Mental Toughness Strategy #3 for the Workouts – Optimizing Positive Self-Talk (Part 6)

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(In the last part of this series on using positive self-talk, I talked about how to neutralize fear and anxiety during your WOD. Visualization and breaking down the WOD to mini-goals are two procedures to ease the mental torment during the workout. As simplistic as these two methods are, they really work. Positively seeing yourself get through the challenge and segmenting it to attainable goals is the same method navy SEAL candidates are taught in order to survive their grueling Initiation training. SEAL candidates are subjected to control torture for 24 hours per day with little rest during the week. If visualization and breaking down the task to reachable goals can work for them then it can certainly work for our itty bitty, 20 minute WODs).

What makes fear such a demon is that is creates so much self-doubt. From this program, you can train your will to be so dominant that it can override great levels of fatigue and discomfort. But, self-doubt is a different type of problem. A strong will may able to silence and block out the negatives, but it may have a difficult time overcoming the pestering negative voices whispering to you. Once we lose out to our fear we can become hesitant in our actions or may avoid the frightful situation all together. Hesitation and avoidance are two very undesirable behaviors that cannot only weaken our mental capabilities, but make us become what we fear most:

We become cowards.

There is no step by step process for one to get over their fear. It ultimately comes down to being so sick and tired of living in fear. For my clients, confronting them on their choice to live in fear over courage is always a lethal trigger point for personal change. Always. I have yet to see this tactic fail to motivate others. So, here is your easy five-step guideline that will help you overcome your fears.

Aren’t you sick of being a coward?

For me, whenever I ask myself this or when I know I’m feeling like a chicken, my emotion start to build up to the point that I can’t be held back. Instead of running away, I now need to confront. The mindset begins to shift from “I think I can do this” to “I better do this.” The outcome becomes irrelevant. If I fail, I fail. So what? In terms of the WODs that I fear, I could care less about my how fast I finished, what my times are or how bad I was going to feel.

The only thing I gave a shit about was that I was facing down the metaphoric fears in the WODs and busting toward them head first. Some of us feel so ashamed at how we let fear control us that we finally put our foot down and say enough is enough. Confronting the threat of failure from a CrossFit, Litvinov or Complex movement workout is always a small victory to me.

Sometime later, I began kicking myself in the head again for wasting so much of my life living in fear and not discovering the hidden source of courage that has always been inside of me.

Some of you may not experience this personal epiphany because you have lived a brave life, but many others like myself, need to hit this low point to spark a mental transformation. At one time or another, we all need to relearn how to stand up for ourselves. For me, I still feel uncomfortable calling myself a courageous man, but would rather describe myself as a person that hates being fearful.

One of my clients had a great insight on my training methods. It was during my first stages of teaching mental toughness when it wasn’t really clear to me yet how my message was coming across. After leading a very intense book camp while preaching the virtues of mental toughness, I remember her lying on her back with the others, trying to catch her breath and she said, “I just figured out what you are trying to do to us.”

“What?” I said.

“You’re trying to make us into optimists,” she said.

I thought about it for a moment and said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Yes, it was important that I met my clients’ aesthetic goals and with all the crazy workouts I was throwing at them, but my real concern was to teach them how to view the glass as half full. This point is worth repeating many times. The training you receive from this program is about preparing you to handle the cruel misfortunes that are inevitable in life. From my self-experimentation with mental toughness training, I have been searching for the psychological mechanisms to overturn potential life changing disasters. I’ve discovered that physical strength isn’t real power; the greatest power of all is hope. When you have hope, you know you can withstand all of the shitty things that have happened to so many of us. This is the prototypical trademark of the mentally unbreakable. Pain and despair can weaken you, but it cannot harm the positive outlook that you know it inevitably in your favor. No matter how much pain your aggressor applies to you or how bleak the situation is, you will expect to always come out on top. This capability of continuing to be positive while others are trying to demoralize you is invaluable. If in a fight or a competition, your own hope can wear out your opponent. It is another intangible that is immeasurable by stats or computer printouts. Yet it is clearly obvious to those with the highest degree of inner strength who are able to tolerate the most unthinkable levels of suffering and still come out victoriously. Nothing is more resilient than the person who has the most hope. When you practice positive self-talk, you will discover this for yourself. Once you do, you will feel unstoppable.

