In what seems like a blink of an eye, the year of kettle is rapidly coming to a close. I’m going to make my final entry for this series at the end of September so that I can reflect on transitioning back to teaching full-time after this lovely reprieve. When I was first planning this year off I wanted it all – lots of travel, lots of time spent with friends and family, lots of training, lots of competition, master breathing and meditation, become super flexible, do daily yoga as well as read, study, and sort through 17 years with of teaching resources…..all while taking care of all of the chores and cooking at home because you know, I have ALL this time. The lesson I learned here is the same one that Ray Dalio describes in his book Principles – ” If you work hard and creatively you can have just about anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.” It took probably longer than it should have for me to realize this, but, by the time I was entering into the third quarter, I had a more realistic vision of what I wanted to achieve….but really, it was still all a gamble. I had to make choices about which areas I most wanted to improve or pursue and hoped that it was the best course of action to help me reach my goals. I always take 100% responsibility for all of my actions, so I wouldn’t change a thing about how it’s all gone down. If you actually take the time to read this entire post – thank you, for reading my ramblings.
My last post left me with my training at an all time high. Sets were looking great and I knew when the moment came for testing whether in training or the platform I was going to be ready. Then osteoarthritis happened. Not the first time, and something I have been aware of and dealt with before, it just had never been more than a mere inconvenience, like a headache. Not something that took away 2 months (and counting) of training. It all started with what was the stupidest most mundane movement – rolling over in bed. The way my knee got snagged in the blankets caused a bunch of movement in my knee cap that caused enough pain to wake me from being dead asleep, and still continues today. This happened to occur 6 weeks before my trip to Scotland – where my primary goal was spending time training with my coach and teammates. Thanks to an incredible team of my chiropractor (Dr. Eric St. Onge), acupuncturist (Laura Kaufer), and massage therapist (Luke Kolezar-Green) who managed to get me from walking with a noticeable limp, to able to start lifting (not training) in a very short amount of time. Needless to say my brain wasn’t ready to make such a quick adjustment from peak training performance, to rehab for daily living. Being in chronic pain for so long also made me depressed. Four things helped me make it through the mental unrest (in addition to my amazing treatment team) were- reading (see my book list for this quarter below), my breathing practice, my bullet journal, and the kindness of kettle friends. I was surprised and touched by the people who could tell that all wasn’t right and privately reached out, offered their support and shared their experiences with me. I’m profoundly grateful for that kindness.
In hindsight, all of the mental preparation and breathing practice saved me, and my real motivation for taking it on in the first place was for this very reason – to help me cope when shit went wrong. This experience is giving me the chance to actually apply the learning and practice I put in, and has been a very powerful lesson I needed, and a big awakening. Training is easy when everything is going great, it’s whether you can stay focused, consistent and apply what you’ve practiced when everything around you (or inside you) falls apart. I do enjoy/love the problem solving process, and learning physical puzzles/challenges that address my weaknesses…but I also hate sucking and feeling inadequate at things, which I realise is inevitable, and in fact a necessary part of the learning process, especially the beginning. I noticed that when it comes to choosing weaknesses or physical limitations I want to improve in, I have a pattern of choosing ones that give me the greatest reward/reinforcement the quickest (easiest to learn or address). This year, I gambled with what I chose to address in order to grow as a person and lifter, and I feel I have made progress, but I also feel this new insight is likely what contributed to my current situation. By allowing myself to be distracted from where the real work needed to be put in, I find myself in a situation of trying to rebuild my legs. I want to reform the muscle/nerve connections I’ve lost through decades of ignoring my lower kinetic chain (and abusing it through a lifetime of competitive sports) so that I can better support my joints as I age, increase my repertoire of movements, and move more freely. I know I’ve said this before, but this experience has really scared the shit out of me.
Another lesson I have learned from this experience is paying closer attention to the balance between tension I create in my physical training, and daily living vs relaxation – the things I do in recovery to counteract the tension. In my own experience I find that if I don’t, for the most part, keep the ratio as close to equal as possible, over time it almost always leads to injury. As I age, I am noticing the window of time that my body will allow me to live out of balance shrinks substantially with each passing year. For me, tension is the easy part. I am very disciplined with my training schedule and never need motivation to go train, I love to work hard in all aspects of my life. The relaxation part I find more of a challenge and includes (but not limited to) things like my breathing/meditation practice, mobility and flexibility, daily reading, massage, acupuncture, eating properly, getting enough rest, and hydrating properly. Despite being extremely important to the longevity of my training, and physical function they still tend to be things my brain views as optional, and are the first things to be put off, or ignored if I feel I am “too busy.” I’m very lucky that my career provides me with benefits that save much of the cost of some of these activities, and yet I only tend to use them when I am injured, where I often find I use up my allotment more quickly than if I spaced them out and used them more preventatively. I’ve also realized this shift in tension/relaxation can happen inadvertently without being aware of something as simple (but important) as changing daily routines and habits. When I am a teacher I am standing for probably 95% of the day. During this time off, I have been sitting much more of the time. Only in hindsight have I realized the impact of this change to my routine, and the effect it would have on my body.
