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  • 11JAN 2014

    The roller coaster of an athlete

    Training hard is status quo for most of the Crossfit community. We love to push through our limits and tell stories of our hardcore feats, of gritted teeth, bruised shins and bloody hands; until the day the grim  reaper comes knocking at your door, when you get an injury that puts you down. Injury can be a complete show stopper for some, but with an open mind and a lot of patience, injury can be the best first hand aprentisage of how the subtleties of the human mind and body work, and how you, as an athlete can become stronger in the long run, on every level.

    This year I experienced some challenges that taught me, amongst other things, three principal points:

    1) to trust

    2) not to take anything for granted

    3) to fail

    From the end of the Crossfit Open, I competed in all the competitions I could in Quebec and Ontario. I  trained systematically 5-6 times per week, taking my rest days seriously. I followed a tailored diet with a nutritionist, and I was supplemented for optimum performance. I had a full time job which took up 50-72 hours per week, I competed at the weekends, and if I wasn’t competing I was coaching Crossfit classes. I was a living breathing F1 racing car. I was in the game and I was gaining speed.

    credit: Marie-Lyssa Dormeus

    credit: Marie-Lyssa Dormeus

    It was an amazing experience and all the hard work I had put in to preparing for these competitions started paying off. I won my first Crossfit competition in the Women’s Masters division at the Sweat RX Championships throwdown in Toronto in August. It was a fight to the end, and an experience that brought me to lesson number one, to trust. It taught me to trust that I had done everything it took to be ready for anything; to believe in myself and stay in the moment when the clock starts. It taught me to trust the advice my coaches had given me and not give up when things weren’t going well. I was surfing the wave and life was peachy.

    I kept on going, even though I started to feel pain in my right shoulder. It wasn’t that painful. Then BAM! Reality check. I PR’d one evening training session on a back squat. That back squat was the bitter sweet cherry on the Sunday, that opened up a big can of worms. That night I was on my back in excruciating pain in bed, thinking to myself « how am I going to coach tomorrow morning, and if this pain doesn’t go away, how am i going to get myself to hospital? »

    That was lesson number two. Take nothing for granted. What you have today might not be there tomorrow. It is easy to get excited about PR’s and winning competitions, pulling out all the stops, and beating our fellow competitors, as we work so hard to live those moments. Yes we do deserve them. And in those very moments of glory, the flipside of failure or injury seem so far away. Lying on my back that night almost unable to move reminded me how fleeting life can be, and how being the strongest and fastest that day in Totonto, was just that day in Toronto. Right now, the body that got me that first place, was broken.

    The « game » is much bigger than a day, or a competition. In the bigger context, injury and failure are all an important part of that game. Since then, I have been working through a long and laborious rehabilitation program, and having been thorougly x-rayed, I have seen how much damage I have been carrying around with me for many years. I finally admitted to myself that being tough and not resting enough over most of my life, has now shown its drawbacks. This was the beginning of lesson three, how to fail.

    A vital ingredient to any athletes life is rest. As any good coach will tell you. We all know this, and many of us still don’t choose to battle on with niggling pains and tiredness regardless. No matter how tough you think you are, the body needs rest to mend and recuperate. Being injured has reminded me of the humbling truth that I might be tough and resilient, but I am not invincible. It has shown me that ignoring what your body’s needs, to prioritize performance, affirmation, success and excellence, is infact a form of self neglect.

    credit: Marie-Lyssa Dormeus

    credit: Marie-Lyssa Dormeus

    It has made me return to my roots, to look inside and question who I am, and what is the real motivation behind pushing so hard to perform. What am I trying to prove and who am I doing it for?

    So for me, being injured at this point in my life, has taught me a lot. It has put things into perspective. It has taught me to be ok with watching others succeed and overtake me in their progress and performance without beating myself up, or feeling down that I can’t do that. It has taught me to play my game and whole heartedly support others in theirs.

    Learning how to fail is important for every athlete, especially those of us who are competitive and performance oriented. Being appreciative of what you have and not dwelling on the fact that you are injured, what you don’t have, or what you can’t do anymore, will keep you focused on making progress and staying the present moment. Remember even if you are injured, you are still in the game, in the big picture. And you will be back even stronger. Samantha Briggs is living proof of that.