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

images (25)    (In part 3 of this series on engaging your will with the WODs, I talked about how we should never will ourselves through an injury during a WOD. If your body feels like there is some sort of acute trauma, you should stop and reassess the injury. However, the major problem is that most people can’t differentiate between real physical pain and psychological pain. If the misery is in your head, you must continue the workout and abolish the excuses and negativity in your mind. The best way to do that is with a will that is relentless).

I hope you all now understand the difference between physical pain and mental discomfort during the WODs. This distinction must be understood as your work on the development of your will. When working with your will, I caution you all. A will that is unyielding and forceful can take you the next level of toughness, but it can also be problematic. It can take you to levels of power that you never knew existed within yourself. Most of the time, you will be impressed. Other times, it will be downright scary at what you can do with a will that displays stubbornness and refuses to get beat.

In certain instances, you may want to downgrade the energy level of your will if your body is sore and recovering from a heavy work load. However, this is can be a difficult thing to do especially when you love to complete like I do. Or better yet, hate to lose like I do. When my competitive nature gets the best of me, I have a difficult time controlling my will.

As I stated in the last piece, one should never use their will to override an injury. This is always a bad thing as I made this mistake too many times. Most recently, it was last year when I was doing “Barbara” with some bad ass out of state CrossFitters that were visiting our box. Originally, I was planning to go at “medium” speed which meant I would take as long as needed between breaks because my body was so beat up for working five days in a row. If I was smart, I should have taken the day off. But, most of the time I’m just a dumb ass. I just couldn’t resist the challenge of going up against our visitors who I knew would push my game up to the next level.

Early on in the WOD, I hurt my shoulder while doing the pull-ups. Every time I did a pull-up after that, I felt a sharp pain that made me cringe. I should have walked away, but the excitement of the scrimmage with new blood in our house got the best of me. I pushed on with the WOD as my will pretty much blocked the pain that I was feeling in my shoulder. Instead of labeling the shoulder discomfort as “bad pain”, I was able to change my perception of it and perceived it as just a “minor inconvenience.” I was able to plow through the WOD with a very respectable time because my will was able to mask over the sharp pain in my shoulder. However, once the WOD was over, my will couldn’t do a damn thing to stop the excruciating pain that I was feeling. I partially tore my rotator cuff and was out of action for several months. I was miserable the whole time as every second I was out of the gym, I was kicking myself for my stupidity and letting my will run amok on me.

If there is a flaw with having a strong will, it is definitely this. You develop such a high tolerance for pain that you have the ability to block out typical warning signs. You can tough it out and go when others would stop. You just feel so damn unstoppable and take pride that you can train when you are wounded. But, it’s like selling your soul to the devil, you know in the back of your head that you will pay a serious price for it later.  If I was professional athlete in a competition, it may be understandable to play with a hurt shoulder, but it was just a normal CrossFit class. It just isn’t worth it and lame as shit to continue working out while hurt during a meaning less training session.

So this is an example of what kind of trouble you can get yourself into with a will that is alive and kicking, yet out of control. If not properly harnessed, an unrelenting will can be like a misguided missile with your body as the untended target. The key then is to nurture and guide this power within in you. With this training, you will learn to modulate the strength of your will to your advantage and not to let it turn against you. A lot of times, you don’t need your will to be at its full strength for you to crush through a barrier. However, the day will come when you have to face a WOD that will throw you around like a rag-doll or a personal adversity that’s life threatening. In either situation, you need to reach back for something extra to help you get through the massive hurdle. That something extra is your will.

Nothing will get you out of the mess better than a defiant will that tells the obstacle to go fuck itself.

