The story of the Open

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I looked up from where I was, trying to shut out the massive noise around me. Hands on my knees, trying to control my breathing, with saliva dripping out of me. I was ready to throw in the towel. I badly wanted this to be over.

Taking in the scene around me when I looked up, I smiled. Yes, I smiled. There was a Commonwealth Games weightlifting athlete shouting at me to pick up the bar. My buddies were counting down my rest time. They too, were screaming at me to pick up the bar. At that moment, I felt important. This was my performance. To give up was to let them, myself down. 

The smile on my face got wider. I fully embraced the noise, walked back to bar, and continued my performance.

 

This happened  during 14.5. It was probably the most mental Open WOD this year. Fitting end to the Open after 5 weeks. Nobody expected it to be this tough, even though we had an inkling of what was to come after Dave Castro, Director of the CrossFit Games said: “The clock will not save you. You either give up or quit” when he announced the WOD.

I had witnessed an incredible scene before it was my turn to attempt 14.5. One of our members, who was beyond exhausted, pleaded with his judge to stop the time. He wanted to give up. It was too much for him to handle that he even shouted at my coach to “shut up” when the poor guy was trying to encourage him. However, the community rallied behind him and cheered him to the finish line.

This was just one of the many stories that the Open had produced over 5 weeks, with many more stories appearing on my social media news feeds. There were stories of people getting their first muscle-ups, of people like the member in my box who found the marker on his previous limitations and placed it a little further away.

I am happy to share my own story.

2014 is my first year attempting the Open, a year after watching the live announcement of 13.5. I remembered watching Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, Samantha Briggs and Camille Leblanc-Bazinet throwdown, which piqued my curiosity for CrossFit. Registering for the Open this year, I knew I wasn’t going to qualify for Regional, but I knew I was going to learn a lot about myself.

There were painful moments, there were frustrating moments. There were even moments when I questioned my decision to sign up for the Open. But all these were never going to replace the lessons I learnt about myself, about life.

14.1 taught me that anything was possible. No matter how behemoth the task I had before me, the effort to attempt something I thought was impossible was enough to produce results. That’s how I ended up with 60 double-unders in 10 mins, when I was expecting to spend 10 minutes trying to finish 30 double-unders.

I learned how important was it to control my emotions when things don’t go my way in 14.4. It was frustrating to get no-rep after no-rep during the wall balls. At one point I was even punching the ball after a no-rep. When I was stomping around after the WOD, trying to vent my anger, I wondered how different the situation would had been if I had been calm in the face of all those no-reps.

That can be translated in to life too. How you handle your emotions during a WOD is a reflection on how you handle your emotions in your daily life. And yes, this “stomping around, venting my anger” ritual is something I always did when things don’t go my way. It was childish and immature, and after 14.4, I took a deep and long look at myself.

Did the thought of repeating the WODs to get a better score on the leaderboard crossed my mind? Yes, after 14.4. Then I remembered that I went in to the Open with the goal of not repeating any of the WODs because I was going to do my best and giving my all with no regrets. No disrespect to those who repeated the WODs, because we all have different training objectives.

There will probably never be another competition as unique as the CrossFit Open because it allows you to challenge with the best of the best around the world and learn things about yourself you would never have otherwise learned. People like me would have realised that after the Open, the only competition that we have is ourselves. What is better than doing that and having fun at the same time?

This is my story of the CrossFit Open. What is yours?

 

 

 

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How I’m making CrossFit sustainable for myself

The very real possibility of getting injured in training is something that has been nagging at me coming in to 2014. As I arrive at the box everyday, I wonder to myself: “Is CrossFit sustainable” The answer to that, is yes, CrossFit is sustainable. The community and getting in to kick-ass shape is what makes CrossFit fun for me. However the only caveat is that I have the discipline to incorporate active recovery in to my training. .

Sometimes we think more training is good, but that’s not true. Less training is sometimes good as well. After all, muscles grow when you are out of the gym. If you have just started CrossFit, going to the box every day is fun because PR-ing is liberating or getting the top of the world (literally) feeling when you finally get that muscle up. Nothing wrong with all that, but as much as we have discipline to turn up for training, we should also have the discipline to know how to “pull” ourselves away from the box too.

No doubt, CrossFit is an extreme sport. But CrossFit doesn’t cause injury. Bad or the lack of mobility and inflexibility causes injury. We think that lifting really heavy weights makes us strong, but what many of us, myself included, fail to realize is that strengthening our basic body movements is the key to making us strong and preventing us from getting injured.

