A New Mindset Regarding Masking

If you google CrossFit, the broad definition that will most likely pop up is the following:  “Constantly varied functional movements executed at a high intensity.”  All of us who are part of a CrossFit gym know that this simplistic definition barely scratches the surface.  CrossFit is a community.   It is the accountability to show up and for many, it is an outlet and a break from everyday life.  That hour in the gym is like no other.  It is about you and the task in front of you.

Enter COVID and its associated regulations.  We’re limited on certain movements, we have to socially distance, and now we have to wear a mask while working out.  We have to be farther apart, in our own square, with no celebratory high fives or fist bumps with our fellow athletes.  It’s tempting and even natural to look at mask wearing and social distancing as being all negative.  We can easily make a list detailing the ways in which wearing a mask affects us and our workouts and how these changes have disrupted our routine.  Instead, what if we ask how these changes can work in our favor?  Can we use these challenges to make us stronger as athletes and as adaptable human beings?

Let’s look at some positives.  One positive is that our gym is still open.  Yes, wearing a mask helps to keep us open!   We can still go to the gym and improve our health by performing the workout of the day.  Another positive is that we still have our community.  We can see each other and encourage each other, safely, from 6 feet apart.

So how else can the mask be a positive besides what the CDC tells us?   How about slowing us down?  Slowing down is not necessarily a bad thing.  Slowing down allows us to perfect technique, focus on our breath, and listen to our body’s cues.

I am writing this from the point of view of an asthmatic, a coach, an athlete, a healthcare worker, and a former firefighter.  Yes, it is harder to breathe in the mask.  Yes, it may decrease the intensity of your workout.  But let’s take this unique opportunity to slow down.  Let’s work on controlling our heart rate through our breathing.  Let’s listen to our body and be mindful of what it is telling us.  This is a mental challenge as much as it is a physical one.

I challenge you to create a positive mental space when you enter the gym.  This is a large part of why you are here.  Try sitting down before the workout or take a moment in your car.  Put your mask on and focus on your breathing.  Breathe in through your nose and out steadily through your mouth.  As you breathe, visualize the air filling your lungs and then, steadily and controlled, breathe out through your mouth.  Create space in your mask, moving the air with your breath.  Now try to maintain this mindful breathing while you workout.  When you start “sucking wind” and inhaling your mask, take a moment to be present and intentional with your breath.  Steady your breathing and continue.  You will hear the coach instruct you to breathe at the top of your movement.  This means that you breathe out of your mouth at full extension and breath in through your nose as you reload.  Like your barbell movements, nutrition habits, and gymnastics, this will take practice.

When we are no longer required to wear masks, this mindfulness around your breath is going to pay off.  You may find yourself moving faster, holding intensity longer, and hitting new personal records.  Who knows?  What I do know for sure is that sticking together as a community and overcoming these challenges will make us stronger.  We can overcome this obstacle.  We can protect the community we love.  We can become stronger and smarter, even if our workouts may look a bit different for now.

-Coach Karen