When we talk about CrossFit, we see the many components that define it. One of which is High Intensity. Innervate CrossFit employs various high intensity workouts to help all our members and athletes achieve results and their fitness goals. We all know that high intensity is the way to go and it reaps the most benefits. But why don’t people do it? We’ve said this before and will say it again, it is HARD. There’s no sugar coating it, high intensity workouts done correctly are extremely tough, they bring you to a ‘dark’ place.
And so whether you’re starting out or a seasoned athlete, you’re gonna need some mental toughness between the hears and within the chest to succeed in CrossFit and essentially, life. As the champ Rich Froning very appropriately put it, “Maybe we’ve gotta include the 11th General Skill, Mental Toughness.” So how do we develop mental toughness? Well, just like any other muscle, it can be trained and taught how to think. Mental patterns don’t just happen, they are developed over many years over repetitive scenarios and thoughts. So how do we do so?
1. Replace Negative Thoughts with Productive Thoughts
Most of us don’t really spend much time thinking about our thoughts and what goes on in our heads. Increasing your awareness of your thinking habits is shown to be useful in building resilience. Exaggerated, negative thoughts, such as, “I can’t do anything right,” or “There’s just NO WAY I can finish this workout.” hold you back from reaching your full potential. Be aware of those thoughts and catch them before they spiral out of control and influence your behaviour.
Identify those overly negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are more productive. Productive thoughts need not be extremely positive, but rather, realistic. A more balanced thought may be, “This is going to be a hard workout but I can come up with a plan to overcome this” Changing your thoughts requires constant monitoring, but the process can be instrumental in helping you become your best self.
2. Practice Tolerating Discomfort
Being mentally strong doesn’t mean you avoid feeling some emotions. You have to be acutely aware of your emotions so you can make good choices on how to respond. Mental strength is about accepting your feelings but not being controlled by them.
Mental strength also involves behaving contrary to your emotions when the need calls for it. For example, if you experience anxiety or feel scared to try new things or accept new opportunities, try stepping out of your comfort zone if you want to continue to challenge yourself. This comes in many ways, attempting a heavier weight in a workout or setting higher goals in a workout. Tolerating uncomfortable emotions and facing your fears takes practice, but it becomes easier as your confidence grows.
Practice behaving like the person you’d like to become. Instead of saying, “I wish I managed to do that weight,” choose to work towards that goal one step at a time, whether you feel like it’s helping or not. Some discomfort is often necessary for greater gain, and tolerating that discomfort will help make your vision a reality, one small step at a time.
3. Reflect on Your Progress Daily
Today’s busy world doesn’t lend itself to making much time available for quiet reflection. Create time to reflect upon your progress both in the workout and in life. At the end of each day, ask yourself what you’ve learned about your thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Were you facing that bar with fear or faith? Or did you shy away from trying something new? Or perhaps let your old habits of dialling the engine down a bit during the workout when it got tough? Consider what you hope to improve upon or accomplish tomorrow.
4. Mental toughness is about your habits, not your motivation.
Motivation is fickle. Willpower comes and goes.
Mental toughness isn’t about getting an enlightenment, an event, dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again. It’s about showing up and putting in that mental effort in the box every single day.
Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, much stronger, or more fit (Though there’s an occasional correlate) — just more consistent. Mentally tough people develop systems that help them focus on the important and productive stuff regardless of how many obstacles life puts in front of them. They have trained their mind to follow a certain pattern when the workout starts to get really tiring and they stick to it. Their habit of being positive every time they attempt a lift. It’s their habits that form the foundation of their mental beliefs and ultimately set them apart. Which brings us to the next point
5. Stay Consistent
Drill it in your head that you want to be consistent in everything you do. It might get tiring at times but make a decision and keep to it regardless of circumstances. If you set your mind to hit the Box 3 times a week then do so without any excuses at all.
Be clear about what you want to be consistent about. It might be choosing to go the extra mile in the gym. For example, wanting to do the extra set of pull ups after every workout. It can’t be a one off event, you have to be consistent with it. A great example would be one of our guys, Sam Adrian. After every workout, regardless of toughness, he brings out the abmat and works on his sit ups and his 400m run.
If you haven’t pushed yourself in thousands of small ways, of course you’ll wilt when things get really difficult. Choose to create when it would be easier to consume. Choose to ask the extra question when it would be easier to accept. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to get in the ring and do battle with life every single time.
Ultimately, we need to have mental toughness and strength to excel in CrossFit. Because it isn’t just inside the gym but really, in everyday life. As the saying goes…
“Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.” -- Chinese proverb, author unknown