Competing with Yourself

Competition.  It's good for performance, it's good for character, it's good for the soul.  In games season, competition is everywhere, but why limit yourself to competing in an official arena? Every day can be a competition with yourself. It might be as simple as beating your time or score, but maybe it's to not walk one step of the runs in a WOD, or maybe it's to do all your pull-ups unbroken.  

Why frame it as a competition?  It keeps you in check with your goals - What are you doing every day to get there?  Does every choice you make get you closer?  Winning involves the entire journey - from committing to your goals and working your face off to achieve them.  You are up against you and every excuse you give yourself.  To win is to choose to push yourself a little harder everyday and overcome the obstacles you have set up for yourself.

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Of course, all of this requires that you are not just setting goals, but tracking your progress - you can even set up mini goals and give yourself small prize rewards for hitting your marks, both integral pieces to climbing the mountain of athletic success.

Food for Thought: Optimism: A Competitive Choice

The following is from the folks over at Comptrain.  Like the concept?  Get in on Coach Jason's Mindset Seminar February 11th!

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Look around the room and count how red things you see. 

Done? Great. How many green things did you see?

If you’re like most people, probably not many. If you’re looking for one thing, it can be difficult to see anything else. That’s how positivity works too, and it’s an important characteristic of successful people. 

Positivity is what sets talented people apart from exceptional people.

Great performers share a way of thinking—a set of attitudes and attributes that cause them to work harder and smarter than other people as they prepare for competition. It starts with optimism. Individuals who achieve durable, frequent success are optimists. Optimism is an attitude people they choose to have—instead of looking for or dwelling on the negative, successful people focus on the positive. 

No one is arguing that a positive attitude is going to win championships. Champions win because they have talent and they worked very hard over many years to hone it. Optimism works like fertilizer—enabling and enhancing all the efforts you make to improve your game. And while the correlation between optimism and success is imperfect, there is an almost perfect correlation between negative thinking and failure. So why wouldn’t you be optimistic if it were a choice you could make?

And it is a choice. The first thing you have to do is decide being optimistic is important to you, because you understand optimism is essential to fulfilling your dreams and attaining your goals. Once you make that decision, you have to start looking at things from a different perspective. 

Misfortune happens to everyone. Champions just refuse to let it push them into doubtful, fearful thinking.

Will you focus on the things that go wrong? Or are you going to focus on what you have going for you? Will you see yourself succeeding where others don’t? 

Will you own your mind or let others own it? 

Becoming a Mindful Athlete

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The Feminine Tribe is a diverse group based in Wisconsin whose mission is to positively affect women and teach them how to empower themselves through techniques and tools. Founder Stacy Simmons and her husband Trent Simmons (former UB coach) are teaming up to put on the Athlete Mind Camp. They are using the base of the Feminine Tribe's mission to teach how training your mindset can affect your performance as an athlete. The Camp will be held this weekend Sunday,  June 11th from 10:30am - 1:30pm at Glen Canyon Park (by the soccer fields) in San Francisco. Their camp is open to both men and women. Register online by June 10th to save your spot!

Coach Trent believes that fitness is a physical, mental and spiritual sport. By utilizing all three athletes have the power to crush any barrier! Stacy and Trent will be touching on all three of those aspects in their camp so expect a workout. Below is an example of just how these tools can impact an athletes results. The tools they teach are flexible and can transfer into any aspect of your life. 

As CrossFitters we tend to set limits. We set maxes, we have goats, or an injury from long ago that won't let us do a movement. We hold on to these limitations and put them up high on a pedestal. We await the day that we are strong enough to lift that weight or beat the person next to us in a WOD. But what if our body is only responding and acting in accordance to what our thoughts are telling it to do? This is where the Comes in. During this years CrossFit Open Stacy worked with her brother in-law, Jeb Simmons, and her husband, Trent,  to help them achieve mental toughness and an attitude of empowerment when competing. Together they dug deep into their fears and limitations, that prevented them from achieving their goals, and built new stories based on the principles of manifestation to help redirect their focus to achieve ultimate success as an athlete. Both men incorporated these tools into their lives and quickly climbed the leaderboard. Jeb earned the title of 20th in the masters world division and is now headed to the CrossFit Games for the first time. Trent battled his way through one of the tough central regions and earned himself 35th place in the region and 3rd place in Wisconsin. 

