Being in the CrossFit Zone with Mental Toughness Training (Part 2)

images (33)

(In part 1 of this discussion, I talked about being in the zone. Athletes described being in this zone state as when everything goes right for them. Their performance becomes effortless with no distractions at all. Sports psychologists have been studying this zone phenomenal for decades and are nowhere close to discovering how a competitor can get in this win-win mental state on a consistent level. For CrossFitters, getting in the zone can have a quite different meaning than when a baseball player or basketball player is in this mental state. For us, being in the zone is when you don’t let any distractions interfere with your overall goal of wanting to finish the WOD.)

When I’m on a roll with a WOD, I know my coaches and teammates can sense it. I know it when I see it in my CrossFit brothers and sisters in their zone state. For those who are new to CrossFit, they may wrongly interpret my fluid and up tempo motions is  a sign that I am pain-free while I am cranking it out in my zone state. This may be true in the beginning of the WOD, but as it goes on, some sort of physical discomfort is always a certainty.

Let me reiterate to all of you that there is no such thing as the perfect WOD where you zip through as if it was super easy. This is not a sign that you are in the zone, but an indicator that you did the WOD without generating any intensity. Without rigorous work, your training is pretty much useless to developing mental toughness and enhancing your physique. Intensity is what bridges the gap from the physical work to the mental. If there is no challenge, there is no mental growth. If you just did a scaled back version of a WOD and you found it easy, move up to the next level. If you finished a prescribed WOD and barely broke a sweat, the next time you do it, work harder and faster. Here’s one of the main absolutes with CrossFit – you can always do better. 

In order to get better, you must be able to withstand heights of ruthless discomforts that the average person would falter at. This is why is you want to get in the zone as early as you can with the WOD. Achieving the zone during the WOD may be too late. I highly recommend you get into this state of mind during your preparation process.

Begin your preparation by asking yourself the self-empowering questions such as “Why do I need CrossFit in my life right now?” or “How can my life benefit with CrossFit training?” Spend some time reflecting on your answers. When you are able to articulate your responses, begin to tie in how finishing today’s WOD will get you these answers. For example, you can say to yourself “When I am done with this WOD, I will be closer to getting…” or “By finishing this WOD, I am now better at…” Begin to visualize yourself not only finishing the WOD, but how great you feel as just made a huge step toward your personal growth. By putting this much importance on competing the WOD, finishing it become your primary and only goal.

Going into the WOD this focused helps you get into the zone mentality. Your goal of finishing is not only clear and specific, but now you actually expect to complete it. By being this single mindedness, you pretty much have taken away any decision process during the WOD. in terms of a CrossFit strategy, this is a great thing because the biggest problem we all have with the WODs is when the pain and exhaustion starts to settle in. Our weak self begins to bargain with us and offers us solutions to the discomfort. At this point, the WOD becomes a psychological game of finagling of which your mind is trying to trick you to quit.

However, when you are in the zone, you don’t have time to barter. Your mind has made the decision to finish the WOD long before you even started. There is nothing to contemplate nor do you have to listen to your damn excuses. It is all meaningless because you won’t even consider that temptations to give up. By taking this inevitable decision process out of the equation of “am I going to continue on or am going to quit”, you are free to concentrate and put all your attention on just one thing. To do whatever it takes and finish this fucker.

This is the CrossFit zone.

Today’s barbell complex WOD –

6 sets of 5 reps each.

Try your best to not to drop the barbell until you are done with the last movement.

Overhead squats

Bent over rows

Good mornings

Behind the neck presses

Jump shrugs (If you don’t know what jump shrugs are check this out  –

Drop the barbell and do Spiderman crawls for 20 yard (approximately)

(Here a good demo of what a Spiderman crawl should look like –

Get into the zone during your preparation process. Really delve deep into your psyche and ask yourself why it is important for you to have mental toughness in your life. Once understand what your “why” is begin to focus on what you need to do today to finish today’s WOD. Complex movement are particularly rough, but when you throw in the added torture of the Spiderman crawls, you got yourself a real threatening WOD that could possibly get you to quit.

So make up your mind before you begin that you will push yourself to the final set, no matter how worn out you will be. Come up with one strong mantra that you will repeat to yourself throughout the WOD to make you finish. Simple ones works the best. Some example mantras that I have used to force me to finish are “I won’t quit until I’m done with this WOD”…”I will finish this WOD if it’s the last thing I do”…”Nothing will stop me from finishing.

