THE 4 BIGGEST MINDSET ISSUES IN CROSSFITTERS WHO HAVE BEEN TRAINING 2+ YEARS
A long introduction is likely to detract from this; a piece which you need to read if you're an athlete who isn't quite making the progress you deserve.
A quick piece of background to it though; whilst improving the content for the Mindset Rx'd Coaching Certification, I realised a lot of the athletes I have worked with, fell into these categories, well demonstrated by these 4 case studies.
If they represent 80% of the CrossFitters and other functional athletes I have worked with, chances are, 80% of you will find yourself, or a part of you in one of these 4. It's not a short piece by any stretch, but I only write evergreen content.
So, let's get to it.
When I began working with this athlete, she had just finished an unsuccessful assault on the CrossFit Regionals. The year before, she was at Regionals and did perfectly well for her first time there.
She was a former competitive athlete who had transferred her sporting prowess to CrossFit and initially did very well (hence Regionals).
So when she failed to reach Regionals again - especially when she was physically capable of doing so - her first thought was “well, I never believed I would get there anyway”.
So where did this belief come from?
When we dive into her past, we see a familiar trend:
Whilst she was successful in her previous sport, she never quite got where she wanted. She was always one step away from “making it”.
The same with her academic studies. She was always good, just never great.
As far back as she can remember, she wasn’t quite good enough.
So she summarised this in the story “I won’t succeed because I don’t believe in myself”. Of course, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Because she thinks she doesn’t believe, she doesn’t believe. And, as the cliche goes, she doesn't believe so she doesn't achieve.
She began to add more and more training to her schedule, content with the idea she had to “outwork” her competition. She ended up injured, and this further “proved” her inadequacy.
It’s a feedback loop. The story is shown to be “true” by the actions. And because of the story, the actions are repeated.
So what did we do?
Well, we went back and showed her that in fact, this story is horse shit. She placed insane amounts of significance on the very few things which proved the story, whilst dismissing the truth. The truth that she’s an insanely capable athlete who in fact has everything going for her.
Like a skilled lawyer, her subconscious mind had selected the most important proof and deftly deflected anything which might create instability in her self-defeative alibi.
For a long while, it worked.
But, through time and effort, we flipped the story. She recently messaged me these words:
“Everything is going exactly to plan. I feel un-fucking-stoppable”
You’ll see her back at Regionals next year, you have my word.
2. Thriving Under Adversity
In short, when the tough gets going, you crumble.
The guy I worked with was actually a strongman athlete. He had a background in many things, but strongman was now his pursuit.
In training, he thrived under discomfort. He was tagged as having serious potential by coaches.
But when he showed up on the big stage, he crumbled. Everything seemed to hurt more. His breathing changed. He was stressed. His mind went crazy, and his performance plummeted when it mattered most.
In short, fear showed up.
And it took hold of him like it does so many of us. But not only in competition, in the gym too.
We begin with the best intentions, ready to crush the WOD, but something deep inside us hears the fear. We fail to acknowledge it and before we know it…
…Our heads drop…
…our soul feels as if it’s bleeding…
…hands are placed on our knees. We accept defeat.
It doesn’t have to be like this though, because all you’re doing is becoming UNcentered. You’re losing your place in the world.
You simultaneously allow the intensity to consume you and resist it as hard as you can, telling yourself “it shouldn’t be there”.
It sucks away your oomph.
And you end up with yet another performance which is well below your capacity.
We spent time developing his tools; not an off-the-shelf list of phrases to spur him on, but a fully built out selection of techniques for before, during and after competition.
It’s often been pointed out, that to the subconscious mind, positive experiences are stick like they’re made of teflon, and negative ones like velcro.
150,000 years ago, when true danger lurked around every corner, it was wise to consider threats more serious than they were and it was logical to plan for the worst.
It was even a good idea to replay near misses over and over so you could figure out a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” plan.
