Categorized as: MOTIVATION

What does Mental Toughness have to do with Endurance Training?

Written By Coach Kirk

Mental toughness is “having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.” (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002, p. 209) 

Mental toughness is the key reason why some succeed and others don’t given the same situation.

Mental toughness is inseparable from physical toughness.  Our brain receives all it’s information from the body, our senses. If we perceive difficult physical stress, it’s not up to our mental toughness to decide what we do with that stress. Do you give up or not show up during a running day? Or do accept that is the way it is and you’ll do your best to overcome that stress/workout. 
 
 
Just like physical toughness, mental toughness can be improved and acquired through training and being exposed to continually changing stresses. If all you do is run 1 mile at a time, you won’t build up the mental or physical capacity to run longer distances. Mental toughness also spills over from one area to the next. If you excel at endurance swimming, there’s a good chance you’ll excel at endurance biking with a small amount of training. 
 
A big part of mental toughness is directly linked to endurance. I believe it’s because of the prolonged stress that keeps telling you to “stop, quit, what you’re doing, take the easy way”. And that repeats itself over the duration of the stressful experience (30min amrap for example). Mental toughness is also important with short duration efforts with extremely high intensity. There are times where you have to go all-out and being able to sustain that effort takes immense amounts of mental toughness. 
 
Once a week, for the past 3 weeks we have included longer workouts around 30 minutes into our training. We saw a great need to build the physical and mental toughness in this longer domain of work.

The tougher we can be at all durations of workouts, the better off we’ll be for the real world.

Most of our real-world stress comes in the form of family, work, and financial stresses. Luckily these stresses aren’t constant all the time, but when they do arise, we should be prepared by all the stress training we do at CrossFit. Remember, it’s highly unlikely that spending time with the in-laws requires more mental toughness than a 30 min AMRAP of burpees, running, and wallballs. Reflect on your training and your acquired toughness and your daily stresses will seem insignificant. 
 
Lastly, you should have something that motivates you in your darkest, toughest times. Focus on a loved one, or your goal of losing 40lbs, something positive. We call this your WHY. Typically inwards focused motivation isn’t the most enduring and can actually turn on you. For example, saying to yourself “I should be first place because I work harder than that person,” can turn negative quickly.  
 
Don’t let selfish thoughts be your downfall when it comes to mental toughness, instead focus on more positive and uplifting methods of motivation (family, health, self-confidence).

Stop. Take a Deep Breath. Enjoy The Process

Instant gratification, everyone’s deepest desire. Everyone always focuses on the end game or the results but what about the process of getting there?

I want to tell you about an experience I just had recently that took place in, you guessed it, the gym.
It was a Tuesday, I was coming back from an off-day and during the group class I glanced up at the board to read the workout and the conditioning piece screamed bloody murder in black and white. I love working out, I love fitness, but the first thought that came into my mind was “let’s get this over with and I’ll feel great afterward”. I was having a crappy day but I knew I had to work out.

Then something hit me, I realized I was being negative about the whole situation. I stopped, thought about it, and took a different approach.

I decided I was going to take each exercise, each rep, each set and make it very intentional. I refrained from thinking about what was ahead of me and shifted my primary focus on what I was doing in the present moment.

I got this idea from a book I’m  currently reading a book titled Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris, and in the book, I came across a page about a fitness guru that shared one of their breathing techniques. He describes a technique he using during training where he takes a certain amount of breaths depending on the number of reps he performs for that exercise.

For example, If you are doing 5 sets of 10 Deadlifts, you’d perform 10 Deadlifts, then take 10 full breaths, then perform 10 Deadlifts over again until all 5 sets are completed.

Flashing back into my workout, the requirement was  I would perform 5 overhead presses, so I followed that up with my  5 deep breaths, 7 power snatches, followed by 7 deep breaths, finished with 9 wall balls, and 9 deep breaths. I kept this strategy throughout the entire 15-minute duration of the workout. This technique not only increased my performance physically but gave me a natural high mentally and let me tell you, I enjoyed every second of it.

Looking back, I feel this technique not only increased my performance physically but gave me a natural high mentally that let me enjoy every second of the workout. 

This philosophy can be transferred outside of fitness and directly into everyday life. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment. If you’re taking college courses stop every so often and take a deep breath during class instead of desperately rushing towards a degree. Stop, take a deep breath and enjoy the process of building a new business instead of day dreaming about the millions you want to make.  Enjoy the page your reading in your current book and soak in that knowledge instead of rushing to complete another book on your checklist.

One step at a time, control what you can control, and embrace the process of doing it. In the end, we all have choices and decisions to make, if you catch yourself rushing through something, rewind a little bit and remind yourself, you chose to do this, so enjoy it.

You can read more of Coach Brett’s work on his blog HERE.

Compete To Better Yourself

Competing against others in the CrossFit realm is very unique. Everyone comes from different backrounds, has different body types, and excels at different movements/workouts. Competing against others in good fun pushes both you and the next closest person to reach a higher level of fitness. Never should you beat yourself up over not performing as well as others, nor should you ever boast of finishing ahead of others – That right there takes out the fun of competing. Remind yourself you’re doing this for your fitness and happiness. 

Here’s some tips in regards to competing against others:

  • Pick a person in class that is just slightly more fit than you are.
  • Do your best to keep up with that person during the workout -but never try to cut corners – good technique is paramount.
  • After the workout make an effort to cheer and congratulate your classmates for working their butt off. You’re in it for a good time!

