10 Lessons I Learned from Competing

CF6Just one year after starting Crossfit, I stepped way outside my comfort zone (something I’ve done more in my forties than in the past three decades combined) and participated in my first CrossFit competition last Sunday.

It wasn’t even about competing, or reaching a certain ranking among the athletes, although I really didn’t want to finish in last place!  The only reason I registered, paid the $35 fee, showed up, and competed, was to say……

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Funny thing is, this experience was so much more than simply performing physical skills for time.  In the process, I learned things about myself, my Crossfit family, and the Crossfit community and culture as a whole.

If you’re thinking “I don’t do Crossfit, and have no intention of ever doing it, so I’ll stop reading now” – please don’t!

It doesn’t matter if it’s Crossfit, public speaking, running a half marathon, starting a new business, learning a different language, sky diving, or taking guitar lessons.  The simple act of stretching yourself, stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something new (and probably scary) is the BEST way to generate exponential personal growth!  Add to that the possible benefits of being involved with people of like mind, like goals and like purposes.

So if you are thinking “I don’t really want any more personal growth”  or “I prefer to live my life in solitude rather than in cooperation and team work with others” – then you can stop reading!  Otherwise, hang in there with me on this one. The lessons I learned are LIFE LESSONS, things that we could and should apply to all areas of our life, not just CrossFit.

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Open Door Policy – I have never experienced an open door policy like that which the CrossFit community offers.  In a society that can sometimes be obsessed with being better than the competition, to the point of considering them the enemy,  it’s pretty profound when local CrossFit gyms take turns opening their doors to the entire CrossFit community to come together and compete, or to workout collectively for a charitable cause.  The Crossfit philosophy is Mi casa es su casa – my house is your house.

 

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No Whining Allowed – Crossfit is a choice.  Don’t choose it, then whine and complain about how hard it is.  Do it, and embrace the ‘suck’ as equally as you embrace the accomplishments!  It’s hard, because the payoff is worth the effort.

Love Thy Neighbor – Having been a spectator of many CrossFit competitions, it’s both easy and natural to encourage and cheer for the athletes performing, regardless if they belong to your gym, or if you even know them.  But being a competitor this weekend, for the first time I was on the receiving end.  The experience of being cheered for, supported and encouraged by complete strangers was profound.  The positive energy emanated from their eyes, their voices, and their hands.  Strangers celebrated my accomplishments as though they were their own.

 

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Bend the Bar Competition – 50 lb kettle bell squat

Be REALLY Present in the Moment – I thought I knew what it meant to be present in the moment.  But in retrospect, I’ve actually been present for an experience over time. Not really, really, present in the moment.  Being present is holding a 50 pound kettle bell to my chest while attempting to complete as many squats as possible in 45 seconds.  I was present for every inch of my drop to the bottom of the squat.  I was present for every muscle twitch in my legs as they shook, while I willed my body to return to a vertical position.  I was present to the voice in my head, telling me “just one more”, squat after squat.  I was present each and every moment of those 45 seconds.

Boy’s Club No More – Crossfit respect is not gender specific!  Men are typically bigger and stronger than women, as such, the expectations in Crossfit are that men can lift and move more weight than women.  Other than that, there is no distinction between the genders.  There are not male specific skills separate from female skills – they are all CrossFit skills.  We give each other equal respect, regardless of gender!  As a woman participating in what was originally a male dominated sport, I have NEVER felt belittled or less valued than the male athletes!  Crossfit is an equal opportunity sport!

 

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The Tank Isn’t Really Empty – Competing this weekend, I discovered that my body is much like a car.  In the past, when my ‘running on empty’ light went off, I would pause for a few seconds to catch my breath, rest my burning muscles, or take a quick sip of water.  In competition, where literally ever second counts and people are cheering for you (and watching your every move), I discovered that I have a few good miles left in me after my ’empty alarm’ goes off!

 

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No Application Required – Anyone, and I mean absolutely anyone, can do Crossfit.  There is no discrimination in the CrossFit community.  Whether you are 18 or 68, stand less than 5 feet tall or more than 6 feet tall, have skinny thighs or chunky thighs, long hair or short hair, covered in tattoos or no tattoos at all….it simply doesn’t matter.  All that matters is the DESIRE to participate!  Choose to Crossfit and you will be embraced and accepted into a community that is inclusive, NOT exclusive.

 

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This is an actual photo from the local Bend the Bar competition in September. This exemplifies the Crossfit culture!

