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‘There is more wisdom in your body than your deepest philosophy’

– Friedrisch Nietzsche

The Body First Philosophy

Everything we do at The Ironmind Institute is based on our The Body First Philosophy self, imposing stressful states on the body, therefore eliciting negative effects on the mind and training yourself to psychologically negotiate through the effects of that lived experience.

These specific moments of physical stress hold extraordinary opportunities for personal evolution. This is much bigger than your performance, although that is a fulfilling reward. It is here, in these lived moments of stress, doubt, and weakness, that we can re-engineer the hardware of our brain through the software of experience. We do this by learning to control the moment, despite the debilitating physical effects we are experiencing, using a two-step process led by self-awareness and followed by concentration.

Why do we program like this?

The brain and body are inextricably connected as one, as the nervous system. What affects the body affects the mind, and what affects the mind affects the body. In fact, a good way to think about your experience of life, from the day you come into the world until the day you die, is that your nervous system is a continuous loop of communication between the brain, spinal cord & body and body, spinal cord and brain and all their connections. Therefore, we can train our mental capacities through our physical capacities, hence ‘Body First’. With the focus and intention to improve our physical capacities (within our chosen sport, training, or physical pursuit) we will push ourselves to the current edges of our physical conditioning. Subsequently, our mind will be pushed to the edge of its current capacities (often our limiting factor), while in these moments, we employ our 4 Controllables Method to learn to control our mind while the body is under extreme stress.

The mind is primary, meaning everything begins here first. There are effective training methods we can employ to improve our mental capacities without involving the physical experience. I am thinking of visualisation, mediation, journaling and affirmations here. However they are only a small part of a complete mental strength and resilience training program. The meat on that bone is undoubtedly, experience. By that I mean the lived experience of enduring physically, (and therefore mentally) stressful states through your nervous system.

For example, using your imagination you can visualise a specific moment where you know you are going to need to be ‘calm in chaos’, down to it’s finest details and live that moment again and again in your mind so if and when it arrives you will be ready and are ready to deal with it psychologically and physically. This is an amazingly powerful tool when practised deliberately and proficiently. But you can’t visualise every moment. How will you react when

  • the unexpected happens?
  • when you’re inattentive and your impulses and instincts kick in? (as they are wired to do)
  • What about the moment, time, day, week, year your world implodes and you suddenly find yourself in a painful, chaotic, destructive, dark place?
  • What about the time you find yourself enduring physical stress, discomfort and fatigue that your foresight and awareness never flagged?

As Mike Tyson famously said, ‘everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face’.

This quote encapsulates the essence of ‘The Body First Philosophy’ because its training prepares you for the punch in the face, and the next one and the one after that and everything you never saw coming. It achieves that by placing the body in high states of fatigue, using strict training parameters, where the byproduct of that physical duress is mental disorganisation. This mental state could as quickly be labelled, negative, destructive, chaotic, dark, weak, heavy, disorientated, overwhelmed, panicked, give up, quit or stop focused. Since you are reading these words and on our site, I am sure you have felt what I am talking about.

It is within these moments that we use our revolutionary The 4 Controllables Method to redirect our mind back under our control, despite the physical intensity of the experience and its effects. Again, a simple explanation of that would be it is how you organise your thoughts or, more specifically, what you choose to concentrate on in that moment of extreme physical experience. Continued practice of this mental re-organisation, through awareness (recognition) and concentration (redirection) while experiencing physical stress, will rewire your brain to have more efficient capacities for dealing with the effects of stress on your mind whenever they happen. So that punch in the face that Iron Mike talked about, while it may still send a shock through your nervous system, through exposure to similar experiences, your self-awareness will flag the state, and you will employ and anchor off a mental redirect (cue or questioning) a focused concentration or controllable, that will bring your mind back under your control. To map it out in simple language, you learn to concentrate on what is within your control despite the intensity of the experienced stress.