The Athlete Mind Camp is for anyone who wants something – wants a healthy and loving relationship with their body, wants to take their fitness goals to the next level, wants to stop putting limitations on themselves, wants to turn their negative energy into a positive focus, wants to achieve that handstand walk and muscle up. We help you figure out exactly what it is that you want and we help you turn it into what you have. We teach you how to clear away your fears, misconceptions and perceived obstacles and break free of all of those self-imposed boundaries that have been holding you back. We build that mental toughness so that when it comes to your body the sky is the limit. Are you ready to become a mindful athlete?

To read the full Camp description and to get registered visit: www.thefemininetribe.com.

Food for Thought: Growth Swag

Growth Swag - the Unshakeable Confidence in our Capacity to Learn New Stuff & Do the Hard Things

The following is from Train Ugly and is a worthwhile read on developing self-motivation.

There are some great external sources of ignition, the: “If they can do it, so can I” type.

This can come from watching, observing, and reading about other people’s journeys.

These stories can inspire our own action to grow and take on challenges – which is excellent.

But.

Things get even more powerful when the ignition is more internal and personal, the: “If I did this, I can do that” type.

We call this Growth Swag.

Growth Swag is the deep rooted confidence that we can learn, grow, adapt, solve problems, and show crazy resilience when met with obstacles.

Rules of Growth Swag:
1. It’s difficult to acquire because it doesn’t come from observing or reading – Growth Swag comes from experiencing
2. It’s a muscle that can be applied in new and different situations
3. It’s a great way to develop a Growth Mindset

When we learn something new.

When we move through a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

When we are thrown into the arena, get knocked down, and get back up – our Growth Swag is strengthened.

A close friend was telling me about a divorce she worked through years ago. She talked about how hard and scary the journey was – especially when she had to initiate it, especially when second-guessing and loneliness kicked in.

The amount of bravery, grit, and vulnerability it took for her to move through this obstacle astounds me.

She went on to explain how she is able to welcome everyday obstacles in life or at work because: “If I could handle that (her divorce), I can definetly handle this.” THAT is Growth Swag.

Learning can build Growth Swag.

The process and progression of learning is the same, no matter what we’re learning: we start, we are bad, we struggle, we spend time, try new solutions, we figure it out.

And if you moved through that process once, you can do it again in a different arena:

If you can learn to shoot a ball, you can learn to dance.

If you can learn English, you can learn Spanish.

If you can get good at a video game, you can get good at algebra.

If you can learn how to use a computer, you can learn to code, animate, and design.

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball 😉

Ways to get more Growth Swag:
Connect dots from the past. Recall times that you were brave, that you learned something new, that you showed resilience. You will absolutely face many more obstacles, big and small. But regardless of the magnitude, the process of moving through it is the same. If you did that, you can do this.

Jungle Tiger more often. Take on new challenges, learn new skills. Remember that Growth Swag is a muscle, and the more that you use it, the stronger it gets.

Things that rob us of opportunities to develop Growth Swag:
1. People who solve all of our problems and try to eliminate our struggle
2. Zoo Tigering or avoiding experiences that stretch us outside of our comfort zone

WORKING OUT FOR REWARD VS PUNISHMENT

A great read from Arielle Bloom of CrossFit Invictus.

When you think of burpees, one of two thoughts can pop into your head- “Yay Burpees!” or “Oh no! Burpees.” My guess is that for most of us, the latter is a much more popular response. Why is that? Are burpees really that bad, or is it just that we associate burpees with pain, torture, and misery? As CrossFitters, we are accustomed to burpees popping up in some form several times throughout the week in workouts. However in many sports, burpees are used as a form of punishment, to drive out a particular behavior, whether it is lateness, or failure to follow instruction. Using a movement that is so beneficial to the body during exercise as a punishment trains athletes to dread the movement, rather than appreciate the benefits of utilizing it.

