Walking A Tightrope: Braving The Unknown

Here’s the thing about young, handsome Argentinian lifeguards on beaches… they’re very convincing.

VERY.
CONVINCING.

Maybe it’s was his accent, my broken Español, or the casual way in which his eyes lit up when I said “Is that hard to do?” that I decided to go out on a limb yesterday. Literally.

(NOTE: my decision may have been swayed simply by the fact that I am competitive as f*ck, & a cute kid decided to go before me – I couldn’t wimp out & still be a semi-cool-Mom after that!)

Tightrope walking, I can assure you, is not for people afraid of falling. It’s also usually not something 36yr old mother’s who have never tightrope-walked before do at a public beach on a super windy day.

But, what the hey. My inner voice whispered seductively to me “New year, same me… let’s do this, Cass. You wanted to adventure more. You wanted to make memories & try new things. Here’s your first shot at it. And, you’re only three feet above the ground.”

Damn you, seductive inner voice. As awkward as you are, you sure are convincing. Potentially just as convincing as our new, tanned friend from Argentina. So, with a little gust of wind catching me up the backside & along the path towards the tightrope (as well as a healthy cheering on from my beloved & my bestest pal) – I kicked off my jandals & climbed a tree trunk (not very high) to the springy, stringy thing I would soon be walking – or falling – across.

Lucky for me, mi amigo nuevo, saw I was nervous & gave me his hand. Though he was there to steady me as I took my first VERY uncertain first step, he also talked me through where my line of site should be, how to relax & unravel the tension in the rope through my balance, & showed me how to have fun while completely terrified.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I used to be terrified of heights. Strangely, over the years, I’ve gotten much better with heights – but walking that uneven & unsteady rubber-band was pretty nerve wracking for me.

I may have only been three feet above Terra Firma, but it just as easily could’ve been 30 or 300 feet as far as I was concerned in the moment!

Making it all the way across, I learned a few things in the minute I spent without my feet firmly planted on the ground.

Mostly, I learned these key lessons:

  1. Be courageous
    This is seriously not as easy as it sounds. Most of us like to think that we’re daring… at least a little bit. But, in practice, I personally end up turning down opportunities to try new things for fear of what others – and even my own inner-voice – might think. I consistently tell my daughter that she can’t be good at everything. You have to start somewhere, and somewhere is usually right at the beginning. No one starts off as a master. Masters were always once beginners. So, while I might end up sounding like a $.50 fortune cookie, I reckon we should all start at the beginning. Without fear. Without judgement. But, more so, with hope, joy & a sense of adventure. Courage is contagious – pass it on.
  2. Don’t Look Down
    As my Argentinean friend told me as I started walking from one tree to another “Look only ahead, not down, not to the side.” This really resonated with me in the moment – and resonates even more now thinking back on his words. We oftentimes spend so much time looking in a direction other than that in which we’re heading that we lose sight of our end destination. Even with strong winds whipping at your back, or with wobbly footing, if you look ahead & focus on what you’re hoping to achieve – your chance of getting there inherently grows by leaps & bounds. I always tell my teams at work that, as a manager, it’s my job to provide a ‘North Star’ for them to steer towards. It’s their job to get there – whether it be swinging across Orion’s Belt or sliding through the big dipper. Keep your eyes up. Move with intent.
  3. Have fun falling
    This is something I’ve grown to embrace & love over the past few years. Falling, itself, is fun. It’s the landing, if you’re not prepared for it, or it comes too soon, that hurts the most. It’s taken time, but I’ve started to not just face my fear of falling (and, failing) but to embrace it with my eyes wide open. Most probably squealing all the way to the bottom where a soft landing (or slight thunk) awaits. Falling, like flying is all part of the journey. If you embrace each moment, you’ll find fun just around every corner.

 

So, there you have it. A small moment. But, big lessons. Here’s to more travelling South Americans on Auckland beaches this summer, helping us all face our fears – while reminding us, there’s no shame in having a helping hand to steady us while we learn.

Gracias, amigo mio. Que te vayas bien.

 

Tightrope walking!
Tightrope walking!

Changing How I View Change

The only constant in life, is change.

But, let’s face it, knowing that change is inevitable doesn’t make facing it particularly comfortable or easy. In fact, as a card carrying creature of habit myself, I’ll be straight up with you: change makes me shake in my proverbial (and literal) boots more often than not.

As a confident, capable human… why is that? Shouldn’t I be able to just roll with the punches and deal with the hand that I’m dealt without any speed wobbles?

