What goes through your mind in the middle of a WOD? Do you think about your next rep? Do you think about your to-do list for the rest of the day? Do you think about the discomfort that’s setting in from the increasing lack of oxygen? Or do you not think about anything at all? For many CrossFitters, the WOD can be a way to clear their heads, appreciate the present moment and forget about anything else that may be going on in their lives — indeed, a form of meditation.
Where Did Your Mind Go?
Erin Joy Henry recently wrote a piece in the Huffington Post about the the ability of CrossFit to heighten one’s appreciation of the present:
What is difficult for an outsider to see is that these people just went to a place inside the box, and themselves, that isn’t accessible to them at any other point in their day.Inside boxes, groups of athletes push through grueling workouts together, against the clock and their own personal best. If one were to poke their head into a box towards the end of a WOD (workout of the day), the sight would be difficult to forget. Sweat and blood may drip off the pull-up bar, bodies may be strewn about the floor like rag dolls straining to catch their breath, and the quaking sound of a loaded barbell slamming against the floor would affirm the last group member had completed their final squat snatch of the day. Members would write their scores on the board, high five and walk out the door — back to their more complicated and stressful lives outside the box.
What is difficult for an outsider to see is that these people just went to a place inside the box, and themselves, that isn’t accessible to them at any other point in their day. The physical intensity of the workout gave them no choice but to draw their attention inward — to the now. In the now, or the present moment, the mind experiences a much needed gift of rest.
It is the place where the joy of living truly occurs. Somehow, a CrossFit workout is able to bring me to this place too.…Let me introduce the concept that everyone meditates during a WOD. It’s true: I haven’t met a person yet that doesn’t. No seriously, do you mutter to yourself when you’re 5 minutes into a 20min AMRAP? Is your mind a perfect blank? Do you yell at yourself or coach yourself through?
Some minds do go quiet…there’s nothing but the here and now, the sound of their breathing, the plates hitting the mats, their feet hitting the box, the feeling of the pullup bar in their hands.
Some minds get loud, tough and confrontational…”don’t be a pu$$y”, “don’t put it down”, and “the pain is a lie, keep moving!”
Some minds get loud but supportive…”you can do it”, “you’re strong”, and ”you’re making great time.”
Either way, when you repeat these phrases to yourself you do so to “invoke or cultivate a feeling or internal state or attend to a specific focal point” and comes from the Latin meditatio, meaning “to think, contemplate, devise, ponder.” Yup, you’re meditating kiddo!
Staying in the Present Moment
It’s a concept that seems to be inherently at odds with itself — you are pushing your body to its physical limits but your mind finds a place of calm. Strange but true, and something you have probably experienced. Erin Joy Henry, initially a reluctant CrossFitter, explains:
My mind quieted and my body took over. There were no more thoughts of what was next and whether or not I could do it. I committed to make my way through the workout one repetition at a time from that point on.I had watched other members who stuck with [CrossFit] become more confident, assertive, fit, stress-free, health conscious and eager to take on the world. I heard them talk about doing things they never thought they could do. A CrossFit workout seemed to yield something uncommonly good that seasoned veterans of the sport said I could only experience if I gave it at least a few months. They spoke as if CrossFit had given them some sort of indestructible sense of well-being that ran far deeper than the physical body.
Last weekend, I was barely hanging on as I fought to finish the Filthy Fifty. The FF is a CrossFit workout that requires you to complete 50 reps each of 10 different high intensity functional fitness movements, one after another with no rest. There is a 30 minute time cap. I was at the halfway mark when things got tough. I was swinging from the pull-up bar trying to force my core to engage and pull my knees up to touch my elbows 30 more times. My body was exhausted, and I wasn’t sure I could force it to obey. My mind was chattering away with negative self-talk, making me doubtful I was strong enough to reach the 50 reps I needed to move on to the next exercise.