Balance: The “in-between” of extremism

 

If you’re reading this… thanks already.

As I write this blog, I am lounging on a sea-side view, pool-side cabana after enjoying 12 hours of sleep. I am resting ‘cause yesterday I slept for 3 hours and ran on no rest for the entire day. I just finished breakfast- a perfect combination of an organic fruit salad and a Nutella-covered pastry. I am wearing a $3 bikini and $300 sunglasses and am jamming to my favourite playlist- a compilation of motivational speeches, Lil-Wayne, Tupac, Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton. I am snuggled up to my favourite man in the world who I love dearly, who also really pissed me off yesterday. I am loading up on water after a 6km run through the hills of Greece ‘cause last night I downed a bottle of wine before bed and managed to only accumulate 30% of my daily activity on my Apple Watch. Balance.

Although my last 2 days have certainly been above-average living, the contradictory nature of my daily life tends to find its focus somewhere between these types of extremes quite often. The pendulum of my lifestyle shifts to the extremes and then settles to find its pendulum-groove perfectly in the middle. Juxtaposition at its finest. This is the place I have found comfort in for quite some time now. This is the place where I have found my balance. A place I’ve searched desperately for, for a very VERY long time. A place that is likely to change with the seasons, and with the years to come. A place on my GPS of life I need to bookmark and never forget, ‘cause it feels THAT good. I really am in a good place. Good enough, that I’m willing and able to share this with you all, my soul-sisters.

So, here we go, a blog on BALANCE. If you’ve been following along these last few weeks (thanks for that) you might have known it was coming. BALANCE is the last of the cornerstones of my three-some of values- next to happiness and health (peep my blog for my views on these concepts) and I’m pretty pumped to give you my views on this topic. It’s a tough one to muster-up, believe it or not.

When I’m not living the high life in Europe, I do have a job I quite enjoy. A job where it is my duty to help people (usually middle-aged women) find this magical, unicorn, state-of-being for themselves. And that shit is HARD. And, WHY is the struggle so real when it comes to “balance”? ‘Cause there is no magic formula, there is no set workout, no calorie in: calorie out ratio to predict, no body composition goal to achieve, no set amount of money, or number of children, or amount of vacations that need to be accumulated or worked towards before this is achieved. The hard thing with balance, is that is it different for EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE.

Heading to the gym 6x per week to lift weights for an hour or springing out of bed for a casual 10km run is part of MY balance- but if I told most women to do this, they’d prob slap me, or puke, or try real hard to impress me for a week and then fail miserably (see: Health: Requires small bites) but the fact is, without this consistent routine in my life, I feel lost, in shambles, un-directed. Maybe for you, you’d feel lost without your daily reading, or prayer, or yoga, or play-time with your pup- that’s because, the shit that balances your scale is different than mine, and that’s the uniqueness that makes this topic nearly impossible to teach or coach. But here I am, giving y’all my best shot.

The truth is, I haven’t always had a routine and rhythm that coasted in-between. In fact, I’ve been a fascist, totalitarian, extremist if you will, recovering workaholic at best for many years. And the truth is, I’ve learnt what balance looks like for ME by pushing the boundaries in nearly EVERY aspect of my life. And with any recovery, there are always moments when old habits and old patterns will come back and slap me in the ass with a reminder. So, I ain’t saying I am healed of my workaholic-ness, I am just simply blowing with the breeze much more than I ever have before, and after 2 years without falling into old traps, I feel sophisticated enough to share this message.

