Mental Toughness and Semantics (Part 2)

wordsJust the other day, I ran an athlete through “Fran.” This client struggled with the pull-ups, but made it through as she bull-rushed the shit out of the thrusters. When the WOD was done, she collapsed to the floor and was gasping for air like how most CrossFitters do after a date with “Fran.”

I told her how proud I was of her for finishing the workout in such an attack mode mindset. She barely broke out a smile and said, “You really kicked my ass with that workout.”

I explained to her how simple word choices affect our mind and sub consciousness. After my brief talk, she took back her statement, quickly stood up and adamantly said, “I kick the shit out of that “Fran” bitch today.”

I smiled and like a proud dad thought “That’s my girl.” So in this new light, she looked at the WOD from a different angle and gained a perspective that never occurred to her before.

I’ve known this athlete for a while now and it was important for her see how a simple flip of words can change the whole meaning of a sentence. This new perspective was essential for her because she has a terrible habit of feeling like a victim. So when she said the opponent-WOD got the better of her, she is implying that she lost out on the battle and that she was the eaten prey. This sort of statement is typical of those who lack confidence in themselves and play the victimization game.

In life, we can choose to be the slayed animal or the predator. We have to learn to initiate the action and not let the action initiate us. By doing so, you gain accountability, but more importantly, you learn how empowering it is when you assert the situation and you are responsible for the positive outcome. You never want the situation or oppressor to proclaim the action onto you. If so, you are being passive and setting yourself up to be the victim once again.

Again, this is just flip-flop of semantics, but when it comes to how you view yourself, you want all the cards to fall in your favor. In terms of mental toughness training, you always want to perceive yourself as the aggressor and not the submissive target. So the next time, you get done with a challenging WOD and is tempted to say “Gee-whiz, the WOD beat the crap out of me,” catch yourself in this resigned mood. Reframe the situation.View yourself as the instigator and not the weakling and say, “I beat the crap out of the WOD.” 

This replacement of words can put the WOD in a whole different context for your subconscious and your current state of mind.

Another subtle switch in semantics that can greatly affect your performance in the gym is what you say to yourself between your work sets. The majority response is “I need to rest,” or “I must rest and get ready for my next big set.”

Again, I’m going to get a little picky here. In reality, you want to rest and recover if you just had a tough round and your heart rate is flying through the roof. Getting a short break is the right thing to do to get your primed up for the next round. I’m not arguing against this. If you are laboring with your breathing while doing “Fran,” it is not productive to try to continue. You got to make sure your body recovers so you can be 100% and make sure you can hit it hard some more.

However, sometimes say the word “rest” has a negative connation when it comes to training. Resting can be picked up by the mind and body and interrupted as “slacking off.” If this happens, you can loose your intensity, focus or determination. I see this happening all the time. An athlete “rests” between sets by texting, fusing around with his phone, yank and yank with friends, or zone out watching ESPN at their global gym’s flat screen TVs. Unconscious or not, telling yourself you need rest can mentally take an athlete out of the training. When this happens, the workout goes to shit. Once you lose your edge and become lackadaisical with your workout, it is very hard to regain your fire. For the majority of exercisers out there, “rest” to them is equate to “socializing.” This is the time they can catch up with the gym gossip or lounge around and check out the chicks in the yoga room with their legs up in the air.

If you think I’m wrong, just walk into your local commercial gym and see for yourself. Whenever I strut into any “Planet Fitness”, the first thing I say to myself is, “Where the fuck is the intensity around here?”

Seriously. The average global gym is more morgue-like than battle-like. Honestly, more people in your chain gym, don’t even deserve to “rest” because they don’t train hard in the first place.

This may sound like a nit picking but once again, I’m preaching about how simple semantics can negatively screw up your workout. When it comes to bettering yourself with this training, you must leverage yourself as must as you possible can with all the advantages that you can summon up. The first step is watching what you say to yourself.

So, I’m offering a better solution to protect yourself form losing interest or the fury edge in your mental toughness or CrossFit training.

A better strategy to saying, “I need rest” between sets is “I need to reload.”

(To be continued)

Today’s WOD:

Run a 5k or approximately three miles.

I don’t run as much as I used too since most of my training is dedicated to power training. However, when I do find the time to run, the WOD is usually a huge pain in the butt. I struggle big time. So an easy WOD in the past is now a real challenged.

The last time I did a 5k, I thought back about the time in my life when I shattered my ankle and I couldn’t run. I felt a great sense of gratitude that I could do something that was almost taking away from me. This sense of feeling grateful helped pushed me through the run.

Many of you may not have had the same rehabilitation experience like I did, but during the run, try to find a strong sense of gratitude as well. Think of aspects of your life when you weren’t healthy and couldn’t train as hard as you do now. Reflect on your past when you would give up easily and not persevere through a physical obstacle. Be specific in your self-reflection and let it motivate you and be thankful for the your ability to be able to run a 5 k.

It may be only three miles, but most people can’t even sustain a 5 k run.  Trust me, most people are lazy and too out of shape to run this relative short distance.

So take pride in today’s run. Enjoy it, but more importantly, appreciate the fact that your body can do something that once you couldn’t do.