The Mental Aspect: What is Beast Mode?

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.

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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.

What? Too soon?

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.

“Suck my white ass, ball!”

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.   

  1. #1 by Trinity on July 21, 2011 - 10:24 AM

    Love the captions. I guess beastmode comes in time.

  2. #2 by John on July 21, 2011 - 10:51 AM

    Excellent article, Epic. Some very interesting points. I think I’ve been guilty of self-talk at least a couple times in the past before a WOD, though not intentionally. You know, I’m not crazy and all.

  3. #3 by Tim on July 21, 2011 - 12:06 PM

    Yeah. Fuck yeah. Remember when we had the first BEASTMODE discussion at the old Takeover gym? BEASTMODE reminds me of one of my favorite movie quotes of all time.

    -Conan, what is best in life?
    -To crush your enemy, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.

    Conan the Destroyer went BEASTMODE on a mother fucker.

  4. #4 by Tom K on July 21, 2011 - 2:00 PM

    Flipping the switch is a way of life. Winners win. That is just what they do.

    On that same note though, anyone can fake BEASTMODE before a work out: those guys that jump around like fools sure do talk a big talk, but when Timmy F. walks out of the gym with your girlfriend, I think we both know who really manned up and stayed in BEASTMODE for the duration. BEASTMODE isn’t easy. Your muscles burn and your brain wants to quit, yet you power through because that is what winners do (see above paragraph).

    • #5 by Tim on July 22, 2011 - 1:52 PM


  5. #6 by Pat on July 21, 2011 - 2:29 PM

    Another great article but you lost my support when used the example of Marshawn Lynch going Beast Mode on my team

    Other than that Go fucking nuts, get mean, destroy every wod in your way, train hard, and when you think your there…train harder.

  6. #7 by B-Rad on July 21, 2011 - 7:16 PM

    I like to think of Marshawn Lynch saying “America” when he makes the safety his bitch.

  7. #8 by Carol Hawkins on July 21, 2011 - 7:37 PM

    “Arousal Regulation”…interesting!!! On a serious note….I actually took an anti anxiety pill before doing FGB I was so frickin scared. I need to work on calming myself down and visualizing more positive outcomes. I keep saying to myself that I am not having brain surgery…I am just doing a work out so calm down Carol. Great topic and really has given me food for thought. Once again Erik, you have done a superb and hilarious job with this topic.

  8. #9 by Little Sean on July 21, 2011 - 8:47 PM

    I do believe in all four of those strategies, but at different times. During WODs I try to keep positive phrases like “light, still fast, smooth, strong” instead of phrases that include ‘don’t, can’t, stop’ I’ve found it helps.

    I don’t get jumpy often during WODs, but for PRs or competition I pace a lot waiting for the chance to get after it. A good example is the movie ‘Man on Fire’, besides Denzel wrecking an entire city in all kinds of awesomeness, there is a scene where he is teaching Dakota Fanning to not flinch at the gun. He explains the gun is the release for her, not something to be feared.

    Mental rehersal can be applied best to Oly moves but can be be something as simple as driving your knees apart when air squatting to apply tension so the IT and hamstring to bounce out.

    But sometime I just Hate the WOD and do my best to beat it like an opponent in the cage, or like the steelers beat the ravens.

    • #10 by EPIC on July 21, 2011 - 9:04 PM

      Damn it Sean, I was really into your comment and it all made great sense until the last sentence which makes you sound like you completely lack knowledge.

  9. #11 by Brian PCF on July 21, 2011 - 9:14 PM

    I totally don’t have the “Beat Mode” gear – it’s not there.

    I remember my CO saying once: “The guy you want to be afraid of right before a fight is the guy that’s just standing there smiling.”

    For me personally, this is how I roll, but it doesn’t “work” – there’s tons of guys who go into Beast Mode and crush me. So I’m not in favor of my relatively chill approach.

    However, I do beat guys in some stuff and it’s because I worked hard on my goats and got better than them (usually in something technical).

    If it’s a WOD of 400s and Burpees, I’m just going to lose. There’s just nothing I can do to take on somebody with retard strength who feels no pain there. What I have to do is get really really good at running, and pray that my running ability beats his pain threshold.

    I think it’s good that there are both types of athletes in Crossfit. The guy that can just “turn it on” is going to see the guy flawlessly performing squat snatches and hitting ROM every time and go “I should work on that”, while the guy that’s got perfect row technique will get beat by somebody that looks like he’s going to break the rower and go “I need to harden the fuck up.”

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