Relax and Win
How often do you hear coaches holler, “relax!”?
There’s a reason why and most successful athletes have it figured out. Our subconscious minds run most of our day-to-day activities such as:
- Brushing our teeth
- Taking a shower
- Commuting to work, and yes even
Everything that isn’t a subconscious, ingrained pattern/habit requires energy, thought, and increases the likelihood of something going wrong.
Michael Phelps swam his 100m Butterfly in the 2008 Beijing Olympics with his eyes closed – no joke! His goggles were filling up with water making it virtually impossible to see – so I’ve read.
Lucky for him he counts his strokes and knows exactly where he should be in the pool regardless of if he can see or not. His coach Bob Bowman used to have him practice in the dark to prepare for such unforeseen circumstances.
As he got close to the finish he could hear the crowd screaming but had no idea who they were screaming for. Something told him he needed one final push to reach the wall. That final push; that insight, was what he needed to win and in fact did winning his 7th gold medal of that Olympics by .001 of a second.
So the question for you then is, how can you apply this concept to your training?
The Need For Relaxation
Stress is omnipresent as are abundant distractions.
In the Olympic world so much as a glance in the wrong direction can cost you milliseconds and ultimately the gold medal. Therefore having complete control of all your sense and keeping your cool is the highest priority.
But what about you?
Consider what happens when you’re in a sympathetic state:
- Your heart rate is high
- You can’t think clearly
- Your nerves are unsteady
- Your body is tense
- And you’re running on borrowed time – it’s not practical to live in this state (though you’d be surprised)
On the flip side when you’re relaxed; in a parasympathetic state:
- Habits take over
- Auto-pilot is turned on
Which leads to:
- Increased awareness
- Increased likelihood of “winning”
The takeaway here is that a habit allows your body to act on autopilot, which allows you to focus more and “win.” Winning might be a race, a game, or it might be a snatch on-the-minute session. (A constant in my life right now, ugh!)
In order for something to become a habit and work on autopilot there’s the need for the stimulus to be applied time and time again.
In training, there are lifts and movements that you do everyday (or at least should do every day)
- Carry something heavy
- And do some ground work
These are all movements that you can (and should) apply the same set-up technique and mindset for regardless of the load on the bar, weight of the bell, or difficulty of the movement.
If you take the time to create solid, healthy habits, your autopilot won’t let you down when it matters most – grinding through that last rep, maintaining form during a taxing session.
Start With The Swing
The swing is a simple place to start because it transfers into so many other aspects of training
- 2-hand swings
- 1-hand swings
- And deadlift and various other hinging movements
Creating the same patterns/habits/autopilot routine for the swing allows you to focus on the other minute details of say your
- Or the fact that your hear rate is shooting through the roof from the complex you’re performing
Relaxation = Control
Let’s face it; if you’re not relaxed then you’re not really in control.
The voice inside your head is making quick, rash, sometimes costly, decisions that could have profound effects on your life and your training.
Being relaxed in your training allows you to:
- Control the moment
- Be present
- Adjust to the circumstances
- And ultimately crush your training session/lift
How to Relax and Win
I must admit, when I first heard this phrase it was from Dan John, of course who else would it be from?
But it actually didn’t sink in until finishing the book Untethered Soul – a book about spiritual enlightenment.
“Relax and release” as the author says was the way to enhance the “here and now”; let go of the stress, the worry, the past, and the future and focus on what’s currently happening and “win” as I then applied.
How to apply it properly…
Increasing parasympathetic activity is great, but what about getting “pumped up” for your date with the beast? (48kg bell)
- Sense the ground
This is quite possibly the most important acronym I reference on a daily basis
Breath = rib cage placement – down, in, and back
This helps pull your center of gravity in toward your body and allows for more stable movement.
Thorax = alignment and power
Your thorax is essentially your entire mid-section. If you think of your thorax and your pelvis as pistons, aligning the two creates the potential for powerful movement.
Sense the ground = heels, feet, “sinking” into the ground
Prevents you from shifting to toes and forefoot and is a reminder of “setting your rib cage.”
Think of these as “structurally organizing your body for optimal movement,” as my good friend Grant Anderson of CPG says.
Once things are in place, the body and brain can take over which means you get to focus on your lift.
Stay tuned next week to learn what specific habits you can form in the gym to take “relax and win” to another level.