I’m really hoping this physical rebuild will lead to a breakthrough in confidence in myself as an athlete and individual, and is long overdue. I feel like this journey is something I have started and stopped several times in my life, being too impatient maybe, allowing myself to get caught up in distractions to avoid the real work that needed to get done, maybe even fear that I would actually reach my goals or perform all of the crazy shit I want to do, and, not sure why that is so scary….whatever it was/is I am tired of it….and I feel it’s a metaphor of bigger things going on in my brain. I want to show myself I can do it, I can let the ego go to do the work that matters, before it’s too late, no matter how long it takes. Osteoarthritis doesn’t get to win. Fuck that shit. I preach to my students about not shying away from the hard work, or the length of the struggle. So here I am, trying to get back to training with a more established routine, and working on my lower kinetic chain like it’s my job. This rebuild could mean no competitions for me at all in 2018, or ever, but I refuse to let my mind go there just yet. The task at hand is just kicking ass at life, trying to get a little bit better and stronger each day.
My reading list for this quarter:
- An Inspector Rebus Novel #6 – Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin
- An Inspector Rebus Novel #7 – Let It Bleed by Ian Rankin
- Jonah’s Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston
- Ra Wee Book A’ Glesca Banter by Iain Gray
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport
April and May
- The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
- Ah Couldnae Believe Ma Ears by Allan Morrison
The books by Newport, Holiday and Pressfield have been huge game changers. I’m also currently getting deep into Dalio’s book Principles and they have all had the combined effect of really showing me the direction I want to take in life (particularly where teaching, relationships and lifting are concerned). I know what I need to do, and my goal (that if I am not too shy, I will share in my final post) is to actually write my principles down and make them more concrete and visible. This whole year of kettle has really been about me exploring and deciding what those principles should be, practicing them so that they become routine, and the final phase, which will be to transition this routine into something that I will continue manage once I resume my career. There’s much work to be done, and I’m looking forward to all of it.
So, with my new vision on the year of kettle you may be wondering how my visit to Scotland went? In a word – perfect. Two weeks really was a short amount of time. I can’t believe how quickly it went by. That being said, I am pretty impressed with the variety of experiences I fit into the amount of time that I had, and I am definitely indebted to my hosts for helping me make my vision reality. My main goals were cultivating friendships that started online, in person, as well as training kettle with my peeps, and of course experiencing a different culture. I was warmly embraced and felt apart of 3 Scottish kettle families (and growing) – My original home at Barbreck Studio in Glasgow, Forth Valley Kettlebell Club in Alloa, and Focus Kettlebell Club in Banton all of whom were phenomenal hosts, and places I had wanted to train for over a year (3yrs in the case of Barbreck Studio). Being in a group training atmosphere, and to learn how different clubs operate was such a wonderful experience, especially for someone who always trains alone. It was an easy transition to make as all 3 clubs are so caring and respectful, they all felt like home immediately. Something I am really going to miss is the strong and supportive communities they have created and are continuing to build.
Being a bit of a sheltered 46 year old, this was my first trip to the UK, and really the furthest I had travelled in about 12 years. I did some homework before my trip and became addicted to a few Scottish writer’s, radio and television programs. Getting to experience it in person still blows my mind. So rich in culture and history I loved that I did not stop learning the entire time. Positively fell in love with everyone I met, and felt most welcome everywhere I went. Trevor Noah does a funny stand up bit about being in Scotland and I agree with him whole-heartedly on both the inclusiveness and friendliness of the people, as well as their ability to drink me under the table. Teehee. Where I would disagree would be that I found there to be much more diversity than I had anticipated. Both from the outside influences of other cultures, as well as within Scottish and UK culture….and don’t even get me started on how incredible the food is!!! I made a point of trying some traditional dishes, as well as some of the best kabobs, ramen and pakoras I have ever had!
