The 11th Skill
The reason why the majority of people start CrossFit is because they want to get better. Whether it’s gaining strength, losing body fat or just increasing your ability to do everyday activities. CrossFit is known for changing people’s physical fitness and creating physical adaptations. CrossFit allows for physical adaptations. We become physically stronger, fitter and a lot more capable than we were previously. Everything becomes physically easier. But is it just the physical adaptations or does CrossFit create a better character?
CrossFit as a fitness program revolves around maximising one’s potential in these 10 skills (www.crossfit.com):
1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – the ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen
2. Stamina – the ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
3. Strength – the ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units to apply force.
4. Flexibility – the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
5. Power – the ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
6. Speed – the ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
7. Coordination – the ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movements.
8. Agility – the ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
9. Balance – the ability to control the placement of the body’s centre of gravity in relation to its support base.
10. Accuracy – the ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
11. Mental Toughness – the ability to thrive in adverse situations
You may notice I have added in an 11th skill – Mental Toughness. Some people call it grit, some call it determination or some may see it as one’s stupidity to keep going. It is the ability to thrive in adverse situations.
“Being able to win in the mind before entering into the arena is one of life’s most valuable tools. Whilst everyone else enters the battle and seeks the win.”
The majority of us have experienced the fear and dread before doing a challenging workout, a competition or getting under a heavy barbell. The feeling when you know you it will be very uncomfortable and you will have to go through some suffering and mental anguish to finish. Some will flourish. While others, no matter how mentally tough they claim to be can emotionally break. For most people adversity can happen multiple times in a day/week/year. It doesn’t have to be in the gym. It could be public speaking, a serious accident or overcoming sickness. But putting yourself in mentally and physically challenging workouts in the gym once a week or even once a month where you have to be emotionally resilient can test your mental toughness. It also can help prepare for the unknown and unknowable challenges that await in life. For example take CrossFit Games Athlete Matt Chan who almost lost a leg: http://games.crossfit.com/article/after-fall
In the gym or in life if you don’t have a deeply connected sense of purpose or have a reason for why you do what you do, then in the first sign of real pain or serious level of discomfort you’ll start thinking of excuses to give up. You might get emotional, angry or act irrationally. We start getting emotional or have physical responses from our negative thought patterns. Negative thought patterns are those negative self doubting thoughts that pop into our head every now and again. Especially during a long grinding workout. When this happens we need to maintain self control. This will help us to remain head strong and emotionally resilient.
How can we practise self control:
1) Breathing: A simple idea. Some of you may laugh. Breathing with proper mechanics is one of the most powerful practises we have to create mental toughness. You have probably been in a stressed environment before and all you feel like doing is getting some fresh air or go take a walk. Concentrating on your breathing in a workout or while lifting heavy loads is a great way to stop negative thought patterns and help with anxiety and fear. Using the breathing drills we have been doing in the warm ups everyday could help you become a lot more self aware and maintain control. Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZzhk9jEkkI
2) Short term goals: Short term goals are great for having a positive mindset in workouts. It helps to keep those negative thought patterns at rest. Make small objectives for yourself. If you’re doing a 2k row break it into 500m at a time. Try to win each 500m. Or during a longer workout break up the work into smaller sets.
3) The Power of why: People come into the gym everyday and workout. Which is fantastic. But in our fast paced lives we don’t get the time to think about why we workout, why we go to work and why we do what we do. If your motivation or if your ‘why’ is strong enough and your values align with your ‘why’ you will gain a deeply connected sense of purpose. You won’t quit or give up when the going gets tough.
4) Mindset: ‘Victorious Warriors win first in the mind then go to war’ – Mark Divine. To be successful at most things you must build a positive mindset and a sense of self belief. Feed yourself positivity throughout your day. Try and numb anything that’s negative. Negativity is a dangerous habit that can hold you back in life. Not just in a workout. If you’re surrounded by negative people try remove them from your life. Then over time you will win on the battlefield with positive thoughts.
Coach Mark Divine – Author of the ‘Unbeatable Mind’ provides a great metaphor that I like to use about keeping a positive mindset:
“Think about your life is like a garden. Sometimes it gets over run with useless weeds (thoughts). To be a fully functioning human being we can’t have negative or useless thoughts. So we must take the weeds out of our garden by cleaning and weeding on a daily basis. The cleaning or weeding of our mind is done by a daily practise that causes mental clarity and positivity i.e CrossFit, Exercise, Meditation. It helps keep the weeds out. Only when there is no weeds then we can plant power trees (powerful ideas) or seeds (positive thoughts) that could potentially holds fruits for a lifetime.”
To conclude, my point is that practising CrossFit or hard physical exercise weekly or daily is not only a great way to build your physical fitness and but also to improve your mental resilience. Challenging yourself daily and weekly in the gym can be a powerful tool that builds character and sets you apart from the next person or next challenge in work, life, school, in many of your daily efforts. Not only does CrossFit make us physically fitter and more physically able, it also boosts our productivity levels and can help to reduce stress levels.
“The greater the obstacle – the more glory in overcoming it.” Moliere.