Today’s Litvinov WOD –

5 sets

Deadlifts – 5 reps

Dumbbell thrusters – 5 reps

Farmer’s walk – 1 minute

For you high overachievers out there, the challenge of this WOD is to do the thrusters and don’t put the dumbbells down. Go straight into the farmer’s walk and focus on squeezing the fuck out of the handles the entire time of the walk. After about 30 seconds, your hands will feel dumb and your body will be drenched in sweat. When the minute of walking with the weight is over, you will be so exhausted that you will be tempted to carelessly drop the dumbbells where ever you are.  Be extremely cautious and aware of this. There are many examples on youtube of those senseless dummies breaking a foot or getting a giant bruise on a shin from a bouncing 75 pound dumbbell. Don’t’ be that guy. Make a conscious effort to lower the dumbbells back to the rack.

I know after posting this WOD, many of you will find excuses on not to do it. Some of you may avoid doing it for days before going to the gym and finally doing it.  My suggestion to you all is that if looking at this WOD causes you anguish, confront your anxiety as soon as you can.  Don’t let it linger. By facing the WOD and not backing down, you are trying to create a new habit for yourself. A habit of dealing with your fears head on instead of running away from them. With repeated practice, it will become a routine. The ultimate goal of this program is to teach you not only to stare down your fears in this training, but the real things that we should be scared of like life’s problems.

This deadlift-thruster-farmer’s walk combination is brutal, but if you have been on this mental toughness program for a while it’s no difference than past WODs that you have done.  They all should cause some havoc on you. This WOD is no different so stop giving your foes and adversities, the advantage over you. The worst thing you can do while going into a fight is to give your opponent more power than they actually have. Part of mental toughness development is learning to give yourself the credit that you can handle the challenge and then some. Instead of taking on the victim mentality that this WOD is going to kick your ass, you must shift your mental paradigm. Reflect on your past accomplishments in this training and personal life. By doing so, will help you become the aggressor instead of being the passive coward. If you have a history of acting cowardly, you should get pissed off at yourself for your past behavior. Think of all you lost and all you could have gain if only you would have taken some action. That’s right – you should feel like shit for knowing how much you could have gotten if only you tried. This post isn’t about humiliating you or making you feel bad about yourself. It’s about motivating you to stand up for yourself.

Get pissed off. Take the initiative, regardless of how bad this WOD is going to make you feel. True courage is taking action even though you know how bad it’s going to hurt or how awful you might feel during the process.

By not giving a shit about the outcome and focus on being aggressive is how you can whip this WOD or any personal setback in your life.

Now go to it and crush this mutherfucker.

Scaled back version of this WOD –

  1. Do only 3 sets.
  2. Omit the thrusters.
  3. Do the farmer’s walk for 30 seconds.

Acceptable substitutes –

  1. You can do jumping jacks or just walk for one minute or 30 seconds instead of the farmer’s walk. Also, running on a treadmill for a minute is also okay.

3 thoughts on “Mental Toughness Strategy #3 for the Workouts – Optimizing Positive Self-Talk (Part 6)”

  1. I felt intimidated too when I first found this site. I thought mental toughness was a masculine thing. but, it’s not. It’s a human need. We all need MT regardless if we are guys or girls. In terms of the WODS, don’t think of them as workouts for athletes. Instead shift your mind frame and look at them as high intensity training.

    I have been doing the workouts on the lowest scale for the last 3 months. I yet to do any of the WODs in the top form, but that’s not a major concern w/me. I do them on my own and luckily, my boyfriend has helped me out with my form. I’m looking into a couple of crossfit gym in my neighborhood and will probably join one very soon.

    I have lost 3 pants sizes, but more importantly, never felt better about myself and life in general. The training has had a strong carry over to my personal life.Before when an adversity strikes me, I would clam up and beat myself down. But, now I feel like I can overcome anything.

    My advice to you Meagan L, is to just dive into the training. If you feel too intimated and can afford a Crossfit membership, do it.

    Good luck sister!

  2. I have been following this site for two weeks now and have been very motivated by what you are saying. Thank so much. However, I am a bit intimidated to begin even at the bottom level. I am about 20 pounds overweight and very nonathletic.

    I have issues with weight/low esteem all my life. I am a member of Gold’s gym, but hate going. I feel very self-conscious and I just don’t feel comfortable working out. At one time I had a trainer. Even with him, I wasn’t making much gains because I was so inconsistent.

    I don’t mean to go on and on about my problems/issues, but I guess I need somebody to push me to start up.

    Thanks and sorry for the long rant.

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