First Published, 26th February, 2015
I feel like I have just come to the end of a circle. It’s February, 2015 and I am back in the same place, where my journey originally started. The irony is that through total naivety, I had it right from the beginning. I spent five consecutive years chasing after what I thought I should be doing and I’ve been doing it for other people, not myself. But every good, bad and worse step has been crucial to lead me to this point in my life. Here is what has happened.
I’m at University and I’ve hit a wall. A combination of bad lifestyle choices and serious neglect of my health has resulted in a mental and physical burnout. I’ve reached a crossroads and I can either go left continuing the same path, I can go right and completely give up or I can take a step forwards and start making some changes. It’s never as simple as clicking your fingers and knowing what the right decision is. So what’s going to help me?
I’m going to create an outlet. I’m going to run.
I remember the first time I ever went running. I ran until I couldn’t breathe, ran out the anger and the pain of my situation, and pounded my frustration into the concrete. In the space of 20 minutes I had created an outlet for myself that would lead me to exactly where I am today. I decided I wanted to be strong and I wanted to be healthy. At the time I didn’t understand what fitness really was. I wanted to value myself again and I found that this was a way I could build back some confidence and trust in my own body.
I can feel everything coming back into balance. All the chemicals in my body that are out of sync have started to readjust and my body is starting to repair itself. I can sleep well, I am able to relax and when I wake up I feel happy.
Exercise became something I felt so passionate about that I wanted to share it with other people and so I became a personal trainer. I figured if I could help improve someone’s life even just a little bit, by encouraging them and teaching them that they are worthwhile through achieving physical goals, then I was heading in the right direction.
I’m starting to learn more about the human body, what it’s capable of and what I can do with my own. I see a lot more potential than just running. I’m learning how to jump, how to swing a kettlebell, how to sprint, how to squat, deadlift, press, and how to train with my own body weight. I want all that strength and power and I want to show other people that they can find theirs.
Hello Crossfit, can I join your fanclub please? Oh hello Fran, nice to meet you…
It’s the beginning of the year and I am getting close to burnout. It’s becoming harder to apply this self care and wellness when focussing so much on other people. I’m losing my enjoyment for training because I am running myself into the ground, stuck in the mind set of it only counts if it leaves me breathless and in pain. I’ve lost my passion for teaching and pretty much had enough.
This time around I didn’t stop before things got out of hand and so I ended up in hospital, too sick to work and for the first month after coming home I could barely move my body. Maybe I had adrenal fatigue, maybe it was something else but either way I had to start again trying to rebuild my body and make it strong again. So I did.
And a good way to do this is to squat 6 days a week for 3 months, yuuuuuup.
It’s September and I’ve just reached my first 10 second freestanding handstand. I came off the wall, my shoulders were closed, my back was arched and my feet were twitching. This is one of the best moments and one of the biggest achievements for me in my training. It doesn’t matter if it looks kind of crappy or what you think about it because for me, it’s huge. I have done this only for myself and trained it on my own. I’ve worked so hard, and my broken body is piecing itself back together.
I wasn’t putting a lot of pressure on myself at this point. I was messing around, trying a lot of different ways of training but mainly doing what I wanted to and what I enjoyed. I was doing little bits of parkour with friends, a lot of ring training, handstands, climbing, and gymnastics. I followed different people like Coach Sommers and Ido Portal. When I got bored of something I moved on to the next thing. When I found something I loved I would binge-train it for weeks.
I’ve just found out about GMB… I’ve joined Alpha so that I can learn more about different ways of moving, different skills, and have support from a community of like minded people and awesome coaches. I’m working on their Movement Multivitamin course and everything I know about training is expanding. I’m jumping, rolling, tumbling and balancing. Because of an injury I’ve been working mostly on handstands as my main skill.
I’ve hit 60 seconds freestanding. I win.
