Mental Toughness

Yes, this is another Crossfit post….get over it.

Find what you love, and let it save you…

When I began my voyage into CrossFit I had no expectation of anything other than fitness with friends. I had no idea I was out to conquer my mental health more than my physical appearance.

CrossFit is tough, but it’s not what people think it is. It’s as tough as you make it. Everything is scalable and people from all walks of life come into our gym. I have done workouts with teenagers, new moms, pregnant women, dads with dad bods, and dads with hard bodies. I’ve sweated alongside friends who are lifelong athletes, friends who have struggled with their weight, friends who have struggled with addiction, my mother and many people around her age or my age or probably even your age. I’ve seen attorneys do bar muscle ups and government workers lift their bodyweight over their head. I’ve watched first responders, waitresses, therapist, hair stylists, tattoo artists, teachers, and doctors all sweat the same and feel the same triumph at the end of a workout. I’ve seen tears, I’ve seen blood, and I’ve seen a LOT of smiles in our gym. I’ve watched relationships form and grow stronger and I’ve felt myself grow stronger too.

One of my favorite comedians does a bit on people who work out and all their (as he so eloquently says) inspirational bullshit. It is one of my all-time favorite pieces of comedy because it is a little true, and hits a little close to home. The more you can offend me, the better, when it comes to comedy. His line though, has stuck with me, and I find myself joking (but also being slightly serious) anytime I doubt myself…I’ll repeat it in my head and get a little chuckle and a tiny push all at once. “Okay, Andrea, you won’t get anywhere with an attitude like that, you need to practice hard work, determination, perseverance, never backing down, not stopping, remaining focused, never veering off track, not looking over my shoulder, never dying, no days off….” …oh my mighty little soul can’t take it…thank you Chris D’Elia for being inside my head at the right times.

Over the last couple years I’ve stepped WAY outside my comfort zone and tried things I never thought I’d do before. I am NOT the best at CrossFit, nor am I the best runner, frankly, I’m not trying to kid myself into thinking I’m the best at any damn thing. I have learned that I love to push my body. It reminds me I’m alive. The struggle is an essential piece of living. I often joke that being sore is “just part of life”. If I’m not sore in one way or another, something isn’t right. I love to feel the muscles in my body ache and I love to know they are working. I used to absolutely HATE my body, and now, I find myself being grateful for it more often than not.

In 2018 I ran my first Ragnar Relay, a trail race up in the mountains that I have snowboarded in for years. It’s in the summer, so there’s no snow, but it’s 16 miles total with a 3,000 foot gain, over a 30-something hour period. I did it, and I did it again in 2019. Then, in 2019 I also ran my first half marathon. I’ve always said it’s silly to run that far, but what’s so silly about it? I hope to never HAVE to do it by anything other than choice….it’s not silly at all. How miraculous is it to think I just started running a few years ago….and now I can run in the mountains and on trails for 13.1 or 16 miles? I don’t want to make it sound like a breeze, because it isn’t. Just like any new challenge, there were real moments of struggle.

I was really anxious for my half marathon. My mom came to run the 10k and my longest time friend and partner in all things crazy, Amber, came to run the half with me. It was her first as well. I didn’t sleep more than 45 minutes the night before – spent most of the night giving myself a pep talk and saying “okay, if you can finish in under 3 hours, you’re good, that’s fine, don’t worry, be proud of that, just be proud to finish”. I had nothing to prove, other than proving to myself I COULD!

We arrived at the park in plenty of time. Got our runners packets, slapped on our bibs, and headed to the starting line. It began to get a little hot out, but I wasn’t concerned…I knew, no matter what, Amber and I were in this together. Battle buddies. The first few miles were a breeze, and once we started climbing in the trails it was okay. We felt good. We kept trucking and anytime I’d slow down she would pass me pushing me to keep up – and I’d do the same for her. This went on till about mile 8 when I started to feel as though I was getting a Charlie horse in my foot. I felt sharp pain run up through my Achilles and straight up the back of my calf. For a moment, I couldn’t feel the bottom of my foot. First, panic set in. I stopped and started stomping my feet. I filled Amber in on my ailment but wanted to keep going. My inner dialogue went a little like this: “Okay obviously this is in your head, just go, pay attention to the ground, you’re coming up on the farthest you’ve ever run in one day and you CAN do this. You can do it whether you feel your feet or not because they are there, they are hitting the ground one after the other. You are strong and willing and determined, just keep going!” I’d stomp my feet a little more, and keep grinding. Once I hit mile ten I started to get choked up…I thought, man, this is going to be a tough 3 miles if I keep this up. I remember at one point I felt my throat start to tighten, you know that feeling when you want to hold back a good cry….yep….and it made it hard to breathe….which gave me a little anxiety. Amber was in a similar state so I knew I had to keep myself under control because her and I were both in no shape to support one another, we had to focus. “Okay, it’s fine, you’re fine, it’s almost over, keep it up, you can do this, it’s not even painful….look at you…just a few years into running and today you’ve almost ran the distance you drive to work…you are awesome…you are lucky to get to feel this struggle…and YOU CAN!”

And…WE DID! It doesn’t seem like much, but it is by far one of the proudest moments of my life. CrossFit is generally done in short spurts – but often times, the shorter the workout, the harder it is. That is my comfort zone. Every time I do a CrossFit workout I still have to tell myself I CAN. I have to convince myself to finish and to go harder than I thought I should. Many days of doing this in a row over many years has made it easier to get through a lot. Not only physically, but in all life’s challenges. My mental toughness has gotten me through some of the hardest days, some of the most trying days at work, some of the worst near-emotional breakdowns, and some of the biggest losses. Not only did it help me summit a mountain, run 16 miles without any sleep over 33 hours and run 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 44 min….it helps me every day get up and overcome whatever comes my way.

I have never loved my body as much as I do now, my mind included. All of this through hard work determination, perseverance, never backing down, not stopping, remaining focused, never veering off track, not looking over my shoulder, never dying, no days off…. I’m able to live life MY way doing what I love, trying new things, and knowing no matter what, I will make it.

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