Posts Tagged ‘Mental Focus’

The sentence “Practice makes perfect” is a lie. Yet, humans say it all the time, and usually to children. It’s simply not a fact. There are a number of things I could practice on a daily basis and see only marginal improvements over a long period of time. Today, we’re going to talk about practice.

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Let’s start by discussing just two of the many factors that could impede reaching perfection. Age can play a role in one’s ability to find success in a particular area. While I’m not saying it’s impossible, I do feel confident saying that very few humans in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s could train and compete at an Olympic level in most sports. No matter how often grandpa hits the track, I don’t see him beating Usain Bolt in the 100m Sprint, I’m sorry. Genetics can also play a major role in one’s athletic development and potential. If a person isn’t over six feet tall or incredibly explosive, the odds of being able to dunk a basketball on a full-sized hoop are not very good. (I still think that’s a bucket list goal of mine, by the way!)

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Actual footage of me currently trying to dunk

Aside from age, genetics, and a long list of other things, that logic doesn’t even address what “perfection” even means. In nearly every discipline, sport, task, or skill, perfection is often a subjective term. What looks, sounds, or tastes perfect to you, may taste far from it to me. So why work to attain this a title or status they may very well be simply unreachable?

Instead, let’s change that first sentence (Practice makes perfect) just a little bit. What if it read, “Effective practice will almost always help you improve at a given task.” In that case, I think a lot more of us would nod our heads in agreement. While we typically associate the word practicing with activities and skills like sports, music, and languages, there are so many other things in our lives that can also be improved through dedicated time and focus.

Want to be a better weightlifter? Find a decent coach and get on a proven strength program. Then lift. Often. Want to feel and show more gratitude? Start each morning and end each night by writing a list of three things you’re grateful for in your life. Keep that journal close-by to remind yourself on days where you struggle. Want to read more? Instead of surfing on your phone before you go to bed, read 10 pages. Not only is it better for your eyes and your brain (to actually allow them to wind down after the day), but after only a few weeks, it will become part of your routine. You will likely get better at whatever activity you chose because you devoted time to practicing in order to get better at it.

I’ve been trying to read more, and even with the book on my nightstand, it hasn’t become high enough of a priority for me. That’s one thing I’m going to practice more! To help yourself be more accountable, what’s one thing you want to practice more often? Let’s continue to hold each other accountable and support one another in our quest to be better than we were yesterday!

When I saw the video below, it really made me stop and think. We’re each already REALLY GOOD at certain things. Choosing to practice and develop those things that make us happy drastically increases our chances of becoming really good at being happy. Similarly, choosing to practice things that make us sad, angry, or resentful, will likely make us really good at being sad, angry, or resentful. It’s so powerful to realize that it’s fully in our control to intentionally choose what we nurture in and for ourselves. Think about that for a second… Practice doesn’t make perfect. But devoting practice towards things that improve our lives can make a profound impact on who we are as people!

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Every single day you go to the gym, you should give yourself one thing to think about during training.

I’ll give a few specific examples below, but my logic behind that statement is simple. As someone who suffers from paralysis by analysis in my own life, it is so simple to get overwhelmed with details that you can’t focus on a single one properly. For example, I could sit here list over 10 things to think about in order to plank properly. Plank… you know, the thing where you hold your body at the top of a push-up? So imagine how many cues one could have when completing a workout with four different movements, many of which are far more complex than a simple plank.

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Instead, once you know what you’re going to do for the day, pick a one thing and hone nearly all of your energy on completing it as effectively as possible. Let’s discuss a few scenarios:

Heavy Strength Set

If you know you’re going to try and move mountains today, the anxiety and excitement leading up to those heavy reps can be exhausting. For a big squat day, make sure your core is tight throughout the lift. Or that you knees stay out. Or that you take a big breath at the top before beginning your descent. Even those three things combined can be too much to focus on at once. Keep your cue(s) simple, meaningful to you, and effective! The less in your brain, the more you can just move that weight!

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Long Workout

Let’s say it’s a 5 round workout with rowing, wall balls, deadlifts, sit-ups, and pull-ups. There’s a lot going on there, huh? Instead of trying to overwhelm yourself with pacing out your splits of how fast each round should be, you could say to yourself, “today, I’m going to do each round of 20 wall balls as a set of 12 reps, short rest, then a set of 8.” Many people believe that making a plan of attack and “visualizing” your workout is a great strategy.

If you’re in a competition, the stakes are different, and I completely agree! Planning out and rehearsing every second might be the difference between first and second place. But very few people have the time, energy, or desire to spend that much time getting ready for their 4-6 days of training every week! Pick a thing or two, and just breathe through the rest.

