Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grab The Bar

Recently I have been paying a bit more attention to approach.  You know, you walk up to your starting line, whatever it is, and something goes through your mind and body, your approach is all about what do with this something.  The conversation has come up a bit more these days because new-found CrossFitter James, at The Gym has been realizing the mental side to his workouts, and we have been spending so much productive time talking about it.  I am always so excited to get on this topic because, besides its awesome community, CrossFit in general offers just as much a mental test as physical,  and I believe this aspect of ones training should never be overlooked.  In my never-ending adventure into figuring things out through experience, I have found this mental approach struggle to be one of the most difficult to define and to control.  But if you were to put the same amount of time and effort into this side of fitness as you do in the physical, I can guarantee your results will come that much faster (don;t forget nutrition...of course!). 

One of the things James mentioned to me in our conversations was when I used the cue: "get a rep in", while he was struggling through the Filthy Fifty.  For him, this helped to cut back on the short rests he was taking during the long sets.  We talked about how it is an inevitability, when resting during a workout, that you will probably rest longer then planned.  I learned a while ago, that during tough metcons, the cues: "get a rep in" and "grab the bar" go such a long way.

The Psych Out:
This happens to every single CrossFitter (and person) at some point in time.  When you walk into the gym, or out to the trails, or to the pool or anywhere, and you see the tough workout that is planned before you, every now and again you just do not have the perfect attitude.  What this leads to is your brain telling you you can't do what you want to do.  While tons of results can come of this, you can generally boil it down to three things:
  • Walk away
  • Go through the motions
  • Overcome
I have seen plenty of people face this situation and come out the other side having done one of those three things.  Shoot, I have experienced all of those plenty in my time.  But the goal is, always, to do that last one; overcome any mental block you have and just get it done.  This is a HUGE part of the beauty of CrossFit.  The methodology does not only promote a strong, athletic, healthy body, but also a strong, healthy mind.  It constantly puts you in uncomfortable, incredibly challenging situations where you do not only need the ability to physically get through it, but also the mental fortitude to recognize what you are about to do and not let it defeat you.

Walking Away:
Walking away from a challenge is usually you at your weakest state in fitness (although sometimes it is smart depending on the risk of injury and such).  The best step to take if you find yourself shying away from things, finding excuses and sitting things out or just plain leaving, is admit you are weak.  This has got to be one of the toughest things for most people to do.  Do not go into a self-pity monologue, trying to find any and all excuses as to why you can't do the workout.  Just be straight forward and honest with yourself, take responsibility and admit that you have been defeated by the challenge.  You lost. Once you have been able to admit this defeat to yourself, it will be that much easier to actually face those challenges more often; you will not have an excuse at that point.

Going Through The Motions:
To go through the motions is almost as bad.  Sure, at least you are doing something, but if you are half-assing it, what's the point?  You are not getting better at anything, you are putting yourself at a greater risk of injury because you are not paying attention to details, and you are setting yourself up to form habits of negativity when faced with other challenges in life.  DO NOT confuse this with moving slowly.  I have seen and experienced plenty of situations where your 100% one day is just not the same as another.  This does NOT mean you are going through the motions, it just means you do not have the output ability that day.  Remember, giving 100%, no matter what your 100% is, is what it is all about.  If you give 99% or less on a workout, you are going through the motions.

Overcoming (or...Having Courage! haha):
This brings to mind a couple good, classic quotes:
"If you are going through hell, keep going" - Winston Churchill

"Why do we fall?  So that we can pick ourselves back up."  Alfred from Batman Begins (yeah that's right, Batman!)

Granted, neither of those have to do with the initial approach to something like a workout, but having the same go-get-'em mindset before an event as you do during it will inevitably lead to overcoming a mental road block.  That first quote is one that is always in my head, and I am reminded of it every time I tell someone or myself to "grab the bar".  You see, once you've made the choice to overcome whatever it is that is holding you back, the only thing you can do from that point on is to keep going.  It is possible to attack a workout with so much passion and intensity, only to find yourself "going through the motions" half way through.  Say you're doing the well-known benchmark workout Fran (21-15-9 thrusters at 95# and pull ups).  You get through the first round and head into your 15's.  But your legs and shoulders are tired, your breathing is beyond labored, what do you do?  Well, you dump the bar to take a few seconds recovery.  But how long is that recovery?  Is it just a few seconds, or is it 5, 10, more?  Do you honestly need that much time to recover?  Short answer, probably not.  What happens when you take a breather during a workout is you give yourself time to realize just how hard what you are doing is.  When that reality hits, the exercises seem more difficult and the weights seem heavier.  And all along, especially in a workout like Fran, you are not going to recover in a matter of a handful of seconds.  You are doing nothing but wasting time and psyching yourself out. 

What I found in these situations is rather than maxing out on reps and dumping the bar to take a god-knows-how-long rest, cut your reps down, dump the bar, take a single breath and Grab The Bar.  When you make contact with the bar, or you initiate the movement, you generally find that there is nothing left to do in that situation than to do a rep.  And when you do a rep, you generally find that you can probably do two or three more.  All of a sudden, you are chipping away, cutting your overall rest down, and getting more work done faster.  And that my friends is CrossFit.

Now the next step is to increase that work capacity by transitioning into the "unbroken" world.  I have tons of thoughts and theories on this side of training as well, and I will work on a post all about this for next week.  In the mean time, the next time you get a workout in, tell yourself to just Grab The Bar, get another rep in.  Have your workout partner (if you are lucky enough to have one) count down: 3-2-1 grab the bar! for you each time you drop it down in exhaustion.  Make yourself move.  Do not give yourself the time and energy to find excuses for not being able to get things done at your potential.  When you walk through the doors of your gym, or step out to attack a workout, any workout, tell yourself you are going to give 100%, for 100% of the time, no matter what your 100% is.

I was faced with this mental challenge today in fact.  I had a horrible nights sleep, adding up to be only a couple hours before my girl Lindsey and I hit the gym for an early workout.  I had programmed in Fran, and, needless to say, I was a bit intimidated by her this morning.  But, I overcame.  I PR'd with a time of 2:33 and had more in the tank.  Check the video:

Never Stop, GET FIT.

Josh Courage

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