Sports and superstitions go hand in hand, just ask any former or current athlete. They’ll all tell you they have a favorite pair of socks. They’ll explain how a certain song or type of music get’s their head in the game. For me, it was the order I would put my hockey pads on. It’s the number that was on the back of my jersey. Now it’s the socks and shoes that I wear while working out. Or the Eminem song playing loudly over the speakers. These are the types of things that get me fired up. As I write this I’m getting excited to go workout. A mind is a powerful tool, that when harnessed can do great things. Can shoes or socks really bring out your inner superpower? Your inner drive and competitiveness? Is there really something to the idea, look good play good? At the studio, all the trainers are always talking about their walkout songs. What’s a walkout song? These are the songs that athletes choose to play over the stadiums’ loudspeakers while they enter the ring before a fight or walk up to the plate in baseball. How can you harness this inner super power? Is it possible for a few words from a Metallica song can help you hit a max effort lift?
What got me thinking about this is? Watching the Crossfit Games this year and seeing all the athletes in Reebok gear. It’s cool that all these athletes get hooked up with a ton of gear. Especially since some of them are not getting paid like a pro athlete. What about the athletes that are sponsored by other companies besides Reebok? They train all year in other shoes, other socks, and even different clothing. I know you’re thinking what I’m thinking. This must throw them off their game, right? Their performance must suffer because of their superstitions. That’s what you would think but watching the CrossFit games shows you that their performance isn’t suffering. They’re able to find their inner superpower, intense focus, and determination, without any of their “gear”. I get it. You can’t have it both ways. Or can you?
I’ve seen some incredible things happen when an athlete is trying a max lift and you put on their favorite song. It’s like a light switch. Before the song, you see a soft focus. After the song starts the focus is much more intense and unbroken. Most times the athlete or trainer smash the lift or the workout. Was it really because of the song? Yes and no. Yes, because it got the athlete focused on the lift. No, because sometimes it doesn’t matter what shoes you have on or what song is playing. Sometimes even your intense focus doesn’t help.
Sometimes you fail. People don’t like to fail. Most people see failure as the end and all the training or practice wasn’t worth it. In reality, failure is the beginning. Great athletes know this. They are undeterred when they fail. They look at the failure as a way to grow. A way to get better. Think back to your life, to a time when you failed, was life over? Was your career over? Most likely not. You persevered through that failure and got better. You learned how to do it better next time. Does wearing the right or wrong pair of shoes really affect your perseverance? Does listening to the perfect song affect your determination? If you answered yes, then we have some work to do.
Don’t get me wrong. Having those special socks or a special song that gets you in the zone is great. That’s the easy way to get in the zone. The problem is, what happens when you’re not able to use those special items to bring out your inner super powers? That’s when you need to be able to harness those inner powers without a crutch. You should be able to just tap into the zone when you need to for as long as you need it. You want the ability to perform at your highest level in the worst case scenario. How do you do that? You need to find your inner lucky number. You need to find your inner lucky socks. This may be a mantra that you say to yourself before you go play the game or go for that max lift. It could be as simple as a quick saying “you got this”. If simple doesn’t work for you the next best way to get in the zone is visualization. To see some great examples of this watch ski racers right before they get in the starting blocks before a race. You can see their eyes closed and their head moving just ever so slightly. They’re running the course in their mind so that when they’re actually on the course they’re already in the zone because they’ve done so many mental reps. Or look at golfers who visualize the shot before they actually make a swing. You can see this in all sports. Visualization is a great way to get in the zone, to bring out our your inner superpower, and crush whatever is in front of you.
Don’t believe me? Try it out. The next time you’re about to do a workout or swing a golf club. Visualize the movement or shot before hand and see what happens. I bet you’ll notice how much more determined and focused you were. All great athletes use visualization. They just might not use it in those terms. You hear it all the time when the quarterback hits his wide receiver for the game-winning touchdown. They say “I saw myself doing that since I was a young kid!”. Most pro athletes also use their crutches, their special gear, they get to choose to do that. It’s a perfect world for most pro athletes. This comes back to how great the CrossFit games athletes truly are. You can see it right before the event starts. These athletes are so focused you can feel their focus burning through the tv. They don’t get to use the excuse that they don’t have their special gear because they don’t. All games athletes are required to wear sponsored gear. Not to mention how many other curve balls that are thrown at them throughout the weekend. This is the ultimate test of bringing out their inner super powers. This event is not only meant to test their physical fitness but also the psychological fitness. Watching them compete makes me believe we all have inner super powers of intense focus and determination. It makes me believe that we all can master this with practice.
If you’re still with me then you get it. Your homework is to try this today. Try visualizing a difficult task that you may face today. Completing these mental reps will help you find that intense focus. That undying and unbreakable determination to get that task done. This doesn’t have to apply to only physical endeavors. Another example is this blog post. What’s my crutch for writing? A good cup of coffee and ear buds playing some kind of techno or bluegrass music. Yes, that’s what works for me when I’m writing. It quiets the mind’s resistance to writing for me. Today is different. Today I have both boys. I’m writing this with cartoons playing in the background. No music today. No crutches for this one. Our only limits are the ones we set for ourselves. Find your mantra. Find your zone. Break free of your crutches and allow your inner superpower to shine through.