Your Mental Game Vs. The CrossFit Games

February 26, 2012

Dawn Fletcher

Dawn Fletcher shares her advice on how to master the mental game of CrossFit competition. 

Start conditioning your mind. Train it and continue to condition your mental game.
The goal of the CrossFit Games is to see which athletes and teams are the fittest in the world.  I believe that the Games are more than just a test of physical fitness.  It is a competition of the most important aspect of all, a single facet that is not listed as one of the 10 components of fitness. The biggest test of the CrossFit Games is mental.
Simply by signing up for this competition, you are facing fears about your current fitness level and whether or not you’re ready. You are heading into a plethora of unknown factors, which makes most people highly anxious. You are committing to an event where your scores will be publically seen and judged around the world, simply by the click of a button. You have expectations and goals you’d like to reach to satisfy yourself and others.  You have put yourself in a position that is uncomfortable and almost seems crazy, like some type of weird torture (but really it’s freaking awesome). Your heart is racing fast already. 
Focusing on the wrong thing for five seconds could cause you to miss a PR in “Annie.”  Having negative thoughts right before you approach the rack may cause you to miss a jerk.  Spending energy thinking and reacting to uncontrollable factors will lead to major letdowns in your performance. Telling yourself you are tired will cause you to slow down.  Your thoughts and emotions will simply make or break your performance, regardless of your unbelievable physical capacity. You cannot be consistently successful in CrossFit with a poor mindset.
So, What Do I Really Need To Know To Lift More & Move Faster?
Start conditioning your mind. Train it, and continue to condition your mental game. Trying to quickly answer “how do I improve my mental game” is like trying to quickly explain “how do I get better at CrossFit?” But, here are five solid tips. 
1. Realize every single competitor wishes he or she were more prepared, had just a bit more time to train weaknesses, or could be a little stronger. You are a work in progress and are simply seeing what you are capable of at this moment. You have trained hard and you are as prepared as you need to be to compete your best.
2. Create a ‘go to’ mantra. This is your thing, true to you, that will get you going when you’re flat out exhausted between reps or stuck at a movement. Keep it short and sweet.
3. Get in your zone; focus on your space and your bar. When it is go time, bring your focus to your movement, your steady breathing and your positive thoughts and mantras. Keep your stare intent and focused in your zone.
4. Negativity kills. Listen to what you are saying about the workouts, your coaches, competitors, and how HQ runs the event. Negative talk gets you nowhere and has a detrimental “carryover effect” to your actual performance. Try doing a max L- Sit telling yourself that you suck, you are weak, and you can’t do it anymore because it’s too hard (repeat that over and over in your head). Try again saying “strong as hell, nothing can stop me, this is easy.” You choose your words, vocally and internally. Choose positive ones.
5. Break your reps and sets down. Before an event, think and visualize through the entire workout and each movement completely. During the workout, take it set by set, tell yourself, “just three more” or “one minute of work.” Break down long AMRAPS and lots of reps into shorter (or smaller) portions. You can always get yourself to do two of anything. Don’t think about all aspects of the workout you still have to complete. 
In this competition, you are going to be forced outside of your comfort zone. Throughout the Open, you will have to make thousands of choices that will determine exactly how well you perform.  Your outcome will be defined by your good or bad mental choices, not by how quickly you can move weight. As an athlete, you must recognize that you have the ability to control and choose your confidence level, your reactions to setbacks, what you say to yourself and others, your courage and ability to persevere through tough spots, your body language, and what you focus on. The athletes who are able to make the best choices about these mental components are the ones who will have the best results.