One doesn’t come across too many professional athletes, much less ones who were celebrated MVPs. In order to reach, much less excel at that level, an athlete needs a very strong mental resilience and toughness (not to mention physical excellence). CF West coach Jocelyn Forest is just such an athlete. She retired from professional sports at the top of her game and she brings her hard earned and battle tested training philosophy to every WOD she does and every class she teaches. In today’s post, she shares insights into how your inner dialogue can help or hinder your performance. Enjoy.
I had to have a stern conversation with the voices in my head today. It happened on the second 400m run during Nancy. Right after I racked my last OH squat and hit the road, they said, “Man, your quads are kind of burning. This seems extra tough right now. Maybe you should slow down to catch your breath. That might make this a little less uncomfortable.”
But those voices didn’t stop there. They just blabbed on and on for what seemed like 5 minutes. “Gosh, even your arms seem tired just swinging back and forth. Did you just gain like 10lbs over night? That’s what it feels like. And your feet; you should have worn better shoes. Running shoes perhaps. This is hard. Slow down just a little bit. That way you can breath just a little easier. Gosh, this is hard. This is really hard.”
Suddenly, the better part of me stepped in and said, “Hey you big wuss! Think about what you tell your athletes everyday about just getting better. You always tell them to push through those moments when it seems like you might not be able to go any faster or lift any heavier. Just when a movement or workout starts to feel uncomfortable, push yourself even harder. That’s what makes you better. Now quit your crying, put one foot in front of the other, faster, and BE AN ATHLETE!”
Hey, don’t raise your eyebrows in confusion, scoff, or think I’m crazy. You have them too, those voices in your head. Everyone does. They are called your inner dialogue. You have it all throughout the day. You have this internal dialogue when your alarm goes off in the morning and when you are getting ready for work. You have conversations with them when you are grocery shopping, eating lunch, and driving your car. And you have them during your CrossFit workouts.
One of the things that truly separates average athletes from great athletes is the manner in which they allow this inner dialogue to manifest. Some sports psychologists call it inner arrogance. It means you change your dialogue from negative thoughts, fears, and worries, to those with a more positive, assertive, sometimes aggressive connotation. Let me give you an example.
Scenario: You are doing Grace and you get to rep number 10. You are starting to feel extremely fatigued. At this point, you can barely breath, the bar feels like a million pounds, and you STILL have 20 more reps to go. This is hard. This is very hard. Your dialogue could be something like this…if you’re an average athlete:
“Oh my God, this is so hard. How do some people do this so fast? I can barely grip the bar. Ok, I need to rest for a minute (Insert Sam’s voice yelling at the top of his lungs to get back on the bar here). Once I catch my breath a little I’ll do one more. But, oh, there are still 20 more reps to go! I have to let go just for a minute. Plus, my yoga pants are starting to fall down in the back. I’m not sure if I can even finish.”
To be better and to push yourself to levels you never thought possible you have to learn to change that dialogue to something more like this:
“Ok, be under control. Keep an even tempo. This is very painful but if you just keep going as fast as you can it will be over in just a couple minutes. You are a bad ass. You are strong. Keep your composure. Push through the pain. Go faster. This hurts, time to go even faster. Lock in your grip, keep your arms loose, and drive the floor away from you. Get better! My lungs are burning, keep going! Be strong! People are cheering for you. Show them you know how to conquer. Fight the pain! It’s almost over. Fight it! Almost there. Be better right now.”
I am a firm believer that inner dialogue is what separates average athletes from great athletes. That’s why winners win. You will be amazed at how much your inner dialogue will affect your workouts, and your life, especially when you learn to keep it positive. It’s the law of attraction really. So next time you find those worried, scared, or tired voices creep into your head, put them in their place. Try it. It takes practice but once you master it you will uncover a whole new level of athleticism and personal victory. It’s just like the saying goes, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you’re right.”
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