“How...more so WHY an overcommitted 30 something, mom of two makes CrossFit a priority!”
by Tanya Nichols
My first try at a marathon was when I was in my early 20s. I had never been a runner. I had just rehabbed some bad habits and quit smoking and drinking. I had never run more than a mile or two at a time but nevertheless started my training program enthusiastically. I never ran that race that year. Something…or nothing...got in the way and I quit. And instead I told myself I would run that marathon by the time I was 30.
A few years went by and by then I had a husband, two toddlers, and a real job. I was coming up on my 30th birthday. At that time in my life, I thought I was bulletproof.
Once I set a personal or professional goal, I was relentless and could accomplish nearly anything I set my mind to, through sheer force of will.
I said I was going to run that race by 30, so I set out to do it.
I got another bib for Grandma’s. That year I turned 30 and I went out for one training run. Seriously...just one. The weeks went by, then the race went by and I said I’ll do it by the time I turned 40.
I have always prided myself on hacking any habit, accomplishing any goal. But this fitness thing eluded me. I always wanted to be like those fitness people that went to the gym and ran races, but I just couldn’t fit it in.
I didn’t get how “those” people could put so much time into working out? I was too busy building a business, a family, a home - busy hurrying up and getting my life perfect.
A few more years went by and I was turning 34, and nothing felt perfect. I had what I thought was considerable professional success by then and from the outside things probably looked pretty good.
But I found myself struggling with a couple difficult personal and professional situations. I felt totally overwhelmed, stressed and simply just stuck. I was paralyzed with indecision, fear and uncertainty. I was dragging through my days and was probably depressed but would have never admitted that to anyone nor myself.
A friend at work convinced me to try out a boot camp at Aerial Athletics. Even though I thought she was crazy with her calluses and bruises – I was willing to try something.
I had never been an athlete, a runner, or even touched a barbell ... nothing. After the first workout with all the air squats, I could barely walk days afterward. And somehow, I was hooked after that first six weeks. They made me think that I could finally hack this fitness habit. The philosophy behind CrossFit and the coaches at Aerial made me think that even I could become an athlete.
I kept going. I was taking time away from my all-important priority list to check the box of going three times per week. Eventually, I realized it was the only time in my week (or day) that I didn’t think.
I was a mess at that time. I was worried about EVERYTHING. But when I came to the gym. I didn’t worry or wonder or obsess. I didn’t think. I was totally present in what I was doing (trying not to die or throw up).
I’m not sure I would have survived without that hour a few times a week. I started finding ways to fit the gym into my life, my very busy over committed life.
Here’s the thing…
When I was focused on it when it was new; and it certainly was a “project”, it was easy to show up. There was so much novelty in that first six months while I was learning.
I did my first competition, and I started changing my food and getting obsessed with the gear and the movements. Should I be paleo, or vegan and eat protein before or after and fast or not fast and workout in the morning or night?
Inevitably, I would get busy with a new project and wouldn’t come for two, maybe three more. Walking in that first day after being gone for a while is like being the new girl at school all over again - it’s terrible.
I continued this kind of inconsistency for the first two years or so. I was always beating myself up for when I wasn’t there and worrying and thinking about how I was going to fit it in around all my other commitments.
Two years into being a member at Aerial, I was gone for just over an entire month. For some reason it was this time of being gone and coming back, I began to really notice to how I felt and what my life was like when I went to the gym and the days I didn’t…
The weeks I went, and the weeks I didn’t...
The word I began to use was - frantic. When I went to the gym, I wasn’t so frantic. I wasn’t rushing around trying to accomplish meaningless checklists out of anxiety laden insecurity. I wasn’t constantly worrying about what was next and rushing to the next commitment trying to feel better about myself through task mastery.
I changed my mindset. I realized everything else (like everything – my parenting, relationships, connections, focus, professional work etc) was better when I came to the gym.
This meant the gym couldn’t be something I fit into my life and my to do list.
The gym wasn’t an additive commitment, it was foundational.
I knew the gym had to be like sleep. Without it I can’t function properly.
I may lack of sleep for a night or two, but (for me anyways) I have to sleep at least 7 or 8 hours most nights...or I get weird.
It’s the same with the gym. I have to workout at least 3-5 days a week, or I get weird. Then the frantic behavior creeps back in.
For the past two years I fit my life around the gym. I got creative and decided I had to work a few less hours a week in order to fit gym time in during work hours because I’m a mom and after school hours are dominated with homework, hockey games and dinner time.
But here’s the other thing. It’s not that I don’t miss a week or two or am never inconsistent about my attendance at the gym for periods of time over the last two years. I do – but two things are different.
1.I can’t always make my favorite 9:00am class with Ariel’s (the coach is Ariel too) CrossFit Niners, but I can go for a run while I’m at the cabin, do a bodyweight workout at the hotel gym or find a CF box if I’m traveling. This year I even made the investment to have a garage gym at home when I can’t get downtown.
And even more importantly -
2. I don’t beat myself up for missing days anymore.
My wellness depends upon a positive mindset and getting down on myself for not following through on a commitment to go to the gym was never productive.
Now if I miss some time, I just remind myself I decided something else deserved my attention that morning or day or even week.
Or maybe that my body needed a rest. But that allows me to cut myself some slack and realize this whole wellness thing is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s not like when I quit smoking or diet coke cold turkey. It’s a routine that emerges and evolves over time. I think of it like having a personal relationship with your mind and your body. That relationship deserves time and patience, just like I might treat an old friend.
Since learning to fit my life around the gym - I did some difficult and exciting things.
In the same year; I started my own company and became a single parent family to two school aged kids (hockey players no less).
For me, learning to feel powerful at the gym taught me it was okay to feel powerful and confident in other parts of my life and set a chain of events in motion I couldn’t have imagined.
Being surrounded by a group of people dedicated to personal growth and wellness really keeps me motivated to keep creating the life I want personally and professionally.
I even finally ran that first race – a half marathon, and then I did two more. I’m considering which one might be next.
So, if you find yourself thinking you’re not cut out for this fitness (or taking care of yourself) thing, and you’ll never figure it out...find someone to help and don’t quit trying.
Just keep showing up.
That’s it. That’s the big secret. Don’t quit. And show up.
Thank you for reading this and sharing in my journey.