My extremist personality began as a school-aged child. I’ve always hustled for accomplishments because it meant I got attention. If you know me, you know I LOVE attention, and as a youngster with FIVE other siblings, if I wanted attention, I just made sure I continually did cool shit my parents could be proud of. I made the sports team. I got 100% on the test. I beat every kid in the race. I scored a goal. I won the contest. You get my point. Once, as a 12 year old, I had to be taken to the hospital due to extreme stomach pains just moments before the “finals” of my soccer game. Oh, the pressure I was feeling to win that game caused me to be violently ill. At 12 years old. This still happens to this day. I feel absolutely nauseous before having to perform or execute (ask my FemSport teammates)- I shut down. Retreat. Wish it to be over. Shit-my-pants type of ill. The pressure I put on myself in athletics continues to this day, even in the smallest of ways. But I am learning, and improving- cause let’s be honest, no one REALLY cares whether I do 50 box jumps in 39 seconds or 3 minutes. I just do. Badly.

My extreme personality continued in my education, all 18 years of it. I used to put SO much pressure on myself as a kid, my parents used to FORCE me to put school-work away on the weekends. In grade 4, my Dad “caught” me studying for a spelling test on a Friday night. I had re-written the ONE (of say, 50) words I had gotten wrong on my last exam about 300x on loose leaf paper. My Dad was nervous I was going to be a total anti-social nerd (he only admits that now). I would come to my mom with mounds of papers, explaining that I NEEDED her to quiz me… again. She would explain that I had gotten every question correct the night before, but again, I needed the reassurance that 100% was in my future. In elementary school I was enrolled in a program that allowed academic freaks to complete the work of the next grade, even if it meant skipping drama, or gym class, or recess. In grade 3, I was completing grade 4 on my own time, in grade 4, I was completing grade 5- and so on. Always ahead. By the time high-school came, I couldn’t wait to be a part of the “AP” (Advanced Placement) crew. Even if that meant leaving all my friends behind. I achieved academic awards, scholarships and honour roll status for 3 straight years- making me eligible to enter any University, in any program I chose. Was it necessary to put the pressure on myself to achieve 100%? Would I have had the same opportunities with a 85? 90? Yes.. most likely. But I will never know. My academic perfectionism continued HARD throughout University. I put a lot of pressure on myself, so much so that I neglected the many “fun times” that are often associated with post-secondary school. I honestly cannot remember one University related party. Sad, really. But I DO remember spending DAYS (I’m talking 12+ hours/day for a week straight) in the University library utilizing all of the ADHD kids medication to keep me awake, alert and learning (bad, I know). I realized right away that often, there are 3 profs who teach the same information for a single course, so I would “sneak” into classes I wasn’t enrolled in to absorb the information in a different way. I created a study-group that was SO hardcore we had jackets, in extremism fashion, I was captain. I would tape 3-hour lectures on my MacBook, and listen to them while I slept at night- and because of the insomnia caused by school-stress and my newly-found Adderal habit, I would find myself waking up drenched in sweat before the 3 hour lecture was even complete. So, I woke up, and I hit the books. I can honestly say I read nearly every word, of every University text book purchased over 6 years. I got my thousands of dollars worth. What started off as all-star student habits turned into extreme, unhealthy, stress-ridden behaviours- all in the name of what? The fine print that notes “With Great Distinction” on my Bachelors of Science degree? The different coloured robe I wore at graduation? Looking back on my success with school, I am certainly proud. I had many academic opportunities and had I not started my own business, I am confident someone would hire me ‘cause I look great on paper.. but would have a 3.7 GPA sufficed? Would one or two “Last Class Bashes” or a disappointing 70% on an exam REALLY screwed me over? Probably not. But, you live and you learn and if one day my business goes in the gutter, I hope someone in the science industry reading this will give me a kick-ass job, ‘cause now I know LOTS of useless-in-the-real-world chemistry information… Oh, and I will work my tail off for you.