Getting Down to the Root of the Problem

When you think of your workout, are you excited to sweat, or are you dreading the torture? This is how the punishment vs. reward mentality is developed, which may be where our hatred for burpees stems from. Let’s look a little deeper; Are you working out to feel good, or are you working out because you feel like you have to? Many times, we associate exercise with fixing a problem that we have created in another area of our lives. This could be a perceived problem with our nutrition, body image, health or self-confidence. The benefits of exercise in terms of reducing the risk of various health concerns are well-defined, well-known, and well-represented in the fitness community. However, how often do we really look into the benefits of exercise on mental health?

Love Your Workouts

Here is where we can reframe how we look at our workouts so that we can really appreciate the benefits. As we know, constantly varied, functional movement executed at a high intensity when utilized as a consistent program prescription for exercise has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes, and the various side effects associated with them.

These health benefits, and the way you feel post-workout can far outweigh the discomfort during. In order to reframe the way you think about your workouts, you have to look at why you are exercising in the first place. Think about your goals, and why you show up in the gym every day. Is it to get stronger? Maybe your goal is to feel good so that you can live a long, healthy life. Maybe your goal is to be fit enough to run around with your kids, or your dog. All of these are the perfect reason for you to be in the gym, and they are all the perfect reason for you to love every workout you come across in the gym.

Be Intentional

At Invictus, we talk a lot about being an intentional athlete, and not a reactional one. This has a lot to do with the way we approach workouts. If you are constantly going into the gym, dreading some portion of a workout because the movement is one that may not be “in your wheelhouse,” then you are constantly reacting to your environment.

Dr. Heidi Barker spoke recently spoke at an Invictus Athlete Camp about approaching workouts as if each and every movement is in your wheelhouse, so that you can train your mind to look forward to your workouts. Visualization is a term we use a lot at Invictus, especially in preparation for a competition, however it is also something you can utilize daily to reframe how you approach every workout.

As you wake up in the morning, create an affirmation that you can tell yourself throughout the day to get you excited about your workouts. This affirmation can be as simple as, “today is a great day,” or “I can do this.” Positive affirmations like these can prepare your mind to think more positively, and ultimately will lead to more enjoyment for you in your workouts. The ability to think positively will set you up to be grateful for your ability to perform the movements in your workouts, rather than dreading them. This gratitude can bring you much more enjoyment in your workouts, because from a place of gratitude you can truly appreciate what it takes for you to live a long and healthy life.

“Treat Yo’self”

When you finish that last burpee, pull-up, or squat clean of a workout, you feel a sense of accomplishment rush over you. You may also feel a little bit of relief that you made it through to the end. But that’s just it, you made it through. Your strength, both mentally and physically- brought you to endure the burn of muscle fatigue, to push through even when you wanted to quit, to finish what you started. Every day that you walk into the gym, you walk out a little bit stronger. Every day, you are telling yourself that you can and will accomplish something great today.

So tomorrow, when you head into the gym, give yourself some serious acknowledgement, because you are taking a stand to be a healthier, stronger, and smarter version of you. Love your workouts – because without them, you might not be able to pick up your kids, or run with your dog, or even carry the groceries from your car to the front door. Tomorrow, when you walk into the gym, be thankful for the opportunity you have to make yourself stronger. When you reframe the way you think about your workouts, they become a form of reward, to reward you for choosing to live a healthy life.

Mental Toughness

How have you been fairing in the open so far?  Have any of the WODs gotten the better of you?

Mental toughness is something we should all continue to work on everyday. Your thoughts can motivate you or they can leave you totally paralyzed. Developing mental fortitude and being conscientious of your own thought process will allow you to take control of situations that might otherwise overwhelm you.

In CrossFit, when your coach is yelling at you - "pick up the bar" repeatedly in your ear - most of the time it's not your body stopping you.  It's your mind.  It's self doubt.  Many times, you have it in you to do one more rep, but you are going into a mental pattern that can lead to self defeat:

"Psychological fear leads to doubt and hesitation. Unchecked it can devolve into anxiety and panic. Unsolicited, a ‘Victim’s vocabulary' starts: What if I lose? What if it hurts? What if I fail? Thoughts like these must be eliminated from your vocabulary for you to perform at your peak. Your ‘self talk’ or 'internal dialogue’ must be positive, assertive and motivating. Your inner coach must empower you to greater heights, to surpass preconceived limitations, to boldly go where…you get the picture. That is what it means to not defeat yourself." ~ Tony Blauer

From: Frank Herbert’s "Dune"

From: Frank Herbert’s "Dune"

Take each day as an opportunity to practice mental fortitude when you walk into the gym.  Don't think "what if," "I can't -" shift your perspective and get after it! 