This is where Ryan comes into things. He started to coach me privately and I went back to structured, goal oriented training. This was really important for me to do, especially since I was working towards certain skills. Within this structure there was still freedom to play and I learnt more about auto regulation. But this was also where I realised how I could learn skills by messing around. For example, I taught myself how tuck handstand just by feeling where I needed to shift the weight of my body. Having the guidance and support of someone like Ryan meant I was able to achieve things with my body I didn’t know I could. Looking back I think I then made the mistake of taking this one step too far, and unfortunately I stopped listening to my coach.
I want to train nothing but handstands. I only care about being upside down.
I’m working with different coaches to learn more about hand balancing. I am learning the “right” way to do this. I will make them perfect. It doesn’t matter how many hours I spend as long as I can get them right. I want to keep chasing this… well, keep chasing after my handstand.
I lost sight of why I was doing things and it became more about projecting a certain image than enjoyment. I wanted the outcome and the process was just a means to an end. My muscles were breaking down, and because I felt weaker I trained more to try and make myself stronger. But my aggressive and illogical attitude towards my training exacerbated the situation and stressed my body out to the point that it could barely move. It turned into a monster and the outcome was the complete opposite to what I actually wanted. In the summer I decided to go down the rubber band route. But that was also because I just didn’t have the energy to volume train skills anymore. At least I could take beautiful photographs, right? By the time I came back from California in September I could barely hold a handstand, let alone train them for three hours.
I had three injuries last year. I ripped my cartilage in my left knee, injured my ribs and damaged my right rotator cuff resulting in shoulder subluxation and wrist problems. I messed around too much with my diet, again thinking there has to be one perfect way to eat. The inconsistency, restriction and lack of nutrients created a chemical imbalance. A year of disruptive sleep patterns, over training, and mental exhaustion were not worth it for that “perfect” photograph of a… whatever mattered to me at the time.
I’ve just moved to Japan I’m back with Ryan, working on repairing the damage. I have to start repairing my shoulder and my wrist. No bridging, no handstands, no intense upper body training. My knees and ankles are unstable and I can hardly balance. I can’t pistol anymore, my leg strength is gone. I’m jumping rope and I can’t breathe. I can’t coordinate how I move the way I used to be able to. But I am starting the process of doing this, starting all over again to try and be strong and more importantly healthy. The difference this time round is that I have the most amazing person walking beside me, helping me heal.
It’s been nearly two months since I arrived here. I can’t remember the last time I felt like my body was actually getting stronger. I can’t remember when I didn’t have to force myself to move, or only feel like I had accomplished something by working to the point of exhaustion. It’s only been in the last two months, experiencing so many changes in my lifestyle, my work environment, my food, my perspective and all the beautiful people I’m surrounded with that I can see how completely and utterly lost I was. Because training is no longer all that I care about and all that I do, so when I do do it I want it to mean something to me. I want it to matter for the right reasons and I want it to count.
I want to run again.
If it fills you with strength then why not run? There is something to be said for the freedom you can find in literally moving your body fast. So I want to think beyond that. What happens if you can run and jump? Run and climb, run and somersault, run and fall and then run again. I have explored a lot of different ways of exercising my body. I have been incredibly obsessive about training and incredibly closed minded. I realise now it’s not about what you do but about why you do it. I stopped running because I thought there were “better” ways of training. Nothing is better, it’s just different.
Mentally and physically I am looking for something I can do that won’t result in burnout. I want something that lifts me up instead of breaking me down. I want to do something that I love so much, it doesn’t matter what I am able to do as long as it makes me happy. No more judgement, just enjoyment.
That simple freedom I found in running when I was 20 years old is returning. I am training what I want, how I want and I am doing it out of pure love for the way it makes me feel. I finally decided to stop fighting with myself and start fighting for myself. Every day I want to wake up and know that I will do something to help make me a little bit stronger and a little bit happier, so that when I trip over a railing or fall off a wall it doesn’t take me as long to stand back up. I will stand up and move towards whatever is coming next, and if I can backflip over it then that would be pretty cool.
If not I know I can run.