Your body is not giving out. Your head is giving up.
The CrossFit Open. A test of fitness. A test of strength. A test of endurance. A test of gymnastic skill. We know all of these things quite well and we prepare to be tested in all of these areas each week. At this point, I am sure you are realizing that the Open can also be a serious test of mental capacity, which brings me to the topic of this blog: “cognitive error.”
Cognitive error is when an athlete dwells on the negative and links future performance to past setbacks. Unfortunately, I see and hear this happen quite a bit, especially during the Open season. “I’ve only ever done one toes-to-bar, I’m never going to get through even one round of 18.1.” “I’ve never done one pull-up, I’m not even going to try to do 18.3.” “I’ve failed snatching 100 pounds every time I’ve tried, I’m never going to be able to snatch triple digits.” “Whenever I specifically test my one-rep max squat, I always fall below what I want to get.” Does this sound familiar? At some point in the Open or in our general CrossFit experience we have all said or thought something like this. These negative statements can be extremely limiting and even paralyzing at times. We are all guilty of it. So, how do we move past cognitive errors and on to crushing PRs and accomplishing new feats of strength and skill?
It’s easy. Stop. Stop the negative thinking. Easy. Done. Blog over.
Just kidding, it is not easy. Just like our bodies, our brains need training too. Here are some ways you can work on your mental game:
*Be laser-focused. By this, I mean be laser-focused on yourself, your goals, your priorities. Do not get caught up in the boloney that is social media. Do not perseverate on what other people are doing. Give your full attention and energy to what you want to accomplish in the present moment.
*Keep trying. Just because you failed that muscle up once or missed that heavy clean and jerk doesn’t mean you’ll never get it. Try a lighter weight and work on technique or go through some gymnastic drills to hone your skills. Then try again. And again. And again. Eventually, you will get it, but if you stop trying… you know the end result.
*Develop and practice a routine. Come up with a plan for mental preparation for daily workouts, competitions, and Open qualifier WODs. Figure out what it is that makes you feel ready to go in each situation. Practice the plan consistently and it will help you develop a mental edge to approach each workout.
*Create SMART goals. Write down goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Oriented. Instead of “I want to do handstand push-ups,” try something like “In two weeks, I will be able to do three sets of 30 second handstand holds on the wall to help with shoulder stability for handstand push-ups.” Set smaller goals that you can achieve and check off the list. This will lead to achieving bigger, long-term goals. The more little goals you accomplish, guaranteed the more successful you will feel, which will motivate you to keep working towards that one big goal.
*Learn new things. Dedicate some time each week to listen to podcasts, read articles from the CrossFit journal, watch interviews, and learn from other successful athletes and leaders. Be excited to gain new knowledge.
I asked coach Scott for his input and advice on having a solid mental game. I challenged him to sum it up in one sentence (to counter my wordiness and rambling). His response: “Shut the f*%^ up and go.” To elaborate, he continued: “Quiet all the voices. Quiet the inner thoughts. Quiet your doubts, your fears, your anxieties and just f*%^ing do it.”
There ya have it folks. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a great deal of information available for the mental side of CrossFit and sports in general. I encourage you to do your own research or pick one of the above ideas and try it. See what happens. Report back. I’ll be interested to see your response.
Hugs and burpees,