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Body Positivity vs. Body Shaming: The Fine Line, When We Cross It, And How Not To

“Strong is the new skinny” began as a movement for body acceptance. The naive media consumer in me wants to believe it started with the best of intentions. Greater body type diversity in the media by praising women who have visible muscular definition has fundamentally changed the fitness industry and the way that women understand how their body is meant to look. And while the sentiment behind it is nice, the implications that come from widespread acceptance of this mentality can be, and are quickly becoming, detrimental. It is no secret that being physically strong has its advantages, but to replace one standard with another ultimately still places one type on a pedestal, leaving all others as inadequate. This isn’t a body positive way of thinking.

The images that represent the media’s version of strong women are in themselves limiting. Featuring models who are lean as hell and wearing basically nothing, we’re given even more requirements to meet in order to be considered beautiful. These women ARE beautiful, but become the unreachable expectation. Such a beauty standard is just as difficult to achieve as being skinny, and gives us all just another reason to believe that we just aren’t good enough.

No one wants to be called a body shamer. It’s not a flattering look. But when we consider one way of being as inherently better than another (strong vs. skinny), we are still shaming. Supporting one, very narrow body type does not bode very well for the self love community. 

If we aren’t critically thinking about what exactly the media is telling us, it’s easy to get caught up in just another campaign. So I challenge you to be a critical consumer and challenge what’s being put in front of you.

Real beauty is cultivated from taking care of yourself: mind, body & spirit. Eating real foods that nourish your body, maintaining health (in whatever way or at whatever weight that means for you) so that you can move through your day with ease and joy, engaging with people and activities that make you happy. Beauty is not created from lifting weights, and health looks different on every single body.

I am a CrossFit athlete. I live and breathe for strength, function, and the beauty of having muscle. There is no doubt about the importance of being strong for my sport, and the strength I have cultivated in the gym has infiltrated every piece of my strength outside of the gym. I have the phrase “Beauty in Strength” tattooed on my ribs. Not for the reminder that having muscle is sexy and cool, but to acknowledge the emotional, spiritual, mental, AND physical strength I’ve developed over the last 4.5 years. As an ode to the sport, yes, but also as an ode me growing into my truest, happiest, most beautiful self, in my best and healthiest body. From insecure college woman to CrossFitter, the changes I’ve seen in myself are astounding and have, in part, been created from the physical strength I’ve gained. But that doesn’t mean that my body is inherently better than anyone else’s.

Having defined muscle IS beautiful, but so is being every other which way.

Sending self love,

Maggie

 

 

 

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24

As my 24th year on this earth comes to a close, I look back on the past year and honestly think only one thing: I thought I had grown during grad school, but boy was I wrong. Hey grads, get ready. Put your big kid pants on. Life outside of school is literally the weirdest, happiest and saddest experience you could ever imagine.

In the past year I’ve graduated from grad school, left my safe haven city, moved to a brand new city, lived alone, started a new job, had a significant injury, adopted a cat, joined a new gym, quit that first job, lived unemployed, traveled, cried, fought, laughed, struggled, read, wrote, watched a lot of HGTV, cooked, refinished wood floors, bought a mattress… basically 24 was absolutely terrifying.

I knew that graduating after 6 years bottled up in a little utopia town was going to be a hard thing to stomach, but I didn’t realize how incredibly hard the transition was going to be. This social butterfly, moving to a new city to be with her boyfriend, taking on the world as a young, capable, 23-year-old. The world at her fingertips. Doesn’t seem like it would be all that bad.

I started a job that I knew instantly wasn’t for me, but besides my very closest friends and family, tried so desperately to hide it. As a millennial, you hear all of these terrible things about how millennials are at work (and generally at life) and try SO HARD not to be “like that”. Not to be the spoiled, selfish, quit-when-it’s-too-hard kid living off your parents’ money, wasting away with two degrees and no effort to use them. A failure.

Quitting a job is one of the most shameful things I have ever experienced. Brené Brown tells us that “shame is lethal”, and I agree with her. It is honestly counterproductive. But how do you convince yourself to stop feeling that way when you are knee deep in it? I didn’t get fired, I was dreadfully unhappy, and I made the big girl decision to try and make a positive change. But I felt more like a big, fat, awful failure than I ever had in my entire life.

I still struggle with feelings of shame, even though every single decision I’ve made in the last year has been my own. What will people think of me? There are people who have been nothing but supportive so why should anyone else be anything different? If they aren’t supportive, why should I consider their opinions important to me in any way? After all, as everyone’s favorite poet told us,

“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.

I’m worried about the shame I’ll feel from the assumption that others are looking down on me. You wonder why I’ve waited this long to publicize the fact that I’m struggling? The fact that I quit a job and still don’t have a new full-time job? That I’ve been rejected from more positions than I can count and have even turned down the only opportunities that have presented themselves? That I’ve been a moody, drawn back, glass-half-empty friend, girlfriend, sister, daughter? That I’m almost 25 with two degrees and I still don’t have my shit together?

Want to know how long it took me to get over that shame? Oh, I’m still not. Gallons of tears and hundreds of hours of soul searching and processing (and thank God for my parents and their patient, patient hearts) have brought me to where I think I’m about to break even. Some days I really do feel optimistic. Like I’m doing the right thing. Like these few months of feeling lost and overwhelmed is coming to its peak and soon I’ll be riding a sweet, snowy sled down towards the end. Other days, I’m consumed with this feeling that I’m just floating, unattached and useless. Wasting away with this deep-seeded desire to feel needed and purposeful.

Lucky for me, the gym is where I get that feeling. (You knew it was coming, didn’t you?)

I am now spoiled rotten with the ability to throw myself into the gym, something I so desperately wanted when I was working full-time. When you’re unhappy, you want to do things that make you happy; thus, the gym. My sanity. How lucky I am that I found something that has been so incredibly important and helpful through this process. It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which I feel MORE purposeful than when I am using my own body to put a barbell over my head. It is one of the most powerful, empowering feelings I can imagine. Not to mention the lessons I learn every day when I’m in there about perseverance, hard work & trusting myself.

To quote myself (how Millennial of me):

“Sometimes CrossFit doesn’t have hidden life lessons, and then sometimes it does and they’re really more blatantly obvious than hidden. Work Hard. Trust yourself. Have faith. Find beauty in your strength. Struggle is guaranteed, failure is immanent. But, above all, just be patient, because it’s the only way you’re going to get the bar over your head and I promise you it’s the only way you’re going to get better.”

