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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Importance of Self - Talk

I've been reading, watching, and experimenting a lot with the value and importance of self-talk. "Self talk" is that little voice in your head that does one of two things:
  1. It enables you to be super human
  2. It enables you to be a super dousche bag
Okay, maybe that's a bit of a gross exaggeration. But the main point is this...what you are constantly telling yourself in that little brain of yours will make all the difference in the world.

I'm a huge fan of Mark Twight and the philosophy behind his creation Gym of the fundamental tenets is derived from Aristotle;

"You become what you do".

Roughly meaning that if you subject yourself  to tough demanding physical training (the "do") you will become a mentally and physically tough person, it's the difference between knowing you're up to the challenge versus thinking you're up to the challenge. But there's a very important step before the "do"'ve got to think you can do it first...

Your thoughts become your actions, your actions then in turn create the end result of the person we want to become. What you think and what you tell yourself as you engage in that internal dialogue makes all the difference in the world. You've got to believe in yourself can't've got to believe you can do it. Failing/quitting is not an option.

How many times have you said and/or heard "there's no way I can do that", "I'll never be able to rope climb/pullup/whatever", "that's just too much"... well no shit you won't, because you just ingrained in your brain the defeatist attitude. You've quit before you've tried, you've given yourself permission to coin a term from Mark Twight you've "created a cage of self-limitation". (plus it's just annoying to be around people who are incessantly negative, people who talk more about what they cannot do versus what they can do)

You have no clue what your body can do until you release your mind from the negative chains and flood it with positive self talk.

For example, box jumping. We were messing around yesterday with doing some high box jumps...which could have had some pretty bad consequences if you failed on the box jump (busted shins or falling on your ass) which can elicit a fear response. So prior to the jump there's a significant amount of self talk going on...
"damn that's high, I can't clear that",
"if I fail I'm going to bust my shins pretty bad"
 "just don't hit your shins"..

So if I attempted the jump with the thoughts of "just don't hit your shins" ...guess what will probably happen? I'm gonna donate a little DNA on the corner of the box. But why?

Greg Amundson (one of the original practitioners of Crossfit who also has impressive military and federal law enforcement credentials), using rope climbing as an example explains it like this:

The conscious and subconscious brain will either promote or inhibit athletic performance. If I tell myself consciously, “I don’t want to fall off the climbing rope,” my subconscious brain in fact hears, “I want to fall off the climbing rope.” This is because the subconscious does not hear the negative tense. By telling yourself what you don’t want to manifest, you actually create a blueprint for exactly what you intend to avoid.

So what do I need to do instead? Flood your brain with nothing but positive actions and thoughts. Do not allow any negative thoughts whatsoever...because you will just derail yourself. Bascially, pysche yourself up...personally I start slow and build up...something like
"I got this, I can do this" repeated over and over and over and over...until 2 seconds before the jump there is absolutely no doubt that I'm going to clear that box. My brain tells myself (or vice versa)
"you got this f#$ker, jump your ass off, you're one springy white boy".

The above example speaks to self-talk prior to engaging in an activity, but it's also the most important factor while you're knee deep in "the suck". When you're in the middle of one of the grinding god awful workouts, what is going on inside your head? What are you telling yourself? Are you focusing on how tired you feel, how your lungs are burning, your muscles are gorged with lactic acid, the thought of one more rep/round is this what you're allowing in your mind?

For example, let's say the workout was a hot lil number like 150 burpees for time. Utilizing positive self talk what would we need to do to tame this beast? It starts in the beginning as soon as you see the workout on the board. Do not allow yourself to think "this is going to be awful", "I can barely do 15 burpees, let alone 150", "I'll never get through this".

Instead as soon as you see you and think.."nice, this is going to be a good one", "I'm going to plow right through this", "I can do this"...repeat it over and over and over until the clock starts.

Now what do we need to do when we're in the middle of this beast? Set small goals and keep moving, do not allow yourself to think of the entire workout...just keep knocking down the small targets. For example, starting off just do as many as you can do in a row...and as you start to fatigue,  just keep saying "I can do one more, I can do one more". Then when you finally have to stop for a couple of breaths...focus on your breathing..control it, deep long strong exhales. Pick a certain number of breaths 4-5, then get right back on it and pick your next goal. So if I got to 30 burpees before I had to stop...should I allow this thought to enter my brain..."shit...120 more to go, I'm only a quarter of the way there...there's no way I'll ever get there"? Hells to the no... this is what do you do...

One foot in front of the other brother...I'd set my next goal, I'd think "okay I'm gonna do 20 more before my next break". Then get down and get back up one rep at time...and always count down not up, 20-19-18-....3-2-1. And just keep saying.."I can do this, I can do this, I can do this". After you get your next 20 down, set your next goal and keep banging them out one burpee at a time.

A recent participant who went through Mark Divine's SEALFIT course, provides the following advice on how he learned to focus:

"Don’t focus on what’s left in your race or workout, don’t even focus on those around you, just focus on the next step. One foot, one rep, one stroke after another. Incorporate focused breathing to relax and invigorate your body—then carry on."

And before you know're done..and more importantly you have a terrific sense of accomplishment for donig so. You willingly (you even paid to do it!) subjected yourself to a harsh physically and mentally demanding workout that 95% of your peers don't have the strength and/or courage to do. And each and every workout you learn something about yourself....subconsciously you are training yourself to deal with harsh demands. Granted they are in a safe gym environment, but I guarantee that when the shit hits the fan in your real life you will know how to deal with it, and not only deal with it, but you'll know you'll be the one standing in the end...

Start now...only permit positive thoughts to enter the brain..."I can do this, I can do this"....over and over again...I will see you at the foot in front of the other brother...

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