The smell of Autumn is in the air. Leaves are changing color, Halloween costumes need to be purchased, and pumpkin lattes are causing people to go to the gym more. Fall also means football. From the pee-wee to the Pros, America becomes engrossed with the pigskin every fall. One may argue that the men on your TV on Sundays are the greatest athletes in the world –which should give us reason to study them. If you have become engaged with the upstart sport of CrossFit, and are seeking athletic confirmation, why would you look beyond the absolute athletic example? For example, linebackers are often regarded as the most well-rounded individuals on and off the field with hard hits, tremendous ability to move in space, back squats over 600lbs and the ability to knock out over 20 deadhang pull-ups. When individuals are able to excel at most of the 10 components of fitness (strength, flexibility, speed, power, endurance etc), one must ask, what lessons can I learn from these football greats?
1. You need recovery, you need planning – 16 games a year, only14 fully-padded practices meaning that over 17 weeks, players in the NFL will only be in full pads 14 times in addition to their games. This is a perfect example of prioritizing your needs. Recovery and planning need to take precedence; get your body back to health, sit down and focus on what you need to do better. If you just got back from a competition, don’t just hit the WOD hard tomorrow. Sit down with a friend and discuss your weak spots from the competition and practice them methodically, not with reckless abandon.
2. When the lights go on, the world tunes out – I have personally seen people get so engrossed with the competition atmosphere that they completely forget what they did in training and go out and perform like a fool. You must not forget what your training has taught you. Before you WOD, stop, take a deep breath, and remember your training.
3. Everyone has a role – If a left tackle misses a block or if the containing linebacker gets sucked in, it is lights out. This example is symbolic of the holistic approach you need to take with your training. If you hip mobility is not adequate, you will never reach your potential and will be disappointed by your stagnating progress. Pay attention to the details by focusing on the little things.
4. Execution breeds success, failure requires recognition – When you are doing well, keep up the momentum. Sometimes it is best to postpone your de-load week if you feel great. In the same mindset, if you are really struggling with your weights or your WOD times, recognize what the problem is (sleep, nutrition, overtraining?) and address the situation.
5. It is a game, and games are fun – You cannot get caught up in any single competition or the greater idea of competing at CrossFit. Most people that I know perform better when they are having fun. If you put in the time training smart and getting in the right mindset, you should be able to go out and have fun at a competition and perform to the best of your abilities, whether that includes winning or not.
I always enjoy looking to the most successful athletes in the world to try and decipher what they do in order to provide advice for budding athletes. These 5 tips are the just the tip of the iceberg of what one may learn from NFL players. If you have any other lessons you feel are applicable, please post them below.