You Have to Learn How to Finish What You Started (Part 1)

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I am very pleased that a majority of you are doing the WODs. That’s a good thing because if you weren’t the psychical aspect of this system, it will be very difficult to achieve mental strength. I get a lot emails from my readers telling me and providing me feedback about their training. I really appreciate it! Keep it up!

One of the main questions I get is about scaling back for the WODs. For example, instead of doing the recommended 6 sets for a CrossFit WOD, a lot of you want to know if it’s okay to do only 5 sets or even as low as 3 sets. As I said, everybody is at different levels with their conditioning levels. This is why I have scaled back version of the WODs after each post to fit the needs of all the men and women who are doing this training. So there is nothing wrong with lowering your total set count. I had to do this a lot when I first started off with CrossFit and I still very occasionally, I have do easier versions of WOD where I can’t handle the recommended weight or if there is a skill like handstands walks that I can’t do.

Your overall goal is to do the recommended amount of sets down the near future, but that will come in time. For now leave your ego at the door and do what’s best for you while still getting a sufficient challenge.

Now having said this, there is a difference between having a lower set goal at the start of the WOD and lowering the set amount during the WOD. For example, if you aim to do only 5 sets instead of 6 sets, there is nothing wrong with this. You set the goal and now you must hit it. However, if your goal is to do only 5 sets, but you end up doing only 3 sets, then we might have a problem here.

I say might only because a lot of you are new to this type of high intensity training. You may not be familiar with some of these compound movements as you mostly did machines workouts during your time at your commercial gym. Using only free weights and bodyweight movements may be shocked to your system.The biggest confusion most newbies have is that are not sure what is the right amount of weight to use for the exercises.Without an experience coach working directly with you, it can be quite a confusing process. It will take some trial and error and self-experimenting on your part as you begin to feel things out for yourself. If this is the case, it is more than understandable if you occasionally do fewer sets than you originally intended to do.

However, this pattern of not being able to finish what you set out to do, can be a problem if you seem to do it very often. If you are consistently doing less sets than what you originally attended to do, then I would say you have a problem with prematurely quitting. I know some of you may argued that doing some is better than doing nothing. Although this may be true and it might get you in decent shape, the fact that you are routinely not reaching your daily goals is worrisome. It could be a sign that you are a quitter. You must learn to finish what you intend to do. If not, even the great amount of work you do is useless if everyday, you fall short of hitting your goals.

I take a very cynical perspective on this issue. For example, I don’t care if you do 1,000 sets of the “Fran.” If your goal is to do 1,001 sets and you constantly give up before you reach your mark, you are not finishing. You are copping out. By quitting, you void any sense of accomplishment that you think you have achieved. I know this sounds harsh to many of you, but I can’t let any of you off the hook for this gutless behavior.

In the mental toughness bylaws it is stated that by not finishing what you set out to do, you are taking the easy way out. Ducking out a challenge is a huge no-no in the mental toughness constitution. If you do it often, it will be very difficult habit to break and it hinder your toughness growth in what you do in the gym and especially with your personal life.

When I see this sort of patterns with my athletes, I usually don’t beat around the bush as I cut through the chase and ask them point blankly – do you have this bad habit of not finishing in other ares of your personal life as well?

If the answer is yes, then you and I have a lot of work to do. We must do whatever it takes to rid yourself of this debilitating habit of not finishing what you aim to do. If not, your chances of being mental tough will not only be nil, but the odds of you reaching your lifelong dream will be highly unlikely.

The goal to finish the WODs must be your highest priority to break you of this negative practice.

(To be continued)

Today’s barbell complex movement WOD –

5 sets total

5 reps for each movement. Try your best not to put the barbell down until you are finished with the last movement.

1. Military front press

2. Front squat

3. Bent over rows

4. Behind the neck military press

5. Back squat

Drop the barbell and do 10 burpees

I picked this WOD because it has so many different types of movements. When doing it, it will seem like a fucken eternity to getting it done. So the chances of not finishing it will be a reality for those who are mentally weak. Instead of giving you an easy WOD to prove that you have what it takes you to finish a goal, I purposely stacked the deck against you by giving you a WOD that will seems never ending and almost impossible to finish.

So make a commitment right now before you even begin the workout that you will finish it, no matter what. Chose a targeted goal of how many sets you will do and stick with the plan. If it’s three sets, you must do 3 sets. If it’s 5 sets, then 5 sets it will be. Once you decide on your goal, that’s it, it’s final. There is no changing or going back on your word. You either finish your goal or today’s training will be a bust.

