Breathing Through Challenges: A Journey of Commitment to Self-Care and Mental Resilience in CrossFit

A picture is worth a 1000 words but in some cases a picture is filled with 1000 emotions. This picture is both.

Those gloves you see remain in my truck right on my center console where I can see them. A reminder every time I get in my truck that I made a commitment to myself this year. A commitment to just show up. A commitment to prioritize my own health before anyone else’s, even my kids. Now I know that may sound selfish but here’s the thing. I can’t take care of anyone else until I take care of myself. If I am always running on fumes there is nothing substantial left to give to those I love the most.

So I made a commitment to make it to Crossfit 3x week, that is my goal. I don’t expect perfection just consistency. Life is going to happen and I may not always make it, but my intention is to prioritize myself, my mental health and my physical wellbeing for 1 hour 3 x week.  When you look at it through that lens …. Is it really that selfish?

Last week I completed my first week of committing to myself. Was it easy - nope. Were there times I wanted to just quit, absolutely. At the end of the day though, I showed up for myself.

That day was unexpectedly challenging, physically, mentally and emotionally. I don’t use my inhaler often, but when I do it’s usually related to air quality and exercise. I have them tucked away in a few spots “just in case” I need it. It never fails that it happens at the most random times. The gym was unexpectedly muggy and the air was thick. The dense fog and damp conditions outside were brewing the perfect storm for what was about to happen.

As the WOD (workout of the day ) got started I already felt over stimulated. My nervous system was on high alert as the noise around me began to take over. I could feel my body tensing as the clock counted down to the start of the first 5 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible). Two simple exercises, 10 up downs followed by 10 goblet squats with a 20 pound dumb bell. Up downs are not my favorite but it was only 10 minutes out of my day. I could do this. I made it through my first 2 rounds before I felt my chest getting tight. The air was heavy and I could feel myself slowing down fighting the voice in my head to just give up. I fought through the 5 minute clock and realized I needed to go get my inhaler out of my truck.

As I walked through the door and the cooler air hit my face I could feel my breathing shift and before I knew it I was having a full blown panic attack. I was frustrated. I was angry with myself. I was disappointed. By the time I reached the door to my truck tears were streaming down my face. The thought crossed my mind to just leave. Maybe no one would notice. Except for the fact I had Jax with me so I would have to go back and get him - minor detail. As I reached for my inhaler and took that first puff my lungs fought me to slow down and just breathe. My sympathetic nervous system was in full blown fight mode, I am no stranger to that.

A few seconds later my lungs started to open and I could take my second puff. As I stood there trying to control my breathing thoughts were racing through my head. Shannon, don’t quit. You are better than this. I took the first step back towards the box as the panic swept back over me and the tears started flowing again. What if I can’t? You can’t do this! You are no good! As I fought back I paused just outside the door next to the bench where no one could see me and began to tell myself a different story. I quieted the negative self talk. The stories of least resistance. The stories I had been told my whole life and gave me an excuse to give up. Instead, I reminded myself of the commitment I made. How I had already done the hard part of showing up. It’s one hour and it’s about your mental health and resilience. No one is judging you, except for you. You can do hard things.

I took one more deep breath of the cool air and wiped the tears before walking back through the door. Round 2 of the AMRAP had less than 2 minutes on the clock. I put down my inhaler and got to work. Those 2 minutes were long and hard but I kept a steady pace and persisted. The hardest part was over, the voice of doubt.

Here’s the reality. We can talk ourselves out of anything and everything. We are wired to find the path of least resistance and like quick sand sink in the comfort of familiarity. But you can’t thrive and grow in your comfort zone. This is exactly why I chose Cross Fit. I don’t just want superficial change to happen on the outside, I need change to happen deep inside. My life truly depends on it. My mental health depends on it. My husband and kids depend on it. I depend on it.

So this year I am putting on my oxygen mask first. Maybe, just maybe, you need to do the same thing. If you do and you are ready to take that first step, I would be honored to walk along side you on your journey of nourishing your inner being.

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