Talent, CrossFit and Mental Toughness (Part 2)

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(In part 1 on this topic, I talked about my lack of physical talent and athleticism that haunted me throughout my life. However, even though I was naturally a weak person and was more on the clumsy side as I got into my early 40’s, I was able to make respectable gains with my CrossFit training through my work ethic. I was finally able to test out my new founded strength when I ran into a former high school star athlete that I haven’t seen in nearly 25 years. When he failed to keep up with me, is when I realized how far CrossFit has taken me.)

I would continue to seek out those in my past that were star athletes. I wanted to see how they’re lives have panned out in the last 30 years, but part of me wanted to display my new and improved athletic skills.I hope I don’t sound malicious and wanted to show people up. That wasn’t my intentions at all. I was finally proud of what I physically can do and I wanted to inspire others. Sure, there were some in my past that bullied me and that I wanted to get back at, but most of them were either dead, in jail or have been missing in action for years. Luckily for them, our paths will never cross again.

The results of my search were pretty much the same. The majority of them have aged pretty badly by the time they approached their early 50’s. It seems that most of these guys were very unhappy at where they were in their life while stuck in shitty marriages. I offered my assistance on getting them back in shape. Some took it, but I’m sure they didn’t even try out my suggestions. It’s almost as most of these former studs who I thought had the greatest potential after graduating high, now 30 years later have let themselves physically go and given up on life.

It seems that those in my past with the best talented skills hit their peek early in their life and then lost their desire to fulfill their potential. I know my sample size is small and this is a huge generalization, but I began to hypothesize that those with exceptional natural talent may never appreciate what they can do. The skills became too easy for them and they never had to work at their athleticism. As a result, they never really learn how to persevere and unfortunately became mentally weak.

Again, I know my thesis on overly-talented people wouldn’t stand a chance of being proven correctly in the scientific world, but as I begin to share my observations with the particular older CrossFit crowds and I found similar stories. Many of them had stories to tell about those super talented athletes in high school that they thought were sure bets to becoming professional athletes. A few made it, but the majority of them didn’t. They just fell off the earth and struggled badly into adulthood.

When I was doing my research on the Navy SEAL training, some successful SEAL officers spoke on this issue as well. Again, this is a huge generalization, but those candidates with who were physical gifted stars in high school usually struggled big time early on and dropped out in the program because they weren’t used to dealing with hardship. This is based on an observation of a few, but the implications are worth noting.

The more I thought about what real talent was, the more I begin to change my perception of how talent can give one a huge advantage, but can also be a curse. I clearly accept that my natural talents were at a bare minimal level and now I am fine with it. With this training, I am finally able to forgave my parents for giving me the short and skinny gene and thank them for shoving the blue collar work ethic down my throat.

I say this to you all because I know most of you will feel intimated to start this mental toughness program because you think you don’t have the physical talent for it. It’s an excuse that seems logical, but far from being the truth. Being mentally tough has absolutely nothing to do with any natural physical talent. The talent that you are honing in on with this training is the ability to do what the mind is thinking. This may sound simple, but it is very difficult task to learn. However, with a lot of practice in controlled suffering situations, you can learn your thoughts can lead you to do anything, even the impossible. When you can do this on a consistent level, especially when your world is crashing down on you, I would say you are one talented, motherfucker.

So my final take on physical talent is – screw it. If you have it, that’s great, but if you don’t, welcome to the club. You’re in good company.

Today’s Litvinov WOD –

6 sets

Front squats – 5 reps

Kettlebell swings – 12 reps

Spiderman crawl – about 20 yards (approximately).  For an in-depth look at Spiderman crawls, read about it here.

The goal today is all about simplicity. The lesson is a simple one. I want you to experience the core principal of mental toughness training. That is, your mind will lead your body to do anything, even when you’re most fatigue. This is the talent that you are honing in on with this training. Most people feel such a disconnection with what they thinking and how they behave. No wonder must ordinary people feel stuck in a rut and can’t get out of their heads. This inability to do what you wish is the lack of talent for the majority of people.

So I am going to lay to out for you in simplest terms – the whole point of the front squat, swing and Spiderman crawls is to wear the fuck out of you. Period. The WOD must push you to the point where you must have serious doubt that you can go on. When you feel like quitting is when your training begins. This is the time when you must tap into your talent. So I’m going to give you just one simple coaching cue when your heart rate is out of whack and your body doesn’t want to move. Instead of saying “I can’t do it,” I want you to repeat the mantra “I can do it” over and over again. Say it silently in your head or say it out loud, but repeat it often to the point that you think you are over doing it.

While you are resting, say this mantra like you really mean it. When you are struggling with your final set of the front squat, scream “I can do it” out loud on the last rep. When you don’t think you can do another rep of the swings, say it enough times to convince yourself of it. When you are done with your final Spiderman crawl, I want you to shout it as loud as you can, “I fucken did it.”

Today’s lesson is for you to learn that your thoughts can dictate how your body to react. This WOD will not be easy, but the moral of the story is simple and straightforward. As you progress with this training, you will learn that this connection with your mind and body is significant and irrefutable. Once you understand this, you are on your way to being that tough, talented son of a bitch that you have always wished to be.

Scaled down version of this WOD –

1. Do only 5 sets.

2. Omit the Spiderman crawls.

Acceptable alternatives –

1. You can use a dumbbell instead if you don’t have access to a kettlebell.

2. Jump rope for a minute, do 10 burpees or run a minute on treadmill instead of the crawls.