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(I have thought from the very beginning that crossfitters should put it on their resume. If you can show up every day to better yourself at your own will, work as a teammate and individual, do things that scare the crap out of you, take and follow direction, bring energy to the room, aren’t afraid to make mistakes, are capable of finishing work in a set amount of time or even before that time cap… you deserve the job. Period.)

This thing is a process, and it is not easy. It is something I can’t even really put into words. There are plenty of articles out there that try to explain it to us, articulate the emotions that we can’t quite understand. But honestly, those articles and even this blog post won’t do you any justice until you experience it for yourself.

Now as 25 approaches, I have moved once again, still full-time jobless, spending my savings on rent and food, but trying to feel more hopeful than I did when I first left Bloomington a year ago. I’m not working a job I dislike, I won’t go hungry (thanks, again, to my perfect mom and dad), I have a roof over my head, and even some part-time stuff going on.

Some days I feel okay. Other days I drive to Meijer and spend $4 on a pint of Arctic Zero ice cream that I should be saving to spend on real food, and forget about my shit out tomorrow. Some people call it balance, I just call it being 24.

Here’s to 25.

Maggie

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I’m So Glad We Live In A World Where There are Octobers

In nearly a month, I run 13.1 miles for the second time in my entire life. Something I put on my New Year’s Resolution bucket list on January 1st, something I didn’t think I would actually do considering the idea of running anything farther than 400 meters during a WOD made me want to fall over. Well, here I am, in the midst of my half marathon training, and it just so happens today’s run was my first run of the month of October.

Yesterday I ventured out for my 8 mile run, the farthest I’ve gone since last year’s race. Running 8 miles is a small milestone when you’re in the midst of half marathon training, but it was a nearly perfect day for a run: overcast with a small breeze, October leaves on the trees and a few already covering the trail I ran along, the only thing missing was a pumpkin spice candle running alongside me holding a mug of hot chocolate wearing a scarf and riding boots. Yes, I, like so many others, love October and its crisp air, refreshing change of scenery, and ideas of sharing a fire with someone you love after a day of apple picking. But, I love October for another reason, too. I love October because it gives me a chance to bring attention to something that is incredibly near and dear to my heart, Breast Cancer Awareness month.

I ran last year’s half marathon to be able to scratch it off of my bucket list, but also to raise money for a cause near and dear to my heart. This year, I’m doing it again!

The rockstar group of half marathoners from last year!

Last year I was able to raise an incredible $1500 for my sorority sisters’ funding of the NFL Pink Ribbon Project , as well as Dr. Hari Nakshatri of the IU School of Medicine and his research of clinical testing of women with no history of breast cancer in their family.

This year, I have chosen to donate my funds to the Young Survival Coalition , a nonprofit organization that works with survivors, caregivers and the medical, research, advocacy and legislative communities to increase the quality and quantity of life for women diagnosed with breast cancer ages 40 and under.

I’ve also chosen a lofty goal, inspired by your generosity last year, to fundraise another $1500 this year! I might be crazy, but if you don’t shoot for the moon you’re never gonna get there!

Check out my GoFundMe account to read a little bit more about my story!

Happy Fall!

Maggie

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Let’s Call It An Identity Crisis

Close your eyes. Let’s imagine for a little while.

Imagine that you are in transition. Imagine that you have spent the entirety of your young adult life between the same two towns, one of which you grew up in. Now imagine you are leaving both of those places for a brand new one. Imagine that you have no family or close friends nearby (okay, your boyfriend is on the other side of the city). Imagine that you graduate, move out of your favorite city and away from your favorite ice cream place and move into brand new territory and a brand new, one bedroom apartment, all within 24 hours. Imagine that you are starting your first full-time job two weeks after your move to this new place.

Now imagine the details. Imagine that this place you are leaving holds six years of incredible memories and every kind of growing up an 18-23 year old could do. Imagine that you found multiple families while you were in this place. Imagine that one of those places is a gym, and this gym is where you grew into yourself and found beauty in your own strength and the strength of those around you. Imagine that this gym took a chance on you and hired you. Imagine that this job is the first job that you never waited until the last possible second to arrive and always and eagerly spent more time there than was ever necessary. You remembered almost every person’s name after the very first introduction.

Now imagine leaving that place, and imagine that place closing its doors for good. Imagine the feelings of relief that you won’t physically be there when it happens, but also of overwhelming sadness knowing that neither you nor anyone else will be able to experience that kind of happiness inside those four walls again.

Now imagine you’ve come to terms with the changes (or so you’ve convinced yourself), and that you find a new gym in your new town. Imagine that you are incredibly nervous but incredibly excited because this new gym means that something is the same. It means that everything you built in your old gym just moved an hour and a half north and can be transplanted right onto their barbells and pull up bars. It means that you all speak the same language, and that kilos and pounds and power cleans and kettle bell swings are all the same as they were before. It means that you get to create a new community and family.

It means familiarity and identity.

Now imagine that you turn 24. On your 24th birthday you visit a doctor who tells you that you have an injury (a pinched nerve in your neck to be exact). On that same day you find out that you can no longer pick up a barbell or hang from a pull up bar until you are pain free. He says it will take 2-3 months to be that person again. He says it could have been worse. He says if you take care of it and do your exercises you will be back and maybe even better than before.

Cue the identity crisis.

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A picture from the workout that literally broke the camel’s back (er… pinched the nerve)

A few months ago I declared my identity as an athlete and challenged you all to claim your own identities, and do so proudly. I am an athlete. I am a CrossFitter, I am a weightlifter.

In the midst of all of the change and the transition and newness, CrossFit was my constant. I joined a gym almost immediately upon moving because I knew the faster I started, the faster it would become my safe place and my community; where everyone speaks the same, loud, metal-and-rubber language. But with this injury, now even my safe place isn’t all that familiar.

I know it’s only 2-3 months. I know that being injured is a humbling experience, that I will grow and probably be even better than I was when I’m healed. I know that it could have been so much worse. I know, I know I know. But right now, I KNOW that it just plain sucks.

Once I take my spoon out of the ice cream pint I’ll see that there is a lot of beauty in the strength to find the positive in this. And I know I’ll find the positive in this. Happy Mags will turn her frown upside down and smile and laugh through the modifications over the next two months. Everything will be okay. But I think being sad is okay too, just for a little while.

Sending self love,

Maggie

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Turning Pounds to Kilos

You heard me! This CrossFitter turned into a Weightlifter this weekend for my very first weightlifting meet.

