Mental Toughness Strategy #1 for the Workouts – “Prepare Yourself to be Aggressive” (Part 4)

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(This is part 4 and the final installation on this series on how to become aggressive during the WODs. Preparing to face the WODs is very crucial to this training. Most people think they can transform into a fierce and relentless machine in an instant. But, this is not always true. You must learn how to tap into your aggressive sources in order to help push you through the upcoming battles. You can read the entire series by clicking on here and here and this one.)

One of the goals of this toughness program is to teach you to be ready to handle any adversity at any given time. At the first warning, you will be ready to deliver some aggressive action with a mind that’s fuming. Without ferociousness thought and action, your approach will be weak and you will always be very vulnerable to quitting.  The ancient samurai used to live by these words: if the samurai is slain without drawing his sword, he has died in disgrace. Nothing is more pitiful than quitting without even putting up a fight. You must have the intent to do major damage to any adversity that threatens you. If your mind is numb, your actions will be lazy and carefree. Being mentally causal against any formidable opponent or situation and you will always have your ass handed back to you.

I’ve also seen many people have a “Let’s get this over with” attitude before going to into the workout. The problem with this apathetic thinking is that it can lead to a flat training session in which one is just going through the motions to get to the very end. Finishing just for the sake of finishing is worthless. I consider it worse than not training because it creates a false sense of truth that you just worked hard.  If there is no challenge, there is no growth.  When you purposely train with a lack of intensity you are giving up your competitive spirit.  In the mental toughness bylaw, competing is always a great thing. It pushes you to excel and to work beyond your normal expectations.  For the true competitor, nothing brings more joy than going up against a tough opponent and then kicking his ass. Those who are weak usually don’t like to compete. So don’t fall in this category of backing off from a good hearted challenge. Suppressing your competitive nature is like to shutting down your killer instinct. Both are needed for toughness and attitude development.

If you get done finishing a WOD and breathing normally and your hair still in place, is analogous to playing a sport and looking good, but losing. If applied to competition, this training is all about getting dirty and disheveled. We take pride on looking ugly and winning.

Still, I understand we all are human and we can’t always be hyper-perky about the upcoming near-puking experience that is about to take place at your gym.  Even I have those days when I dread going into the workout and “just want to get it over with.” Through awareness, I am now am able to catch myself whenever I feel lackadaisical about going into the WOD. When this happens, I change my preparation ever so slightly so I can gain that edge back. Instead of asking myself the usual self-empowering questions on why I need mental toughness in my life, I put a different twist on the questions.

I ask myself “negative what if” types of questions like ‘What would my life be like if I quit this mental toughness program?”…”How would I feel about myself if I stopped this training and went back to a life of being weak?….”What would I do if I didn’t have mental toughness training in my life?, etc. By forcing you to see yourself in a negative scenario can be very motivating, especially if you don’t like the answers and images that the questions conjured up. What makes these negative scenario types of questions even more effective is when you know that this mental toughness program is working for you. So basically, what you are doing is asking yourself if you want to give up your new life of being mentally tough and return back to your old life of being weak and miserable. If your answer is a big “no,” you will understand how provoking these types of self-empowering questions are.

For me, when I ask myself these “negative what if” types of questions, it usually brings my motivation up to another level. I get so fearful of losing everything that I work so hard for like my new mental state and athletic physique. Within minutes, I can go from feeling lackluster about doing the workout to being a hard charger in a full-on attack mode. In these past WODs, I was able to bulldoze through them because I was urged on by an ultra-aggressive way of thinking that dominated every second of the workout. I told myself over and over that I’m going to tolerate higher levels of fatigue than ever and there was no way in hell I would quit. I should put “No way in hell” in bold and capital letters because my mind was literally screaming this at me. No doubt, I owed this unrelenting behavior from the negative “what if” reflections that sparked me during the preparation process.

By changing your preparation questions ever so slightly like I did, you can come up with new and different levels of rage and strength from within. Do what it takes to give you a different perspective on your needs and purpose for toughness training. When you discover a new stimuli or response, jot them down in your journal. Don’t assume that you will remember them, as the mind has a tendency to suppress ideas or memories that put you at an unease.

This does not mean that this training is all misery. The best part of most of the workouts is that they should be short in duration. Get through the minutes of suffering and your journey towards fortifying your mind will bring you an immense feeling of accomplishment. Discovering and applying this new source of empowerment is very enjoyable. Once you experience this, you will tolerate a hell of lot of more fatigue from the WODs in order to experience this new sense of liberation and strength. The WODs may totally suck, but the outcome from them will be extremely gratifying. As you progress through the program, you will unmistakably feel the positive results from being mentally stronger. I don’t expect any of you out there to actually enjoy the barbecuing of your lungs but what we mentally tough individuals are fond of is the love of the fight. Once you get a sample of it, you can’t get enough of it. It’s why we do what we do.

