This week I was running a really great programme for my clients. It was for young people who are growing into their very first leadership role. The programme is pretty demanding; it’s a one week event from Sunday to Friday, and my colleagues and I are on the go from 7 am to 10 pm every single day. The young delegates thoroughly challenge us and soak up new things like a sponge which is, in turn, encouragement to us to bring our full selves. Sessions in large and small groups with fierce discussions, role plays to exercise skills, one-to-one coaching with deep insight and a lot of conversations on the side - I love it! That said,
no matter how well fueled I start the programme on the Sunday, I’m running on empty by Thursday at the very latest.
Of course I can keep going until the Friday without too much bother, but once the programme is finished and the curtain falls I am completely mentally and physically exhausted. I would consider myself quite mindful of maintaining a good energy balance, yet for this programme I have thus far been unable to find a formula. This is something I am working on, but for the moment I crawl home on Fridays to start with my recovery.
After having sat and stood a lot all week, I felt the urge to do something good for my body, to get it moving again, to shake the fatigue and to refresh my mind. Time for the ‘box’, time for CrossFit.
I remember a friend of mine furrowing her brows when I started doing CrossFit a year ago, “CrossFit? Isn’t that pretty brutal?” I must admit I was pretty intimidated the first time I went to the ‘box’ (that’s how the Crossfit locations are called). I was looking for something to complement my running, yoga and meditation as well as something that improved my general physical fitness, something that stretched me a bit. I had considered myself to have been in ok physical fitness at the time but then I saw all these super fit people. And I mean, they were super fit.
They were also completely warm and utterly welcoming to me from the first moment on. My feeling of intimidation quickly changed into motivation.
CrossFit reminds me a bit of the circuit training from when I was a kid. You work with your own body weight, with sand sacks, medicine balls, weights and boxes. Rope skipping is a part of it as well as indoor rowing, biking and much more. Every day there is a different workout (termed ‘W.O.D.’ or ‘workout of the day’). This could be anything from strength training to, endurance, flexibility, power, speed or coordination exercises - everything gets trained.
The exercises are based on everyday movements; it’s a fantastic all-round package for a healthy and strong body.
Dom is one of the owners of my local ‘box’. “CrossFit,” he says, “strengthens you in multiple ways.
You get to know yourself really well. You explore and stretch your limits, physically as well as mentally.”
I know exactly what he is talking about, I’ve run four marathons in my life. I know what it takes mentally to keep myself going even when my body tells me that it had enough (‘mind over matter’ as a good friend always says). Or in yoga, where I use my breath to relax into a position and to calm my rebelling mind which wants to take me out of the position again.
In CrossFit I got to know a different side of me, however. While I have pretty good mental strength when it comes to endurance or the kind sort of strength, flexibility and balance, required in a Yoga flow, I realize that I have no sense of what real physical power I have inside of me. I underestimate myself. I see the weights and my inner voice starts up, “Are you crazy? No way can you lift that, that’s too much weight.” My mind blocks and I go for something lighter. I don’t get away with it for very long, though. Dom regularly challenges me.
Like today, for example. We did ‘Andy’ (each W.O.D. gets a proper name). After a thorough warm-up, Dom went through the technical part of the workout with us. He is really very strict on us, demanding that we execute the movements properly to avoid unnecessary injury.
‘Andy’ promised to be tough. It’s a sequence of thrusters where you get up from squat position and push a bar overhead, box jumps, deadlifts where a bar is lifted off the ground to hip height and then lowered again, and running.
I decided to be courageous and upped the weight compared to usual.
The W.O.D. allowed us to choose our weight and rep intensity, one quite do-able level and one hardcore. I decided to go for the ‘do-able’ level yet my inner voice was telling me, “you never manage the more intense level.”
Then the time came. Dom turned up the volume of the music, its rhythm is pretty electrifying. I was excited. The stop watch counted back from ten, then three… two… one… go!
We started with the thrusters. I am not sure if I made the right choice with my weight, it felt really heavy. I was fighting, but managed it. Up next were the box jumps. I did the scaled version which meant jumping up and stepping down. I got into my rhythm and managed all 30 in one go. The deadlifts next. The weight as good this time and the deadlifts went smoothly. I started my mile of running on the field outside. Running is my thing so it almost felt like regeneration to me. I decided to speed up in the second half, to push the envelope a bit. Heavily panting I arrived back at the ‘box’. The next set of deadlifts still felt ok. I went slower on the box jumps but still managed to do them in one piece… and then the thrusters! The weight felt really heavy now. I took them in sets of 5 and had little breaks in between. But, I made it! I looked at the stop watch: 24 minutes and 38 seconds! I was puffing like a walrus and my sweat flowing like a river. But I felt happy! I looked around me. I was the first to finish, everyone else still at it around me.
Dom came up to me “Well done!” Then he set a challenge, “That was pretty quick and you looked very relaxed. I think next time you should try the more intense level.
Keep experimenting, get to know your limits. You can do much more, trust yourself.”
I accept the challenge. I am happy and grateful and motivated to explore more aspects of myself, to see what’s possible, mentally as well as physically.
I believe that continuously stretching my mental and physical limits and becoming conscious of what is really possible increases my capability to handle my energy more effectively and more wisely. My aim is to not just ‘survive’ a leadership programme like the one last week, but to stay energetically strong and balanced all the time. There are many ways to get there and everybody needs to find their own formula. For me CrossFit is an effective component of my formula.
So what’s the ‘Crossfit’ component of your formula to stay strong and balanced? Share with me on Facebook or Linkedin, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you.
Let's inspire each other, let's nourish our energies.