I am so proud of myself. As a 63kg lifter (or 138.6lb for those, like me, who still have a very limited ability to multiply by 2.2), I made a 122kg total (my highest snatch + clean & jerk) and made 3/6 lifts. Would it have been awesome to go 4/6? For sure! Would it have been even more awesome if I had PR’d my snatch? Duh! How about if I didn’t smash my chin on the barbell on its way up for my first jerk? You betcha!! But I was just there to dip my toes in the weightlifting water, and now that I’ve done it I think I’m addicted to the high.

When describing my experience afterwards and explaining just what the heck happens at a weightlifting meet, I had more than one person bring up the fact that they didn’t think I looked like I weighed 138.6 pounds. They also justified my weight for me by telling me that it was “probably all muscle”.

Well, yeah. A lot of it is muscle. But some of it is bones, some more of it is fat, some of it is my organs, and a lot of it is other things I don’t know how to pronounce. But I didn’t need you to tell me that. I knew it already, because, well, it’s my body.

138.6. Am I supposed to feel uncomfortable with that number?

I weighed in at 63kg on the dot– Literally 63.0kg. And the fact that I did it without really giving up my nightly dose of sun nut butter and the occasional sweet potato binge? Yeah, I’m even more confident in that 138.6 pounds.

CrossFit and weightlifting don’t put a value on the number on the scale. Sure, weightlifting classifies you into weight classes, but that’s done so that your lifts are only competing against others with a similar body weight as you. The women who win the 75kg weight class and the women who win the 63kg weight class are equally respected and regarded as the best, regardless of the number on the scale. Just add it to the running list of reasons why I love these sports: women and men are valued and rewarded for the way that their bodies move and the things that they can accomplish, not how aesthetically pleasing they look while they do them.

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After failing my first two snatch attempts, I finally hit that pesky 54kg

I was 138.6 pounds on Saturday morning at 7am. Tomorrow, I’m probably going to hover around 141, maybe even tip the scale at 142 by the time I go to sleep. Guess what? I still fit into my pants. Guess what else? I’m probably a little bit stronger at 142 than I am at 138.6. What’s more? I love myself at 138.6 just as much as I love myself at 142, and probably just as much as I would love myself at 135.

I don’t blame these people for trying to reassure me. The world tells all of us from the very beginning that women should always be dissatisfied with the number on the scale. But I’m not dissatisfied, I’m actually really freaking proud.

Sending self love,

Maggie

 

With Calloused Hands…

I love a lot of things about CrossFit. (I blog about it, so I better). I see it as a metaphor for a lot of other aspects of my life, as I’ve mentioned in plenty of other posts.

A recent CrossFit Inc. video posted on Facebook caught my attention this afternoon. It’s a compellation of top athletes and regular box-goers like me, all with one thing in common: they’re all women. And bad ass women at that. The 3+ minute video is set to a somewhat poetic, lyrical narrative about how strength knows no gender.

In thousands of chalk-filled gyms women are killing the preconceived conceptions of their own frailty, and with calloused hands rewriting the stories of expectations.

Y’all know I could preach this ’till kingdom come. To be strong is no longer a man’s game. To be frail, timid and weak is an outdated version of gender identity. To promote anything else would be more than foolish. Quite honestly, I think to promote anything else would mean you’re pretty dumb.

CrossFit gyms (at least those that I’ve been a part of) do a pretty awesome job at promoting this kind of mentality. And this is where it starts. Can you hear me? This is where the change can start.

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Getting to hang out with two of the coolest women I know (well, don’t really know): Olympian Mattie Rogers (above) and Box Owner Jen Agnew (below)!

 

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Videos like this make me really happy. They make me proud of what I do and what I believe in. Of course, videos like this also show the flaws in a sport like CrossFit and a media team that only sees white, hypersexualized females as the women that represent us. We are not all like this. But, I think we have to start somewhere. And this is an awesome start.

Sending self love,

Maggie

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Why I’m Not Really Planning for the Future

I am addicted to my email calendar. Online calendars have changed my life: they have calmed me, routined me, steadied me, at times they’ve stressed me. I know where I’m going and at what time I’m going there at almost every point of the day even 15 minutes before I have to be there thanks to my iPhone.

Thanks to my new RPStrength templates, I now know exactly when I get to eat during the day and what I get to eat at each of those times. Right at waking; 3-5 hrs after that; 1-3 hrs before training; during training; 40 minutes after training; 2-4 hrs after that right before bed.

I am a full time student. I work three, part-time jobs that total over 40 hours a week. I am in a long distance relationship with someone who is worth making an hour drive there and back twice a week. I workout at least 60 minutes a day. I also like to be horizontal, against a pillow, with all of my lights off by 10:00pm. I’m not saying I’m superwoman, but sometimes I feel like it! All of the schedulers out there can understand that this can give you a calming, “I’ve got my shit under control” feeling that pretty much makes you feel like you just might have the extra 25th hour in the day that Beyoncé has.

So now, in a life filled with overcommitments and complete dependency on an iPhone to tell me where I need to be at all times, you’re telling me I need to plan for my future? I’m supposed to figure out what I’m going to be doing in five years?

I know what you’re going to say. Planning for your future is the only way to ensure that you get to where you want to go; to see the people that you want to see; to live the life that you want to live! Planning  for your future is the only way to fulfill your goals, to surpass your goals.

Well, I’m going to disagree with you for a second.

I know I could be taking this to the extreme- no one expects me to know what I’m doing at 1:30pm on February 10th, 2023. But I’ve just accepted a new, full-time position in a field that I never expected to work in, I’ve almost found a place to live in this brand new city, and I’ll be leaving my 6 year safety net of limestone and college students in less than 4 months. Tack these onto my current, daily routine, and right now, the only thing I’m trying to plan for is not having a complete meltdown that my life is about to change more significantly than it ever has in my almost 24 years on this earth.

So, future planners, no. I am not planning for my future right now. I don’t know where I’ll be living. I don’t know where I’ll be working.  I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 5 years.

Does this mean that I don’t have goals? Absolutely not. I have big goals. I have goals that have wrapped around the sun and dug themselves so deep into the parts of my brain that I didn’t know existed.

Does this mean that I’ll never plan for the future? Absolutely not. In 5 years I may actually have my shit together and have the rest of my life figured out.

Does this mean that right now I’m just breathing, and being, and following my iPhone calendar, and getting into bed by 10:00, and eating enough chocolate to make myself smile? Does this mean I’m actively trying to see what I want to see, do what I want to do, be who I want to be right now? Absolutely.

I am certain my future will happen whether I have planned it or not. I am also certain that if I plan my future, it won’t end up happening the way that I’ve planned it. As so many wise people have said before and will continue to say, life is what happens when you make plans. (Because 24 hours ago I completed my first draft of this blog post and it got deleted from my phone’s WordPress app before I could post it.– life is what happens when you make plans, am I right?)