This love of the fight is the common bonds that ties all CrossFitters together and distance us even more from those with average minds and bodies who just lift weights.

The masses go to the gym to workout. We go the gym to start a war and to fucken finish off the enemy.

Dominate today.

Strength day WOD –

5 sets of 5 reps

  1. Deadlifts
  2. Strict military press
  3. Pull-ups (as many as you can do)
  4. Front squats
  5. Heavy weighted sit-ups

During your preparation, really reflect on how this mental toughness training has already enhanced your life. Look back and revisit some of your past accomplishments and how great you felt when you overcame them. Was it a brutal WOD that you didn’t think you could do, but finished it? A personal obstacle did you finally conquered? Take a moment and indulge in these moments and let the positive emotions and feelings arise. Enjoy it and feel proud about yourself. Give credit to your new founded strength in these victories.

Now imagine yourself suddenly without this toughness training in your life and you returning back to a life of being weak. How would that make you feel? Now that you got a taste of toughness in your life and see the instant benefits, what would you do is somebody tried to take this training away from you? Hopefully, your reaction  would be to do whatever it takes and to fight like hell so that you can continue with this training. If so, use this aggressiveness throughout today’s strength WOD today.

Approach and lift the heavy weights as a symbolism of how physically and mentally strong you have gotten from this training. By finishing each set is sign that you will get even stronger on this program and that you will never, ever return to your formerly weak self. On your last set of each movement, I want you to make an emphatic statement to yourself. Make it your best set. Lift the weight (or bodyweight) as if it was nothing. When you are done, don’t immediately sit down. Savior the moment and stand tall and proud. Really enjoy the accomplishment of killing the last set and feel how physically and mentally strong you are becoming. Feel the surge of energy in your posture and how you know you could have handled more weight. Soon you will demand heavier weights that you once thought would be impossible for you to do. But, now it is all within your reach.

The power is coming and when it arrives, get ready to seek greater challenges in the gym and in life.

Scaled back version of this WOD

  1. Do only 3 reps per movement

Acceptable substitutions –

  1. Use Woody Bands for the assisted pull-ups
  2.  Horizontal body rows can done be 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 or a barbell for the presses.







6 thoughts on “Mental Toughness Strategy #1 for the Workouts – “Prepare Yourself to be Aggressive” (Part 4)”

  1. So, let’s talk about competition. I say, within reason, comparing yourself to others is a type of competition. For example, I look at lifting charts to see if I’m better than the average woman lifter. If not, I need to work harder. If I am, what’s next? Who’s better? What’s she lifting. I get it – extrinisic motivation. I have tons of intrinsic motivation so I’m not too worried. But I’m in an ongoing debate w friends and family about where comparison to others falls. Isn’t there value in healthy competition? Getting your name to the top of the board? Winning an event? Finishing Fran first (just that once?!)? Being the oldest person and crushing the WOD? Winning a fight? (boxing, muay thai) or geez, just once landing that awesome punch on that really good fighter? Friends and family, including many CFers I know, say “No! Comparing to others is bad bad bad”. I say it’s got it’s place and it’s good for driving performance. I believe every true athlete, who truly loves her sport, is also motivated by the desire to be better – both better than herself yesterday but also better than her competition. Friends say I’m wrong. Friends say I should just only think about my own performance. I say healthy competition FTW!

  2. I couldn’t have said it better! Excellent response!

    When I was teaching, my school got rid of the spelling bee because certain teachers thought competition was a bad thing! Another school I worked for forbid the kids from keeping score when they were playing a team sport. Again, it was the “whole competition thing was bad and that all kids are winners.” What a bunch of crap! The whole point of competition is to teach kids to push themselves, display sportsmanship and how to respond back after a lost.

    Thanks for the wonderful and thoughtful input, Cyndi!

    Now lets get you to finish Fran!

  3. Whoo hoo! While I might not Fran, I do fight and see great value in a well landed punch on a top student. AND my coaches see value in well landed punches on them! Sportsmanship is vital to success in so many aspects of our lives. I think winning, losing, and that continuous battle to be better are making me tougher.

  4. Keep landing those punches! And stay in the fight! It all is making you a tougher and a stronger person!


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