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  • Writer's pictureTom Foxley

Why Athletes Stay Frustrated

I see 7 big reasons CrossFit athletes stay frustrated with poor performances.

If you consistently finish up comps or workouts second guessing your effort. Or look back at months of training and realise you haven’t come as far as you’d like. Or are just frustrated at how slowly you’re improving, this is for you.

Especially if you have a hunch that your body isn’t the limiting factor, it’s probably your mind.

Today, I’m going to let you know the 7 traps that I see athletes falling into time and again.

If you fall into one of these 7 traps, your mindset will suffer, and so will your performance.

Failing to Accept Reality

If you don’t know what weight is on the bar, you don’t know how much force to put into the lift.

Similarly, if you fail to accept reality you will never enact the plan which will save you.

Athletes fail to accept reality because it jars with the story they believe about themselves.

It’s not just believing you’re better than you are, but it’s also believing you’re not as good as you are that holds you back.

In fact, it’s far more likely you aren’t giving yourself permission to believe just how good you actually are.

It feels safer to believe you’ll never get better at gymnastic skills than to admit you have the opportunity to grow.

If you fall into the other category, where you believe you’re better than you actually are, you don’t need to resign yourself to mediocrity, you need to practise humility.

Accept reality.

Shiny Object Syndrome

“Simplicity + consistency = success” Brian Grasso
“Rome wasn’t built in a day”
“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” Dwayne Johnson

Jumping programs or plans is a sure fire way to lose all the gains you could be making.

This is driven by FOMO. The difficult, boring work is what creates the progress you need.

To do this, you need a clear vision of what success really looks like for you, and to know the path which takes you there.

Then, you need patience and trust. Both of which are key mindset skills.

Subconscious Self Sabotage

Athletes find many ways of creating stability and predictability. By forming habitual loops of self-sabotage, we actually create a lot of that stability.

Even if it hurts our long-term progress, we still form these loops because it stabilises emotions and allows us to predict the future.

When I work with athletes, I pick out at least 3 different ways athletes are self-sabotaging within the first 3 weeks of working with them.

Then I focus on the one which has the biggest effect and help them eliminate it.

First, identify those loops which cause you the most frustration. Start with the moment you experience the most negative emotion and then track back to what caused that.

Shoulding All Over Yourself

If I’ve been given one great bit of advice in my life, it’s “do not should all over yourself.”

Whenever I hear athletes use the word “should,” usually in sentences like…

“I should be better than this, I’ve been training for X years.”


“I should have hit that lift”


“I should be more confident and have more self-belief”

Then I know there’s a belief involving shame around not being able to overcome this.

It’s usually a form of perfectionism, but it perpetuates frustration every single time you tell yourself you should be different to how you actually are.

Perfect Peter

Perfectionism is an illusion. A moving goal post which you will never hit.

For some stupid reason, perfectionism is heralded as a virtue in today's society.

Not only is perfection impossible to hit, but those who try to be the perfect athlete suffer with very difficult mindsets too.

If they do poorly, they compare it to perfection and the gulf is maddeningly wide. They also lose sight of how to improve as the faults seem so huge.

If they do well, they compare it to perfection, and belittle their own performance.

Instead, excellence is what we need to aim at.

Side note: many athletes I work with have a background in dance, gymnastics, and other single person sports where aesthetics and appearance is praised above effort.


If there’s one thing that truly creates frustration, it’s self imposed pressure.

As soon as athletes realise they’re good, they begin to put themselves under pressure to meet certain standards.

If they fail to meet those standards, they increase the pressure they put on themselves. Initially this works because sometimes the problem is they just need to push it a bit.

But, eventually pressure becomes a mindset flaw.

The best performances come from the right amount of pressure, and the right amount of freedom.

Too much of either will wreck performances


Heavily linked to pressure is setting expectations of how performances “should” go (there’s that word again.

Realising that you’re casting expectations of outcomes is a major win for your mindset.

The goal is to have aims, not expectations.

From those aims, you can then identify the process you need to follow to attain those goals.

If all you have is expectations, you have a destination with no plan of how to get there.

It’s all a story

The common theme of all of these sources is the story you believe about yourself.

To rid yourself of that story, follow four steps:

  1. Test your mindset to find what that story is

  2. Aim at a vision of success (create goals, values etc.)

  3. Presence - find it and stop yourself falling into poor patterns of emotion and action

  4. Prove the story wrong through action, emotion, and repetition


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