movies that our heroes never truly die. The heroine that makes a miraculous return, unscathed and stronger.

The recipe of life doesn’t play out like that script where your hero/heroine comes back. It doesn’t play out like the script where you’re woken up and it is a bad dream. The recipe of life isn’t always sweet or soothing. The recipe of life is filled with moments where like the seedling that develops into a sunflower, you have to push through the dirt in order to grow. The recipe of life is wilt, fall, root, rise, and bloom.

this is the recipe of life

said my mother

as she held me in her arms as i wept

think of those flowers you plant

in the garden each year

they will teach you

that people too

must wilt

fall

root

rise

in order to bloom

~ rupi kaur

GIVEAWAY: Two copies of ‘the sun and her flowers,’ are up for grabs. It’s pretty easy, all you have to do is leave a number, (any number) between 1-30 as a comment underneath this blog post or on my other social media pages, and the people closest to my two favourite numbers win!

P.s. this is an international giveaway.

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!

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.’