Mental Tricks to Get Thru Tough Workouts

By | Articles | No Comments

Mental Tricks to Get Thru Tough Workouts
Written by: Coach Slater

Everyone knows the feeling of suffering and self-doubt during a really tough WOD. Those negative thoughts crawl in, sometimes before the WOD even starts:

“You’ll never finish under the time cap.”
“If you skip one or two reps, no one will notice.”
“Let’s do the sub-Life version. You won’t feel so much pain.”
“Just give up and it’s over. Right here and now, and the pain will end.”

We CrossFitters are especially prone to this kind of negative self-talk because our workouts can demand so much from us, both physically and mentally. But we can’t let them win.

Luckily, there are some pretty easy psychological tricks you can use to help yourself:

1. Control What You Can Control: Breath

You can’t control how heavy the weight is, but you can control how you’re breathing. Focusing on your breath can be calming when you feel anxious during (or especially before) a WOD. Concentrate on making your breathing regular, and adapt it to each movement. For example, on Wallballs, I like to inhale just before I catch the ball on the descent, holding it in as I hit the squat, then exhale as I’m driving up and releasing the ball. When rowing, I exhale as I drive back, quickly inhale & exhale as I return, then sneak in one more inhale at the catch, before exhaling again on the drive.

Focusing on controlling what you can control, namely your breathe, can have a dramatic effect on diminishing those negative thoughts during workouts.

2. Trick Your Brain by Refocusing Your Thinking

This trick is especially useful during longer workouts. When you feel exhausted and pain ridden, your brain concentrates on those aspects in your body, the acid in your legs, the heaviness of your arms, etc… What you have to do now is to distract your brain from these impulses by totally occupying it with something else. The easiest way to do that is by giving yourself a mental task to complete.

Personally, I recite every person’s first and last name in class. I’ve also heard that listing every capital city in the US works. Or, think of as many words as you can that contain two certain letters, like S and C for example. By doing so, you’re deliberately distracting your thinking from the source of pain. It sounds trivial, but this technique can help pass the time when things get tough and that clock seems to move at half-speed.

3. Be Inspired by Your Fellow CrossFitters

In CrossFit, we earn each others respect by going all out during a WOD. Personally, I’m typically more impressed by someone who pushed themselves and still got time-capped, rather than someone who went too light and breezed thru the WOD to finish first. Or, what about those people who do things that look impossible? Both sets of individuals are inspirational in their own way because they’re pushing it to their very own limits. If you find yourself feeling terrible during a WOD, thinking you can’t go on anymore, take a look around you. See anybody else quitting? No? Then you shouldn’t either. Be inspired by the other athletes here.

4. Adopt a Hero-Version of Yourself

Stole this idea from a book called SuperBetter, about gaming yourself for better performance. Basically, think of a hero you want to be, like Hulk, Wonder Woman, or Iron Man and use them to create your own secret identity. When you feel like you can’t go on anymore during a WOD, think of your secret identity as a mantra. Say to yourself something like “I am the mighty XXX and I will do everything to get stronger and slay the WOD-monster.”

Yes, this sounds silly, but by saying this to yourself, you’re programming your brain thru positive affirmation.

5. Accept Failure as a Part of the Process

Don’t be afraid to fail. First, remind yourself of the reason why you are doing CrossFit. Maybe it’s because you like the people here (they’re pretty cool), want to get fitter, or maybe you need it to counter depression and the stress you have in your life. Whatever your individual reason, we’re all united by the fact that we want to become better versions of ourselves.

To accomplish this, you have to push yourself to your limits and then exceed those limits during a WOD. That also means that you have to FIND your limits as well. These are the points, places, and times at which you fail. Failure to hit a certain weight, perform a specific number of reps, or finish a WOD within a time cap does not mean that you’ll never be able to do these things. It just means that you can’t do them right now. If you want to get better, hit those targets and improve, then you need to put in the work.

If you succeed at every WOD, you always PR with every lift, and you’re always first, then you simply aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. Failure is part of the process, and it makes it all the more rewarding when you finally hit that lift or WOD time you’ve been chasing!

Recent Articles

Don’t Let Monday Ruin the Rest of Your Training Week

| Articles | No Comments

Don’t Let Monday Ruin the Rest of Your Training Week Written by: Coach Slater If you’ve been here long enough, you’ve probably picked up on this trend: the gym is…

Mental Tricks to Get Thru Tough Workouts

| Articles | No Comments

Mental Tricks to Get Thru Tough Workouts Written by: Coach Slater Everyone knows the feeling of suffering and self-doubt during a really tough WOD. Those negative thoughts crawl in, sometimes…

Why Showing Up Late Is Killing Your Fitness

| Articles | No Comments

Why Showing Up Late Is Killing Your Fitness Written by: Coach Evan Oh great. Another article telling me I’m doing something wrong and how detrimental it is to my health….

Pre-Training Nutrition

| Articles | No Comments

Pre-Training Nutrition Written by: Coach Slater Ever tell yourself that you’re going to hit your training session hard, but find you only have energy for a short period of time,…

The Key to Weight Loss Success

| Articles | No Comments

The Key to Weight Loss Success Written by: Coach Evan The Key to Weight Loss Success… is a clickbait title and this article is actually about The Key to Success…

Challenge Your Misconceptions: Join Derby City CrossFit

| Articles | No Comments

Challenge Your Misconceptions: Join Derby City CrossFit Something’s got to give. You aren’t happy with your body, and you know you should do something about it. But what? You’re thinking…

Prioritizing Your Priorities

| Articles | No Comments

Prioritizing Your Priorities Written by: DCCF-er Phil Newton You won’t make it very far in life without establishing some priorities. Some prioritization in life takes care of itself for you….

Mirrors Can’t Make You Work Harder

| Articles | No Comments

Mirrors Can’t Make You Work Harder Written by: Coach Slater You won’t find any mirrors on the gym floor at Derby City. If you’re a veteran, you know and love…

How to Win Our Next Transformation Challenge

| Articles | No Comments

How to Win Our Next Transformation Challenge Written by: Coach Slater Let’s do a quick recap of what we saw in the Summer Transformation challenge and how we can kick…