For me, 2014 and the years ahead will not be about chasing more PRs or trying to qualify for the CrossFit Games. It will be about finding the balance of strength and flexibility. That will mean a balance of CrossFit and Yoga for me. Am I concerned that I will fall behind my fellow CrossFitters in terms of strength and faster timings? Yes. But that’s fine with me, because I am responsible for my own body and accountable to myself for making my training sustainable.

The time I spent away from the box, recovering, mobilizing and stretching will be the key to meeting the demands of the WOD when I’m in the box. My goal after all, is to CrossFit for life.

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My 2013 in a nutshell: “Overcoming challenges and obstacles”

I don’t want 2013 to end.

You may think that I have had a great year after making that statement. Well, it couldn’t be further from the truth. 2013 has been a year where I found myself being forced to deal with challenges and obstacles thrown at me from all directions. It almost broke me, but I refused to give up, which is what makes this year memorable for me. But I know 2014 will be much more exciting. Let’s start with my first challenge:

Entering the workforce

I graduated this year with a Diploma in Mass Communication, looking to enter the media industry and gain some industry experience before moving on to a Degree. This has always been a dream of mine. I started with an internship at a social media marketing agency, moved on full time to a social media role in an advertising agency and now I’m in corporate communications before 2013 ends.

It has been a whirlwind journey for me because I intended to go back to school after my internship ended. Somehow one thing lead to another, and I ended up having my first professional job, which unfortunately, I wasn’t ready for. I realised I was still tuned to the mindset of being in school and not tuned to the mindset that I’m actually in the workforce already.

I guess I’m lucky because I had never been in a bad spot in my life up to this point. Through the 3 months of struggling to keep my head above water, I came to the painful realisation that  it was time to stop being a kid who had no pressures in my life and become an adult who is able to cope with the challenges of life. I emerged out of this challenge with lessons that will be invaluable to me in the future.

Injury, CrossFit and Yoga

2013 is also the year my CrossFit journey began and I fell in love with it almost immediately. Unfortunately, my love for it was like a double edged sword. I was so obsessed with it that after I got injured during my powerlifting competition, I felt very depressed I couldn’t train for a month. Trying to deal with being injured for the first time in my life didn’t help either, which brings me to my next point about finding my CrossFit family.

I have said this before and I will say it again. This family is the reason why I CrossFit and they went a long way in helping me to learn to cope and overcome this challenge. That is why the picture below means a great deal to me. I’m the only one not in workout gear, but I still went to the box to cheer my family on because I refused to let my injury consume me. I owed it to them not to languish in despair and to come back stronger

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I sometimes struggle with not letting CrossFit take priority in my life because I want to enjoy the process. I deal with that by using what I learnt in CrossFit to help me PR my life. It has helped me get better at goal setting, discipline, self-motivation, reacting to failure, asking others for help, and many other life skills that are so valuable.

Taking up yoga lessons has helped me to deal with that struggle. For starters, yoga poses are a great challenge and obstacle for a inflexible person like me. However, it has taught me how to let go of things that don’t matter and learn to appreciate the little joys I experience or gain. I find myself starting to gain a little bit of flexibility and the breathing techniques I learned on the mat has helped me greatly in WODs. To me, CrossFit has helped me to become a better person while yoga makes me a better athlete.

Competing and organising a competition

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This year, I also competed in my first ever competition in powerlifting and help to organised a CrossFit competition. Being a newbie in both sports, it’s an achievement for me.

Relationship with God

My walk with God is always a challenge for me every year. Honestly, I have always struggled with making Him my priority. Getting injured was a reminder from Him that I was placing CrossFit first instead of Him. This year, I have learned a lot of surrendering everything to Him and learning to love Him with my heart instead of my mind. As I reflect back on the past year, I realised He has had a hand in every decision, every move I made. I have also learned the hard way that my plans aren’t set in stone, His plans are. I write my plans down in pencil, but He holds the eraser.

Final thoughts on 2013

There are still other things that happened in my life in 2013, but these topics are the ones that impact me the most. I’m also at crossroads. All these years, I have always thought that fitness was just an interest to me and working in the media industry is my passion. But after starting CrossFit and unexpectedly joining the workforce, I have come to realised that fitness has always always been my passion. This realisation will influence my selection of a Degree course and my career path after that.

