Drive Time with Smashby #17

Posted: May 2, 2011 in CrossFit, Media, Training
Tags: , , , , ,

I had a question asked by Rachel about Mental Toughness during workouts, and how to improve that part of your performance. I asked if she meant toughness in life, and she specified that she meant from 3, 2, 1, GO until the workout is over.

How do people “shut off” their brain and push through the pain? I’m very curious to how people approach this topic, so I’m really hoping to get some discussions going in the comments.

How do you get mentally tougher during your workouts?

  1. Aaron Thomas says:

    I think about Marcus Luttrell’s book “Lone Survivor,” where he tells the story about a guy who was heads above everybody else physically and was the prototypical soldier. He talks about how shocking it was to see him walk over & ring the bell to give up on going through the SEAL training. He talks about how that’s when he knew that he’d rather die than to give up.

    Workouts and life are no different – those who are mentally tough are much more rare than those who are physically gifted – and the mind will outperform the body nearly every time, whether you’re a SEAL or a CrossFitter.

    So you just have to make the decision: Pick up the Bar. If the mind is willing, you’d be surprised how often the body will follow.

  2. Zach Krych says:

    Olympic lifting mental toughness is a little different the the toughness needed for Crossfit. It’s not so much, “Keep going, keep moving, keep pushing etc.” instead, it is more like, “put everything into this lift, maximal effort”.

    It is difficult to make sure we put every once of energy into each lift. I use pics of world champions next to my platform to motivate me. Also, I imagine people snatching what I am clean and jerking, for example.
    However, the main thing I do is to slow down and get serious mentally. Sure, I will probably make this lift, but I need to make it the best way possible. To be fully present to the lift at hand, not the next set, but this one movement right now.

    That isn’t so much “shutting of your brain” so it may not help with WODs. But it’s what I do.

  3. Megan DiMartino says:

    Something that helps me push through workouts is to set mini-milestones. Breaking my workout down into small sections sometimes can help me achieve the final goal. For example – on rainy days when I’m stuck doing a boring treadmill run, I set distance or mph goals. Things like run at 7.5 for the rest of the song on my ipod. It’s a way I “trick” my mind into pushing for the next 4 minutes or for the duration of “The Club Can’t Handle Me Right Now”. I also will break down the total distance into mini sections. So instead of saying I need to run 5 miles, I break it down into 10 half mile distances. It makes me feel like I’m chewing up more distance along the way because I’m hitting more mini-milestones. More often than not I will find myself during the end of the workout saying “I can push for one more song” or “I can do 12 sections today” – simply because it feels like less when broken into smaller goals. Oh… and look Tom – I made a post 🙂

  4. Rachel says:

    I think you have something there when you mentioned confidence and discipline.

    Mental toughness has always been an issue for me, specifically in terms of athletics. As a crossfitter now I often wonder why I can’t seem to translate the mental toughness I enjoyed as a competitive soccer player to the WOD, but it occurs to me that I didn’t always have it, I had to learn it and that came from finding confidence and learning discipline. And a hell of a lot of practice.

    Identifying my weaknesses and working to make them strengths, or at least not a source of frustration, will help my confidence and enable me to believe that I can make it through the WOD better, faster, stronger instead of letting my head get in the way part way through it and subsequently not perform as well as I could. Because I know I do that; I have a tendency to get impatient with myself and that is certainly counter productive.

    Thanks for sparking that thought process. I needed it.

  5. Ben Sappey says:

    I feel like, what ever work out I do, that thinking about form is one of the only ways to remove myself enough to block out pain, but still be able to do a good movement. If I completely focus on one thing, then ever thing else doesn’t matter. This includes the burning in your shoulders, but, unfortunately, that also includes what rep your on.

  6. Vic Zachary says:

    Mental toughness, that is a subject every one will always be working on. For me its knowing my body is strong and my mind will try to make it weak. I have watched a lot of people workout. You can watch some one during a movement, lets say clean and jerks (in a WOD). Watch them breath while they are doing the movement, its not out of control, its actually pretty calm. As soon as they drop the bar, then it gets crazy. People tend to breath out of control, but as soon as they pick up the bar again, its calm. Your body knows how to survive. For me its pushing through my mind saying, let go of the pull up bar or drop the bar. When you can push that out and actually hold on, its a feeling of I beat myself trying to fail. Our body’s can do a lot more then we think it can. Its a battle every WOD.

  7. Smashby says:

    I also received some feedback from Cherie Chan! Thanks so much!

    “Hi Tom – Nice post. Mental toughness is a hugh aspect of why I LOVE CrossFit. Personally I think people need to be born with a regard for always wanting to improve. The desire to be better, fuels mental toughness.

    One Technique that I love to use is have a movie reel in my brain of what I want to happen. I play that reel over and over again, seeing success, seeing the movement, and I works beautifully to set up that outcome. I also only concentrate on 1 o 2 things per work out and let all else go to shit if I need to. The mental game is so important, I know your athletes will benefit from your approach. Be well and good luck – CC”

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