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Ever since I first learned about the Roman and Greek gods and the possibility of demi-gods, I strongly considered the idea that I could be a demi-goddess.
It seemed to make perfect sense. The cat-like reflexes, super fast speed, beyond human strength… Of course, this was what I thought at 10 years old.
It’s true, I was a strong kid. Racing the boys in sprints, pull up competitions, arm wrestling… Both my sister and I recognized how being strong can be fun. Once, we even caught a wild rabbit in our backyard, with a short-handled fishnet.
Oddly enough, I never participated in structured sports as my siblings did. It was the listening to other directions that I detested the most. That and my lack of attention span. In elementary school I was signed up for the softball team; I was an outfielder. By the time a child hit a ball far enough to matter to me, I had been fully engaged in finishing my flower-chain necklace.
No, my wild self would not be structured. I occupied myself with tree climbing, sprinting to the woods and back home for dinner, and climbing the door frames of my house.
Responsibilities of super strength included:
- Opening jars
- Climbing high places to reach the unreachable
- Working nimble fingers to fix gadgets
- Super speed cleaning before Pappie arrives home
- Super speed cooking for reasons mentioned above
- Carrying my brother back inside when he would refuse to listen to my mother
- Kicking boys butts in gym class
It wasn’t until my high school freshman year when announcements about trying out for the track team came across the school intercom. That was the first time I considered being part of any organization.
It was a natural fit for me.
Running fast, being strong, flexing…. I fell in love with Track. I fell in love with finding out what my body can be capable of.
I looked at every competitor as a threat. My only goal. Destroy them one by one. I was cold to my colleagues during competitions, and one girl even confessed how scary I used to be!
I went on to hold two school records for the 4×1 and 4×2 and an individual record for Pole Vaulting. I was just getting warmed up, and I wanted to conquer.
I came to West Virginia University to pole vault. And boys. But mainly Vaulting.
I remember the words I said to my coach. The words that made him decided to choose me over other amazing girls, “I just want to vault”.
If you’ve ever had a hard workout… imagine doubling that and repeating daily. The things my body used to be capable of would amaze you.
What I lacked as a child in following orders was balanced by my obedience at WVU.
I became a machine. I pulled, pushed, launched, sprinted to my every limit for three years.
We had to do sets of pull-ups, along with our two-hour lift session that followed the three-hour daily practice. Other things we would do included explosive push-ups on raised boxes, sets of one-armed push-ups, pulling parachutes, pulling sleds with weights… so many insane regimens that became easy.
By the end of my vault career, I was a whopping 150lbs. One hundred and fifty pounds and 12% body-fat on a woman standing 5’3” tall. I was a brick house! I felt like an ogre compared to my petit family.
After vaulting I ventured into Rock climbing… my unknown passion. I shed my weight and gained strength, flexibility, and power. I blossomed in the world of rock and nature. I began to compete on a small scale and loved the feeling of belonging.
I was fortunate that my friends were all very strong and well versed with climbing. Having trained to enjoy falling for 8 years, climbing was effortless. I not only kept up with my male climbers, but I also began to excel.
Having strong friends in high places allowed a full page photo of myself in Climbing magazine in 2014.
Not many people get to boast a full page in any publishing, and thanks to my photographer friend Rich Crowder, I got in. Him and my biceps.
I fell in love with bouldering. The least gear-related form of climbing. A perfect transition for a sprinter… on the rock, work hard for a few seconds, rest.
I began to lose sight on why I loved climbing. It became stressful. If I didn’t onsite or win first place, or do better than my friends, I felt like I was losing.
My brain was so trained to destroy and demolish, that it started to take away my joy for climbing. I couldn’t put on my shoes without feeling like I had to perform my best. As if every time a painter touched canvas he was about to make a masterpiece.
I had raised my self-expectations to an inhuman level. Or at least unhealthy.
In 2012 I signed up for Yoga Teacher training with Joanne Vandenhengel at BlissBlissBliss. I wrote my letter in hopes to receive a scholarship and expressed how fast learning and strong I was.
Yoga taught me a great many things that year, and being physically strong was not one of them. I learned mindbodysoul respect.
I became soft with my body. I became to understand and respect it. I appreciated it when it worked hard for me. I treated it well with good foods and steady breathing.
In this time I also became infatuated with slacklining. The purity of in-the-moment Buddhist ideals was so boldly present with these practices. The lessons of the mat and line started to integrate themselves into my life.
