I go into most things full bore.
If I had to put money on it, I’d say the phrase my Dad used most around me growing up was, “Dude. Chill out.” He’s an engineer. He respects the methodical, painstaking process of work like rebuilding a car engine and getting a golf ball into a hole.
I like to build planes mid-flight.
However, I recently read a list of tips from the world’s best athletes on New York Magazine’s “Science of Us” blog that I instantly bookmarked. While I feel they could all apply to my CrossFit journey, one grabbed me immediately: Focus on the process more than the results.
“Adopting a process mind-set means that you set a goal, figure out the steps to achieving that goal that are within your control, and then mostly forget about the goal and focus on nailing the steps instead.”
Uuuuuugh. I hate it when I can’t argue against reason.
What attracted me to CrossFit was the sport’s aggressive, fast-paced, competitive attitude. What took me by surprise (and has sent me home cranky more than once) was how slow of a learning process it could be. Part of that is learning I can’t, and shouldn’t, redline or top the leaderboard every day.
More steps, more celebrations
Part of what I love about CrossFit is the number and variety of movements. I never took gymnastics or tumbling as a kid, so getting upside down and jumping were especially exciting for me. I knew I probably couldn’t do a handstand push-up from the ground right off the bat. But I have had to scale down to doing them on a … box. A box?! I can’t even fake cool piking off a box. But this progression (and ego hit, admittedly) forced me to shift my goal, which was actually just creating steps to getting to the bigger goal. I knew I’d eventually get to an Rx handstand push-up. But more immediately, I wanted to get off the damn box as quickly as possible. And yes, you better believe the day I stacked a 25-pound plate and an abmat against the wall instead of dragging out the stupid box, I was thrilled. And each time I’ve gone to a smaller plate, I’ve drawn closer to my my larger goal – but my eye is only on the next step down. Nail the steps.
Keeping the passion harmonious, not obsessive
The Science of Us post also talked about the importance of intrinsic motivation, versus external validation. Then, like any savvy writer, the author linked to a previous post that I had read a while back about the dark side of passion (no, not THAT kind of passion, Christian Grey).
Obsessive passion, a term coined by University of Quebec psychology professor Robert Vallerand, manifests when we get validation from external results only. If you live and die by the scores on the whiteboard, you lose sight of a) how far you’ve come on your own journey and b) the enjoyment of the sport. If whether or not I beat 8-AM-class-girl-who-runs-really-well dictates how I feel about the WOD that day, I’m probably going to burn out quickly. And maybe quit. Because damn, she’s fast.
On the flip side, if we engage in harmonious passion (cue the butterflies and roses), doing something for the pure love of doing it, Vallerand finds people are happier, healthier and stick with the activity longer. This isn’t to say we can’t engage in competition and indulge in winning every so often – these sparks keep the fire going.
“A process mind-set ensures that your self-worth never hinges on events that are outside of your control…and thus increases your stamina and ability to bounce back from failure.”
Did I beat 8-AM-girl today? No. But did I focus on barbell cycling and stringing more reps together? So a win for the long run. Metaphorically. I suck at long runs.
Not every day is game day
One of our fantastic coaches at VCCF turned me onto one of her favorite philosophies from CrossFit Los Angeles owner Kenny Kane. Kane compares the training context of CrossFit to a sport. In any sport, you don’t hae every day. There should be practice days, competition days and mental toughness days, Kane says. Your class-time people are your team, and you are responsible for working on not only your skills, but drilling the fundamentals of movement–and honing your humility.
That way, when the competition days come, you have the right team and the skills that are ready to be tested. You’ve put in the work, so now you can turn off your brain and just GO. These days are why I started CrossFit, and why I keep coming back: for the competition and the gut checks and leaving it all on the floor. But if I don’t train for them at a paced, progressive level, if I run at redline every day, I know I’ll burn out.
Always in process
The progress makes the success so much sweeter. A couple weeks ago, I finally did Rx handstand push-ups in a WOD after nine months of work. I don’t ‘have’ them consistently yet – it’s still a process.
Every time I went golfing with my dad in high school (read: not often), I ended up pissed. As much as I like to think I can smack the cover off a golf ball and send it screaming down the fairway, I swing out of my pants only to whiff. I knew I had the strength. And the equipment. But what I didn’t have was the patience, the process and the skill.
I heard a lot of, “Dude. Chill out,” from the Master of the Process those days.