How involved are you with your training?
It’s a question that quite often comes up in discussion with friends, training partners and potential clients.
Typical answers tend to go a little something like, “I try to work out at least three times per week…” or, “Sometimes I’ll do something I found online, sometimes I’ll just kinda make some stuff up…”
Perhaps you’re thinking along similar lines.
So, let me try and frame that question a bit better…
I’m not asking how committed you are to your training – how often or intensely you take your body to task. Nor am I asking how much of a hand you have in the design of your training – the degree of contemplation or thought that precedes it.
What I am asking is how involved you are in your training.
I mean really involved? You see, there is a difference…
Minding Your Movement
I’m not merely inquiring about the physical actualization of your determination to train, but rather, where you are mentally during that training.
Where’s your focus and just how honed in is it?
Are you focused on volume – on getting in as much work as you can? Perhaps you’re honed in on speed – clipping off as many repetitions as possible in the shortest amount of time? Or maybe you’re just going through the motions – involved in the current activity simply for the sake of doing something, as opposed to the dreaded alternative of doing nothing.
But with your sights set firmly on the outcome, on the end of the road, are you ever fully present, in the moment and engaged in the process?
What does it matter if your movement is mindful or not?
You see, many of us set to our daily tasks with body and brain totally disconnected. In this instance, we miss many an opportunity to experience the process of moving forward.
Instead, we put all of our focus on the destination.
“I just gotta get through this [insert mundane or otherwise less than desirable task], so that I can finally [insert desirable outcome].”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to reach a milestone, set a personal record, or simply get things done, but none of that ever happens without first going through the process of getting there.
We don’t grow or learn anything by simply arriving at our destination, but through the trials and tribulations of the journey.
By paying attention to things along the way.
If we’re paying attention, and not getting caught up in distant ideals, then we’ll realize that our journey – the path we tread – is marked with incremental progression and small successes every step of the way.
There’s a great quote from Evelyn Underhill that goes a little something like,
For lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day, and to have a fleeting chance to observe these ‘thousand forms of loveliness’ we must strive for that everyday mindfulness of breath and surroundings and eventually it’ll become so common place-able that no longer will it be a striving, but just happen.
I absolutely LOVE this quote.
When we are in the moment and heighten our awareness, we see things that may have always been there, yet were hidden from us because of our lack of presence. This applies to both the positive and negative. We can find either beauty in our environment or something a bit more threatening.
When we turn this mindfulness inward during our personal practice, we also begin to see things that have been hidden from us. We realize new strengths and spotlight shadowy restrictions.
In business, the common adage is to exploit strengths and pull focus away from weaknesses.
Yet in personal practice, we can only ignore our weaknesses for so long before they begin to undermine our progress. On their own, these inefficiencies, restrictions and less-than-optimal habits can slowly peck away at our progress, adding compounding drag as time goes on.
However, simply pushing onward, focused on that destination, driving on the backs of our strengths, can actually serve to reinforce our weaknesses, thus expediting the slow down, halt, regression and shelving of our journey.
It’s not arriving at all that muscle size that keeps you from training into your 90′s, it’s the steps you took to get that muscle size that determines whether or not you’ll be training in your 90′s.
Why wouldn’t you be mindful of your movement?
Sometimes it’s a conscious decision; other times it’s not.
Prior Conditioning: perhaps all you’ve ever known is bigger, stronger, faster. What we are currently is a summation of what we’ve gone through previously. Essentially, you’ve known no other way.
Perception Of The Norm: peer pressure is a bitch. If everyone around you – friends, family, colleagues, media – takes more of a conventional, destination-focused approach, then you may be inclined to do the same. Piggy backing off of our first item, you may believe it’s THE only way to
practice train. It can be a scary, lonely world when you step outside of convention. Essentially, you believe there’s no other way.
Reality Checks Suck: turning your practice inward and addressing the now may very well NOT be a comfortable situation. Physically and emotionally speaking. You can’t live in the past, nor can you ignore the present for the future (destination). Instead, full presence can serve up a cold dish of humble pie, and this can threaten to shatter the fragile egos some of us may masquerade in.
Never Given Permission: this is one that we discuss in class quite a bit. I was surprised to hear it the first time, and still am surprised a bit to hear it from more and more clients. ”You know I’ve always wondered about doing things differently, even this way a little bit in the confines of my own home, but it’s refreshing to be given permission to do this in actual training” The ‘this’ they refer to is mindful, process, presence focused work. In spite of knowing only one way, in spite of believing perhaps other ways exist, lack of permission to explore alternate paths may be raining on your parade.
These are just a few elements that may get in the way. Certainly, there are others. Again, keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with addressing the destination – it’s actually paramount to avoiding spinning your wheels or doing donuts in the parking lot. But when working to be mindful in our practice, we’re giving ourselves over to the present moment, understanding that the learning and growth is in the steps that get us to that destination. The only rep we’re looking to focus on is the one right in front of us.
Mindful movement ain’t easy…
We’re qiuck to prize physical toughness and mental fortitude as virtues that will allow us to push harder and longer.
That’s the stuff that hard-core is made of, right? And this fluffy, in-the-now stuff is for the timid, some suppose.
However, a hallmark of mindful movement is attentional stamina… and it certainly ain’t no push-over.
Attentional Stamina is very different from what many presume as mental toughness – the ability to push longer and harder.
Attentional stamina measures the limits of our ability to hone focus and keep focus over time, through the threat of physical fatigue and mental breakdown.
Seemingly “light” work can be made to feel grueling when the focus is directed inward. In fact, often times, seemingly “light” work requires a great deal of attentional stamina, considering how easy it is for us to “muscle through it” and allow our “strengths” to cheat us of further introspection.
Mindful movement tips
When we move our practice inward and on the present moment, we tend to move away from objective measures and into the realm of subjectivity.
This makes sense. Since each of our experiences is unique, it can be tough to assign quantitative labels to a qualitative experience. We can work a bit of a middle ground by cultivating a larger degree of familiarity with our intuition.
Circular Strength Training’s Intuitive Training model works well here. In the model we look at things such as perceived effort, discomfort and technique. While we can assign a quantitative value to these perceptions, the ability to do so accurately may be lost on some at first. No worries, since improving this accuracy is part of the path to personal mastery.
If we peer deeper into perceived technique, we’ll find that it’s comprised of three major components: breathing, structure and movement. By taking a look at how each one affects the other, we can begin to see the bigger picture of how well we’re performing, and how that performance relates to intensity and discomfort.
Instead of just doing something, you’ll be working towards actually owning something. One rep no longer becomes one rep. It’s now an exploration in working with and against gravity, exploiting feedback from the earth, challenging breath mastery, ease and efficiency, finding your root no matter where your base mobilizes, maintaining structural integration in spite of external detractors, selecting just the right amount of tension for the job… and the list goes on…
Personal Mastery Is A Process, Not A Destination!!!
Yes, it bears repeating.
Many of us can look back on that one class (perhaps several classes) in high school or college where we ”made the grade” in spite of having learned ABSOLUTELY NOTHING during our time there. We were happy enough to “arrive” at our desired mark, even if it meant bull-shitting our way through the semester.
In the end, it was a lost opportunity for learning and growth. What a shame.
The more you’re aware of what’s going on in your personal practice, the more you’re aware of what’s going on everywhere else in your life. Pull back your awareness from the fringes and come back to center by slowing down, focusing on right now and how well you’re performing the task at hand.
Life’s too precious to waste your time and effort on mindless movement.
You have my permission to be fully present
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