“Keep that bar close.”

“Shorter rest!”

“Quicker transitions!”

In , we are always trying to find ways of closing the gaps that hinder our performances.  Whether it is a barbell that floats too far away from us during a snatch or clean, or the rate at which we perform God-awful thrusters, we are always trying to cut down on the time it takes us to do work.

For many of us, the same goes for life outside of the gym.  How can we work faster on tasks around the office?  How can we reduce the time until our next promotion or the next big sale?

Producing faster WOD times or lifting heavier weights and, by extension, that big sale or promotion, is not entirely based on how hard you work to close the gaps between your strengths and weaknesses, but rather by how good you are at making space in your life.

and weightlifting shows the truth in this statement.  While lots of things determine a successful snatch, clean, or jerk, one thing is for certain:  you better give yourself enough room to get under that bar quickly.  If you have fully opened and extended your hips, knees, and ankles, chances are you won’t be nailing that PR lift.  In a WOD, if you have not opened up your lungs and breathed in all that life saving air during a long chipper, chances are your time will suffer.

Clearly, making space is indeed important for our performances in the realm of .  Even more important, however, is the space we make for ourselves in our everyday lives.  Our time in the gym can help us learn how to make and value more space in our lives.  Here’s how:

1.  Breathe Deeply


Here at Steelworks we teach the importance of breathing in our practice.  Sound breathing techniques like “belly breathing” and “thoracic breathing” teach us how to calm down in the middle of a grueling workout.  It is only logical that these type of breathing practices be extended into your everyday life, especially when you wake up and frequently throughout the day to keep stress at bay and to stay alert and grounded.  Everyday should start with 20 deep nourishing breaths.

2.  Reach Full Extension


As said before, successful weightlifting is usually a result in hips, knees, and ankles being fully extended.  This allows the lifter to transmit as much force into the bar with their legs, giving him or her the requisite time to get under the bar before it crashes down upon his or her body.  Do you feel that the world is constantly crashing down upon you?  Is life just one ending train of stressful events happening over and over?  You might not just be opening yourself up to world happening around you.

How often do you make time to physically visit with friends and family?  (Sorry Facebook and texting or even phone calls don’t count!)  Have you been open to experiencing new things like a new restaurant, book, or trip?  How much quiet time do you make for yourself?  Every weekend, I make a good point of going for a long walk.  These walks can range from the buzzing energy of Center City Philadelphia to the quiet solitude of the woods.  No matter where they take place, I am always readying myself to be open to experiencing possibilities and receiving inspiration from something as simple as a group of friends sharing a laugh in Rittenhouse Square to the soothing sounds of a waterfall as it spills down the hills of the Wissahickon.  That leads me to my next point.

3.  Attention to Detail


Are you going to bed early enough to give yourself eight hours of sleep?  What about your nutrition?  Are you nourishing your body with the foods to which you respond well?  (Chicken, kale, avocados, and sweet potatoes are my power foods.)   Do you get to the gym early enough before class to mobilize your nasty, beat up soft tissues?  Are you taping your thumbs/fingers before you clean or snatch?  Simple things make a big difference towards your performance in the gym.

Paying attention to things around you outside of the gym is equally, if not more, important but how many of us actually do this?  The old saying, “stop and smell the roses” is so appropriate.  Now, I’m not saying to go off and start smelling every flower you see, but I am saying that you need to turn off your mind and take in the world around you more frequently.  It’s a really simple, but powerful act.  Start simple.  Go for a walk and really look at things around you.  It doesn’t have to be some place new.  I have gone for walks along the same route for years now and it is amazing how I notice something new each time.  While you are observing things around you it is important that you do not judge or attach meaning to what you see, hear, or feel.  Simply experience it.  Give sights, sounds, and sensations your attention, but not your judgement.  Be in the moment, not in your head.  (For more information on how to practice mindfulness, read Eckhart Tolle’s life-changing, The Power of Now.)

4.  Accept Failure

weightlifting failure

Let’s face it:  you will have crappy days at the gym.  Weights you lifted with ease last week suddenly will feel immovable.  The whip marks of the jump rope are splattered across your legs as you struggle to perform those pesky double unders.  Some days you just don’t have it.  You will most likely have more bad days in the gym than good days.  Here is where you need to heed the words of basketball legend, John Wooden, on failure:

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

Failure is perhaps one of the greatest space makers in life.  Remove the negative connotation associated with failure and recognize it for what it is:  a valuable learning tool.  Failure prompts reflection.

Why didn’t this work?”

“What was I doing incorrectly that made me miss a lift or not push hard enough during a workout?”

“Why are my sales numbers down this month?”  

“Why did half of my students fail their last test?

Failure becomes real when we do not take the time to analyze our actions or even worse, place the blame on someone else for our inability to perform.  Weak minded people always look to shift the blame and scurry from taking personal responsibility.  Strong people do not resist the feelings of inadequacy that failure may engender.  They use those feelings to pause, be still, and self reflect.  Strong people search for the truth and in the end grow.

Whether you believe it or not, your ability to make space in the gym will translate to your life outside.  Treat your hour each day here at Steelworks as a time to cultivate good habits of spirit.  Be present, breathe, open up, pay attention, and accept the bad days as just off days and nothing more.  With enough patience and discipline, you’ll find that the good habits you build with sweat and steel will carry over to the office and your home.