Also, visualization techniques will help you achieve your zone state. Really see and imagine yourself approaching your last set. You may be exhausted, but see yourself doing each movement with perfect form and then ending the WOD with the Spiderman crawls. Make it so real, that you literally expect yourself to finish the last set in the manner that you visualized. You always want to win the war before it has begun.

Once you begin the WOD, stay focus and concentrate on your manta to finish. Repeating it often to help you stay in the zone so nothing will distract you. When the suffering from this barbell complex WOD begins to take over your body, you will be bombarded with a bunch of bullshit dilemmas on whether to go on or to quit. As seductive and logical some of this reason for you to quit are, you don’t have time to consider any of them. As soon as they pop up, cut them off while they are in mid-sentence. Your response to all thoughts of quitting has already been made before you began the WOD. The answer is an automatic “Fuck you. I will continue.”

By prematurely taking the decision process out of this WOD, you don’t have to the opportunity nor the energy to be fooled into giving up. Instead, you can put all of your attention to one thing – to finish the workout.

When all your focus is on completing the WOD, you will not only override the discomfort that this WOD will guarantee to deliver to you, but finish with a new sense of confidence of what being in the zone can do for you.

No go discover this true power for yourself.

Scaled back version of this barbell complex WOD –

1. Do only 3 sets of 3 reps.

2. Omit the jump shrugs and the Spiderman crawls.

3. You can walk or run in place instead of doing the Spiderman crawls.

Acceptable alternatives –

1. If you don’t have room for the Spiderman crawls, jump rope for a minute or do 10 burpees instead.




12 thoughts on “Being in the CrossFit Zone with Mental Toughness Training (Part 2)”

  1. Want to know why I love this series? This – “Fuck you. I will continue.”

    Great post, great attitude.

  2. I dread any wod with the spiderman crawls. Last time, I did them I wanted to cry.

    The price we pay for mental toughness! LOL!

  3. I still can’t walk from Monday’s WOD. My butt is still killing me, but I will force myself to the gym.

    This zone series has me really pumped up to workout. Going to put extra effort during the preparation today.

    Thanks Jackson!

  4. Not looking forward to this WOD. They all have been hard as shit, but I finished each one. Getting a long strange looks at my gym while doing them.

    The only thing I can say is that compare to everybody else at my gym, I’m the only one that’s breathing hard after each set and sweating like I just got out of sauna.

    Never have I worked this hard in my life. As hard as each WOD has been, I could tell I”m getting stronger and stronger and my stamina is improving in the little things like walking up the stairs, carrying things and even holding my poses longer in yoga.

    Definitely, head stronger since doing this program.


  5. I feel the same like you, Lisa. Lots of “what the hell” is this idiot stares from those at my global gym. Yesterday, I did the WOD and a couple of people ask me why I was doing the spiderman moves. I told them and asked them if they would like to try them. They did and few flat on their face after about ten yards.

    It should reassure me how tough this CrossFit-esque program is. Like you Lisa, I feel like I am the only one working hard while everyone else is on the treadmill, swiss ball, and cable machines. One thing for sure, I”m the only that’s breathing hard

    As rough as it is, I’m glad I’m doing it.

    I could mentally feel the change after a month of doing this program. I know this is toughness oriented program, but I feel sometime like its an “assertive” training program. The other day at work, this asshole co-worker was trying to take advantage of me, like he usually does, but this time I put my foot down. You should have seen the look on his face when I called him on his bullshit.

    Wish I would I found mental toughness training years ago!

    I hope you all are having the same success with this program.

  6. LIsa and Tyler – keep up the great work! Show those people at your gym what real training is!


  7. Been doing the WODs for the last month, but not sure I’m getting the benefits besides sore joints and extreme exhaustion. I’m more tired than normal after the workouts for days. Sleeping about 6 hours a night and very low carb. Weight at 160 at 5’5. Feeling worse since doing my first WOD.

    could it be I’m over training?

  8. Hey Paula – if I don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep after a WOD, I can’t function. Sounds like you need more sleep. I think it normal to feel sore, but not chronically.

    Also, I’m not sure if high intensity workouts jibe with low carb. Not sure about that. I eat a moderate amount of carbs per day. I would estimate around 150 grams or so. I used to be a long distance runner so I know how important carbs are to refuel our system, especially with the CrossFit WODs on this site.

    Hopefully, other will chime in on this subject.

  9. I’m usually sore for days after the WODs myself. However, its a good muscle sore and not joint sore.

    It sounds like you are overtraining. Maybe cut back on a set or two and get plenty of rest in between. Also, try to get some feedback on some of your movements. You may be doing them incorrectly.

    good luck !

Leave a Reply