In order to avoid any distractions today, you will have just one coaching cue from me. Throughout this workout today, I want you to repeat the mantra – “I will finish the WOD, no matter what” over and over again in the WOD. This mantra can be very hypnotic as it will help push you forward during the WOD, especially when you move towards the end of the barbell complex and have to face the miserable task of doing the burpees. It is at this point where you are most vulnerable to falling back on your bad habit of taking the easy way out.  You must be aware of this and counter back by being on the offense with your will to continue.

Instead of whining to yourself about how tough the WOD is, you must be become more aggressively with implementing your mantra. Continue to say it silently to yourself, under your breathe or out loud. I personally, like to say it after I do each burpee. Let the actions of the mantra lead your behavior, no matter how tired you are. The more discomfort your body is feeling, the more you need to focus your attention back on the mantra.

I will finish the WOD, no matter what”…”I will finish the WOD, no matter what” …”I will finish the WOD, no matter what” 

When you are done with the set and is resting, don’t ease up on saying the manta. Keep saying “I will finish the WOD, no matter what” while you are catching your breath to the point that you are motivated to get off your ass and start the next set. As pumped up as you are for having the courage and guts to begin the next set, remind yourself that starting the set is not enough. You must do whatever it takes to finish the WOD. You must make a statement to yourself that you are not a quitter and can get things done.

I don’t care if you have to crawl, scratch or gnaw you way through the last set to finish it. Do it. If you have to take a longer than normal break or need some food in your system, do it. I don’t care what you have to do today, just do whatever it takes to finish the fucker.

When you are done, this will be an important victory in your mental toughness development with what you do in the gym, but more importantly, with how you live your life.

Now get in done.

Scaled back version of the WOD –

1. Omit the burpees or do only 5.

2. Doing only 3 sets with 3 reps for each movement

Acceptable alternatives –

1. Instead of the burpees, you can run 1 minute on the treadmill or jump rope.

16 thoughts on “You Have to Learn How to Finish What You Started (Part 1)”

  1. Great advice! I new to mental toughness training, but I like the posts and suggestion you have given out. I’m going to have to tap into this power!


  2. Hello Mentaltoughnessguy – I feel like the post was written just for me. All my life I have had issues with finishing things. I start one projected and get bored and then want to do something else. I just it was ADD, but got test out and it wasn’t the problem. Just my bad habit.

    How important is for me to do the workouts? I’m primarily a long distance runner and I know you are down on running. Also, don’t like going to gyms. As bad as I know running is (my shins are killing me), I still love it for stress release.


  3. Hey Rebbecca – thanks for chiming in! the WODs are very important if you want to achieve mental toughness. However, if you can’t do, you stay can strive for mental toughness by working on your personal adversities. Just just have to make it a conscious effort to have them on your radar and use the same mental stategies that I talk about.

    Not down on running, really. If you love running, more power to you!

    Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  4. Hello Jack – great post! I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. Hopefully, I can use it and apply it to finishing my Ph.D!

    BTW – the 12 sprint wod was a bitch to do! These 20 min wods are the best. Going to start the strength aspect of your program next week.


  5. Hey Steve – Let me know how I can help! good luck and I agree that sprint WOD was a real challenge!


  6. Nice article! Quick question – if I put the bar down before the movement is over, can a I rest as long as I can? Also, is my back flat or rounded for the rows?

    Thanks! Very new to toughness training, but I really need it in my life right now. Lots of craziness in my life….

    Love – D

  7. Just did the WOD. Hardest workout ever. Would have never had finish without using a mantra like how you suggested. Very power stuff.

    Thanks for the tips. Will do the next WOD this weekend.


  8. Wow, this totally sounds like me! I have about a dozen great projects on the back burner that I can’t seem to finish. Hopefully, your suggestions can help me get things done.

    The only problem is that I don’t really consider myself CrossFit material. I go the the gym and do the treadmill and some weights, but not heavy. Mostly machines work. How important is CrossFit? Can I get over this problem without doing CrossFit?


  9. Daisy – rest as long as you need until you get fitter. Once you get in better shape, try not to rest until you are done with the set.

    Good luck!


  10. Hello Sandra – Doing CF isn’t essential. This is why I have other systems in this blog. The most important thing is that you are doing some kind of work. Next time, you are at the gym, do some sprints on treadmill. What you want to do is push yourself out of your normal comfort level. If you want send me a PM and I’ll help you come up with a routine that you can do at your gym.

    I disagree with you when you said you are not CF material. The only criteria for CF material is having desire. You seem to have that.

    Take care,

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