So the next time the future scares you, take a step, a breath, and refocus on the right now: What you’re doing well, or what you can change in this very moment. So much looking ahead can make us so unaware of looking directly in front of us.

Sending self love,

Maggie

Modern-Day Rosies and All Things ‘Girl Power’

In the second of three Halloween costumes worn on Saturday (yes, three), I tied a red bandana around my head, painted my lips, and tied up a jean shirt. To me, there may be no more recognizable or iconic image of a woman in the past 100 years than Rosie the Riveter.

Initially drawn in 1943, the Normal Rockwell painting titled “Rosie the Riveter” became the face of the American women’s movement to work during WWII and has been considered a significant symbol of female independence and strength ever since.

Needless to say, she’s my girl.

In doing a little bit of reading (because what else would I be doing during my free time in grad school?) I found an article profiling some of the “Real-life Rosies”, women that entered the work force during WWII, and it made me think: who are the Real-Life Rosies today? The women that are the pathfinders, the trailblazers, the strong, the brave, the bold, the inspired.

Sending you girl power & self love on this Monday,

Maggie

When being passionate is actually enough

This morning I realized that these past few months of grad school have made me fall back in love with myself.

Fall back in love with yourself? I thought you preach self-love and self-worth and all of the “love yourself right now in this moment in this very instant of life”. Well, I do! And I do love myself on most days, as righteously and intensely as I deserve to be loved! But some days- and we all have these days- it’s harder to love ourselves as fiercely as we did the day before, or will the day after. They’re caused by things like eating too many bags of popcorn the night before (I see you, Rem, and I am with you); sleeping in past your alarm and nearly missing a meeting; struggles with friends and family; a self-doubt that you actually might not be all that great at what you do; an even bigger self-doubt that you’ll find a job by May (I see you, every grad school on the planet, and I am with you); an even bigger self-doubt that you’ll like the job you find in May.

Let me rewind a bit- grad school has been hard. Intellectually, professionally, personally, emotionally, physically. It has forced me to not only prioritize, but learn to prioritize myself first. Luckily, you can find a very simple formula to prioritize yourself first: listen to yourself. 

For me, prioritizing myself includes being in bed by 9:00 with my fuzzy pillows and online puzzle, spending time cooking and eating generally yummy food paired with at least one handful of chocolate chips once a day, calling my mom, boyfriend, or best friend in tears every once in a while just because it feels good. Prioritizing myself also means spending an hour with a barbell in my hands and sweat all over my face, and then helping other people do the same.

When I’m challenged, it can feel like an easy fix to put other priorities before myself. These challenges have made me question who I am and if what I’m doing is not only good enough for myself, but good enough for the people around me.

In this moment, I’m telling you (me) something: Do it because you want to.

Last night I read a blog post that’s been making its way around Facebook titled, “Screw Finding Your Passion” by Mark Manson. This is the first time I’ve read any of Manson’s work, but good Lord will I be returning to his blog in the very near future. Read the post, I will not do it’s in-your-face-honesty justice by summarizing it for you, but he’s essentially (actually, he’s literally) calling bullshit on anyone who says they don’t have something they’re passionate about.

“I call bullshit. You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what the fuck do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.”

See? Actual calling of bullshit.

Here are two of my favorite paragraphs:

“Because here’s another point that might make a few people salty: If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.

If you’re passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it’s not normal, that other people aren’t like that.”

Sound familiar? Resonate with you at all? Goodness I sure hope so. I am urging you, right now, if you don’t think you have this passion in your life, open your eyes!!

How does this connect to falling back in love with me? I don’t have to look for what I’m passionate about. I know it. I think it’s pretty bad ass that I’m passionate enough about CrossFit and generally being a healthyand happy person to spend 3+ hours a night after work and class to not only let myself do it, but also help others do it. And I love every second of it.

Don’t limit your success because someone told you that you shouldn’t pursue it. Hell, don’t limit your success because YOU told yourself that you shouldn’t pursue it. Remember when every adult in your life ever growing up told you that being unique and and individual is good? Be yourself, prioritize yourself, and in that self you’ll (re)discover that passion.

Be the truest form of you, in whatever way that true form manifests itself today. You are doing exactly what you need to be doing.

You are good. You are smart. You are kind.

You are deserving of a cozy, princess bed that makes you want to fall asleep at 9pm (I see you, grandmas, and I am with you).

You are deserving of self-love.

You HAVE the passion, you just have to open your eyes to all the incredible things you do and see it.

You are deserving enough to pursue the passion.

Also, WATCH THIS—All of the self-love and self-worth!

Let it flow this morning!

Sending self love,

Maggie

Belly Woes and Diet Foes (and Leaky Guts?)

Have you ever been told that you can’t do your absolute favorite thing anymore? You broke your leg, and can’t play soccer until it’s healed. You’re knee deep in repaying your student loans and can’t afford to travel until they’re almost gone. Well, my absolute favorite thing to do is eat. And this summer I’ve essentially figured out that I can’t really do that anymore.

I have a lot of gut health issues. A lot. We won’t go into details (you’re welcome), but essentially my recent life has been consumed with combating and trying to prevent symptoms from crippling almost every move I make during the day.

Before 2012, my belly was filled with every yummy treat you could think of. Eating was (and still is) my favorite past time! But after realizing that daily stomach aches weren’t the regular happenings of healthy 20-year olds, I decided to cut out gluten and dairy. Immediately, I noticed a dramatic difference in the way I felt, but still often experienced the same symptoms. In 2014 I said, “Heck, Paleo sounds neat!”, and gave that bad boy a try with a little encouragement from the Crossfit community. Boy did that change everything. I was living a happy gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo lifestyle with a Zone diet twist (strictly because I don’t know how to portion control… Don’t look at me like that, neither do you!) and I was feeling goooooood. I had more energy, saw results at the gym and in my running, and even dropped a pant size. Problems were solved!

Nope.

Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

One of my favorite Paleo recipes: Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread from PaleOMG!

Here comes June 13, the night I thought I had food poisoning after going to dinner with my parents. It turns out the food poisoning symptoms (intense abdominal pain, nausea) were actually symptoms of a rupturing ovarian cyst. After moving back home for the summer and coming under an immense amount of stress, that bad boy decided it couldn’t take it anymore and exploded inside of me, leaving excess fluid in my abdomen (gross, right?).

Luckily for me, I didn’t end up in the emergency room. Unfortunately for me, I’ve been battling significant gut health issues since the day after it happened.

