Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hemmed In ...

Liquid Satin
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Copyright Sarah Carpenter

This week, I have been hemmed in.  I tried to leave Seoul for Chusok by booking tickets in March.  I tried to go to lovely Sorrento but couldn't get flights.  I tried to go and see a friend in Den Haag, but couldn't get flights.  I then tried to go and see a friend in London.  Yup ... no flights.  Crazy.  Some other things happened and made me realise that God wants my undivided attention this week.  I am facing some major decisions and need to hear from him.  More than that, he wants time alone with me.  So this week, I am kind of on a retreat ... at my house in Seoul.

I was recently writing to a friend replying that I was not travelling this break and I was a little MEH about that.  As I was writing, I felt a scripture from the bible drop in my mind, It's from Ps 139 and it says, "you hem me in behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me ..."
and I said to my friend, "I think God has hemmed me in this vacation ... he wants my undivided attention ..."

In the same Psalm, it says "if I rise on the wings of the dawn, and settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" ...

This is an interesting scripture to drop into my mind during a time of possible transition as it is the same one that God impressed on me when I made the move to Seoul.   Along with that scripture, I had a clear image in my mind.  The image I had was that when I got to the airport and I was leaving ... it would be like God was standing at the departure gates waving me off saying "have a great time ..."  In the same image I could also see him walking through the departure gates with me,  saying, "let's go ... its going to be awesome!"  I also could see me arriving at the other end and see him there waiting for me as I came out of the arrival gates saying ... "come in ... so glad you are here ...  its all organized!"

I took a lot of comfort in that picture, knowing that I was not walking alone on the path unfolding for me.  But something even more amazing happened.  This is what actually happened with it in real life ...

I got to the airport with about 80 kilos of luggage ... my whole life packed up and resources for school. I had called the airline ahead and they told me it would be $18 NZD a kilo for excess ...I decided I had to just bite it and pay.

When I got to the airport it was 40 dollars a kilo and they told me my bill would be about $2,000
So I turned to my friend who was with me and said, "go tell the others to pray ... its way more than they said ..." and then I looked at the lady and said (respectfully),  "well, I guess I just have to pay.  I am moving my whole life to Korea .... and I need all these things."

She told me to wait, walked away for a bit and then came back and said, "you only have to pay $200!"
Seriously!  Unheard of.  No one at airports is that nice with excess luggage ...  :)  So there is God behind me ... waving me off ...

I get on the flight ... It was good ... and then ... the story gets better ...
I arrive at Incheon airport - it had been open about a month.

I step out of the door of the plane onto the jetway ... and notice there are some officials there ... one of them is holding a sign that says, "welcome Sarah Cartenter".

I looked at "Cartenter" and thought ... that must be me ... with a typo ...
So I looked at them and said, "Carpenter?"
(and we are in the jetway remember ... right by the door of the plane) ...
so they go, "Seoul Foreign School?" and I reply "yes ..."

There is a flurry of bowing and card exchanging and I am whisked off with the officials ... thinking "what the heck ...?!?"  It was all super fast ... they grabbed my passport ... whilst I freak out about that,  I was roared off to the diplomat channel ... someone grabbed my bags and I was through this huge international airport in about 10 minutes ... whipped out in the arrival lounge where the head of school was waiting for me looking completely bemused as I was diverted sideways to meet more officials in a flurry of bowing! 

I could see my new boss wondering what the heck was going on ...
as was I ...
God was smiling.  He went before me.

Here is the back story to that ...
My school in NZ had quite a few Korean kids ... and one of them, Danny, was not in my class, but was in my team.  And as a senior teacher, I had had to deal with him a few times on behavior issues!  When he heard I was moving to Korea he was really excited and kept asking how I was going ... when would I get there ... so I told him I was flying Korean Air and the day I was leaving.

His father was the one who met me at the door.  His uncle was a key facilitator in  the development of the new airport ...very important person.  So I got the VIP treatement into Korea ...

God hemmed me in behind and before ... he went before me ... waited and said, come on in ... its all ready for you!  Amazing!  

