Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.
Day in and day out you come in here and perform tasks many of you never thought possible. It’s a surreal experience to witness and be a part of the growth and athletic development of each individual and as a whole community. But how do we do that? Do you remember attempting your first pullup even after being traumatized in gym class 10-20 years ago? The potential taunting or the simple self doubt? How bout getting the courage to go bungee jumping or sky diving? YOU HAVE TO TAKE CHANCES!!
The sympathetic nervous system has an intricate role in performance and improvement. One of two things may occur in a stressful or fearful situation. This doesn’t only apply to the gym, but life in general… I’m sure everyone has at least heard of “Fight or flight”. But what is it? It’s your adrenaline system (simply put). When in a bad situation, your body releases a copious amount of hormones to give you the necessary components to respond to said situation. In the gym, taking that chance will also enable the same response. I hear it all the time, people get “butterflies” before certain workouts, or events, or lifts… There’s no magical butterfly in your tummy flapping it’s wings (sorry Sydney); it’s the releasing of adrenaline when one is nervous, which pulls blood away from the stomach and sends it to the muscles. This reduced blood flow, in turn, causes the stomach to temporarily shut down. Although this can create great surges and strength, it can have the opposite effect. Too much of it can almost “cripple” you performance and cause a momentary lapse in body control (yes that can be peeing yourself), or in the gym cause just a split second of hesitation.
Again, we do all kinds of crazy things. Where I see the fear most is in the movement the snatch (not limited to just this). It is one of the most technical of movements and very demanding of speed, aggression, grace, flexibility, and control. In setting up for that PR, your head has to be right. IF you have just an ounce of self doubt prior to, guess what? You just missed the lift. That self doubt, or fear, just created a timing issue and in a movement that’s so reliant upon time and rhythm, hitting a true max lift must be done with composure and confidence. I see it ALL THE TIME, conversations with oneself to boost confidence or to play the safety role. Let’s be real, nobody wants to get hurt (trust me, I’ve had my share of injury), but having that thought will only increase your risk of getting injured when trying to get to that next level of top performance. Does this mean to not think of any potential danger? No way, just be smart. When we do MAX days, its for the day. It doesn’t mean you must attempt a PR. Some days you’ll feel it much more than others. But, if you’re feeling it, get after it! All too often when people do lifting sessions people will PR. That’s awesome, but the part where people go wrong, and CrossFitters are notorious for this, is they get greedy. A PR doesn’t have to be 10-20 pounds to count or be significant. If ever I attempt a PR, it’s typically by 1-5 pounds, and more often just 1. The greedy people after PR’ing will continue to try and get a bigger one, that’s great but remember YOU ALREADY PR’d!!! You will eventually miss if you continue to try and unfortunately, that’s the last lift you’ll most often remember… The miss. Forgetting that immediately before, you just proved you were better than ever and now you’re going to think about that miss the rest of the day. ALWAYS END ON A POSITIVE. It’s a very great thing to come in and watch a veteran lifter lift. Just to see how relaxed the mind is and to watch the setup of the lifts, it’s always the same setup no matter if it’s a volume day (light weight) or max day.
Understand that it is okay to miss, know full well that you will! You will fall down at times (literally) and it’s okay, don’t be embarrassed, be proud! You’re now flirting with
your max or pushing yourself to that level of extreme discomfort.
One of the most significant ingredients to success is your ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Your comfort zone is your enemy. It makes you soft. It leads to complacency.
You have to constantly and consistently step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. There is no reward for always playing it safe. The athlete who can push themselves further once the situation gets uncomfortable is the one who will win. Increasing one’s tolerance for discomfort (mental and physical) will better enable the athlete for competition day, train hard and embrace the suck and channel it for success, that leads to play time and victory during competition.
Lastly, there is no absolute in life. In lifetime training, why would you train for day to day? Things happen. You may find yourself in a position of building a fence, falling trees, gardening, or playing the big game. Being prepared for these elements means being prepared for life! You must train ALL aspects of the body. Being consistently inconsistent simply means that routine is to not have a routine. Try new things. Whether it be a new lift, a new sport, a new skill unrelated to fitness altogether, or a new mindset while attacking a WOD (perhaps going unbroken instead of breaking things up and getting to the miserable place), or even just training at different class times with different people. These abilities will only transfer to everyday life, enhancing everyday tasks with ease and simplicity. Being well versed in many things, instead of being one dimensional, will allow you to become a better YOU while creating a resilient, injury resistant self!