Mental Toughness and Semantics (Part 4)

words matter This is the final series on how semantics affect your training. In the part three of this series, I talked about how I prefer to using the word “reload” compare to “resting” during your working sets.

As you all know, I’m a huge proponent of challenging your past anger to fuel yourself through a rough workout. In terms of my mental toolbox of strategies, training with a mind that is fuming with rage is my strongest tactic. When it comes to “reloading” your mind during your recovery, many of you associate getting pissed off as replenishing your mind as you get ready to lift something really heavy or run another mile with loose legs.

However, channeling into your anger is very unpredictable and to the point of being unreliable. If you can “reload” your mind with stuff that is going to make you into a monster, so be it. Use it and let it rule your training.

But, if you can’t get yourself into that “mad as hell” beast mode, I have some other ideas for you to stay loaded with aggression and motivation.  Sometimes, it is even to your advantage to train without the emotional aspect of being anger, but with a mind that is keen and focused.  Also, it can be dangerous if you don’t let your CNS reset itself. So I highly recommend you take advantage and optimize the time you have between your working sets.

This is especially true when you have to do something technical like deadifting or back squatting a very heavy weight. In these moments of training, a coaching cue can be more beneficial than yelling and howling like a mad man in the squat rack.

One of the best way to “reup” the mind when you have are close to 100% of your PR is to use visualization. I’ve talked about the power of visualization many times before, but I’ve added a positive twist to your visualization toolbox. For example, after doing a particular set, most people begin to visualize on what to do on their next set. This is the common visualization practice.

Before you start thinking about the future, you got to revisit the past. Reflect on what you just did. What went right with the lift? What can you improve on? This brief reflection period can help you “reload” your mind and prepare your mind on what to do next. I have found in my practice that this “double- visualization” technique keeps my mind sharp, but more importantly, helps prevents me from normal gym distractions like those assholes who never shut up or girls with tiny shorts stuffed up their asses. When people see you in this trance mode where you are intensely thinking, they are more likely to leave you alone.

Again, “reloading” your mind is not about training when you are mad to the point that you want to kill somebody, if so you will be out of control. “Reloading” is about making sure you remain focused and don’t lose your intensity.  When your mind is alert without much disturbance, only then can you zero in what you have to do.

So it really depends on the task that determines how you want to “reload” your mind during your rest period. If you have to do something a little bit more technical like a snatch, having a calm demeanor with a coaching cue in mind is the way to go. However, if you’re having a hard time getting it up for the final part of a hellish met-con, you might need something extra-extra to get you going. This may be a time when harnessing on your anger could help give you that intense push. If you are not feeling the furious mood that you are trying to call up, another thing you can do is reflecting on your “why” or “need” to be mentally tough. For me, when I ask myself this confronting question, it is like an instant shot of mental adrenaline. I can go from the extremes of feeling tired to being on overdrive.

Whenever I remind myself of who I used to be when I was living the life of the mentally puny, I get a rush of energy.  It’s like putting jumper cables on my mind to restart a lifeless body. Once my mind gets re-energized, I’m ready to step it on 4th gear.

The fear of reverting back to that life always pushes me to no end. In terms of “reloading” my motivation when I needed it the most, reconnecting with my “why” almost always wakes me up.

It sort of like working with anger, but with an extra positive purpose behind the work.  I always suggest you review your “why” during your warm-ups. You never know when you may need it to rescue you out a hole when a WOD is nearly burying you.

So in sum, your thoughts have everything to do with your behaviors. Be mindful of the subtle semantic games that you play with yourself. Catch yourself when your words hinder your performance and rectify it with statements that will empower you.

Today’s strength day WOD –

Work on establishing a two rep max for the following compound movements –


Dumbbell or barbell bench press

Front squat

Strict military press

When we spend years of doing single body part training with light weights or cables, we tend to forget the number rule for building a more muscular body. The concept of improving strength will lead to building of muscles seem to be forgotten in today’s high tech world of commercial gyms. Before the 1970’s, the focus on strength gains using full-body protocols was how the majority of athletes and bodybuilders trained. Back then I would say people were a lot of tougher than they are now. From my observation as an educator with the primary grades, we are raising the future generations to becoming a bunch soft wussies. I hate to tell you, but most of you probably fall in this group as well.

So let’s old school with this strength WOD. Let’s go back in time when things were much harder to do in the gym because you only had a barbell and not a bunch of fancy machines which your grandmother could figure out how to do.

Many of my readers ask me if you use the same mental strategies for the strength WODs as for the metabolic ones. Yes, you do. In the met-con WODs, it is easy to see how you may need an extra push to finish them, especially when you are having a difficult time breathing. With the strength WOD,  you need that extra push as well, particularly when you are working with heavier weights that push you out of your comfort level. If you don’t feel like you need that extra motivation, it probably means you are not going heavy enough. If you are approaching your last set of deadlifting and you don’t feel a need to be aggressive or have to refer back to your needs and purpose, that’s a sign that you are not challenging yourself. If you are about to do your last heavy front squat and there isn’t a rush of negativity infesting your mind, that probably means you using too light of weights.

So just like how you push yourself past the red line with the conditioning WODs, really force yourself to use more resistance on these strength training days. It doesn’t mean you have to pack on hundreds of pounds on every set. An extra five more pounds is sufficient. You may not be able to do it all the time, but aim to do it today while establishing what your 2 reps max today. In the upcoming weeks, you will go for new PR’s with the same compound movements.

When you use the same mental strategies as you do in the conditioning WODs, you will surprise yourself with how much strength you have been hiding inside of you.

Now go get uncomfortable and lift some serious weights.