“To keep the body in good health is a duty, Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear”
Every day, the only vital piece of equipment we bring into the gym is our body. In CrossFit, we are taught to “expect the unexpected”. This means that we program our bodies in a way to respond to various random stimuli. While this is crucial to our fitness, the mind-body connection is absolutely necessary for our overall health. We ought to be able to respond to a stimuli, because our mind recognizes it and our body knows how to respond. If we only train one aspect of our fitness, our overall health is going to be lacking.
Mindfulness, in the field of psychology, is “a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them”. Let’s call this the “body check”. An example of a body check would be when you stand before performing a squat and you FEEL where your hips are in relation to your body. We KNOW that our hips initiate our squat, but do we FEEL where that lies?
In the sport of CrossFit, whether we use it for everyday fitness or competition, we are constantly learning new skills. We learn the facts, as they are broken down by our coaches. Everyone knows that our hips initiate our squats, our backs stay neutral in our deadlifts, and our core stays engaged in our planks. There is a solemn difference between knowing the facts, and feeling the movement.
Most people, when beginning a new workout regime, are afraid of injury. Injury arises for a wide variety of reasons, but I do believe it to be true that the majority of CrossFit related injuries or “tweaks” come from lack of body awareness. If we don’t know where our bodies lie in space (and if we can’t feel that position to recreate it on our own) we are in trouble when we add extra implements to our workout. Think for a second why ex-gymnasts are so naturally good at CrossFit. They KNOW and FEEL their bodies. They have felt and controlled their bodily movements for so long, that they will always know when something is out of balance. This skill of “mindfulness” takes a lot of practice to acquire, but will leave you stronger in the end!
So, how do we go about becoming “mindful” or our bodies, or even attempting a “body check”? Start simple. When lying in bed (in the morning or at the end of the day) lie on your back and wiggle your toes. Then, point and flex your feet. Keep moving up the body until you reach one of the most important movers, your HIPS! Feel your hips tilt forward, feel them tilt backward. Feel how that affects the other parts of your body. Does tilting your hips forwards arch your back? Now you are starting to understand the connections of the mind and body!
You can also use this “mindfulness” when gauging your recovery. Listen to your body! It is always trying to communicate with you. Sit in silence (it doesn’t take long) and feel what it is trying to tell you. Do you feel out of sorts or dragged down? Maybe sit this one out. This doesn’t mean you are “wimping out”. You are acknowledging your body and its needs, and becoming a better athlete for that. If you feel like this every day, maybe it is time for a diet change, or maybe you need to drink more water! Most answers start very simply.
Here’s the deal: Learn your body, FEEL your body, and apply that to the new skills you learn in CrossFit. I promise you will become a better athlete for it, and may save yourself a “tweak” down the road!
My recommendations? Try Pilates! If you have been to physical therapy, try and learn as much as you can! See a massage therapist! And listen to what they feel!
Your body will thank you :-)