How to participate in Life outside CrossFit when everyone is posting up mean as training vids and you’re sitting on the beach.

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 11.39.11 AM.pngI had one outrageously good summer.

A typical summer would see me spread across  the entire country. Anywhere from Whangarei to Queenstown is on the potential hit list. Travel is marked with dollops of time consuming training sessions. Bro-sessions with the CrossFit Whanau all over Aotearoa.  The rest is spent in the water, diving, adventuring, wearing sun-screen, and hitting several events. I do this with zero training included at all for a week or so at a time.

This version of summer adventures leaves me severely blue on the eve of my return to work. I would want to quit my full time job (yes, I do have one of those) in favour of becoming a full time roamer. I nearly did quit one year, which is where all these methods to shift my perspective were born.

This summer was different.

For the bulk of the Christmas Break, I had roughly a 10km operating radius. I could probably narrow that down to the stretch of Moir Street, in the village. I didn’t get bored once. Freaky.

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Happiness was as simple as exploring what my home town has to offer.  I came away from the summer with my cup full to overflowing. Interestingly, I also trained more than I usually do in a summer period. The key difference was that alongside training, I had time to be in the right place at the right time with the right people. Which was generally always the same two people, with a combination of other special guest members adding flavour to “The Te Haara Trio” summer tour of Mangawhai. These two girls are my backbone, especially in times when I’ve lost my own.

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Let us Reflect;

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There was a time when – as my shoulders grew out of my dresses, I felt – I –  had grown out of my home town and my bonds to the land and people there. I struggled to fit – literally – or to relate to the stages of life my friends and family were in who weren’t part of the CrossFit world. At the time, as far as I knew, this version of living ‘my best life’ would be a permanent fixture. Thankfully, I was wrong. Finding balance and space for all dimensions of my person came down to making a conscious effort to define what it is I want to happen in my life – daily – that would make me smile. Training and CrossFit was one of those things, but not the only thing.

Paint for tomorrow with the actions of today

-I stole that off a horoscope.

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The last time I dug a fence pole hole. I got the holes dug, but bent the blades on Dad’s post hole borer in the process… No Finesse.

Home is a funny place, it hasn’t been able to support my need to train CrossFit well until this summer.

Sideline:

I was fortunate enough to have not only one, but two local gyms in Mangawhai, teeming with local people keen to share an hour or so of their time with me getting sweaty. This took care of my need to train, getting the apple cart upright with little admin, and also train with other people in one sweep. It also gave me back valuable time to do stuff other than train.

Prior to this last year, having a single training facility which is geared towards my own preferences for training has been non-existent. I am extremely grateful that this barrier to me spending more time at home has been removed. Now if the Kaipara District Council would kindly tar seal Brown Road – I would have no reason not to be at the Family Farm every Sunday for roast dinner.

If you are in Mangawhai or the surrounding area, I would encourage you to check out the local spots, each is different and awesome in their own right. You just gotta find your own tribe and work your vibe.

Level Movement is run by Jason Kingi.

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The Shelter Fit 365 is run by Aaron and Jo McIlwee.

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The influence and the opportunities that are now being providing with the respective spaces is huge. It’s an impact on a community health promotion level that I really admire. Each facility in their own way are shifting thinking about how people in the local community think about how they live and their personal human potential.

I have sat over summer – usually at the pub or over dinner at a friends house – and listened  to people tell me of their introductions to CrossFit. The tell me about their goals, what they are frustrated about, who they are chasing, the things they love about it and where they plan to take it. These are conversations I never would have had two years ago. Two years ago – my friends had no access to these places. I love listening to people tell me of their experiences so far. Every one of them is on a pathway, largely determined by them. Whether they carry on or not, I’m just happy to hear that people are exploring their options and of course I am happy to hear they are enjoying the trip. So thank you. You’re awesome.

