The psychological aspect in any challenge involving sports or exercise is a dynamic thing. Pre-Fran jitters, na mean? My hands sweat and heart races on my drive to the box when I know that 21-15-9 looms on the whiteboard. Accuse me of bitchmode by admitting to the above. When was the last time Fran didn’t make me nervous? The first time I did Fran. It’s the body’s way of preparing for “fight or flight”. Here, flight would mean I’d skip it. Pussy shit. Fight, in this case, means I sack up and flip the switch. It’s time to bring the lumbuh and go BEAST MODE as I commence destromination.
How does anxiety affect us before and during a CrossFit WOD? It may vary depending upon the individual. While we generally don’t feel any anxiety before a regular, everyday WOD, it may be a factor for the athlete before competition as well as any CrossFitter who has “built-up” their need for a PR on a particular benchmark. Symptoms of anxiety before and during performance are generally split into two categories: cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety. Or, mind and body. Somatic anxiety causes me to piss every ten minutes leading up to the event. Cognitive anxiety makes me worry that I’ll fuck up and lose. There are more symptoms manifested by competitive anxiety, you can read about them here.
The mental game doesn’t affect us nearly as much in CrossFit as it does in other athletic endeavors. Not to take credit away from the sport of exercising, but CrossFit is straight-up work with not many surprises. On the other hand, there are myriad skills required to be successful and the opportunity to fuck up does exist. We know the majority of these mistakes are eliminated through proper training and coaching, as well as the purpose-driven elimination of weaknesses (or goats). To ensure your mind isn’t getting in the way of success, let’s look at what sports psychologists have identified as some common techniques to increase performance.
Goal Setting – In preparation for a particular metcon, goal setting could be manifested through strategy. My coach once said, “Strategy is for Germans.” Without contradicting him too much, I often strategize prior to a metcon based upon my experience with individual movements, rep schemes and metcon length/intensity. I set specific, difficult-but-attainable goals. Studies have shown this to be superior to setting no goals. If nothing else, it’s a “Dumbo feather” to keep my mind focused.
Arousal Regulation – I thought this meant when a dude thinks of baseball or yardwork during sex to delay… embarrassment. Actually it refers to forced relaxation if you’re too amped or accessing cues to get pumped if you’re too relaxed. Prior to an event, put your earphones in and chill with your Bieber album to calm yourself. Voice of an angel, that lad.
Mental Imagery – Prior to stepping up to the bar, mentally rehearse the successful 1rm snatch attempt, along with the subsequent feeling of achievement. Studies show this is a succesful technique to reinforce confidence. This technique has been made famous by many pro athletes, especially Tiger Woods (before he sucked). Sounds like some hippie bullshit, but I often do this before something technical.
Self-talk- Exactly what it sounds like. Seems lame, I’m not doing it. It didn’t work for Happy Gilmore.
While I’m not convinced by all of the above techniques, some are effective. I propose one that isn’t very technical and your friends won’t make fun of you for it: Flip the goddamned switch. Mentally transform yourself into an animal and crush whatever the fuck you’re about to do. That’s how you go BEAST MODE. Marshawn Lynch coined the term and uses his beast status to do phenomenal shit like the 67 yd TD run in last season’s playoff game against the Saints. It’s not just a great highlight, it’s an example of what every athlete should do: harden the fuck up.