Erm, nope. I can think of quite a few reasons why being nervous about change is good – and why my stomach still churns a bit at the thought of sudden, drastic, unexpected changes in life.

The first thing that makes me fear change is simply that I have grown-up responsibilities (like mortgages and bills and all of that adulting carry-on). To feel safe & supported, I need to have a firm foundation of stability across the main areas of my life. These areas include financial, emotional, spiritual & creative aspects of who I am and what I do. Should these foundations be rocked, moved, jiggled, or even hinted at being drastically altered – panic sets in.

Or at least tries to set in.

Without stability, and without a sense of being able to provide for my child, my fiancee, and myself – my world (and my sense of self worth) start to crumble. Having knowledge that our next meal, mortgage payment, hug, laugh, and moment together might not be safe all add to my feelings of worry in times of change. At the core of who we are intrinsically,  (where our basic, instinctual drives reside) we need more than anything to live in a state of comfort – which usually means habitual daily routines. When our routines are disrupted. So too are the supporting pillars of happiness and confidence.

Another reason change has always been a bit nerve-wracking for me is that I like being able to define who I am – on my own terms. We all do, right? And, to do that, I need to understand my place in the world and how my actions effect others – their well being, their health, their core values. To do this well, means I need to have (or at least feel that I have) some control over my own circumstances.

Let me elaborate more on change – and why it can break a person. Change takes away our sense of being in control of our lives & our destiny.  When I start to feel like I’ve lost all control, I take a step back, breathe deep & start to make decisions – even micro-decisions are a starting point to turn negatives into positives. I usually decide that I have in me the power to change, and that everything starts to balance itself out again. It may take some time, but my mind becomes clear, the weight on my shoulders lighter – and my confidence is restored in going through the mental steps of building positives out of perceived negatives.

I’d be telling a big ‘ol porky-pie if I said I haven’t given in to the depth of despair on more than one occasion. I’m not an automaton. I know the darkness of failure. I’ve tasted it, wallowed in it, & given in to self-doubt. But, not for long. In fact, as I get older, I am able to fall & fail fast. And then pop back to my feet, taller & stronger than before. As my ten-year-old told me yesterday, “Mom, you climbed a mountain, a really big one, and now you’re just going down the other side. The next mountain’s gonna be bigger Momma. I can tell!” (what a kid!) Having the love & support of people who continually remind you of your worth is hugely important to rolling with changes.

Is there anything good about change? I’m talking about a mushy, warm, happy-tickle good thing. YES! YES THERE IS AMAZING GOOD IN CHANGE!

If I’m honest, the good is in the slowing down and taking the time to think, reflect, and also getting super focused on planning, potential outcomes, and building resilience. By slowing down and counting my blessings, as well as looking at my achievements and skills to date (I’m talking personally & professionally), I’m able to really shine a light on the positive nature of uncertain times. The old cliches about the worst of times teaching us the best of lessons exists for a reason. That reason being that, for the most part, what doesn’t defeat us really does make us stronger. And stronger equals resilient equals a state of mind focused on success.

Because, if change is inevitable, and control is the key to feeling firm in your foundations – then giving into your own power of taking control of all situations and how you react to them means that you’re in charge of your story. Not happenstance. No other person holds the keys to how you view the world. It’s you. It’s me. It’s all of us.

Today I see change the same way I see life. Nothing is permanent. Even if the word “permanent” is a falsity when included as a binding part of a promise. Everything is in flux. Always. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is permanent. Each new day, each new experience, each new moment is a blessing and a moment to learn, to refocus, and to remember just how lucky we are to be above ground. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a process. A life-long one. So too, is change.

Embrace the process.
Ride the waves.
Be the change.
And, when you can, help others through moments where they’re feeling vulnerable. Kindness first. Smile much. And believe that, together, we can truly overcome anything.

Who Stole My Zen?


The world is fast. Beautiful. Broken. Uplifting. Harsh. Everything at once. It can build us up & tear us down quickly. All it takes is one interaction – one word, one Tweet, one text, one fleeting moment to change the course of a day or a life.

If I think about the world & my place in it too much, things (sometimes) can feel overwhelming – in a beautiful way, mostly.

Mother. Partner. Daughter. Aunt. Friend. Colleague. Boss. Ex. Bestie. Stranger.

Most days I ask myself: Which part of me will I strengthen today?  And, inversely, which part will I allow to crumble – if even just a little bit?  Because, let’s face it, when you focus on one area of life, others can slip. And, I’m completely cool with that.

