Intimidation and Mental Toughness Training (Part 1)

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Awhile back, one of my CrossFit coaches was participating in a regional throw down.  This dude is a real bad ass and one of the favorites to win. I saw the upcoming WODs and I knew he had the potential to crush every single one of them. When I found out that he didn’t even place, I was flabbergasted. After the contest, he confessed to me that he was psyched out by the competition and some of the daunting WODs. During the warm-ups, he told me that the competition was tossing heavy weights like nothing and was doing ring muscle ups with ease.  Watching the others practice with such confidence and displacing such athletic prowess, made him feel incapable.  When the meet began, he just froze up. He ended up performing very poorly and didn’t even make the top ten. He was completely intimidated.

I can’t tell you surprise I was when I found he told me how badly he placed. I wasn’t shocked at him not winning as the competition for these local events between regional boxes are getting so competitive. It seems that everybody is getting better and stronger at a rapid pace. What I was most surprise about is how intimated my coach got. Here is a guy that is an imposing figure himself with huge muscles bulging out of his entire body including his neck. If you didn’t know what a great and gentle being this guy is, one look at him and the average person would describe him as very scary looking. I think of people like me that get intimidated and not studs like my coach.  He was the last guy I expect to be overawed by any person or workout.

So the lesson here is that we all get intimated at some time. It is naturally reaction especially when we are asked to do something that we know we may fail in. However, the problem with intimidation is the irrational fear that it can cause in us. Fear can distort our thinking to make us falsely assume that we can’t do something when in reality we have the potential to not only do it, but to excel in it.  After looking at the scores and lifts of that CrossFit competition, I’ve seen my coach hit those numbers easily during his training. However, for some reason he let the competitors get in his head. The fear got under his skin.

But, the worse part of being intimated is that once you let fear get ahold of you, it has a way of growing and festering inside of you mentally to the point that it begins to spread. Once you let fear get the best out of you, it has a way of coming back for me.  Like a disease, it begins to wreak havoc on your boldness and poise. Before you know it, your confidence begins to dwindle to the point that self-doubt dominates your thinking patterns. As tough as you can be, the human psyche is very fragile.  It only takes a few times before giving into intimidation begins ruining the belief in yourself. Once this downward spiral happens, it is very difficult cycle to break out of it. Case in point, after this incident where my coach let his fear overtake him at this CrossFit competition, he became so unassure of himself that he dropped out of upcoming throw downs.

For some professional athletes, once they begin to give into intimidation, they know that this is the beginning of the end for them.  This is especially true for those athletes that participate in violent sports like MMA, boxing or football.  Once they display moment of shuddering, they will have a target on the back of their head for the rest of their career. Opponents are just licking their chops just to get at them.

I doubt that most of you are professional athletes, but you must deal with intimidating factors in the cruel game of life. Mental toughness is all about handling major setbacks and persevering over obstacles. Working through intimidation will be one your biggest challenge, especially when are you a participant in this mental toughness program which predicates confrontation and accepting challenges. But, more than anything else, managing fear must be dealt as it is something that you can’t hide. Once your enemy in the playing field or business world, senses your fear, they know they have the advantage over you. They will seek blood and go in for the kill.  When that happens, you are just another lame duck with a huge bull’s eye on your back.

(To be continued)

Today’s WOD –

6 sets

Turkish get-ups with a dumbbell – 5 reps each side

Push-ups – 15 reps

400 meter run

It’s been a while since I put Turkish get-ups in a WOD because I suck at them and I hate doing them.  I’m sure many of you detest them as much as I do. Doing get-up by themselves is hard enough. So seeing them combined with push-ups and a 400 meter run will be very intimidating. For you brave souls out there, if you’re not intimidated by this WOD, you should be. It’s a rough one and has the potential to get you to quit on yourself.

If you Google Turkish get-ups with 400 meter runs, I doubt that you will find many WODs with this brutal combination. It just doesn’t make much sense to the masses to do this unforgiving combination, but in terms of mental toughness training, it makes more than sense. You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and discover that limitations are in your head. For that matter, the intimidation that you feel is also in your head as well. When you get done with the first set, you probably don’t think you have in you to finish the WOD. That’s just fear getting to you and trying to control you. To get over you fear, you must confront it directly head-on with action. In other words, stop thinking that you can’t do anymore and show yourself how mentally strong you are by picking the weight and doing more get-ups.

The best opposition to intimidation is action. The more you do the behavior of the get-ups, push-ups and run is the best way to put your foot down on the fear that almost got ahold of you. I said almost because my getting through each set, you should pick up steam and confidence that not only will you finish the WOD, but complete it by being as explosive and aggressive as possible. By being forceful and decisive with your movements, you are destroying the fear and now becoming the intimidator. If you were doing this WOD at a CrossFit box or at your commercial gym or the park, those around you should be able to sense the confidence that you are projecting as you finish the WOD, more confident and assertive that when you first started off.  This 180 degree turnaround is a testament to your refusal of letting the WOD intimidate you. The ramifications of this is that it should have a carry-over effect to your personal life the next time some asshole tries to bully you. By refusing to be intimated by the WOD, you won’t let anybody in the real world intimate you as well. This is the ultimate goal of your training – everything you do with the physical training must translate to how you live your life.

By standing up for yourself in this WOD and fighting back with relentless action, you will discover the intimidator in yourself.  Feel the power and dominance. The next WOD you do or personal adversity that you face makes sure you tap into this same feeling.

When you do, run over the obstacle like how you did today.

Scale back version of this WOD –

1. Do only 3 Turkish get-ups per side.

2. Half Turkish get-ups are a great alternative.  Here’s a  tutorial on how to do them –

3. Do only 4 sets total.

4. Omit the push-ups or the run. If you want, omit both and do only the Turkish  get-ups.

5. Do only 8 push-ups.

Acceptable alternatives –

1 .You can use a kettlebell or dumbbell for the Turkish get-ups.

2. Run in place for a minute or do jumping jacks for one minute instead of the 400m run.

3. You can run on a treadmill or jump rope for a minute.



4 thoughts on “Intimidation and Mental Toughness Training (Part 1)”

  1. I wished this article was up when I was playing football. Nothing it worse when you get intimated by your opponent. Your balls just shrink up.

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