Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Case for Training Without Adrenaline

You’re standing at your bar, and you have that sick, nauseous feeling in the bowels of your gut. It’s the day to challenge your Fran time, and you put 115 on your bar like a boss. The timer says ten seconds, and tiny beads of sweat form on your fingertips through layers of chalk. Five seconds. Your heart begins to pound. Three seconds. Two seconds. You’re in it now kid. You better go hard. One… GO!!!

At that moment, you start lifting your brains out and throwing your self around the pull-up like you hated the flesh on your palms. Your muscles scream, flooding with lactic acid, but you’ve drowned them out because you found your Master of Puppets cassette the day before and you fast forwarded to Kirk Heinrich's killer solo on minute six. 

You collapse. You breathe. It’s over. 

This scene is part of what makes CrossFit so damn fun and so damn easy to get hooked. Challenging limits and seeing what you’re capable of is an incredible rush, and it’s part of what drives people to do irrational things (base jumping, bull riding, karaoke). 

I’m going to encourage you to do just the opposite.

Not every time, but I believe there’s much to be gained from being fully present with yourself and your environment during a difficult WOD. We exert so much of ourselves toward avoiding discomfort and pain that it becomes a distraction from what’s beautiful about experiencing those feelings. I know that’s a strange thing to say because it goes against all our natural instincts, but if you can embrace discomfort in a safe setting then it makes you more equipped to deal with pain in other areas of your life.

Over the summer, I went on a climbing trip with some friends who are much better climbers than I am. They’ve devoted more time to it since college when we went all the time, and it showed. Their technique and route planning ran circles around mine. But where I had the upper hand, though, was my ability to be uncomfortable. When they came to a position that caused some discomfort, they bailed quickly to find an alternate route. I, on the other hand, was able to accept the pain and push through. 

In yoga, this is known as sitting with your discomfort. An article in New York Family describes how this same mantra is used by a psychotherapist with her clients. Rather than allowing someone to avoid a subject that is difficult, she asks her clients to “dive deeper and explore” the pain in their lives.

When we rely on external factors to push us through a WOD, like a screaming coach or loud music, we’re creating a co-dependent relationship that diminishes the motivation you have within yourself and distracts us from feeling pain. Adrenaline simply becomes a pain killer.

This goes to why it is you come to CrossFit in the first place. Are you there to just get through and check it off your to-do list, or are you there because you believe the experience is beneficial to your health and growth as a person?

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