THERE'S THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HOW I FELT WHEN I HIT THE SUBMIT BUTTON. NERVOUS, EXCITED, TERRIFIED.
Should sign up for the Open? I knew I wanted to, because for the past two years I had done the workouts as best as I could with the small amount of equipment I had at home. The prospect of doing the workouts in an environment with all the correct equipment was super exciting! But still, I was unsure.
With one day left to register, I did it. I signed up, and I hit that submit button. I knew that it would be great, and I was not disappointed!
As I mentioned, there was nerves, excitement, and general terror when I completed my registration. What was going to happen over the next five weeks? I had been involved in minor competitions before, but I had never participated in something that was literally a worldwide event. The possibilities were exciting! Amazing things happen for people during the open, and I couldn't wait to see what amazing things would happen for me. But at the same time - what if I couldn't do a workout? What if the scaling options weren't scaled enough for me? There was only one way to find out. Do it.
So, what did I learn during my first official CrossFit Open?
1. be open-minded
When the each workout gets released, you have no other option but to be open minded. The people who program these workouts are programming to push you. You're going to be uncomfortable and do movements that you hate, and there's nothing you can do about that. You need to look at each workout logically, and think about what your current capabilities are. When you know what your current capabilities are, you know how hard you can push yourself.
There's no workout like an Open workout, so you're forced to think about strategy. How on earth are you going to survive this!? If the workout requires a certain amount of wall balls, and you're not good at wall balls, you need to figure out how you can get these reps done in a good time, resting where needed, but also not wasting time.
"Break before you break" was a common theme with these workouts. What this means is, if you know you can do 10 wall balls before your body gives up, then you need to stop and have a mini-rest at 7 or 8 reps. And I do mean a mini-rest! Take a couple of breaths, shake your legs out and start your next 7 or 8 reps.
"Just keep moving" was something I told myself quite a bit. I knew I couldn't go super fast for something because I knew I'd burn out too quickly. Instead, I paced myself more and just keep moving. Being consistent and having a good rhythm will get me through the workout in a better time than if I burn out and waste one minute resting. One minute doesn't seem like a long time to rest, but trust me, you need every spare second when you tackle these workouts! Being strategic is the way to go!
3. Mental Mastery
When I was doing "regular" workouts outside of a CrossFit environment, I got really bored. I soon realised that gymnastics training was the only thing that gave me both mental and physical stimulation. I knew that it would take something like CrossFit to keep me engaged mentally and prevent boredom when I couldn't do my gymnastics training. I was right! There's nothing like staring down the barrel of a workout to freak you out! It's up to you to grab those feelings and channel them the right way if you're going to make it through the workout.
It reminds me of an interview I saw with Cathy Freeman after the Sydney 2000 Olympics. She had taken the gold medal in the 400m women's final. If it was any of us in that stadium with over 100,000 people roaring in excitement, and the expectations of a nation on our shoulders it would overwhelm us. The adrenaline, excitement, and nerves would have us in a heap on the floor. We need mental mastery to control our emotions while we do what we need to do. In the interview she said that she didn't really hear the crowd until the race was over. How does that even happen!? How do you not hear that many people yelling!? She was in control of herself. She told herself, "Just do what you know." And that's what she did, she ran 400 metres and BLITZED IT.
19.5 (the last workout for the open) was a combination of barbell thrusters and pull ups, scaled to your ability where necessary. In total, we had to complete 210 reps within 20 minutes. As I stood at the barbell ready to do my first set, I was nervous! I'm pretty sure I even thought to myself "why am I doing this!?" I looked down at the barbell, poised and ready to go. The clock signalled three, two, one, GO. The adrenaline and nerves would have me start going as fast as possible. Go go go, get those reps done! But I had to tell myself - keep it steady, do one rep at a time, and break before you break.
4. confidence and self-belief
Don't get me wrong - I have confidence in myself and I believe in myself. But there are times when you just don't feel it. You doubt your strength, you doubt if your body will make it through the workout (or whatever you're facing in life). There's something inside your mind that just feels shaken.
When you commit to something, whether it's a competition like the Open or something else, you will encounter those times. But there is something so super cool about coming out the other side of the workout and thinking "Wow, I just did that!" An inanimate object such as a barbell can reassure you, and even surprise you, that you're more capable than you feel or realise.
For a long time I've had minor postural issues that have contributed to me having weak quads (thigh muscles). Getting your body to release tight and weak muscles, while simultaneously strengthening them without your body having a hissy fit is quite a big task. It takes time and patience. So when I saw that 19.3 (the third workout) was a lot of lunges and step ups with a 15kg dumbbell, I really wasn't sure how I would go. Even if I had the energy, how would my quads react? Would they strain and make me unable to complete the workout? I was just going to have to give it a go and see what happened. I didn't do that well during the workout. Or any of the workouts if you were to compare me to every other person doing the Open across the world. But that's not the point. One or two years ago, if I had of attempted that workout during a different phase of "Operation Get-Stronger-Quads" I'm fairly certain that I would have seized up majorly and would have been in a lot of discomfort if I made it through the workout. And while my quads were most definitely on fire throughout the workout, it wasn't my legs that suffered in the days after. My body was stronger, it had more endurance, and I didn't back down from the task at hand. I did the workout one rep at a time, kept on breathing, and let my body put the doubts in my mind to rest.
