In the CrossFit community the open is upon us. People, for the next few weeks will be putting more into workouts then they ever have in their life.....more effort, more focus, more energy, the will try to rest more, eat better, drink more water, warm up better, all just to get a better score on the workout of the week. It surely is a fun, exciting time of year! In the same way, as spring approaches many of my young athletes getting ready to participate in baseball or track enter the gym with more vigor and train a bit harder and really make sure they are maximizing each and every training session. It is the same way that in the summer, weeks before school starts many female soccer players and male football players all step up their effort in the gym because their season is about to kick off. The athletes all share the same thing, an increased intensity when competition is near or amidst them. Natural? Sure. Good, maybe not.
An increased intensity is natural in competition, everyone experiences it unless you are truly a machine with no emotions. But consider for a moment that if instead of allowing your emotions and investments take over in the midst of competition or weeks maybe even days before, you prepared that way ALL THE TIME. What if everyday the football athletes attacked each workout throughout the winter like it was gameday? What if each workout that a CrossFit cometitor did in their gym they attacked with the same intensity and preparation they do for the Open? Would not their potential for optimal performance be so much higher? What if.....you practiced the way that you played?
How can we practice how we play? First off we must be able to match the intensity, right? There is something special about 12 people standing within 30 feet of you screaming their head off telling you to pick the bar up or to do another burpee (CrossFit). And it can be quite hard to simulate playing on Friday Night's under the lights with 3,000 fans watching your every move, playing in front of family and friends (Football). But how can do that without that enviornment actually existing? To me it is actually simple, I pretend. As silly as that sounds.....as I wrote about the football scene just a few lines above, I actually got chills because I could see the lights, here the crowd, smell the grass, and feel the fall air.
Do you remember when as a kid you were told to use your imagination, I'm fortunate enough to never have trouble there, I created dream worlds and people around me all the time (I still do, who am I kidding). As an adult and as a coach I have to talk in more professional terms and so I use words like "Visualization", as an athlete you have to be able to create the moment in which you are training for! If you want real success, each day in everything you do, you will practice like it is game time. Go research some of the best athletes any given sport, they were not just great on game day. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Rich Froning, Chris Spealer, Lance Armstrong (yes he cheated, we are talking about his training however), Mia Ham (USA soccer) and many other athletes that are very successful all have the ability to turn a switch on a daily basis that allowed them to train like each day the championship was on the line.
An athlete who prepares each day like something is on the line is the one who is prepared when there really is. Amateur competitors run into the wall on gameday, come out too fast, go too hard, aren't prepared for the speed of the game and all in all just aren't even at their greatest potential because of their daily approach to training. Each and every day train like it is gameday, visualize the moment you are training for that way when it is upon you, you've been there 1,000 times. A mentally prepared athlete, one who has trained with a game-day intensity each day, sees competition as their chance to prove themselves! An athlete who isn't mentally prepared many times allows the moment to become bigger than them and feels intimidated or inadequate. Visiualize, train and prepare to win each day but simply practicing how you play.