September 20

Butting It Out

**Note 1** I actually started writing this several months ago. Then summer happened and came along with it were the tough choices of whether or not I’d rather be frolicking outside or banging my head against my lap top trying to string together words I’m happy with.

If only there was an emoji for my decision making abilities…

Oh wait, there is…

poo

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I’ve turned out okay(ish) depending on the day of the week and the time of the month, so I suppose I’ve done a few things right.

I have, however, made one decision I can finally say I am – without a doubt – proud of and have zero regrets or second thoughts.

And no, it has nothing to do with my dating life.

**Note 2** At the time of initially writing this, my dating life was still on its nine-year hiatus and that has surprisingly changed, which is a story for another time.**

Anyway.

I quit smoking.

People quit smoking all the time… so why is this such a big deal for me?

My choice to begin in the first place isn’t one I’m proud of. Sometimes, you have to travel to the dark side to appreciate the light. Right? (Still waiting for the light to manifest itself into my romantic life).

**Note 3** Sometime last year, I was having a conversation with a friend about my lack luster love life. I brought up the topic of smoking and how I felt that it was something I had to give up before I could totally attract a healthy relationship – as much of what I had been attracting over the last decade has been toxic (not all, though!). I was treating myself with toxic habits and attracting similar relationships to the one I had with my self. Voila! Not long after butting it out, my perpetual single life smoldered out as well… again, a story for another time.

Regardless, it was a large part of who I was… and who I wasn’t.

In fact, I was such a stealthy smoker that most people in my life didn’t even know.

I was a mostly private – and heavy – puffer (of cigarettes, just to clarify) for 20 years.

Two decades.

That’s a long time.

For 20 years, I relied on these magic toxic filled sticks to make me feel at ease.  They were my dirty little companions in times of anxiety, excitement, boredom, and busyness. They were a social crutch. Ever been awkwardly waiting for someone at a bar? Easy, go for a smoke while you pretend to text someone.

They went great with wine, telephone conversations, driving, and they were my way to step back and quiet my mind. And let’s not forget coffee – nothing went better with caffeine than a dose of carbon monoxide.

Don’t even get me started on how great it was after sex… Well, so I’ve been told…

And I actually enjoyed it.

“Life is short… do what you enjoy. I could quit smoking and then I could get hit by a bus. It’s my only bad habit… I eat well and I exercise…. I really do take care of myself. I could have worse habits!”

This was my reasoning each and every time.

For twenty years I told myself that this was something I had full control over. I controlled them, not the other way around. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The mere thought of going somewhere and not being able to have a cigarette or needing to hide it sent me into anxiety. Despite being careless with my own health, I was always cautious and considerate of those who I shared my bad habits with.

My car was stocked with the necessities. Gum, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, and body spray galore. I was like a Health and Beauty aisle at Walmart on wheels. Minus the Health part.

I had ‘quit’ several times over the years. Nothing stuck for more than a couple weeks, tops. I had tried the gum, patches, cold turkey and medications. The terrible dreams were one thing, but my raging bitch moods were another story. Don’t even get me started on being on Champix when you are PMSing. Guys, if you think we are too emotional then… think again.  You haven’t felt true toxic wrath until you’ve seen a crampy, high strung woman too bloated for her fat pants sans her cigarette. That terrifies even me.

I actually felt it was in the best interest of my own well-being and the safety of others to continue to light up.

Although I had ‘wanted’ to butt out for a long time, the one habit I never bothered to adjust was my thought patterns. I had always ‘worked’ on quitting smoking, but I never worked on my mind. For a while, I had only wanted to quit to have extra cash.

I had started CrossFit in 2012 to challenge my mental and physical strength. By no means do I consider myself highly competitive or even all that athletic, but I wanted something that pushed me just a little bit harder. I had only taken small sips of the proverbial Kool-Aid… which was enough to quench my thirst for a healthier lifestyle.

cfIt wasn’t solely CrossFit – much of it was also the changing social perception. Gone were the days of sandbox ashtrays in shopping malls and street corners. I had been a social outcast for the better part of my childhood and smoking was something I did to fit in to some -any- kind of crowd. Despite the changing laws and stigmas – it was still easy enough to hide. But, trying to mask the fact that I was losing a lung before the CrossFit warm-up was even over was getting to be a real challenge – and not the kind I signed up for. I dreaded things like sprints and thrusters, and wall balls and burpees were the absolute worst. And what was the first thing I did after walking out of the torture chambers? Torture my body even more. And not for positive gains.