(To be continued)

12 sprints (approximately 50 yards)

Rest exactly one minute between each sprint

The lesson today is engaging your will as much as possible during the WOD. After each sprint, your heart rate will be jacked up and your legs will feel rubberized. If not, you are not going all out with the sprints. Remember, it’s not the actual speed of the sprints that’s important, but your intent of giving it all you got without holding anything back. If you are not hunched over and struggling for air after each run, it doesn’t count. Rest a minute and repeat the rep. This time, run as hard as you possible can while pumping your arms as fast as you can in rhythm with your legs. Most people think sprints are a lower body movement, but it’s actually one of the best full-body explosive movements in the athletic world when you get your arms involved.

For your first couple of sprints, a minute rest will feel more than enough. However, as you go up the rep ladder, the minute will seem like a few seconds. Depending on your conditioning level, you probably won’t be 100% recovered when you minute is up, which is the whole point of this drill. If you are now on one knee or even on your back, while trying your best to calm down your breath, this is your new start position. When the 60 seconds are up, you won’t have any time to waste. You must impose your will and take off running, regardless of how heavily you’re still breathing. This is how you teach your will to be defiant against the wishes of your tired body.

When you get to this miserable point in the WOD, each sprint should feel worse than the previous one as you desperately and hopefully unsuccessfully try to catch your breath and stop the muscle burning in your legs. You’ll do your best to try, but mostly likely your heart will still be pounding like a jack-hammer and your legs still wobbly when its time for you to take off again. Most newbies will try to sneak in an extra couple of seconds of break time, by getting another sip of water or force in a stretch, but the extended rest will defeat the whole purpose of this WOD which is to make you gasping for air and then sprinting while gasping for even more air. Getting through each beat down from the sprint and you’ll train your will to be even more defiant.

If you have no problems with your breathing or standing up straight during this WOD, there will be no need for you to engage your will. The concept is simple – the shittier you feel from the sprints, the more you must impose your will to continue with the WOD. So for today’s goal, aim for working so hard that you will feel awful. It will be a sign that you ran hard and applied maxim force. I know that feeling shitty never sounds pleasing, but when you are done with 12 all-out sprints with a minimum recovery rate, your muscle building and fat slashing hormones will be released throughout your body. This optimal hormonal response plus the accomplishment of getting through the WOD should be an instant happy mood lifter no matter how wiped you will be.

For mental toughness development effort means everything. You must make the commitment to go full blast with every sprint. Remind yourself often during the WOD that the literal speed of each sprint is meaningless. It doesn’t matter how slow or ugly your sprints are. As long as you give it all you got, that’s all you can ever ask out of yourself today and every day.

Strive to make an all-out effort a habit in everything you do in the gym and with your personal life.

Now go run like hell.

Scaled down version of this WOD –

1. Do ten sets only.

2. Rest for 90 seconds or as as much time as needed.

3. Speed walk the fifty yards.

4. Run in place for 30 seconds.

Acceptable alternatives –

1. Run for 30 seconds on the treadmill.


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

  1. What great advice! I”m going to try this WOD. Hopefully, I can get some defiance in my will like how you described. Sometimes, I can harbor it and other times, I can’t. Do you think this is a gender issue?



  2. Hello Jenn – Thanks for commenting! No, it not a gender issue. More than half of my clients are women and they are able to tap into their defiance when necessary. It just practices. Start off slow and just get a generally connection with your will. Always give it credit when you overcome any obstacle or adversity. I know this may sound elusive, but it just takes practice.

    Keep me posted!


  3. A real interesting take on will power. Very motivating. Thanks for the inspirational piece. Going to the track today and do the sprints. Wish me luck!

    Tory A

  4. I have been Crossfiting for 7 months now and I needed this article. Been struggling but your post helped tremendously.


  5. Did the WOD on a treadmill. Too hot here in Az.

    Still, I thought I was going to die. Thanks god, I was able to activate my will and push me to go!

    Really enjoy this series on activating the will.


  6. I like this series very much, however I one question when it comes to a overly defiant will. Can it lead to injuries? I know for myself, my pain tolerance is probably as high as yours but, may be the reason why I’m always out action at my CF box.

    Just my two cents…

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