This is officially my 100th post on Everyday Athlete, so I feel compelled to make sure it is a good one! What follows is really just a transcript of a conversation that has been happening inside my own mind for about a week.
It’s apparent to me that I am not working toward my full potential as an athlete and as a person. I can be a rather intense, especially when it comes to working toward a goal that I’m fired up about. That goal becomes all-consuming, and I then put tremendous pressure on myself to meet or exceed it. Each perceived failure is like a blow to the face, even though I know failure paves the road to anywhere meaningful. That internal pressure contributed to my breakdown a couple of weeks ago. I was so devastated and frustrated by my inability to perform the way I knew I could and felt I should be able to in something that was very important to me. I was crushed.
So, I backed off on those goals a bit. Switched off the competitive mindset and instead put myself in the “don’t take this too seriously, just do it for fun” mentality. Pressure relieved, angst evaporated. But soon I became restless and discontent. There aren’t a lot of things in life that I do “just for fun.” That approach can work for me on the one-off things, like a 5K race (although I don’t consider running fun), but for something that I plan to do long-term, like CrossFit, the “just for fun” approach doesn’t work for me. If I am committed and passionate about something, I take it seriously.
I am capable of so much more than I think. Thankfully, I am surrounded by people who recognize that and believe in me. They see my potential and decide that they want to help nurture it – by supporting me, by pushing me, by providing me with opportunities to grow. I am constantly surprised that people see something special in me and are willing to help me discover that for myself. In day-to-day life, I see myself as mostly ordinary and anonymous. But deep within me, even though I often fail to see it, I know there is a greatness that is lying dormant. I’ve accomplished so much while lacking self-belief and confidence because I’ve had others who have that confidence and belief in me. How much more could I accomplish if I could unlock that same level of confidence and belief in myself?
I feel blessed, and that is not a word I use often. Being blessed with so much support and potential makes me feel terrible for not exploiting both to the fullest extent. I don’t want to squander what I have been blessed with. There are people out there chasing their dreams with toxic people doing everything possible to stand in their way. There are people out there pursuing a goal who have physical limitations or disadvantages. I have none of those things to contend with (outside of a minor shoulder issue). Those people inspire me in their persistence and determination to continue pressing on in the face of what might seem like insurmountable obstacles. Those are the people who make me realize just how fortunate I am and that I shouldn’t take that for granted.
My nutrition coach wrote a blog post the other day that really resonated with me. She said that “the quest for health, for well-being, for athletic elitism, removes us from mainstream society…maybe not all at once, but slowly.” We move away from what is considered “normal” and more toward what would be considered the “fringe.” I would consider both bodybuilding and CrossFit to be “fringe.” Both of them have a unique subculture and community, and the lifestyle of the majority of people who belong to each one would be considered extreme when compared to the norm (which unfortunately these days is sedentary, overweight, and unhealthy).
“Normal” is what has prevented me from fully committing to my athletic endeavors. I get self-conscious about being weird, mostly because of my issues with confidence. I start to judge myself based on the way I think mainstream society would view me. I start to think that I’m a loser for spending a Friday night at home reading instead of being out with a bunch of friends. I start to think I’m a freak for bringing healthy food with me on a business trip and passing on the booze when out with colleagues when I don’t have an upcoming competition to use to justify my weirdness. I worry that I may somehow be missing out if I don’t cater to what is considered normal, so I find myself torn between pursuing my potential and being normal. And let’s be honest – sometimes I do just want to eat that decadent-looking flourless chocolate cake or chow down on some greasy pizza. So then I end up half-assing everything because I am trying to be normal and trying to be great, which I have decided are two mutually exclusive qualities.
Why would anyone want to be normal? I find myself asking that. I think it’s because being on the fringe can be very lonely. Extremism in anything tends to be at least somewhat isolating. Being an introvert, I am fairly well-equipped to deal with this, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t often feel sad or lonely even if I do think an awesome way to spend a weekend is reading on the couch. I think that I need to take greater advantage of the community aspect of the “fringe” groups I am connected to and also recognize that my true friends will be accommodating of my weirdness, even if they are outsiders. In fact, maybe it’s even one of the things they like about me. Being normal also means no pressure. It means no guilt if I eat a 3,000 calorie dinner or skip a workout. No expectations = no failure. The downside is, it also means no success.
So, after much thought, here it is:
Kayla’s Bad Ass Manifesto
1. Be unapologetically me, even if it makes me weird. Embrace weirdness.
2. Build confidence from within. Leaning on others should be occasional, not constant.
3. Maximize my potential as an athlete
a. Train with intensity – give maximum effort. Show up, work hard, finish.
b. Be meticulous with nutrition – it impacts performance, recovery, training quality, overall health, and my mindset
c. Work toward favorable body composition – find the sweet spot. This is where:
i. I feel comfortable with my body
ii. My strength and endurance aren’t compromised
iii. My ability to perform body weight movements is optimized
d. Prioritize recovery – ensure I am getting plenty of sleep, taking rest days when I need them, making time for mobility/stretching/adequate warm-ups, and following the physician’s instructions to the letter so my shoulder can fully recover.
e. Attack weaknesses – if I suck at something, then I need to do it often and with a good attitude.
4. Pay it forward and pay it back. Support and encourage others in their own journeys.
5. Never allow fear to be the decision-maker.
Today, I am going to be a bad ass!
What will you do?