Mindfulness improves your performance at the box
I’ve been a CrossFitter for 3 years and recently in my efforts to progress in the sport of fitness; I have begun to explore the positive, as well as the negative correlation that exists between your mental and physical capabilities. We were all glued to our screens at this years CrossFit Games, watching athletes who have worked hard to get to Madison.
While it can be said that these athletes have been blessed by the CrossFit gods with a genetic predisposition to excel, within this group there exist those who have been intentional in introducing practices in their training to aid them in executing top performances as they compete at the highest level of the sport. Genetically, I have been gifted with the capacity to build strength quickly.
Squats in all forms make me just as happy as I would be eating donuts, deadlifts and heck even thrusters.
I love all of these movements! However, ask me to run a mile and immediately my mind runs faster than my legs can, to the worst case scenario where I’m rescued by some James Franco lookalike from a run that should have never happened! In an effort to have and sustain the joy and gratitude that exists whenever I have a bar in my hands, I began to explore mindfulness as a mean of learning how to transfer these emotions to any WOD (Helen I’m talking about you,) that has running.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Not just for the yoga bunnies, mindfulness can best be described as the art of being present in the moment, it is training your thoughts to not wander into past or future efforts. Mindfulness involves being present through every activity that you partake in, a mental evaluation that occurs during the activity and can manifest itself physically as it comes into play in whatever choice we next make.
Mindfulness is a move from being a spectator in the game of life (or indeed in CrossFit,) to being the man/woman in the driver’s seat.
Fully in control of the direction in which your thoughts are about to travel. It is a practice that teaches you to be intentionally grateful about all that you are able to do, and the decisions or choices that you are able to make in relation to life.
It is learning how to perform anything and everything with purpose and joy.
In those moments you are, (as you can probably guess,) mindful and acutely aware of everything that is going on around you and in you. Mindfulness can be helpful in positively changing the perception you have of the world and yourself. In these moments of self-evaluation, you are able to pay attention to your why and (hopefully,) find the good, no matter how small it is, in whatever you’re doing.
Why is this important in CrossFit?
When it comes to attributes such as endurance, strength and ability to maintain intensity during a WOD or a competition, there is no shortage of workouts in CrossFit that will aid you in developing these qualities that make a good athlete. However in order to become a great athlete, it is important to focus on all the aspects that can influence your training, one of them being your mind.
This technique of mindfulness is one that sports psychologists have studied and confirmed as a contributing factor in overall sports performance. In honing in your thoughts you become someone who will constantly show up at the box to be first. The concept of first isn’t necessarily being the first one to finish the WOD (although that’s great too,) or the first one on the leader-board. Being first means being someone who in comparison to the old athlete you used to be, demands the impossible not just out of their workout but out of life.
This is an athlete who does not allow their mind to wander off or slack off. An athlete that keeps pounding the ground and working hard even when no one else is working hard. It becomes a way of life. This is an athlete who knows (as we heard the champ Mat Fraser say,) that hard work pays off.
When you begin to practice this awareness, guess what happens? You’re less likely to get injured because you’ve honed in on the delicately beautiful relationship that exists between mind and body. You’re developing a relationship between the two that is healthy and will not only trickle into your everyday life, but also make you the hardest person to beat. An athlete that can’t be stopped, one that again makes people see that hard work pays off!
Next time you’re headed to the box, aim to get there five minutes earlier and find a quiet corner. Put a timer on for five minutes and get comfortable the floor. You can choose to stay seated or lie on your back (try not to fall asleep,) and maybe place a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your forehead.
Allow your eyes to gently close and focus on a positive event that happened during the course of the day. It doesn’t have to be a grand event, sometimes it can be something as small as having been able to make it to the box. It is less about the actual event and more about the emotions that you felt.
Focus on those emotions that you experienced and allow yourself to re-live that experience in your mind.
If you’re going through a particularly trying time where you can’t find the good in anything, think of the last time you PR’d a lift (if you’re into strength like me,) or the last time that you bettered your Fran or Karen time.
Allow your mind to create a vivid memory of all the positive emotions that you felt in that moment, focus on the euphoria, the sense of achievement and happiness that you felt. When you’re done, focus on holding on to the positive emotion/s from that past experience, through every present movement that your WOD will consist of.
You win .. or you learn. – I'm trying to wrap my head around this whole season. Mostly just the fact that it is over. This is certainly not the results we wanted but in a weird sense this might have been my favorite CrossFit Games so far .. we got to FIGHT & we got to LEARN so much more than any of the times we stood on top of the podium. Giving it everything we have, regardless of circumstances, is something Ben talks to me about alllllllll the time .. now we got to live it. – I've been on both sides of the story where at the end of it all my name is called & also when someone else's is .. and that hurts. When I know we CAN win .. It hurts. We can still walk away with our head held high & no regrets. I feel like you can only regret something & it truly be a mistake if you don't learn from it. If you learn, you win. – The competition is AHHMAZING, my competitors are absolutely incredible athletes & it is nothing at all to be ashamed of to be standing behind them at the end of it all. They really impress me. And they REALLY give me fire for this whole upcoming year 💥😈🔥💜 I can't wait to be back .. 2018 is in trrrrrrouble hehe – THANK YOU @crossfitgames, @crossfit, @thedavecastro, all the judges, volunteers & YOU GUYS for putting up this whole event & making it what is is .. it allows all of us to day in & day out all year round do what we absolutely love the most .. & then bring it to light at this amazing event 💥❤️🌟😍 – More thoughts to come & my TEAM 💕 & support system deserves a whole thank you post alllllll to themselves. – Okkkayyyy – Longest post everrrrrrrrrrr .. OUT 👋🏼😘 xoxo
A different way of practicing mindfulness is through something that I’ve learnt from two-time CrossFit Games champion Katrin Davidsdottir. She wears a white rubber band on her right wrist that she has to move to her left wrist anytime she has a negative thought or complains about a movement or wod. The goal is to keep it on the same wrist; it’s a lot harder than anyone would think!
This practice will create in you an increased awareness of the words that come out of your mouth and also as equally important, the words that stay in your head. I am learning how to walk into the box ready to give it my all. Yes, running should perhaps be considered illegal, however even something as soul destroying as that, can be approached with a positive attitude, and on that note I’m almost certain that that was a thinly veiled complaint, so I guess I have to switch my rubber band now…
A few good reads to make your mind the strongest ‘muscle’ you have:
- The Champions Mind by Jim Afremow
- Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack
- Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel