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Don’t Forget Your Mental health!

DCL, hello! This is another introduction message, this time for the part of us seldom improved upon… our psyche! We will be mixing these MindLab updates into our weekly repertoire for the same goal as always: to help us all be as healthy and fit as possible!
Many times, our “daily lives” of relationships, work, children, family, etc. follow us into the gym. This may seem obvious now, but perhaps not so much when you set foot in the Lab to get your WOD on for the day. Generally, these factors take a stress-toll on us and affects our performance in the gym (and everywhere)… which happens to be the first topic of MindLab.
Stress in the gym is usually obvious: muscle pain, burning lungs, heavy legs, etc. But, psychological pain may be making that physical pain seem much worse, if not unbearable, decreasing your performance and outcomes in/from your gym time. Benefit can be gained from simply realizing all the stress of your day before going into the gym (gaining insight), and knowing that it affects your performance. For example, if you have a work environment that provides a super-critical supervisor to you, and you are already admittedly critical of yourself (“high standards”), then it may not be a surprise that when you go to dig-in to your 4th round of a 5-round WOD and push for that extra rep, your first instinct is to “let off the gas” and drop the bar in defeat, following swiftly with self-defeating internal dialogue… making it oh-so-painful to tear that bar off the ground again. The stress of, say, your critical environment all day followed you into the gym, into your psyche on that last set when you needed yourself as your own best cheerleader, and ultimately into prolonged positive results from “this whole CrossFit/fitness thing.”
So, what can we do about this “stress” thing? Some spend many years and dollars in ways to rid their lives of it, as that has surely become the newest trend in “fitness” realms. Others though, perhaps realists, know that stress is quite simply a fact of life, and to try to avoid it is as productive as never working out at all in order to avoid the short-term pain. Confronting this stress, and then doing something about it, is perhaps the key…
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.”
… there are plenty of ways to mitigate ill effects of stress, some of which we will explore throughout this MindLab series.
To start, simply knowing that our nervous system is tied to ALL stressors in our life is vital. Alan Thrall, a You-Tuber and strength gym-owner from NorCal puts it well, generally noting that all our life stressors poor into one stress pool… so mental stress adds to physical stress, emotional stress compounds physical stress, and vice versa (reference the video link). So basically, if you had a crap day at the office, it should be no wonder that you may be negatively affected or “emotionally drained” before ever even setting foot in the Lab. And when you do get to the gym, your physical performance will likely be hindered by emotional/mental stress you’ve had all day.
Simply knowing and noticing the stressors throughout your day gives you a power over them… puts “a space” in between them and you. By knowing they are there, you can choose to let them affect you, or not. One way to de-stress and focus before heading to the gym is to write-down (journal) the tangible stressors of your day, identify which ones you can actually influence, and those you have no control over. Scratch-out the “uncontrollable” stressors, and then make a quick plan to address the others, in priority order, perhaps by simply numbering them in the order you want to address them in the future… consider the plan made, and now you can apply all your attention into digging-in to that last round with full cheerleading in your head in swing.
One component of this that we will explore later is basically to give yourself a break! It is common that our work/life/family, and GYM standards for ourselves are not just high, but unrealistic and therefore unattainable. High standards are good, but unachievable ones leave us continuously aggravated, unmotivated, and can quickly become the source of self-defeating talk in the middle of a grueling WOD.
So, apply a focused minute or two to identifying those stressors, addressing them honestly with yourself, and then setting them aside so you can crush the WOD and reap the gains!
Consider watching this video from Alan Thrall for another perspective on the stress/overtraining topic, and until next week, refine those stress-surfing skills and focus on your WOD!

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