Again, I’ll spare you the details, but imagine your digestive system being the only thing you think about pretty much every hour of the day. I became obsessed with learning about why my body was revolting against me after thinking I had finally gotten a handle on my digestive issues.

So, I stuck my nose in a book- two, actually. The first, Brain Maker, written by Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, first opened my eyes to something called Leaky Gut. Basically, after 20 years of eating gluten (while unknowingly gluten-sensitive), my gut started to break down; more specifically, the flora of my digestive tract, allowing bad bacteria to grow where good bacteria should be, and weakening the ability for my body to decide between good and bad nutrients to be transferred into my bloodstream. (PSA: I am not a doctor, and this is probably the most simplistic version of Leaky Gut available anywhere on the Internet). So, when my cyst ruptured from stress, it irritated my digestive system (a common side effect) and bada bing: chaos ensued.

Gut health is a mysterious thing- I know I didn’t understand it until I started reading, and still have so many questions. After multiple procedures (a CT scan and Bacterial Overgrowth Test) and no diagnoses, both doctors I’ve seen have suggested trying a Low-FODMAP diet to minimize my symptoms. Add it to my list of descriptors: gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, Paleo, Zone, Low-FODMAP…. What’s next?

Is this Low-FODMAP lifestyle going to help? Who knows.

After 626 words, you now have a somewhat extensive description of the past two months (and previous three years) of my life. When you struggle to maintain a healthy gut, you struggle to maintain a lot of other things- energy level, anxiety, (sanity), a desire to workout… And man, oh man, have I had to push myself to keep going. When you don’t feel good, all you want to do is lie down until it goes away. Well, when you don’t feel good every, single day… you can understand where this is going.

I just completed my third 10k yesterday (sorry social media world for exploding with pictures), and I finished about 5 minutes later than I had set my goal. The first three miles were agonizing because I just couldn’t keep the pace I wanted. But, after realizing I just wasn’t going to meet that goal, my race improved dramatically.

Yes, it was hard (hot damn it was hard), but this body has been putting me to the test the past two months and was still able to finish 6.2 miles under an hour. And this body is going to run 13.1 in October (yup, that’s a half marathon. LOL.). Holy crap it’ll hurt, but holy crap am I thankful for the things that I still can do, and you better believe I’ll keep doing them. My struggles do not even compare to others who battle severe, even life-threatening digestive health issues, and I know that, and I’m so thankful for that. But even so, my struggles are my own, and I am proud of the way I’m continuing to try and overcome them.

To celebrate these victories, both big and small, I’d like someone to find me a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, Paleo, low-FODMAP piece of chocolate cake with a gigantic scoop of ice cream. Please.

Future Strong Women

Yesterday, a friend tagged me in one of Elisabeth Akinwale’s Instagram pictures. A bit before, Elisabeth had posted a video of herself doing a clean complex on what looked like a high school or public field. Children, teens, runners, and parents alike are around, no one seeming to notice this absolutely incredible woman doing some incredible things. I smiled, double-tapped, and proceeded to scroll.

I came back to my phone a bit later to see my friend, @Kimberlyoakes, had tagged me in another one of Elisabeth’s pictures (insert shameless plug to follow her and her Paleo foodie alter ego, @Paleoakes on Instagram! You will not regret it.. well, maybe you will if you hate getting drool all over your phone). Akinwale’s picture was posted not too long after her video, and shows her in the bottom of her snatch, bumper plate-clad barbell overhead, with three girls sitting in the grass next to her, watching. The caption:

And then this happened. These three little girls came over and wanted to know all about what I was doing. #representationmatters #amillionquestions #futurestrongwomen

Cue the swelling heart. So many feelings. ALL of the feelings. I have just been associated with one of the best CrossFit athletes in the world, not because of her talent, but because of the way that she has just represented herself and inspired these three girls. She is now a new role model, representing beauty in strength in the best way that I could possibly be using the phrase, and @Kimberlyoakes recognized that. I may not be the best CrossFit athlete, but I sure hope I can serve as some inspiration for someone along the way, as Elisabeth has just done for these girls.

One day last week I was working out at the same time as a CrossFit Kids class of six girls, all probably under the age of 12. I’m literally soaked in sweat doing box jumps, handstand push-ups, and snatches while they’re doing burpees and practicing their rowing on this slick, humid day. Each one is hesitant to touch the wet gym floor with their bare knees, out of fear of getting dirty. But each time they walk by my chalky, sweaty space I see them shyly glance over at me, trying to watch without really watching. One girl, Hannah, starts to cheer for me as I’m doing box jumps. After I finish, I walk outside to see the obstacle course they’ve created: sled pulls, a wall ball run, tire jumps, and some agility runs, so I ask if I can join- immediately I get pleas of “yes!” from the girls, and Coach Alex gives the seal of approval.

One at a time, we complete the agility course and compete for the fastest time. With 12+ years and inches on them, I win the course with a time of 1:08, and let me tell you, they designed a good one! But the point of this is not to say that I beat these girls.

I’m telling you that I have never felt more like a role model than I did in those 10 minutes that I spent outside with them. How cool is it that I spent an hour in the gym that day and got to inspire six girls to try their best, just because I was trying my best? I was “cool” because I’m older, but what an absolutely amazing opportunity for me to model so many different things for them- sportsmanship, confidence, resilience, a positive attitude…. The list is really endless. And if there is one thing that owning beauty in strength has taught me, it’s that modeling it for others is just as important as modeling it for myself.

So, @Kimberlyoakes, thank you for inspiring this blog post, and Elisabeth Akinwale, thank you for making it so easy to understand just how important it is for girls to have someone to inspire them to become #futurestrongwomen.

Sending self love,

Maggie

Judgment Day

Judgment Day: Also known as working out at the Rec Center.

I am writing this while walking on the Curve Treadmill, looking up every few minutes to make sure my sweat isn’t visible on my shirt in the mirror in front of me. I am writing this while watching the woman wearing color coordinated Nike shoes, socks, spandex shorts, sports bra, and cut off tank top who just walked to the drinking fountain. While I’m watching the beefy beefcake who’s wearing a baseball hat and drowning his stationary bike in sweat. I’m judging myself and I’m judging them. I don’t like it.

Why is it that I can preach self-love, self-worth and pride, and yet I walk into this space and all of a sudden I am a self-loathing, judgmental, green monster? I am the person that I hate, that I have worked so hard not to be.

How do I change my mentality, and how do we change the ever-so-obvious self-consciousness that seeps from the padding of the leg press machine and rusts the barbells of these spaces?

