The Fearless Warrior’s Mindset
[Repost from 2016]
We, the Tidal Coaches, were asked to write a blog post for you, our lovely Tidal family. So I am sitting here racking my brain about what I could possibly offer. I am not a Coach of the caliber that many of the Tidal Coaches are, and I am not a Regionals level athlete. So speaking about the subtleties of improving your muscle ups is something better left to our resident gymnastic gurus. So what am I left with?
With a little prodding and a look back at my personal history over the last few years, I came to realize a few things. I have had the fortune and heartache to be involved in some pretty unique and trying situations. Situations that have tested me both mentally and physically. So I thought why not, let’s talk a bit about how your mindset can have a significant impact on performance. Both positively and negatively.
We have all seen them. The athlete, pro or not, who is just simply gifted with all the talent in the world. Who can make magic happen in their sport, but lack the edge or the grit to really fight when things don’t go their way. Then there is the athlete who isn’t particularly outstanding, but will not stop pushing forward, and attacks with a relentless pace that cannot go unnoticed. It’s when these two meet that truly great things happen.
So why do I choose to talk about this?
Why me? We have already established I am definitely not that first guy. But I do have a bit of the second guy in me, and more so I understand what it is to have and need a fearless warrior mindset when going into competition, training or combat.
Professionally, as some may or may not know, I am a Police Officer with the Toronto Police Service, and have worked with the Emergency Task Force (SWAT) for the last few years. I spent 13 years in the Military spending the better part of 2009 in Afghanistan as a Bodyguard for the Task Force Commander. In my personal life outside of CrossFit, I play rugby, soccer, do adventure races, road my bike on a whim to PEI, and really anything else that I can find that will challenge me.
One of my biggest physical and mental tests to-date would have been running the Canadian Death Race – a race covering 125 km in under 24 hours over 3 mountain summits. This sort of thing obviously requires a strict and specific training program, but I think it is fair to say that for a race in which over 50% of the people do not finish, the most important factor is not found in the runner’s physical prowess, but in mental capacity. In this race it is not a matter of IF you will get injured, blisters, chafing, and/or dehydration, but when. No one finishes unscathed. For me, it was about 60 km in – not even halfway – that my body had degraded to an extent I was not expecting. My feet were about 50% bloodied and blistered, I was cramped, I had messed up hips and knees, and I was dangerously flirting with dehydration. But not once did it occur to me to stop. I told myself that the only way I was not finishing this race was if I missed a timing at a checkpoint and that it wouldn’t hurt more than it did right then. So I just kept moving, and I crossed the finish line 22 hours later.
All of these things – racing, competing, working where I do, training for and deploying overseas – have all helped me to build a stronger mental game.
Saying Vs. Doing
Granted that seems pretty easy to say when doing it is something else entirely. But I didn’t just wake up willing to run in the conditions I did. It was a slow build over years of being willing to get uncomfortable and stay comfortable while training. I played sports my entire life and in most sports I played, I was not particularly good. But I loved the competition. When I couldn’t compete skill for skill with my friends and opponents, I did the only thing I could that would narrow the gap between us – I would outwork them. These experiences in sport, work and overseas have built on the next and allowed me to further challenge myself physically and mentally. It allowed me to discover that your body is capable of some pretty amazing things if you can just get your mind out of the way. That’s the basis of this entire rant I am going on here.
You can’t teach a mindset in the way you can teach someone how to fix their squat or to pull a clean properly. But it can be built. And it is not necessarily a fact that you either have it or you don’t. Mindset is a skill just like any other. Some people seem to be born with a certain mindset the same as some seem to be born with a gift for gymnastics. But both can be taught. And in the same vein, both are perishable. For someone wanting to up their mental game first you need to really look at yourself and be honest about your performance. Did you break up those wall balls because you truly failed, or was it more that you were tired and uncomfortable?
So where do we start?
What works for me might not work for everyone, but you might get a few ideas along the way.
Start small. Set attainable goals and build on your successes.
That will grow and foster a drive to push harder and deeper. As you get fitter, your desire to become more and more fit increases, and so will your desire to push yourself harder and further. Most of us are already doing this without even realizing it is happening. It is just not as quantifiable as setting a PR on a lift or a benchmark WOD. How can you judge true effort? You likely can’t, which is why we need to be honest with our efforts and true self-reflection is necessary.
For me training for my ultramarathon, I literally started running 2km a day. I would build on it and build and build. By the peak of my training, I was running about 50 km every Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday with smaller runs throughout the week. Once you reach that new goal, it makes getting back there so much easier mentally.
Ok, sweet. So we set our goals and week by week we are slowly dipping further into the pain cave and pushing our limits. But then we have a bad lift or a string of bad days. What then?
Have a ‘short’ memory.
Know and accept that these things (bad days) are going to happen. You will come out a better athlete at the end of it having had to struggle for it. And let’s face it, if this stuff was easy it likely wouldn’t be as fun anyway. This one is admittedly difficult to do at times. If you miss a new PR attempt and your Coach tells you to go for it again, I imagine all you can think about is how you just missed it. Try to push that out of your head. Focus on the present. Be in the moment and all that good stuff.
Stand tall. Look proud.
Don’t walk away from the bar. Hunched over and on a knee mid-WOD is a defeated posture and subconsciously is breaking you more than you realize. Standing tall with your chest up not only allows you to breath fuller, more efficient breaths, but it is a stance that exudes power and confidence. Even if you are exhausted and barely hanging on… well, especially if you are exhausted and barely hanging on. Acting strong and confident manufactures strength and confidence. Fake it ’til you make!
Train with beasts.
There is a reason that many of our competitive athletes train together. Surrounding yourself with people who will push will push you. And if you are not at a competitive level, don’t worry (few are… and they’re pretty good… that Phil kid is alright I suppose). Instead, pick someone in your class that is routinely putting up times a little better than you and chase them. Watch them during the WOD and tell yourself I will not break up these kettlebell swings until he or she does.
And for those of you who want to reach a competitive level, consider traveling to one of the other gyms from time to time to train with other athletes. Step out of your comfort zone and put in the work. Contrary to popular belief, we won’t rise to the occasion come competition day. We will default to the level of our training. Call a gym buddy out make a fun wager and enjoy the grind.
– Coach Darcy