My Warrior Spirit
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I'm still that lone Warrior fighting to become worthy of the challenges in his life. I'm learning that a lot of that struggle comes from a more relaxed place. Instead of actively fighting for something, sometimes the struggle is simply to be a force, rather than to enact a force.
Freedom to Train
Lately I've been learning how to stop trying so hard and just accept the slowness of natural growth. I spent a good many months training my butt off to be an amazing athlete, only to spend most of my time sore and with minor injuries. I wanted to be an awesome CrossFitter by being everything at once: strong, powerful, fast, tireless. I trained twice or more a day, doing gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and CrossFit. I would then go to gymnastics or martial arts practice in the evenings. And of course, everything hurt. And, no surprise, I wasn't getting stronger or better.
Eventually, I got myself to accept the fact that I didn't need to be everything at once. I think the moment of revelation came when I pulled my hamstring after sitting in a car for 5 hours (who injures themselves by sitting? It happens to me a lot). I also realized that I was spending huge chunks of my income on doctors visits. It didn't seem worth it, and it didn't mesh with my belief that if you treat your body right, you can be amazing and pain free.
I don't really know how, but I dropped that need to be perfect. Suddenly, it become okay to be a good gymnast and martial artist, and a mediocre weightlifter. I didn't have to be great at everything, and I didn't have to do everything all the time.
After a bit of rest, I felt amazing. And I got stronger. Much stronger. In a very short amount of time.
I'm surrounded by fitness enthusiasts who try to do more, more, more, always pushing the boundaries of endurance and stamina and mental toughness. The natural response when you aren't meeting your goals in these situations is to think you're not doing enough. Everyone else is trying harder, and that's why they are all massively strong, fast, amazing athletes. So naturally, I'd just try harder until I broke again and again.
When I discovered that I actually did much better doing less, it was very freeing. I could enjoy my exercise without it becoming a ball-and-chain that I had to engage in no matter what. I could exercise when I felt like it, or not at all. All the pressure went away, and then the results started coming in.
My friend who runs the CrossFit gym I work at returned from a coaching seminar where she met one of the top CrossFit athletes, Chris Spieller. She mentioned that he said he was frequently in pain, and even had limited range of motion in his neck. He trains 5 days a week (which is less than CrossFit recommends), and is generally pretty badass. But I didn't want to end up like that. I like being pain free and having a body that works correctly, even if it works at a lower capacity. I feel that the capacity will come with time if I maintain correct living. It's like in martial arts when my instructor says to start slowly, do the movements correctly, and the speed and intensity will come naturally. And when the speed does come, it won't be at the expense of effective and correct technique.
The other helpful inspiration I found is my current CrossFit idol, Carl Paoli. He is the gymnastics expert at San Francisco CrossFit. He runs the website GymnasticsWOD, incorporating gymnastics into a CrossFit methodology. He is the most laid back, helpful fitness guru I've had the pleasure to correspond with, and he is amazingly humble (considering that awesome feats he is capable of). I'm also better at some CrossFit things than he is, judging from some of his videos. That was kind of a shock, but it made me realize that we all have strength and weaknesses, and that I'm pretty awesome in my own way. Sure I should continue trying to improve, but I don't need to be anything other than what I am now. If I want to grow and change, that desire comes from within, not from external obligations or pressures.
Freedom of Place
The other big chapter in my Warrior epic is my plan to leave the country. My girlfriend and I recently completed a course certifying us to teach English as a foreign language, and are in the application process to land a job doing so in Korea (South Korea, to be more precise). At the moment, the plan is to leave in September.
As many of you know, I've written about the value of travel before. I don't really know if traveling for its own sake is a great idea, but I've been chafing to get out and moving for so long now that a change of scenery can only do me well.
The truth is, I think I've gotten used to the discomfort of stagnation, which is why I haven't noticed it in a while. When I first got back to Connecticut after college, I was itching to get out. Every week I would come up with a crazy scheme to see the world or move away, even just to New York. If you'd spent much time with me then, you'd have questioned my mental stability. I was edgy, moody, and generally frustrated with life and myself.
I've come a long way since then, and have managed to find a degree of balance, but the wanderlust still exists. I still actively dream of 'elsewhere' and 'out there', in the most romanticized ways you can conjure.
But I have also come to terms with where I am now. I guess that is important, since I will always be wherever I am, so I'd better be comfortable and happy with that. I suppose dissatisfaction with ones location can crop up anywhere.
In addition to the Korea plans, I've learned a great deal about the wondrous world of travel hacking. Thanks to Chris Guillebeau's various e-books and his book, The Art of Non-Conformity, I've realized a whole new world of traveling possibilities.
I've already earned enough miles for a free ticket to anywhere in the domestic US, simply by opening up a credit card account, and using that card instead of my usual debit card. Pretty simple stuff, but if you don't know how to work the system, it's pretty cryptic.
I'd like to see the west coast, other than LA. I dream of living in San Francisco and running through the redwood forests, or having an apartment in Portland, OR, where all my favorite people seem to end up. I now have the means to get there, thanks largely to Chris' books (which I recommend to anyone interested in breaking free).
Freedom to Write
Also, I got an iPad. Also, I sold my laptop. This is a surprisingly scary situation I find myself in. I can't even upload files to websites anymore. Printing is a bit of a pain.
But I can write. That's really the only thing I can do easily on this wonderful little device, besides keep up on all my friends and blogs. I also can't multi-task, which is a blessing in disguise, since it prevents me from switching constantly from my writing to my e-mail to my Facebook to my blog feeds. I do one thing at a time, and one thing only.
And I actually get things done.
I love my little iPad, largely because of the limitations it puts on my activities. It makes me want to write, and it allows me to narrow my information consumption to just the things I want to inspire me. No more ads, games, or other distractions. All I read about is writing, fitness, and non-conformist success. All I do is write and manage my correspondence. It's great. From an information standpoint, my world is focused. Which I find liberating. I work, I'm done.
I'd like to write more. I never feel that I am writing enough, or with sufficient diligence. I'd like to write for three or four hours a day. I have so many things I'd like to say. The blog is starting to come alive in my voice again. I have some knowledge-based products I want to get down and offer up as complete packages (for free probably). My novels are even nagging for attention again.
Of course, there is hardly time to eat and sleep enough, if I add in the gymnastics and martial arts and CrossFit. I've been trying to get up early to write, but I find that the pressure of the impending rest of the day makes it forced. Despite how much I love the mornings, I'm considering just staying up later and writing at night, when I can stay up as late as I need to to give each piece the time it deserves.
Odds and Ends
The CrossFit competition season has started again. Hard to believe it's been a full year since that craziness. I'm trying to keep it all in perspective and just do my workouts as I always have.
I hurt my finger. It was crushed underneath a barbell. An interesting side effect is that my application to Korea is delayed because I can't get fingerprinted for my FBI background check until my finger heals.
I'm coaching cross country for 7th and 8th graders at my old school. The kids are great. They are very enthusiastic about everything except actually running. They love showing up to practice, and with some encouragement actually do end up running. I enjoy it.
So that's what I've been up to. I feel that I spend a lot of time talking about awesome exciting courageous things and not actually doing them, but I guess, looking back over this post, a lot has happened. Traveling to Korea for a year seems to fit into that category, as does laying it down and testing my mettle in some pretty intense workouts to vie for the title of 'Fittest Man on Earth.'
But I think the most courageous thing I can do right now is write more honestly and openly, instead of hiding behind 'how-to' posts and useful advice. Those things will be here, but so will I.
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- Khaled Allen, Warrior in Training, (**