My first day of CrossFit consisted of me sitting outside on the bench with my hands in my lap, slightly folded over, watching everyone in the 5:30pm class put rubber balls under their butt cheeks and roll around. It looked weird and painful, so I ditched. But a week later, I dragged myself back to CFEO and participated in my first class.
Looking back at that day, I often find myself wondering about the person who is now where I stood over a year ago. The person trying out CrossFit for the first time, or the CrossFitter who encounters a WOD full of movements they haven’t quite yet mastered. What’s a good way to handle these kinds of situations, ones where we are starting from the bottom, or in unfamiliar territory, or are encountering intimidating obstacles?
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist and an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School who uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge and influence each other and themselves. Her research not only confirms how our own body language influences and informs others’ opinions of us, but also suggests that there is another audience affected by our own non-verbal expression: ourselves.
In essence, Cuddy believes that our own thoughts, feelings, and physiology are influenced by our physical expressions. While it’s common knowledge that gestures such as raising our arms in a V is an expression of power and bringing our limbs close to our body is an expression of powerlessness, Cuddy’s research indicates that those feelings don’t have to reside in us first in order for us to generate those expressions. Our minds control our body language, but our body language can also influence and change our minds.
Think about it this way: we don’t have to wait for the outcome of a WOD to determine if we are worthy of raising our arms in victory. Regardless of how we really feel, we can fake it; we can start asserting our dominance BEFORE the WOD. In fact, Cuddy’s latest research illustrates how “power posing” (practicing body postures that convey competence and power) for two minutes increases testosterone levels and decreases our cortisol. In CrossFit, using our body language to affect our mindset creates all kinds of possibilities; an increase in our appetite to reach for that PR, better performance with individual movements, even a general configuration of our brain to cope well during the stress of the workout.
In other words, our bodies will change our minds and our minds will change our behavior and our behavior will change our outcomes. Or as Cuddy puts it, “Don’t just fake it ‘til you make it, fake it ‘til you become it.”
So if it’s your first time doing CrossFit, or if the next time you show up to CFEO and the WOD gets you feeling small and powerless, take two minutes somewhere private to do some power poses to convince your mind of what a WOD beast you are. Then hit that black mat, tear it up, and know that your victory is all but inevitable.
As for me, I have an office now. So you know I be power posing all day, son.