I used to feel immense guilt when I couldn’t train. This internal feeling of losing all my fitness overnight – in the bottom of a trifle bowl, somewhere in the pavlova hangover – was unshakable. I’d drive an hour each way to Whangarei, just to get a gym sesh in. Sacrificing time I could have spent with my friends and family doing any range of things at home. All that admin to train. I didn’t know I was missing anything until I started looking specifically for it though.

Why didn’t I get ‘get outside’ build a fence, go for a run, do some real work? you say… Well, for one – It’s not hard enough. It doesn’t make me sweaty and I can’t do it for reps or time. When you do work on a farm you’re doing it for quality, you need to be thorough, diligent and do everything properly. Follow the process. This doesn’t mix that well with the high intensity hit I’m searching for when I train. So no, building a fence won’t cut it.

Then there was the shame if I did train at home on the farm. I look nuts. Out there on the lawn doing lunges with a cast iron anvil above my head, up and down the driveway, getting a rash from doing burpees on the grass – which I’m literally crazy allergic to – and running up and down the road for no actual purpose other than to do fitness.

Juxtapose my pointless physical exertion against the rest of my family, sat on the patio under the umbrella – relaxing, drinking Dad’s latest drop of Pinot Noir, Mum smoking a durry….

This is the norm – I feel rude disturbing the peace like that.

Excessively challenging physical activity feels extremely inappropriate in this context.

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I still get really envious of people who go away with their Whanau and everyone gets stuck into a workout together. Having people to workout with is one of the conditions I found I need for a prime training environment for me. I hate doing it alone.

To me training alone is like drinking alone.

I’ll do it sometimes, but never that well or with much enthusiasm. Compared to drinking with good company; It’s nine times out of ten – a better experience. I do it well, and hit the mark with enthusiasm – usually, before I even knew what was happening.

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Completely different athletes, Rebecca Connew and I. We always ended up within reps of each other when dropping the hammer in competition and training.

That is my own personal training preference. I need an adversary. I find I’m not only more engaged, I am lured into a much more interesting and challenging training session than I will be able to create alone. Pain is just pain, I can test my resolve a lot better when I’m training with other people. It’s almost more fun to hurt, if I’m feeling like this is the limit, I know for damn sure they are pushing their limit too.

I’m not really ever hung up on what I do when I train, over the break was no exception. I just needed to get a few sessions in to balance out the social activities. Sweat out a few well earned and totally worth it hang overs.

Lesson One:

I stopped giving a fuck about Outcomes, and invested energy in process

I stopped aiming for validation and recognition of how awesome I am based on leader boards, rankings and competitions, and spent my energy instead, exploring what conditions make me happy.

I stole this from Uncle Google, but it summarizes basically how I went about that.

In a practical sense it looks like this:

I journal nearly every day – I write down three things I am grateful for today. Which helps me define the things I need to put in my cup each day to create personal happiness. It helps you form the habit of looking for the good in the world instead of seeing things through moments of shit. Over time, it gets easier to see those things in the moment. Identify they have happened and respond to them appropriately.

Here is today’s example

  • I am grateful to Hala for sending me the most beautiful and delicious treats. For no other reason than she enjoys my vibe.
  • I am grateful for the lack of reception at the farm and how much work I get done there.
  • I am grateful for the abilities I have worked for and my appreciation of never being a finished product.

I also write down a recount of something that happened in the last 24 hours that was awesome to me. This helps me to bank the good things, leaving positive breadcrumbs throughout my brain. Strengthening my ability to use the parts of my brain that think and remember positive experiences. It also makes it clearer what is important to me, what I notice and what I prioritise. That helps to inform what I need to do to create a balanced environment for myself to thrive in.

24hour

I had the most fun, unexpected, adventure filled, and epic weekend. I completed the Open workout early and moved on to spending time doing stuff completely unrelated to CrossFit with people completely unrelated to CrossFit. I didn’t have any stress about the workout or having to do it again. Instead I went out with my friends, went away to Whitianga, went diving, got injured and had an absolute blast with some of my favourite people to play with. Not once did I worry about how diving and getting injured would affect my ability to do the next CrossFit Open Workout – I’m taking every opportunity to laugh and enjoy the space in between that I can over the next five weeks.

