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The Power of Negative Thinking

August 24th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments
Big Daddy Kane - Ain't No Half-Steppin'

I was putting together a big long post on the mental game in Crossfit and it really started rambling there after a bit. And if I think it was rambling, it would probably be incomprehensible to you guys. So instead, let’s focus right now on negative affirmations.

The important thing to remember at all times is the power your brain has over your body. I’d imagine it varies from person to person, but I know my brain can really mess me up physically. And not just by all of those “A Five Guys burger would be soooooo good right now” thoughts it keeps repeating. For instance, several times in the past when I’ve decided I really need to play hooky from work, I’d get myself sick. When you call your boss, you have to be sure you sound good and sick. I’d get so deep in the act, before I’d realize it I’d be really sick. And as we all know, nothing’s worse than being sick on a sick day.

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.
– Emo Phillips

Knowing this power my brain has beforehand has already proved astoundingly useful in my life. I’ve never been that good at all of that positive affirmation Stuart Smalley stuff. The closest I can get is by limiting my negative affirmations, which can be quite a task in itself. I even have a good concrete example right here of how this all works for me.

NOTE: If you’re one of my cancer homies, you can zone out ’cause I’m going to tell that story again.

So yeah, Crossfitters – I’m a cancer survivor. Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage IVB – about as advanced as that cancer can get at diagnosis time. Once I was diagnosed, I had one primary rule that I stuck to: I didn’t want to know any side effects of anything that was being given to me. Luckily, I had my wife Barb right there (wave to the crowd, honey), so she became the Holder of the Side Effects. You see, as much as you might want to, you can’t completely ignore your symptoms when you’re in chemo. You may think that your fever’s no big deal, but that might just be a precursor to something really bad happening from drug X.

So the way it worked was like this. We go in to see the doctor and he goes into what I’m going to get and what’s going to happen. The second half is where I tune out (let’s hear it for ADD!). He hands me the sheet with all of the side effects (“The ones in this column are normal. The ones in this column you call me about. The ones in this column, you race to the ER.”) and I hand it right to Barb. She kept them all in her notebook and when I felt something weird, I’d ask her about it.

“Honey? I feel kinda queasy and I can’t see the color orange anymore.” Barb would pull out her notebook, run through the lists. “Nope, those are normal.” “Okay, hand me that baseball.” “Those are oranges, honey.”

Not only did I have very few side effects and hardly any of the “bad” ones, I started playing roller hockey in the middle of the first chemo regimen while I was still working full time. That’s not to say that that first hockey game wasn’t worse than any WOD I’ve done so far, but it got easier. I only quit once they started talking stem cell transplant.

Granted, later on, even not knowing the side effects was enough to keep things from happening. Some of those chemo regimens can be quite draconian. But still, I didn’t seem to have as many problems as the rest of my cancer buddies did.

So what you can glean from that rambling is this. Did I ever say anything about thinking positively? About telling yourself you can do it? About how having hope in your head and a song in a heart will get you through anything. No, I didn’t. At least I don’t think I did. Who can remember? The key to this is, you don’t have to think positive. Just don’t think negative.

“Ugh. Fran is today.”

“I’m still sore from the last one.”

“Has it been twenty minutes yet?”

“Wait, we’re supposed to do how many reps?”

They don’t seem that negative on the surface, but this kind of thinking just eats away at your brain. As soon as you feel one of these thoughts bubble up, do whatever it takes to stuff it back down. Find something sparkly to look at. Ask yourself what you really expected to happen when you showed up at the box that morning. Or, if you’re really feeling like a mental badass, take a tip from the second fittest woman in the world, Annie Thorisdottir. She looked like a mental case about half the time, because here she is, pushing a wheelbarrow overflowing with sandbags, and she’s frickin’ smiling.

Kettlebells? Smiling. Double unders? Smiling. Handstand push ups? Frowning. Oh wait – she’s upside down. Smiling.

Why the hell is she smiling? Did she not read her Icelandic to American Pain Dictionary to understand that you’re not supposed to do that sort of thing. Maybe. According to her, it’s kind of like how you’re supposed to smile when you talk on the phone if you’re in customer service. Try it right now. Smile. Aside from feeling stupid, smiling at your computer for no reason (and looking a little goofy, I might add), did you feel how smiling changes your whole posture? It may be subtle – try it again. This time, with a flower pot on your head.

Sorry – after getting everyone to smile the first time I was a little overcome with my power. But can you feel what I mean? It’s just that little extra bit of oomph that could mean the difference between a clean box jump and a no rep. Or horribly scraped shins, a busted nose and a thrown out back if you exceedingly clumsy.

So that’s your assignment for tomorrow’s WOD. Do whatever it takes to quell the negative thoughts and try to smile during the WOD. Or, you can kill two birds with one stone – smile during the WOD and think about what the people around you are thinking when they see you smiling, you psycho.

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