Mental Toughness and Supplements (Part 2)

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(In the last post on this series,  I looked back on a training session I had with a good friend during a CrossFit Class. We were both struggling on a dreadful WOD that featured deadlifts and box jumps. After one of the rounds that we finished, my friend said he was glad he took his B-12 vitamins or he wouldn’t think he could finish the WOD. I thought he’s response was horseshit. Eating a huge bowl of vitamins has no effect on improving one’s ability to get through a tough physical challenge. The only thing that will get you through the misery is your mental capabilities. You must always rely on yourself and not a magical pill.Part one ended with my friend on the ground, looking as if was done with the WOD).
I knew my friend had more in him. When I saw him getting up, I knew what I said must have unnerved him a bit. With only minutes left, we went back to the WOD. I continued to be motivated and now I wanted to set the example for my friend by showing him how energetic a 50 year old man can be by tapping into the power of an aggressive mind. I did the deadlifts with ease. In between lifts, I looked over at my friend who was still struggling, but I could see the desire returning back in his eyes.”Fuck the vitamins! This is all you! No pill can get you to fight like this!” I could tell what I was saying was getting through to him as he was picking up the momentum with his movements. When he was done with his deadlifts, he had hard time standing straight from the burning sensation that was running up and down both legs.”I can’t do another box jump. My legs are on fire,” he pleaded with me.”Bullshit! You can if you use the power of your mind to get you through it! Now will yourself to do 5 more box jumps!”He limped over to the 24 inch box and knocked out 5 jumps with better form and explosiveness than his earlier ones when he was fresh and rested.Sometimes during a CrossFit class, I shift from being the participant back to the coach. I’m a yeller by nature so when I find it appropriate to do so, I don’t hold back. I get so carried away with this role that I lose myself and even some of my own focus. But, by proving to myself today that the mind is my greatest source of power, I have won many times over.In a quick flash, I could see how far I have come in my life by replacing weakness and dependency with strength and independence. The reason why I got so emotional with this supplement issue is that I saw myself in my friend. Many years back when I was in my bodybuilding days I used spend hundreds of dollars per month on supplements that supposedly  did everything from increasing my pump to giving me extra energy during a workout.  I was too weak to believe in myself so I relied on outside factors to give me what I wrongly thought I couldn’t give myself. I had no faith in myself back then so I foolishly believe any magic bullets that were all there. Not surprisingly, I was frustrated for years at my lack of progression and financial drain by throwing my money down the drain for useless supplements.

“Quit wasting your money! It’s you and not those B vitamins that got you through this WOD” I said to him one final time when it was over. Sure I was talking at him, but I was also projecting my former naive self towards him. I was yelling at him as much as I was yelling at who I used to be.

My friend thanked me for urging him on.  We didn’t continue or debated the supplement issue when the WOD was over. It wasn’t my intention to convince him to stop taking the supplements. It was just one of those heat of the battle moments where I found some buttons I could push in a friend.

I’m sure he will go on with taking his handful of pills before future WODs. In his mind, they work which is the most important thing. In fact, many scientific studies have shown how certain supplements like creatine can enhance an athlete’s strength, stamina or speed. However, most of these studies have tested subjects when they were fresh and in the beginning of a training session. Testing their endurance and strength when they are feeling their weakest, now this is a different story altogether.

When my friend was so exhausted and could barely talk, but found the strength to go on, I highly doubt that was due to his ingestion of vitamins a few hours ago. Nor do I think the surge of energy he showed when he did the box jumps at the end of the WOD was due to some sort of latent time release of super mega vitamins.

What my friend was able to accomplish was a complete reversal of action. He was able to go from one extreme to another. In order to go from one’s weakest moment to a surge of power, the action must be led by the mental. Nothing else could have elicited this sort of energized behavior out of him. Supplements and vitamins have absolutely no effect on the mental. The only thing that influences the mental to be this powerful is you.

Under these dire circumstances, I would say the effects of supplements are useless at best. There is no pill out there to get you go on when you want to quit. There is nothing on the open market that will get you fight on when you are getting your ass kicked to the curb. When you made a major comeback after being down and out and left for dead, you did so because you relied on your mind. It is your frame of mind that can lead you out of the worse circumstances of life.

Experience the power for yourself. Put your thoughts on the forefront and let them led you to not only walk past your problems, but run over them over. When you can accomplish this, you can handle any insurmountable obstacle that gets in your way.

This dependence on your thoughts is what mental toughness training is all about.

Today’s Litvinov WOD –

6 sets

Front squats – 4 reps

Pull-ups – 6 reps

Waiter’s walk with a 45, 25 or ten pound plate over your head – one minute

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Today is the first WOD with waiter’s walk movement thrown in it. If you have never done them before, I just want to warn you now. They are bitch to do. After front squats and pull-ups, holding a loaded weight over your head and walk around for a minute will be quite a challenge. If you don’t rely on your mental toughness to get your this WOD, there will be a strong chance that you will give in and drop the weight on your head. 
You want to avoid having a concussion as much a possible during any WOD. So go into this WOD knowing that you will have to rely on yourself to get you through this brutal WOD and nothing else. That double espresso may have given you a rush before the WOD and last night’s high carb dinner may have filled up your muscles with glycogen, none of it will matter when your legs are quivering, shoulders are killing you and your hands are starting to feel numb. If you do not rely on your mental fortitude to get you through each one minute, long torturous waiter’s walk, the load might just come tumbling down on you.
So for today’s WOD hold back on the extra scoop of creatine and go into WOD depending on the strength of your will to make it through.You don’t need anything else.The only thing you need, you already have. 
Now go use it. 
Scaled back version of this WOD – 
1. Do only 4 sets. 
2. Omit the pull-ups or the waiter’s walk. 
3. Do this alternate rep scheme: 
Front squats – 2 reps
Pull-ups – 4 reps
Waiter’s walk  with hands in the air with no weight for 30 seconds
Acceptable alternatives – 
1.  Use a Woody band for the assisted pull-ups2. Horizontal body rows can be done instead of the pull-ups. They look like this – images (18)
3. Jumping pull-ups are good too. Here’s what they look like – download (2)
4. You can use dumbbells for the front squats if you wish. They look like this: download (13) 
5. You do a waiter’s “walk in place” for 30 seconds.
6. Jumping jacks, treadmill sprints or jump rope for a minute are all acceptable.  

3 thoughts on “Mental Toughness and Supplements (Part 2)”

  1. I can’t tell you how much money I threw away on supplements. It was during my bodybuilding years and I just to spend half of pay check at GNC.

    What a sucker.

    Great series BTW.

  2. I second this. Man, did I waste tons of dough on useless vitamins.

    This WOD looks rad. Never did waiter’s run before and am looking forward to doing them.

  3. Did this WOD last night and is sucked bad. I got a lot of weird looks from those at my gym (I go to Planet fitness) when I was doing the waiterwalk. One thing for sue, I was working all harder and with more intensity than all those at my gym.

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