Mental Toughness Strategy #2 for the Workouts – “Making a Strong Connection with Your Will” (Part 3)

312442973_640 (In part 1 and part 2 on this series, I talked about how powerful a defiant will is to your mental toughness development. When you have a will that is dominant in the WODs, you can tolerate loads of discomfort and suffering that would break the average person. The reason why you can out manage the suffering is that you understand the greatest insight of those who are mentally tough which is – suffering is more mental than physical. By obtaining this knowledge, you can use your will to overcome the discomfort and transform it to unstoppable desire and action.)

Ever since, I published the two part series on the power of the will, I’ve gotten tons of emails asking pretty much the same question. It seems that many of you want to know if a strong will should override an injury. The answer is a definite no. If you are feeling any sharp pain that effects your range of full motion, aches in the joints or feeling like you just pulled a muscle, you must immediately stop doing the WOD. Working out when you are physically hurt is never a good thing because you will only exacerbate the injury. I know a lot of you want to show how tough you are by gutting out the WOD with your new level of pain tolerance, even though you suspect something is not feeling right with your body. When you first discover the powers of your will, it is difficult to pull back its reins. I highly applaud the effort and your refusal to quit. This is the right attitude to have. However, you got to be extremely careful when you suspect you may have a new injury or may have tweaked an old one.

In cases of injuries, stopping the WOD is always the correct choice.  Speaking from personal experience (I will talk about this in greater detail in the next post), this is easier said than done, especially when you first discover the warrior inside of you. You just want to go on to prove to yourself that you can handle it. If you are this stubborn to reason, you end up adding more damage to your body. A simple injury now becomes something more serious. Once again, I’m talking from experience when I was stupid and kept on working out when I should have stopped it. All it did was make everything worse and forced me out of actions for several months.

Nothing sucks ass more than not being able to train so you got to be smart and cautious when physical pain is limiting your movement. The trick is being able to tell the difference between real pain and psychological pain. Listening to your body is a skill in it by itself, but nothing is more difficult than cutting through the bullshit of your mind. The mind games usually start when your body is feeling tired from the challenges of the WOD. When this happens, your mind will be making all sorts of logical excuses to get you to quit and telling you how much “pain” your body is feeling. This sort of pain is usually extreme exhaustion and not from acute trauma.

I have no doubt that your body is like shit and close to being outta gas. However, how close to being completely out of gas is very subjective. To a large extend, exhaustion is only a perception that the mind labels. What this training will teach you is that the body can always give you more. It is the mind that is holding you back and not your body.

The majority of the pain that you are feeling is all in your fucken head. When you recognize that the hurt throughout your body is mostly a product of your imagination, you can begin to eliminate the lies that are contaminating your mind.  A will that despises self-sympathy can destroy these excuses and immediately impact your energy level. So when you are at your weakest, let your will take over and drive your through the WOD. By doing so, your will can re-energize and lead your body to a level of strength and rage that was currently missing in your fight till now.

Nothing is a better bullshit decipher than a will that’s active and ready to let loose on any thoughts of quitting. Making this connection with your will is one of the most empowering weapons that you will have in your mental arsenal.

However, you must be cautious when you first learn how to unleash your will. You must learn to harness it under your demand. If not, the power of a will that hates to lose, is so relentless it can spin out of control leading you to finding a darker side of yourself.

Some of you may accept this dark aspect of your personality while some of you may not be able to handle what you will discover about yourself.

(To be continued)

Today’s classic CrossFit WOD –

“Fran 3 rounds as fast as you can with the following rep scheme: 21-15-9

1. Thrusters

2. Pull-ups – if you can do kipping pull-ups, go for it. But, if you can’t them, do dead-hang ones instead.

“Fran” is probably the central CrossFit workouts that everybody is measured against. It’s a great benchmark to see how fit you are or better yet, see if how will you can survive a near heart attack. The elite athletes can do “Fran” unbroken without any rest between sets. Although this may be your goal down the road, your immediate goal with “Fran” is just to finish it and walk out the gym in one piece without any medical assistance.

