Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Filling in the Gaps

If I were to ask you "What is the biggest deficiency in your training? What do you feel like you most need to work on or improve?" What would you say? Most common, the response would be related to deficiencies in strength, power, technique, skill, cardio fitness, nutrition, etc. As your coach, would you be surprised if I told you that any and all of the above responses are incorrect?

While you may stink at doing Squat Cleans, or you may have the cardio capacity of an 80 year old emphysema patient, there is one area that is, literally, head and shoulders above the rest when it comes being a well balanced athlete and one who is truly "fit" - that would be the training of your mind.

When I say "mind", I'm not referring to your "intellect" or ego-mind. In fact, in our culture this part of our mind is chronically over-trained/under-rested. We feed our mind on books, magazines, newspapers, internet, Facebook, Twitter, radio, television, education, conversations and so forth; to the point that our mind becomes as unhealthy as our body.

Additionally, I'm not referring to "mental toughness" in terms of being able to hang tough in a hard workout, or the ability to suffer through pain of the physical, psychological, or spiritual nature. Rather, I'm referring to the mind/spirit that is at the very core of "you". In fact, what I'm referring to lies at the opposite end of this spectrum of hardness. I'm talking about the ability to quite ones mind and the quality of stillness or softness; the ability to narrow ones sustained focus on a single point without wavering, without being blown off course. I'm also talking about the ability to direct ones thoughts and responses, rather than having your mind run a muck in a million different directions, constantly in a state of reaction(s) based on past experiences and fears.

Having spent the last two years immersed in the current "Western" approach to physical training and hybrid training (CF, et al), the one glaring deficiency I see in all these modes, styles and approaches is the heavy emphasis solely on the physical disciplines, performance outcomes, and practices that help to forge "elite fitness" and mental toughness. While I'm clearly a huge fan of this style of training in some respects, I also recognize the shortcomings and how all the "hardness" creates an imbalance in terms of creating a truly healthy, fit, balanced human being.

Long before there was a "PR Fitness", there was this... Chris, sitting meditation. St. John's USVI, around 2004. (Sorry for the poor picture quality. It's borderline a miracle that this photo even still exists. Yeah, a lot shorter hair and a lot less tattooing back then!)

Over the years I've also spent a great deal of time in the "softer" disciplines of yoga, mindfulness practices, and meditation. Years before PR Fitness and long before there was a "CrossFit", "Gym Jones", or "Mountain Athlete" I was a student and teacher of the multi-disciplined approach to fitness and wellness: weights, aerobic conditioning, flexibility/yoga, proper diet and meditation. I spent years as a Wholistic Fitness Teacher, yoga teacher and a meditation guide. With over a dozen years of practice, I learned that while many people in the yoga and "spiritual" community have cultivated very nimble and flexible bodies, they are generally very week in terms of true physical strength and power; they can bend, twist and contort and they can sit in meditation for hours, experience mental equanimity, or even have "mystical" experiences, yet they cannot pick up heavy stuff and often lack true endurance. This is not true fitness and well-being!

My contention is that to be a truly fit and balanced person, you must possess ability, competency and skill in the physical arts and all it's components: strength, flexibility/mobility, power, endurance, agility, and so on. Yet, you must also possess an equal balance in the mental and spiritual realms: calmness, peace, and the ability to flow and manage stress. You should also be capable of maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships and be integrated to things outside yourself and things bigger than yourself.

Having been around the fitness block (multiple times), I have yet to find a program or system that truly delivers in all facets of fitness and well-being. Yet, I can tell you that we, at PR Fitness, are headed in that direction and welcome you along for the journey.

In the upcoming weeks I will share lessons, practices, techniques and assignments which will help to cultivate greater balance in your training, and in your life. I would encourage you to embrace these practices and truly deploy them to the best of your abilities. I would also encourage you to share your thoughts and experience here by posting "comments". And finally, I would encourage you to ask questions or email me if you need anything: chris@prfitness.net.

Be Well,


  1. I agree with Corbin. Thx, Chris, for always helping us expand what we do and how we experience/interpret it. A well-timed reminder to me to get back on the meditation wagon, especially during those times when I find it excruciating to sit still and just be. (Great photo, too.)