I haven’t made a post about my athletic goal in awhile, so here it is today!
I am so deeply humbled and grateful for the work I have been putting in with Silvio Schillen at CrossFit Fortress. It amazes me profoundly what only two hours of training can do a week with the right trainer.
Silvio and I meet every Monday and Wednesday morning at 5:30 am. Looking back to the day I approached him about training me for figure, I remember my knee and legs hurting a lot. I was frustrated with how my body was rebelling against all the good I was trying to do for it (wodding and power yoga), and I desperately wanted a change of pace.
Well, I got that change of pace, and not only has it given me a new goal to work towards, the specific & sculpting training has helped me get back into my wods again, performing better than I have in years. My performances at CrossFit Soul have definitely improved, and my yoga practice on my mat, whether it’s at Green Monkey or a Red Cheetah off-site location class, have felt much more open and expressive.
Here is what Silvio is doing for me that I desperately needed to add in to my training: I needed someone who understood the depth and breadth of the injuries I have had over the years, was sympathetic to those injuries in terms of how to program for me (even if that meant adjusting in the moment because of knee/quad flare-ups), and was understanding of my heart condition in that I cannot lift as heavy as I should be able to. Many, many coaches I have met in my years of doing CrossFit, I detect their internal struggle as they see me lifting weight clearly too light for me, and the disbelief I see behind their eyes when I tell them of my heart condition. I can’t max out. End of story. This no longer frustrates me; I have learned t beautifully lift around my limitations. As a coach, I get how that can be annoying, but as an athlete I also understand the importance of training smart and listening to my body.
When Silvio and I first started training together, I gave him my laundry list of constraints. To me, these were all things that could be worked around, and I knew it was something he was smart enough to figure out, especially when we work together to figure things out. My body was telling me that yoga and my boyfriend’s trigger point therapy was only going to get me so far, that I needed to pay attention and add in this new training to complete my healing process.
Our first days of training, I couldn’t do a barbell squat without my right knee giving out. I couldn’t lunge without excruciating pain in my left quad, and he had to give me his arm in order to perform the lunges without bailing off to the side. After about four weeks of training, my right knee tightened up because I wasn’t doing enough yoga and I was neglecting getting trigger point from my boyfriend. That was the week of Thanksgiving. I decided to make time for yoga and trigger point in my schedule. And I allowed Silvio to keep scaling me during our workouts: from “heavy” barbell squats (95 pounds, which, to my sprinter self ten years ago, was nothing. I used to warm up with 135), empty barbell squats, then air squats, then, like on Monday, dumbbell thrusters. Gradually, I was starting to see results, and once I begin to see results, I don’t fucking stop.
Between Al, yoga, acupuncture, and sound bowl meditations, giving up my ego and letting myself take assistance in the form of spots from Silvio when I needed it, and forcing myself to scale workouts at Soul, it took a lot of commitment and consistency, but my knee completely healed.
I mean COMPLETELY.
I haven’t had to replace the alignment of my knee in over a week. Every time my knee does something well and good and I notice it, I make sure to say a mental “Thank you” to the joint, and carry on my normal day, making an effort to feel good this change. I truly believe that thanking my body for the good job it does is really, really important. Expressing gratitude to yourself is an important function of acknowledging yourself and the accomplishments of your body, because acknowledgement for good things is powerful, whether to yourself or others.
I notice this with my shih tzu, Apollo, all the time. Apollo is very laid back and has a tendency to be a loner: he prefers to sleep with his head under the blankets on the couch all day rather than be up and playing and socializing like my other doggie, Princess. It took me awhile to realize that the only times I was ever speaking to him, I was yelling at him for something. I was only focusing on the things he was doing “bad”, and started to expect him to do only bad things. Over time I realized that this wasn’t good for him or me. I had to actually see him for the great little dog he actually is, and I had to tell him that, even for the most simple of things. The moments when he is acting up are moments when he is requesting attention, whether it is getting in my way on purpose while I am walking around, standing in the middle of the room staring into space (that one took me awhile to figure out he wanted his water bowl refilled), or doing circles like he is about to go potty in the house. It took me and Al a while to realize his language is way more subtle than most other dogs, and I have learned that the language of my dog Apollo is very similar to the subtle languages of our physical bodies. We really need to tune in and get quiet inside to hear what it is that our bodies need. It may seem dumb to give doggies a treat just for going peepee outside, and it to us it may seem like it gets old to keep telling our pets “Good boy! Good girl!”, but in reality, they are just a reminder that we need those consistent reminders and encouragements, too. There is no such thing as a bad or unnecessary compliment, and the more we do it the more we shift our focus to how good our pets and our own abilities are, and, ultimately, we will get more of those good qualities by focusing our attention on them instead of the bad things.
