Bright Spots Friday

My CrossFit gym has a great community that is really active on Facebook. Besides getting to know folks while in the gym, I’ve found our Facebook group to be a really great way of feeling connected even though I might not know everyone on a personal level. We’ve recently started to share Bright Spots Friday with one another and this had added an even lovelier dimension to our exchange.

I thought I would write a short post for today’s Bright Spots Friday cause I wanted to talk a little more in-depth about how my participation in this community is impacting my life. After feeling like crap for a few weeks, I finally found some energy this week! For me, this meant pushing myself again, if even in small increments.

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I’ve enjoyed working out in a number of different gyms over the years, but CrossFit is different. I’m still working on figuring out exactly why that is so, but I’ll give it a whirl right now.

  • you monitor + measure your progress in a highly detailed way which lends to great insight to your growth in the long-term
  • these “gains” as they are called are celebrated as they are actually happening during a workout and once the results are posted in Wodify (a convenient app for signing up for classes + seeing everyone’s stats)
  • for me, I take great inspiration from those around me and even if I’m not even close to the kind of weight my fellow CrossFit-Worthiers are moving, I still feel inspired by their achievements + milestones

It proves it’s possible, which to my sometimes self-limiting brain, might not show up that way.

  • the encouragement of others is palpable, much more so than I’ve experienced in other places (I think it’s related to the nature of the work we’re doing and how it’s tracked)
  • and the coaching … gosh the coaching … is sincere, is safe, is supportive, is encouraging, is phenomenal really
  • Jeremy + Susie have created something special … not only am I grateful to be a part of it, but I’m grateful that I am able to offer this experience to our McNair scholars as they strengthen themselves + grow their confidence in themselves before continuing on in their graduate journeys

I deeply believe the work our McNair students get to do here @ CrossFit Worthy will have rippling effects in their journeys for years to come.

This week I worked on my clean + jerks. I sent this text to Jeremy after a workout which said: Feeling like I want to do more of those 65# cleans so that 65# starts to feel like 35# – thanks for being most awesome. He replied: Keep kicking butt!

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For me, cleans, especially when you receive at the bottom (look at me being all … like I know all the technical terms … not! lol!makes me feel really tough. I’m serious. I can do 35# like nobody’s business. And 65# is *starting* to feel a little more manageable. Which leads to sheer amazement when viewing others (women, yes younger, but still) doing upwards of 150#!

Bottomline? This work is exciting and it feeds all other parts of my life. It helps me be focused with my work. It helps me be a better mom. It helps me be more confident in the things that I want to do + express. It makes me feel frickin’ amazing and that just feeds everything else.

I take those accomplishments at the gym and I translate them in my daily life.

It’s a foundation. A non-negotiable. Because of the way this work feeds my life, it’s got to happen and I choose to make it happen. I really think this is the key when it comes to moving +  strengthening our physical bodies. Once we experience this foundation, we begin to see how critical it is for all other parts of our lives. It clears our head and gets rid of the detritus. And allows us to really soar.

The Gift of Yoga

What’s the gutsiest move I’ve ever made and how does it inspire my life and work today? That would have to be deciding to extend the gift of yoga to my students what is now over five years ago. This decision is significant because it signifies my stepping into what I’m truly passionate about. I’m passionate about helping people take care of themselves and I deeply believe that yoga is probably one of the best tools out there to do just that.

I work with low income, first generation, underrepresented students and help prepare them for graduate school, so when I had this idea, I immediately thought people would think … what does yoga have to do with getting into graduate school? I judge myself enough as it is, but I forecasted people judging this decision even more. I envisioned people thinking I’m taking away from the focus of the program. I envisioned people thinking that I’m wasting resources. I envisioned people thinking this kind of activity to be entirely too woo woo. And for that matter, I risked people thinking that I was a little off my rocker! Crazy girl!

I did it anyways and never looked back.

I had scholars talk about never feeling *as alive* as they did after that first session (think: senses on fire!) and I had scholars think they were being coerced into giving up their religion. I’ve had scholars puke (just once). I’ve had scholars get profound relief from back pain and mental anguish (all the same). I’ve had scholars joke around during classes and I’ve had scholars take the opportunity uber-seriously.

Perhaps I should note that we never *force* our scholars to do yoga. That would certainly be un-yoga-like now wouldn’t it? We *might* strongly encourage, role model, even incentivize them during the summer, but never force. Thank goodness, huh?

This is the thing. Yoga opened the door to having a conversation about how to take care of ourselves so that we can do awesome things in our lives on a daily basis. We’ve all got some goals and plans for our lives. We want to feel good while we are striving to achieve them (I’m assuming here). That pretty much means we need to figure out a way to keep ourselves in tip-top-shape (body, mind, spirit anyone?) so that we are in full-operational mode as much as we can.

