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I do Crossfit. Some of you may have heard of it, but most of you have probably have no idea what it’s about exactly.

Crossfit is elite fitness. Its goal is all-round development so that you are able to run, jump, lift and do anything that life might throw at you. You workout at a Crossfit gym and the workouts are different every day ranging from squats to hand stand pushups. It’s the most intense fitness regime I’ve ever done and I can honestly I am in the best shape of life because of it.

But this post is not about me giving a marketing spiel; I want to share the top 5 things Crossfit have taught me and how they apply to our daily lives.

6. Pace Yourself

Many Crossfit workouts involve several activities bunched together. For instance, my last workout involved 3 minutes on the rowing machine, 3 minutes of burpees and 3 minutes of rope climbing. You quickly learn that going out too hard means death later on. Pacing yourself not only makes your performance at the end better, it makes your overall performance better.

In the past, I found I would excitedly take on a new habit, do it to the extreme and then become exhausted or bored by it. Now, I pace myself. For instance, I am now learning programming using code academy. I could easily try and learn Python in a day, but instead I am doing one lesson per day. It is a pace that is sustainable and will lead to real progress.

5. Measure for Success

In Crossfit, participants are required to keep track of how they perform in their workouts. Over time, they can see how much their fitness has improved and how much more it can improve. Study after study has shown that people who measure their progress perform better. I think the effect comes from two things. First, measuring makes progress real. When people see progress, they are more motivated to continue. Secondly, I believe measuring and writing down something subconsciously focuses the mind towards a goal.

4. Break it Down

I remember one of my earlier workouts involved throwing a medecine ball ten feet up against a wall 75 times. After 20 I felt dead. But I go through it. How? I didn’t focus on doing 75, I focused on doing 5: the next 5. I would then take a moment to breathe and do another five. Gradually I made progress from 30 left, to 25, to 20 until I was done.

Break it down. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true. Big, daunting challenges become manageable when we break them down into small pieces.

3. Relax and Focus your Effort

When I was starting out, I was having a ton of trouble doing a kipping pull-up. The key to performing a kipping pull-up is creating moment with your hips and using that to lift you up. I did not do that. I would tensely grip the bar as if I was hanging on for dear life and life myself with pure muscular strength as opposed to momentum. I could do 6.

It may seem counterintuitive, but relaxing and expending less energy overall and focusing it better improves performance. When I started relaxing, my technique improved and it became much easier. Soon I was doing 30 pullups instead of 6. In my life, I focus on prioritizing on the most important and meaningful things. I feel I have accomplished more while also feeling fresher. Whenever I feel overwhelmed I know I am not prioritizing enough.

The goal is to get the job done, not to waste energy exerting yourself.

2. Recover

Most of the gains in Crossfit are made away from the gym. Recovery is important, at the gym and at home. I spend half an hour before a workout and half an hour after a workout stretching and massaging my muscles to improve flexibility, range of motion and reduce the likelihood of injury. At home, I try to eat meals full of greens and protein and supplement it with vitamins that aid in muscle recovery.

I apply it to other areas of my life to. I have no shame in taking a nap after a mentally strenuous activity like language practice. Progress isn’t sustainable without recovery.

1. Believe in Yourself

A few days ago, we were practicing snatches, one of my weakest exercises. I was struggling with lifting 95 lbs and I was getting progressively more tired and disillusioned. The coach comes by and gives me some pointers. I try again; I fail. I take a minute to rest. “C’mon Lee, you’ve got this!” I grab the bar again, I tighten my hamstrings and lift…

…and I do it perfectly. The bar goes straight up and I snap perfectly under it. I drop the bar feeling great, having done my best snatch ever.

Our habits and our training only work when we believe in them. They are often needed the most when they are tested the most, in pressure situations or in a crisis. Sometimes you just have to believe in yourself, even when logic and reason and everything else in the world tells you otherwise.

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