Welcome back to week four of our #WhyIExercise series. You’re in for a treat as our spotlight educator, Mindi Vandagriff, shares her story with us. Mindi’s hometown is McKinney, Texas and is a Coordinator of Professional and Digital Learning in Anna, Texas. She has a BA from The University of Texas and a MS in Media Design and Technology. Mindi is currently working on a second master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I hope you’re as touched by Mindi’s transparency as I am.
Let get to it, y’all . . .
Exercise, per se, hasn’t always been a part of my life… but being active has. I was an athlete in high school; I was my high school’s mascot and I played volleyball, basketball, softball, and ran track. I wasn’t exceptional at any one sport, instead, I was a decent athlete at most sports. Being involved in team sports early in life, set the stage for my love of team sports in my adult life… which eventually led me to adult co-ed softball. A lot of adult co-ed softball. There was a time when I was playing softball at least three nights a week, and in tournaments most weekends. It was something that my husband and I could do together. Something that we loved doing together. Whether he was a spectator or the pitcher for our team, we were together. But juggling being a firefighter’s wife, a full-time mom to two boys, a full-time educator and a part-time softball player eventually caught up with me. I had to give up something and I reluctantly chose softball.
I still made time for me by joining a local women’s fitness group, P31, an hour workout 3-4 times per week, with women who also juggled being moms and wives and professionals. And while I loved dedicating more time to myself and my family and to my students, I realized that I was missing something. Being active. And not just being active like going for a jog or shooting some hoops in the backyard with my boys, but being active with my husband.... a team… a community of athletes. And maybe, just maybe I even missed the competition.
Last summer, I joined my local box, Crossfit TBR (#cftbr) in Anna, TX and it has challenged me more than I could have ever imagined. Physically, mentally and emotionally. I have found my tribe.
The reason that I Crossfit is honestly a little selfish, and maybe even a little vain. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be healthy and strong, but I want to look healthy and look strong. I want my daily struggle to exercise to SHOW. When I look at physically fit people, I don’t look at them with envy, I look at them with pride-- like WOW. I know exactly what it takes to look like that and WOW. Nice work.
But if I am being completely honest, it motivates me. I hear their talk, via social media and in my Crossfit box, their motivation and their inspiration, and it changes the way that I talk to myself. My inner voice. Sometimes she (my inner voice) is downright mean. Nasty and hateful. The things that I say to myself are things I would never, NEVER say to anyone else. “You’ll never look like that.” “You aren’t dedicated enough.” “You aren’t strong enough.” “ You’ll never be that fast.” “It’s too late.” “You’re too old.” “It’s not worth it.”
And this, y’all, is a daily, if not hourly, struggle. But when I hear other people’s talk… it changes mine. So the reason I choose to exercise, to Crossfit, is to surround myself with people whose talk is louder than my negative inner voice. To drown her out and change her rhetoric.
I choose to Crossfit because I want people to see what I have overcome to even lace up my shoes or get out of bed and walk into the box.
I choose to Crossfit because I miss being on a team. A team of athletes who struggle and conquer daily just like me, who challenge themselves to overcome just like me. Who set and meet goals and set goals higher just like me.
When my mean, nasty, negative inner voice hasn’t convinced me to stay at home or convinced me that work is more important, a bigger priority than my health, I am at Crossfit TBR. I’m with my tribe. The WOD (Workout Of the Day) is different everyday and I LOVE that. Something new and challenging every time. During the school year, my favorite class is at 0500. Dark thirty. I love starting my day working out before the sun even rises.
During the summer however, I am trying the 0830 classes, which is a different regimen for me. Eating before I workout… lifting and running when there’s light outside.
I really enjoy doing HERO WODs-- named after Heroes who gave their lives in the line of duty. CrossFit Hero WODs are some of the most intense workouts that you could experience. They are intended to be performed with intense effort, in honor of our fallen Heroes. Their purpose is to remind us to think outside of ourselves. This past Memorial Day, I completed the annual #MurphChallenge. Maybe the most painful, challenging, and intense workout I’ve ever done, in memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005.
My most recent WOD was 5 RFT, 20 cal Air Dyne, 20 KB swings, 20 sit ups. Don’t let the Air Dyne fool you. That thing nearly ended me.
Food is my vice. My dirty little secret. I love food. All kinds of food… healthy foods, fattening food, sweets, drinks… all the food. I don’t eat until I’m sick, to the point of gluttony, actually it’s quite the opposite. I don’t eat enough. And you may think, wait what? Is she like 50 lbs? Nope, again quite the opposite. I struggle with food intake and so my body goes into fat-storage mode, something I honestly didn’t have to worry about until after I had babies. Which was almost 13 years ago, so you’d think I’d have it figured out by now. I don’t. I’m working on that.
