What Yoga Taught Me

imageOnce upon a time I played football in college. Six games into my junior year, I had the misfortune, or fortune as I look back on it now, of blowing out my knee. During rehabilitation all my trainer would preach was, “We need to get you mobile first. Then we can get to work on getting stronger.”

About a month later they brought a yoga instructor to the campus rec center. All I knew at that point was that yogis are the most flexible people on the planet. While developing the ability to tie myself in knots would by no means boost my athletic prowess, something short of that could turn out to be good for my repaired knee.

I ended up taking a class or two, and I was hooked. Not only did my rehab speed up, but the functionality and performance of everything else got exponentially better. My joints responded to contact better. I also became much more limber which afforded me the tools to move better on the field.

Yoga’s benefit to the body is well established: fascial release, the opening of joints, lengthening of connective tissue, enhanced recovery, etc. The list goes on. However, it’s what yoga has taught me and brought to my life outside the physical that has truly enhanced my life on a daily basis. Here are the three most important things I’ve taken from yoga:

Clarity – once you get away from what is going on in the room physically, you are then able to attack how you breathe. Breathing not only frees tension in the body but also in the mind. This freedom, this creation of space, truly gives me the opportunity for expansion. As a coach and an entrepreneur, diving deep into neglected training practices or expanding the scope of my practice are next to impossible to manifest with an unclear mind. When I lose touch with my physical self and control my breathing amidst what would otherwise be a chaotic or nervous situation, that is when I’m able to really manifest progress.

Calm Courage – there was a time when I would do all kinds of crazy things to satisfy my ego. When I put lessons learned in yoga into practice in the gym, all the grunting, yelling, and gyration (which I still do from time to time. Old habits die hard, what can I say) that I felt was a must to hit a max lift, have fallen by the wayside. I have visualized, and hit the lift countless times in my mind before I even approach the bar. This practice has proven itself over and over again, without the element of visualization and the confidence I draw from it, I will almost surely miss, or the lift will be way more difficult than it needs to be.

Perspective – at the end of the day, what the person next to me is doing is of zero consequence. Yoga has taught me through posing and stretching a little further and a little deeper over time to accept progress for progress’ sake. Regardless of how little or how much better I get, the bottom line is, I’m getting better. That little bit of progress, that one new member, that five pound PR, that new found willpower to opt for a healthier choice than I would have made yesterday, that is indeed progress. And guess what? It should be celebrated!

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

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The Honest Approach to Assessing Our Performance

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How do you approach your workouts? Let’s face it. Most CrossFitters are not competitive, in the “Rich Froning” sense of the word. There are other ways that we should assess and acknowledge before we allow ourselves to become discouraged with our performance, rather than comparing ourselves to the “Fittest Man On Earth”.

The way we program here, CrossFit PHX literally allows our competition ready athletes to train alongside the brand new novice lifters. The rationale behind this training environment, versus separating competitors from recreational athletes, serves two purposes. First, to provide a certain amount of motivation for the newbies as to how far you can go with TIME and DEDICATED PRACTICE. Two, for those further along and more conditioned in strength and stamina, to give back and provide motivation and support those who are just starting, or still working, on the journey to the best version of themselves.

When it comes to training, there has to be a progression. I think this has become a common theme in my blogs. Where do we start, how do we start? Here are a couple things to keep in mind as you continue on your fitness journey.

1. UNDERSTAND, Do Not Accept, Your Limitations – Are you a smoker who just quit? Do you have a few too many cocktails during the week? Are you a “foodie” and not the cleanest eater in the world? How long have you been away from the training game? Where is your mobility at? How consistent have you been over the years? The answers to questions like these will allows to establish a baseline of expectation. These answers will also let us know how far we truly are from competing in the CrossFit Games. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just IS. Being honest with ourselves in answering questions like these will go a long way in identifying weaknesses that need to be worked on before we even touch dropping your Fran time.

2. MOBILITY – Does the bar keep falling forward when we get anywhere deeper than our power position in the snatch?Having trouble getting full depth in our squat? Can’t hold that front rack position with our elbows high and the bar resting across our collar bones? Chances are we lack dexterity in the shoulders, mobility in the hips, or are imbalanced front/back left/right, or potentially all of the above! For many of us, lack of performance has nothing to do with lack of strength or endurance, and everything to do with lack of mobility. Mobility is the often overlooked performance metric when we assess our ability to do work as athletes. How much we lift, and how fast we get things done almost always trumps quality movement and body position. If we take the time to correct these deficiencies, we’ll see an exponential increase in performance simply because we are no long fighting against our anatomy for optimal position. We’ll be able train harder for longer and decrease injury risk along the way.

3. SPEED COMES WITH PROFICIENCY – As we become more and more mechanically proficient, as movement patterns get less choppy, we magically become faster without actually working harder to do so. In the very beginning, depending on how coordinated you are and how fast you pick things up, movements such as cleans, snatches, deadlifts, and even seemingly simple stuff like pull ups and push ups can be a huge kick in the ass. Muscle sequencing is huge. If we attempt to execute a pull up and start that pull with our biceps first, instead of our lats, its only going to take a handful of reps or a set or two to discover you’re doing it wrong. However, if we take the time, slow down, and focus on body position, movement sequence and mechanics, over time we can move twice as fast with half the effort.

4. AMRAPS (Time Domain Workouts) – Before we set a goal for ourselves of a 30 round Cindy. How about we work to establish a pace, however fast or slow, that allows us to move steadily for the whole 20 minutes? We’ve all seen the folks that burn themselves out in the first five minutes on pace for 30 rounds, only to find themselves accomplishing 16, drastically less work than they are actually capable of. . The smoother we become in the movement, the less effort they actually take. When things require less effort, we can do a lot more.

5. Rounds/Reps for Time (Task Domain Workouts) – Once we figure out that a thruster is more about the hips than the shoulders, and our pullups are more efficient with a  stable shoulder girdle and a strong pull from the lats through the biceps, we’ll literally shave minutes off our Fran. When moving through task oriented work outs, we should probably understand the intent of the workout. Unlike an AMRAP where we are trying to accomplish as much work as possible in a given time allotted, we’ve now shifted to getting a certain amount of work done as fast as possible. Once we account for #3 on this list, let’s now focus on avoiding the redline. So what if we can get through 21-15 in less than 3 minutes, but we take another 5 minutes to get the 9’s done because we can’t catch our breath and our muscles have shut down. Before we look at attacking WODs as prescribed, we should ask the question, “When this was programmed, how long did our coach intend for it to take?” For our muscle science nerds out there, “What energy system are we supposed to tapping into?” Workouts like 30 Clean and Jerks at 135 pounds were set up to be done in less than 5 minutes, while 3 rounds of 400m Run, 21 Kettlebell Swings, and 12 Pull Ups, are more for the 15-16 minute range. If they take you any longer chances are the weight is too heavy. Your mechanics aren’t quite there yet and your making each rep way harder than it has to be. Or the reps are too high for your current fitness level. All of these issues can be fixed with scale: choose a lighter load, run a shorter distance, do less reps at the prescribed weight, or substitute less complex movements. We need to take the time to ask our coaches how long things should take if they don’t offer up that information right off the bat.

Focus on these factors and giving ourselves an honest assessment will alleviate a lot of head aches and make for huge gains, safer training sessions, and an overall more enjoyable experience from one workout to the next. Keep the intensity high, and our focus sharp, then everyone wins!

RAISE YOUR STANDARD!

Copyright © 2014 Next Level Performance and Fitness Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.