Is it because this isn’t “my gym”? I take no ownership over what happens here, over who works out here. I don’t know these people, they don’t know me. Why should I have any thoughts about them at all, and why should I think that anyone in this room is thinking anything about me? Because they are. Because I am. Because it’s the culture of the space.

When did a space that is dedicated to self-betterment and strength in every sense of the word become a space that is dedicated to self consciousness and finding weaknesses in others?

Last week, Rec Sports put on their annual Celebrate EveryBODY Week, a campaign I wholeheartedly love for the obvious reasons. Why can’t every week be Celebrate EveryBODY Week? More importantly, why do we need to have a designated week to celebrate it? Is that how deep rooted into this culture we have grown?

I don’t have the answers, I’m just aware that there are questions.

Milwaukee, WI knows what's up.

Milwaukee knows what’s up.

Awareness is the key to change. Be aware of your thoughts: thoughts about yourself, thoughts you have about those around you. Challenge yourself. Why do I think that? Challenge the space you’re in. Challenge its culture. Challenge creates change. Change can create confidence– and confidence rules.

Do good things today. Lift heavy weights today. Go confidently today!

Sending self love,

Maggie

Enter Here for Happy

Let me just say this: Grad school is hard. It’s really freaking hard. Combine working 20 hours a week at one job, with 10 hours a week at another job, with 20 hours of class and homework a week, with having basically no idea what I’ll be doing in a year and a half, with being 22 and emotional and your best friends living far, far away… you get me– ready to bust open like a tomato and complaining a lot.

Today, a wise soul told me “if grad school was easy everyone would do it!!” (Coupled with being financially responsible… that it is not.)

It’s because of this insanity that I require one hour a day for myself at the gym.

On Saturday that included attempting “11.2”– 15 min. AMRAP of 9 deadlifts, 12 hand-release push ups, and 15 box jumps.

After who-knows-what round with 10+ minutes left on the clock, I thought to myself, holy crap I am exhausted. HOW has it only been five minutes?! Heather is two full rounds ahead of me and she has a strained quad… I have to catch up to Heather.

Look at us, voluntarily subjecting ourselves to this misery– me, with  literally hundreds of pages of reading to complete for next week but instead I was dripping sweat all over the floor, and Heather with her injury. At this point in the morning I was already well aware of the 10 hours of work I should be doing instead of being at the gym, and I bet Heather was already feeling how her quad is going to hurt like hell after she finished this workout.

Now look at us again.  Here we both are, doing this crazy thing because it makes us feel powerful, it makes us feel confident, and because we both know that this 15 minutes is going to end, and we are going to finish “11.2”, whether we’ve finished 3 rounds or 13 rounds. Proving to ourselves that we can and should, regardless of those things telling us that we can’t or shouldn’t.

Grad school relatability: I will survive, even when I look at the clock and realize how much farther I have to go. (See what I did there?)

And all of a sudden I’m like, hell yeah!

When I think about it, a lot of these blog posts act as an avenue for me to validate how and why I am so passionate about this sport. And a lot of people probably can’t relate directly to CrossFit, and that’s okay. But think about anything that required you to persevere to some degree of success. For me, that success happens every time I finish a workout or read a 150 pg. book on discrimination in two days (it just happened). For others, it may be presenting in front of a class, having a challenging conversation with a friend, or getting to bed before 11pm one night a week.

Whatever it is, celebrate it! Because it’s worth celebrating. Because you rock.

(And strong really is happy.)

Sending self love,

Maggie

Enter here for happy

Two Years Strong

Two years24 months104 weeks670 days16,080 hours964,800 minutes57,888,000 seconds

I have madly and passionately loved for CrossFit for two years.

Two years. A blink in time in the grand scheme of life. Oh, how life can feel static in two years. I still live in the same city, I am still a student, I am still an ice cream addict, I still worship my dog, I still can’t go more than three days without talking to my mom. But oh, how life can change in two years; how life has changed in two years.

I completed my first “foundations” class at CrossFit Bloomington on November 5, 2012, according to my yellow workout notebook. My max, one rep dead lift was 135 pounds. Today, it’s 235 pounds (soon to be tested and hopefully destroyed!). I can literally lift 100 more pounds off of the ground today than I could two years ago. I am by no means the strongest woman at my gym, but I am the strongest me that I have ever been.

I didn’t realize how desperately I needed a life change until I was about 6 months into working out. My self-actualization came during the summer of 2013: Newly single and totally lost. I vividly remember the workout that I did the day after: The Broken Filthy Fifty. Ironic, I know. It was upwards of 95 degrees in this unairconditioned warehouse after working 9-5 at my internship cubicle, and I was about to do 20-15-10-5 reps of: Box jumps, kettlebell swings, walking lunges, knees to elbows, push press (35 pounds), back extensions, wall ball shots (14 pounds), burpees, and double unders, for time.

I don’t remember what time I finished in… I could barely breathe. All I know is that between the heat and the emotions, I was on the verge of tears the entire time. But I finished. I wiped my face, washed my hands, and had officially sweat out everything left inside of me. And it was time to rebuild from there.

CrossFit was my constant, it was my rock. When I talk about the spiritual awakening I went through, it was the Broken Filthy Fifty that signaled the beginning of it. Physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually. You name it, I changed. Some more significant than others, but all noticeably enough for me to appreciate and realize that I am now a more confident, independent, strong woman than I ever was before. I was building my self-worth. “Beauty in Strength”, as many of my friends know, is my mantra now, and it will continue to move me forward.

Today, I’m generally a happier person. HOW?! You ask! For those who don’t know me, happy is my neutral; happy is my normal. But these days, it is more genuine than ever. I love the way that I look. I weigh five more pounds than I did when I started, have lost a pant size, and have gained some serious self-confidence. I value myself more and the things that I am both good and bad at. I understand that life is always challenging, but if I could back squat 180 pounds 10 times in a row last week, I can probably make it through my first semester of graduate school.

I can’t forget to give credit where credit is due during this two year CrossFitiversary:

CrossFit Bloomington, you made this all possible. Thank you for teaching me the basis for everything I needed to know, and sparking this insane fire inside of me. Thank you.

CrossFit Deerfield, thank you for taking me in these past two summers and giving me a community of extremely talented and passionate trainers and athletes. Thank you.

Stonebreaker Athletics, I love you. Thank you for loving me right back in all of my silliness, and for letting me do what I love (almost) every day. Thank you.

