What I love about CrossFit is that it works.  CrossFit makes me fitter.  Through it I’ve increased my cardio-vascular respiratory endurance, stamina, flexibility, strength, speed, power, coordination, agility, accuracy & balance.  And it’s not just me.  The results are replicate-able across a broad population from 10 year olds to 80 year olds.  It’s not complicated or mysterious, just show up, do the work, get results.

But we always want more, don’t we?  Once we start developing a bit of strength and fitness we start looking at higher performers like the CrossFit Games athletes, and wondering: how do I get there?

Once again, Ben Bergeron, CrossFit affiliate owner and coach to CrossFit champions lays out his performance guarantee.  Get these 5 pieces right and you too can achieve your performance goals:

1) Train 5 days a week
This one is the simplest, just show up.  Show up consistently.  A lot of people struggle with this.  The first thing Ben does when speaking to an athlete about their goals, is to look at their attendance log.  For some CrossFitters, this alone might be enough to get them the fitness results they desire in their life.  But if they are looking for dramatic body-composition changes or higher level performance they need to address step two:

2) Eat Right
Nothing will make as big a difference to body composition as good nutrition.  Mufasa, Delta Nu & Hard Rock are all great examples of the dramatic body composition changes possible when you start measuring the quantity you eat and matching it to your your goals.  And when you get the right nutritional balance you will see equally dramatic performance breakthroughs as anyone watching Clue, Motor & Fierce will have noticed.  Quality and quantity both matter because you can’t control what you can’t measure.  Performance fueling is often confused with dieting but I think of dieting as calorie restriction whereas many of our members are required to eat more in order to support their performance goals.  I, for one, am not going to bed hungry.  People have a lot of resistance around this. I know I did.  I hear all sorts of excuses but as the saying goes: you can have excuses, or you can have results.  If you have performance or body composition goals you are struggling to reach, it may serve you best to reflect on why you are so resistant to addressing your performance nutrition.

3) Sleep
This is so important.  Inadequate sleep increases cortisol levels and insulin resistance.  It leaves you stressed out and impairs your recovery.  With my work hours and living situation, sleep is forever my greatest challenge and I know I’m not alone.  Sleep, I feel, is the one thing on this list that is not fully within my control.  That’s why I tend to be as rigourous as possible with all the other points on this list as they are the ones that I can control.  Black out curtains, weighted blankets, disciplined bedtimes, avoiding evening blue light exposure, these are a few of the measures that might help your sleep hygiene.

4) Recovery
Training 5 hours a week is not enough if you are sitting at a desk for 40.  Our sedentary lifestyles are killing us!  But you cannot do high-intensity training all the time.  You need some calm, relaxing, low-intensity movement to help your body (and mind) recover.  I suggest walking, swimming, yoga, cycling if you can do these in a relaxed, non-strenuous way.  Give your sympathetic nervous system a much-needed break.

5) Mind Set
And here comes what I see as the biggest missing for most people.  Cultivating the correct training mindset is critical to your long term success and happiness.  Bergeron tells his athletes to never whine, never complain and never make excuses, not to yourself or to anybody else.  Here’s some additional tools that might help:

The martial arts and the military are excellent for developing mental discipline that is sadly lacking for most people.  If you’re carrying all your emotional baggage into training, of course your training will suck and your life will feel worse and you will create a cycle of ever-deepening negativity.  In the martial arts we use ritual to develop the mental discipline to separate our training space from our daily life.  We bow when we enter and exit the training hall to acknowledge that we are entering or leaving the “training space”.  With this bow we leave our work, our relationships, our other life concerns, outside the training hall acknowledging that in this space, for the allotted time, we will be present mentally and emotionally to our training.  We bow again before stepping on the training mats to reaffirm our commitment to our training partners and ourselves.  In this space and time we are training.  Nothing more.  The outside world has no business here.  When we are done, we bow off the mats and then bow again as we exit the training hall, and with this bow we leave our training behind and resume the concerns of our daily life.  In this way our training and our lives do not interrupt one another.  A bad day does not mean a bad practice session, a bad practice session does not mean a bad day.  They are, and always should be, separate.

Stress in your life is going to impair recovery and blunt your training results.  Stress is largely internal, not external.  For the most part, stress has little to do with what is going on around you and has everything to do with how you react to what’s going on.  How you frame stressful experiences has a lot to do with how your body responds to it.  The stress of competing in the CrossFit Open for example can effect two people very differently.  Before your event, you will be nervous, I know I am.  You can frame that nervous experience as an unpleasant, unwanted sensation that means you will do poorly or you can savour the excitement of it the way you might enjoy the big drop on a roller coaster.  You could interpret nervousness as your body priming for peak performance.  If I’m not nervous, I will not perform well.  It’s only once I get nervous that I know I’m ready to compete.  I embrace it!  This applies to life in general.  Studies show that people who view stress as negative, experience poor health results.  But high performers who view stress as positive do not suffer the same ill-effects.  Is stress good or bad?  Does it impair or enhance performance?  Crazy thing is, you get to choose!

This is not the same as modesty.  Modesty is often veiled arrogance.  Humility is accepting yourself as you are today while striving to be better tomorrow.  It is impossible to be coached if you lack humility because every piece of advice will feel like an attack or a criticism.  In fact, humility craves feedback recognizing any and all feedback as opportunities for personal growth.  Arrogance is to compare ourselves to others and to “should” on ourselves.  Our strengths, weaknesses and progress have nothing to do with anyone else.  We all progress at our own pace and have our own proficiencies and deficiencies.  They are ours and ours alone.  A personal best is personal.  If you are worrying about putting your score on the board or about what score someone else put on the board you’re slipping from humility into arrogance.  I put up all my scores, the good ones and especially the shitty ones.  It was the best I could do on that day, and that is all I can ask of myself.  It may not be as good as I expected, it may not be as good as last time, but it was what I could do today.  There’s nothing wrong with striving to be better but you must have the humility to accept that every day won’t be a win.  Sulking, throwing tantrums or storming out of the gym are sure signs of an absence of humility.

Realistic Expectations
Training is supposed to push you to higher levels.  Talk to the champions of the world, they are not smashing their training sessions.  They are failing more often than they are succeeding.  Because if you are hitting all your training goals then you are not pushing yourself enough.  The moment I hit my goal, I know I need to set the bar higher next time.  Progress is failing at successively higher levels.  At first, getting a double under is your only goal but once you get it, two consecutive is the next goal and then 50 consecutive and then 100.  It is a journey with no final destination.  You will never stop and say “Finally, I have arrived.”  Training is about always striving toward that next, just-out-of-reach, level.  Training is learning about yourself and your capacity on a given day.  You should not be coming to training expecting to “win”.  You should be coming to work and to learn.  The scores on the board are just feedback.  They serve as data to track your progress.  They should have no bearing on your self worth, your mood or your self-satisfaction.

I’m sure there’s more that can be said of mindset.  Don’t let sloppy mindset derail your progress.  Cultivate healthy mental habits and discipline and you will be happier and more successful.  If you can develop a great mindset, practice active recovery, get sufficient sleep, eat right and train consistently you will be guaranteed great results!  Does it sound like a tall order?  Pick one item from this list and get started there.