I'm capable of some pretty cool things, and the Open showed me that.
5. Never underestimate a supportive community
Sometimes, it's really not fun being the last person to finish, whether you're doing the Open or just a daily workout. But it's so lovely when you have people cheering you on. And it's not just people calling out "Come on Hannah, you've got this", because it's a nice thing to say and it makes them look like a nice person. They do actually want you to succeed. When you're doing an exercise that you're not confident in, and you hear someone encouraging you and giving you a tip or saying "nice work!", it really is so lovely! It's even nicer when they cheer for you and you've never trained together, but they know your name, and they came to cheer you on when they could have chosen to encourage someone else in your heat. It doesn't matter if you go to a "regular gym", a beachside bootcamp, or a CrossFit box, having amazing people around you is just that - amazing. It's something that nobody should miss out on.
Am I glad I did the Open? Yes.
Would I do it again? Heck yeah.
Should anyone else give it a go? Absolutely. Because even if you don't become the "Fittest On Earth", you'll achieve things you didn't know you were capable of, and it will inspire you to see what else you an achieve!
"Oh my goodness! Hannah! You look amazing! so skinny!"
Yep. She said it. I was looking skinny. Just smile and say thanks!
I knew what she meant. I knew she didn't mean anything bad by using the word skinny. She has a heart of gold and wanted to congratulate me on taking charge of my health and reaping the benefits of it. But still, I lost my breath for a moment when she said it. My stomach lurched into anxiety and I felt like crying. Internally I was saying "I don't want to be skinny!!!"
But what's the big deal? Isn't being skinny a good thing?
Being skinny really isn't a big deal, especially if it's a healthy skinny and not a sick, emaciated skinny. Being skinny can be a good thing, personally I just don't like the word!
Aside from not liking the word, I reacted the way I did was because I felt that I had lost too much weight. I wasn't happy about losing as much as I did and I was desperate to put some back on as quickly as possible. I was working with a naturopath on a few minor health things that I wanted to address, and unfortunately one of the supplements I was prescribed had a mild reaction to my body in the form of a fever. This was in the peak of our Australian summer, and it took a couple of days for my body to recover from the fever (don't worry, it was sorted out very easily and I was back to my normal self in no time). I didn't realise I had lost as much weight as I did until I wore one particular bra one day. It dug into my lower chest, I just couldn't get comfortable. That night as I was getting ready for my shower I realised why it was so uncomfortable. I had lost enough weight to make my solar plexus more prominent.
That was a really scary, upsetting moment for me. I immediately felt anxious. What can I eat that will make me gain the weight back now? Please don't look at me and comment on my size! I had to consciously make myself stay calm. I had to coach myself, like I do for my team members! I had to tell myself - I know how to change bodies. I have the knowledge, I just need to do the right thing and my body will take care of it all for me.
Deep. Calming. Breaths.
And, my body has taken care of it all for me, just like I told myself. I focused on eating well, giving my body the good quality food it needed. I made sure I had plenty to eat. I didn't snack constantly throughout the day, but I made sure that I had enough at each meal to last me until it was time to eat again. I have gone from 59.9kg back up to 62.3kg over a healthy period of time. Because of the way I have been eating, there hasn't been a lot of fat gain. My body has replaced the fluid it lost during the feverish sweats on 36 degree Summer days, it's replaced some of the fat it lost, and it's building muscle. It's doing exactly what I want it to be doing.
Do I want to be called skinny now that I'm recovered? No. There are more words in the dictionary to describe my body than that word alone.
what's the point?
The point of all this, is that a compliment to you may not be a compliment to me. Or, whoever you're talking to at the time. My goals are not specifically weight loss goals. While it is a bit of a novelty for me to lose weight according to the scale, it's not something I'm desperately trying to pursue. I believe there's more to life than getting smaller. I'd rather spend my time getting stronger, fitter, and figuring out what I can hang upside down from next time I'm at a local park.
We need to be mindful about what others could be going through (or have been through in the past), and what may be a trigger for them. I know that this kind of mindfulness risks getting taken way too far where we feel like there is nothing we can say without getting into trouble, but we don't always know if someone has struggled with an eating disorder, or if they've had compulsive exercise or other lifestyle behaviours before that have really impacted their lives negatively. Excitedly telling these people that they look great because they look skinny, could be the thing that triggers them into a negative behaviour pattern again, or at least causes them some level of emotional stress like it did for me.
And it's the same when we've noticed someone has gained weight. Commenting that someone looks bulky isn't necessarily a bad thing. But if someone isn't familiar with what "bulky" means in a fitness context, they could get really confused and upset because they think you're calling them fat.
So, what can I say then?
Remember - this post isn't about what you can or can't say. There's no Word Police out to get you if you say the wrong thing! This post is simply about making you more aware of the word choices you make. So let's have a brainstorm about what could be better words to use!
Instead of saying that some one is skinny or bulky, try these instead:
When we engage this way, we still get to share our excitement with our friends and family, but we don't focus on the potentially triggering words we've been discussing throughout this blog post. We recognise the change, and we enter into a healthy dialogue which allows the other person to give you insight into what's going on, good or bad.
Be mindful and considerate. It's not too hard once you know how ;)