Rethinking the Transcendent Performance
There are few things that we human beings enjoy more than a transcendent performance in sport. We yearn for our fellow man to push the boundaries of what’s possible, and to probe into the impossible- the further the better. We all have images seared into our minds of Kerri Strug landing the vault on a mangled ankle to win gymnastics gold for the US. Many of us sat with bated breath as Travis Pastrana nailed the double backflip in the X-games, knowing that the side effect of not doing so was serious injury, if not death. If you’re a basketball fan you remember MJ scoring 38 in the playoffs with the flu. Or how about Michael Phelps coming from behind and out-touching his opponent by a fingernail in the Olympics, to join Mark Spitz in the record books? These are the stories that legends are made of. They raise the bar for humankind and create a new definition of what is possible.
But are these moments more ubiquitous than we might think? Could these performances be something that WE can achieve, or are they only reserved for the greatest among us?
I think that transcendent performances are taking place more often than we may think, we just don’t recognize them because we have a major problem in our definition of what a great performance is. If we only prescribe these experiences to the greatest out there, the ones who are pushing the boundaries for all of humanity, we lose the ability to recognize these moments in our everyday life. We don’t need to transcend what anybody has ever done before (although we do need to celebrate it when somebody does); all we need to do is transcend what we’ve done before. Our achievement certainly might not be as glamourous, or on as big of a stage, but it still is something to be sought out and recognized.
If you go to any random CrossFit box on any given day, you’ll find one or two people at least who have managed to tap into their own bodies and minds in a way that they’re able to have their own transcendent performance. PR-ing by 30lbs in the snatch after you’ve been at the same level for weeks (or months) isn’t nearly as glamorous or awe-inspiring as doing a double back-flip on a dirt bike, but for that person, it may equate to the same level of leap in personal achievement. Working for a year to develop a muscle-up, and having that break-through moment where you do it for the first time might require the same level of energy, focus, belief, drive, and commitment as a superstar performing some amazing feat.
Maybe CrossFit isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s running, or yoga. Smashing your previous best time for a race is an example of transcending where you were before. Doing a complicated yoga pose for the first time can be very transcendent, especially because many times it involves maintaining focus, belief, commitment, and energy even while being exhausted. In almost any physical practice, there are levels of achievement that we have to constantly be striving for in order to be successful.
So why then don’t we recognize the everyday brilliance that we can create in our own physical practices?
I think that if we can recognize these moments, we’ll be able to shift our approach to everyday workouts. We no longer will have the mentality that we’re the middle of the pack guy at the gym, wishing we were in better shape, or that we started this program 10 years ago. We won’t look at ourselves as the mother of three who used to be in good shape but now will never again feel or look as good as she used to. Instead, we become a serious athlete who’s prepared to do something that we’ve never done before. We’re on the brink of a breakthrough and today might be the day.
The truth is… we can approach our workouts with the same mentality that Kobe Bryant or any other superstar athlete approaches theirs.
By adopting this mentality, it’ll not only allow us to make much more rapid physical progressions, but it also allows us to progress mentally as well. If we learn to recognize leaps in level and personal step-ups in performance, we can assume a new role mentally. We concretely recognize that we’ve taken another step towards our ideal health and fitness vision of ourselves.
That new platform then becomes the base from which we can move forward as we shift our vision upwards towards our next achievement. Continually lifting the bar of where we believe ourselves to be, and where we are looking to go, gives us the motivation to put the effort into getting there.
This mentality will not only get us into the headspace and body space where breakthroughs are possible, but it’ll also keep us in a progression mindset. So often at any public workout space you see a large percentage of the people who are just going through the motions. And these aren’t just the overweight, middle-agers on the elliptical. Experienced bodybuilders, collegiate and professional athletes also can fall into this comfort zone of working out, and the mediocre results are sure to follow.
Top performers know that the “comfort zone” is the worst place to be for anyone looking to progress. Many times, people have been doing the same type of exercise program for far too long and are now bored with it, or they don’t have a solid enough vision of what they can be or what they can achieve. Either way, motivation is drained and progression is halted.
We can’t count ourselves out just because we aren’t the greatest athletes on planet Earth.
By simply shifting our mentality and focus, striving and believing in progression, and recognizing the transcendent experiences in our own practices, we can get the most out of ourselves, and feel awesome about doing so. I also believe that if we empower people to begin to think this way, it will get people more excited about their own physical fitness. More people will want to be in the gym having their own transcendent moments instead of sitting on the couch watching great athletes have theirs.
Play around with these ideas and see if you notice any changes in your workouts or the rate at which you progress. As always, we love to hear your feedback and personal experiences with any of these ideas and practices! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to hit the contact button at the top of the page and we’ll get back to you as quickly as we can!
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