Increasing Your Pain Tolerance for CrossFit (Part 4)


(This is part 4 on this very depth look on how to increase your pain tolerance during a vicious CrossFit WOD. If you want to know the 5 previous strategies, just check out the last 3 blogs.)

Tip # 5  Understand your Why. When you get to the point of a rough WOD and you think you can’t tolerate any more pain and want to quit, guess what? You’re wrong again! Your body can handle more suffering and stress than you can ever imagine. One of the strongest way to turn your aching body into a full armor against pain is to refer back to your why

Your why is the reason you are doing the workout. I’ll assume many of you are following this mental toughness regimen because you are sick and tired of seeing a mentally weak person in the mirror. So, for most of you, your why has to do with your list of reasons for needing to be tough. The more specific you are for your reasons to add mental fortitude to your life, the more likely your why will enable you to absorb the punishment from the WOD.

In order for your why to work as your pain manager, it has to mean everything to you. In other words, you have to want to be mentally tough really freaking bad. For some of us, mental toughness is not a want but a need. Like oxygen and food, we need to find inner strength in our lives. If not, we just can’t continue with our pathetic weak lives. Unfortunately, this training can be a last resort for many us, including me.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it was in a “live or I don’t want to live” scenario when I first discovered this training. This training means everything to me. When I’m near death during a WOD, referring back to my why is like a resurrection. Or better yet a reminder to possibly    returning back to my weak ways. When I think about all the reasons I need this training, my tolerance to pain goes up 10 fold and then some.

If your why is this personal, it will be very effective in dulling your pain. The burn and gasping from a WOD is nothing compared to the real life agony from living a life of being mentally weak. When you compare to the two, there is no comparison.

The physical sensations from the WOD are low on the totem pole of hurt and will even perceived to be lower once you get your why working for you.

In your pre-WOD warm-up, it is essential that you can in touch with your why before hand. You want to “warm-up” your why like how you do with your muscles. Don’t overdo it though; reflect on it just enough to get your blood boiling. If you activate your why at full power, you may burnout early during the WOD.

To make full use of your why, wait till you needed it the most. This means when you think you can’t handle any more aches from too many pull-ups or your legs are like mush when you are running. When you have reached the point where the intensity is too high is when you should call upon your why to give you the extra protection against the anguish you are feeling.

Working with your why is a very effective method to help you get through the suffering of a workout. It won’t completely eliminate the pain, but it will you block it out and absorb the punishment so it won’t hurt that bad. The key is to focus on your why and not the burning and pain of your muscles. The more your body throbs, the more you must distract the hurt by referring to your why. In other words, put your mental thoughts on the forefront and do your best to ignore your body’s whining.

So instead of thinking “My legs are killing me. I can’t go on,” have thought patterns that center on your reasons for mental toughness like “I have to go on because I need to be mentally tough in my life for me and my family….I can go on because being mentally tough is making me brave in life…”

This is the reason you want to prime up your why during your warm-up routine when you know you have to tackle on a monster WOD. By conjuring up your list to your why beforehand, it will be more accessible to you when your body is suffering. Usually, it is very difficult to think straight when you are going through a stress induced task, so by pre-activating your why before the battle begins, it should automatically appear when your mind is spinning and your body is crying.

Concentrating on your why during physical pain is a skill in itself. It takes practices. Lots of practice. It is very hard to concentrate on positive thoughts when your body is screaming negativities to you. But, once you hone in on this coping skill, you will develop a strong mental tool to fight off discomfort and extreme fatigue.

Call upon your why the next time your feeling like a big sissy to a little pain during your workout. It should give you the much need cure to the overall agony your body is feeling and help you push through the WOD to finish.

(To be continued)

Today’s Litvinov WOD –

6 sets Heavy deadlift

5 reps Barbell thrusters

400 meter run (approximately)

This Litvinov WOD is going to be a doozy. Out of all the WODs that I have posted on this site, this is by far the most challenging. I’ve done this deadlift/thrusters combo with the run and each time I do it, I always wonder very early in the WOD why in the hell am I putting myself through this misery. As awful as you will feel during the WOD, you will hundredfold better and more satisfying after it is over. So, this great sense of accomplishment does outweigh the extreme discomfort that is inevitable with this punishing Litvinov WOD. You just have to finish this Litvinov WOD to experience the rush of supremacy. However, before you get there, the whole experience is going to suck ass big time.

My finally warning to you all. So here is good time to practice being in the aggressive state of mind while being calm and control. During your preparation period, let your thoughts, emotions, memories stimulate you into almost being in a state of rage. If you get to the mindset that you just want to trounce  somebody in the gym that looks at your wrong, pull back your thoughts. In other words, if your thoughts are boiling with emotions, let them reach a high temperature and then calm yourself down. Go into the WOD with your thoughts simmering instead of fuming. However, know that when you have to, you can access your mind immediately to be inciting with the most aggressive and raging thoughts you slightly tapped into during your prep period.

This does not mean you are going to pace yourself either. I highly suggest you go all out and sprint during the last 50 or so yards of the 400 meter run. This will ensure you keep up the integrity of making the WOD as intense as possible. By this point or half way through the second set, you should really feel the staggering effects of the Litvinov. This is the time to retrieve your emotions, thoughts, positive self-talk to get you in the highest level of aggression needed to help you defeat the onslaught of negativity and the threat of quitting that is coming in a big hurry.

For me, when I tap into this ultra level of aggressiveness in me, my mind becomes angry and becomes to take on a life of its own. Instead of telling me what to do, my mind is screaming and shouting at me with to never give up like how I use to. What surfaces in me is years of frustration and flashback of weakness that is exploding in my mind, that I can’t make it stop. The bad memories begins to encompass all my thoughts and I fucken hate it. I just can’t help myself but get pissed off at myself for giving up when I was should have fought back. By channeling in on this bent up emotion and seeing the WOD as a metaphor for my weak past, I am furious at myself for my lack of action against personal adversities. Now I am roaring back and directing my high-power emotions to finishing the WOD, no matter how bad I’m hurting. Its the only way I can make the real pain of the years of mental suffering leave my soul.

During it all, I vow to myself to always and for the rest of my life to fight back. When I could get you all to do the same, I will have done my job.

Today it begins.

Scaled down version of this Litvinov WOD

1. Omit the thrusters or do strict military presses instead.

2. Run 200 meters

3. Walk the 400 meters.

4. Do only 4 sets. Acceptable alternatives: 1. You can use a barbell or dumbbells for the thrusters 2. Run on a treadmill or jump rope for a minute over the 400m run.