Finding ourselves in isolation – memoirs of a CrossFit Nerd

By 10th April 2020 No Comments

“I believe that you have to walk through vulnerability to get to courage, therefore . . . embrace the suck”

It’s a crazy time. Everyone’s life has been turned upside down. I don’t really like writing blogs when they are about how I feel but here it goes..

I am one of the biggest nerds out there. I enjoy gaming, Star Wars is my religion and let’s just say I may or may not be going to Hogwarts next year. Growing up I always loved a good sci-fi flick. Watching pandemic movies, end of the world movies with the comfort of believing these things will never actually happen. Now, I’m not saying that the world is ending but at the moment our life is a lot closer to those films then I could have ever imagined.

Why am I telling you this? I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last few weeks. As I am sure most people have because suddenly we have more alone time. Is this a good thing? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not but I’ve learnt a few things..

First and foremost, I miss human beings a lot. As a CrossFit coach I am lucky to be surrounded by people day in and day out. Coaching about 5-6 hours a day means that I would be in direct contact with ballpark 80 + people a day. I never realised how much energy I got from other people. How much I loved seeing people walking into the gym. Helping others achieve their goals and smash workouts. At the moment, the highlight of my day is seeing the 353 tribe on Zoom at 6pm, you honestly don’t know what that does for me. It gives my soul energy.

I have also realised that when I don’t work out or coach I have what can only be described as a rain cloud following me around. When I’m coaching and working out this cloud evaporates. It’s hard to explain but it’s just gone. It really hit home how important helping others is during this time. I always feel selfish for saying this but helping others helps me. It’s incredible the positive feels you get from making someone’s day a little better or motivating another to work towards improving.

When I am moving, feeling my blood flow, feeling my heart beat I go into my own world, I don’t know if it’s mental clarity or just an exhausted fog but it’s incredible. A feeling I will never take for granted again.

My routine has completely changed over the last few weeks.
I wake up at 8:30am (a nice 4 hour lie in)
Have my morning coffee
At 10am myself and Andy do some cardio, we are lucky to have a ski and bike erg and we also run. Our cardio is normally about 20-30mins.
I come home and cook/eat breakfast at about 1130am.
I do some admin work till 2, eat lunch here then go back to the laptop till about 330pm
At 430pm we hit the 353 home WOD
6pm is my favourite part of the day, I coach the 6pm Zoom class.
8pm is dinner and i’ve tried to be in bed every night about 930/10pm (I also whack Andy at FIFA from about 830-9pm)
This has kept me sane and helped to fill my days with positive energy. Once again, it has shed light on the importance of keeping your body moving to ensure a healthy mind set.

Each evening I’m lucky enough to virtually coach about 25 brave souls through our 353 WOD. I’ll be honest, It’s not the same as it was in the gym, but if this is all we’ve got for now then I’ll bloody take it. Seeing people move and look after themselves energises me. You are amazing.

It has been a tough time for our little business. For the first time in 7 years our doors have been closed. We loaned some equipment to our members. We have taken classes online. We deliver CrossFit, strength, conditioning, core and mobility programs. Yes we have lost members and who knows when this lockdown will end but we have a plan. We are not giving up. We are determined to keep delivering daily value to our members with everything we’ve got.

To all continuing to support us all I can say is thank you. You are literally keeping Andy in Lulu’s. Keeping her lit as the cool kids say. Did I cry seeing emails of support and membership renewals? Absolutely! I attempted to leave a facebook video saying thank you which I had to re take several times because I was getting emotional. So from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. You will never know how much you mean to me personally and the support you have given to our business. I love y’all.

I had an interesting conversation last week around feeling down and sad. We were talking about how others were in a far worse position and that we should stay positive and not feel down. Which is true. But it is relative. Others are far worse off but that doesn’t mean we are not allowed to feel sad. “If we numb painful emotions then we also numb positive ones”. These are unchartered waters. We cannot help how our mind reacts. We cannot control our emotions. Our routine and life has massively changed and it is only natural to have a minor freak out. We can’t do what we want. We can’t see our family or friends. The idea of a few pints with the lads and a bit of shite talk seems like Vahalla itself. We are going to feel lonely and bored at times. We might not be able to pinpoint the exact cause of these feelings but a combination of the aforementioned is perhaps reason enough. “ What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for just being human”

What I want to stress is that we are allowed to feel this way and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for it. What I do know and what has helped me hugely is moving. People think all we do is preach the good word of CrossFit and that if we find out you are doing something else we will cast you to hell! Genuinely, all we care about is that you move, maintain your mental and physical fitness. I move twice a day everyday. It gives my mind a break from the outside world and the media. Some ‘me time’. So please, try to get the blood flowing once a day. A 20 minute walk, a yoga flow or one of Andys 3min ab burners 😉 . By moving the needle a little everyday, your mind (and body) will thank you and you will come out of these bizarre times stronger than ever.

I have also realised how much I love my family. It is cliche to say but my family are amazing, I miss them so much. To tell my 14-year-old self that I’d be writing that in a blog and I might just give myself a dig but I really do. I’m lucky enough to have seen them a few times during the early days of this. I’m a 29 year old boy (not yet a man) who got giddy when mum told me she is dropping in home cooked meals to me. A little glimpse of my dad and Moll from the car made my day. It’s the little things through these crazy times that i’ve really appreciated. My advice to anyone out there, make an effort with your family. Drive by hello, facetime, share some funny videos or old photos into the whatsapp group. They have always been there for you and this is no different. So make sure to reach out to them and talk.

