In CrossFit we mostly measure athletic performance by how much one can lift or how fast one can do a workout. But there is not only hard training that can make you better at weightlifting or CrossFit. Your mind is a very powerful tool as well. In this article I’m going to cover how to get the best of yourselves by using your mind.
The importance of having the right mindset
Having the right mindset can help you at many aspects of life and it goes way beyond your performance at the gym. Every success starts with having the right mindset.
I personally believe that anybody can have the right mindset. Often times I see people standing in front of a barbell and telling me that they can’t do it. And my reply is always the same – “if you tell yourself that you can’t get it, then you simply won’t get it”. It might seem harsh, but it’s, in most cases, true.
If you want to finish a lift successfully, you must believe you can do it. Another thing that can help you is to try to visualize in your head how you perform the lift. Last action that is essential is to concentrate. Try to forget about all the troubles and issues you have, just concentrate on setting up correctly, breathing and performing the lift.
Of course, it might or might not work. But believe me, if you approach the barbell with right and motivated mindset, chances are you will get it. And if you don’t, don’t be bummed about it and tell yourself you can get it next time.
Developing mental toughness
“Mental toughness is many things, and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action’.” – Vince Lombardi
How many times have you been in a situation where you physically could do the whole set unbroken, but your mind “gave up” and you dropped the bar and rested instead?
There’s so called 40 % rule that was developed by the United States Navy SEALs. It says that when our mind is telling us to quit, our body has only used 40 % of its potential. This additional 60 % doesn’t come from our mind or body, it comes from our will.
The Navy SEALs also use another concept called “The Big Four”. It’s originally meant to help them with controlling their fears and being able to appropriately respond in panicking situations. These steps will help you develop your mental toughness.
1. Breath Control
Breathing is fundamental for us to stay alive. If you focus on your breathing during a workout, it will take your mind away from negative thoughts and it will also help you to be less out of breath. Correct and controlled breathing can also help you reduce stress.
2. Positive Self-Talk
This is connected with having the right mindset that I’ve talked about above. You need to tell yourself that you can do it. It will push you forward because it blocks negative thoughts.
Visualization is a great tool to use together with the others. If you can vividly imagine that something will happen, it will be easier to reach it.
4. Micro Goals
Micro goals are very applicable to workouts. The key is to see something positive in the near future and focusing your mind on the next action, rep or movement. You can tell yourself that you will complete a round of a WOD without breaks, or that you’ll run to the next tree and then to the next one. Many times you can hear the coaches yelling at you to do one more rep. And if you think of it, you can always get one more rep if it’s not a strength limited movement.
It’s also good to have a plan in your head. If you know you can’t finish e.g. 21 reps of thrusters unbroken, do 11 and 10 or 8, 7 and 6 and be strict with yourself about resting no more than 10 seconds.
It is hard to push yourself beyond the limit of your perceived limitations. But if your body and mind gets accustomed to particular load, they will stop making progress. This is closely connected with intensity that Joey wrote an article about.
Our minds can be a great tool as well as an enemy if we let them. Once you find out that your mind can will your body to lift heavier weights, do more reps or perform longer, it will immediately make you perform better at CrossFit and be better at any aspect of life as well.
Holden Rethwill: The 40% rule
Calvin Sun: Mental Toughness: The Key To Success
Steven Shrago: The mind game
CrossFit High Five: The Big Four of Mental Toughness