Mental Toughness Strategy #4 for the Workouts – The Power of Mantras (Part 1)

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In the fourth part of this series on mental strategies, I will talk about extensively on the power of mantras. Mantras are strong one-sentence phases that motivate us to be aggressive and relentless in our behavior. They should be short and full of action words as you will repeat them often during a workout. I repeat mantras to start off a workout, to help me remain focused during a WOD, and most often when I feel like quitting. They are meant to inspire you in times of need. In other words, they better make you haul ass and finish the WOD.

You’ve seen a lot of mantras in sport commercials. Known world-wide, Nike’s “Just do it” mantra is simplistic yet quite effective in motivating people to take action.  Other mantras in the media are so damn cheesy, but hey, if they get you off your sofa then that’s a good thing. I suggest you make up your own. The more personal they are the better. Mantras are similar to your strong statements about your will. They should be a reflection of who you are or what you desire to be. Common mantras such as “I am strong” or “I am becoming a strong person” are examples that I have consistently used in my workouts. I encourage you to do the same.

Mantras are a great way to teaching you the connection of how the mind can lead the body. When you create your own that has special significance to you, you’ll see how powerful they can be. Just don’t assume that repeating the same mantras will automatically push you into action. They still must stimulate your emotions. However, every day is different. Performance in a WOD is highly dependent on how your day is going. Sometimes, a stronger mantra may be needed. The effectiveness of mantras can all depend on your mood or energy level.

This is why you want to create as many different types of mantras as possible. For me, some days I like to train with more inspirational personal mantras. Other times, I need more of an edge to help push me through. At these times, I use mantras that piss me off to no end.

Before I go on, I want to be clear where I stand with anger. Living with anger is never a good thing. It will eat up your soul. Yet, experiencing anger is an important tool to thwart denial and can be constructive. Too much anger is highly self-destructive and can influence your performance in a negative manner. It can disrupt the mind and interfere with your thinking process, potentially growing out of control. However, there will be times that training in an anger state is beneficial. I know I’ve accomplished some of best training after days on my job when I wanted to strangle my boss. In fact, one study by The Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology suggests that working with anger can increase your muscle force by up to 25 percent. With all the assholes that we have to deal with and the unexpected cruelties just from living an honest life, I would say being occasionally outraged is sign that you have a normal heart beat. If you have forgiven all those who have been unjust to you, you are a better human being than I am. I applaud your compassion. You may be better suited for a week long silent meditation yoga retreat for peace.

This training is about getting a grip on your life. I’ll assume many of you bought this book because you have had some past moments where you were fearful and easily intimidated. Looking back at some of these situations, I’m sure you realize now that self-perceived weakness was completely irrational. You could have gained so much, but you lost out because you wrongly evaluated your abilities and underestimated yourself. If so, you should be mad as hell at yourself for squandering those opportunities. You can’t change your past, but you can make a change right now.

So anger is a very powerful emotion. The key then is to harness and control it to your advantage.

(To be continued)

Today’s barbell complex movement (and also a classic CrossFit) WOD –

The Bear

6 sets –

Thrusters (front squat into a military press)

Behind the neck thrusters (back squat into a behind the neck military press)

Do five reps for front thrusters and then do the back thrusters. Try not to put the barbell down until you are done with the last back thruster

1 minute jump roping

“The Bear” is great example of how creating some rage can help you power through a WOD. “The Bear” is one of the hardest WODs in not only the CrossFit community, but in the strength and conditioning world. For this WOD, I highly recommend you dig deep inside of you with some added fury. This lesson in today’s training session is how the use of controlled anger can give you the added motivation to push you through. If you do not have any back-up ammunition, “The Bear” at some point will stomp and spit you and make you look like a person that never touched a barbell before. The punishment from “The Bear” can make even the most experienced athlete look uncoordinated and ill at ease. That’s how rough this upcoming WOD is.

It is essential that you prepare yourself before the war with “The Bear” begins. During your self-questioning process, really grilled yourself with your “why you need mental toughness in your life” questions.  What you want to do during your preparation is to stimulate memories to get a emotional response out of you. Think back at pathetic points in your life when you were extremely mentally weak. How does it make you feel when you see yourself acting like a wimpy pushover? Force yourself to realize that you may return to this weak person if you don’t do something about it. And the one thing that you can do right now to prevent yourself from having a mental relapse is to learn how to fight back during the WOD.

When used appropriately, anger is powerful source of emotion that can drive you and propel you to action. However, it has to be the right amount. Too much of this explosive emotion and it will burn you out before the WOD is done. I would never recommend it anybody to be boiling mad while training. When you are this angry, you have the potential to be out of control which can lead to an injury. You want to work with just the right amount of rage. With time and practice, you will understand your trigger points on how much anger to let loose and how much to pull back. For today’s WOD, focus on letting the anger simmer within you as you begin the workout.

With “The Bear” you want to use your anger when your close to getting your ass kick. During this low point of the WOD is when you need the extra burst of fight in you. Activating your anger is one of the best way to tolerate the suffering from “The Bear,” but at the same time respond back with some aggressive action. “The Bear” will hit you hard, but you will hit it back harder. Instead of giving in to the muscle burning from the thrusters, the infuse of rage will allow you to not only withstand the pain, but at the same time, drive you to finish the movements with some fucken authority. Instead of giving up during the jump roping, a rush of anger can turn you into an unstoppable machine where you endure a higher level of exhaustion that you never knew you could.

This is what harnessing deep rooted anger can do for you. It can give you immediate explosive power that seems to come out of nowhere.

I know we live in PC world that looks down at anger and suggest we let go of the anger and live our life with forgiveness and unconditional love. If some yogi-hippy gives you flowers and preaches this to you, go tell him to fuck himself.

It should piss you off even more to the point that you have to train.

Now go to work.

Scaled back versions of this WOD –

1. Omit the jump roping.

2. Do only 3 reps for each movement

Suitable substitutions for “The Bear” –

1. Instead of jumping rope, you can do 10 burpees or run on a treadmill for 1 minute. Also, jumping jacks, running in place or walking in place for one minute can be sufficient.

2 thoughts on “Mental Toughness Strategy #4 for the Workouts – The Power of Mantras (Part 1)”

  1. I been using mantras my life, however, not really aware of til now. Now they will more concrete as part of my tools in my mental tool case.

  2. Just did this WOD with two mantras in mind. “I never will quit” and “I am strong” were my two mantras. Used both of them, especially towards the end when I did the treadmill run( my sub for the jump roping). They very were hypnotic as how Jackson suggested.

    Will incorporate more of them in my training.

    Thanks so much,
    Annie

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