Rooting for the Underdog – Watching the top athletes perform this weekend was awesome.  Their bodies were sculpted to perfection while they moved with both fluidity and power.  I know they weren’t born that way, they too worked for every inch of progress, every little milestone they’ve achieved to get to where they are.  Watching them move with ease and grace was quite beautiful.  But for me, I was moved more by watching the athletes that were forced to exert extreme effort and struggle simply to perform one more pull up, one more box jump, or one more squat.  Witnessing someone overcoming all obstacles, when it would be easier to quit than continue, was both awesome and inspiring!

 

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Competing Against Myself – I’ve spent 47 years comparing and competing…..with other people.  I’ve tried to live up to other people’s standards, expectations and performance.  I’ve based my self worth on how I rank in comparison to those around me, those that I strive to be as good as.  And then came Crossfit!  Over this past year I slowly (very slowly) began to learn that my journey is mine, and all that matters is my progress compared to myself.  Sunday’s competition was my final exam in that life lesson and I passed with flying colors.

I was competing next to 20 year old girls with perfect bodies, perfect straight blond hair, perfect booty shorts, perfect smiles….and I didn’t care how I compared to them.  I own this body that birthed two amazing boys,  yo-yo’d so much the scale got dizzy, has left over cellulite I may never get rid of and new wrinkles that I have earned from a lifetime of experiences.  Truly, all that mattered to me was that I perform to my absolute best ability, regardless of where I ranked in comparison or competition with everyone else!

 

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My Stability CrossFit Family!

Having a 2nd Family – Even in the face of the dysfunction that exists in most (if not all) families, there is always some semblance of support, team work, encouragement, appreciation, purpose, respect, humor and love.   Imagine being able to multiply that by two – and having twice as much of all the great things a family has to offer.  We throw the term around at our gym, frequently referring to ourselves as a family.  I bought into it, never questioning the “family ties” of our box.  But I really experienced it in full force on Sunday, when TEN members of our gym came to support, encourage and cheer us on, not because there was anything in it for themselves, but simply because we are family.

I just can’t stop at 10 lessons and leave this one out!

 

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My partner in crime – Amy!

Everything is Better in Partnership – I would NOT have competed alone.  That would have been way too scary!  Amy and I agreed to take this step outside our comfort zones together.  We were anxious together, planning and preparing together, wondering together, showing up together, being scared together, exerting ourselves together, laughing together, and celebrating together.  Our partnership made this whole experience a million times better than it would have ever been doing it alone.

These are lessons I learned (or was reminded of) thanks to my Crossfit journey and competition experience.  But these are not exclusive to Crossfit.  They are LIFE lessons that I will take into every facet of my life!

Regardless of what hobby, sport, activity or interest you choose to pursue – choose something that will stretch you, cause you to step out of your comfort zone and be a little scared.  Choose something that immerses you in a community and culture that is aligned with your intentions, beliefs and goals.  Choose something….then be open minded and aware of all the life lessons you encounter along the journey!

P.S. – Inquiring minds want to know!  For those of you thinking “how did you do?” and “will you do it again?”, the good news is I didn’t finish last.  I competed in the Women’s Master division, which simply means I’m old (over 40).  There were a total of 9 women in this category and I came in 5th place.  Just 24 hours after finishing this competition I had already registered for my next one in late November – woo hoo!!!!

with Joy & Gratitude,

Get a New Perspective on Life

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We’ve taken a few days to observe where in our lives we are a creature of habit.  Hopefully you discovered something about yourself you didn’t realize before.

Well, there’s more to this story.  Let me take you back to Monday’s conversation…..

When I recently walked into my local Starbucks and found someone sitting in “my seat”,  I was suddenly and surprisingly faced with a range of emotions I had not expected.

The space at this particular Starbucks is set up in the shape of an L, and “my seat” is in the corner of the “L”, facing out towards the rest of the room, allowing me to observe people (one of my favorite things to do!) from a distance. The table is a two-seater, large enough to hold my computer, notepad and cup of java, without feeling like something is going to fall off the edge.  With windows to both my left and right, I am surrounded by natural light.  The ledge under the window is wide enough to place my phone, water bottle and pen.  I have access to charge both my phone and computer in one of  two different wall outlets.

Doesn’t it sound like the PERFECT seat?  It is, and it’s MINE!

So on this particular day, when “my seat” was taken, and I was forced to sit in the only remaining seat at a tiny little table right in the middle of the room, I was shocked by the range of emotions I was experiencing.  I felt like a two-year old having a temper tantrum in my head.  But I put my big girl panties on and began to write.

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Then the MAGIC happened…..

After taking a few minutes to settle in and get adjusted to my new seat, I looked up and noticed how shockingly different my perspective was.  It was as though I was sitting in a brand new Starbucks.

Everything looked unfamiliar.

