“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
You fell in love with the sport of CrossFit because of how much you enjoy the training process. With every session completed, you feel yourself getting stronger, you’re hitting PR’s, you’re stringing together toes-to-bars, you got your first muscle up and you don’t feel your lungs exploding after the max effort burpee test that once made you see Jesus. The stars are aligning, and you qualified for a major competition like the CanWest Games
With 3 months left until game day, you start ramping up the intensity of your training sessions. The stress of the competition date quickly approaching causes your mind to wander at night, which starts to affect the quality of your sleep. You are more stressed than usual at work. You miss an easy snatch. You can’t do a bar muscle up, even though you thought you had them last week. You see fellow athletes posting their highlight PR reel on Instagram and you start drowning your sorrows in a tub of Halo Top Ice Cream.
You’re doubting all the work you’ve put in to get this far, complaining about how your life's obligations do not allow you to train enough, you're comparing yourself to everyone around you, and you contemplate withdrawing from the competition because you do not feel good enough to showcase your talent on the competition floor.
Does this vicious cycle of self-sabotage sound familiar? I’ve been there. As a “non-athlete” coming into the CrossFit world 7 years ago with no athletic background, it took me a very long time to develop the basic skills that I now coach others to develop in a single session. Fast forward 6 years later and I finished top 60 in this region during the CrossFit Open, swam in open water for the first time at Wodapalooza, strung 10 bar muscle-ups together at the CanWest Games, and finished on the podium at the Fraser Valley Throwdown, all in the same year.
How did I go from feeling like I would never be good enough to compete to accomplishing all these victories? By developing a better mindset. The power of a positive mindset in training can make or break your athletic development. Just like your health, CrossFit is not a destination - it’s a journey. Stop thinking about the competition date as a ticking timeline to get strong enough, fast enough or skilled enough. Instead, perceive the competition as an opportunity to put the strength, speed, and skills achieved to the test. Competitions are a chance to not only showcase all the effort that you’ve put in to every single training session leading up to game day, but also an opportunity to uncover your weaknesses in order to continue to develop and grow as an athlete. Remember, this is CrossFit - just when you master the art of handstand walking, they throw in an obstacle course on a ramp while holding a med ball in between your legs - there will ALWAYS be room for improvement.
Every time the excuses flood my brain, I think back to when my husband, Joe Scali, qualified for the CrossFit Games. The first year we opened Semiahmoo Athletic Club, we worked 16 hour days, only seeing daylight in our commute between our 400 sq ft bachelor apartment, crossing the street to coach every class and PT member at the gym. We stumbled home each night completely drained, only to crash in our Murphy bed (that folded out into our kitchen) for a few hours and do it all over again. This was the toughest year of our lives - we hustled hard to build the fully equipped gym of our dreams. Not once did he use this as an excuse to let his training slide - the hardest year of our lives was also the year Joe qualified and competed at the CrossFit Games. THAT is the power of a positive mindset.
Joe has always emphasized that mental skills, or lack thereof, are just as critical to the success of an athlete as their physical capabilities. Competing at an elite level in the sport of Hockey and CrossFit, he has witnessed underachievement in the best athletes based on what’s going on between the ears - negative self talk. Joe has also experienced failure during moments of mental weakness and uses the following tactics to prepare for each workout and competition.
Visualization is a key skill that can optimize your performance. Mastering the art of visualization will allow you to mentally prepare your body to execute under pressure. Notice how doing a workout the second time around always feels easier? Similarly, visualizing the execution of your workouts in your head prior to competition will leave you feeling like you’ve done the workout before. It allows you to feel prepared and confident in executing your workout strategy to dominate the event.
“In 2015 while preparing for the CrossFit regionals, I would find a quiet spot in my house to close my eyes and visualize the regional events. I even visualized the feeling of excitement when I would qualify for the Games. When I stepped foot on the regional floor, I was mentally ready and it was the most confident I have ever felt going into any competition. It was like I had done the regionals 3x times before competing, which equipped me with the mental toughness I needed to qualify for the 2015 CrossFit Games.”
Positive Self Talk. What an athlete believes about themselves has a massive impact on whether they get left in the dust or push past the competition. If you miss a lift or perform poorly in an event, you have the power to turn your competition around through positive self-talk to maintain your self-confidence during difficult times. Self doubt will always lead to a negative impact on your performance.
“Let’s fucking go Joe, you got this. These are the words I use before big lifts in training and on the competition floor because I strongly believe that my power of positive expression in my thoughts will fuel a positive outcome in my actions.”
Managing anxiety and emotions are critical components of mindset training. Accepting that they are part of the competition experience and learning how to to use them to improve, rather than letting them interfere with your competition. Feeling nervous is not negative in itself - if you are not nervous, you are not prepared. Successful athletes accept strong emotions such as anger and excitement as part of the CrossFit sport.
“If I miss a lift, instead of getting angry and feeling sorry for myself, I use that negative energy to my advantage as FUEL to push harder. Instead of quitting, I add some weight to the bar and make the next lift.”
Incorporating mindset training to compliment your physical CrossFit training will enable you to dominate the competition floor at the CanWest Games and better develop as an athlete. If the negative thoughts emerge during training or competition, remember your WHY. Why did you sign up for this competition in the first place? Don’t let the fear of failure drain the joy out of your training journey.