Think On It

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Ok so you signed up with Crossfit Portland because you heard you’ll get your butt whipped into shape. You come to class, train hard in the workouts, then leave feeling satisfied.

It’s great, because it’s never boring, and let’s be real, you work and push harder than you ever would on your own.

The best part? You show up and we take care of the rest! You come to class, get your sweat on, and then leave without ever having to think about anything. Right?

I hope not. I hope you are being mindful and learning about yourself.

Words or phrases like “mindfulness”, “awareness”, and “listen to your body” can sound more fitting in a yoga studio and not a Crossfit gym.

I’m here to tell you that they are a crucial part of your long-term success to being a member at CrossFit Portland!

One of the most important things that we can teach our members is how to be mindful in the gym and to pay attention to what their bodies are doing.

It’s not always easy to do, but as surely as you need to be strong and mobile to be healthy, you must learn this vital skill in order to remain effective and injury-free.

With all the different things you have to think about, it can be very difficult to stay focused and aware of how your body is moving.

When you’re lifting something heavy overhead, are you concentrating your efforts on maintaining a stable midline so that you don’t arch back? Or are you thinking about how your workout partner is lifting 20# more than you? Are you present and thinking about anything at all related to what you are doing?

Have you ever started a workout feeling pretty confident that you can manage the weight, but a few rounds in you’re not really sure what your back is doing on those deadlifts anymore?

So how do you begin to learn to pay attention so that you can catch yourself in the middle of a habitual (but poor) motor pattern? Well, it’s not called practicing mindfulness for nothing!

The key is to get yourself to a place where you’re always thinking about it ahead of time, so that you can notice your form errors while they’re actually happening.

A coach’s eye can certainly help, as they can point out mistakes you may be unaware of, and offer tips for corrections. The reality of the situation, however, is that the coach can’t be your security blanket.

Perhaps the most dfficult part of learning body awareness is learning how to trust yourself and trust how your body feels. You’re in the driver’s seat, you are the one doing the lift, so practice being in tune with your body and trust how it feels.

Once you start paying attention, you will start to sense most of your own form errors. That’s your signal to either pull yourself together on the next rep or else STOP.

Yes, stop! Even if you’re in the middle of the set! If you can’t hold your form together, you’re using the wrong weight (or you’re moving too fast) and that set is not helpful.

You may even find that you need to go backwards for a while in order to make progress and move forward again.

One of the biggest ego checks I’ve encountered as a coach with over 4 years of Crossfit experience has been coming to grips with the fact that I’ve been allowing myself a technique error in my overhead lifts. I’ve been forced to back WAY down on my numbers in order to retrain myself to brace properly and avoid arching in my lower back.

It also means that during workouts with an overhead component I have to actually slow down. If I push myself as hard as I sometimes want to, I invariably lose focus and my form suffers.

Every time I do this it just ingrains all my bad habits even further, making them all the more difficult to be rid of in the long-run.

I have had to learn to forget about the clock or my score before I even begin. I have had to take my expectations for my performance and toss them out the window, nevermind worrying about what I imagine everyone else’s expectations for my performance might be.

Every moment that I spend thinking about the clock or comparing my time or my score to anyone else’s is a moment that I’m neglecting to focus on what’s important – doing the movements correctly.

The trick for me is to keep the big picture in mind – the workout that matters is not the one I do today, but rather ALL of the ones that come after it.

So the next time you’re in the gym, ask yourself where your head typically goes when you’re lifting or working out.

If you’ve already taken the necessity of mindful practice to heart, then keep it up! Much like fitness it’s a journey and not a destination. If you want to sustain or improve your skills you’ve got to keep working on them.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself thinking about other things – your score on the board, that deadline at work or upcoming vacation – then maybe today should be the day that you resolve to adopt a more focused, attentive approach to your workouts!

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