Why I CrossFit

“Never quit. Don’t ever quit.” – Chris Spealler

Well, there’s the fact that it’s a cult and once you’re in a cult it’s a bit hard to get out. My co-workers’ attempts at de-programming me aren’t working very well although I did promise to drink with Jaco on his birthday because not doing so would probably irreparably damage our friendship and I do value our friendship immensely. But it’s a good cult.

There’s the ripped open hands, all the times I really wanted to drink but didn’t, not being able to eat a lot of things I really used to enjoy eating, having to bring my own food almost everywhere I go, the mental anguish when my body just won’t do what I want it to do, the frustration and pain of injury, of getting your ass handed to you, of just missing your first muscle-up (I was *THAT CLOSE* and actually over the rings for the first time ever but couldn’t press my way out of it, then when I recovered enough to kip I was just too tired to straighten all the way out). My own fault, though: my visualizations were all about getting the first one at the Games so I guess that’s the way it’s going to have to be.

We do manufacture drama for ourselves, don’t we? Either that or I’m just a drama queen perhaps.

Then there’s doing things I thought I could never do: climbing a rope, doing a handstand pushup, doing a pullup, a muscle-up. Climbing onto a ledge at work nearly my height without thinking twice about whether or not I could. Hitting new PRs all the time. Developing the ability to listen to my body. Eating in such a way that I feel fantastic energy levels all the time. Really understanding what pushing myself to the limit means. Not being afraid to try anything. Seeing others around me do the most amazing things as well, which is inspiring in its own way.

Oh, yeah, and being different. I like to be unique, probably because I like to be the center of attention and CrossFit is certainly unusual. Plus being able to do handstand pushups makes for a cool party trick (not that I would EVER do anything like THAT). Hey, being crazy is part of my unique appeal. That and being an American here is exotic, no matter how relentlessly I am teased!

And perhaps most important of all: being able to eat. A lot. And still get down to 13% body fat (or thereabouts).

I found myself in search of a video recently that I thought would show what CrossFit means to me. This is the one. Here are a couple of excerpts:
• CrossFit will push you to the limit of what you’re capable of, and maybe even push you further.
• [It’s about] what can I do at that moment for that duration.
• I think a lot of people are walking around every day kind of feeling ok about their life in general. But there’s a difference between that and feeling psyched about your life. Psyched about where you’re going with your life.
• You can’t wait for tomorrow. You can’t wait to crush something that you suck at right now.
• The constant drive to want to get stronger and be competitive with all those people that are getting stronger around you.
• You can’t be just good enough because it may not be good enough. You just won’t know until game day, and that’s too late.

My friend Justin also happened to write a blog post about this topic; here’s a couple excerpts:
• “Training requires determination, commitment and structure. And if I can achieve this in one aspect of my life, so can I in all the others.”
• “I make sure the challenges I set myself are far beyond the capabilities of the average individual, and above that of fellow athletes. It reinforces my self-belief/confidence in being able to achieve difficult goals and challenges I set myself.”

It’s true. We all know this to be true in a work setting. If you set low goals you will achieve them. If you shoot for the stars, well you may hit the moon. Shaun had a great quote today: “If your vision doesn’t scare you then it’s not big enough.” Couldn’t agree more. The parallels between work and sport are amazing and pervasive, and being good at one makes you better at the other. If you can make it through a balls-to-the wall Fight Gone Bad, or 100 burpees for time, or the mental fight where you know the person next to you is going to beat you if you do what your body and mind want to do and quit … well it makes anything you do at work, or in the rest of your life, just that little bit easier. It makes the stakes seem lower, too.

The part Heather was saying about the difference between walking around feeling OK and feeling completely psyched about your life really resonated with me. I am completely psyched about my life right now (ok there are a few things I wish were different but that’s part of the human condition I suppose, and we’ll see what happens in any event).