I realized how abusive I used to be to my body. Following certain flash diets to lose weight when I was fine, pushing the workout beyond necessary. Constantly putting my long-term prosperity on the line for present satisfaction.
I really woke up after a winter bouldering competition in Charleston, WV. I was expecting myself to win, even though I wasn’t properly trained. I pushed and tried and was succeeding.
There was one route that I was so close to getting… I slammed my palm over and over again, trying to get purchase on the hold.
I woke up when time hand run out and I turned in my scorecard.
I look at my aching hand to see that it had turned black and yellow from fingertip to elbow in just minutes.
When I found the balance of strength and respect for my body I took it to a very sloth-like extreme. Practically losing interest in anything remotely taxing or pulse inducing. I didn’t want to push my body.
I pushed it so hard for my schools, I pushed it so hard for myself, and now was done the pushing. I decided to rest.
And so I rested.
And then became restless.
I have always remained in more than okay shape and strength, but when I had to ask Jamie to open a jar for me for the first time in my life, I decided I was done resting.
I was scared and timid to come back to my physical loves like cycling, climbing, and yoga. I didn’t want to ruin them. I wanted to be a part of those worlds for a long time to come, and I wanted to enjoy them for myself.
I had to learn to set realistic ideas for myself, not to win a gold medal at the end of every day but to feel accomplished.
When I went climbing for the first time again I kept hitting this funny-bone-feeling inside my core. I hadn’t flexed my abs in so long I forgot which buttons to press to activate them! I found the sensation to be hilarious and mind-boggling.
In yoga class, I couldn’t find the four corners of my feet in Tadasana without toppling over… it’s just standing for crying out loud!
When Jamie and some friends of ours decided to participate in a local 5K for Fayetteville’s Bridge Day I cringed.
Now after being a semi-pro vaulter, I wanted nothing to do with running. My friend Fran laughs because the only time I will run is with her, she’s an athletic guru and sometimes a run is the only time to pin her down.
I was scared of the 5k. I was worried about competing. I didn’t want to hurt anyone by making their daily training and exercise look like cakes and cherries to me. People train for these kinds of 5k’s and here I am practically rolling off the couch as I brush chip flakes off my belly.
The race was in the morning, so more truthfully, I was wiping away the makeup and hangover of too much dancing in the rain the night before.
We register, we load up the bus, we head off!
And get plopped right on the start line. Here goes nothing. Hope I’m nice!
It was fine…
Jamie and I talked practically the whole way. We set a 9ish minute pace, not wanting to push too hard… but still, end the race in a decent time.
We both cruised along, our friends just in front of us and no fear of dusting them behind.
The 5k was a breeze. Overall a rather beautiful race and as flat as WV ever gets. The occasional hoot from the volunteering WVU men’s soccer team helped keep the energy high.
At the very last 60 meters of the race Jamie and I kicked into sprint mode to fulfill a bet from earlier (I mean there has to be some fire, right?). I laugh crossing the finish line from the flood of endorphins and runner’s high.
Since I have now turned pure yogi, I will not share the detail of my major .1 of a second demolition I had on Jamie’s time. In no way did I remind him that my number-tracker was on my protruding butt, his was on his belly. In no way did I go on and on about how easy it was for me and how hard Jamie had to try to catch me.
No, I am a humble yogini, I do not brag in such a way.
In truth, the race was a challenge.
From the first moment I heard, we were going to run my brain immediately wanted to beat Jeff, the strongest runner along with Jamie. Then I felt bad if I would beat Sarah. (My sister would roll her eyes at this egocentric comment).
The difference this time was that I decided on a pace. Something that will make me work, but not putting my body in a position it wasn’t properly trained for. Just even a year ago I would have pushed myself just to prove I was strong.
The race was as fun as it was because I removed competition. Jamie was a great guide for the run as he was properly trained, and instead had a good time running with his lady. He could have raced with Jeff and left me. He showed me too how a beautiful experience can be more satisfying than a fleeting moment of victory.
I learned that I could be smack dab in a competition (of any kind) and have fun, and have fun with my friends. I will always be the girl challenging boys to pull up competitions and plank contests, but I have a better overall competition mindset.
My gold medal isn’t going to dangle from my neck anymore, it will be the glow of accomplishment.
Post-bakery I have reunited with my body and found myself in a perfect new adventure.
I joke that I was made for it… all my vaulting and yoga was preparing me for this!
I have no idea where my body will take me, but I know I will go, and I will have fun.