Carl and Q, you raised me! You are major role models and have influenced the person that I am and continue to become. Thank you for constantly challenging me, even when I don’t want to use 95 pounds for my cleans during the workout because I’m too tired. For your high fives, and your constructive criticisms, for laughing at me and with me, and constant belief in my abilities these past two years. Thank you.

I was thinking about this post today and what I should write when reflecting back on my two years. This blog has been, since the beginning, dedicated to my complete obsession with this sport and how it has changed me. The first few posts were a little rough, and I will openly admit it! I was new to the blogging world and wasn’t writing it for anyone but myself. But now, these posts have found their purpose: To not only reflect on the adventures that I take my body through, but to hopefully inspire other people to find something they’re passionate about– literally anything– and let it completely consume them, mind body and soul, and build them up, and prove to themselves that they can always be better than who they were yesterday. This is what I have let CrossFit do for me, and I wish its magic upon every person in this wonderful world.

Happy two year CrossFitiversary to me, now go do something great today!

Sending self love,

Maggie

Hello to you, November.

November, you sneaky devil. I see you and your frosty mornings, your 5:00 sunsets and your constant pushing for me to eat apples and pumpkin and cinnamon and chocolate.

November often times gives us an excuse to wind down.  At this point, there are two months left in the year, both of which are covered in a sheet of Snowpocalypse Polar Vortex. January 1st signifies a universal new beginning to find your dream job, lose 15 pounds, fall in love.

But, why do we have to wait until January 1?

Granted, three feet of snow covering your car, and biology’s constant urge to eat more to stay warm doesn’t exactly encourage rapid movement of any kind. But the best decision I’ve made for myself, probably ever, was made a week before Thanksgiving break two years ago when I found myself in my first CrossFit gym. If I had waited until January 1st, who knows if I actually would have followed through.

And now to share some not so profound updates:

October was covered in the most magnificent changing leaves in southern Indiana. It began with about a week and a half of straight gloom and doom and rain, but pulled itself up by its boot straps and finished out month with some incredibly beautiful moments. (See picture below, one of the dozens of times I was your typical, leaf-loving Instagrammer. It was worth it.)

I hit my 50-mile goal by October 25 (!!!) for Barbells for Boobs, despite some ankle injuries, and surpassed my goal of $400 by 11 dollars. I can’t thank everyone who donated or supported or put up with my social media assaults of Nike Plus status updates enough.  AND I have signed up to take on my next challenge: my second 10k race on Thanskgiving morning! I completed my first 10k this summer with the goal of finishing under 60 minutes and came in at 60:11… imagine my dismay when sacrificing a stop at the port-a-potties at mile three didn’t conclude in a sub-60 minute victory. This time there’s turkey at the end of the race, so by gobbly(!) I’ll be running fast. I will continue to dream about running sub-8 minute miles, but we all have to make sacrifices for chocolate. So, a 9:30/mile average is the goal, along with what I’m sure will be a sweaty, post-race victory picture holding a turkey leg. You better believe I’ll post it.

A short post, yes, but chew on my idea while you chew on some pumpkin seeds (preferably roasted in chili powder. Do it.).

My favorite picture from this October: train tracks running along Law Lane in Bloomington.

My favorite picture from this October: train tracks running along Law Lane in Bloomington.

To find strength, serenity, and cake pops

This week, life is challenging me. It’s giving me challenges in school, in relationships, with the aches and pains in my ankles, feet and shoulder, and the relentless challenge to resist eating every bowl of ice cream, piece of pumpkin cheesecake, and chocolate covered cake pop that makes its way into my sight lines.

These challenges are nothing new; they swim in and out of my brain on a daily occurrence (especially the food…), I just feel them more this week than I have in a while. It’s easy to complain and whine, and I do sometimes. So do you! But it’s when I acknowledge and accept these challenges that a new challenge emerges:

How to find the good within them.

Finding the good in things you don’t like is hard. It’s really hard. But, let’s equate it to a workout since that seems to be a pretty solid analogy for most of life’s situations. 90% of the time, a CrossFit workout is hell. It’s anywhere from three to thirty minutes of solidly AWFUL, sucky stuff. And the next day, you’re sore. Probably in a new place you didn’t know had muscles to be sore. But after a few weeks of hard work, you can do that same workout with 10 pounds more, or finish it 30 seconds faster.  And that is badass and good.

I began my search for the good today at hot yoga. Yes, it rocks. At the beginning of each class, we set an intention for our practice. It’s an intention to carry us through the class, and to leave with at the end and carry us through the rest of the day. When I started going at the beginning of this school year, I didn’t really ever set an intention. My intention is to sweat a lot? Doesn’t seem very yogic or yogi-minded or yoga-y or whatever you want to call it. But today, I set an intention,

To find strength and serenity; to be confident in my independence and my choices.

Pretty effing profound for my first intention! This intention is big, and it’s obviously not going to manifest itself during a 75-minute hot fusion class. But the intention behind the intention is what matters. In challenging times, where can I go to find my strength and serenity? Where can I dig to find the confidence to be independent and, in the scariest sense of the word, alone? The word alone doesn’t have to be scary; it can be liberating- it’s just up to me to find that positivity and goodness in it.

So this week, I challenge myself and I challenge you to find the strength and serenity, in whatever capacity or circumstance. Take what you need, leave the rest. And if life brings you cake pops, it’s okay to eat one. Or three. And Instagram it in all of it’s glory. Because not every challenge needs to be conquered right away.

Sending self love,

Maggie

Sleeping With the Enemy

I have fallen unapologetically in love with running.

The arch enemy of the CrossFit community; the kryptonite of the strongest and fastest.

This love is new, and it’s a little scary, like all new love is. I’m still learning about how it makes me feel, the things I like and don’t like, and how to compromise with myself and all these Indiana hills.

Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating on my boyfriend (CrossFit) when I’d prefer to take a few mile run than WOD. It’s been so faithful to me for so long! Never fear boyfriend, I’m not going anywhere. I’m just trying to spice up our relationship a little bit; in fact, “sleeping with the enemy” is only going to help our relationship.

I love the way it feels to conquer a hill that loomed in front of me just a minute ago, but now bows down to me and my purple Brooks running shoes as I run over and beyond it. I love knowing that I can keep exploring new parts of Bloomington by just using my feet. What’s more organic than using your own body to discover new, wonderful places to play?

Running is an integral part of CrossFit. Running is endurance: lung capacity, muscle strength, mental strength. Running requires the same things that make a great CrossFit athlete. In fact, running makes up parts of quite a few CrossFit workouts!

So, let’s get running.

