Monday, August 29, 2011

The mental side of training

One of my Crossfit Heroes, Chris Spealler, said that once you get to a certain point, it becomes not about how fast you can move but how much pain you can take.

In my workouts I post a strength movement, a "METCON" or metabolic conditioning workout and often a skill or core based cool down or "cash out". I generally do all three. Since I try to have the strength and conditioning work towards the same goal, you are welcome to welcome to do one or the other depending on your own fitness goals or state of training and recovery. By this I mean that if you are feeling extra tired or over trained you could just do the strength portion and get the hell out of there. If you feel as though you just really need an ass kicking then you can throw everything you have got into the metcon and once again get the hell out.

It is pretty known that a lot of us Crossfit enthusiasts need to do some dedicated work on strength training if we ever want to make our times competitive. That is why I put the strength portion at the start of every workout except on Saturdays. I have spent the past year training myself and I have gotten stronger for hit and have hit some pretty substantial Personal records.

Since early spring, I seem to have stopped hitting personal best times on many of my workouts. Despite getting stronger I seem to have slowed down much of the time. I have found myself resting when it wasn't needed or taking too long to go from one station to another. It has been a source of frustration because though I am capable of moving the weight or myself more times I have chosen to break unnecessarily. Logically thinking, I should be fitter than I was last year yet last summer, I was hitting better times on my METCON even though I am crushing some of my old strength numbers. Why is that?

Then it dawned on me. I have always had a headspace when working out that I haven't hit in months. My wife calls it the "Joe Zone". When the workout would get tough, I would get a distant look in my eyes and just push through it. When things got really painful I would transcend and speed up. This hasn't happened since early spring and I can tell you why.

In my need to get stronger I seem to have forgotten the basic philosophy upon which Crossfit has been founded. "To increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains".  I pushed this aside and became obsessed with strength training to the point that my metcon training has become something of an afterthought. If my times went down I figured that I just needed to work strength more. Yet there were times when I couldn't lift anything close to what I can lift now but had the mental drive to keep going long after things got really painful.

Damn I can get long winded!

Yes I put the strength portion in to help us all lift heavier weights. But we need to remember that I put the METCON in to make us stronger mentally as well as physically.  It is what keeps us moving when our bodies want to give out and we are gasping for air. METCON training reminds us that just because it hurts, is no reason to stop. We are capable of so much more that we think. We just have to refuse to stop. I have spent hours lying awake at night rehearsing the next days METCON in my head just so I would be prepared mentally for how much it would hurt. I'd get up in the morning and right away start telling myself that I was going to rock the workout. If I had to put the weight down I would tell myself "you've got this!" pick it up and get moving again.

The mental side of training can be more powerful than we know. We often guarantee a Pr or defeat ourselves in the moments or hours before a workout even starts. Never forget the power of positive self talk and determination.

"People do not lack strength, they lack will"

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