(I’m reposting this blog because recently I got a surge of a lot of new readers to this site. One of the most common questions I get is what do mental toughness people have in-common. This blog will answer this question for you.)
After I started to progress in my CrossFit classes, I became obsessed with mental toughness articles, especially on tough minded people and teachers of toughness. I read biographies and did research on tough SOBs like General Patton, Lombardi, Butkus, Pete Rose, boxers’ Jack Johnson,
Joe Louis and Jake Lamotta, the miracle on ice hockey coach – Herb Brooks, Billie Jean King, Jim Abbott, Jackie Robinson, Jim Otto, Wilma Rudolph, Kirk Gibson (even though I hate the Dodgers) and my favorite tough guy of them all – wrestling great Dan Gable. Just to name a few. I used to think their path to success came easy for these guys, but on the contrary, they all had to get over great adversities in their life. The above list is a who’s-who of people that had to overcome huge short comings and major obstacles.
Another major theme they all had common was the need to prove people wrong. They say it is not emotional healthy to hold grudges, but this group of bad asses, said “Screw my health.” Not only did they look back in anger, they embraced it. The chip on their shoulders pushed them to greatness. A lot in this group was physically gifted, but their greatest talent was their determination to prove those who doubted them wrong.
Having others doubt your ability can be extremely discouraging. It can destroy your confidence and prevent you from reaching your dreams. Doubt was not only was a huge part of those famous athletes in the mentally tough club, but they thrived on it. I’m sure there were a lot of positive influences that helped shaped their success, but what really stood out to me in my research is how the negative factors in their life really pushed them over the edge. They needed those who didn’t believe in them. The possibility of never being good enough gnawed at them and got under their skin. They didn’t care what it took, but they had to do whatever it took to show those who said they couldn’t do it, that they can not only achieve it, but do it better than anybody else.
The critics may have ridiculed this group for their lack of natural talent, but they clearly made one huge mistake in sizing up their capabilities. They underestimated the power of a defiant will. This tough minded platoon felt in their hearts that they were so wrongly undervalued, it became their compulsion to outwork and out tough their competitors. They had their motor running on high at all times and were cursed with not having the ability to shut it off even when they tried. Being under-appreciated fueled them to work their asses off, endured a lot more disrespect along the way, tolerated more pain and heartbreak, just to do one thing – to get the last laugh. This is the creed of the mentally tough. Not just to shut up your critics, but to slam the door on their faces. They all had the unbelievable stamina to persevere through all the crap and finally shoving it down the throats of their detractors. And when they did, all the personal sacrifice that they made was more than just worth it. It justified the years of unbearable hard work and lack of achieving personal satisfaction by finally delivering the parting shot or better yet, the death blow at those who questioned their abilities. Nothing was probably more satisfying to them than rubbing in it and reminding their doubters that all made one huge, freaking mistake.
No athlete holds a grudge longer and with less forgiveness than Michael Jordan. Not making the varsity basketball team when he was a junior in high school, ate away at him and made him restless. It drove Jordan to overachieve and out do everyone in practice and with his conditioning skills. His perception of being not being good enough at this young age was never erased as it sustain his excessive drive to be one of the greatest basketball player that ever live. In fact, his Chicago Bull teammates would say Jordan loved it when he felt he was slighted and at times, he would purposely create imaginary friction between him and his opponent in his mind just to work him up even more. What a sick competitor Jordan was.
If you read any self-help books, I’m sure a majority of them will tell you that holding a grudge is unhealthy and counterproductive. I’m sure this may be true, but then again self-hatred can lead to negative consequences as well. If we don’t channel our anger into some positive and responsible action, we can inwardly project it on ourselves, which I think is extremely unhealthy and self-destructive.
What I have found is that toughness training is very cathartic in nature. By working through the pain from those have damage us with their words and coming out on top of it, is very forgiven. Oddly enough, I am very grateful now for those who attempted to ruin my life as they are the ones that made who I am today – a relentless and tireless bastard in the face of great doubt. That is I can say, I am very thankful to having these pricks in my life.
I’m not going to suggest to you to embrace any grievousness that you may have against somebody that did you wrong. But, if you do, the firepower to get you to take some positive actions is very potent. I used to have a client that whenever she didn’t feel like workout, all she had to do was to imagine that her worst critic was standing next to her and telling her “she didn’t have in her to make through the WOD.” This simple cue, spurn her into the workout like a mad bull. The point is your worst enemies probably have gotten the best of you. Now, it’s your time to reverse the table on them. Are you going to continue to let them tell you how worthless you are and prevent you from true happiness? Or are you finally, going to put your foot down and shut them up for good?