Every time my knee would go out, Silvio would tell me he took it personally. I felt bad he felt this way, because my knee injury isn’t his fault; he is doing what he can with what he knows, what he is working with, and the tools he has. Intuition told me to continue to do the work with him, and it is paying off hugely, even though a couple sessions in the beginning were cut short because I had to rest and ice my knee.
One value he holds dear that I, also, hold dear when it comes to physical training is the necessity to go slower than need be. This was something that my track coaches employed every season, and it always made me healthier and more successful. At the beginning of track season, even if we had the capacity to knock out 20 sit ups, we only did 12. And they kept it at 12 for the first week or two. Gradually over the course of weeks, we increased the amount of reps. This is the kind of training that I like and love. Really intentional, extremely gradual. With how fantastic my knee has been feeling, Silvio always reminds me, “DON’T GET COCKY!” He says it can take nine months to one year for me to really get back into jumping again without abandon, and, hopefully, even doing sprint workouts again.
The importance of me maintaining the health of my knee and the beautifully free range of motion it has right now is something to be preserved, and I know it to the depth of my soul. I did the workout Cindy at CrossFit Soul on Monday, and, where I didn’t get the greatest score ever (14 rounds plus 16 extra reps, although I might have done 15 rounds…I kinda lost track!) it was the BEST I have air squatted I think EVER in my CrossFit career (I came into CF with knee injuries from track and field). Just wearing Rehbands for that workout alone gave me confidence to do that workout well. Not only do they help with appropriate track of my patella, but they also keep the joint warm, which is important for maintaining it’s functionality.
The time Silvio has taken during our sessions to stop me when I am limping, analyzing my limp, pausing workouts for extra mobility, dynamic stretches in my warm ups, educating me about RehBand knee sleeves, and giving me his expert advice on how to care for my knee, and, most importantly, openly listening to how my body was feeling both during our sessions and the days between our sessions, has given me not only confidence in him as a trainer, but confidence in the ability of my body to heal itself and come back to true potential in performance.
I believe in taking my time to accomplish athletic goals. Athletic goals are never something to be completed in a space of rushing. Goals grounded in our physical bodies are something to be nurtured and progressed over time. It is the nature of our bodies to gradually grow as we go on about our daily lives, and each day is an opportunity to get curious about what we can accomplish that day, whether it is through healing our body through recovery or intentional exercise, or killing our energy systems through a taxing and appropriate metabolic conditioning workout.
The biggest lesson I have learned from this entire process with Silvio and training for a figure competition is this: if you BELIEVE you are going to heal, your body IS going to heal.
Whatever it is that you believe about your life is TRUE.
For years I was stuck in the belief that my body was injured and broken, and I allowed that story to become a part of who I was. Now, I know and love that there is space beyond that, that there is possibility to not only heal, but to excel once again in the newfound loves I have post-collegiate athletics: CrossFit and figure competitions. I have felt so good and confident in my body lately that I even signed up for a one day, local CrossFit competition at Black Magic CrossFit this Sunday, where I will also be selling my coffee, Cheetah Grounds.
The depth of gratitude I have toward both Silvio for his patience in training and dedication to go backwards with me in order to go forward, and of course to the coaching staff/my coworkers at CrossFit Soul for always being so understanding and gracious with me when I have to scale a workout because of these things is, ultimately, what has helped moved my physical healing forward in massive ways. Ultimately I know it is I who decided to take this route, to step up to this challenge to reap the benefits of freedom of physical motion and liberation from physical pain, but these are things I cannot and could not do on my own. Hopefully, come 2016, these efforts will come to fruition when I do my first ever figure competition, who knows? Maybe my next echocardiogram will have REALLY great news!
I truly just can’t wait to wear a sparkly bikini and heels on stage with a giant smile on my face, because the true reward isn’t the gold trophy, it’s the choices I have made that will have led up to that awesome moment on stage that I can carry with me for the rest of my life.