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Another Sip of Crossfit Kool-Aid

I have always loved Crossfit. I loved the community aspect. Everyone rooting for everyone else. The last guy across the finish line get the loudest cheer. The training itself was always fun for me too.

In the four years I spents doing Crossfit style strength and conditioning workouts, I was never the strongest, the fastest or the best. In truth I struggled enormously with most things! But I was hopelessly addicted. There is something so insanly satisfying about seeing how far you can push your body. It is also very cool learning new skills, and gaining a different appreciation for what your body can do.

My love affair with the sport ended a little over a year ago. The break up was not mutual. I kept picking up injuries and I was becoming hopelessly frustrated. My coaches did their best to scale workouts for me and help me to train around my issues, but it just wasn’t the same. I felt disconnected from the rest of the class. I just wanted to be able to play with the other kids.

When I ultimately made the decision to walk away from Crossfit, I started working with a great physio, Noel Mallon. When he was finished mending me, I spent some time training with a local personal trainer, Ross Lynch. He was incredible. Patiently and methodically working with me to improve my movement patterns. Making sure I stayed fixed.

Ironically, our pathes crossed accidentally. I asked for a consulation in the gym I had joined and he was assigned to me. I am sure he has had way easier clients. His misfortune turned out to be very lucky for me!

At the time I was teaching Zumba a few times a week and I suppose I was probably too busy to miss Crossfit. That all changed a few months back when I found myself unemployed and then re-employed. Working in Dublin was going to mean scaling back my Zumba classes, and I needed to find something to else to do.

To be completely honest, the second half of 2018 was such a crazy time for me. I stopped focussing on my goals and I piled on a whole load of weight. It also made me question how I want to identify myself. For the previous few years I had enjoyed identifying as a “fit person.” Someone who loved the gym and prioritised it. Someone who made time to train and slotted the other optional things around it.

As Christmas approached and the number of items in my wardrobe that fit me continued to decrease, I did some soul searching. I had to do something to stop this back slide, but what? I toyed with the idea of taking up Jiu Jitsu, or boxing. I looked into joining the commercial gym across the street from the office, but nothing really appealed. None of it seemed like me. I felt as though I had completely lost sight of myself and taking up something else new, was just going to exacerbate this.

Eventually it dawned on me. Go back to Crossfit. I contacted Alan, a coach I knew, but had never trained with. I am sure he thought I was out of mind, as I tried to explain where I was coming from. “I want you to treat me like a complete beginner,” I told him. I went on to explain that I am finally injury free and above all else I want to stay that way. I don’t want the coaches to let me get away with any shitty movement.

When the day came for the first of my Elements classes, I wondered if it was possible to die from anxiety. I was shaking like a leaf as I walked through the door. I received a warm welcome and Alan tried to put me at ease. We got to work right away and soon I was too busy huffing and puffing to worry about nerves.

My God! All I could think was “how the hell have I let myself get so out of shape AGAIN!” The simplest of exercises seemed beyond me. Over the course of our five introductory sessions together, I had that same thought a million times. Each time Alan asked if I was familiar with a certain movement I would parrot “yes, well, I used to able to do that.” I might well have added, in another life. There were times during those classes when I thought I might cry. The combination of shame and dissapointment in myself is a heady one.

Last night was my final introductory sessions and tonight I get to go play with the big kids. To say I am nervous would be a huge understatement. I have been completely humbled over the last couple of weeks. One thing I have going for me now, is that I don’t even have an ego to leave at the door.

I knew coming into this that I had a massive amount of work to do. I am hoping that at least some of it will be like riding a bike! 2019 for me is going to be a year of working on me. Trying to figure out how I want to feel about myself and acting accordingly. I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and as long as I can be patient with myself, I think good things are going to happen.

I am not sure if I am quite ready to embrace the Crossfit lifesyle again. The thought of being on a team, even just for a workout, is extremely uncomfortable. I am painfully aware of how much of a liability I would be. It is reminiscent of being picked last for PE. It will be a while I’m sure before I start talking about benchmark workouts, and thinking about entering The Open.

The only positive about being back at square one again is that I get to start over with a little bit of knowledge. I know that it gets easier. In time I will no longer be anxious before workouts and sore after them (at least not as much.) I also know that although the community aspect is nice, at the end of the day it’s down to me. Only I can close the gap between where I am, and where I want to be. Be well xxx

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Baby It’s Cold Inside!

Sometimes, even the best laid plans go awry.  This week has been all about that.  As the Festive Season approaches, many of us set about getting our house in order.  Seeing to things which may, in my case anyway, have been put on the long finger.  The countdown is on, and the thought of having a house full of friends and family has nudged some D.I.Y. projects further up the to do list.

