Wednesday, August 17, 2011

21-15-9: Thrusters and Contentment

Santosha is listed in the Yoga Sutras as one of the necessary conditions for enlightenment, peace of mind and true happiness. Santosha means "contentment", and while I was sitting on my yoga mat I saw all the ways in which I'm in tune and all the ways in which I am NOT!

Just this past weekend my friends and I drove several hours north to run the Warrior Dash! We made a weekend out of it and rented a house to spend the night at after the race. So while I got to sleep in a real bed that night, it was not my own, and I was exhausted come Monday morning. Pathetic as it may be, I spent all my time in the office on Monday dreaming I was napping soundly in a soft blanket at home.Thankfully I made it to yoga class that night because it started with a discussion about this concept of contentment.

Our teacher told us a story about a supervisor of his that said the best thing you could do, upon entering the work force after college, was to buy a boat. "Buy a BIG boat," this man said. "Then you will need to work hard in order to pay for that boat and therefore you will be more motivated to make more money then if you had no bills to pay." Brilliant, haha. It made me realize though that I had just spent every minute of that whole day wishing for something different than what I had. I had not spent much, if any, of my day contented.

I know diddly about boats so let's talk workouts! You walk into the box and you see your mortal enemy's name scrawled on the whiteboard (ie "Barbara" 5 rounds of 20 Pullups, 30 pushups, 40 situps, 50 squats). 
We're all concerned with our final time of course, but it's the ability to ride the waves of change DURING the WOD that will determine how you finish. Can you remain content and aware in every moment? Everything is always changing: you may catch your breath on one set of squats but then your breath may get erratic during the next set of squats. Are you going to get mad about it and let that annoyance effect the following set of pullups? NO (is the right answer)!

My biggest f* up during WODs (even in yoga class) is getting emotional about what's next. I've noticed that THIS burpee feels harder because I know there are ten left after it. This warrior lunge feels hard because I know that dreaded side angle I always fall out of is coming next. I get emotional about what's coming instead of focusing on the immediate task (ask anyone who's heard me scream "F--K" at myself! Lady-like, I know). Just imagine doing your whole workout focused on doing each and every rep as quickly and as well as possible with ZERO concern or thought for the next rep. You'll get to the next rep when you get there. Personally I know I would haul ass, and mostly because I'd save time not having to retrieve my jump rope after I got mad and threw it :-D

Let me point out that contentment does NOT equal complacency. Big difference. HUGE difference!  This concept of santosha does NOT mean that you should be satisfied with just good-enough. It does NOT imply that you should be content with whatever time you get. Striving to be better is non-negotiable in this life! The idea is to be IN THE MOMENT and focused on doing the work of that exact moment and not on the work that is coming. The more time you spend being aware of your present moment the less time you have to "spend in the emotionality of anger or depression or other negativities." This is MUCH easier said than done however. Some days my mind is perfectly focused like this and I'm amazed at how much simpler the workouts are (not easier, simpler). I don't let the work that has yet to be done turn into a swirling black whirlpool of fear before me. I can remember the very first time this happened and my mind cleared during a WOD and I will never forget it. Whatever my coach said to do I did. She said, "do five thrusters," and I did five. I was still completely aware that my legs were screaming at me but I simply acknowledged the pain but did not assign a feeling to it. I can only tap into this on occasion (still practicing) and these are my "crush it" days!

Work is just work: get it done! It's when we assign emotion to it ("oh my god, this is so hard I'll never make it to the pushups") is where we stumble. When we give the work an emotional power over us, it all starts to tumble over like a toddler on a hill. So the trick is to ride the wave of change without emotional attachment and to simply be content. Wandering around whining about missing a rep, thinking about WHY you missed it, worrying you hit the proverbial wall...all that takes TIME and emotional energy away from the work you need to get done!

Does this make sense to you? If you have EVER finished a WOD thinking you could have done better had you not spent so much time THINKING then read this post again. Don't get mad if it doesn't happen right away, just try to stay focused on each and every rep! Now go. Do!


  1. Addendum to my own blog post: I had to remind myself of this very thing during my last WOD last Thursday. I did the WOD as Rx and the Rx weight for women's front squats was 10# less than my 5-rep max...oy! So it was a hard WOD for me, try to get through 3 rounds, 12.9.6. I struggled and got mad and WOW did I finish last! My time was about 7minutes slower than everyone else's. But I couldn't get MAD at what was left, I very sincerely had to focus on each rep I did or I'd fall out of the squat and lose the rep. Being content with doing one rep at a time is what got me through...that and everyone else relaxing, foam rolling, watching me finish up & cheering me on!

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