The other day, I did a brutal WOD with a bunch of tough-ass athletes. The task was long sprints up this sharp, inclining hill. Words don’t describe how gnarly and punishing this hill is. The higher you go, the steeper it gets. Exponentially every step feels harder than the last one. By the halfway point, you serious don’t think you can make it. If you can get to ¾ of the top, you are already regretting doing the workout. When you finally get to the top, the momentary accomplishment you feel is only short-lived. You can’t enjoy the moment because you know you have to do the damn thing over again
The whole experience is just miserable.
In my sick world of everything mental toughness, this means the workout is fantastic for improving your psychological well-being and transforming you into a unstoppable warrior during rough physical stress if you can get through it. Noticed I highlighted if because most people can’t get to the standard goal of 5 sprints. And if they do, the majority don’t return to the hill from hell. I have counted at least 35 clients who refused to come back.
RIP you 35 sissies.
To finish most of the CrossFit WODs in this mental toughness program, you have to have some sense of toughness in you. However, every once in awhile there will be that special task that kicks it up several notches of intensity. When the challenge is on, you have to have that extra something, if not you will falter and give in to the punishment.
This extra something is what I saw with Joe this past Sunday. Again, we were doing 5 sprints on that hellacious hill. Joe was able to get through the first two runs with no problems. But, after the third trot up the hill, his fatigue started to set into him. He was on his back after run #3 and was looking more like a knocked out fighter than the usual bad ass that he is. Since this was Joe’s first attempt at the hill I was going to offer him a free past and let him off the hook after three runs. But, he took my lenient offer as some sort of charity and a sign of sympathy.
“No, I can do it”, he said adamantly.
“Good answer, soldier” I answered back. I’ve seen Joe come back from many difficult WODs in the past, so I had no doubt that he would bounce back up and hit it hard for two more sprints. However, instead of rising up, Joe just laid there on the ground for minutes and moaning.
For the first time since we started training together, I think I finally broke Joe. I say this with the greatest respect to Joe and not bragging or proud of the fact that I finally got Joe to meet his match. When you see your best go down like this, it’s not a victory; in fact, it’s more of worry and a lump to the throat that something might be seriously wrong.
I pleaded with Joe to stay down and relax. “Your day is over,” I said.
Joe finally got up. Looking dazed, he replied, “No, I’m okay.” And just like that, he got up, stumbled down the hill and ran back up the hill.
What a fighter this guy is. He was grunting and swearing the whole way up at a pretty moderate speed considering his legs were done and killing him. Like the last sprint, he was flat on his back when he crossed the finishing point and was having noticeable difficult time breathing. He tried to make it down hill, but had to catch his breath as he was about at the halfway point. I thought he was about to vomit as he crouched over in a kneeling position. As his coach it was my responsibility to monitor his condition and by seeing him labor like this for the first time ever, I knew I had to cut him off.
“You’re day is over. Good job.” I then screamed over to one of the other athletes who was at top of the hill. “Bring Joe’s water bottle down!”
“Leave it up there!” argued back Joe.
“Rest! Your finished!” I snapped back at him.
“Don’t touch my water bottle! I’m going to get it myself!” His voice was horse from the strain of yelling at top of his voice while in a extreme state of exhaustion.
At that moment, I knew there was no way in hell this guy was going to quit. He had the “I-rather-die” than quit attitude that I so admired and we all need when we are faced with a harder than normal challenged.
I stopped pleading with him to hang it up because it did no good. What Joe has is beyond regular toughness. It’s a quality that I don’t see often, but when I do, it stands out and sets the individual apart from the rest. He has a trait that is essential for those with super perseverance skills.
He is stubborn as hell.
(To be continued)
Today’s Litvinov WOD –
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.