“I shoulda done this…” “I coulda done that…” “I woulda tried this…”
Now, in the 21st century, most threat is imagined. But our proclivity for negativity has stuck.
So when we miss lifts, they play round and round.
When we hear someone bitching about us, it’s all we can think about.
When we spend a weekend eating crap, we admonish ourselves as fools and failures.
Oh, and by the way, when you have major shit going on outside the gym, like a divorce, an involuntary career change, the loss of a loved one, or another inevitable downturn that life will take, it eats its way into your gym life.
Even if the gym began as your refuge from hardship.
Slowly, but surely, it sneaks in between sets and reps until it unwinds your focus and performance.
This is what happened with the third athlete I’ll talk about. He is is a masters athlete who went through a really shitty divorce.
His purpose wasn’t just to become a better athlete (although that was primary), but to get his headspace in a better place for everyday life.
Here’s what was happening: He spent so much time in the past, dwelling on what could have been done differently to save his relationship with his kids and his ex wife, that he no longer saw hope in the future.
The path we went through was long, but it followed the line of showing how hope can be found in the future. That everything which is now chaos, has potential for order and growth built into it.
Look, it’s human nature to loathe things about yourself, we all have parts of us we don’t like and these get amplified when we fuck up or when life throws its plentiful and stinging curveballs our way.
Keeping perspective is the answer and it means three things:
A) Time Based: past and future should be used as tools, not as a refuge from the present.
B) Positivity vs. Negativity: again, these are useful tools, but in the end, the universe doesn’t care and whether you miss or hit a clean PR is as close to inconsequential as things get.
C) The Holiday Perspective: As modern-day Stoic, Ryan Holiday has so eloquently pointed out, the obstacle is the way. Hidden within your apparent restriction is, in fact, the very solution and lesson you need to learn.
Or, as Marcus Aurelius said a couple of millennia ago; “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
CrossFit (and life in general) is often wrongly considered a game of spinning plates. With gymnastics, weightlifting and monostructural plates all spinning alongside nutrition, recovery, hydration, supplementation, mindset work and much more (not to mention a life outside of training), it’s easy to think the best way to keep the plates off the floor is by placing a small bit of attention on all of them.
Especially in the ambitious, it’s common take on too much; desperately grasping to try and keep balance.
I worked with a couple of girls who fell into this category over the last year who are RIDICULOUSLY capable athletes.
They both turned their hand to CrossFit and both have excelled to the point of borderline awe.
So why, when they came to me, did they feel like the stress of training was overwhelming?
Firstly, they forgot the importance of fun. Over the months we worked together, we removed the pressure of immediate quantifiable judgement, and focused on fun. Of course, their lifts went up and their benchmark times went down as a result.
Secondly, they had no plan. They wanted everything now. The success, the PRs, the accolades, the growth. The universe doesn’t give a shit how quickly you want to succeed; time continues to march on. You can either get in step or get pounded by its relentless stride.
So, we made a realistic plan, and took measures everyday to remind them where in the plan they were and what needed to be done today. Then we took time in the evening to take stock of their growth from the past 24 hours.
Progress over Perfection as we like to say in Mindset Rx’d.
I really considered giving the exact steps alongside each of these points; detailing out the exercises and techniques used, the beliefs changed and the process as a whole.
It’s no secret what we do here at Mindset Rx’d. The techniques are found both in cutting edge neuroscience and millennia old philosophy/ wisdom. The truth is though, the purpose of this message is not to provide a how to.
It’s to tip the lead domino of change.
Hopefully, just as happened with me almost a decade ago, you’ll read this and begin to unwind the stories which have held you back for so long.
Maybe you'll see a little flicker of hope, knowing that deep inside you lays untold depths of fortitude, resolve and ultimately, unworldly success.
Your potential lies latent within you. So what are you going to do with it?
P.s. Have you joined the Mindset Rx'd free Facebook group for functional athletes yet? If not, join by clicking this link. It's an entirely inclusive and supportive environment for athletes who want to grow their mindset and perform their best.