Increasing Your Pain Tolerance for CrossFit (Part 13)

break(This is possibly the final suggestion on how to lower your perception to pain, at least for now. I’m sure I’ll discover and experiment with other mental tools to help you deal with your upcoming discomfort. This is a never-ending pursuit that I will continue to investigate. In the meantime, you have a myriad of strategies to help you fight through the suffering of any high intensity or CrossFit WOD).

Tip #14 Break down the WOD to workable segments. The worse part of a CrossFit class is walking up and seeing a dreadful WOD on the whiteboard that you know is going to suck royally. The immediate reaction is a sick feeling in your stomach and a hidden desire of wanting to run away and hide.

It is easy to get overly overwhelmed when you see a daunting task right in front of you, especially when you weren’t expecting it. If you just throw yourself into the fire without a viable strategy to help you get through the intense task, you’ll gas out very quickly as the pain will hurt even more.

The key when suddenly exposed to great challenge is to make it workable by breaking it down into smaller and attainable parts. If you view the assignment as one whole task, your mind will get overwhelmed and become tired before you even begin. In other words, your pain tolerance will go to shit and you’ll be vulnerable to quitting. So by breaking down the entire WOD to smaller subsections, you’ll not only elevate your ability to suffer but increase your chances of slaying through the workout.

The navy SEALs have a saying that goes something like “Don’t try to eat the whole lunch. Take it one bite at a time.”

This is the approach that I take whenever I have to do something that I don’t want to do or know that it’s going to hurt. By segmenting the task and taking “one bite at a time,” I’m able ease my mind before it starts to spiral into a panic. When that happens, I start to freak out and become a weak-minded pussy.

A good example is “Barbara.” 100 reps of pull-ups is a hell lot of pull-ups and can be quite daunting if you think about the whole picture. To lessen the upcoming pain, don’t think of the 100 pull-ups, but group them into smaller sets such as groups of

10 reps or 5 reps. What ever the reps scheme you pick, just make sure you pick a rep count that doesn’t hurt too bad. This is how you manage the upcoming suffering to your advantage.

You don’t even have to break things down into reps either. You can segment time, steps, breaths, or even visual objects (I’ll explain below).

For example, if I’m doing a hard run and the pain is pushing to the limit, I’ll break down the run into seconds. I’ll tell myself to just make it for another 30 seconds. Once I hit the 30 second mark, I’ll tell myself I can go for another 30 second. The key is to pick a time interval that you know you can work with. It doesn’t matter if you pick a minute, 30 seconds or even 10 seconds. As long as you can hit each interval, you will lower the overall agony of the WOD. This technique one of my favorites procedure to lower my perception to pain when I’m doing a WOD that requires a run.

Another tool you can use to lower your suffering during an outdoor run is breakdown your runs to “visual objects.” Pick an object that you see on your path like a signpost or tree. Tell your self your current goal is to run towards and past that object. Once you hit your mark, pick another object in your distance and make it your goals to run past it as well. This technique is a great way to distract yourself from pain when you are training outside.

The other day while doing an awful WOD which features 20 thrusters, my lungs were totally drained and my ability to dealing with the pain was dwindling. In order to get past the agony and up my perception of suffering, I broke down the thrusters not by reps, but by breaths of “5.” I focused on hitting 5 breaths first. After getting the “5” breaths, I segmented another “5” more breaths as my next goal. Something chasing down breaths is easier for the mind to conceived than the overwhelming thought of 20 reps.

Finally, you can get break down a run or crawl into steps. I usually implement this pain management technique when I hit the wall and just about out of juice in my body. For example, in a recent WOD where I had to Spiderman crawls for about 30 yards, I was pretty exhausted when I got to the half waypoint. Honestly, I could have stopped at this mid-point because my exhaustion level was pretty high. However, I was able to push through the agony by telling myself I can get “4” more steps. Once I got my “4” steps, I pushed on for another “4” more. By breaking down the last 15 yards to attainable goals, I was able to sustain the pain that I was feeling by not making it worst. The crawls stick sucked big dangling balls and I hated every inch of it, but I was still able to work with it.

This last sentence is the key to pain tolerance: I was still able to work with it.

When you enroll yourself in this mental toughness program, pain is inevitable as suffering is a CrossFit absolute. Telling yourself that you will be impervious to the discomfort is not the goal. You need a high amount of tormentin order to transform yourself.

The agony will never go away. You must find a way to work with it.

If you understand this last statement, you will psychologically grasp the concept behind pain threshold training and push yourself through the worst types of hell in order to come out it stronger and better because of it.

Hard work and terrible suffering will never go away.

You need both to grow.

Now go train and find the suffering behind the work.

Once you do, you are making progress towards becoming the person you wish you can be.

(To be continued)

Today’s Litvinov WOD –

5 sets

Deadlifts – 5 reps

Dumbbell thrusters – 5 reps

Farmer’s walk – 1 minute

For you high overachievers out there, the challenge of this WOD is to do the thrusters and don’t put the dumbbells down. Go straight into the farmer’s walk and focus on squeezing the fuck out of the handles the entire time of the walk. After about 30 seconds, your hands will feel dumb and your body will be drenched in sweat. When the minute of walking with the weight is over, you will be so exhausted that you will be tempted to carelessly drop the dumbbells where ever you are.  Be extremely cautious and aware of this. There are many examples on youtube of those senseless dummies breaking a foot or getting a giant bruise on a shin from a bouncing 75 pound dumbbell. Don’t’ be that guy. Make a conscious effort to lower the dumbbells back to the rack.

I know after posting this WOD, many of you will find excuses on not to do it. Some of you may avoid doing it for days before going to the gym and finally doing it.  My suggestion to you all is that if looking at this WOD causes you anguish, confront your anxiety as soon as you can.  Don’t let it linger. By facing the WOD and not backing down, you are trying to create a new habit for yourself. A habit of dealing with your fears head on instead of running away from them. With repeated practice, it will become a routine. The ultimate goal of this program is to teach you not only to stare down your fears in this training, but the real things that we should be scared of like life’s problems.

This deadlift-thruster-farmer’s walk combination is brutal, but if you have been on this mental toughness program for a while it’s no difference than past WODs that you have done.  They all should cause some havoc on you. This WOD is no different so stop giving your foes and adversities, the advantage over you. The worst thing you can do while going into a fight is to give your opponent more power than they actually have. Part of mental toughness development is learning to give yourself the credit that you can handle the challenge and then some. Instead of taking on the victim mentality that this WOD is going to kick your ass, you must shift your mental paradigm. Reflect on your past accomplishments in this training and personal life. By doing so, will help you become the aggressor instead of being the passive coward. If you have a history of acting cowardly, you should get pissed off at yourself for your past behavior. Think of all you lost and all you could have gain if only you would have taken some action. That’s right – you should feel like shit for knowing how much you could have gotten if only you tried. This post isn’t about humiliating you or making you feel bad about yourself. It’s about motivating you to stand up for yourself.

Get pissed off. Take the initiative, regardless of how bad this WOD is going to make you feel. True courage is taking action even though you know how bad it’s going to hurt or how awful you might feel during the process.

By not giving a shit about the outcome and focus on being aggressive is how you can whip this WOD or any personal setback in your life.

Now go to it and crush this mutherfucker.

Scaled back version of this WOD –

  1. Do only 3 sets.
  2. Omit the thrusters.
  3. Do the farmer’s walk for 30 seconds.

Acceptable substitutes –

  1. You can do jumping jacks or just walk for one minute or 30 seconds instead of the farmer’s walk. Also, running on a treadmill for a minute is also okay.