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Active Rest/Recovery

Some days you’ll show up to the gym feeling pretty beat up. Your body is sore, your mind is tired, and you haven’t been sleeping well. “But it’s Friday,” you tell yourself, and you “ALWAYS work out on Fridays.” That doesn’t mean you need to red line on the workout, completely wreck yourself, and hobble around all weekend.

If you make the decision that you just need to move for the day, that’s totally fine, and I support you. Even on those days, you can find something to focus on. Maybe on the rowing portion of the workout you focus on keeping your heels down and start to learn what your stroke rate is for repeat 500’s. If there’s snatching for strength, really emphasize making your receiving position as snappy as possible. You can always get better, even if you’re just there to move for the day!

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Now, this post is in no way implying that the rest of your training session should be done by completely checking out. Quite the opposite, in fact. I believe that everything in the gym should be done “with purpose.” Instead, I’m trying to help athletes narrow down a primary point of attack each day. Having a panic attack because you’re staring at the bar before a deadlift attempt thinking, “chest up, back flat, proper stance, breathe, chest up, knees back, push away the floor, grip it and rip it, etc, etc,” doesn’t help anyone.

We’re in the gym to get better every day. Try your best to narrow down your scope on the big things, and as long as you head out of the gym with a smile on your face, most of the time you’ve done alright. This fitness game of ours is most certainly a marathon, not a sprint.

My buddy Robby Z owns Alpine CrossFit. This weekend, they are hosting an event called the “Legends Competition“. It’s going to be a really fun Friday night to Saturday competition that puts athletes through 6 workouts in the “two” days.

Since he knows how much I like to hear myself talk, Robby asked me to do “one of my famous” strategy videos explaining how I plan on approaching his events. Since I know how much I like hearing myself talk, I obliged his request. Well, part of it at least.

The video below features my approach to the events from Friday night’s line-up. IF you guys find value in this, I will record the video tomorrow which discusses the Saturday events. If this doesn’t really help anyone, and the only person that watches it is my mom (thanks for the support, love you, mom!), then I will not record the next video.

Pretty simple, huh?

***DISCLAIMER***
I am driving while I record this video. The safety of my vehicle and those around me is always my number one priority… I am just really good at holding the phone while I talk to myself. Lots of practice. At talking to myself.

Alright, so here we go! PLEASE let me know (either way) whether or not this information is helpful, and if it is, tomorrow we’ll get video #2!

GOOD LUCK to everyone this weekend, and I can’t wait to see so many of my friends!

The video below features one of the world’s top “Parkour” free-runners, Red Bull’s Ryan Doyle. While it’s not the coolest video I’ve ever seen, at the end he discusses the MENTAL PREPARATION required for him to perfect his art form.

Think about that, and think about how you prepare for a workout, a job presentation… life. There’s a quote that says life is about more than just showing up. I agree with that quote. We need to prepare for our experiences. Even in CrossFit, where we prepare for the “Unknown and Unknowable”, there are still opportunities all around us to make ourselves mentally tougher and more mentally stable.

Your thoughts?

And we’re baaaaack! This episode’s question comes from my homeboy and yours, Alon Avdi.

He asks:
“I want to learn more about training the mind. I believe mental toughness/discipline/mastery or just an ability to direct one’s perception is key to achieving all manner of things in life, fitness included.

So, what ways can and should we consider this issue and direct our training?”

What do you think? Does anyone else approach goals and mental toughness the same way I do?

Right now we’re 1/3 of the way into the 2011 CrossFit Games Open. While we were all crushing WOD #2 yesterday, though, I realized something.

To my knowledge (I could be wrong), we have never gotten together as a CrossFit Lakewood Competition Team to discuss how we tick. Each one of us, individually. What I mean by that is sharing with one another some pretty important things that we need/want/would like to have before, during and after our “Sectionals” workouts:

How do you like to warm up?
By yourself, in a group, alone and silent, social and talkative

How do you like to be judged during a workout?
Every rep counted out loud, leave me alone I count for myself, yell out every five reps

What kind of encouragement do you like during a workout?
Loud and proud, drill sergeant orders, quiet and encouraging, in your face cheering, people telling you how many reps to do, leave you alone

How do you like to be treated immediately following a workout?
High fives all around, group hug, give me a few minutes on the ground to recover, leave me alone until I remember where I am again

These questions may seem sort of trivial to some people, but to others, the workout environment can have a serious impact on one’s performance.

Do me a favor please, guys and gals. Take just a few seconds and reply in the Comments Section of this post and share your personal preference. That way, when next Saturday rolls around, we’ll all know how to best approach one another to create the best environment for our team!