Sunday, 31 August 2014

Training the mental game

Session with Joey Nicholas Kinesiology
Mind over matter…
It’s been said that some of the greatest obstacles in life are those that are perceived, which is why getting your head into the right place prior to, and during your training sessions is going to be essential for you towards achieving your training goals.
My experience with quite possibly one of the greatest ever perceived obstacles I have faced in my competitive life as an athlete was whether the time off I'd had from training with pregnancy would ever allow me to return to the level of fitness required to compete, let alone even make it to this year’s CrossFit Games!
At the time of the 2013 CrossFit Games, I recall watching the girls online who were competing and felt unable to escape the unmistakable feelings of self-doubt at the time as I had been considering whether I would be returning to competition or not. I knew it was uncharacteristic of me to feel this way, but I also knew things had definitely changed for me both physically and mentally since becoming a mother.
Making my decision so difficult was compounded by the fact that I could see just how strong the girls in the comp had gotten in my year away from it, and to be completely honest I didn't even believe at that stage that I would be anywhere near the level of fitness I felt I needed to be at in time for the start of the Open in February this year!
I was fortunate to receive some timely words of encouragement from Benji Schwartz a week or two after the Games had finished which honestly helped me to overcome some of the feelings of self-doubt which I was experiencing. Ben has had a great positive influence over my training in the past and has always been able to give me a push, especially when I’ve needed it.
But ultimately, the decision to commence training again would be mine to make. What I do know is that even with a push, it’s still up to you to take that initial leap of faith in the direction of your goals. For me, the instant I was able to make that big step and commit myself on the road to a comeback, I think I realised almost simultaneously that I was going to need to get straight to work if I was to have even a remote chance of making it to the 2014 CrossFit Games!
I knew my biggest gaps were my strength. So I talked with some other athletes who I knew had always had to work that bit harder than most when it came to the strength component. I got in contact with Chris Hogan who I knew has done a lot of work over the years to improve his strength who suggested I get in touch with Rob Downtown at RAW Strength & Conditioning.
Mental stress Vs. Physical Stress
I looked at my baseline stats verses my progress each day and was pretty pleased with my initial physical progress in the first couple of months. Securing a 1st Place win at the FitChick Challenge in Perth was a real confidence booster, but I knew I was still a long way off where I needed to be at that point.
Possibly what I could not seem to shake was the sense and feeling that I was still behind the 8-Ball in terms of time to prepare by comparison with the other athletes, all of which had all been training hard during my absence from training for competition since the 2012 Qualifiers.
Also this feeling was now being compounded by the fact I was juggling a relentless training regime combined with the sleep deprivation and constant priorities to attend to first and foremost as a new mum, all whilst running a house on my own with my partner Roh working away on an 8 weeks away, and 2 weeks at home fly-in fly-out (FIFO) work roster. Whilst those who know me well know it’s generally not in my nature to complain, all I want to say is that each day was a complete mental battle for me.
There was no doubt in my mind I had definitely gotten physically stronger and backed the programming I had been working on with Rob at that stage, but I just knew there was something holding me back. 
I remember I was starting to second guess everything and whether or not I was possibly being too ambitious in my plans. Negativity was creeping into my training, and it was making it harder and harder for me to keep my focus.
However one of the many great things training at CrossFit has taught me during my involvement over the past 5 years is that the mind is a powerful thing and that piece of knowledge combined with my all-or-nothing style approach, I felt that I had to make some changes and get my head straight if I was to have any measured level of success.
With such a hectic schedule juggling my training and the stresses of new motherhood combined with some stresses which resulted from my partner being away etc. and then throw in some technical mishaps during my filming of the Open WODs where the video cut out (damn technology!) I was literally about to collapse into a tired heap.
I developed Shingles during this year’s Open Qualifier which my Doctor advised was most likely caused due to a lowering of the immune system which was no doubt due to a large imbalance of increased physical stress and mental stress generated from possibly trying to juggle everything.
It was roughly week 5 in the Open this year when whilst doing some Oly Lifting training with Lucy from theMill Gym in Perth when by chance I was introduced to Joey Nicholas, one of Lucy’s clients who just so happened to be training that day and who was a Kinesiologist.
I had been introduced previously to Kinesiology and had already experienced the great benefits of a Kinesiology balancing sessions during a period in my life that was prior to being introduced to CrossFit, where I had regularly experienced moderate to high levels of stress and anxiety which had been generated through a work / life imbalance.
Not to be confused with Kinesiology Tape J, possibly the best way to describe Kinesiology is that it is a performance enhancing tool that gets to the core of what’s really going on in your life - whether it is stress or anxiety generated through fear, sabotaging belief systems, lack of self-love/appreciation or self-worth etc.
Kinesiology uses the science of muscle testing and balancing the electromagnetic energy fields of the body to correct these imbalances. Kinesiology can achieve for you a heightened level of performance; and the beauty of this is that it flows through into all other areas of your life!
Kinesiology has also been described as a vast holistic therapy, which basically means that the techniques can vary depending on what your own circumstances may be to determine what your body needs in order for it to function at its best.
The techniques have been used by Eastern Countries for thousands of years, treating the whole body- including structural (muscles/bone/cartilage), bio chemical (organs and hormones right down to a cellular level), emotional, energetic (the bodies light force/chi energy & meridians & chakras), spiritual (present, past and future lives).
A kinesiology balance will give you clarity, high levels of confidence, self-worth, motivation, and energy, a sense of self peace, freedom, and love.  
Joey and I got talking about training and I mentioned how I was feeling about my training and life in general as a result, to which fortunately for me Joey agreed to immediately start doing some work with me through Kinesiology.