Although I’d been inside this Starbucks countless times, I was noticing details I had never seen before.  Strangest of all was that I felt different, experiencing the Starbucks from a new vantage point.  I felt more alive, renewed and alert.  I could see with a clarity I hadn’t been accessing from my old seat, like a fog had been lifted simply by changing my seat.

By stepping outside my comfort zone, I discovered the magic of a new perspective.

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If something as simple as sitting in a different seat at my mobile office could create the experience of seeing life from a new perspective, I figured I should seek out the opportunity to duplicate that feeling more often.

So I experimented with intentionally CHOOSING new vantage points, new seats, new driving routes, all in order to gain a new perspective for myself.  What I discovered is a whole wide world outside my comfort zone, a world filled with magic!

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Each of us only knows what we know.  We view our world from our personal vantage point, based on our history, knowledge, and beliefs.  But then we live like OUR perspective is the truth.

You are welcome to stay there, safe and secure in your comfort zone, where your perspective is your truth.  But I invite you to challenge the boundaries of your comfort zone.  Start with something as simple as sitting in a new seat, but don’t stop there!

Here are some possible ways you can experiment…..

GET A NEW PERSPECTIVE IN YOUR LIFE

1.  Sit in a different seat – at your coffee shop, in the cafeteria, at church

2.  Park in a new section of the parking lot – at work, the mall, your gym

3.  Drive a different route to your destination – to school, the bank, your favorite restaurant

4.  Try an unfamiliar form of exercise – zumba, pilates, yoga

5.  Sit or relax in a different room in your home –  a guest room, dining room, child’s room

6.  Eat foods you don’t gravitate towards – ethnic cuisine, healthy food, locally grown produce

7.  Talk to someone you don’t know – a child, a senior citizen, a handicapped person

8.  Vacation differently – go camping, stay at a bed & breakfast, take a cruise

9.  Read something new – nonfiction, magazines, blogs

10.  Do something extreme – ride a motorcycle, scuba dive, jump out of a plane

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You can place your big toe outside your comfort zone, or you can jump over the boundaries with both feet.  Either way is AWESOME!  Just do something to alter your vantage point in life, to give yourself a new perspective.

with Joy & Gratitude,

Creatures of Habit

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Are you a creature of habit?  Someone who inadvertently develops a set pattern of doing the same things, the same way, at the same times of day?  Quite honestly, I think we all are to some degree.  I’m not necessarily referring to establishing good habits such as exercising every day, or bad habits such as biting your nails.  What I’m alluding to are those things we do subconsciously because they create structure and predictability in our lives, they solidify our comfort zone.

I discovered I am most definitely a creature of habit when I recently walked into my local Starbucks (aka – my mobile office) only to find “my seat” was taken by someone.

I always sit in the same seat, at the same table, facing the same direction.  It’s the perfect round table in the corner, facing out towards the rest of the room.

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As I entered Starbucks and turned the corner heading to my seat, I literally came to a dead stop when I noticed not only was my seat taken, but the entire section was filled with people.  I stood motionless as I scanned from left to right, and realized there was only one available spot left, a tiny table right in the middle of the room.  As I tentatively sat down and unpacked my computer, my emotions fluctuated between disappointment and being angry.  I felt exposed and very vulnerable sitting in the middle of the room that I traditionally get to observe from a distance, and I wanted MY seat!

Like any tricky multiple choice question, there were 3 viable options, but only one right answer:

A.  Get up and leave

B.  Stay there and pout about not getting my way

C.  Put my big girl panties on and start writing

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It took a few minutes, but I did begin to write, although I continued to be distracted by the fact that “my seat” had such an emotional hold on me.

Over the next few weeks I noticed the creature of habit concept showing up everywhere.  At my CrossFit gym, members repeatedly gravitated to the same section of the gym to set up their workout station.  The women in my meditation group positioned themselves in the same spot each week, as though we had assigned seating.  Whether we were eating dinner or watching television, each member of my family consistently returned to their reserved seat.

We can refer to ourselves as creatures of habit, but I think it’s more appropriate to label us as creatures of comfort.  Our desire is to stay within our comfort zone where life is familiar and predictable.  Our comfort zone is not limited to just our physical space.  The boundaries of our comfort zone are also set by the patterns and habits we establish, as well as the way we choose to think about and mentally process our lives.

It is undeniable that the majority of us thrive on living within the safety of our comfort zone.

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Take the next few days to observe where in your life you are a creature of habit (or comfort).

I have no doubt it will show up repeatedly and with clarity.

There is a whole wide world outside our comfort zones.  But before we can go there, we have to distinguish the boundaries that keep us trapped.

Have fun with this…..and don’t forget to laugh at yourself a little!

with Joy & Gratitude,