You’ve probably heard that being fit is 20% in the gym and 80% in the kitchen. I’ve heard it, too. But I didn’t really realize that pertained to me until I reached the 20% in the gym. I was and am doing all I can in the gym; now, I’m working on what I do in the kitchen.
Actually, I’m not. I hate the kitchen. I hate cooking. I hate grocery shopping. The meat section at the grocery store intimidates me. I do not enjoy preparing a good clean meal. My husband, however, he has become quite the cook over the past 11 years as a firefighter. The problem is, he always cooks for 12 men. Even when he’s at home. There are 4 of us.
And did I mention I live with two teenage boys? They eat ALL. THE. TIME. I can’t keep up with the food and I certainly can’t keep up with the metabolism of two teenage boys and an active firefighter.
Yes, I know how to eat clean and buy it and prep it, but I do not enjoy standing in the kitchen for hours. You know this now. So, this past April, I started paying someone to food prep for me. She preps 10-12 meals plus snacks per week. I eat every 3 hours. It is the best money I’ve ever spent on my health.
As an education professional, I consider myself a servant to education. I am constantly serving others. I serve teachers, I serve students, I serve parents. And in that service, I am constantly thinking about I can serve better. Which means I am always “on”. Exercise helps me turn my brain off… from my work life, from my personal life, and make time for me. This is where I feel like the reason I exercise is selfish. When I am doing a WOD, I am not thinking about anyone but myself (selfish, but I am ok with this), setting goals and failing and setting new goals and achieving them all in the same workout. This tends to be my life mantra, start, fail, start over, keep going. This mantra carries over into my professional life because I live and breathe it when I exercise.
The funny thing is I relate just about everything to Crossfit, especially when I am at work. The analogies I give when I am facilitating lessons with students are Crossfit analogies. The analogies I give in professional developments and teacher trainings are Crossfit analogies. I even gave a presentation to our school board where I talked about academic measurements and of course, Crossfit.
Personal: Keep work at work. My boys are only getting older and my husband is only here 2 out of every 3 days. Spending time with them, albeit in front of the TV or riding around the neighborhood on our golf cart, is worth so much more than them constantly seeing me with a computer attached to my lap.
Professional: Keep work at work. My goal is to increase efficiency while I am at work so that I have more time for my family and for me when I am home. But while I am at work, my goal is to inspire and encourage others… lifting them up and celebrating small victories with them. I don’t need to be in the limelight, instead, I choose to help teachers feel empowered as our bus moves forward.
Kipping chest to bar pullups
WHEN I get these, my #fitleaders will be the first to know!
I literally have this tattooed on my body. It reminds me to slow down and focus. Focus on what is important. To inhale worries and stress and problems and to exhale all that I have been blessed with-- my health and the ability to set my mind to achieve anything physically possible; my husband who supports me and all that I take on, who encourages me to be the best version of myself daily; my boys who are so wonderfully made… full of good down to their cores; and my profession which I so passionately love and rewards my soul. When I take time to just breathe, I remember that I can NOT do it all. And to be perfectly content with that. When life happens, I encourage you to just #breathe.
I, by no means, pretend to be a fitness guru. In fact, I considered backing out of writing this post because of the educators who have been highlighted thus far, I am probably the least physically fit. I don’t exercise everyday. My food and dietary habits should not always be emulated. But my will to exercise shall prevail over my struggle to not. The struggle is real, y’all. And if I have learned anything over the years exercising and being active, I have learned that I am not alone. Talking about your successes and failures gives you fuel to take a cleansing breath and put one foot in front of the other. Talking about it quietens your negative inner voice. When we talk about our failures, it helps us pick each other up and keep going. I could not do this without my Crossfit TBR family. I could not do this without my #fitleaders family.
Wow!!! If there’s anybody that's going to get you to join Crossfit, it’s Mindi. Her passion for Crossfit, education, and her family is off the charts. If you’re not ready to join a box, but are ready to try some WODs, download the MyWOD app. Scroll through the WODs. You're bound to find one that you like. Well . . . except ones with burpees. :)
As much as we learned about Crossfit, the message that resonated the most for me is Mindi’s self-talk. Each one of us is more capable, more confident, and more amazing than we give ourselves credit for. We are leaders. We are role-models. We are life-changers. I challenge each one of you to stretch yourself this week. Do your own Hero WOD for yourself. There are students, colleagues, and family members that look up to you daily. You are their hero.
Mindi, thank you so much for sharing with us this week. You’ve inspired us more than you can even imagine.
Marilyn . . .
As educators, we know the importance fitness has on both our bodies and minds. This blog is a celebration of educators and the role exercise plays in our lives.