Our dishwasher has been acting up lately so I ordered a new one, in an attempt to preempt its demise.  We are hosting Christmas dinner and I could foresee it choosing that particular day to lay itself to rest.  I was happily congratulating myself at such a splendid show of adulting, when the plumber arrived to perform a routine service on my gas boiler.  Fantastic, we are on a roll.

Not so much.  About 20 minutes after he arrived, the plumber sought me out, the look on his face read “expensive.”  He hesitated for a moment before breaking the bad news “you have a gas leak,” he said.  He launched into a monologue of explanation, much of which went over me head.  I desperately wanted to interrupt him and say “just tell me what has to be done and how much it’s going to cost.”  Instead, I patiently waited for him to cut to the chase.  The long and the short of it was he had to disconnect our supply and he would be back in a couple of days to fix it.  It was probably going to cost a few hundred euro.

Far from ideal.  As you all know by now, I have been on a little sabbatical from work, so these two little projects were set to put a huge dent in the remainder of my savings.  The Irish woman me wanted to get to work catastrophizing and wringing my hands.  However, as I sat in my very cold house yesterday, a bigger part of me began to think of all the ways in which I am truly fortunate.

For one thing, the cold for me, was a temporary inconvenience.  I could be fairly certain that in a day or two I would again be warm.  In fact, as I write this, I am already beginning to thaw.  For many people this is not the case.  For the homeless in our society, and for those who literally cannot afford to heat their homes, the long winter will be cold and cruel.

Secondly, although the outlay to get this leak fixed has drained my savings, at least I could actually afford to pay for it.  Three weeks before Christmas a lot of people might not have been so lucky.  We don’t have children to worry about and we had already decided to make Christmas modest, so it won’t have too much of an impact overall.

I am starting back to work next week too, so at least I can look forward to getting paid some time in the not so distant future.  This would have stressed me out far more if I had no idea where my next pay cheque was coming from.  On the flip side, I am lucky that I was still off this week to deal with the plumbing debacle.

One more thing I am grateful for is that the leak was discovered.  The boiler in my kitchen was the source of the leak and I shudder to think how much worse it could have been.  I really do believe that we take an awful lot for granted.  Sometimes it takes being without certain comforts, for even a short while, to make us realize good we have it.

There have been a couple of stories in the news this week that make me feel like we are losing some of the warmth from the world.  I titled this article after the first of these stories.  Here in Ireland, our dedicated Christmas radio station has said it will no longer be playing Dean Martin’s classic “Baby it’s Cold Outside.”  The reasoning behind this is because they feel that the female in the song is being held against her will.  That she clearly wants to leave, but is being forced to stay.

When I read this headline for the first time, I was sure it must be some sort of prank.  I was fully expecting The Onion or Waterford Whispers to be in the by-line.  Unfortunately this was not the case.  I am at a loss to try to explain this move by Christmas FM, other than to say outrage culture strikes again.

Yes, the lady in the song does repeatedly say she should be going, but can anyone not relate to that?  The feeling of being so completely captivated (not captive) that you damn the consequences for a few more moments in the company of your love.  I know I have certainly missed my fair share of curfews and last buses, lingering over a goodnight kiss.  The song, for me, is a throw back to a safer and more innocent time, and the equivalent of “you hang up, no you hang up.”  I find nothing threatening in any of the lyrics, and I feel the world a colder, harder place without the nostalgia it conjures.

In another sad development, the HSE’s staff are no longer allowed to call patients “love, dear or lads.”  They must instead use gender neutral language, like patient 597, or something!  These terms of endearment are a part of our culture.  I have been called love by everyone from bus drivers to bosses over the years and not one jot of harm was ever meant by it.

In fact, I think I would struggle to follow that protocol myself as those “offensive” words spring forth so naturally.  The healthcare providers are so overstretched, they cannot be expected to learn each patient’s name.  These terms allow them to impart a caring, warm word to people on what could be the worst day of their lives.

Personally, should I find myself in hospital, I would like to be cared for by a human being.  Not a sterile automaton terrified of reprisal or litigation should they dare to utter a loving word.

As my home continues to warm up, I wish I could feel that the world is following the same trend.  Sadly, however, it appears that with each move towards political correctness it just gets a little colder.  As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, take a little time to think about what you are grateful for.  Hug your loved ones close.  Fill you homes are and your hearts with warmth.  Have half a drink more.  Be well xxx

 

 

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Starting Over…Again!

