The Importance of Self-Discipline with Mental Toughness Training (Part 1)

images (39)

When it comes to making through this mental toughness program, most people would probably say physical strength is the number one criteria. If I used how much one can bench press as the number one predictor if someone can last two months in a mental toughness boot camp with me, I would say those who can bench press 85 pounds or less usually have a better chance of making it than those who can bench nearly twice their bodyweight.

Physical strength is relevant when it comes to the training, but from my observation, it is a terrible indicator if someone can make it through a beginner’s CrossFit program or my two month mental toughness protocol. I’ve seen muscle bound meatheads sign up for a free week membership at a CrossFit box, but after one or two WODs where they’re clutching their chest and looking abnormally red in the face, they figure out right away that high intensity training isn’t right for them.

On the other extreme, I have seen the meekest people walk into a box and by just looking at their bashfulness, you would say there is no way in hell, they would last a week of CrossFitting. But, some of these men and women have really surprised me with their guts and overachieving attitude. As it turns out, these people who originally didn’t look the part, turned out to be some of the toughest motherfuckers in the gym.

I can’t tell you the many times I was wrong with my first impressions of those who I thought wouldn’t stick it out. It just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover and you have to give everybody the benefit of the doubt when they walk into a CF facility.  I’ve talk to many CrossFit owners and we all agree that it near impossible to predict by appearances alone if somebody has it in them to handle this grueling training.

On the other hand, we all agree that being motivated is one of the factors in deciding if a person will make it through a substantial period of time with this training. If a person is highly determined, they will more than likely to stick it out and handle the upcoming abuse from the WODs. I’m going to assume that just about all of you are extremely motivated to improve on their perseverance skills, if not, you wouldn’t put up with my daily rants. The odds are pretty good for you to make it through a block of mental toughness training when you are extremely determined and fed up with being weak in your life

As motivated as many of you are, you stay have one huge disadvantage in deciding your fate and future with this mental toughness program. That problem is that you are somewhere else while I am here in Amherst, Massachusetts. This is the biggest flaw with online coaching as that you don’t have any direct coaching with a trainer. Nothing can beat the hands-on training that you get when you are working side to side with a coach. If you join a CrossFit box, consider yourself one of the lucky ones as you just avoided this problem all together. But, for the rest of you, not having a coach to work right in front of you and tell you when your form is off or yell at you when you are slacking off is a huge problem. However, that should dissuade you from beginning this training. I started off by myself and thousands of high performing CrossFit athletes did too. Back then before the huge internet boom, we just did the work out the day that was posted on the main CrossFit site. Most of the time, I didn’t know what I was doing and I have no doubt that my form sucked big time with most of the movements, but I did the best that I could with what little I had. This is same attitude that I want all of you that is going solo to have as well. It ain’t going to be perfect, but we can make do with what we have.

(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.

Drop the barbell and pick up a pair of heavy dumbbells for farmer’s walks. Walk around your gym for a one minute while holding the dumbbells.

During your prep work, really drill yourself today with self-empowering questions to find out what your “why” is. I know all of you are extremely motivated to become mentally tougher, but you need to know what is behind your determination. The more specific you are with answering your “why” and “needs” to becoming mentally tough, the more motivated you will be to committing to the training. Understand what your “why” only adds clarity and focus to guide your actions. Fighting isn’t enough. You must understand what you are fighting for so you can take the upcoming punishment and push yourself forward.

With today’s WOD being “The Bear,” you’ll need as much ammunition as possible going into it. It’s not only a classic CrossFit WOD, but a highly regarded test of strength and endurance used by many coaches way before CrossFit even began.

Here are some examples of confronting questions that you can use today to stimulate your emotions and to discover why mental toughness is crucial to life. These of some of the same self-empowering questions that I have asked myself in the past to learn what my “why” is – “Why is crucial for me to become mentally tougher in my life”….”Why is important that become mentally stronger now instead of later in my life?”….”What would my life be like if I weren’t mentally tough and I was weak again?”  Really dig into your psyche and uncover what your “why” is in regards to learning how to be mentally tougher. When you discover what your “why” is continue to push yourself for more introspection. For example, what would being mentally tough give you? What positive benefits would you gain in your personal life…work…relationships…dreams…if you were mentally tough? Be specific with your answers. Once you understand the reasons behind your determination to become tougher in life, you are ready to do battle with “The Bear.”

Nothing will make your muscle sear and burn like “the Bear.” In order to get the best out of this complex movement, you want to explode out the front and back squat and drive the overhead presses with explosive power. The faster you move the barbell, the better. “The Bear” is about using and generating momentum from your legs and transferring energy through your core. Make the thrusters one fast and explosive movement.  So stay extra focus on your core during this workout by bracing it as tight as possible during each round. Imagine if somebody is going to punch you in your stomach. That’s how tight your core muscles must be for this barbell complex movement.

When you are done with “The Bear,” quickly catch your breath and then pick up the dumbbells. You don’t want to rest too long or you will lose the metabolic effect of the complex movement combined with the farmer’s walk. Squeeze the handles tight and try your best to keep your core solid as you are walking in you gym. When the level of exertion is becoming too much for you and you want to quit, remind yourself of all the benefits of being mentally tough in your life. Mentally revisit your “why” and how finishing “The Bear” will get you closer to becoming mentally stronger. Let these reasons motivation you to finishing off “The Bear.”

When you are done defeating “The Bear,” give yourself huge props. Not only did you get over one of the toughest WODs ever known in the strength and conditioning community, but finished it with the added misery of the farmer’s walk. Know that only a handful of people has ever attempted and finish this brutal WOD. Me, my clients, some of those who follow this site and now you.

That’s something to be proud of.

Scaled back version of “The Bear” –

1. Do only 4 sets and 3 reps for each movement.

2. Cut the farmer’s walk down to 30 seconds.

3. Omit the farmer’s walk.

4. Omit the behind the neck thrusters and do only the front thrusters and the farmer’s walk.

Acceptable alternatives –

1. If you don’t have room to do the farmer’s walk in you gym, do 10 burpees or jump rope for a one minute.




4 thoughts on “The Importance of Self-Discipline with Mental Toughness Training (Part 1)”

  1. Discipline is not my strength so I appreciate this advice. Looking forward to part of the is article, but not doing the bear again. The bear is one of the hardest wods on this site. Really sucks, but the accomplishment from finishing in it is so incredible.

    Hope I can break my time.


  2. Thanks for the honesty. The fact that I am training alone is a major problem. It hard because I’m not sure what my form looks like, especially on heavy days like deadlifts and push presses. Is there any way I can submit videos of some my movements for reactions from the toughness nation?


  3. I’m currently doing CF for over a year now so I know how important it is to have upclose to give you feedback. Before that, my boyfriend and I would do it on are alone and that was very difficult. I’m not saying you can’t do it on your own, but I highly recommend joining a box. If you do it by yourself you may develop a lot of bad habits like how we did.

    Good luck!

  4. Ben T – sure, I would love it if you would submit some of your movements via video for us to look at!


Leave a Reply