In contrast, I have also learned the importance now (more than ever) of being more selfish. Don’t let others dictate what you should do or how you should feel. You do you. As the saying goes “you are the master of your faith, the captain of your soul”. By you doing you it allows you to understand more of why others do what they do. Just because something doesn’t make sense for you doesn’t give you the right to knock it for someone else. People are unique, people are weird, people are quirky and situations like this might make those traits more obvious. Embrace them. People will find different ways to cope with life at the moment, don’t knock them. Be kind. Everyone is fighting their own battle. Support them, even if it’s tough to do from a distance, it’ll make you feel better.

I like my own space and regularly need time to reflect and talk to myself. The other day I went on a little cycle, airpods in, some heavy emo music banging and it was incredible. Again it was like that rain cloud just disappeared. I’ve also reflected on this and wondered am I running from something? Will this cloud will always be there? Perhaps. I’ve accepted this. I’m more at peace with the fact that I can’t feel 100% every single day. I can’t consistently stay positive or feel good 24/7. It’s ok to feel sad, down, angry or frustrated. They are all natural emotions that make us human. It is unhealthy to ignore these feelings. Embrace them, accept them and learn to manage them. There doesn’t need to be a massive trigger to make you feel down. Sometimes that’s just how our mind works. There is a complex little system working away up there. It may have its own directions but we can steer it back to peace. We are the captains of our ship. Be more selfish with your own mind and body. Do stuff you want to do and make time for things that take you to your happy place. Don’t worry what others think. If it makes you happy and feel better – go for it. We often care too much what others think. In reality, people who judge are just jealous. If you talk bad about someone there is something they are doing that you are not. If you want to sing then sing. If you want to train then train. If you want to tik tok then you bloody tik tok. But remember what we do repeatedly everyday will affect how our future selves feel.

Nick Bare is a bodybuilder turned ironman runner. He summed it up pretty well. He mentions how when people try to be healthy they turn the switch on. Eat healthy for the day, then in the evening turn the switch off and eat shit. Same with training, some days the switch is on, they train, other days the switch is off and they don’t. What he has managed to do is turn the switch on and then break it so he can’t turn it off. When he was talking about this it really hit home. Especially in times like these we need to make sure the switch is on. It keeps our minds and body sharp. Now i’m not saying we can’t enjoy a glass of wine, a few beers, some easter eggs, but when it comes to health and fitness we can’t turn the switch off just because we can no longer go to work or to a physical gym. It’s too important! Even more so at the moment. There are still so many things we can still do every single day to benefit our health and fitness at the moment. He also mentions how he embraces the suck. Something which Brene Brown also talks about. Brene is a professor, Nick is a marine turned Ironman. Two completely different people but talking about the same thing. Life is going to suck at times, it’s not going to be perfect, but sometimes we have to go through that, embrace it and grow from it.

I wrote a blog a while back and it talked about what beauty was. In it I mentioned how through working out you realise how beautiful and amazing we are. During this time it can be easy to forget that. We are stuck inside, maybe on our own or with just one other person. We forget what beauty really is. We go back to thinking beauty is skin deep, scrolling instagram looking at fake beauty. We must not lose focus on what we as CrossFitters have already redefined beauty to be. Inside our community beauty is many different things; a perfect air squat, a sweaty face, messy post WOD hair, rough hands, beautiful posture, courage, a warm hello, a refusal to quit during a WOD, suffering together, a welcoming smile, a (virtual) high five, being a good human, pride in yourself, vulnerability, not being afraid to be different. These are all examples of beauty we see inside our community and things we are still seeing every single day when interacting with our members at the moment. It is part of why I love to coach. When you can see beauty as more than skin deep, your world changes. You see each small act of kindness as a showcase of beauty. So remember that. Beauty is all around us. If we look hard enough we will see the right kind of beauty. The world as you know it will be flipped on its head when you begin to recognise true beauty. “To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly” .

So why did I write this blog? Talking to our wonderful members day in day out during this time, it ignited some thoughts and I wanted to share them. What I have realised through all this though and to sum it up:
Move everyday, even if it’s 10mins, get out and move. Your mental and physical fitness will thank you for it.
Be kind. It’s a tough and scary time for EVERYONE. You don’t know the positive or negative effect you can have on someone so smile and be kind. Look at things from a positive angle rather than a negative one.
Family and friends aren’t going anywhere. It’s easy to forget about people because we don’t physically see them but reach out to them. Tell them you miss them, tell your family you love them. Facetime someone you haven’t seen in a while. It could change someone’s day.
It’s ok to feel down and sad. There might not have been a big traumatic event happen to make you feel down but that’s ok. It’s ok to feel sad. It’s natural. Just try your best to make positive actions that will help you feel a bit better each day. Reflect with yourself regularly to see what we can do to move the needle a little each day
Don’t lose sight of what matters. It’s easy to get caught up looking at fake happiness and beauty online. Remember what matters. Who matters. What beauty really is. It’s a fucking scary time but let us not add to it. Be safe, smile, be kind, exercise, help others, reach out to friends/family, look after yourself.
Are we perfect? Fuck no. Who the hell is. Do we make mistakes and have off days? Of course. The key is to show vunribility, recognise these times when we fuck up and grow from it. We aren’t perfect but we are all beautiful

I thought I’d finish with a quote as someone has already summed it up better than I ever could.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”
Theodore Roosevelt

Stay safe, stay in the arena and stay beautiful
Coach Gaz

I would highly recommend the two following watches.
Both from Brene Brown who is a professor in the University of Houston, and has devoted her life’s work to the study of courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. Most of my quotes in this have been taken from her.
She has an amazing piece on netflix called “the call to courage”
She also has an incredible TedTalk called “the power of vulnerability