Note: This article may have been triggered by my brain going crazy from doing too many double unders, but I figured the parallels were interesting, so I decided to write some of my thoughts down before they disappear from my brain forever.
If you are not sure what double unders are, watch this instructional video:
My workout of the day: Every minute, do 50 double unders for 30 minutes. Yes, you are doing your math right; this adds up to 1,500 double unders in 30minutes.
Luckily for me, double unders were one of the things I didn't have to train too hard when I started Crossfit as tennis players do plenty of jump roping. Double under workouts have been typically my strengths; however, doing 30 minutes of 50 double unders every minute starts wearing on you right about minute 10.
Minute 15, the fatigue starts when your arms start getting tenser and tenser, and your calves start feeling the jumps. I have had issues with my right Achilles tendon for more than a decade, and double unders are one of the things that make it worse, so I have to pay extra attention to distributing my body weight equally and not letting more pressure off my right foot. My brain wants to elevate the pain automatically, which doesn't serve me well when keeping the rhythm going with even balanced jumps.
1. Rhythm/ timing = One of the essential things in double unders... You can have all the other requirements - quick wrists, good steady jumps, but if you cannot catch the right rhythm and combine the double with the jump at the right time, you can never string a smooth set together. Finding the right rhythm and timing in life is as important as for your double unders. Do you want to achieve great things in life and have fabulous-looking double unders? Find your rhythm. Timing is everything.
2. Focus/ presence = You may know your rhythm, and our body may remember exactly what to do, but if you are distracted, and your brain starts pondering useless things and questions - all is lost.
Example: You may be tempted to start thinking about how many more double unders you have left to do? Not helpful!
Or is my right foot jumping too much to the right, and I am exhausting too much energy to compensate with my arms or the other foot? Are my arms too clenched and thus using too much power to keep the rope moving? Am I inefficient with the use of my muscle power and energy? All of these thoughts are useless! What is helpful is to be in the moment, trust the movement, and focus on few key things that will ultimately drive the result you want to achieve. Break down the movement and focus on the good habits that will naturally lead to the outcome.
For me, it is:
My core: Typically, if I keep my core tight, the rest of the body knows what to do, and my legs keep jumping with the right rhythm as far as my core is tight.
My arms: I need to ensure I keep my arms relaxed as clenching is inefficient and will drain a lot of your muscle energy - accelerate exhaustion. Maintaining relaxed arms is also essential to ensure the wrists stay in the correct position. Clenching hands and arms naturally tenses your muscles which raises your wrist too high up. That drives more mistakes - you tripping over jump rope as your wrists are too high.
Writs: Keep your hands and wrists loose and keep them spinning. Your wrists do the majority of the work; let them rotate and keep them relaxed.
Now, how does this compare to life? What if the only way to maximize our talents is to find our focus and cultivate our presence? I find that we can see things most clearly when we are in this fully open and at the same time focused mindset where one is fully aware and fully present. I call it mindfulness, but you may have other names for it if this word scares you. It is a feeling when one is at peace with all that is and that surrounds them. I love the feeling of double unders when I have complete focus, yet it is also a very relaxed moment. I am working hard, and yet the work seems effortless. It makes me think, how can I create more of these moments in my life when I am not doing double unders?
3. Stay relaxed = Well, this one might be easier said than done. The truth is, no one ever found focus and presence in chaos. If you want to find flow, mindfulness, focus, and presence, which is where best performance happens, you will need to find a way to calm your mind and keep it, and your body relaxed. You are the only one who knows the answer to this as no one but you have access to your mind. Learn your mind, spend time with it, learn about the dark sides of your mind and the fun and shinny parts of it. Get to know your mind. Learn how you get yourself out of the dark into the light and what inspires your most fun thoughts.
When doing double unders and the brain is tired, it is very easy to push yourself to negative self-talk. You miss and miss again, time is running, you have 1 minute to complete 50, and you wasted the first 25 seconds because you made three stupid mistakes. On top of that, you hit your arm and leg twice with your steel jump rope, and it is BURNING. It is easy to panic, AND you know that panic will not save you. Take a deep breath, center yourself, and start over by focusing on what is essential. Go back to the basics and make your world small. Focus on doing the next one or two or three right - catch a rhythm and keep your focus. The rest will carry you through it.
Same as with double unders, we cannot do our best work when we are in the middle of our negative self-talk and self-criticism. (There might be exceptions to the rule, but I would say this is true for the vast majority of humans and animals - dogs specifically.) When in doubt, my rule is to make your world as small as possible and go back to the basics. If nothing else works, focus on the tiniest little things you are doing well. Example: I got out of bed today. I brushed my teeth. I had a fantastic cup of coffee this morning. I showed up for my workout, and I put my best effort in. When I start focusing on all the small things I am doing well, I can typically see the bigger things that I am also doing well. The simple positive thoughts wake up my brain, and it then starts seeing all the other positives. I can find relaxation from that place and choose to see the positive instead of focusing on the negatives or things that don't serve me well.
How do you keep your mind relaxed under pressure to drive your best performance?
What does your habit/ routine or self-encouragement look like?