I have no idea what 2014 holds for me other that an enticing opportunity to work with CrossFit HQ media team, which is currently still in the works. But I know that I have God, and with Him beside me, I can overcome all challenges and obstacles 🙂

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#SinCity2013 musings

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I fell really sick after #SinCity2013 ended, so in my downtime, I decided to break down the event on my own. So here it goes.

When Melanie and I sat down to plan for Sin City Invitationals about 3 months ago with full support from our coach, Uncle Sam, we didn’t have much resources to work with. All we had were three main goals:

1) For the Invitationals to be as stripped down as possible. Not flashy like the 2013 CrossFit Games. But like the 2007 CrossFit Games, which was held on a ranch in Aromas, California.

2) The focus will be on the athletes. We knew that given how strong and tight CrossFit’s Asian community were, they would carry this event.

3) To make this an event that Asian CrossFitters can proudly call their own.

I’m proud to say we managed to achieve all three goals. Sure, there were kinks and bumps along the way, but we preserved and pushed on, knowing that our love for CrossFit would see us through despite both of us not having participated in any CrossFit competition before.

Many have asked us why we didn’t have live streaming or why we didn’t reach out to the mainstream media to cover this event. Well, honestly, live-streaming was beyond our budget and we were also confident about the power of social media, given that we had come to a mutual conclusion on the second point of our main goals. And boy, did it turned out to be the right choice.  SingaSports was the first to approach us about covering the event, then Fitness Sutra. Even Brunei’s mainstream newspaper, The Brunei Times, covered our event. Not bad for an event that didn’t send out any press kits.

Now, I have a confession to make. As Director of Media, having a team to work with wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind. I’m not sure why, maybe there were voices in my head that told me I could do this all on my own or maybe I wasn’t expecting this event to be really big. That is why I’m so thankful to be working with Mel. She showed me how I wouldn’t be able to do everything on my own and how subconsciously, I was selfish and didn’t like to delegate stuff.

Which brings me to my next point about forming a team. To be honest, when I first picked Farhan, Alvin and Juven to be in the team, I was really hesitant to assign tasks for them. But when I did, they really shone through with their respective tasks. I couldn’t have asked for a better team and a boss like Mel, who showed me why having a team was important in the first place. Also, a shoutout to our official photographer, Norman, for the wonderful pictures.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the media coverage pre, during and post Sin City Invitationals. During the months and days leading up to the event, we decided to do athletes’ profiles on our Facebook page since focusing on the athletes was one of our main goals. That went a long way in helping the athletes bond during the event itself, as most of them were meeting each other for the first time. I was also pleased with event coverage, given that the Director of Media for CrossFit Asia Regionals informed us that she would be there as a spectator and would assist us in any way. That gave me an additional incentive to work harder and made sure the media team was top-notch.

What I really loved was the post event media coverage. I used to feel disconnected when I look at pre and post event pictures of overseas CrossFit regional events like The Primal Series and Granite Games, thinking that I would never experience such an event. But all that changed when the Invitationals ended. As I scrolled through my news feed, I realized that our goal of allowing CrossFitters living in Asia to finally have a competition that they can proudly call their own had been achieved. It had been a long time coming, but better late than never.

I can’t wait for Sin City Invitationals 2014. It will be bigger and more exciting!

 

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A breath of fresh air

Have you ever felt suffocated by the things you love doing?

Well, I have and it’s CrossFit. It’s not as if I have started hating WODs or CrossFit. It’s because I suddenly felt a feeling I have never felt before.

I felt mentally tired and drained.

I usually take a deload week after 4 weeks of training. But I decided to test my body out with 5 days of CrossFit and 2 days of yoga, which I have just started doing and see if I really needed a deload week.

That was silly of me because I’m not Jason Khalipa or Rich Froning. That realisation came to pass when halfway through a WOD, I felt funny. I usually pushed on when I’m sore, but this time, I felt I was about to cross the line from soreness to pain.

I had to make a decision right there and then. To push and get injured, or quit and live to WOD another day. It’s easy to say “Listen to your body and quit when you are in pain”, but to do it, it takes a lot of willpower.

I was crushed, not physically, but mentally as I called it quits. I wanted to be angry with myself, but I suddenly remembered that my self-worth isn’t measured by how fast I finish a WOD or whether I even finished a WOD or not. I also remembered that I surrended myself to God before every training and trusted that He will pull me back if I ever pushed too far.