In two weeks time I will be starting a new job.  Yes, that’s right folks, another one.  In fact, this will be the fourth job I have had this year.  I think when I look back on 2018, the archives will be full of memories of being interviewed.

The last few weeks have been strange and strained.  I have felt unable to get into it here, because without knowing what was next, it seemed like self-indulgent whining.  Since the summer, I have started, and finished, two new roles.  For the record, neither of these positions were supposed to be temporary.

As much as I have tried to reassure myself that these things happen and everyone is allowed to have a run of bad luck sometimes, I couldn’t prevent my confidence from being severely dented.  The last job ended after only 8 weeks, when my boss told me he didn’t think I was the right person for the job.  I wasn’t being fired, as such, but there was a clear invitation to resign.

As I sat across that board room table, trying to remain composed, all I could think was “he is right.”  All these years I have been playing a part and now finally I am exposed as the fraud I always knew I was.  At least that is what I thought on that fateful Wednesday.

In the weeks since then, there has been a lot of soul searching and no small amount of tears.  I honestly did not know if I had what it would take to dust off the CV and try to sell myself again.  My shame and my sadness were so raw, I felt sure that it would be obvious to anyone who met me.

Luckily, there’s no better decision making tool than not having a choice.  Although I wasn’t in immediate danger of ending up on the bread line, I knew I needed to get back to work in short order.  A month or two of unemployment was realistically all I could afford.

Of course, I fantasized about walking away from corporate life and immersing myself into my writing, Zumba and the Podcast.  As appealing as that sounds, it isn’t a viable option right now.  I am not ruling it out completely, but it’s more of a long term proposition.

I realised that I needed to build myself back up again.  I had to restore my resilience and my energy, and get ready to hear all the nos that inevitably come with job seeking.  I had given myself the deadline of the New Year to try to get something in place.  As many of you who know me will understand, I am not good as sitting still.  I am prone to depression and lounging around in a dressing gown will surely set me on that course.  It was important for me to stay busy.

I needed a new project, something to take my mind off my current situation and keep my brain engaged.  Just then, something amazing happened.  A friend on Facebook (to this day I am still unsure how we are even connected) put up a post looking for someone to help him.  He needed a writer for his MMA blog.  I answered his call, even though I know very little about MMA or any sport for that matter.  For some reason he decided to let me try out.

This project turned out to be exactly what I needed.  It is a challenge for sure.  I am learning a lot, which I always love and I am getting to meet so many interesting people.  Under my editor’s guidance I am producing work that I am incredibly proud of.  I am doing things like driving 220km to attend MMA fights on my own, which I never would have imagined myself doing.

All of this started to have an affect on me.  My confidence began to return.  I started to feel less useless.  Furthermore, I figured out that as humans, our capability to reinvent ourselves is infinite.  If I can step into the role of MMA reporter, what else can I do?  We are only limited by our imagination.  It made me feel a lot better about having to sell myself in the job market, that’s for sure.

I know it is a cliché, but I do believe that sometimes when it feels like everything is falling apart, it is actually falling into place.  If I had not had such a bad run of employment luck this year, I never would have had these few weeks off to rest and reevaluate.  I experienced what was probably my greatest professional fear coming to pass, and I lived to tell the tale.  That fear won’t have as great a hold over me in the future.

I also would not have had the opportunity to try something new and the pick up some new skills.  I have interviewed some people for the site and it has lead me to think about interviewing people for the Podcast, which I don’t know if I would have felt equipped to do before.  I have shown myself that even at the ripe old age of 37, I can still learn.  I can still have adventures.  I can still surprise myself.

I am proud of myself for walking away from a bad situation.  The Arwen of old would have gritted her teeth and tried to make it work.  I am no longer prepared to sacrifice my self-worth for a pay cheque and that is huge.

I am going into this new role full of excitement and hopeful that it will be a good fit.  If it doesn’t work out I might have to try lion taming!  At the risk of sounding ambivalent, if it isn’t a good fit, it won’t be the end of the world.  I now know I am capable of dusting myself off and trying again.  I will keep you posted.  Be well xxx

 

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Mining for Motivation

Motivation – The force which compels us to take action.  So often, we know what we want to do, but we feel we lack the motivation to get it done.  My clients will routinely tell me they don’t feel motivated or wish they had more motivation.  Here’s the thing, while motivation can be crucial to get you started with a new habit or behaviour, it is extremely limited.

