Increasing Your Pain Tolerance for CrossFit (Part 1)

pain 1The biggest question I get constantly is how do I increase my pain tolerance to this demanding CrossFit training. This training regimen is purposely designed for you to suffer. Not because I am a masochist, but getting through the psychological discomfort and physical muscle burning, it the only way you will build mental toughness. Always remember the simple adage to this training – you have to earn your toughness.

So it is a given that the majority of the metabolic WODs in this program will be quite a challenge. If the training is too easy and you zip through the workouts, you will not make any gains on your fortitude journey. The process must be difficult. It is the only way for you to get yourself out the weakness hole that you dug yourself into.

Like any sort of high intensity training, we unconsciously and purposely develop coping skills to help us adapt to the misery. If not, you probably wouldn’t make it through the suffering at the gym that I am putting you through. My goal isn’t to torture you, but to make you mentally and physically stronger. The last thing I want is for you to quit; my intentions are to teach you the skills you need to endure the worse forms of physical tasks. Once you learn how to activate these pain tolerance skills in the physical aspect of the training, you can apply the same strategies to your personal life. In other words, the more you are able to handle the cruelties and bullshit from life, the better your quality of life will be.

The ultimate goal of this site is not for you to be a beast at your CrossFit box but to be unstoppable warrior when you step out of it.

Along my decade investigation to discover psychological strength, I’ve found some coping strategies that helped me preserve through the CrossFit WODs that suck that most. By incorporating these mental tools, I was able to push my body way past the perceived limitations that I thought I couldn’t handle. By doing so, I got myself in the best shape of my life, mentally tougher and a pretty damn good CrossFitter. By having a higher level of pain tolerance than the average person, I always felt I had the advantage over the other competitors.

This may sound like I was cheating, but I wasn’t.

I just learn how to use the greatest asset in my training.

The power of the mind

When you add these ideas to your mental repertoire, you will be able to handle loads of hurt that you never knew you could. Once you do, you’ll never see pain the same way. Suffering will have a different meaning for you. Instead of something that you do to avoid, you will embrace the concept to suffer because of the many positives attributes that you will gain.

Being in a state of agony is not something you should hide or run away from it.

It is because of the mental pain is how we grow and become mentally tougher.

Now here are some thoughts that will help shoot your pain tolerance through the roof.

Strategy#1 – Understand the benefits of the pain. Before, I go on, I want to state the difference between physical joint or muscle pain and the pain of the burning and breathlessness from a WOD. If you are experiencing any sort of acute or sharp discomfort, STOP what you are doing immediately. You probably have an injury and you to rest. Any sort of activity may aggravate the problem and make the situation worse. Mental toughness is not about working through an injury. It is about working through mental and physical discomfort from a challenging task. I hope this distinction is clear.

So having said that, understand when you are doing a WOD and your legs are burning, your lungs are pounding and your mind is swirling with negativity, you are at the right place where good things will happen. Understanding the benefits from the suffering will help you stomach the agony.

When you work out this intensely, your body goes through a neuroendocrine adaptation or hormonal change in your body. Your body begins to release human growth hormones, testosterone and other anti-aging hormones to build muscle and burn fat. In order to get these amazing physical benefits, you have to push your body as close to your limits as possible. Taking a slow jog or casually pumping out on lame machines just won’t do it.

Knowing that the burning, gasping and wheezing have fantastic benefits should make the misery less painful. It won’t make the suffering go away, but it will at least help reassure yourself that if you feel like dying, you are at the right place. I know this sounds grim, but only through this physical discomfort is when change is possible. When I feel like I can’t go on, I always tell myself that there is “magic in the misery.” I repeat this mantra “magic in the misery” over and over again, till I get my second wind and actually embrace and welcome the pain. Know all the good things I get from the pain, just far out weighs the suffering. It enables me to push a little further.

And most of the time, that “little” push is all I need to finish the WOD instead of quitting it.