Not a day goes by that I don’t think how psyched I am with where I am right now: where I’m living, what I’m doing at work, at the gym, and with the people that I’ve met here. It’s usually on the drive to or from work that I look around at Cape Town, at Devil’s Peak or Table Mountain or the people around me and just smile. I have some of the most amazing people in my life; some back home in the States and some here. Some I’ve known for over a year now, some are relatively new to my life but are already very important and are likely to stay so.

It’s also quite cool to be in a position where you’re challenging yourself and excelling in different aspects of your life. Injury aside, I’m really starting to hit my stride as a CrossFit athlete, and I feel like Heart Capital is starting to hit its stride too. From being introduced socially as “a star” to connecting, resonating, and speaking the same language as the international business people we need to have in our court, to getting thank you emails from social entrepreneurs: just from doing my job. I think I really might have the best job in the world.

Shaun was talking today about how when things are comfortable, you should be worried. When the devil is making things difficult for you, it means you should pay attention and keep fighting through. It’s funny to listen to him, hearing him say things that I know to be true but through a very different lens. Well, there are certain universal truths I suppose! There is definitely truth in what he says: if this stuff were easy, it wouldn’t be any fun. I’ve been beating myself up for quite a while about falling off the bandwagon hard a few days back. Guess maybe I just needed a little kick in the ass to remind me what is really important.

Super fun last few days at work! I had such a great time Tuesday morning explaining the basics of how and why to do primary market research with the guys from Love to Africa. It was amazing: they were like sponges, and then applying it to their business and watching them excel is going to be the next level of fun. I must also thank Babson for teaching me the concept of value pricing because this has now featured a few times in the last two days, and I get to sound all smart explaining it.

Tuesday we had a cool Hub event, which started off by an all-hands-on-deck sprucing up of the space. I got to carry heavy and sharp objects around, so I was happy. The people who paid for the event left ecstatic, and we (I think) did a good job of selling our VIP guests. So great to be around smart, likeminded people having a giggle about entrepreneurs thinking someone is going to steal their idea, and all talking from the same playbook in terms of what the big challenges are. Things move fast here; it’s going to be quite interesting to see what this space looks like a year or even six months from now.

The more I talk the more I realise the truth that it’s all about the network and connections. That old truism it’s not what you know, it’s who you know is half true: knowing people can open doors, but then you have to not make an ass of yourself once you’re inside. Well, unless you’re REALLY well connected I guess, but the hoi polloi must perform.

Wednesday brought the FoodTents jumpstart workshop, which was quite different to the Greenpop one but very productive. I am psyched about some of the changes coming out of that meeting, although there remains a lot of work to be done of course, but some simplifications are a good thing! It’s also amazing to have the second social entrepreneur in a little over a week sit in the same chair and say that love will conquer the world.

After the workshop, Peter got a great email and I got a sign (and a warning that I need to stop manifesting injury). Speaking of which I scared the heck out of my coach the other night: I was icing my ankle and then because I didn’t want to track water everywhere I hopped to the kitchen to get a towel. I will never forget the look on his face or the tone in his voice when he asked “Ellie …. Are you ok???” Time to start manifesting that muscle-up.

And, lest you forget: Never quit. Don’t ever quit.

• “WOW. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before!” – Nonhlanhla
• “Are you saying you don’t want me to go to the world championships so that I can drink with you instead?” “Yes.” – Ellie, Jaco
• “You have just earned a special place in my heart for you.” – Jacques (I was explaining how you could apply the concept of a rep ladder i.e. 1-2-3-2-1 heavy squats to drinking; specifically to doing shots)
• “That’s why you had to come to South Africa.” – Peter
• “It was amazing to watch you.” – Peter
• “No matter what I do, mornings are just …. Mornings!” – Nathan
• “If your vision doesn’t scare you then it’s not big enough.” – Shaun
• “Some people just don’t care. And when you care, it means a lot.” – Peter
• “Things are never delayed by chance.” – Shaun
• “Thank God for CrossFit or I’d never get any sleep!” – Ellie


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