To me it is interesting that at this time of possible transition, the scripture he reminds me of this week, is the same one I had in my heart before I left for Korea ... I know my steps are ordered ... and I just know this week, I need to connect with him and make the plans and see what happens ...

Tonight as I end my reflection time I am grateful. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am loved. Although I am single, I do not have to make the big decisions in my life that I am facing by myself. I have someone whose hand is on me and under me. Tonight I am reminded that he hems me in behind and before. He has laid his hand on me. If I rise on the wings of the dawn and settle on the far side of the sea, even there, his hand will guide me. His right hand will hold me fast.

God has proven that time and time to me.  I rest easy and my heart is full of gratitude.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Finish Strong

Thoughts shared with SFS staff May 22nd 2013

Finish Strong from Sarah Carpenter on Vimeo.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Looking for Crossfit and Bootcamp Posts?!?

Hi All

I decided I needed to start a new blog that is for my crossfit/bootcamp journey as this one was really not about that!  This one is more about my spiritual journey!

Also, I decided that as part of my professional development (I am a Ed Tech person), I need to get my head around wordpress.  So apologies ... the new blog currently looks horrible, but I am working on it as I can.

The content will be my thoughts and reflections on my journey to health and wellness!

Stop by ... see you over there



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Break it Down

I like the idea here about "grooving a habit so that you reflexively respond in the correct manner" ...

Exercise is like music!  When I was child learning piano, you would break it right down.  Take a couple of bars ... left hand ... right hand ... hands together.  Sometimes ... you would go over and over a specific fingering.  It did not always feel comfortable but once you got the groove of it, it would just flow!

Earlier this year I attended a functional fitness workshop as part of an educational conference.  The guy taking it gave me a lightbulb moment!  He said for years, we have taught children PE by teaching some skills and expecting them to go for it.  I used the analogy of music.  He used the analogy of writing.  First we teach children their phonics ... they make words ... then they make sentences ... then they put those together and do paragraphs.  Often in PE, we ask children to jump straight into paragraphs instead of helping them make words and sentences.  Wow.  Yes.  That was my experience too ... and as an uncoordinated child ... it wasn't a positive experience, I couldn't get it.

Yesterday I was working with my coach and this is what we did.  We took the movement of a push jerk and broke it right down.  We spent a lot of time just working on dropping into position with hips back.  Once I got that (and it took a bit) ... we added driving hips through and extending ... coming up onto toes and then once we had that ... we added dropping back down with feet jumping out.  Words ... sentences ... paragraph.  Back to the basics.  What do you need to work on?  Break it down and build it back up.  You won't regret it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable!

The other week, part of my workout involved several rounds of rowing sprints - rowing hard, then kicking up into a handstand.  I had less than two minutes for each of the rowing segments ... whatever the seconds marked off after the first minute were, was the amount of time I had to hold the handstand.  So if my row took 1.52, then I would need to hold the handstand 52 seconds.  As part of the workout, I had 30 seconds to get myself up into the handstand from the time I got off the rower.  A month or so back, I would probably need the 30 seconds to either (A) get over the mental fear of committing hands to ground or (B) I would need multiple tries to get up.  After a stern talking to myself (which went something along the lines of, "stop thinking about it ... hands flat, foot to the wall and commit ..." I kicked every one of my handstands first time.  Holding in position has never been the issue ... just getting there.  I took 30 seconds  I had, to get my breath back under control.

At the end of that session, my coach had a talk with me about the need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.  His point was that I just need to transition to the next thing, even when it is not physically comfortable for me.

This brings me to the subject of comfort zones.  Our best growth occurs when we push outside of them.  Sometimes it is a mental comfort zone (such as me overcoming my fear of crashing down and injuring myself) and sometimes it is physical ... where we think we can't do another thing because we are sucking air!  If we keep pushing through ... one thought ... one choice ... one rep ... one step at a time, we will win the moment and win the day!

Sometimes, we need those people in our lives who keep pushing us when we think we have stretched as far as we can.  Commit to the stretch and get comfortable with discomfort!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Much Longer?

Recently, I have had several friends ask how much longer will I be exercising 5 times a week.  That question has also been asked as, "what weight will be enough?"