In terms of the mental aspect, overcoming the agonizing pain in your head is what this training is all about. When you are suffering, the doubts and temptations to quit will arise in abundance. The challenge is to overcome the painful noise that keeps on telling yourself that are worthless and must give up.

To me, the psychological warfare that’s happening in my head is a thousand times worse than the painful fatigue I feel in my tired body. I can distract myself from physical punishment, but shutting up the negative chatter and hurtful put-downs is extremely difficult. It can eat you up and literally force yourself to stop.

Like the physical discomfort, you want the negative thought patterns to arise as well. Only then can you learn to defeat your demons. If your doubts are absent from the WOD, you will never learn to overcome them. What this training will teach you is that be finishing the workouts is how you shut-up the fear and negativity. As a result, once you are done with the accomplishment of finishing a WOD, you will immediately feel the positive mindset that accompanies a CrossFit workout. The final outcome is a well worth the temporary mental pain that we all must deal with during our battles with a WOD.

This is the hook to this training and how we learn to destroy the mental limitations that has been holding you back for years.

So, the next time you are doing “Fran” or “Muprh” and your body is out of energy and your mind is full of bad thoughts, embrace the moment. You are exactly where you need to be in order for all the magic to happen.

Understanding the benefits of the physical and mental pain, and you will take your pain tolerance to the next level.

(To be continued)

Today’s WOD

6 sets

Thrusters – 10 reps (use a weight that makes you feel uncomfortable, but not to the point that you are struggling with the final reps)

Burpees – 10 reps

This is a wicked combination that will challenge you to the final rep. The focus today is honing in on your dark side to help you steamroll through the last and most difficult set. So before you begin today’s WOD, use the self-confronting questions that I discuss earlier in this blog to help you explore some painful times of your life. You may not like reliving this period of your life and may not be over the hurt. However, instead of letting the pain fester away at you, harness it so you can use it at your advantage. By working with it and through it, is one the best way you can heal yourself.

By persevering over your biggest personal demons is how you can get mental strength. Nothing is more empowering than know that overcame your worst nightmare. The goal of this site is to teach you to defeat these fears. So let today’s WOD guide you to gaining fortitude and taking back your dignity.

I want you to murder the fuck out of this WOD today.

When you gear yourself for the last set, let the memories of the bad experience simmer inside of you. At first, nothing may happen. For others, you may be overwhelmed by your memories. Work with what comes up. Even if nothing seems to come up, believe me it is there. You psyche is protecting you from feeling further pain. This may be a sign that you are repressing the emotions because of the deep hurt. If so, just work off the memories even if you don’t feel your blood boiling yet.

As you begin your final set, have the frame of mind of tearing up the thrusters with as much force as you possible can without sacrificing your form. By doing so, you are slowly and little by little, “tearing up” your past horrors as well. With each thruster done, you are killing off more of you past tormentors. Feel the power of finishing your final rep while metaphorically feeling like you have destroyed a huge part of your pain. You should feel a rush of adrenaline from winning the battle between you and the thrusters.

However, the battle is not over. You must delve again from your darkness and summon up more power to help you overcome the final 10 burpees that stand in your way of redemption. Attack each burpee as if you are attacking your past demons. Do each rep with explosive power so you wipe out that pain that has haunted you.

When you are done with this WOD, you should feel beyond elated. The sense of accomplishment will be more than just doing a silly workout, but knowing that you are ever closer to overcome your horrid past. You are not there yet, but you know with this mental toughness training you will soon wipe out the pain from your life for good.

And when you do, you’ll be stronger than ever.

Nothing is more empowering than knowing that your past tormentors will never, ever hurt you again.

This is what this training is all about.

Acceptable alternatives:

  1. Do 6 reps of thrusters and 6 reps of burpees.
  2. If you can’t do the pushup part of the burpees, skip it. Just do the leg thrust back without going into a pushup and jump back up. Here’s a good video of what I’m talking about –