What is an athletic breakthrough? Is it completing more reps, winning a match, lifting heavier weight, losing weight, gaining muscle, running faster, passing the CPAT? Or is it tapping into the mind-body connection and working intelligently within the physical system to strategically create a breakthrough performance?
Culturally there is a huge push toward working hard in the gym, burning tons of calories, manning up to ass-whooping workouts that leave participants lying on the floor in pools of sweat unable to remember their own names. Everyone gets a reward for this type of behavior, be it in the form of an ego pump, a reprieve from feeling lazy or the relief that bodies can actually go that hard when driven. Of course, there is a fitness level that comes from this too, which is *generally* pretty good.
The effort in the extreme workout is laudable. Participants have learned how to face physical exertion and endure discomfort - the opposite of remaining sedentary. Culturally, that is a leap which deserves positive recognition. The challenge is in preventing those workouts from becoming leaping points to physical disconnect at which point they cease to advance athletic development.
Athleticism implies a mind-body connection. One of the compelling factors in consistent physical practice is the flow state or the zone. In the flow state there is an interplay between challenge level and immediate feedback which provides a deep sense of satisfaction. As we improve our athletic development, aiming for the flow state keeps us in a healthy range. If we move out of flow, we move into something more like force or strain and there is a split between our mental/emotional engagement and our physical exertion.
John Douillard, author of Mind, Body and Sport recommends breathing through the nose during physical exertion (when possible - some sport specific technique doesn't support this). Breathing more slowly allows more oxygen to enter the blood stream and keeps the pace of our movements consistent with what we can be present with. As technique improves and physical adaptation develops, we move more quickly with this breath style.
Developing athleticism does involve hard work. There are points of significant physical discomfort. The difference between strategically crafting a breakthrough performance and going balls out without a plan is implementing intentional mind/body connection and sport science.
Next time you hit the gym ask yourself:
What is my big picture goal?
What is my goal for this workout?
Where does this workout fit within my big picture goal?
Ask us to help you pinpoint where exactly you are in relation to your breakthroughs. How can we help guide you toward improved mind-body connection in the midst of your badass workouts? We want the whole package, and we want that for you too.
written by Carey Rockland for Juno Fitness