When it comes to making decisions though, I find that, sometimes, the best way to decide is not to decide on anything at all.

Huh?

Practicing silence, stillness, and focusing on the present is a great way to just “be”. Whether it be relationships at work, at home, or in the abstract – when moments arise where everything seems too much, I find a quiet space, a silent moment & look for my personal zen.

Personal zen? It’s that special, untouchable thing that helps me return to a calm, content, happy & driven being with an end goal of staring in wild wonder at the beauty of the world around me.

Over the years, I’ve learned (mostly through falling, failing & getting back up again) that balance is always achievable if you take the time to do you. To work on & build your inner resolve. Time, effort, & introspection are all integral to getting there with the balance thing.

But where does one start? I reckon a little bit of practice daily, & one big decision to take ownership of your own zen could look something like this:

  • PRIORITIZE
    Put yourself first. Seriously, do it. Because, weirdly enough, being your own Number-One is really hard for a lot of people – specifically working women. We’re taught from day-dot to make others happy. And that we can only ever be successful if we look the part while playing by rules written not in our own hand. Throw that bull$hit out the door & put yourself first. Find what makes you happy – be it exercise, time to reflect, or even meditation. Do you. First.
  • WORK, FAMILY, FUN
    Work & family are all intermingled these days, aren’t they? Shutting off is damn hard. So, finding a profession that you love & working with people you love mean that you’re able to find zen in the very place that pays the bills. Personally, my team at work are my family. While we might not share blood, we share laughs, love, kindness, drive, & shared objectives. Having fun is a must – & this means coming home is just as amazing as heading to the office on a Monday. #winning
  • AMBITION
    Don’t be afraid to kick butt & be good at what you do! As an American living in New Zealand, I do sometimes still struggle with the “tall poppy syndrome.” I was always taught that you’re not a great leader until you create other great leaders. Personally, I find so much joy in seeing my team at work, my child, & my loved ones succeed. Celebrating the success of others, & actively helping others to grow themselves is the best work any of us can do. My advice? Never, ever be afraid to be proud of your achievements. And, in the same vein, always let others know when you’re proud of their successes too!
  • MOVE YOUR BODY
    Exercise. It’s basically magic. The best kind of magic human beings could ever hope to master. When you’re feeling low, when your confidence is lacking… hit the road, the gym, or the pool. We humans were made to move. So, make time to do just that. Lose yourself in the sound of your beating heart. Make being comfortable with the state of feeling uncomfortable your new norm. And, if you can remember one thing about fitness let it be this: it’s easier to stay fit, than to get fit! So, make a habit of fitness. Mind, body, soul. Start moving. You’ll be amazed by how quickly you find your zen.
  • GET INTO THE GROOVE
    Music. It’s a common language across all of humanity. Minor chords, variations of the majors. They work to lift us up & bring us spiraling back down to earth. Find your groove, own it, & lose yourself in the words & chords that make you feel like yourself. Whether you’re blasting out Ryan Adams, swooning to Joe Jonas, or find yourself rolling through Cam Country… music heals, uplifts, & help us all find our center. Turn it on, turn it up, & do you.

Balance, confidence, & zen. However you find them…make your life your own. And, enjoy every breath you’re blessed with.

And, feel free to leave your tips on finding your zen in the comments. I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

 

Cass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m one tough Mudder – almost

People made of sheer grit and determination inspire me.

You know the type. They’re the rare few who are up before the dawn setting goals and knocking them out of the way before the sun rises. Their work ethic and drive to be the best mean that it almost looks easy to succeed (believe me though, it’s not!)

They’ve got their eyes on a prize and they face their fears head on – stepping over obstacles that look insurmountable to everyone else seemingly with ease.

They’re so passionate about what they’re doing that with one word, one action they start a fire in your belly.

They inspire you to become a better version of who you are now.

I want to be one of them.

One tough mudder

I want to become a better version of myself and to inspire others to do the same, so when I heard about the Toughest Mudder competition I was hooked.

If you haven’t heard about the Mudder challenge before – prepare to be gobsmacked. A series of events located across the globe, each one is 8 – 10 miles of obstacles in the mud, muck and conditions that turn the soft hearted into lions in the course of a day.

The top 5% of finishers for each event get invited to the final event of the year which is a 24 hour mega-marathon where competitors need as much strategy as they do sheer determination to win.

How is the winner decided you ask?

The person (there’s a male and a female winner) who completes the most laps of the course takes the crown. Awesome!

