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,

365 Days….

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Transformation takes time!

Although each day there can be incremental change, the speed at which transformation takes place is so slow, it usually goes unnoticed until significant time has passed.

It takes time to transform an empty lot into a 4 bed-room house you can live in.

It takes time to transform a music student into a violinist.

It takes time to transform an overweight, unfit body into an athlete.

It takes time to transform a great idea into a profitable business.

It takes time to transform a fetus into an infant able to survive outside its mother.

It takes time to transform a pile of dirt into a vegetable garden.

Transformation takes time!

Transformation is not five minutes from now; it’s a present activity.  In this moment you can make a different choice, and it’s these small choices and successes that build up over time… – Jillian Michaels

Creating transformation requires action, patience and belief!

If you wanted to grow a vegetable garden, you would choose a location, determine the dimensions and select the types of vegetables to grow.  You would prepare the soil, plant the seeds and provide the appropriate amount of nutrients and water to facilitate the transformation from seeds to vegetables.

In the midst of your intentional actions, you’d have inherent patience, understanding that it takes time before you could enjoy the fruits of your labor.  You’d believe, day in a day out, as you water a pile of dirt, that although you can not see any change, your actions are making a difference.

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It may seem like it takes forever, but then one day you’d notice the tiniest of green sprouts poking through the dirt.   It would look more like a blade of grass than an edible vegetable.  And yet, it would make you feel giddy with excitement knowing that with time, you will be consuming fresh, home grown vegetables.

Do you quit in the middle, frustrated that your vegetables aren’t growing quick enough?  NO, you continue to care for your garden with patience and belief.

Why then do we so frequently give up on ourselves,  before the seeds of change begin to sprout?

changeWe expect transformation in our lives to happen immediately, simply because we desire it.  But our lives are no different than a vegetable garden.  Change must be planned, cultivated, and intentional.  But above all, we must be patient and believe.  So often we quit on ourselves when we fail to see or feel the change taking place.

On October 15th, 2012 – exactly one year ago tomorrow, I completed my first CrossFit class.

At 5 feet 3 inches, I weighed 170 pounds, wore a size 12 and hadn’t exercised with any consistency in over 4 years.  I couldn’t do a pull up, a push up, a burpee or a box jump.  I had little strength, no stamina and even less confidence in myself!

This was my rock bottom.

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That was one year ago….52 weeks….365 days…..

When I started – I did push ups from my knees, my box jumps were actually step ups, I could only jump rope for 20 single rotations before being out of breath, and I couldn’t even hang from a bar let alone attempt an assisted pull up.

I went back, class after class, seeing and feeling NO change!  But I figured doing something was better than doing nothing.  Most days I felt defeated, weak and incompetent.  But I went anyway.

Then one day I noticed change.  It was small, incremental change, but it was progress nonetheless.  It wasn’t a change in the number on the scale or the size on the tag of my pants.  This change was measured in reps, distance, minutes and seconds, weight lifted – not weight shed.

My transformation over this past year was slow….so slow it was painful at times.  So slow I often questioned if there was any improvement at all.  So slow I wondered if I’d ever get better at the multitude of skills I was learning and practicing.  But the sprouts of change were enough of a sign to give me continued patience and belief.

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Starting is the hardest part.  When we are contemplating making a change, creating momentum from nothing, it can feel overwhelming.

The middle sucks!  Pardon my language, but it’s true!  When we are in the middle of creating transformation, it feels long, slow and hard.  This is when we have to hold onto patience and belief with all our strength.  The middle is when we are most likely to give up.  Don’t quit in the middle!

Now, standing at the one year mark, it is actually surprising how much transformation actually took place in just 365 days!

I wish I’d had the foresight to document the first year of my CrossFit journey in photographs and videos.  But I didn’t.  I have a before picture from September 2012 followed by a recent video demonstration of some CrossFit skills.

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September 2012 – Living the dream on the outside, rock bottom on the inside

Then & Now:  Demonstrating a scaled version of a Box Jump when I first began Crossfit, followed by the RX (prescribed) Box Jump that I’m able to accomplish a year later.

Then & Now:  Demonstrating a scaled version of a Pull Up when I first began Crossfit, followed by the RX (prescribed) Pull Up that I’m able to accomplish a year later.

What do you want to transform?

Do you want to change your career?  Relocate to a new part of the country?  Enhance the depth and intimacy of your relationships?  Alter the size and shape of your body?  Become proficient at a new skill or hobby?

Whatever transformation you choose to pursue, it will take action, patience and belief.

Transformation takes time….but it is SO possible and SO worth the wait!

with Joy & Gratitude,

Who Are You Comparing Yourself To?

Comparing

COMPARE – To examine the character or qualities

of 2 or more things, in order to discover the similarities or differences

When I first began crossfit I noticed that I constantly compared myself to the people  I was working out with.  Each time I walked in the box (gym) I would mentally scroll through my comparison checklist.  Were my fellow crossfitters younger or older, smaller or bigger, stronger or weaker, faster or slower?  The comparisons made me aware of the drastic differences between us in skill level, physique, speed and strength, and I was always on the losing side of the comparison.

We all do this – we compare ourselves to other people!  We do this at work, with our neighbors, at the gym, with friends, at the grocery store – everywhere!  We do it consciously, with purpose…..and often times we do it subconsciously, without even realizing we are doing it.

The problem isn’t in the comparing itself,

The problem is what we do with the information we gather

from our comparisons

When we compare ourselves to someone else, we allow the similarities and differences to mean something about ourselves.  Based on the differences we discover, we are either better than or not as good as someone.  The more similar we find ourselves, the more equal we feel, as though we match up.