It's not about the weight and hasn't been about the weight for a long time (do I still need to lose some ... yes I do ... ).  Weight is the thing that people focus on because it is the physical manifestation of this journey I have been on.

I sat with a friend the other week trying to explain what it is that keeps me going.  I said that I love the challenges ... Can I do a handstand?  Yes (I still have to take a breath and slap my mind around it but am becoming less fearful)!  Can I do a handstand pushup?  Not yet but I am determined that I will!  Can I do an unassisted pullup?  Not yet, but I have graduated from a black band to a green one!  Can I get out of the hole when squatting with weight?  Not very well yet ... but I am working on it.  Most of all, I love overcoming fear and doing something that I was afraid of.  The joy of the journey is in the little successes along the way, and like life, we never arrive.  

As the "unsporty" kid, I never dreamed as an adult I would find exercise enjoyable.  And never in a million years did I realise the connections between the mental and the physical.  When work is stressful, it really helps to go and push some weight around.  When I am tired and cranky, it often helps to work out.  My body feels more in balance and my mind is being stretched and changed.  How much longer?  Hopefully, for life!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What I Learnt From The Crossfit Open

My training buddy Jenny and I

So ... the Crossfit Open is over for another year.  A year ago I would never have imagined I would participate, let alone get 3 scores on the board.  My coach and workout buddy talked me into participating this year and I am glad they did.  Here is what I am taking away from the the 2013 games.

It's All About Participation
Really, to be part of a global community all participating in the same thing is something quite amazing.  This year 138,000 people around the world registered to compete.

Benchmarks Are Great Things To Have
When I said that I would do the games, I honestly expected to do all the workouts in a scaled form as I am so new to Crossfit and still have not mastered many of the skills.  I never dreamed that I could do any of the workouts RX.  My little scores (way WAY down on the leaderboard) were pretty much personal bests for me.  I pb'd burpees ... I pd'd snatching (heck I learnt the basics of snatching 2 weeks before 13.1) and I pb'd  my overhead split jerk.  I got 75lbs up for the first time three days before 13.2 and to do that workout and get it up 15 times (although one was a no rep because I forgot to bring my feet together under it - darn it!) was a really incredible thing for me.

Best of all, I have a good sense of where I am at on many of the movements - as well as where I am not!  When I made the decision not to do 13.4, I felt like I made that out of a place of strength rather than a place of fear.  Previously, I didn't want to do workouts because I was afraid.  This time, I was able to look at it and know that I was likely to injure myself trying and the smart thing to do would be to do a scaled workout and then go cheer my training buddy on!

Having a good sense of where I am now, makes me clearer about where I would like to be in a years time.  For example, I would like to be able to do toes to bar.  I would like to be able to do handstand pushups.  I would like to be able to clean and jerk 95lbs.  And ... if I can sort my stinky archilles out, I would like double unders!

Warming Up for 13.2

Increased Confidence
Having a better sense of what I can and can't do, has given me more confidence.  For example, when training the other night I had some sets of burpees to do.  I was trying to keep my pace on the workout high (and since I was sucking air at the end of each round, I think I did!).  When I hit the burpees I remember that I just kept hurling myself to the floor and getting up, to immediately hurl myself back to the floor.  At one point going through my brain was the thought that not so long ago I struggled to get down and kick my legs out and back, let alone get up again.  However, after doing 13.1, I was like ... Burpees ... I got these!

Form is Everything
One of the great things about the games is that every workout is judged, so you must maintain good form.  I learnt how costly a no-rep is in 13.2 when split jerking my 75lbs overhead.  This was an incredibly hard weight for me and it took EVERYTHING I had.  The deadlifts were super easy and I was managing the box step-ups fine too.  By forgetting to bring my feet together under my weight when it was up, I no-repped that effort.  It was the difference between the 4th and 5th in the set.  If I had my feet together, I would have been able to go straight onto deadlifts and box stepups, had a small rest from the jerks and probably got another 25 - 28 on my score.  Instead, because of that huge effort and a small failure in form, I wasted the energy and spent nearly two minutes trying to get ONE more rep over my head.  That one rep cost me a LOT.