Teamwork is key

The best part about the Mudder challenge isn’t the purely physical side though – it’s the teamwork aspect that gets my motor running. Working alongside people you’ve trained with for months or building alliances on the day means you’ll finish with more than just sore and throbbing muscles…you’ll finish know you helped others just as they helped you to dig deep and accomplish your goals (here’s a short video on the Mudder’s philosophy).

At this point in time I’ve rallied a lot of support from people who are keen to try this out. Our biggest challenge isn’t the doing – it’s the distance we need to travel to get to the nearest event (which is in Sydney, Australia this Sept 22nd-23rd). Early next week some of the most inspirational people I know will call a meeting of the minds to hash out a plan of attack.

Getting there will take work, too

We’ll run through fundraising ideas, possible corporate sponsors and get some numbers firmed up. And yes, I’m smiling as I write this. I love the idea of having a goal to work towards. In fact, without that prize at the end of the road I struggle with finding my dogged determination.

This challenge could quite possibly be the catalyst I’ve needed in my life for a long time to reignite my passion for fitness and nutrition. Discovering Cross Fit (James Milne from Kiwi Conditioning is beyond inspiring, knowledgeable and amazing!) has inspired me to do more than simply work out – the classes push me to push myself. Hard.

From here on out, I’m setting the bar high. And yes, I will reach it and continue to move it further and further up. Improving on myself and the world around me is what keeps me passionate about life.

So bring it on folks – let’s all be tough Mudders! The Shane Cameron Fitness family (my local gym) is stoked…so am I.

PS For more information and information about our journey moving forward check out my public Facebook page, we’ll be posting any updates there. If you’d like to join our team for Sydney we’d be happy to have you. Or, if you’d like to support us in any way (even just with words of inspiration) – anything’s appreciated.

My 24 Day Challenge: Baby Steps

Let’s Go Back to the Start

When I undertook my Advocare 24 Day Challenge I wasn’t looking for an easy way out. Okay maybe I was. But, no matter how much I was hoping for a magical weight loss plan, I knew deep down that my true goal in just over three weeks would be to break some of the bad habits that have been part of my daily life for a long time.

To say the first week was a challenge would be an understatement of massive proportions. Not snacking between meals, giving up my 10am chocolate fix and trying not to eat AFTER dinner was hard. Really hard.

After the first week was over, I had three more days of a fairly strict “cleansing” regime to complete. Having the first 10 days with an eating and action plan fairly planned out worked really well for me. After that however, I lost a bit of passion and direction on the plan. I never stopped eating healthy and I picked up the pace on my exercise regime, but without something stringent planned out for me and a coach in my corner – I wobbled a bit when it came to staying the course.

I know my personality and I know I get the most out of plans and goals when I have someone looking over my shoulder and cheering me on. Someone helping me plan out my meals, pushing me with my exercise and (in the end) reminding me of my goal. Stepping outside of my comfort zone in relying on myself as an individual instead of part of a larger team (I’ve always played team sports) was an experience that forced me to grow. I’m glad for it.

It is now Sunday and Friday of last week was day 24. Yesterday we went out to dinner for the first time in months and I chose something healthy but also splurged on curly fries. Any guilt? Nope. Yesterday morning I did and intense hour-long boxing session and then followed it up with an hour of cross-fit. Today I am walking around like an 80-year-old and my muscles are screaming at me – but all in a good way. I love working hard and feeling the changes as they happen.

All in all, my 24 Day Challenge was a step in the right direction. A baby step. Now it’s up to me to make sure the changes I made during the past month become lifestyle changes. I will never be one of those people who can eat only chicken breasts and broccoli. I love cheese too much. And a cheeky glass of wine. Happily though, learning to eat smaller portions and only when I’m actually hungry will be great initiatives for health and longevity in my life moving forward.

I started the past 24 days as a healthy, fit person. Today, looking in the mirror, I see someone who’s healthier and fitter. That’s awesome.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and fun-filled summer ahead. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me along the way and who continues to do so in the days and years ahead. As I always say to others when they ask for fitness advice “It’s easier to STAY in shape than to GET in shape.” Treat your body right. Smile. Laugh. Dance.

Life’s too short not to enjoy every moment of it.

My 24 Day Challenge: Day 19

Setting myself up for disaster

In my last post pertaining to my 24 Day Challenge I wrote about the necessity to set yourself up for success if you want to achieve a goal – especially a lofty one like changing your lifestyle. Losing weight is hard enough mentally, so setting yourself up for success by feeling good about making better decisions is super important. Having others tell you they notice your hard work is paying off is like a cherry on top of the proverbial cake (that I won’t be eating any of anytime soon – well, maybe just a tiny slice!)