Food for Thought: Seeing Something Good, Even When It’s Bad

The CrossFit Open exposes your weaknesses.  It may come up every WOD, but there will be at least one where you hear the announcement and think: "F that!"  This quick read from Mentality WOD is a good check in for any gripes rolling around in your head.

Gratitude and positivity. You hear about them all the time. See, it’s easy to be thankful when things are goin' great. You feel happy and you see the good all around you. Most people can be thankful when the day is going how they want it to, or they’re experiencing something amazing. Yet, it’s likely a different story when the day is full of disappointments, letdowns, frustrations, and heartaches. Not so easy to be appreciative then is it?

Ever been sick, incredibly angry, injured, depressed, or anxious? These aren’t typically fun experiences or states.

Ever been in the hospital, in an accident, deployed, or in some kind of tragedy? These situations and places aren’t generally “happy” ones to be in.

There are times in life when it feels like there just isn’t much to feel good about.

It’s like being at a funeral, it’s fucking terrible right? We all know that. But then, there are these beautiful moments hugging your brother or your friend, and you’re so thankful for them at that moment. They are making the horrible not as horrible as it could be. You may appreciate the food that you get to eat that day, the memories that you’re able to smile about, the flowers that brighten up the room, or the gifts that relationship brought to your life. No, appreciation for small things won’t suddenly make you feel like you’re celebrating a wedding. It won’t make the pain go away. Seeing the good, doesn’t dismiss the bad…it just helps us stay aware.

You can find something to appreciate even in the dimmest situations. The clothes that you’re able to wear, the breath that you’re able to take, the simple fact that you can experience emotions, the colors all around you, the hopeful message you heard, the warmth that you feel, the protection you have, the choices you can make, or the parts of yourself or your loved ones that are still functioning and healthy.

It doesn’t have to be all bad or all good, it can be both. In fact, it’s always both. There are horrible things happening RIGHT now, and there are amazing things happening RIGHT now. At the same time. Both. It’s never all good or all bad. It’s about developing the ability to keep your eyes open. You can train yourself to feel pain, AND acknowledge blessings, giving hem both space.

Bottom Line? You can feel deep pain, anger or discomfort, and also see beauty, love, hope, guidance, strength, inspiration, and simple joys. You will still suffer, ache, hurt, and feel frustrated and upset. Those aren’t feelings you want to rush or push away. Work on accepting the pain, allowing yourself to feel it deeply, and also on being aware that there is always something to be thankful for…that’s what we’re going for.

Competition and Visualization

In the CrossFit world, we are ankle deep in competition season.  Many of you are closing out week 1 of the House Cup.  With all the competitive spirit in the air, I am reminded by something my teammate, Sandra Hutson Arechaederra, was inspired to write a couple years ago.  I wanted to share it with all of you: 

Preparing for a competition is interesting.... interesting, exciting, fun, frustrating, scary, and truthfully, hard. You have to endure longer and harder training.  You need to push through any mental and physical pain you may have.  The preparation time is often longer but can be more intense than the actual competition.  Those of you going for the CrossFit Games know what I mean.
When I prepare for a big competition I do a few things differently. But the biggest thing I do is visualize lifting not only during training, but throughout the day.  It is the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night. Your subconscious can analyze and work out problems better than your waking mind, so use it. Walk through the venue, the warms ups and then successfully make each attempt in your head. Fall asleep working on the part of the competition that you need to improve the most. Your mind is your ally.  It can help you to overcome the fears, the missteps and the doubts. More importantly your subconscious can help you to realize it is not so unknown, you just need to tap into your mind and all that mental and physical preparation and destroy that fear.  Go to bed thinking it, achieving it, and you will be surprised how much more focused you are when you are actually doing it.

