Why is it that some athletes perform exceptionally well during training, but underperform when it matters?
We can all think of an all-star athlete who fits this description, heck, you may be one yourself.
After years of Navy Seal experience, Mark Divine learned what made the difference between those who got through training and those who dominated as leaders in whatever they did. It’s the mental strength, the resilience of a SEAL or in our case, of an athlete that takes their performance to the next level.
As a Seal, Mark used much of what he learned in his martial arts training, including rich visualization and meditation to his advantage. “I kept doing them and used them to hone my mental strength and clarity even when in the most dangerous or chaotic places. And it made a big difference,” says Mark.
The lessons he learned in his martial arts training and cultivated as a Seal, including Navy Seal style endurance and strength training, a Yoga program he developed while in Iraq called Warrior Yoga, breathing and visualization techniques along with what he learned from CrossFit, high intensity functional training, were merged into the program he now calls SealFit.
Eventually, SealFit was spun into what most CrossFitters now know as the Kokoro camp. As Mark puts it, the Kokoro camp “is a whole person integrated experience where you’re developing yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, intuitionally, and spiritually.” It’s drawn top CrossFit athletes like Lindsey Valenzuela, Valerie Voboril and the 2012 CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup winners Hack’s Pack UTE.
The Five Mountains
Mark not only believes you can achieve growth in a very deliberate and accelerated manner, he’s seen it happen numerous times. The key he says, “growth has to be balanced with the five mountains.”
1. Physical development. “We use physical training to penetrate your armor in order to get to your mental development. Mind and body are really closely connected. You can train your mind to make your physical training better but then your physical training will hone your mind so they work like a hand in a glove.”
2. Mental development. “Our experience has shown us that mental toughness can be trained, and that mentally tough athletes achieve extra-ordinary success on the playing field and in the arena of life,” says Mark. “We do this through the use of concentration exercises, controlled breathing, encouraging people to look at the belief systems that drive their behavior and habituate some new belief systems.”
3. Emotional development. “Often times it is an individual’s emotions that torpedo their performance. In the middle of a CrossFit workout or while doing anything challenging, for example, you may think you are in control but your emotions may be spinning you out of control because of some sort of anger at your performance or other emotions and then it torpedoes your mental state and that affects your body. So they’re all linked. We have get that emotional control.”
4. Intuition and awareness. “In order to perform in life and make good decisions we want to be make sure we can tap into our intuition or our gut.”
5. The Spirit. “We don’t talk about it much but I think it’s that visceral thing that a lot of CrossFit athletes really love when they start training at a box with a community and there’s a group of people working hard. You experience that feeling together and you feel a little bit better. Well it’s your spirit basically being sparked, saying ‘this is some good stuff. It’s about time you start paying attention to me. I want more of it.’ I like to say it’s really connecting your heart with your action.”
Mental Control in Difficult Situations
The SealFit program teaches mental control during difficult situations with a four step approach.
1. Create a simple plan with a short-term goal. (Ex. Get through the next 5 deadlifts) Make the goals short and achievable, start stacking up the victories and giving yourself confidence.
2. Talk to yourself. Interrupt negative thoughts; feed the courage dog not the fear dog, words like ‘I got this’ and ‘I’m going to crush this.’ Your body takes notice. Where the mind leads the body follows.
3. Visualize yourself succeeding. This goes in hand with talking to yourself. You can’t talk to yourself positively and see negative thoughts because your mind’s imagery will override your words.
4. Maintain the focus on deep diaphragmatic breathes. See Box Breathing
e these techniques in the field under very tough situations. During your next WOD, make a deliberate attempt to do the same.