Bumper Plates Are A Gift
Because I often train in our weight room and we do not have bumper plates, I cannot drop the weights when pushing hard.  This also means I don't push as hard on heavier weight, because bringing it down is hard work too.  When I was doing 13.2 at the box, I seriously messed up my shoulders (they were black and blue for two weeks after the workout) by not dropping the bar and not having the strength to bring it down tightly controlled!  I learnt quickly ... when you have bumpers, drop the weight.  SO much easier and you save a lot of energy. Seriously, bumper plates rock - drop the weight people!

Never Underestimate the Power of Encouragement
This is what I love about the crossfit community.  People cheer and encourage others.  It's not only about the hero athletes ... the elite ones ... its about Joe Normal - you and I, those ones that just get in there and give it everything they have.  I love that people are thrilled for people's achievements, no matter where they are at!  Everyone has been there at some point.  I was inspired watching others workout and being able to cheer them on.  It's thrilling to watch someone do their best and give it their all ... even when they are new like me and struggling, to see them persevere and push through is powerful!

A New Definition of Athlete
My training buddy and I thought it would be fun to get a tshirt for the open and surprise our coach wearing them to one of the open workouts.  One night at training, my buddy was wearing her shirt.  My coach looked at me and asked if I had worn mine yet.  My response, "nope".  When he asked why not, I responded that I had a problem with it.  When asked what the problem was, I said, "the word ATHLETE".  And I did have a problem with that word, because it conjured up someone physically amazing (which I am not).  My training buddy (who happens to be a very good athlete) and I had a chat about athlete and she redefined it.  In our conversation, she mentioned that people often think of athlete only in terms on the "doing" or achievements - and how well you do defines whether you are an athlete.  We talked about the qualities of an athlete - not the doing, so much as a state of being ... dedicated ... consistent ... courageous ... willing to push beyond ... try again and again ... and not accept failure and defeat.  When I thought of an athlete in those terms, I find myself starting to believe that maybe, I am becoming an athlete after all.

Am I thankful I registered?  Heck yeah ... Bring on 2014  :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Reflections on A Year's Journey of Bootcamp and Crossfit ...

A year ago this week, I started a journey ... and what a ride it's been.  A year ago this week, I made the decision to become a lot more proactive in my health.  I had come out of several years of poor health, dealing with chronic anaemia and severe endometriosis, a hysterectomy at 39, and then a pituitary tumour.  These things knocked the stuffing out of me - literally.  In my darkest, hardest times, I was sleeping a day and a half of every weekend, sleeping after school for 3 - 4 hours, getting up to make some food and then going back and sleeping like the dead for another 9 - 10 hours a night.  I needed multiple alarms to wake me up because I slept so heavily.  I lived in a state of constant exhaustion - so bad that there were a few times I caught myself having fallen asleep at my computer at work.  Exercise was the furtherest thing from my mind.  After my hysterectomy, we stabilized my anaemia and then I just had to deal with my tumour.  As I have continued in treatment for that, it gradually shrank and I've gotten stronger and healthier and felt so much better.  My body was ready for more.

In March 2012, Reebok Crossfit Sentinel started a satellite bootcamp class on our campus and I realized that this was my opportunity to get moving and start to rebuild health and become stronger.  For those of you that don't know me, I have never been athletic or coordinated and have many negative memories of sport at school.  In fact, I have realized whilst working through the past year, that a lot of shame was attached to physical activity for me.  Shame of not being good enough and constantly failing.  Basically, I locked that part of my life up tight in a basement room with huge steel doors and never went near it.  No one else was allowed near it either!

In the beginning of March 2012, I rocked up to our very first bootcamp class and spent the next two months literally hating it.  I liked the variety of exercises and the different routines.  I just hated the exercise part.  It was hard, it hurt, I struggled to master the movements and felt so inadequate.  I turned up because I knew I needed to, and I knew that from where I was ... things could only get better.  By the third month, something started to change and click and I loved Bootcamp.  I couldn't wait to go.   I began to relish the mental challenge and realize just how big a role the mental thing played in the workouts.