What is equally rewarding as competing with your classmates is competing against yourself! Now you may be confused about this term but I’ll help you to start competing against yourself. Competing against yourself is simple. Tell yourself you’re going to get X amount of rounds or reps. Tell yourself you’re going to finish in a certain amount of time. Tell yourself before you start that you’re going to go unbroken on that set of burpees. Competing with yourself must start before you even start the workout as you must place expectations on yourself. One strategy would be to set the bar somewhat low if you’re just starting to do this. In the beginning it might be, “my goal today is to finish this workout”. As you progress and know capacities better, that goal mi ght transform into, “my goal today is to finish 3 minutes before the time cap.” 

3 TIPS TO BUILD MENTAL TOUGHNESS

As an endurance athlete, I’m sometimes asked where I find the most challenge during an event. Is it the swim portion, elbowing for room through a pandemonium of competitors? Is it the bike as I strive to maintain my pace through a series of hills, or is it the run, the final stretch?

Without hesitation, I always answer the mental game is where I find the most challenge and reward.

I have experimented with focused breathing exercises to relax my mind before an event. I’ve used some of these techniques to relax my body and limber before the starting line, as well as urge a shot of energy the moment my body wants to back down.

Yet, as an amateur athlete who’s gone from a complete newbie to placing in the top three in my age group, I’ve been unable to maintain gains beyond certain strength and stamina thresholds.

From consulting numerous nutritionists to incorporating a variety of strength training programs, these barriers have persisted. Had I reached certain impassable thresholds in my physiology, or were they perceived? Was there no way around them, or did I simply lack the key? Read More…

Mental Toughness

Written by Sage Burgener (and her brother, Casey)

I’m not going to say much in this post, I’m going to let my brother’s letter do all the talking (he doesn’t know I’m posting this. He’ll probably be upset. I’m ok with that).

But I will say that last year when I was training for the CrossFit Games I was struggling with feeling like I was mentally weak. I saw all these amazing athletes around me that, during the hardest of workouts, never had one look of pain or struggle across their face. They appeared to be immune to the torture. I never felt that way when I was working out. I feared workouts. I feared getting under heavy weights. I feared the pain that was to be inflicted upon me via thrusters. Because I feared so often, I was certain that I had some rare, possibly fatal, medical condition.

My brother Casey got his degree in physics,which basically means he knows everything. Therefore, I burden him with all of my questions about life, liberty and the pursuit of chocolate. I wrote him an email asking him, as an Olympic athlete, what he thought it meant to be “mentally tough.” The letter he wrote to me seriously changed my life. I am not saying that I am mentally tough by any means, but I at least have a better understanding of how to go about becoming a better person each day. I read this letter almost everyday and it has gotten me through many times of self doubt. It is long, but I promise you won’t be disappointed if you read the whole thing…especially if you feel like you may have the same medical condition that I had.

First, you need to decide what you are going to do. This may sound like a simple step, or like you’ve already done it, but let me tell you, it’s the hardest, and most important step in being tough. Once you make the commitment to do something, then almost nothing can stop you. This is why it took me so long to decide to come back to lifting. I knew once I committed, nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goals, no matter what the costs, or how much workouts sucked, or how badly my body felt.

So with you, you have to really really really decide that the Crossfit Games are what you want to do. Once you decide this, the process will be easy. When you commit, it’s easier to block weaknesses out of your head, and workouts will seem like steps forward to your goal, rather than burdens. When you commit, I really believe you can do anything. Really take this decision seriously though, because if you only “half” decide you want to do it, or do it for “fun”, then you shouldn’t even worry about Regionals, and just train whenever you want to and not care about how a workout goes. If you decide to do it for “fun”, then you can’t be bothered by any performance at Regionals or any meet, because you decided not to take it seriously.

Now, either decision in your case wouldn’t be a bad one (in my opinion), just make sure you stick to your choice wholeheartedly. I read a great book recently, and it talked about how when someone commits to something, they should do it all the way, and be satisfied with whatever the outcome. So if you commit to the Games and start training as hard as you can, you have to be comfortable with the possibility that you may succeed tremendously, or fail miserably (in terms of winning and losing). The important thing is that you committed, and you did everything you could to make it happen. Trust me, if you do that, the thoughts about winning and losing seem to almost disappear. It’s about overcoming yourself, and pushing yourself to become greater than you were the day before, that’s what really matters. Read More…

73-Year-Old on the CrossFit Games Open: “I’m Doing It This Year!”

Nancy Hoshaw survived a heart attack at 48 and breast cancer at 60. At 73, she’s entering the CrossFit Games Open, which kicked off Feb. 25. While some compete to be named Fittest on Earth, Hoshaw is competing with time and age—and she’s winning.

After seeing decrepit women on a trip to Israel, Hoshaw decided a slow slide into a retirement home wasn’t for her.

“My goal is to stay healthy and independent. I cherish my independence,” she says.

Her coach at CrossFit Bay Area in Webster, Texas, is two-time CrossFit Games athlete Jordan Cook. Cook describes CrossFit as a lifestyle, noting how the community keeps people active and energized while they preserve and improve function.

“The whole point of … functional fitness is not just to get better at fitness but to help us in our everyday life,” Cook explains.

While Hoshaw was dead set against doing the Open last year, she’s all in for 2016. When Cook shared an Instagram video of Hoshaw preparing for the five-week competition about a month ago, she inspired people around the world and found more motivation herself.

“I feel like I can encourage other people, but at the same time I’m encouraged myself,” she says.

“It’s amazing the doors that you can open if you just … give it a try.” Watch Video Here…