I haven’t even mentioned the landscape! Those of you who know what a nature girl I am will know I immediately fell in love. The weather was fantastic for basically the entire trip, and I feel very lucky for everything I was able to see and experience. Gabbing with my new beautiful friend Emma, (who is also a teacher) I told her about this time when I was in university and I worked for a summer as a camp counselor at a camp for kids with disabilities. I once supported a boy at this camp who was blind. One day we went for a hike in the woods and he told me that at 10 years old no one had ever shown him a tree before, and asked if I would. For the next couple of hours we explored the forest feeling the bark, roots, branches, leaves, needles, pine cones, whatever we could find. I was so moved at his reaction when he started to cry. Driving through Glen Etive, I know exactly how he felt. I’d never experienced anything like it. I’m such a such a sap for simple acts of kindness, but it is something I will never forget, and yeah, it made me happy weepy as well.
So…Scotland… so much more I want to learn, see and do! Really wish I had been able to pick up an accent. Lol. I’ve picked up some new vocabulary, that I was a little shy speaking there but I plan to keep working on it! My husband has been getting a kick out of my love and addiction for Scottish television shows, and my attempts to incorporate banter into our conversations. Overall, this trip was just awesome to hang with my friends on their turf and to see the way they cultivate their lives. Positively blessed to have had a sneak keek and just a huge amount of love and respect for everyone I spent time with. I was also able to end my time in Scotland attending a workshop with my two most important mentors – my coach Abigail Johnston, and grand coach Eddie Sheehan, AND getting to lift at my first Grassroots competition, so lots of kettle was still able to happen, even hitting a couple prs in 2 of my 3, 5min sets (not bad for being broken). It always takes time for me to digest my lessons learned with Eddie and Abi, and my lifting always improves as a result. Once this body heals I know there will be no stopping my goal slaying train.
Something I hadn’t anticipated after such an amazing trip, was the post-travel funk. For the first week back I did nothing but eat Tunnock’s teacakes, Gold bars, and custard creams, while watching marathons of Still Game, writing in my bullet journal, and missing the heck out of all of the new and amazing people I met….or maybe it was jet lag, lmfao! Seriously though, I’m truly an introvert away from the classroom, and don’t let many people in. I was in such great hands spending time with some of the most genuine people I have ever met. As much as I was captivated by the differences in culture, I was enamoured by the similarities, and shows regardless of where you are from you will attract and find people with similar values. For me it was beautiful to be in a different setting but seeing people getting after the same things I cherish – meaningful work, and meaningful relationships. Getting back to my usual routine was bit of a struggle, however, as I get older and take adventures away from home, I am overcome with even more love and appreciation for where I live, and find new beauty I never noticed before. Thank you Scotland for these new awakenings.
Most recently I attended a bullet journal workshop in my neighbourhood where I was able to geek out and share with other bujo nerds, collect new ideas and spend some quality time working on my journal. This journal has turned out to be a great way for me to track my accountability on the “relaxation” side of my training, and to monitor where it may need more or less emphasis. It also gives me more accurate information I can share with my coach which will only enhance the way she is able to program for me. Hopefully in time I can see patterns more quickly which will help me reduce or even prevent arthritis flare-ups or other injuries before they happen.
This quarter I decided to get a tattoo to memorialize my year of kettle. It’s no coincidence that I planned to have it completed near my friend Jeff’s birthday. Much of this year has been spent properly grieving over losing him way too soon, and I know he would love both Vivendo Discimus (“by living we learn” – he and I are both philosophically on the same page when it comes to experiential teaching and learning), and the fact that I had an alumni Deer Park student whose family had a positive impact on both of us, to design and tattoo it. I love that this motto was coined by Sir Patrick Geddes, a Scottish biologist (my undergraduate degree) and sociologist and one of the founders of experiential teaching and learning.
The hummingbird and flower are the national symbols of Jamaica- half of the real me, the part that was often misunderstood and endured feeling inferior for a long time. Hummingbirds are like the ultimate stoics. They have no choice but to live every moment in the present, with a metabolism so high that they have to consume more than their own weight in nectar every day, or else they will die overnight. In this way, the hummingbird represents endurance and survival. Hummingbirds are always hours away from death, yet they survive and carry that inevitable brightness everywhere they go. Joy, beauty, and wonder are just a few of the qualities this bird symbolizes. It’s a reminder to me to keep putting my genuine self out there, and that my experiences enduring adversity are always rewarded through living, where I have cultivated a meaningful career I love, and continue to cultivate meaningful relationships with others.