As I reflected on what happened, I realised I haven’t taken a deload week, or even stopped for a breather since I came back from injury, 12 weeks ago. If you asked me why I was pushing so hard, I do not know how to answer you. Maybe I was chasing the time I wanted. Maybe I was trying to beat someone.

I had no answers. All I know was I wanted to be as far away from the box or a barbell as possible. I was fine physically,  but mentally, the thought of going hard during a WOD turned me off. Yes, in this 12 weeks, I may have gotten both my ring and bar muscle ups. I may have faithfully stuck to a schedule that allowed me to go hard and recover. But after 12 weeks, my body refused to synced with my mind anymore.

I needed a break.

I found that break and sync again with yoga. I know some people have questioned my intentions for going to yoga since I’m a Christian. But to me, being on the mat is for me to learn how to breathe properly and gain flexibility, not for spiritual growth. After being on the yoga mat for 3 consecutive days, I realised what I was chasing.

I was chasing perfection. If anything, yoga showed me how imperfect I was. It humbled me. More importantly, it allowed me to sync my mind and body again. It also allowed me to spend time with God, speaking to him, pouring out my frustrations.

CrossFit never fails to teach me more about myself and my body and this is just one of the many that I will learn in time to come.

I’m ready to WOD again.

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“When all else fails, read the instructions”

I’m was in a place where I’m struggled in my relationship with God. Not questioning the existence of Him, but questioning if I’m loving Him with everything I have, if I’m loving Him more than life itself.

I wondered if there were anything more to reading daily devotions, going to church and going for cell groups. And there is indeed more. I have come to the realisation that I have the greatest love “manual” in the world, the Bible, which I have been using the wrong way: I have been trying to understand the words in the Bible rather than trying to love the person the words are describing. Love God with your heart, not your mind.

 

 

 

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Whatever happened to “respect”?

I’m still relatively new to the CrossFit world so my opinions may not matter much, but this is just my two-cents worth (or a rant) of what I feel about “CrossFit-bashing”.

I always believe that it is important to respect other sports. Whether you are in soccer, hockey, bodybuilding or baseball. I would even say that as an athlete, respect comes before skills. Without respect, you can be the greatest athlete in the world and still be hated. In other context, it is the same as respecting someone’s race or religion.

I have never and will never bash other sports without even trying or attempting them. I may dislike running, but I will never slam the sport of running. If you have ever attempted to run or compete in running, you will know how hard it is. It is not a walk in the park.

That is why I don’t understand how some people paint CrossFit as a “kidney-wrecking machine” with articles like this. This is a scaremongering article and feels more like a rant, rather than an insightful article from a physical therapist. I feel it’s a flawed article because the author fails to address a few questions. Firstly, what did the woman do for recovery after training? Secondly, did she hydrate during her workouts? Thirdly, was she scaling her workouts or using the weights she shouldn’t be using?

Yes, while rhabdo is real, it’s preventable if you listen to your body and leave your ego at the door. I have seen ridiculous stuff like “CrossFit causes rhabdo because it’s so high-intentsity”. Oh please, rhabdo existed long before CrossFit. Heck, I could be training for an Ironman and still get rhabdo.

As this article rebutted, it’s a personal responsibility, not something that should be fully blamed on CrossFit. I sprained my ankle once after landing awkwardly while doing handstand push-ups. Did I blamed my coach for not catching my leg when I was coming down from that position? No, it’s my fault because I didn’t come down with the correct technique.

Another accusation I keep hearing is that CrossFit is a “cult”. Just because we do Team WODs, organise cookouts and plan farewell dinners? The last time I checked, “family” is still inside the dictionary. I have said this before but I will say it again. The community in CrossFit is what made me fall in love with this sport. Not the need to be better than someone else. I have days when I had a bad WOD or a good WOD and the same people are always there to cheer me up or celebrate with me. These people are ex-bodybuilders, ex-special forces, housewives and school kids. Their humbleness, care and concern goes beyond fitness and training to be strong.

CrossFit is not without it’s faults and the same goes for other sports. There is no perfect sport and there is no right or wrong in fitness. At the end of the day, it boils down to one thing: Respect. Don’t like CrossFit because it’s too intense but you enjoy running/tennis/bodybuilding? Good for you, go do what you love. But till you step in to a box and experience CrossFit for yourself, please don’t give me a laundry list of why CrossFit is bad for me, the same way I won’t tell you why you shouldn’t be playing tennis.

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