My Mental Toughness Thought Process

images (76)I get many emails asking me what my thinking process is during a WOD. This is a very interesting question considering mental toughness training is all about how our thoughts effect our actions in our workouts and in life. To the best of my ability, I wrote down my thoughts in italics so you all can see my mental struggles and mind games that I put myself through from a typical high intensity WOD.

I did this WOD yesterday, so my thinking pattern is still fresh with me.

Let me know what you all think of this blog-experiment. If you guys get something out of it, I’ll document more of my thoughts before, during and after a WOD.

Yesterday’s WOD at the track:

5 sets

1 minute jump rope

50-yard sprint (approximately)

While driving to the track, I was contemplating which WOD I should do for the day. I usually have one main one in mind, but sometimes I have alternative ones, depending how I feel. Even though I have done this work for over ten years, my weak side always comes up and I usually try to weasel of the harder WOD and pick the easier one. Seriously. As much as I love training, I always go through this process of trying to duck out of doing the hard work.

My thoughts: I’m feeling kind of wiped out today. Instead of killing myself, maybe I should skip the track WOD and just go home and rest. I could do some stretching and mobility instead. The way my body is feeling, it’s probably the smart thing to do today…damn it…I’m just trying to make excuses with myself today…my body is sore, but workable….I can go train today….I’m just trying to lie myself out of the WOD…if I skip out on the WOD, it’s just a sign that I’m still a pussy….

This sort of back and forth fighting with myself usually happens for about 10 minutes till I finally get so pissed off at myself. Once I put my foot down, I’m 100 percent committed to the WOD.

My thoughtsI’m going to the track! Fuck it! I’m doing the harder and more difficult WOD today because that was my original plan. I hate it when I try to make excuses and get out of training. Enough of this bullshit. I got to stop playing these mind games and focus on getting my mind right for the upcoming misery.

When I get to the track, I do my mobility drills. During this time, I get myself mentally geared-up for the up coming training.

My thoughts:This WOD is going to suck really bad. I better know my “why” today. Why do I need to put myself through this torture? What do I want to obtain from today’s WOD? How I can I become mentally stronger from today’s session? I can’t take it for granted that I will plow through this WOD. I better have some strong ammunition in my head going into today’s training session.

This self-examination process will go on for a couple of minutes. When I am done with the reflection process, I am ready to go. Before, I get started I noticed that I’m the only one at the track during this very hot day of temperature being in the low 90’s.

My thoughtsI continue to do things that most people don’t do. Most people are at shitty commercial gyms doing working out while sitting on useless machines. I, on the other hand, am outside by myself and about to do a very high intensity WOD in the excruciating heat. Today is just another example of me taking the extra step and doing things that most people can’t do. This workout is going to be rough, but I know once I finish it, I know I will be mentally tougher than yesterday.

I love that fact that I’m out here by myself. Doing things that nobody else is willing to do is a sign of being mentally tough. I take pride in what I do today. 

After I finished the first set of jumping rope at very fast rate for a minute and going out all for a 50-yard sprint, my heart was ready to jump out of my chest. I was already regretting doing the WOD and wished I should have skipped it.

 My thoughts: Oh my god, that was rough….fuck that sucked…I got 4 more sets to go…how in the hell am I going to get through this craziness?

As with all challenging WODs, the avalanche of negativity begins.

(To be continued)

Today’s WOD:

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.