Whether you know it or not, you have assigned yourself a level of commitment to your training. Some of you are focused, sharp and put all of your being into your training. Food, rest, recovery and walking the razors edge of suffering is your game. You have a high level of commitment. Some of you come in, put in solid work, eat well and go about your lives. You have a reasonable level of commitment. Some of you do the minimum, eat what you want, and think a Friday night party is recovery. You have the minimum level of commitment. This post is NOT about commitment. We all make choices about our fitness and health that are personal. What this post is about is some of the tools that will improve your training regardless of your level of commitment. The tools we will talk about here are tools that are in your head and heart and that you can carry with you everyday and everywhere regardless of where you are in your training.
Tool #1: Self-Awareness
To me, self-awareness has three varieties as related to training: awareness of your physical abilities and limitations, awareness of your mental and emotional toughness, and awareness of the context of the environment that you find yourself in.
First the physical:
Being aware of your physical capabilities is the sum of your previous experiences. The longer you train the more information you have to use. We ask you to keep a workout log. One of the reasons is so that you have a written record of accomplishments that can guide your training. Knowing what you have done can help you as you move forward. A note of caution: use the awareness to drive your training and motivation to a higher level, not as a roadblock to hold you back. When it comes to competition, having awareness of your past can allow you to push hard in the most advantageous spots and hold back in the places that could lead to failure.
Mental and emotional:
This is a tough one. I will contend that most are mentally and emotionally not living up to their physical capacity. A small few have the mental toughness to go harder than they are capable (inspiring, but also not optimum). And the smallest percentage have harmony between physical, mental and emotional. All that being said, the tool you are looking for is knowing where you are in that scale. Improving your mental and emotional capacity is a process. It takes time. It comes with maturity, with focused effort, and a large volume of exposure to overreaching training. Therefore, ignoring for a moment the long-term goal of improvement of mental toughness, the thing we are discussing here is knowing where you are in the moment. If you are weak in this area, it is useful to know during training so that you can overreach and push past those barriers even at the cost of failure so that you might grow. In a competition setting it is useful to know so that you might step just outside of your limitations to reach maximum potential, but not too far outside at the expense of complete failure. I include emotional awareness because the more trained you are the more important this becomes. The longer you train, the less logic has a role and the more your heart and will have a role. Failure becomes consuming and victory become just another step. Learning to enjoy victory and to learn from, but not dwell in defeat is key. If you know that loss is a far greater low than the high of victory then work on finding a more even keel. I have seen more people dwell in the depths of defeat than have swollen egos from winning. Use defeat as tonic, not a dependence. This is important because the better you are, the stiffer the competition becomes and the more defeat you will see. Accept it, be bothered by it, but use it to move past and be better.
Be mindful of your surrounding and the situation you find yourself in. You may be in an extreme environment (cold, hot, high altitude etc.) or a high intensity environment (CrossFit Games, IronMan Kona, the Olympics etc.) or a hostile environment. You may also be in a very comfortable environment like our gym. All of these different factors are important and may affect your performance either positive or negative. The most important thing is to be aware of the effect that is likely and then to mitigate it the best you can. For some, working into a state of calm may be important, for others they may need to get angry. Fear of the unknown can be a powerful hindrance or motivator…work to use it to your advantage. Additionally be aware, you are the context of yourself. Injury, stress, and other physical and mental limitations that are acute to the day or the moment must be realized and worked around.
The final act of awareness is to put it all together and to become more than the sum of the parts. Shed the pieces of who you think you are and instead become the action that you are pursuing.
Tool #2: Meditation
One of the keys to unlocking performance is to quiet the inner dialogue and to perform the given task free of distraction of inner and outside influence. This is active meditation and it allows you to quiet the “noise” and to become truly focused. The ability to achieve this is practiced and learned and will not be achieved without effort. I am not an expert on meditation but can attest to the powerful effects of a calm mind a spirit driven to a singular goal that is free of distraction. Buy some books, read about meditation, and become better.
Tool #3: Relaxation
The relaxation I am talking about is relaxation that is found in the moment of action. When you are deep in the stress of a difficult, meaningful workout, or on a run out pitch climbing, or making those first turns into a committing ski line you will overcome the mental obstacles if you have practiced finding auditory, visual, and tactile relaxation points. During training, work on blocking out the noise and find some cues to induce relaxation. It could be the quiet clip of the carabineer through the rope, or the feel of wrapping your fingers around the bar, or the inhalation of a cold breath before starting down a couloir. During training or practice, take a moment to BUILD these cues into your toolbox. It will not come naturally, you must find what cue has a spark that resonates with you and then overtime take the moment to focus on the cue and then to consciously relax, focus and live in the moment. Once you put the time in working on the cue, you won’t have to focus on the cue; it will subconsciously trigger a relaxation response.
Tool #4 Having a Plan But Being Fluid In the Moment
Simple statement: Lack of a plan is stupid. From driving to the store, to making dinner, to starting a tough workout, to ski touring in the mountains, you MUST have a plan or you are starting with a severe handicap. A plan gives you meaning to the start, direction in the middle and can lead you out of the darkness at the end. Plans make us think through the task. This is important because it provides meaning and investment in the task. Investment leads to full commitment to the moment, which leads to getting more out of the task. I am often amazed how investment and commitment can be THE difference between two people who are doing the exact same task. A plan is the starting point to investment.
At the same time, you must be cautious not to be tied to the plan. The plan is a map but is not absolute. Throughout the task, the plan is a reference point but never be afraid to adjust to the conditions, to your self, to the moment and to make adjustments as you go along. Here is a video of a recent adventure of mine. If you pay attention to the speed at which the action happens you will notice the deviations and correction that happened throughout the flight. I started with a flight plan. I executed it…mostly. The terrain, the wind, and my goals and desires allowed me to alter the plan as I progressed to get the most out of the flight. A workout is no different. We can all have plan of how the workout “should” go, but be prepared to make changes to your plan as you go along. Bottom line is to have a plan, grow from the formulation and implementation of the plan and to not be afraid to deviate where needed.
So that’s it for now. Four tools to add to your progress and success. There are more, but start with these. Make an effort. Expand your skill set beyond the starting position of the snatch and work on the nuance of your mental game and see what happens.