Every morning we wake up with a certain amount of motivation.  Imagine, for the sake argument, that your motivation score when you wake up on Monday morning is 100.  You use a few points getting up on the first ring of the alarm clock, instead of allowing it to snooze.  A couple more go towards leaving the wonderfully warm shower, although you would love to linger.  A healthy breakfast might set you back another few.  You get to the office and click straight into you Excel spreadsheet instead of social media.  Your morning might be off to a great start, but that motivation bank will be dwindling!

As the day goes on, you are faced with more and more decisions, which gradually erode your motivation.  So, you can see how sometimes making it to that after hours spin class can seem a bridge too far.  Or, how clicking into that Just Eat app can seem a more appealing prospect than the fresh meat and veggies in the fridge!

In order for action happen three things need to be in place.

Intention:  You have to make the decision “I am going to go to the gym in the morning.”  This is a crucial first step and often where what we think of as motivation comes in.  This intention usually comes about after a Eureka moment.  When you see things clearly for the first time.  It could be that you ran upstairs after you kids and spent 10 minutes on the landing panting afterwards.  These moments of clarity can be painful when they occur.

For me, it was coming out of the shower and seeing my jeans laid out on the bed.  Until that moment I really didn’t realise how much weight I had put on.  It was like a slap and it jolted me into taking action.

Means:  Okay great, you’re off to the gym in the morning.  But what gym?  Are you a member?  Do they take walk ins?  Do you need to be assessed by a trainer before they will let you workout?

In order for you to kick start your new habit the means have to be in place.  This will most likely mean ironing out the logistics and putting some systems in place.

Ability:  I can be the most motivated person in the world, but if I don’t know how to swim, I won’t get across the English channel.  Don’t set yourself up to fail.  Nothing is more likely to drain your motivation than unrealistic expectations.  You know the “I’m going to lose 50lbs by next month” ones?

Once these three things are in place you are all set to start your new habit.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  Even when you have your new routine in place, there will still be little friction points, that will make you not want to do it.  Minor irritations, sometimes extremely minor, that can make your new activity seem like too much hard work.

I will give you an example.  When I was getting ready to start teaching Zumba, I needed to practice a lot (I still do.)  I was in the habit of getting changed into comfy clothes, bra off, when I got home from work.  After dinner and housework, I would have a window of time when I should really be practicing.  But in order to start, I would have to go upstairs and put a sports bra on.

I knew I needed to work on my routines, the deadline was fast approaching, and to be honest, I enjoyed it anyway.  However, the effort involved in getting undressed and dressed again, was a huge barrier, and some nights that barrier did not get crossed.  Eventually I figured this out and when I was changing after work, I just put the sports bra on!

If you find yourself in a situation where you are avoiding something that you actually want to be doing, try to figure out what it is about it that’s a pain in the ass.  I have a friend that I used to train with.  She loved the gym, but she absolutely hated packing her bag the night before.  To get around this she would pack a bag over the weekend with all the gym clothes she would need for the whole week.  Whatever that sticking point is for you, find it and destroy it.  Fighting against it is like walking around with a stone in your shoe.

Another way to save those motivation points is to automate as much as possible.  When I was arguably at my fittest, I trained every night after work.  I never had to think about whether I wanted to go or not, I just went, because that was my routine.  If you have decided to make Tuesday the morning you go swimming before work, don’t allow yourself to think about it!  There will always be a million reasons not to go, if you give yourself the opportunity to come up with them.

After a while your new habit becomes a part of how you identify yourself.  When I was training every evening, other people in the gym would say things like “wow, you’re here all the time.” To be honest, I got a huge kick out of that.  I liked identifying as a fit person, as someone who never missed a session.  I found that in itself to be very motivational.

In fact, studies have shown that when people give up smoking those who say “I am not a smoker” when offered a cigarette, have a much higher success rate than those to say “I am trying to quit.”  This is because they no longer identify themselves as smokers.

Lastly, try to front load your rewards.  The trouble with adopting new health and fitness habits is that often it can take weeks or even months for the fruits of our hard work to show.  As well as this, these habits can often feel unpleasant at the start.  If you are watching what you eat you might have cravings.  If you have started a new fitness regime, you could experience muscle soreness.  Try to come up with ways to reward yourself as early and as often as possible.

I love yoga and taking a bikram class used to be my reward after a tough week in the gym.  Maybe you might allow yourself a nice, long bubble bath or to binge watch your favourite show at the weekend.  Longer term goals and adherence deserve better rewards.  Maybe after a month of no missed workouts, you can treat yourself to those new bottoms you have had your eye on.  It doesn’t matter what the reward is, as long as you find it motivational.  One caveat, don’t reward yourself with food, you are not a dog.

Be well xxx