Ten things I love about my new, CrossFitting, life

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I don’t really have any pressing things on my mind this week.  There are no big issues that are bothering me, no concerns I want to rant about, so I just thought I’d share some little things I have been noticing more and more lately that mean a lot to me.

  1. I spend most of my time smiling.  Whether I am at work, at the box or anywhere else I spend a lot of my life smiling and laughing.  It feels so much better than crying.
  2. Yesterday I ran, I mean really ran, for the bus.  I caught it and I wanted a chufty badge right there and then.
  3. I am happy to swan about with my thighs out and I could not give a shit who (if anyone) is judging me.
  4. I am 95% pain free in relation to my IBS and that is SUCH a relief.
  5. I get to hang out with really interesting and diverse people from all over the world and extremely varied walks of life.
  6. I am no longer afraid.  I have spent a lot of my life absolutely terrified of everything.  Not anymore.  CrossFit has taught me so much more than just how to move my body.  It has taught me patience, grit, determination, perseverance and the true meaning of strength.
  7. I am no longer angry.  I was doing a WOD today which included hitting a tyre with a hammer and I thought ‘this would be really good to get out anger and frustration,’ but I realised I don’t have any.
  8. I don’t see my body as my enemy any more.  I used to feel like my body hated me.  To be honest it probably did because I abused it.  Now I feel like me and my body are on the same team.
  9. I sleep really well.  And take naps.  Its lovely.
  10. I am absolutely certain that my life is going to just keep getting better and better.

I know I said ten but I have to include this one as an added bonus…

  • I like checking out my guns when I’m wearing short sleeves!

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Perspective

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It’s very tempting to only blog when good things happen.  To edit out the bad days, low moods, rough times and pretend that everything is all hearts and flowers and rainbows and sunshine.  I’ve talked before about how life is not a show reel and in the interests of honesty I don’t want to pretend to be something, or someone, I’m not.  I have been really, really struggling over the last week and finding life hard to deal with.  A week of extremely long days with work (students from my school performed at the finale of the Brighton Festival and I could not be more proud) coupled with a horrible bout of PMT have knocked me for six and I have been struggling to make the right choices for my health.  Sometimes I have failed to do that and I have beaten myself up about it and felt guilt and shame for eating things I shouldn’t.  Aside from work and hormones I have also been really missing my husband.  I am extremely blessed to be married to someone who has seemingly never ending patience and understanding with me and without his support, sometimes it is really tough.  In these times of instant communication it has been hard to deal with the fact that I have been unable to even speak to him for a week and it is amazing how long a week can feel.

The best laid plans of mice and men

The best laid plans of mice and men

I tried really hard to be well prepared and take healthy food with me on set (see above), but I think it was the lack of exercise that broke me.  For almost a week I didn’t go to the box and I can see now that had huge effect on my mental state.  For some of that time I wasn’t physically able to go (if you are working 15 or 16 hour days and you can find the motivation to go to the gym before or after work you are a better person than I).  This week I have been three times and it has been hard.  I feel as though my body is made of rock, that I am running through treacle, that I am weak.  But even though it is hard, it is better than sitting at home weeping into a box of chocolates whilst my cats look at me indignantly for not stroking them.  Even if when I am there I am so hormonal that I can’t stop sweating just from the warm up, or I’m so grumpy I can’t even bring myself to talk to the lovely people I am surrounded by, it’s the right place to be (for me, maybe not for everyone else!).

This month I was Member of the Month at Reebok CrossFit Connect and when I read the newsletter I felt like a fraud because I know there are so many other people who are fitter, stronger and more committed than me.  Today a fellow box goer and truly lovely lady got frustrated with herself for finishing the WOD last.  She was using the same weight as the male coaches.  When people were looking at her as she finished those last few reps they were thinking’what an absolute bad ass.’  I know because that was what I was thinking and she has been a constant source of inspiration to me since I joined.  CrossFit encourages us to strive to be better, work harder, achieve more and we do, but sometimes we just need to get a little perspective.  We set enormously high standards for ourselves but we have to remember that we are only human.  Today I may not be exactly where I want to be, but I am on the right path and I am closer than I have ever been.

My 30th Birthday.  Drink in one hand, cigarette in the other.  Standard.

My 30th Birthday. Drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. Standard.

* Fellow CrossFitter Kay has written a lovely blog about how important CrossFit has been to her and her husband recently, whilst they have been dealing with some difficult health related issues.

Thanks for reading, I’m now blogging over at joskibyrne.wordpress.com come and join me!

To PT or not PT

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 Marta Prokop: Personal Trainer Extraordinaire!  (Photo courtesy of Rx’d Photography)

One of the great things about our box is that they give internships to people who are looking to become a CrossFit trainer.  When I saw a post on facebook from one of our interns asking for a volunteer to act as a guinea pig to follow a specially devised training plan for 8 weeks, I was in there like swimwear!  It felt like Christmas when I realised that I was the first person to ‘bagsy’ the spot, and I know there were plenty of people who wished they had got in there first.  Personal training (purchasing, not delivering) was something I considered back in my globo gym days but I was always too intimidated and, quite frankly, too poor, to sign up.