SIDE NOTE: These moments of reorganisation/redirection are paradigm-shifting in their reality. You have literally expanded your physical limits by changing your state from negative to neutral or, perhaps in the case of Controllable No.4: Self Talk, positive. This allows you to continue your output levels (sometimes even increase them) with no loss in performance and no negative effects on your mind. You’ve disproved certain beliefs you held, and suddenly, your potential seems a lot greater and the path to realise it is exciting.

This controlled state comes from concentrating on things that are within your control. Since this is the Body First Philosophy, we are talking exclusively about physical endeavours, and we have discovered that there are four actions that are always within our control no matter the extremes of what you are experiencing physically and mentally, and they are;

  1. Body Position & Technique (of whatever it is you are doing)
  2. Breath.
  3. Effort.
  4. Self Talk.

The 4 Controllables.

When you concentrate on a specific action of the first three Controllables (1. Body Position and technique, 2. Breath and 3. Effort) has the effect of neutralising the effects of time over you. That state of deep concentration redirects your mind away from your default wiring that focuses on uncontrollables, hence from negative states to a state of neutrality (AKA the present moment.) You cannot be stressed, anxious, negative, happy, sad, elated, chaotic, etc if you are present. This redirection has a depressurising effect on your mind and state, while the body is still under a spectrum of mild discomfort to extreme stress. The end result is an incredibly powerful remapping or rewiring effect over your mind because of the lived experience through The Body First Philosophy.

Employing Controllable No.4: Self Talk works exactly the same way with one big additional difference. Using the powers of our imagination and aligned words/thoughts we can access positive emotions to drive our state from Negative, through Neutralised to Positive. This redirection can be particularly helpful in very dark moments.

The Body First Philosophy within
Ironmind Crucibles

You have no idea what you are capable of. The reality is you have unfathomable depths of control, strength & resilience inside you and that is what the Ironmind Crucible experience is designed to unearth and make visible to you. The mission of The Ironmind Institute is to create transformational experiences for our Crucible athletes that elicit a sense of freedom that opens up the athlete’s mind to their extraordinary potential. However, word of warning, these beautiful rewards do not come easy.

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials”

– Seneca

Our strategy for creating them is achieved through our Body First Philosophy. I must be careful here in unveiling too many details because certain information shared will dilute the potential power of the Crucible process, but the overview would be we build pressure on our Crucible athlete’s minds using three different strategies (during certain loops of the Crucibles)

  1. Speed.
  2. Parameters of Adherence.
  3. The Targeting Strategy.

Speed: When it comes to training the mind, speed is king. Simply put, you can’t hide from speed. There’s no outs for the mind that can be reasoned or justified or hidden like with endurance and it (speed) is the purest way to approach training the mind through the body. It’s confronting and humbling, requiring bravery from the start. Speed induces the psychological moments we need to expose ourselves too and explore, while using The 4 Controllables Method to manage them effectively. In terms of mental training these moments are unbeatable and always accessible, whereas, although endurance has its merits, accessing it’s optimal moments for mental training can take hours if not days and create a high injury risk in the medium to long term.

Parameters of Adherence: These are a checklist of actions we strive to adhere to that teaches us to focus on what is within our control in a period of training sessions where our thoughts can severely damage our output. By adhering to these parameters we train ourselves to redirect our focus away from this vulnerable mental period and learn to control the moment we are experiencing by concentrating on these actions.

Targeting Strategy: Our subtly crafted targeting strategy is the centerpiece of how we pressurise the mind. This targeting strategy is based around certain physiological energy systems training methodology. Out of these methodologies we base our training in the Anaerobic Lactic Training, this gives us certain work and rest parameters that state we are able to recreate levels of output physiologically, shining a direct lens on our psychological efficiencies within this system.

In our next ruminations post we will delve into what we call ‘The Decisive Moment’, a specific moment of choice during a convergence of mind, body and spirit that is the crescendo of The Body First Philosophy and the moment that holds extraordinary power.

Keep striving for more from yourselves,