 Assisting athletic performance and injury prevention
After dealing with my initial stress levels and bringing balance back into my body, interestingly what Joey was quickly able to find out was that during the Open this year, I had actually been sub-consciously mentally preparing for a top 10 finish (at best) for the Regionals.
Granted, for many this in itself is a truly notable and respectable goal to have; the only problem was the goal I had written down was to qualify in 1st Place at the CrossFit Games Australian Regionals.
I was fortunate enough to work closely with Joey Nicholas over the next 5 months to help improve my mental/emotional and physical state.
Through the balancing techniques applied through Kinesiology I was able to align my mind and my body to assist me towards achieving my goals.
I could not have been happier with my result at this years CrossFit Regionals as it represented a huge milestone acomplishement for me as an athlete, and one which I know was a result of the combined input of people in my network which is why I continue to place such a large emphasis on the importance of building a good support team, regardless of the level of training you are committed to.
Many may argue that athletic performance is nothing more the result of hard work and training, however what I found through my experience this year is that the sub-concious level of our mind has a significant influence over the outcome. As was the case for me, regardless of what training I was doing my sub-conscious was going to potentially negatively impact my result prior to the competition would start.
People often and regularly ask me how you train your mind to be strong during training and competition. You may have heard of the clique “train the mind so the mind can train the body”. This goes beyond just staying motivated and determined to achieve your goals, especially when your sub-conscious mind is so powerful. Potentially this is why so many people fail to complete their goals. Whilst this is likely to be the topic of a future blog J it does lead into a big function of the human brain which influences the success of your goals and that is namely, emotions.
Whilst I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject by any means, emotions simply put  are basically the feelings which we experience and that are generated from the responses to events which take place in our lives.
Interestingly what I found with my experience with Kinesiology this year was that emotions are not limited to our minds. Emotions, as it turns out are also stored in our muscles, which in turn can largely affect their ability to function to the way in which our mind wants them to.
Crazy huh!? But what I actually found with my experience with Kinesiology with my training is that it can aid in releasing this emotion attached to the muscle which can in turn allow for freedom of movement, and therefore has the potential to aid in injury prevention.
This combined with working closely with Coach Dan Williams this year I was able to correct the imbalances within my body by recruiting the correct muscles required for a specific movement pattern. Dan, who has a strong background in exercise physiology and injury prevention worked tirelessly to come up with a program which would assist in injury prevention, which combined with the Kinesiology treatment and regular Physiotherapy I had a very strong injury management plan in place which worked extremely well for me in terms of my comeback this year.
Photo courtesy of Colin Sanders Photography

Possibly the best way I can describe my experience with Kinesiology is that by achieving a higher level of self-awareness through my balancing sessions I felt connected to a higher power. There is a spiritual power which can be experienced through Kinesiology which for most people who have closed their minds to this way of thinking, possibly all I can say is they perhaps need to rethink what determined them to arrive at this conclusion in the first place.
For me personally, the journey which competing at CrossFit has taken me on has enabled me to push my body and my mind beyond what my previous perceived limits were.
Along the way events have taken place which has given me the opportunity to give up and quit on numerous occasions. But at each and every one of these opportunities I have been given to quit, I have been blessed with an opportunity to further improve myself.
Whilst I am the first to admit that some things have worked for me and some things haven’t, everyone’s experience will be uniquely different. I have made it my future goal, as I look to a life beyond the realm of competing following the 2015 CrossFit Games season, to provide sound knowledge based on my experiences.
I’ve been a firm believer for some time that just because you read it in a text book, doesn’t mean you should ever stop challenging the convention because the instant you do that you prevent the opportunity of surprising yourself to what you otherwise thought was not possible. You also limit yourself to a perceived limit and restrict yourself to something you will never experience as a result of that way of thinking.
Therefore based on my experiences, all I can say is that whether you are male or female, competitive athlete or weekend warrior, I seriously recommend that next time you get bogged down with the pressures of work/life and training or what you consider to be possible given your own set of circumstances, that you at least consider a kinesiology balance session to look at assisting with your own training, and potentially tap into a higher power you most likely have never known to have existed.
Whilst I am limited to my own experiences with Kinesiology certainly if you are interested in further information on the detailed benefits of Kinesiology, I recommend that you contact Joey Nicholas Kinesiology, connect with him on Facebook, or contact Joey directly via email
This is the first instalment of what I hope will be a regular blog series. I welcome your comments and constructive feedback to this blog and to topics for discussion.
My next instalment will be the benefits of Physio to aid recovery and improve athletic performance.
Keep smiling, train hard and don’t take life too seriously… nobody gets out alive anyway!
De :-)
Denae Brown 
Webpage : A current reference to my journey with CrossFit and future source of shared information and trending topics in CrossFit and health & fitness in our community.
Twitter: #faithrulesfear – when you feel empowered by something you have achieved through your own training, life or unique journey and experiences

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