Change Your Focus, Take Back Control

A quick warning, this is not strictly an exercise or CrossFit related post. It’s more than that because even though we want to PR our Snatch or get our first handstand push up the reality is that we really want to feel like we have control. For you, the hour you spend in the gym may be the only moment of the day you feel like you have some control. It’s therapeutic, you know what the workout will be, you tell your body what to do, and when you lift that barbell overhead you are in complete control over that weight.

Life now has become more complicated than ever. Nowadays to be a contributing member of society you have to work a 60-hour job, workout out 5+ times a week, eat a healthy & balanced diet, own your own home, have a happy relationship, and do volunteer work in your spare time at the animal shelter. Being busy has become a badge of honour. With all this pressure to be busy and achieve everything comes a sense overwhelm and so we escape to the gym to find control.

But having control is so simple if you know what to do. It comes down to 3 things:

  1. What are you focussing on?
  2. What meaning are you giving it?
  3. What are you doing about it?

Think about a time in your life when you struggled. Motivation was lacking, you felt overwhelmed, and you didn’t think you could do anything about it. You were focussed on something, and whatever you focussed on you gave it some kind of meaning, and because of the meaning you gave it you then took (or didn’t take) certain actions.

Let me give you an example; John joined the gym about a year ago to get fit and lose some weight. When he walked in the door he weighed over 130kg. After a few weeks of coming to classes John realised that gymnastics movements were hard because he was so heavy but when it came to moving a barbell he was one of the stronger guys in the class. He quickly realised this and over time John slowly moved away from just showing up for the workout of the day and started cherry picking workouts or just going to Barbell classes. 

In contrast, Steve started about 2 months. He is also a big guy, weighing about 125kg when he first got started which is 35kg less than what he was at his heaviest. Steve experienced the same problems as John, he was big so any time a workout involved shifting bodyweight he struggled and a lot of gymnastics movements were out of the question, but he was strong. Steve took this as a challenge, he realised he didn’t need to work on his strength as much and had to lose weight to enable him to do the gymnastics movements. Steve went about it doing everything he could to make it possible for him to do handstand push ups and kipping pull ups. Just recently Steve has done strict handstand push-ups and was linking kipping pull ups in a workout, while weighing 115kg.

These are real people, I’ve changed their names but their stories are true. Two people with very similar circumstances have ended up with very different results because of what they focussed on, the meaning they gave to it, and the actions they took. John focused on how hard gymnastics were and the praise he got from other members when he was moving a heavy barbell. To him, this meant “I’m just too big for gymnastics, I’m good at lifting weight.”. So what does he do? Avoid gymnastics and stick to workouts that involved lifting weight. On the other hand, Steve focussed on his weight and what it was stopping him from being able to do. His meaning, “If I can lose weight the gymnastics will get easier, plus I’m already strong.” And what does he do? He did extra cardio, watched what he was eating, lost 10kg and kept practising the skills and drills; and only 2 months (!!) was able to do 4 unbroken strict handstand push-ups.

John gave up his control, Steve took control.

What you focus on gives you control over the entire cascade of thoughts and meaning you give to things and subsequently what you do about it. So next to you feel like you’re losing control, inside or outside of the gym, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What will I focus on?
  2. What is this telling me?
  3. What actions will I take?

Take back control.

Coach Luke Fiso


‘Life is not happening to you, it happening for you”  – Nelson Mandela