The more I went, the more I began to feel like a hypocrite. That’s like claiming to be a nature lover as you nudge the remnants of your nic-stick into a sidewalk nook and cranny.

Finally, my mind began to change. Slowly but surely, I began to hate it. I had a hard enough time explaining to narrow minded people why I am was still single and child-less at 33, never mind trying to justify why I was dating the slick devilish darts.

smokeIt had occurred to me that my mind had been conditioned to think cigarettes were ‘cool’ and simply a part of ‘who I was’. The only way I could quit was to rewire my brain and adopt new ways of thinking. Rather than being accustomed to telling myself it was something I needed, I began to tell myself the opposite. (Now if I could only translate this into every other area of my life, I’d be set!) I also did what I have been seemingly good at in other areas of my life – I focused on the negatives. That’s right – but this time for good reason. I filled my brain with the very worst things I could think of. Rather than thinking about how much I enjoyed it with a cold beer on a hot summer night – I consciously thought about all the toxins I was polluting my body with and spent time asking Siri to show me blackened lungs.

One morning, I got into my car and left for work. I had one cigarette left. This is where panic mode would usually set in and I would need to b-line to the Mac’s store. I opened my glove box to dig out some change – only to have the content of primarily empty cigarette packages fall out. I stared at the pile of money I had turned into a toxic wasteland.

And that was it. This is stupid. I kept on driving – which might have been the best decision I have ever made.

Deep breath.

(Because I can do that now.)

 

February 22

Why I’m Never Going to the ‘Gym’ Again

grouplife

This might turn out to be a long winded post – so grab your coffee (or if you’re like me, a glass bottle of wine).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a problem with my fluctuating weight. I’ve always been pretty active with a regular gym routine, so I’ve never been grossly out of shape – but I’ve been at points where I have felt a little more than uncomfortable.

In 2011, I reached my highest point (ironically my lowest point) – tipping the scale at 200lbs, which, for my 5’7 stature was enough to make my favourite pair of pants split wide open in public. Yeah, that happened.

I didn’t know where it came from, but what I did know is that I strongly disliked feeling uncomfortable. It was time to change it.

grouplifeSo I did. I shed about 30lbs. Great!

I actually wrote about that journey right here.

And then I fell off the wagon again.

There was no real rhyme or reason other than I got bored.  Arms day. Legs day. Spin class. Weights. Over and over again.

*Yawn*

I felt like my body was changing, but as a person – I was not.  My mind wasn’t being challenged. I’d go to the gym and plug in my head phones and watch some uninspiring TV show, gawk at the other gym goers and fumble around the gym for a good two hours, sometimes breaking a sweat.

Everything felt so… monotonous.

I never gained the weight back, but over time I saw myself start to lose the definition that I had worked so hard for – and it seemed to happen instantly. I use the word ‘definition’ both figuratively and literally.

During that time, I had a number of friends that kept urging me to come try CrossFit. I couldn’t stand listening to them (sorry), I found them to be so annoying with all their “WOD talk”.

Seriously! Shut up already!

CrossFit?! That sport that proclaims to be for ‘The Fittest on Earth”?

How about the most annoying on earth!

I go to the gym, I work out, how could it possibly be that much different than what I do? How about you take a great big ‘wod’ and shove it up your ***!

What the hell is a WOD anyway?
Is this some kind of cult?
What’s a burpee? Does it involve beer?

(WOD = Work out of the day, BTW)

Not to mention that, there was a laundry list of other reasons why I didn’t feel like I needed to give it a try:

BUT, I already have a gym membership.
BUT, I LIKE to work out by myself at my own pace.
BUT, I don’t really do group classes.
BUT, I’m not in good enough shape to do CrossFit. (Which is equivalent to the annoyance of people telling me they’re not flexible enough to try yoga.. that IS why you GO to yoga, btw).
BUT, I can’t do anything overly challenging because of my problems with my right arm.

Etc, etc.

So, there it was – enough reasons why it seemed pretty pointless to bother. Save for some lacking motivation which will surely pass, I’m getting by just fine with my regular gym… so why change what’s not broken?