You have the potentially to stop letting others control you. Find the motivation and drive in you to go and achieve what they said you can’t do. If you don’t take the first step, your enemies win and you have brought incredible joy to their lives. On the other hand, if you accomplished what they said you couldn’t do, you will bring some well-deserved misery to their shit hole of a life.
Be relentless in your pursuit. If you should fall, you will not feel any pain as your enemies can no longer hurt you. This means you have to ability to tolerate more bullshit than you could ever imagine.
Now march on.
Today’s CrossFit WOD
“Fran 3 rounds as fast as you can with the following rep scheme: 21-15-9
2. Pull-ups – if you can do kipping pull-ups, go for it. But, if you can’t them, do dead-hang ones instead.
“Fran” is probably the central CrossFit workouts that everybody is measured against. It’s a great benchmark to see how fit you are or better yet, see if how will you can survive a near heart attack. The elite athletes can do “Fran” unbroken without any rest between sets. Although this may be your goal down the road, your immediate goal with “Fran” is just to finish it and walk out the gym in one piece without any medical assistance.
“Fran” is another deceptive girl in the CrossFit world. It’s only three sets and it looks pretty ease, but it’s one of the hardest WODs to finish. The extreme huffing and puffing and muscle burning that “Fran” will inflict on you, will be much more discomfort than you ever experienced. For some, this state of uneasiness will be so severe; you’ll never want to do “Fran” again. I’ve done “Fran” consistently for over 7 years now and I always collapse to the ground when I’m finished. Your family physician may advice you to stay as far away as possible from “Fran”, but in terms of a good mental toughness teacher, this bitch is the best.
Getting through the first set is hard enough with all those thrusters and pull-ups, but the real test is when you start the second set. At this point, your lungs will be so expanded that you wished you had an oxygen tank and the burning sensational in your muscles will be excruciating when you move ever so slightly. The overall physical pain is near unbearable but the mental nightmare of “Fran” is just beginning as your mind will spin out of control with excuses and reasons for you to quit the WOD.
To get through “Fran,” you must have a will that’s stronger than it’s ever been during this training. Your will can help you gain your composure during your near mental melt down and remind you that the discomfort that you are feeling is more psychological in nature. I’m not saying the agony in your body isn’t real. It is. But, it’s how your mind perceives the severity of the exhaustion that is of utmost importance. It’s all a judgment call on how bad you label the hurting. A common coping method that many rookies in toughness training use is that they tell themselves – “I have felt worse from other WODs and every time, I am able to get through the misery.” By using this comparison method, it will down grade the level of pain that you are feeling and at the same time, use pasts accomplishments to help motivate you to go on. This training will teach you that all discomfort is manageable and can be control through the mental process. You want to overcome the suffering in your head first before you can re-energize your body.
One of the best ways to offset the physical discomfort is to stop focusing on how much your body is hurting. This is putting you in a defensive state of mind. Instead, you must switch your attention to your will. Listen to your will speak to you. Your will should be screaming at you to never, ever give the fuck up. When this message becomes loud and clear, you know you have no choice, but to continue the fight. By redirecting all your attention back to the battle, your mind is totally engaged with only one singular goal – to do whatever it takes to get you to finish. When your mind is on the offense once again, your body will be revitalize with a new level of strength and the pain that you were just feeling, becomes almost an afterthought.
Let your will guide you back to the thrusters and pull-ups to finally put an end to “Fran.” Make a statement to yourself and finish her off as aggressive and as feisty as you can be. When you are done, congratulate yourself. You just made a huge leap in your mental toughness development by finishing off the mother beast of them all. My favorite girl, “Fran.”
Scaled back versions of “Fran” –
1. Use a Woody band for the assisted pull-ups
4. Rest at least 3 minutes between each set.
5. Alternative rep scheme: 12, 8, 6.
6. Do only 2 sets.
Suitable substitutions for this WOD –
1. You can do military presses instead of the thrusters,
2. The recommend weight for the thrusters is 95 pounds for men and 65 pounds for woman. However, unless you are an experienced CrossFitter, be conservative and go light. Using just the barbell will be more than sufficient when you first start off with “Fran.”