We use our comparisons to determine our own self worth.

My daily comparison to others during the early part of my crossfit journey was incredibly deflating.  I was, without a doubt, the most out of shape, the slowest, and the weakest one there.  My continual comparison to the other crossfitters made me feel inadequate to a point that I almost quit, rather than continue to feel ‘less than’ everyone else.

Comparing Yourself

Then one day I noticed a man favoring his shoulder during warm ups and it occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about his personal journey.  I didn’t know if he was recovering from an injury, how long his shoulder had bothered him, if he’d had surgery – I didn’t know a single thing about his story.  All I knew when I compared myself to him was that he appeared to be fit, strong, and athletic…he appeared to be everything I was not.

Each of us is on our own individual journey

  We shouldn’t compare our journey with someone else’s journey

Our journey is OUR journey – it’s NOT a competition!

On that very day, instead of wanting to quit crossfit, I chose instead to surrender to my body’s limitations and to stop comparing myself to the other crossfitters.  They didn’t know my story, and chances are I didn’t know theirs.

There are plenty of times that I still fall into the habit of comparing myself to others, both in and out of the gym.  I will probably struggle with this human quality for as long as I live.  But being aware of when I make comparisons now gives me the opportunity to choose to stop.

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We all desire to be better, but typically that is in comparison to someone else.  The person we should be comparing ourselves to is US!  Strive to be a better version of yourself today than you were  yesterday.  Let your self worth be defined by YOUR personal growth and development.

This is NOT a crossfit conversation, this is a  life conversation.  Crossfit just happens to be where I first realized the negative impact of comparisons, but it translates into all areas of our lives.

How often do you compare yourself to other people?

What areas of your life do you most often make comparisons?

What do you make those comparisons mean about you and your self worth?

You can journal the old fashion way with paper and pencil, or if you prefer technology,  simply use the notepad section on your phone, iPad or computer.  Either way, I ‘d encourage you to take note of what role comparisons play in your life.  Before we can change something about ourselves, we must first be aware of it.

with Joy & Gratitude,

Choosing Self Acceptance

Crossfit Koolaid

I began my CrossFit journey on Saturday, October 13th, 2012.  YES – I actually know the date, partly because it was one of the scariest days of my life, but mostly because it has changed me (on the inside and the outside) forever.  For me and my family, CrossFit is not a fad or a trend – it is a way of life!

Now don’t worry, I won’t be turning this into a CrossFit blog, but the life lessons I’m learning through CrossFit are too rich and valuable to not share!  They include (but aren’t limited to) concepts such as fear, patience, mental strength and humor.  When I write from a CrossFit perspective my hope is that I can relay the experience or life lesson with clarity while also sharing the benefits of exercise.

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Acceptancethe action or process of being received as adequate or suitable

Self Acceptance – affirmation or acceptance of ones self in spite of weaknesses or deficiencies

On October 13th there was so much I had to accept about myself.  I was 30+ pounds overweight, I hadn’t consistently exercised in over 5 years, my schedule was overbooked as a business owner and mother of 2 teenage boys, and I was closer to 50 than I was to 40  years old!  I could have used any (or all) of those truths about myself as an excuse to prevent me from stepping foot into the ‘box’ (CrossFit lingo for gym).

The struggle to resist the reality of who we are is precisely what keeps us where we are.  Only by accepting myself exactly as I was, with all my flaws and imperfections, was I able to even show up in a room full of strong, healthy, fit athletes.  There were NO surprises that day.  Although I wasn’t the only woman nor was I the oldest, I was absolutely the most overweight and out of shape person attempting to complete the same skills the other CrossFitters were maneuvering through with ease.

At the end of the hour (after countless squats, push ups and abs), I was grateful that I had not only survived, but was actually able to exit the building on my own two feet.  During my drive home I burst into tears at the realization that I wasn’t shunned to the ‘wanna-be’ athlete’s corner of the room, there was no finger pointing, nor was there laughter at my expense.  Quite the contrary, I found the CrossFitting community to be accepting of me, exactly as I was!

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Accepting yourself is about embracing the truth of who you are.  It certainly doesn’t mean you have to be happy with it, but it does mean you are not fighting against reality or worse yet living in denial.  I spent 5 years denying I was gaining weight and resisting the possibility that I could actually choose to make time in my ‘busy’ schedule to take care of myself  – to put ME first on the ‘to do’ list!

Self acceptance has to start with listening to what you say about yourself – to yourself!  From the moment we wake up in the morning until we drift off to sleep each night (and maybe even in our dreams) that little voice in our head is whispering to us.  Sometimes it’s so quiet we don’t even hear it, but that doesn’t mean the words lose their power.  That little voice is YOU, commentating moment by moment, your interpretation of you.  You can choose to change the dialogue you are having with yourself, but first you must quiet down and listen to what you are really saying to yourself!

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One of my favorite authors,  Jon Gordon,  is quoted as saying ‘talk to yourself instead of listen to yourself’.  What this means is you get to choose the words you say to yourself.  Be intentional about it instead of listening to the untruths that little voice says about you.  Now, when I talk to myself (instead of listen to my little voice) I say things like:

  • I am SO worth an hour of my time!
  • My birth certificate says I’m 47 – but I feel 29!
  • The number on the scale doesn’t change the depth of my character or the difference I can make in this world!
  • I deserve to tune the world out for 60 minutes and get lost in the moment of me!
  • I’m a work in progress – where I am right now is perfect!

Whatever you choose to say to yourself, make sure you are whispering sweet nothings instead of insults!

with Joy & Gratitude,