Just after 3 months of Bootcamp, we hit the summer break.  I looked at the 2 months stretching out ahead of me and thought, "I am not stopping Bootcamp".  I had come too far and the memories of how awful it felt starting were too fresh.  So, I got onto some crossfit websites and found bodyweight movements that i could work with through the summer.  I designed my own workouts and kept going until September when we started up Bootcamp again.  In Arizona, this meant I was outside at 5am when it was 25 degrees, because I knew in 2 hours it would be 35 - 40 degrees and there was no way I could workout in that!  It was hard working out by myself, but I wanted to keep moving forward and I realized that staying on the bus is a lot better than getting off and then trying to get back on!

In October I started training with my Bootcamp coach and my buddy (thanks Brett and Jenny!) ... we started learning crossfit.  This is great because Crossfit boxes are all over, and when I am out on vacation at home or elsewhere, I can attend class and keep growing and moving forward.  So ... here we are now ... one year on and the journey has been incredible.  Here are some of the things I have learnt along the way:

Just Do IT!

Stop making excuses and JUST DO IT.  The famous Nike slogan has a lot of truth.  Many of us are brilliant at rationalizing and finding excuses to not exercise.  The biggest one I hear, is time.  I get it.  When I started, I was trying to juggle a very intensive Masters degree and a full time job.  I couldn't see how I could fit in three one hour workouts a week.  My friend challenged me with ... it's only 3 hours a week Sarah ... come on.  I decided I would just sign up and see what happened.  And I learnt ... it's all about priorities.  We make room in our life for that which we prioritize.  Interestingly, everything else in my life still got done.  

Get Your Head In The Game

This is probably the biggest lesson I have learnt.  Although my body has been undergoing a lot of physical transformation, the bigger transformation is in my mind and thinking, and it is here that the battle really has to be won.  Our thoughts have HUGE impact on what we do.  The Bible has a bit to say about taking every thought captive ... by doing this, we pull down mental strongholds.  I am learning this again and again - at different levels each time.  I have a mantra that has helped me through this year ... it gets me through the hard moments ... 

One thought,
One Choice
One Step,
One Rep at a time ...
Win the moment ...

The mental thing is something I still deal with.  For some reason, in this area of my life my brain is quick to go down the "I can't" trail rather than the ... "let me nail this sucker" one.  Rewiring our thinking is important.  Catch the thought and then go back to the Nike thing ... "JUST DO IT".  Yesterday I jumped on a crossfit box, for no other reason than box jumps currently scare the willies out of me and the day before had been a very stretching day in terms of learning that I CAN jump onto a box.  They still scare me ... but every time I do it, I am rewiring that negative voice that says "I can't".  

Nutrition Is Important

One of the big parts of this journey has been nutrition.  I have never been a fan of diets.  Generally I eat well.  I enjoy food and I have a sweet tooth!  I have had to learn to view food differently - it's fuel for my body.  When I eat this way, I feel better and my body performs better.  When I eat for the enjoyment of food, I can get into trouble quickly!  

 Essentially my coach and I looked at my diet and noted that I was not eating nearly enough protein and fat.  Seeing food as fuel has also changed WHEN I eat certain types of food.  I am learning what my body needs before and after a workout.  Food logging is a really good place to start getting a handle on how and why you eat.  We don't calorie count, we just look at how I am eating and whether it is meeting the needs of my body.  

Be Consistant and Faithful

This is one of the hardest things for us in exercise and nutrition.  Living in a fast paced world, we are accustomed to fast ... we want results fast.  When we don't see them on the time schedule that we think we should, we get discouraged and quit.  I had this temptation.  In June 2012, I was very discouraged about how little weight I had lost.  The point of this journey has not been about weight, but I had a lot of weight to lose as it was contributing to my poor health.  One of my goals has been to get my body fat composition into an acceptable, healthy range - I still have a ways to go on that but I am so much closer than I was.  In June, a friend who had been working out similarly had lost over 10 kgs and I had only lost 4.  There was the temptation to throw hands in the air and give up.  Instead, I thought of my two friends Edie and Dominic, who lost huge amounts of weight and are healthy and fit now.  Both of them were consistent in their exercise and nutrition ... in for the long haul.  This isn't a quick fix ... this is a life change.  I knew if I was consistent and faithful in both those areas, eventually change would happen.  I decided that no matter what I was seeing on the outside, change would be occurring on the inside if I just kept going.