If my over-the-top academic perfection wasn’t enough, during the same time I was diving heavily into the books, I became fixated with my current passion: fitness. I actually don’t know if I could really classify my newfound passion at THAT time as “fitness” it was more-so, “aesthetics”- and more clearly “bodybuilding”. Anyone who claims bodybuilding to be a balanced sport is obviously… still a bodybuilder, who hasn’t taken a step away from the stage to realize the all-encompassing effort this sport requires on your life (and health, and mindset). Do NOT get me wrong- it is a phenomenal, hard-working, push-your-limits sport that granted me many opportunities- but it certainly ain’t “balanced”. So when you introduce an extremist to an extremist sport, shit might… get taken to the extreme. Which it did. I pretty much got to the point in my fitness career that I would do anything possible, other than steroids (and to be honest, there were even moments when THIS crossed my mind) to achieve a stage-worthy physique. 2 hours of cardio? You bet! 7 days per week of fasted walking? Sure! 1200 calories? Yup! 6 meals per day? I’m on it! A supplement list longer than my grocery list? For sure! Skip my own birthday celebration? Vacations? Family outings? Anything in the name of…. looking better in a bikini? I did it! Looking back, I do NOT regret one single day of Competition Prep. At the time, it was EXACTLY what I wanted to be doing, and I genuinely loved it ALL. The sport can be awesome, but if you want people paying $50+ to come look at you in a bikini, you can’t look like the girls at the grocery store, at the pool or at the beach, you HAVE to look different: leaner, more conditioned, tighter, fitter. Therefore, you have to DO different, which usually means giving up luxuries that others take part in. It’s part of the process, it’s what you sign up for, and I fricken loved it. I REALLY loved it, but I could no longer LIVE that way long-term. I got to the point where I was “on prep” for more time than I was “off prep” and I turned an extreme SPORT into an extreme LIFESTYLE and THAT is where things went astray for me. It wasn’t the sports fault, it was MY fault, and I own that. After 2 years of this nonsense, I weighed ~120 lbs (at 5’9”), I completely lost my menstral cycle (which I’m still working on recovering), my hair came out in clumps, and I started growing dark hair across my stomach (which I know now is a reaction to female hormonal imbalances and low body weight). And guess what? I took home a fitness model pro card, I won 1st place in 2 separate events, I was Top 3 in Alberta in my height class and finished top 6 in Canada. I gained reassurance for my over-the-top antics.

My last show (2 years ago now)- I promised myself I would complete my prep in a BALANCED fashion (I use that term lightly here), as after 3 years of hammering on my body I started to realize my Competition Prep lifestyle was not paralleling my businesses-beliefs and values. AND guess how that “balanced” prep worked out for me? Terribly. I showed up to a national event at 12% body fat and about 5% too high in comparison to my competition. If I was lifting weights at a local gym, I stuck out as an extremely fit woman, but you put me on stage with Canada’s best, and I couldn’t compete with them anymore. THATS when I made the decision to hang up my heels (at least for now). I had to realize that I couldn’t have it all, not with my personality and my competitiveness, I KNEW and I KNOW what it would take for me to be one of the best, and because my current balance feels so damn good right now, I can’t put myself in that position. Without the extremes of the sport though, I would never have found the balance I have now with fitness. It was all worth it.

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So, there you have it, an authentically vulnerable post letting you know I haven’t always had my shit together. Balance is NOT easy, at least it hasn’t been for me, which is why it’s worth continuing to fight for. It is a journey, not a destination, and what balance means for you will continue to change by the year, by the month, and sometimes, by the fricken day. So please, fight for it and be KIND to yourself along the way. As long as you continue to LEARN, you never lose.

Find what feels right and work like hell for it.

Ciao Bella’s!

4 thoughts on “Balance: The “in-between” of extremism

  1. You are incredibly inspirational, Ashlyn! Wow! Thank you for sharing your story! Finding balance is hard, something as a middle age person, I’m striving to still find in my own life! Your blog was an awesome way to start my day! Thank you! 😘

    Like

  2. This was such an inspiring read !!! Thank you ! I wished there was more to read on this. I didnt want to stop !
    So well written and honestly one of the most inspiring posts I have read.
    I’m working on my balance. It’s been difficult.. but this makes me feel better knowing that you know how others feel. You are still trying to find your balance too.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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