I love CrossFit and I think the communal element of the classes makes exercise so much more fun but, having been the human guinea pig of the rather lovely woman featured above for a few weeks now, I can see the genuine benefit of having a personal trainer.  As excellent as the programming may be at your box, having a specific exercise programme tailored especially to your needs is incredibly helpful.  Here are a few tips if you have been considering investing in some PT sessions but aren’t sure what to expect:

  • If you are honest with them about your strengths and weaknesses then any personal trainer worth their salt will push you outside of your comfort zone and make you do things you don’t like doing (but why can’t we just do squats all day every day?!)  This is a good thing.  Embrace it!
  • A personal trainer is no replacement for motivation, that has to come from you, but they should push you to do more than you would do if you were working out alone.  BUT – be warned.  They lie!  When they say one more rep they don’t mean one more rep!  Again, just go with it.  If you want results you’ve got to work hard.
  • They will make you take better care of your body.  (Who hasn’t rushed off after a workout without rolling out properly or stretching as much as they should?)  A PT will encourage you to give your body the time and attention it deserves.
  • When choosing a PT you should really think about what you are looking to get out of the programme and the style that suits you.  It is also very common for coaches at your gym or box to have specific skills that they excel at; some might be fantastic gymnasts, others excellent oly lifters, whilst someone else may be more experienced at strength and conditioning coaching.  Before making the choice talk to them about what you want.
  • Personality matters.  This is a situation in which you will inevitably be very intimate with someone.  If, like me, you are not in perfect shape and hugely body confident, you have to be comfortable with this person laying their hands on you and getting up close and personal.  Also, you have to like and respect them to want to keep going back.
  • On the other side of the coin, you can’t get on with them too well!  I think Marta is great and I consider her a friend but as much as we enjoy a good giggle, she would not allow me to stand around gossiping the whole time.  That’s not what I’m there for.

Today we went to a local fitness centre so Marta could be assessed.  I am delighted that she passed and is now a fully qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer, as well as having her Level 1 CrossFit qualification.  Going to the gym and using the machines really made me appreciate our box even more than I did before.  When people say that CrossFit is a community it may seem like a cliche but when you are struggling with health and fitness, weight loss, or just life in general, it is really powerful to go somewhere where everybody knows your name.  The knowledge that you are part of something and that no matter how crappy your day was or how rubbish you may be feeling, when you leave the box you will always feel better, is a wonderful thing.

Thanks for reading, I’m now blogging over at joskibyrne.wordpress.com come and join me!

The world is a playground, are you coming out to play?

I’m not afraid of dying, no more than anyone else anyway, but I am afraid of getting old.  Not grey hair, crow’s feet old but the kind of old where you can no longer care for yourself.  When you are forced to be dependent on someone else, be they a devoted family member or someone earning minimum wage in an unflattering uniform.  When I was in my early twenties I worked as a Health Care Support Worker for a nursing agency.  Many of the shifts I got were in the elderly unit of the local hospital where, in the naivety of my youth, I was confronted with the cruel indignities of ageing.  For those poor, lonely souls, personal care was no longer personal but, regardless of how sweet and well meaning the carer, painfully public.  Incontinence pads, commodes, hoists; a deadly arsenal in the assault on independence, dignity and youth.

I have talked before about the way that Crossfit has challenged my own perceptions of gender both in myself and others.  It has also been a powerful tool in shaping my goals and aspirations and how I view my future.   I am 35 years old and I feel stronger and more physically confident than I ever have.  In the community that I train in age is irrelevant.  All around me I see strong, powerful women and men and many of my real life heroes are my age or older.  In the Crossfit Games there are several categories for masters (over 40) including 60+ and much has been written about starting Crossfit over 40 (check out this excellent blog post for example).   One of the owners of Reebok Crossfit Connect, Holly Gehlcken, won World, British and Southern Masters Olympic Weight Lifting titles in 2010.  She is not just the owner but one of the head coaches, mum of two and a bloody lovely lady to boot.

Holly 2All my life I have seen sport as something for young, fit people with natural talent and ability but why should they have all the fun?  Why do only young people get to skip and jump and run and swing?  Why do only young people get to play?  The answer, of course, is that they don’t.  Anyone can, you just have to make the choice to get off the sofa and do it.  You have to come to the realisation that moving is more fun than eating.  I don’t really drink anymore and I don’t remember the last time I went to a pub in the evening but I’m okay with it.  If other people think thats boring I don’t mind.  I spent many, many years feeling lost and sad and hating my life.  Now I love my life and I don’t want it to change (there is an enormous change coming up but more about that later, and no, I’m not pregnant).

Since I started Crossfit, I don’t worry about my age so much.  I spend less time looking in the mirror and fretting over my grey hair (which, by the way, I have had since I was in my mid twenties).  I no longer analyse my reflection in the mirror for new wrinkles, I don’t have time!  If I am looking in the mirror I’m checking out my guns for progress or laughing at how funny I look in my crazy new leggings.  One of the great things about Crossfit boxes is that they don’t have mirrors so you spend less time worrying about what you look like and more time thinking about how you feel (at times, like in the middle of a WOD, that is a mixed blessing).  As for my long term goals and aspirations, I hope that one day I can spend my retirement playing and instead of visiting me in the old people’s home or hospital ward, my grandchildren are working out with me at the box.

kay and tonyReebok Crossfit Connect members Kay and Tony after the Colour Run in September.

Photograph of Holly Gehlcken by RX’d Photography