So a few years back I had four pregnancies in a five year time period, and gave birth to three babies. Given that I have a thing called hypermobility (which I didn’t know at the time) this was not the best prescription for a healthy back and pelvis. Instead it was a recipe for a woman who couldn’t walk very well….and lived with fear and ongoing pain. Combine that with the physicality of having 3 under 4.5 - carrying two at once, forcing them into car seats, carrying them for hours while they slept and we saw sights, dragging them out of someone's house when they really wanted to stay and play - and I was physically a bit snookered.
Most days it was just low level, low grade pain in my sacroilliac joint otherwise known as your SIJ or the back bit of your pelvis. On bad days it would mean I couldn't walk. I lived in fear of triggering it by putting a kid in their car seat, or even simply changing direction while I was walking from one part of the kitchen to the other.
I saw physio's of various descriptions who suggested pilates, strapped my pelvis together or talked pelvic floor exercises, none of which helped. There were years of chaos and issues. And then, I happened upon a physio who gave me the actual answer.
She said that the only reason I was still walking was because of the physicality of parenting - because I hadn’t stopped doing things. That that was the only reason my body hadn't seized up with fear and pain. Her answer - strength building exercise that was non repetitive (so no swimming or running) but that involved the whole body doing natural body movements. Functional movement, making sure that I had my core held on the whole time. She said to fix the pelvis we needed to strengthen the muscles of my core and achieve bodily balance but not by working them one at the time (so no pilates). Which is how I ended up at Crossfit.
To tell you the truth I was plenty scared - Crossfit looks plenty scary from the outside - but I was also sick to death of my issue. And sick to death of the fear and the pain.
I'm going to skip to the end for a minute which is to tell you that after three years of going to Crossfit consistently three times a week I have a different body. I still get really low level pain sometimes BUT I rarely flare my back, have a strong body that can carry both my 12yo and my 11yo at the same time without fear. Where I was once flaring it once a month, it is now about once a year.
As well as the physical changes though I've been incredibly impressed by what I have learnt about myself, my stories and what it takes to learn something new. And that's where the parallels to craft come into it.
You see, due to the retreats (and life!) I am able to watch a lot of people learn how to do something new, engage in a skill, learn a technique. I hear their stories, their fears, their worries, their joy - and I love it. I love hearing about their stuff. But I often don't feel what they feel about the learning process as I started learning how to make things when I was tiny. I believe I can make. Many of them don't have this belief when they start, at least not initially.
But getting fit? Well in getting fit I was a total beginner and I came at it with a head full of stories. Most of which came from a childhood where I was the kid that was always picked last….
I’ll give you just a couple. I didn't believe that I was sporty. Or athletic. I did believe that I was physically substandard somehow. That true fitness wasn't accessible to me - this is total bullshit by the way.
Crossfit has reminded me of watching many others learn to make - and I've taken what I seen from watching them, and tried to apply it to me and my new learning experience.
My most important takeaways from the three years.
You simply have to show up.
This is the single most important part of learning anything. You have to show up. Many people use their stories and their fears and their insecurities stop them from showing up. And without showing up there is no way you can move through this part of the learning.
For Crossfit, I took some advice from Tim Ferris and set the smallest possible goal, A goal whose arse I could kick. All I had to do was drive to Crossfit three times a week and walk in the door. When I was there I didn't need to do anything other than do what they said. I didn't have to do extra. I didn't have to try. I didn't have to become the greatest crossfitter that ever lived within a month. I simply had to show up three times a week.
And I have. Week after week. I know I need to go - to feel good and not have a shitty back - and I make it happen. And as a result of showing up I am now fit. Easily the fittest I’ve been in my life.
Just this week I was teaching some 6/7/8yo how to sew and one of them said "I'm not good at stitching. Why are you so good at stitching Felicia". To which I did a bit more digging. "How much stitching have you done?" "About 10 minutes with my mum". "OK then. That would be why. I have done probably about 10,000minutes".
Who knows if the 10,000 is actually true but the point is that I would be a lousy Crossfitter if I had only done 10 minutes. Instead I have done 300 hours over the last two years which is 18,000 minutes. C'mooon!
Our stories are often bullshit
Often as I'm rambling on to Jenn about something or another she will stop me, look at me with those beautiful but penetrating eyes and say "Felicia that is just a story!"
Years ago when Jenn first said it to me I didn't actually know what she was going on about. I kept thinking that my thoughts were true - and while we now all know what rubbish that is, right? - at the time I didn't. It's taken time and practice for me to get better at trying to look at whether what I am thinking is remotely related to the truth.
