Saturday, 15 December 2012

Every workout has a hidden gem - WOD 3 of the London Throwdown

The final workout of for the London Throwdown qualifiers put the power in the athlete's hands to decide how to break down provided all required reps were completed:

75 burpees 
75 pull-ups 
75 thursters @ 35kg 

My first decision was to break these down into 5 rounds or 15 reps a piece. Some of the previous workouts I'd been apprehensive about but I felt confident approaching this. Body weight exercises I tend to be ok at and the thrusters were very light. No worries right? ...WRONG! 

I made sure I warmed up properly, I mentally prepared and then went for it but as I worked through the first few thrusters I noticed something didn't feel right. When you've been doing CrossFit for a while you develop an accurate awareness of your body's work capacity, your lactic tolerance, your strengths and weaknesses etc and as I moved through the burpees on the 1st round it felt like the 5th. I felt gassed as hell at a point in the workout I knew I shouldn't be. Mentally I started questioning myself as to what might be causing this: the weight and the pressure of not being able to come up with a solid answer started to make what was physically already demanding even harder. Every burpee I dropped down for I desperately felt like staying there...DESPERATELY! I knew I wasn't going to get a good time at this rate, I wasn't going to qualify and when you feel depressed like this it sucks your motivation away like a Dyson. 

But then I make a conscious decision. No, maybe this wouldn't be a remarkable time, but there is an opportunity right now to develop that mental fortitude that is so essential in CrossFit. The harder and more horrendous the more guts and mental strength it requires to push through and all I started thinking about was this: "do your best and your best will always get better" If I could persevere and make it through the other side I knew I'd be a stronger athlete for it. 

I made it through (eventually lol) and I've never felt so physically fucked after a workout ever. But I was proud that I hadn't just called it quits because it would have been easier. In summary though, my advice for you is this: your mind can only focus on one thing, thought, image etc at any one time. If you replace a negative thought "this is horrendous", "what's the point?" with a different thought (not necessarily positive, I like to think of it as productive) e.g. "if I complete this workout, regardless of time, I will be a better athlete" and keep repeating this to yourself I can promise you that you won't have as hard a time. I don't want to delude you into thinking it's going to be easy once you do this, it won't. But it will feel more like you're being pulled to the finish than having to drag yourself there. The only essential ingredient for this to work though is that being a better athlete needs to be important to you. If it's not important it won't create enough of a drive to propel you through. So if you're more of a recreational CrossFitter just fill the gap with whatever inspires you e.g. "if I give my all and get through this workout, the stresses at work will feel like a walk in the park", "if I give my all and get through this workout, I'll be a better role model for my kids". 

I hope you found this helpful, I think it's something where the principles can be applied to any area of your life so if you you find yourself in a similar situation why not give it a go! 


Friday, 16 November 2012

Move forward, not backwards

You learn life lessons from many different things: the experiences you have, your friends, family but one constant source of applicable life philosophy for me comes from The Simpsons (see clip above). This leads me on nicely to the purpose of this blog and an explanation of the title.

Kaizen is a Japanese term referring to a philosophy of changing for the better. We all have areas of life we'd like to excel at and if you're serious about making improvements I'm guessing you actively seek out resources in various forms to help you achieve your goals. The internet, books, videos etc there's definitely an abundance of useful sources of information and inspiration out there to help you, but how often have you taken the time to REALLY analyse your own experiences? 

We've all at one time or another criticized ourselves for messing something up but what we need to do on a regular basis is focus on ways to improve from these events so we're better prepared the next time round. For the past 4 years I've been involved in a sport called CrossFit. "Constantly varied functional movements executed a high intensity across broad time and modal domains" but to the general passer-by who shows vague interest "lifting weights and stuff." 

CrossFit is something I'm very passionate about and began as just a new way to challenge myself physically. I'd played basketball to a high level prior to starting this and didn't expect to find it particularly taxing but after my first workout I was pouring with sweat and gasping for every breath of air flat on my back. The weird thing was that during time of uncharted physical pain the first thought that popped into my head was "I can't wait to do that again!" I still can't explain exactly why CrossFit has this addictive effect but if I had to hazard a guess I'd say it's the challenge. People that do CrossFit (or at least stick with it) are people who enjoy a challenge, but what will always remain invisible to a spectator is that third dimension where a physical activity reaches an intensity that creates mental and emotional distress. This is something that among CrossFitters is an unspoken understanding. We all have our own ways of dealing with this and I'd like to share with you mine through this blog. This will be in the form of tactics I've come up with, people that have inspired me and/or learnt from. 

Whether your a recreational athlete or competitive, I'm hoping my reflections will help you get more out of your workouts, do better in competition and edge closer towards realizing your full potential. 

Until next time,