“Fran” is another deceptive girl in the CrossFit world. It’s only three sets and it looks pretty ease, but it’s one of the hardest WODs to finish. The extreme huffing and puffing and muscle burning that “Fran” will inflict on you, will be much more discomfort than you ever experienced. For some, this state of uneasiness will be so severe; you’ll never want to do “Fran” again. I’ve done “Fran” consistently for over 7 years now and I always collapse to the ground when I’m finished. Your family physician may advice you to stay as far away as possible from “Fran”, but in terms of a good mental toughness teacher, this bitch is the best.

Getting through the first set is hard enough with all those thrusters and pull-ups, but the real test is when you start the second set. At this point, your lungs will be so expanded that you wished you had an oxygen tank and the burning sensational in your muscles will be excruciating when you move ever so slightly. The overall physical pain is near unbearable but the mental nightmare of “Fran” is just beginning as your mind will spin out of control with excuses and reasons for you to quit the WOD.

To get through “Fran,” you must have a will that’s stronger than it’s ever been during this training.  Your will can help you gain your composure during your near mental melt down and remind you that the discomfort that you are feeling is more psychological in nature. I’m not saying the agony in your body isn’t real. It is. But, it’s how your mind perceives the severity of the exhaustion that is of utmost importance. It’s all a judgment call on how bad you label the hurting. A common coping method that many rookies in toughness training use is that they tell themselves – “I have felt worse from other WODs and every time, I am able to get through the misery.” By using this comparison method, it will down grade the level of pain that you are feeling and at the same time, use pasts accomplishments to help motivate you to go on. This training will teach you that all discomfort is manageable and can be control through the mental process. You want to overcome the suffering in your head first before you can re-energize your body.

One of the best ways to offset the physical discomfort is to stop focusing on how much your body is hurting. This is putting you in a defensive state of mind. Instead, you must switch your attention to your will. Listen to your will speak to you. Your will should be screaming at you to never, ever give the fuck up. When this message becomes loud and clear, you know you have no choice, but to continue the fight. By redirecting all your attention back to the battle, your mind is totally engaged with only one singular goal – to do whatever it takes to get you to finish. When your mind is on the offense once again, your body will be revitalize with a new level of strength and the pain that you were just feeling, becomes almost an afterthought.

Let your will guide you back to the thrusters and pull-ups to finally put an end to “Fran.” Make a statement to yourself and finish her off as aggressive and as feisty as you can be. When you are done, congratulate yourself. You just made a huge leap in your mental toughness development by finishing off the mother beast of them all. My favorite girl, “Fran.”

Scaled back versions of “Fran” –

1.  Use a Woody band 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. Rest at least 3 minutes between each set.

5. Alternative rep scheme: 12, 8, 6.

6. Do only 2 sets.

Suitable substitutions for this WOD –

1. You can do military presses instead of the thrusters,

2. The recommend weight for the thrusters is 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for woman. However, unless you are an experienced CrossFitter, be conservative and go light. Using just the barbell will be more than sufficient when you first start off with “Fran.”

4 thoughts on “Mental Toughness Strategy #2 for the Workouts – “Making a Strong Connection with Your Will” (Part 3)”

  1. Excellent post. You have great insights on toughness. Never thought of it the way you said it.

    All CrossFitters need to run this post. They will then kick some ass! Bring on fran!

  2. Thanks BJ! Wow, what a great complement! Yes, bring on “Fran” and go kick her ass! LOL!


  3. What a great insight! I’m going to apply this the next time I am out of energy at my box. I’m a former marathon runner and I totally agree with you on the pain being more mental than physical. However, I was never really able to explain it like you just did.

    Very impressive!

  4. Thanks for the comment Rob! Glad to have you on this site and looking forward to more comments from you!


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