Choosing mental toughness over your inner whiner
I don’t know how it works for everyone, but my head REALLY tries to get in the way of my workouts. Here’s a typical conversation with myself when I’m getting fatigued, my heart rate’s unnervingly high, I can’t catch my breath, or am otherwise severely uncomfortable: “Oh, Chelsea, you should really fake passing out now cause this hurts way too much” – “Stop! Stoooo-oooo-oooop already, you idiot!” – “You will die. You’re gonna die. Look, watch this, dying, right now. Okay, you’re dead, now stop!” – “You can’t pick that up. No, literally, I will not let you pick up that stupid bar again. See that? You’re limp. You can’t move anymore. Nooooo, you stop right now.”
For real, it’s that bad. My inner voice isn’t a coach cheering me on… it’s more like a whiny seven-year-old utterly convinced the world is ending cause she can’t have another Snicker’s bar.
I have another problem. I HATE being cheered on. Weird, right? I really, really don’t like people telling me that yes, I can do it. Probably because the whiny seven-year-old doesn’t believe them anyway and it just pisses her off even more. And worst of all – I can’t have my caveman anywhere near me, cheering me on. The seven-year-old will not only rage, she’ll refuse to finish the WOD until he goes away.
Why am I telling you about the weird mental game I deal with working out? Mainly because being mentally tough is just as important as, if not more important than, having the physical ability to accomplish something. And if you have an inner voice that’s, well, let’s say similar to mine (because I really hope you don’t have the same ridiculous little kid screaming in your ear as I do) you’re not alone. Everyone has some kind of thought process going on when they’re working out at a very intense pace. Perhaps yours doesn’t necessarily beg you to throw up so you can stop – but maybe it demands that you slow down immediately, or that you lose momentum, that you walk away from the barbell, that you drop to the floor and rest instead of cranking out the rest of the WOD.
Whatever it is, it’s normal. When your body gets exhausted, your brain tries to protect it, so it is undoubtedly going to send you signals that you need to stop. So what do you do? Do you indulge the screaming kid in your brain and quit? Do you ignore it completely? Can you?
Here are some things you can do to try to keep the mental screaming under control and keep yourself coming back for more:
1. Remind yourself that you LOVE this.
People who do crossfit love crossfit. If they don’t love it, they quit (or at least they should). I’m going to assume if you’ve been doing it consistently more than a few months, you probably love it. You love getting stronger everyday. You love the camaraderie that comes with getting beaten up daily with a great group of tough people. You love the transformation you’ve seen in your body and your life.
But then the WOD comes. You know, that one. The one you maybe thought about skipping because you knew how hard it would be. The one that makes your bones ache to think about doing. Maybe that’s every WOD for you. Maybe it’s something with snatches, or thrusters, or whatever your crossfit demon is. Wherever you are with your fitness, there’s something that gets to you, whether it’s a specific movement or just that place you get to 5 minutes into a 10 minute amrap, thinking there’s just NO way you’re only halfway through and being devastating knowing you still have to push on until it’s over.
That’s the moment when you have to remind yourself of who you are and what you do. You’re a fighter. You’re a – well, let’s face it, you’re a freak who would rather do pullups while your ripped callus is bleeding out everywhere than take a nap on an elliptical. But you love that. Remind yourself when you’re on the verge of giving in.
2. Forget about the mistakes.
There’s nothing worse than a no rep to slow you down and make the mental battle that much tougher. As someone who frequently hits herself in the face with wallballs and the like, I understand. Pretend like it didn’t happen. If you focus on the fact that you failed, you’ll be overcome with the idea of failure. Then the negative inner voice wins, and it can be nearly impossible to finish the WOD, let alone finish it well. You’ve got to let the failure go and press on as if it never happened. This is hard for perfectionist-types who get really upset if they mess up once… not that I would know anything about that. Do the best you can to forget it and move on.
3. Stay calm, stay focused, stay present.
Yeah, easier said than done, I know. Especially when your inner whiner is attacking you at full force. But try hard not to think about what you’re going to do after the WOD. Don’t even think about what it’s going to be like six minutes into the WOD. Take it one lift, one pullup, one lap at a time, and go from there.
This is probably just the beginning of what it takes to beat down your inner whiny kid, so if you have other ideas and suggestions, feel free to comment!