Food for Thought: 6 Ways To Improve Mental Strength Before The Open

Some words of wisdom from MentalityWOD.

1. Write down at least 10 thoughts or strategies that help you keep pushing in a WOD. These could be words, quotes, mantras, reminders, cues, etc. What helps you the most when it starts to suck? If you’re stuck, consider what coaches have said to you that you’ve found helpful. If you really have no freaking idea where to start, [talk to one of your coaches!]

2. Redo some of your “least favorite” CrossFit Open WODs from the past. If you haven’t done any of them before, look through the WODs and consider ones that you wouldn’t want to come up this year, and do them, or variations of them. Consistently training your weaknesses is one of the best ways to build mental strength. Make sure that the workouts you choose make sense with your programming – For more on this read “When To Retest Benchmark Workouts”

3. Mix up your routine. Train out in the cold, in different environments or terrains, early in the morning, or late in the evening. Do something to mix up it up a bit. This might mean going to train at a different box, training at a time is “tough” for you, or asking a better athlete if you can jump in on their session. The athletes who are constantly looking for a way to train in new and uncomfortable settings are the ones who are regularly building resiliency.

4. Try a “Cold Water Challenge” and take ice baths or cold showers daily for a week or two. Sounds crazy? Well, I’m not here to give you standard suggestions. I’m much more interested in challenging you and keeping things interesting. Try it out, and see what happens. 🙂 More details HERE

5. Start adding “mental prep” to your warm-ups. If you want to be able to push through discomfort in workouts, then you gotta set yourself up for success before the WOD even starts.

Here are three options that take 5 minutes or less.

A. 5 minutes of a breathing practice (square breathing, 1-2 breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or 20 rep breathing) – Tuning into your breath is a way to focus your attention on to something rhythmic that you can control. It helps train your focus and can often help you feel more calm and aware. Luckily, I have recorded numerous breathing practices for you in MP3 format, so you can simply listen and follow along for your mental prep – HERE

B. 3-5 mins of writing down or thinking through your specific focus and goals for the session/workout. No matter what the workout is, there is always an opportunity to improve. You may be working on pacing, going unbroken, quick transitions, your movement quality or your mental strength. Think through what you gotta do to get the most out of the workout. Know what your focus is, and any specific movement cues that will help you perform your best. You can do this very quickly in your notes, on your phone or with a coach.

C. 3-5 minutes of thinking through all that you have to be grateful for. Hop on the bike or rower and focus your thoughts on all the good stuff. There will be days that your body is aching, you have a plethora of things you’re stressin over, you don’t like the workout, or someone is just annoying the hell out of you. No matter what is going on, you can always improve your mentality by thinking through all the things you can do, the blessings you do have, the things that are going right, the people who you love, the basic needs that are being met, the opportunities you have, etc. Don’t know where to start? I got ya covered. I’ve recorded 2 separate MP3 downloads that are meant to help you develop a more grateful perspective – HERE

6. Read the “Build Mental Strength” eBook. It’s a quick read, and you’ll learn how to assess your current level of mental strength and exactly how to improve it. The book includes journal drills, new ways to look at mental toughness, workouts, and a strong mind challenge. This is for all levels of CrossFitters and it’s a must read if you want to perform your best in the 2017 Open. Grab it HERE

Food for Thought: The Ocean of Suck

As you prepare to go into the pain cave only the CrossFit Open can bring, Words with Lisbeth has a good reminder for you:

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It’s going to be hard.

It’s going to be terrible.

It’s going to be woefully unpleasant.

And then it’s going to be over.

Then you’ll smile. Then you’ll feel better. Then you’ll be grateful to be alive, and everything will be bigger, shinier, better. You’ll glow and the world will seem to glow in response.

That’s the workout. That’s childbirth. That’s your job (maybe). That’s everything.

You’ll be drowning in the Ocean of Suck. You’ll be spitting and gurgling and making last wishes. You will imagine that Death is tapping your shoulder with his faint and creepy softness.

But it will end. And you will sleep in your bed again tonight. Focus on that. Good luck and Godspeed.