Each week (each day, actually) involved various trials and triumphs. Here are some worth mentioning:
The Swamp Monster
Waking up at 5:30am for 6am classes never got easier. I started referring to myself as a Swamp Monster due to my pitiful half-crawl from the bed to the bathroom, damp tangled hair from last night’s shower, fumbling in the dark, gargling low-pitched obscenities, muscles revolting with anger under my skin as I struggled to put on socks while I peed (a brilliant maneuver that afforded me an extra thirty seconds of sleep, thank you very much). I’m pretty sure I never truly shook off the Swamp Monster until Round 3 of each class, after the ibuprofen, protein bar, and jumping jacks kicked in.
Between many trips to the gym and a few to the airport, the germs were bound to get me. And they got me right in the middle of the challenge. I woke up with a scratchy throat, which turned into a foggy head, which turned into a full on snot factory that lasted for about a week. Do you know how impossible it is to blow your nose with boxing gloves on? I popped Zicam tablets like candy, knocked myself out with Nyquil for a few nights in a row, and (to the dismay of my boxing neighbors) basically stuck my face in a jar of Vicks before every class. You can’t box if you can’t breathe, sooooo sorry not sorry.
Going with the Flo
I don’t know if this had something to do with changing my workout routine so drastically, or if Mother Nature decided to play some cruel joke on my already-aching core muscles, but my period came TWICE in THREE WEEKS. Sorry if you’re one of those people who thinks period-talk is TMI, but seeing how a woman’s period is essentially the mechanism for all human existence, I hope you can get over that because you’re basically just a fertilized period, so there. I don’t have normal periods; my ovaries hate me and want me to die. I can hardly survive one period per month, let alone two. Picture me in my normal period habitat: at home in my bed, trying not to bleed to death, a heating pad shoved down my sweatpants, surrounded by empty cartons of ice cream and empty bottles of Vicodin, sweating and crying and scaring the shit out of anyone who crosses my path. Basically Zuul from Ghostbusters. Making it to class during that time was a struggle, and the struggle was real, and it was real twice.
In order to go to as many classes as possible (sometimes 7-8/day!), I had to plan every minute of my waking hours in advance. When I wasn’t working or working out, I was showering, packing a bag full of clothes, figuring out what/when to eat, and doing laundry. SO MUCH LAUNDRY. Other standout moments include the time I wore active wear under a dress to work and hustled to a class on my lunch hour, changing in my car on the way back and returning to my desk both breathless and braless. Another day, I ate greasy Jack in the Box fries out of the trunk of my car a handful at a time between classes just so I wouldn’t freaking die. There was no time for kale, people!
Once other members started noticing that I was basically living at the gym, I was asked a few times if I even had a job. I will admit that a flexible work schedule came in very handy to make it to the end of this competition, but prioritizing my multiple jobs around boxing became a trade of its own! I even worked out of state for three of the five weekends, but I always strategized how to maximize my points regardless. It got a little nuts, y’all. Like driving straight through the night after a gig in Utah nuts. But as the wise Kevin Gates once said, “I got 6 jobs, I don’t GET TIRED!”
Straight out of the womb, I was blessed and cursed. Blessed with dimples that won’t quit, and cursed with a slipped disc in my lower back. When doctors advised me to give up basketball in college, I ignored them and subsequently destroyed the remaining cushion between two vertebrae. Now those bones make like the Night at the Roxbury guys on the nerves running down my right leg, causing a host of other problems all the way down. Exercise is tricky with these injuries because strengthening the muscles increases stability, yet excessive activity with minimal recovery time results in inflammation and pain. Striking a balance between pushing myself and protecting myself is something I’m proud of because it showed me that injuries are more of a yield sign than a stop sign. You slow down, but you keep going.
Thank You for Being a Friend
Developing friendships with members, teammates, and trainers was the icing on the cake of this challenge! I have a wonderful core group of friends and tons of music and work buddies, but I am always on the lookout for like-minded, goal-oriented, fun-loving people. Title Boxing Club is crawling with them! Sometimes I felt like a seven-year-old school girl, rushing home after class, excited to tell my fiancée Audrie that I made a new friend. Yes, I’m a nerd. But I’m the friendliest nerd you’ll ever meet. I enjoyed being on Team Nate because we took it seriously in the same ways (pushing our personal limits, reaching individual goals) but we also found humor and camaraderie in the experience. Shout out to my fellow final four teammates James and Yaritza for all making it to the 100+ point club, and to our trainer Nate for spending MANY hours with us to help us make it to the end. Not pictured but definitely also appreciated is Jesus who supported me in so many ways each week, from donating one of his PT time slots to me to teaching me about the value of wireless headphones to nursing a busted blister on my hand with alcohol because I was too chicken to do it. As the wise Jack Black once said, "That's fucking teamwork."
Now that the madness has passed, I have been able to pinpoint specific lessons that can be applied to life in general. Here are my top three takeaways:
Modify Your Mind
I started this journey in attempt to combat some pretty heavy depression and anxiety. I’m happy to report my mental state has improved. However, my mind has YEARS of conditioning in the negative self-talk department, so I wasn’t surprised when it hurled a series of insults at me with skill and precision even after clinching first place:
-Way to go, loser. You won a competition that doesn’t even matter.
-The only reason you won is because you did Personal Training so you basically paid for points.
-The only reason you won is because you have a flexible schedule.
-You won and you’re still fat and you still eat too much.
-You only won because no one else cared about this.
-You're mom is dying of cancer, your sister is doing all the care-taking, and you're spending all your time boxing. Fucking selfish.
Welcome to my brain, ladies and gents. It can get dark and mean up there. But just like physical exercise involves repetition and modifications (which I excel at - just ask the permanent bruises on my knees after logging about 1 million modified push-ups), mental exercise demands the same. With lots of practice and purposeful intention, I am able to challenge those negative thoughts with positive rebuttals. Sure, PT sessions and flexible hours were valuable tools in the competition, but I put in the work day in and day out. And while I may not have lost a pound, my clothes fit much better. And even if others didn’t take it seriously, I made a commitment to do my best and I exceeded my own expectations. The mom stuff - well, that's going to take more practice. The work never stops, and that's okay.
Make Time for Yourself
I am the girl who will work hours of overtime without being asked. The girl who will cancel lunch plans with a friend if I need to spend the rest of the afternoon working on band business. The girl who forgets to go outside because I must finish my oh-so-important to-do list. This challenge forced me to stop being that girl. For five weeks I was able to disregard all fear of the future and fully embrace the present moment. The world kept spinning, my work and music career didn’t come tumbling down around me, and all those precious minutes and hours I once flippantly donated to some question mark in the future turned into wonderful, unapologetic, in-the-moment me time. More me time resulted in less anxiety, better sleep, and deeper appreciation for simplicity. I felt happy for a change. I’m determined to hang onto that me time and use it for all kinds of other things that make me happy. Like hanging out with my new friends, or writing this blog, for example.
The Power of Love
You wanna know what prize I really won? Her name is Audrie. Talk about someone being in your corner! She supported me in every way imaginable, from sacrificing nearly all of our already-limited time together, to rubbing my aching muscles, to giving me pep talks during moments of mental and emotional fatigue, and the list just does not end. While the difficulty of this competition pales in comparison to other challenges life has thrown or will throw our way, our love not only endures through hard times, it flourishes. She gives me an incredible supply of strength that no amount of working out could ever provide. Love is the strongest of all things because it simply does not quit. I will love Audrie for all of life’s rounds, and I am so grateful she loves a Swamp Monster like me.