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.