December 18, 2017
“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~Socrates
I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time and after doing my first “competition” of any sort for the first time in 3.5 years last weekend, I figure no better time than now.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been an athlete. I’ve been a competitive athlete. From pee-wee basketball to collegiate soccer and track to running races to elite CrossFit, sports and competition have been a huge part of my life. At some points, I would say they were my whole life (or at least seemed like it).
For most athletes, after high school and college sports are over, athletic competition is over. They may take their competitive edge into their careers or adult rec-league sports, but typically the focus on performance and competition is over. For me, after college, I didn’t know what to do without it, so I got into running. I ran 5K’s and 10K’s and ½ marathons and even that big dog marathon. I found my way to CrossFit in 2011 and just happened to be decent at it so decided that would fulfill my competitive edge. That year I found myself crowned the “6th fittest woman in the world” at the CrossFit Games. In 2012, I won my regional competition but had to withdraw from The Games due to injury. I came back hungry in 2013 to win the whole show. That year, I had a freak accident and broke my foot the day before the competition season began, which pulled me out again. So, naturally 2014 was going to be my year.
However, in 2014 I realized my drive wasn’t as strong. I tried to convince myself it was, but looking back, I now realize the decisions I was sub-consciously making proved otherwise. I always had a job while training, but in the previous years I had cut back my coaching clientele to focus more time on training. In 2014, I picked up more hours coaching and Marcus and I decided to build our house (with our own hands), all while trying to keep the same training schedule. Most of my days consisted of training at 6am, coaching from 7-11, training again 11-12:30, working on the house from 1-5 and coaching again from 5:30-7:30pm and sometimes getting in another training session that night. Needless to say, going into regionals in 2014, I wasn’t as well-trained or recovered as I should have been going into a qualification competition. On top of that, I was still battling my neck injury from 2012 – a consuming stress and worry every day. Despite the strikes I seemingly had against me, I actually performed well enough to earn 8th place at regionals, but not well enough to get me back to the CrossFit Games.
At the time, I was secretly devastated but tried not to show my personal disappointment. Looking back now, I know there was a sense of relief. I have been almost embarrassed to say that. I mean, what kind of athlete feels relief to have a break from competing? But, I knew I needed it and after over 20 years of competing in some form or fashion, it was time. Time for a mental, physical and emotional break without judgement from others and myself as being a “quitter” or a “failure”. My body needed to heal, but not nearly as much as my brain did.
That much-needed and anticipated break didn’t come without cost though. Again, hidden from the publics’ eye, I had feelings of doubting my self-worth and my identity. If I wasn’t a competitive athlete, who was I? A coach. A daughter. A sister. A girlfriend. A momma to my doggies. I was all these things to other people, but who was I to me? I was lost.
After a little over a year from a competitive break, in September of 2015, I did what I feel is one of the most important endeavors of my life to this point. I ran 500-miles across my home state of Colorado for an event I created called “Move Mountains”. It was a charity run for epilepsy awareness… I finally could use the social platform I’d worked so hard for to do good. To educate. To inspire. To give hope. I was able to use my physical talents I had relied on so heavily in my life to now give back. In the process of giving back, I was shocked to discover what I personally gained and took away from the experience.
During my 30 days pounding the pavement across the Rockies, I finally found peace with where I was and the unknown of where I was going. I didn’t want to compete anymore. I didn’t have the desire to push my body beyond its limits. I didn’t have the sense of wanting to “win” all the time. I didn’t want to sacrifice other areas of my life anymore. I just wanted to be. I didn’t need to be defined as an athlete. In fact, I didn’t need to be defined as anything. I am just me. Jenny LaBaw, the person. The girl that loves the outdoors, to garden, to read, to cook, to love on her dogs and boyfriend, to help others, to coach, to build things, to be with her friends and family, to be by herself, to inspire… and yes, still to workout and play sports.
So back to last weekend. I ran in a 100-mile trail relay race with a bunch of competitive CrossFitters. I had great conversations and listened as they talked shop about their upcoming seasons and training and competition. My excitement for each of them was sky high as I remember those days. The anticipation, the grinding, the passion. But the confirmation of my decision to not compete anymore was solidified and even heighted with the feelings of relief that I got to go home and go for a hike with my dogs and sleep in and hammer all day at my work and do whatever I wanted that day without thinking how it would affect my performance later in the week.
Two years later I am finally writing a blog telling each of you this story in hopes that it may inspire you as you are making a transition, or want to make a transition in your life. I think we too often put ourselves in a box of what we have done or what we think we should do or be because of what society says or what our past has created for us. We get stuck in something that has fulfilled us when we needed it, but stay because we don’t know where else to go or are scared of what we may find. There’s a good chance you will be scared and there’s a good chance you may feel lost… but those feelings are temporary and they are fuel to help you find that next step and the step after that and the step after that. Each step is exactly where you should be and will lead you to exactly where you are supposed to go.
Exercise of the Week
The Box Squat is one of my favorite ways to teach people how to squat! It helps to focus on using the posterior chain to lower body down by giving a butt target. And you can do this ANYWHERE… use a chair or a coffee table or a rock or a log.
Recipe of the Week
Festive Deviled Eggs
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