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I spend my time, energy and attention figuring out what kinds of training environments, living conditions and working conditions work best for me, which ones do I get the most satisfaction and enjoyment out of. I reflect on those things regularly and it helps me cut loose the things in my life that are not feeding into the conditions I need to thrive. I can recognise much easier now, when something isn’t working, or feels off. That’s because I’m a lot clearer in my mind when a situation feels right – having reinforced those neural pathways consistently for over two years now. I’m definitely not a finished product and I still make some stupid decisions for sure. But I struggle to put things into perspective without reflection alongside the odd necessary reality check from the two aforementioned wahine.

Start a journal if you haven’t already.

It helps me for training too. For example; In training – I’ve learned through reflection happiness means classes, not training alone or on an individualized programme. Individualized programmes make me stressed and anxious. I have no ready data to compare myself to, no one to play with (therefore no intensity) and I stress about what work to prioritize. I do need class programming that is challenging though. I’m not keen on General Physical Preparedness programming that cuts out the high skill under  fatigue stuff. No lame ass – low expectations – low skill – basic boring workouts for me please. I also need a variety in my training buddies and places and almost a social level of participation. I enjoy training with lots of people. I enjoy training in the afternoon and I enjoy not taking anything other than the work written on the board seriously. Even then, half the time I don’t know what I’m doing. I deliberately seek out opportunities to train like that. When those conditions are met, I enjoy putting in the work and I love it.

Lesson Two:

Balance is a myth

Balance is an impossibility. Get used to the flux of constant variables and changing conditions that you will spend your entire life attempting to pre-empt, respond to and regulate.

The search for balance is an exact replica of the body constantly battling internally – without your conscious awareness – to reach a state of homeostasis … it’s a process that never ends, right up to when you die.

Something will always trip up the apple cart.

I generally won’t give up training just because I’ve been out. It doesn’t make sense to not train just because I had a good time with my girls the night before and I’m a bit hung. Training actually makes me feel better. Which leads me to the final lesson in maintaining life while the Open approaches.

Lesson three:

Keep your non-negotiable rules simple and achievable across a broad range of scenarios and situations.

I have two rules:

1. Always be “Yea The Girls”.

2. If you’re going to trip up the apple cart of your routine, get it turned back up ASAP.

Number one means that if the girls want to, I do too. I consciously choose them and their company.

Number two means that I will get my routine back on track as soon as I can after social events. The longer I let my habits slide, the closer I am to forming new unhelpful habits. 

If we’re talking about how I approach training, I can honestly say that every one of the four years I qualified for regionals. It didn’t occur to me that my life was out of balance. I honestly didn’t feel that I was giving anything necessary to my own happiness up. I had different non-negotiables then to the ones I have today and in retrospect I was looking to maintain my postion in the pack. To prove myself. Something I care less about these days. Plus, I enjoyed the training, the stress and the roller coaster that was finding out how fit I was. I loved refreshing the leaderboard, the pain and the disappointment when I missed the mark and had to repeat. I believe it is impossible to see anything as sacrifice when you enjoy what you’re doing. When you like something, you do it heaps. Think of it like the honeymoon stage in a new love interest. Would you rather the fun infatuation stage, or the boring TV dinner stage.

This year will be my Seventh CrossFit open. I’m probably at the TV dinner stage with CrossFit. I figure out how far I want to take CrossFit on the day making sure I leave enough time and space for the other life ingredients I need in my day to thrive.

My wero to you would be to see what happens if you explore the lessons I learned about maintaining some sense of balance in your life.

What conditions do you need to be happy in your own life?

What actions are you taking to create a favourable environment for happiness to not only exist, but thrive?