In embracing my new love for running, my constant and unwavering love for CrossFit, and October as Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am issuing myself a challenge. On October 25th I am participating in Barbells for Boobs at my very own CrossFit Stonebreaker. (Hooray for their first annual event!) I spent my undergrad fundraising for breast cancer research and awareness on behalf of my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, and found a passion for the cause in addition to my family ties to the disease.

But breast cancer doesn’t stop, so why should I?

So, on behalf of Barbells for Boobs and my grandma, Joan Cole, I am pledging to run 50 miles between now and October 25th. This pledge isn’t only to encourage my fundraising efforts and spread awareness about this worthy cause, but to prove to myself that I am an athlete in every and any capacity that I choose to believe.

With miles to go before I sleep (and lots of reading to do!),

Maggie

Paleo Girl on A Grad Student Budget

This week marks the very first time I have lived in my very own apartment. Granted, I share it with two roommates, but I have my own room, a full-sized bed, and a kitchen to fulfill every Paleo girl’s needs. This week also marks the very first time I have had to buy groceries for myself. I’ve gone grocery shopping in the past; in fact, I love grocery shopping. So stems my problem. My CrossFit gym happens to be exactly one mile north of my apartment, across from a Kroger. One mile south of my apartment lies another Kroger. Three miles east, yet another. And last but certainly not least, the mecca of specialty foods stores- Bloomingfoods- not but a mile northeast. What’s a girl to do… say no?!

Well, this grad student is gonna have to learn to say no. If they didn’t cause gut wrenching stomach aches, I would be perfectly happy living on frozen pizzas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and frozen tv dinners. Unfortunately for my wallet, those just aren’t options for this gal. Eating Paleo is by no means inexpensive, but there has to be a cheaper way to do it for someone who’s putting themselves through grad school. 

I don’t have the answer yet, but I’ve made a few discoveries this week that will help prevent the mini strokes I’ve been having every time I check my credit card statement. 


Buy produce that’s in season. How do you know what’s in season? Uh, look it up. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live a mile and a half from the Bloomington Farmer’s Market, you walk there on Saturday morning and find out! Yesterday I got two, gigantic, organic cucumbers, two pints of absolutely gorgeous organic grape and sun sugar tomatoes, and two organic bell peppers for $7. TOTAL. Not to mention I hit my 13,000 steps on my FitBit halfway through the day thanks to the gorgeous morning stroll. Other yummies like green beans, zucchini, egg plant, onions and some very fancy looking mushrooms covered the tables as well. Take advantage! They’re growing in abundance and the farmer’s market is a competitive place that will keep the prices low. 

Buy frozen vegetables. I’ve just recently fallen in love with the bags of microwaveable vegetables. You can keep in the freezer, throw them in the microwave for 6 minutes, and have two dinners worth of veggies ready to mix with ground turkey and tomato sauce- my favorite weeknight meal. 

Pay attention to the dirty dozen and clean fifteen. If you can afford to eat totally organic, you rock. If you can’t (like me), there’s no need to fret! This lovely list, http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/, shows us the twelve conventionally raised foods that tested highest for pesticides and the fifteen that tested lowest. And look at that- avocados and sweet potatoes, two foods I eat constantly, are on the clean fifteen list and I never have to buy them organically again!


And so begins my list of budget helping tips for myself and for you.

Agree or disagree, make to try the Paleo Blondies from A Calculated Whisk because they’re incredible.

Time to eat! 

 

 

 

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“Former Child Athlete”

I didn’t think I’d ever be considered an “athlete” again after I stopped playing soccer in high school. An athlete, to me, was someone who played competitively. An athlete was someone who had been playing for years. Who spent Sunday mornings at games and Sunday afternoons with her feet soaking in a foot-sized pedicure tub because her shoes rubbed her toes in all the wrong ways. An athlete was good enough to play in college, and to be looked at by others and considered an athlete by their standards. An athlete was someone who could say “we/I/you won/lost”.

As a “former child athlete”, I had dreams of playing soccer on the US Women’s Olympic team. And in my off season? Be a Broadway star, of course. Hey, anything’s possible when you’re 7! But as I got older, those dreams changed and my priorities changed, and I realized I’d never be the athlete (or time manager) I needed to be to achieve that goal.

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Think you can find me? And who is that awesome dad on the right?! (P.S. He’s mine!)

 

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Missing a few teeth but still playing T-ball like a champ.

I decided to dedicate my high school days to singing and acting, and affectionately look back on those years as some of the best memories of my life. But with that choice, I lost my identity as an athlete, and instead became a theater kid, something I still cherish and boast to this day.

Then college came and my active theater kid years were behind me. In front were the years of just trying to figure out who I was and how to get around on my own (literally how to navigate the one-way streets in Bloomington).

Nearly 3 and a half years ago I walked into my first CrossFit gym as a former-child-athlete-with-a-whole-lot-of-body-image-issues turned current-college-student-with-a-whole-new-set-of-body-image-issues. Starting out, I never even considered myself a CrossFitter: I couldn’t power clean, I couldn’t do an unassisted pull up, and good lord I did not (do not) look like Stacie Tovar or  CLB.

For the first few years I was pretty dedicated to this new sport. I’ll even brag that I still have never gone more than a week without touching a barbell since I started. Somewhere within those first two years I started to understand that I was a CrossFitter, something I should’ve seen from the very beginning. But still, I never saw myself an athlete, just someone who did/does CrossFit.

I’m not sure when the switch flipped. Maybe it was hearing gym owners and trainers referring to their members as athletes, and then starting to train myself. Becoming a trainer was like realizing my peripheral vision. I had never really watched others workout, I hadn’t seen their struggles and successes, let alone offered guiding words and assistance to make those break throughs. But it was through these training sessions that I viewed the members in the gym as athletes, and it basically happened instantaneously. A no-brainer.

So then, by the transitive property, doesn’t this mean I’m an athlete too? Merriam-Webster tells me that an athlete is someone who is trained in or good at sports. How are you defining good? I think showing up to the gym is pretty good to begin with.

This past year I have finally realized that yes, I am an athlete. I actually identify so strongly with this word that I love being at the gym. I feel at home there. I feel at peace there… And it’s not just because of the endorphins. Training there is never work- it is so much of who I am that it is just another facet of how I survive and thrive.

I was an athlete the day that I walked into the gym in November 2013, I just didn’t realize it until recently. And think of the greatness I might have already reached if I had changed my mindset to that of someone who DID, not just someone who could.

As someone who is always searching for a practical, real-life way to apply concepts to my world, here is the transferability for you: If you say you are, you are. Believe it and defend it and live your life like it.

Sending self love,

Maggie