So there’s the trick.

It’s not so easy to do that on a regular basis, is it? We might start off in a nice groove, say at the beginning of a new semester (great time to set our intentions), packing a healthy lunch when we’re on the go, getting that workout in before class, making sure to get to sleep at a decent hour. Then the semester *really starts to happen* and those plans sail right out the window.

It sucks! And I understand why.

It’s the daily pressures of all of our responsibilities that we’ve chosen to take on (key word being *chosen* as in *we choose* what is on our plates). It’s the pressure of making enough money to live while we go after our dreams (really thinking about my students here). It’s the pressures of wanting and having to do well in order to achieve our goals. It’s the pressures of all those other “little nuggets of life” that can surface in the most in opportune times and make our heads spin.

So getting back to yoga. I think yoga is one of the best tools for self-care because it gives us an opportunity to slow down, completely pause even, in our busy lives. It allows us to go inward and focus on our bodies and on ourselves in a way that we don’t really do that often. The physical postures in yoga make us feel good. We stretch and we strengthen.

But I would argue that yoga is so much more than that.

It’s the work that we do with our breath and our minds. It’s focusing on our breath and just listening, instead of having our minds constantly be in “doing-mode” and stressing about all of the things we still need to get done. It’s taking some time for ourselves (doesn’t have to be a ton of time either) and slowing down enough to get a read on how we’re really doing. Of course, there’s much much more to it, but I think this encapsulates why yoga can be so good for our students and good for everyone.

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McNair scholars unwinding with some summer yoga.

I think back to that first yoga session quite often and I smile. I think about how far we’ve come since then. We’ve definitely “upped” things by incorporating other wellness-oriented workshops + activities through the years, but in my mind, it still comes down to yoga. I love to give the gift of yoga, and by that, I mean inviting others to explore how yoga might create small, even huge, shifts in their lives for the better. It’s about having an open mind, creating the time + space to doing something special for yourself, it’s about experimenting with all different kinds of tools to see what really works for you.

 

 

What my students teach me

I get to spend a bunch of time with my students, especially during the summer. And I love it. We get a first-hand view of them learning how to do research, busting a move for the GRE and searching for the *most amazing* graduate opportunity out there among the gazillion options available (read: can be kinda challenging). We get to eat with them – quite often actually – and workout with them – sounds weird, but really cool – and just hang out on occasion – think sitting campfire-side + maybe crashing weddings, but I digress.

The point is: we are teaching our scholars a lot about the process of becoming successful graduate students, but we get to learn a lot along the way too. Win win you say! That’s what I say. In a sense, we’re all experimenting with this idea of what it means to live your best life. We all want to do work that matters. We all want to reach our potential, challenge ourselves. We want to feel good while we’re at it, which means taking care of ourselves too. It’s an ongoing dialogue, it’s trial and error, it’s sharing breakthroughs and challenging each other to step up to the plate. Which could mean applying for that reach school or doing that strict pull-up by December first.

Either or … or both! lol

One thing in particular that happened this summer is: singing in the car. That’s right, singing in the car. Like a boss, I might add. (okay, maybe I stole that line from my students) McNair road trips have translated into having the McNair playlist ready to go, and I have to say, it’s been pretty interesting for me. You see, I’ve always been shy about singing. I remember being at church and feeling the pressure to sing, and just not wanting to. I guess I was just really self-conscious about the whole idea. Not that we sang a ton in the family vehicle (two-tone blue station wagon), but in those scenarios I wouldn’t sing either. I’m not sure if it’s more awkward to sit mute when others are singing or to make myself sing, but probably not “do it full-out” since I’m shy about singing in the first place. I would say it’s a bit of a catch-22.

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along for the ride!

I admire people who can sing. We’ve had several scholars come through who consider themselves “singers” and it fascinates me. I think it takes a lot of courage to sing. So when I found myself in a vehicle on the way down to Kentucky with a group of scholars who like to sing along to the radio, I found it pretty entertaining! Let’s just say that not only did I find myself loosening up and smiling a lot, I learned the words to some new songs as well (that’s as much as I can say about that). So it happened that this same “sing along group” would congregate in my vehicle throughout the summer. I’m now the proud owner of an aux cord and I have a monthly subscription to Spotify. So I can access our McNair playlist, of course!

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enjoying some tunes!

The reason I bring this whole thing up is that I think it’s good thing to loosen up sometimes. Let yourself go and just ease on into the moment. Let yourself be yourself. That’s what my scholars were doing as they all sang the Journey classic, Don’t Stop Believin’ at the top of their lungs. I’m still not singing full-out, but I’m loosening up if just a bit. And I’m definitely looking forward to that next car ride. Turns out my students have a ton to teach me + I love it.