So, when I met this weekend head-on knowing full well that there would be temptation everywhere in the form of cotton candy at the school fair, wine at the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Open Day and amazing treats at a BBQ, I steeled myself to know that I wouldn’t and couldn’t be perfect. Thank goodness I set myself up for a little disaster – because I fell for everything. Hook, line and sinker.

The wine at the Helicopter Open day was gorgeous (all 3 glasses of it), the cotton candy at the school fair was yummy and the cheesecake (a small slice with fruit) at the evening BBQ was divine. And the Dorito’s, don’t get me started, it might only have been a handful but they were beyond yummy. The day was like a free-pass to fail. And I grabbed it with both hands and carried on like someone who was having their last meal on death row. At the end of the night I even snuck in the gobbling down of my favorite lemon tart from the French Cafe down the street. And, I guitily loved every morsel while I was eating it.

Needless to say, I ate too much last weekend (yesterday to be exact). Worse still, I ate too much of the wrong things. I’m starting to think that going into the weekend with a mind-set that was already focused on “I know I’m going to fail” meant that I was going to go the whole-hog regardless. And man did I feel like one afterwards. I actually felt uncomfortable physically when we got home but since I’d already broken my diet with flair I kept on snacking. My stomach was so damn full and I lacked any energy. It’s not surprising that I fell asleep in a heap on the couch before 7pm. Yikes!

Lucky for me though, I exercised A LOT last week and kept it up over the weekend. So there’s not as much damage done as there could have been – I’m hoping I broke even. That said, I took a definite step backwards as far as seeing my bikini body return goes. I’m not going to let it get to me though. I know I am a creature than enjoys good food and an occasional wine. With summer on its way the prospect of a lot of social engagements (the calendar is full for the next 4 months) I will have to try harder to really remember that lifestyle changes are just that. Indulging now and then is perfectly okay as long as it’s paired with a positive outlook and a good long run outside. I can do this!

Here’s to the sunshine ahead…bring on Thanksgiving, Christmas and La Niña.

My 24 Day Challenge: Days 4 & 5

Since days 4 & 5 fell over the first weekend of my challenge – I thought I’d update on them both as a package-deal. First and foremost I should start this out by
admitting that weekends are rough for me when it comes to eating healthily. If ever there was a time I struggle to stay away from cakes, junk food, ante
pastas (cheese laden – yum) and an occasional wine or cider, it would fall on the weekend. In fact, it happens most weekends. Thankfully I am a gym junkie,
so the damage done on the silly days gets negated during the week – but eating as if I deserve a treat on the weekend sure makes losing any weight difficult
to say the least.

Friday night was the big struggle for me, not having “a few” of my daughter’s takeaway chips was like winning a gold medal for me – silly, I know, but it felt good to stick to my guns for once. Yesterday was awesome. Healthy eating, two hours of hard-out exercise and a lovely dinner. Today, Sunday, was a mixed bag of good and bad. In the morning I attempted to hit the gym for an hour of cardio (which is usually easy) and only made it to 35 minutes before petering out. Low energy was the culprit. Obviously I need to learn to balance my energy better before working out. After the gym the family headed out on an amazing drive around West Auckland and all around the Kaipara Harbour.

The day was stunning. Blue skies, white-fluffy-clouds and gravel roads that ended at empty beaches. In the afternoon we ended up at the Parakai Hot Springs and spent hours whizzing down the water  slides at break-neck pace. It was fantastic. Here’s  where my first hic up of the challenge came into play – I didn’t pack any healthy snacks and as we left around 4pm I was VERY hungry. We stopped in Silverdale to pick up some fish for dinner on the way home and Hubby bought Miss5 a donut (A HUGE ONE) at the bakery next to the fish shop.

I usually don’t like donuts – but I caved. I had a BIG bite. Yikes! Thankfully it was chocolate (not my fave flavour) and dry. Krispy Kreme it was not. I know in the scheme of things (considering my great week of eating and
exercising) that this isn’t a biggie, but for me I feel like I now need to re-focus my efforts for the next 19 days.

Tomorrow is a new day and I’m ready to conquer it. That said, it’s also Halloween! I will be steering well clear of the treat-sized chocolates this year, and for good reason. Here’s hoping trick-or-treating is frightfully amazing and that people hand out apples instead (hey, it might happen, NOT!) All in all, the last 48 hours have been a win. One minor “oops” moment isn’t going to curtail my efforts to continue getting fit.

Bring on day 6!!!