And here I am, entering my fourth month of CrossFit at Synergy Strength.

synergyLast fall, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. So I checked it out. I was almost immediately intimidated. OH. MY. GOD. I have just walked into the non-violent version of Fight Club. I’m breaking a sweat just by shaking in my boots.

It wasn’t that everyone there was ‘ripped’…there were all different shapes and sizes, but these people were STRONG. Stronger than anyone I had seen at a gym.

I didn’t want to go back. Not ever. Not only that; it was a pretty big eye opener for me – it showed me exactly where my weaknesses were. It was kind of depressing, actually. For all the hours I had spent in the gym doing bicep curls, leg extensions and working on building muscle, I still couldn’t do a single push up.  Climb up a rope? Not a chance.

With hesitation, I signed up to take the training (OnRamp) classes.

WTF am I getting myself into? Box jumps? I can’t do box jumps. After too many fractures, I’m terrified of jumping, period. This is NOT happening.

Maybe I should just stick with the regular gym. If I quit now, I can still get out alive.

BUT…

During that time, something else happened to change my mind. Without warning, someone I love lost the use of their legs. There I was, watching someone that’s cared for and provided for me my entire life lay in frustration day after day… as I was watching someone realize the real importance of physical strength… and watching someone who would gladly give just about anything to have another chance my mindset began to change pretty quickly.  And there I was, spending more time in a hospital than I cared to – for months – watching someone I love learn how to walk again from the ground up.

And I thought CrossFit was too much of a challenge?

<insert self bitch slap here>

I will never judge anyone based on what they do or do not do, but from that point on – my opinion on physical fitness is a little bit more pronounced. Quite honestly, perfectly capable people that don’t use their bodies to the best of their abilities drive me nuts.

You never know when that may be taken away from you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on taking what I have for granted. I plan on seeing just how much I CAN do.

If that wasn’t enough, one week after I signed up, I was in a car accident which put me out for a couple of weeks. It hit me (literally) at a  point during great financial/emotional distress and also cost me just about every dime of prize money I had won competing in a business competition for six months. I thought 200lbs was one of my lowest points – but during this time I felt even lower. I felt weak – physically and mentally. Honestly, I had no motivation to even go to CrossFit once I was able – but all that changed pretty quickly.

burpeesCrossFit has been without a doubt one of the best choices I’ve made in a long while. Except for learning what burpees are (unrelated to liquor), I’ll never like burpees. However, it’s been a few months and I’m starting to find that ‘definition’ again – and not just physically. With every ‘WOD’ I find a piece of me on the inside that becomes just a little bit more defined. I can’t explain it, but it has that kind of effect.

CrossFit strengthens the body, but more than that – it strengthens the soul.

Going to the gym and and finding your own sense of motivation is just as, if not more challenging. I’ve done it and I’ve succeeded at it. Sometimes, true strength lies in knowing when you need to reach out to others, too.  For me personally, something was missing from my humdrum work outs… something I found in CrossFit. The fact that I’m in and out in an hour tops is a bonus, but there is something about being in the ‘box’ that is just… different. In a good way. The community itself is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever been a part of – and that’s coming from someone who ‘doesn’t do group classes’ and ‘prefers to do my own thing’.

They define CrossFit as being the “Fittest on Earth”, but to me, it is so much more than the physical fitness. I’ve learned that there’s a pretty big big BIG difference between big muscle and big strength that is functional. It’s about your best form, function and pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits.  It’s about taking these and applying it to all areas of your life. It’s about being the best self you can be.

But isn’t it dangerous? Can’t you hurt yourself? Yeah, and you know what?? Getting in your car is dangerous, too. Spending precious moments of life riding the waves on the couch is dangerous. Never knowing your own strength – is dangerous.

(And by the way, a good CrossFit box is equipped with top notch coaches that make sure you don’t do anything stupid… something I never had at the gym)

Point of the story? Just because something challenges you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. That doesn’t mean you have to step into a CrossFit box – but step out of your comfort zone. Expand your perceptions. What’s right in front of you might just be the very thing you’ve been looking for.

If CrossFit is about being your very best, I think I just might be an annoying CrossFitter until the day I die.

If you can’t beat ‘em, you may as well join ‘em.