In this case - my story that I wasn't athletic had to do with an unathletic childhood where I wasn't that great at group sports and nor was I encouraged to be. My throwing was rubbish and my running was described as a uncoordinated chicken. A physio has now pointed out to me that the running is directly related to the hypermobility. Limbs all over the place with nothing holding it all together.
People tell themselves they aren't creative or talented - neither of which is a prerequisite to making - and all I can say is that how do you know unless you have done a shit tonne of hours. And why do you think you need talent or creativity to make something you love? What are you basing the story on?
Leave your ego at the door
Learning is humbling for all of us. To learn, all of us must allow ourselves to be open, and open means vulnerable.
Walking into the Crossfit gym for the first month was an exercise in bravery. All I could think about was "oh my god, everyone is going to be judging me and thinking I am really unfit and who do I think i am being here, i can't even do a squat, and i shake all the time. I don't deserve to grace these halls" or some such nonsense.
I have seen this at The Craft Sessions. I have heard of people not coming to The Craft Sessions because they think they aren't crafty enough? And I’ve heard of people not coming to The Craft Sessions because they believe that the standard people will be making at will be too high!
How do you get fit without engaging in fitness activities? How do you learn to craft without crafting?
And the other thing I’ve found is that the people at Crossfit have been nothing but supportive to anyone who walks through the door and tries. This applies to craft too. And life.
Small wins are important- suspend your self-judgement
I wrote a blog post way back at the start of this blog where I talked about the idea that good technique is overrated and initially we should try for some small wins. And I still believe it. We need to feel encouraged which means we need to suspend our judgement over whether we have done it as well as we would like, and instead celebrate what we have achieved. We made a thing!!
This works slightly differently in Crossfit in that you have to have great technique in order not to get injured BUT initially when I went - for the first year or so really - I didn’t lift any weights so my technique was less of an issue. My body was in such a state that simply getting through a class was a miracle. And so I concentrated on the fact that I had showed up and done the workout. No matter how poorly or how slowly, I showed up and exercised. I was no longer sitting on the couch. I had showed up!
If we wait until we have perfect technique then we often aren’t doing enough practice to get better at what we want to learn and so we can’t improve our technique….and we become frustrated. There is balance to be found here. Good enough technique that we like the result, while not trying for perfect as that can get us stuck.
Skills build with Time and practice
Three years into my Crossfitting I’m still seeing improvements. Improvements that at the start weren’t even apparent to me that they were a thing I’d want to get better at. Often you don’t know what you don’t know.
For example at the start I couldn’t even really get a single glute to tighten. There was no activation and really I didn’t think I had glutes. Other people had them whereas I just had a bottom. It could jiggle but it couldn’t tighten. Six months in I could see I had them and they could do something. Not much but I could get them to twitch.
The next year I had to learn that I had obliques and only now I’m learning that I have lats. The hypermobility means that I take a long time to figure out how to access each bit of my body and without learning one of these steps I couldn’t even begin to imagine the next. Each new step or skill I’ve needed to learn has revealed itself over time.
This is true to this day of my craft. I make a new thing and there is possibility and learning in nearly every project. Sometimes that is simply that my fingers are a bit more agile in turning a hem or that I understand something about my knitting I didn’t previously. Our craft reveals itself to us over time.
Change is incremental…. so document your progress.
I think one of the most important things that comes from our making is that we are constantly learning and growing. Much of this change, this growth is incremental so I believe that it is really worthwhile documenting where we began and what we have achieved. Being able to see our growth, and our change is so important.
To tell you the truth when I started Crossfit I was in such a tricky headspace about my body and it’s capacity - I believed it was broken - that I didn’t take any photos. This makes me sad now as I can’t actaully see how far I’ve come. I can feel it but I can’t see it - that said I know the change is big! I know my posture has changed, my pain has changed and my muscle composition has changed.
The upside is that walking around in this strong body is celebration enough. I am reminded at many moments of many days of how far I’ve come. I celebrate every time I conciously feel a bit of low level pain as it reminds me just how bad it once was. Sounds counter intuituve but it’s true. But I do wish I had some photos.
I think this is important for our craft too. Taking the odd photo or keeping our beautiful wonky first attempts can be so encouraging. I adore looking back at Ravelry at some of my very first attempts at knitting and seeing just how far I’ve come. It reminds me of what I am capable of.
Understanding our own capacity - capacity to do, but also capacity to grow and change - is such an important part of flourishing as it helps us see our own agency in our lives. Visible capacity gives us hope. The beauty inherent in understanding our capacity is a life of richness and possibility.
My craft reminds me of my capacity always. Every time I see something I’ve made I can see my potential and my promise. Craft as an elevated life.
What lessons have you learned through your craft, your sport, your art, your music? I’d love to hear if any of these resonated and what you’d add to my list.