In the past couple of months, my body has been experiencing some changes and mostly conditions related to injury and overuse. I think I have been hard on my body without really giving much time, attention, and resources to healing and recovery. So in the past months, working with a physical therapist and sports massage therapists I have been learning a lot about my body and the neuromuscular aspect of movement. There's so much to learn.
Being trained on the psychological aspect of human performance and movement, I am more aware of how my mental state affects my performance. What I am lacking is body awareness and/or mindfulness of the body.
Body awareness, in my opinion, is a big concept. Mindfulness of the body is another thing. They are related but can focus on different things. In this post, I would break it down to a couple of things:
- Mindfulness on how my body moves in relation to space
- Mindfulness on how my body feels every time I move
In the world of sports and performance, whether you are a recreational, amature, professional, or an elite athlete, we are inundated with advice on how to get strong or stronger mentally and physically. Being able to crush a PR or sending a climbing route or project is a sign of becoming stronger. However, when I focus my training on crushing a PR or on becoming a stronger climber, I tend to do more harm on my body leading me to not being able to train for a few days or not being able to reach my goals.
Mindfulness on how my body moves in relation to space
I thought, with climbing, I have become better at being aware of my body movements, of how each limb and muscle works in relation to a move I am trying to perform. I was wrong. Because, you know what, sometimes when you are at a crux, you just go for it! If you beat the crux, you get an instant ego inflation. Let's be honest here. It is true. It is great that you become more self-confident about climbing harder routes and problems, you feel stronger, but do you really become a "better" climber?
What taught me how to really pay attention to my body movement in relation to space is swimming. A bad form, a wrong stroke, and really not knowing how your entire body works in the water can lead to multiple things: you will get injured [eventually], you would inhale and/or swallow lots of water, you will sink, you will not breathe correctly, you will not get enough air, you will exhale and inhale air too late, you won't be able to finish a lap without stopping, or you'll drown. If you put all these together, just because you do not understand how your whole body works in the water, it is a total mind f#ck. I say this because I am a very weak swimmer without skill and technique to pull from, and now just learning how to properly swim at the ripe age of 32.
Being Injured and in the process of fixing my body to be in good performing condition, it has become my goal to be better, not stronger. Not that I have an aversion towards the word "strong" but it is a word that could mean anything to anybody. In this case, I would like to use "better" instead.
I really want to understand how each of my body part works. Here are some questions that I want to ask myself when I am training, whether I am climbing, running, cycling, or swimming:
- Which muscle group do I activate to execute this move?
- Which part of my body should I use to execute this move?
- How do I position my body to execute this move?
Mindfulness on how my body feels everytime I move
No pain, no gain, right? If it does not hurt, you are not putting enough effort, right? I would disagree. Why is it so hard to be nice to our bodies when we subject it to a lot of stress, pushing it to do things outside its comfort zone and beyond its limit?
Here are more questions that I want to ask myself when I am training, whether I am climbing, running, cycling, or swimming:
- How does it feel when I execute this move? Does it hurt? Is it uncomfortable?
- Do I feel confident executing this move?
- Does this move creates a connection betwee body part A and body part B. If not, then what body part(s) should I use instead?
- Which part of my body needs work in terms of strengthening?
- Is this a good kind of sore or a bad kind of sore?
- Do I need to take a break or rest?
Disclaimer: I am not a certified personal trainer, exercise kinesiologist, physiologist, etc. My statements on this post are based on my own experiences, opinions, and thoughts.