No (Wo)man is an Island

The journey is so much easier if you travel with others.  We are built for connection.  Never underestimate the power of encouragement and journeying with others.  This is one of the strengths of crossfit - the great community.  People cheering others on.  It's awesome.  I watched a throwdown at Sentinel with Matt Chan (#2 in the 2012 Crossfit Games) and his wife Cherie.  Watching a group of powerful athletes pushing through a full-on workout and then going back to cheer others on when they were finished, was inspiring.  We have an awesome group at Bootcamp.  I look forward to every workout with that crew!

Don't Compare Yourself With Others

A common issue when we workout with others, is comparing.  Don't.  Your journey is yours and yours alone.  If you compare to someone better than you, you get discouraged.  If you compare to someone who is not as good as you, you are tempted to slacken off.  The best comparison you can make is with yourself.  Are you growing?  Can you do more?  Are you seeing changes?  This is why logging your workouts is really important ... its pretty exciting to go back and see how far you have come.

Encouragement and Motivation are Important

What motivates you?  For me, the initial motivation was health.  Then the motivation was to never feel as awful as I did again about starting with fitness.  My motivation has changed to mastering new skills (such as OLY lifts and handstands, and not falling off a bar!) and growing stronger.  I want to be that badass girl that can push weights around and push her body around.

On a daily basis, the thing that really helped me was knowing that I am a word person.  I compiled a folder of workout quotes, and when I lack motivation, I scroll through quotes until one resonates with me for the day.  There is always something that pushes my buttons!

Get Help From Someone Who Knows What They Are Doing

For me at this stage on my journey, it is important that I have a coach and go to classes.  I started this journey pretty clueless.  I have been learning a lot and I still have a lot to learn.  I am learning a lot about form and what I can do.  In fact right now, my coach has a better sense of what I can do than I do.  I am learning to trust that.  Each time I have been down an "I can't" road ... he proves me wrong ... slowly I am changing, but right now I am doing things that I would never do if I was left to my own devices, for no other reason than I wouldn't think i could.  Some things scare me and my coach pushes me past my comfort zones.   This brings me to my next point ...

Wanna Grow?  Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I am growing and changing and the main reason is that I am pushing beyond my comfort zone.  If you stay with what you are comfortable with, you won't grow.  Isaiah 54 commands us to enlarge and stretch ... we need to do this ... don't you want to be bigger and stretched so that you have a greater capacity?  I do ... it might be uncomfortable ... but I want to be more than I was. There is joy in growing.

I cannot emphasize this point enough.  As adults we get pretty good at arranging our world so that is comfortable for us.  As I mentioned earlier, I had locked up this whole area of my life in a basement room with big doors and I let no-one in there.  Too much shame and failure in that room.  Bootcamp cracked open those doors, and right now they are wide open!  It's uncomfortable and often I feel very vulnerable.  I don't like putting myself in a place of failure and having to confront those shame feelings. But as I do, I see more success and those shame feelings are becoming less because there is nothing to be ashamed of when you commit to trying and doing your best.  I learnt that one day when I was doing a partner stretch at the end of a workout.  I could barely lean forward into the stretch and I was laughing with my partner saying, "wow, that's pathetic".  I didn't realize that my coach was behind me.  He came around in front of me and said, "I don't ever want to hear you say that Sarah.  Everyone starts somewhere and the fact that you have started, is not something to call pathetic".  It really challenged me.  And he was right.  We all start somewhere.  What is important is that we start, and we commit to giving our best.  

Take Pride In Your Journey

Where ever you are at in your fitness journey, take a moment to take pride in what you are doing and how far you have come.  Then lace up your shoes and push on  :)

A Final Question ...

This has been an amazing year.  I have stretched ... grown and changed.  Much as there are days I struggle with the challenges, I am so thrilled with the progress I have made.  I am stronger and I am grateful.  I look forward to the continuing journey.  Thanks Jo, Brett, Jenny and all of my Bootcamp buddies who have walked this with me.  You are awesome.