The Inner Game of Crossfit-Part 1
By Annie Berryhill
One of my most-read books is called The Inner Game of Tennis by W.Timothy Gallwey. It is all about how to focus the mind during sport or competition to overcome nerves, insecurity, distractions and doubt. While the lessons are mostly taught though the examples of coaching tennis, the ideas apply to Crossfit too or truly any activity in which the mind needs to be quieted so that the body can do the work of getting a result.
Do you get nervous before 3-2-1 Go?
How often do you talk yourself into some serious self-doubt by constantly criticizing your performance?
What can be done to overcome all the inner "chatter" that works to make you believe you will never be good enough, strong enough, fast enough?
Have you ever had a coach or someone else tell you something negative that in turn became a reality?
The problem may lie in your Inner Game. As a Crossfit athlete AND coach, this book is enormously helpful in how I speak to my clients and how I speak to myself while in pursuit of Crossfit greatness. It is a must have for every athlete and coach in Crossfit.
The 5 main points from the book that I found most apply to Crossfit
(but not limited to Crossfit)
1. Understand that there are 2 "selves" within all of us. Self 1-who is JUDGMENT and "teller" and Self 2- who is DOER.
The more that Self 1 is in charge barking instructions and criticism, the less Self 2 can intuitively guide the body through the movements that ultimately end in the desired RESULT!
How to do this in Crossfit: Focus on the desired result by imagining it first in your mind. See every aspect, feel it happening over and over. Now open your eyes and execute. If the result is not attained, simply work on focusing on the result and not exerting any judgment about the actual result.
Coaches Note: Encourage your athlete to learn to "feel" the movement. Present a word picture as opposed to an instruction. Give them something to see, so that they can in turn create an image of themselves executing the movement. Refrain from offering a criticism or compliment.
2. There is a natural learning process in everyone that is vastly better than the judgmental one that most people use.
The power comes from creating an awareness about what you are doing, in a detached manner, almost as if you are watching someone else do it. Only then, can you non-judgmentally proceed with natural learning that does not involve CORRECTING perceived mistakes.
How to do this in Crossfit: When pursuing improvement in a skill or movement, concentrate not on the "words" and coaching cues, but on watching the movements done by someone else, AND having yourself filmed to be able to observe how what you are doing differs from what you want to do and what you have seen gets results. Once you can observe both the result and your movement, then allow your brain to focus on where you want to be. The body will surprise you by how well it is able to imitate something the eyes and mind have seen.
Coaches Note: When coaching athletes, focus on getting them to feel, observe and visualize their result. Refrain from offering too many tips or cues, and offer no judgment. Simply ask what they see in their movement and what they feel and keep them working toward the result.
3.Letting it happen, not making it happen, there is a big difference.
Mr. Gallwey uses the analogy of a baby learning to walk and the way it's mother goes about encouraging and teaching the baby. Never is a baby scolded or criticized for falling while attempting to learn to walk. The mother simply offers a loving hand, a safe landing place for the baby to try and fail and to succeed. It may take days or months for even a few steps to happen, but all the while, the process of letting it happen rules because the mother knows no matter how hard she tries, the baby will walk when it has fully gone through the process of learning through letting it happen.
How to do this in Crossfit: By letting it happen, you are naturally trusting Self 2. But, when Self 1 is in charge, it makes us tight, frustrated, awkward moving, unable to concentrate. Become absorbed in the trusting YOUR Self 2, you body to let the movement begin to happen. Release the tension of your muscles that is not involved in the actual execution of the movement. Tightness leads to the inability to relax the mind and the body which is what Self 2 is all about.
Coaches Note: It is very easy to get caught up in frustration and a timetable for progress with our clients, especially when we see potential in them (either for a specific movement or in a general sense). But this too is exerting judgment upon them, giving into our Self 1 and stoking the flames of their Self 1. It is better to adopt the posture of an outside observer who has nothing to lose or gain from this athlete getting their result.
Simply, it becomes our job to be their "mother" who is teaching them to walk with patience and understanding that they will eventually get the skill under their belts. We must as coaches let go of our Egos too. (I know for some people, that may have stung a little- It did for me too).
This is new for many people and may be a lot to process.
Let it settle in your brain a bit and see how much this topic applies to you and your Crossfit experience.
Points 4 and 5 are coming up in the next post.
Until then, be sure and share your insights in the comments below. I always learn so much from your input!
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Anne (Annie) Berryhill is a Crossfit Level 1 Trainer, USA Weightlifting Sports Perfomance Coach, Crossfit Athlete and competitor who owns and operates OC Fitness Revival in Orange County, CA. Services include personal and group training, nutrition classes and counseling, as well as providing incredible health-improving supplements to help people to make the most out of what they've got.
(949) 280-3407 Anne@anneberryhill.com