Becoming Your Best

July 17, 2015
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Photo by Paul A. Smith, Simply Perfection Photography, 2015

The message is everywhere: with the right shoes, the right watch, the right diet, and the right trainer, you can become anything you want to be. In the Age of Aspiration, where we all want to be the best, even hoping to transcend our physical limitations, all we need is the right equipment and the right attitude.

But can we? Can we be actually be more than ourselves? Or should we focus on being our own true selves, the best that we can be, thereby fulfilling our genetic potential? Indeed, each and every one of us is unique, born with the capability to realize our own genius. A few years ago, I decided that’s what I wanted: a chance to become the best that I could be.

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Up until now, I’ve sought challenge and fulfillment in physical exertion. From childhood, I wanted to push myself up mountains, ski down them, ride great distances on horseback. I wanted to do. When I looked at photos of men summiting Mt. Everest, their gender didn’t concern me, but the accomplishment inspired me. I wanted to be there, too.

I got there.

In the early 1990s, I set my goal: to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent. Between 1992 and 1996, I traveled across the world and pushed myself past fatigue, past brutal weather extremes, past feet that looked like they’d been in a blender. I attempted Everest three times, and summited once. I knew and worked with some of the most talented mountaineers of the day, and I discovered the inner peace that comes with complete exhaustion.

Yet, as much as I met those challenges, I never felt like I was fully living up to what I could do. Then I discovered the sport of CrossFit and the CrossFit Games, the ultimate test of genetic potential, where players compete at the leading edge of every physical ability humans are made for: strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. To even make it on the field, to compete against dozens of other supremely talented women, would be a tremendous honor. So I embarked on this grand adventure, the quest to qualify for the Games, just to see where my genes would take me.

Photo by Paul A. Smith, Simply Perfection Photography, 2015

Photo by Paul A. Smith, Simply Perfection Photography, 2015

 

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I never participated in team sports when I was in school. Title IX didn’t come along until later, and girls didn’t typically play sports—they were encouraged to become cheerleaders. That didn’t interest me, so I found my outlet in the mountains, alone. That experience gave me strength, endurance, and a high threshold for pain: all advantages in CrossFit. But I had to learn—and am still learning—how to move efficiently and use my strengths in new ways. I needed to become flexible—both in muscles and mind—in a way I’d never done before.

I first started competing in CrossFit in 2012 . At first, I was solidly in the middle of the pack. But in 2013, I placed third in an All Master’s competition against a field of tough women. Standing on the podium was exhilarating, and I wanted more.

Eighteen months ago, I dedicated myself not only to competing but excelling as a player in the 2015 CrossFit Games. I put together a team of coaches, nutritionists, peers and trainers who advised me every step of the way. I wrote up a plan, I followed it (with a few minor tweaks). To my surprise, I advanced into the 60+ Division this year. And, in April, I qualified for the Games, which commence in three days.

In these 18 months, I’ve seen that anyone, with time and dedication, can meet his or her own potential. People who train for the CrossFit Games have varying skill sets and body types: some of us are tall and strong, others are small and agile. But we all work at the limit of our genetic abilities, and I’ve come to relish the feeling of hitting that mark, the ache of your body and mind stretching forward beyond what you ever thought possible.

I’ve realized that chasing a dream of being the perfect athlete, or the perfect body, is a fool’s errand. We can’t all become the ideal—whatever that ideal might be, in any given age—but we can all strive to be our own best selves, whether that’s to compete in the Games or to lift a weight you never thought possible or to run a mile faster than ever before. In my training, I’ve met many people who are reaching for their own personal bests in many different arenas. They aren’t all doing CrossFit, but they are all living up to their genetic potential. They are all inspiring.

On July 22, I will walk onto the field knowing that I am the very best athlete I can be. By doing so, I will have won the Games before they even begin. I am going into the competition in a state of “personal best”: never stronger, more nimble, faster, or skilled than I am right now.  And I will walk onto that field grateful—for all the support I have gotten these past few years, for the chance to stand among a field of my peers, and for the privilege of living a life that has allowed me to express my genetic potential.

Photo by Paul A. Smith, Simply Perfection Photography, 2015

Photo by Paul A. Smith, Simply Perfection Photography, 2015

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7 Comments

  • Reply Tanja Richter July 17, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Wow Sandy. I am sooooo jealous! You are awesome! Everyone wishes that they could go to the games!…but in the 60+ division? Wow. I have one question though…..do they know you are somewhere in your 40’s? You can’t possibly be 60+. 🙂

    Good luck at the games! You are incredible.

    • Reply Sandy Hill July 17, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      Thanks Tanja for your good wishes and support! Xxoo

  • Reply Kim July 17, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Sandy,
    I found you and your blog by chance as I was reading a Mind Body Green email. All I can say is WOW!! You are such an inspiration regardless of age! But the fact that you embarked on this challenge when most of us reach a stage in life where we slow down and resign ourselves to a slow steady state of decline is absolutely amazing! I have spent the last several days reading through every single blog on your site. You have inspired me to embark on my own journey. I think your outlook and your “head game” are spot on. I wish you the absolute best of luck while you’re competing. I will be eagerly watching 🙂

    • Reply Sandy Hill July 17, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Thanks Kim! I am glad you found inspiration here. And that fact will inspire me during the Games. With my deepest gratitude.

  • Reply Maria July 18, 2015 at 10:39 am

    All the very best Sandy, I am 49 and started CF last year. I train with a bunch of ladies of a similar age, we’ll all be routing for you!!

  • Reply Eric July 19, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Way to go, Sandy! This is so cool. I’m excited for you to rep PCF — and YOURSELF!! — down in Carson! Rock on.

    • Reply Sandy Hill July 19, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      Thanks Eric! I am honored to represent Paradiso CrossFit. It is the inspiration and motivation I have found in so many members like you who have brought me to this point. With my deepest gratitude to you and to them.

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