How cats, sleeping, mutton and chocolate will all help you hit the CrossFit Open better.

Be a cat. Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat.

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Curiosity is the most powerful training tool I have ever held. I didn’t realise this until I lost it.

The only reason I set written goals – was because the coaches insisted on it. I didn’t take them seriously or drive towards them with anything resembling unrelenting vigour. It was an exercise in going through the motions to please someone else.

What led me to achieve those goals, may be slightly attributed to having written them down. I seriously don’t think it was though. I was taking the piss when I wrote down “Go to Regionals.” (Regionals was also much easier to fluke your way into back then.) The one thing that consistently got me not just at the gym, but engaged in what I was doing there, was curiosity.

Interestingly, one of the indicators to predict successful academic outcomes, and also employability is plain old curiosity. “Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration” What it boils down to is when we find something we are curious about, we are more inclined to ‘do the homework’ required to learn more about it. Curiosity, I believe is the driver for intrinsic motivation. That also adds weight to the old wives tale “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” meaning, some people (and animals) have zero curiosity about the same things their coaches and teachers feel they should invest time and effort into learning. Don’t take it personally. Engagement in any deep learning requires the learners curiosity to be piqued. Find ways to make that happen and the horse will likely drink your water.

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With regard to CrossFit; My curiosity grew insatiable (before it disappeared completely for about two years). I used to wonder daily about what was possible. Back when pulling my chin over a bar seemed an insurmountable task – having a sense of wonder helped me to make consistent progress.

Like many interests we pursue in life, as we open one doorway, we generally find another five to explore. My curiosity with training and CrossFit was hinged on uncovering all the secrets along the way.  I evolved alongside my experiences and progress.. “How fast can I go?”… “How much can I lift?” …  “How many rounds can I squeeze into that time frame?”…. evolved into “Is it possible to..” questions. We would hang around the gym after the class jamming, playing, exploring for far too long in the early days.

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The moral of the story here is that the fun got lost when I found myself setting expectations of what I ‘should’ be on myself; Expectations are a curiosity killer. Which in turn took me further from caring about doing epic things.

The kicker, is I see this in other people often. People who are definitely capable of achieving that goal they have their heart set on. It’s just that they have given the goal too much of the wrong kind of power. If you lack curiosity and your not engaged in training or executing in competition you have to ask why the hell you’re even doing it. My best, I ever have been – I felt excited to get up early in the morning and leave work to train before and during nearly every training session. When I’m competing, curiosity and engagement looks like not adding in tactical breaks to pull up my knee sleeves, chalk my hands, or adjust my grips. I’m in a total state of flow – completely engrossed in the task. Beyond what we had programmed on the board, I’d be just as excited to see who would be there to play with. ‘The unknown’ wasn’t something to be feared – unknown didn’t equal falling short, or being incompetent of reaching my own impossible standards. This ‘unknown’ was more like not knowing what you’re getting for Christmas, but you wanted a bike and it’s shaped like a bike, sounds like a bike and is probably a bike… every day.

Sleep more, pay attention to what you’re dreaming.

This is a short one. There’s not much you can do to control what you dream about.

As a general rule of thumb, I only dream about things I care about.

When I’m really into something or curious about if its possible to do something, the decision has already been made to pursue it. From here my brain will build the path to make it happen, I feel that’s why I dream about those things. Example; I really badly wanted to get a muscle up. So much so, that I dreamt of myself flying up through the rings with effortless grace and weightlessness. I had ‘the muscle up dream’ every.damn.night for a month before I got my first one. During the day, I would be diligent about getting the progression homework completed. During the night, my sub-conscious mind would put it all together and consolidate the learning to help me along. The dreams made me crazy – in my dreams I already had them. In my dreams being the operative words there. Now I know better, as to why that happens. A study out of the Harvard Medical School, found that test subjects who dream about a challenging task performed it better than those who didn’t have such dreams.

Boom, dream more folks.

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Maybe she’s born with it, or maybe it’s Maybelline

Well informed people with much more experience than me, who have read and written screeds on the topic of achieving excellence have shared some common themed thoughts.  Factors influencing performance in the 1% include: Grit, resilience, drive, grinding, work and accepting pain. These are common essential ingredients from which champions are forged.

I believe that some people are raised that way, knowing how to work hard. “The Mutton Factor”. Doing something less than their all out at the time – is just not an option.  Other people have to read books about it, learn ways to try and transfer from other dimensions of their experience or develop those tendencies from scratch to overcome the self-limiting default setting they showed up in life with. “The Maybelline Factor”.

Maybelline athletes hurt my soul. A good training session is not looking broken-assed and dragging your way backward and blindfolded until its complete. Don’t train like that. I literally leave the gym when I feel that around me. It seeps into my own training wairua and sucks all the enjoyment from my session.

If you’re not seriously curious and excited to find out things like; how deep your tank is, or how far you can push. If common behaviour is to complain or sandbag your training, but, you also believe that doing tonnes of personalized programming will get you to the top; You’re dreaming (not the good dreaming). It doesn’t have to be like that. You may have your purpose outlined and made the decision, but your path is going to feel like walking on broken glass if you can’t find that curiosity to push the limit of what is possible.

It’s unrealistic to say that every training session is going to be sunshine and rainbows. But I do think that some people love to explore near every crevasse of what’s possible on good and not so good days. This intrinsic motivator helps them to reach those dark places where the wild things live, and thrive there.

How to combat being a Maybelline athlete; Give your training some purpose. Figure out a couple of things that you find super interesting and find all the ways and means to approach it until you’ve turned the puzzle over enough times for the door to unlock and you find yourself in a whole new dimension of training that you never knew existed. On a daily basis – in your training sessions – find ways to make everything a game in your head. I find games are fun, very distracting from pain, and they motivate me.

Tell Steve to take a break, have a Kit Kat.

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Finally, let’s talk about self-limiters. Everyone has them. That’s the voice in our head or more like our gut that tugs on our sense of reason and lets us know if something is way off. We need self-limiters. They assess the threat. Their like the nerdy, slightly overweight, button down shirt and a pair of khaki’s wearing, clipboard carrying – health and safety officer of your life. I call mine Steve. Steve’s job is making sure I’m scared when I need to be.  Steve’s sole purpose is to raise alarms when required and significantly influence whether I choose one of three things: 1. Pull my sleeves up and get stuck into it. 2. Run away. Or 3. Choke.

I went through a crazy training patch where I really learned what pain was. Steve showed up most days screaming at me. But eventually he went quiet, after he realised that once we are in the depth of pain, it really doesn’t get any worse. It just stays like that. Until you stop anyway. The contrast from moments after the work ends isn’t dissimilar to the immediate temperature contrast felt when you walk into the Super Liquor Chiller. Except this is a chiller full of pain and you grabbed the most expensive box of 24 types of cramp with lactic acid build-up and unrelenting discomfort which no measure of writhing and wriggling will ease.

Curiosity to play the game out is the key that keeps the health and safety Steve distracted for me. If you know how to work, and work hard – then wondering what is possible helps quell the 2nd and 3rd options from eventuating. These options are a seriously bad times, especially when you’re competing or trying to do something special. We can’t let Health and Safety Steve hold us back from expressing true potential. But he does need to be bribed well in order to turn a blind eye.

Especially during the Open Season.

T.

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