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Is my Ego holding me back? – The mental side of CrossFit….

Part 2 – Progression, PB’s, self-esteem and Ego

Hopefully you enjoyed the last blog and you’re ready for part 2. Today we’ll delve into the nuances of mindset in CrossFit over the longer term not just in a single workout.

I’m sure you’ve all completed your homework and tried to implement some self-talk during a workout or something arduous in your life. If you haven’t, give it a shot this week and see how you go?

So next on the agenda is the above topics. We’ll tackle Ego and self-esteem first. These topics are completely different for each person and can be the hardest thing to change, especially self-esteem and self-worth. This being said, again, we’ll take a look into my experiences and thoughts during my time doing CrossFit.

I started CrossFit in 2013 at RCFT in a tiny and bare boned little space under the railway arches in the centre of Newcastle. I went with some Army pals and a fair amount of confidence. I was a pure vanity exerciser. I had perfected sitting down exercises, I was maybe 8-10% body fat with a Quick tan membership card and the lowest cut vest in the Northern Hemisphere. I was mainly there to get a Facebook check in; little did I know what I was about experience. We all know the drill, it messed me up and I loved it. We did some giant chipper of which I did a fraction of. I was hooked straight away.

The next few weeks I really struggled mentally however; I could not shift my ego. Any “For time” workout was terrifying, and I normally chinned them off. I was scared of these types of workouts, I felt like it would expose me. I knew I wouldn’t make the cap and I thought not finishing in the time was a failure and I’d lose face amongst all these beasts that had been doing CrossFit for decades it seemed. Amraps were sound, we all finished at the same time and nobody really took notice of anybody’s score. My mates started asking why I only came when it was an Amrap? The game was up, I had to face it, so what did I do? I did what anyone who let’s their ego control their training does. I cheated my way through my first 2 weeks of CrossFit. I went all in with it, I was adding full rounds on scores, so I’d be in the middle of the pack. I’d see everyone move onto the next exercise, give it a token 5 more reps then join them. I’m pretty sure I added 20kg to a squat once because I thought people would think I was weak and think less of me.

Now I thought this was the perfect crime. I was getting a lot of love at the whiteboard (SugarWOD didn’t exist back in the day), people would be impressed with my scores and such fast progress! I thought I’d gotten away with it and I promised myself that when I was just fit enough, I’d do it properly and put my correct scores in and the coaches will never know. The coaches always know! It’s the coach’s job to know the abilities of their athletes. When you see someone train day in day out you get a feel for where they are and how they’ll perform on certain workouts. Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised. Something might click, they smash the workout and there’s nothing better for a coach to see someone pulling all their skills and trying thir upmost and killing it! However, it can be clear when someone has fudged the workout, and the other members notice as well. If your mate got 10 rounds and you got 2 then that’s awesome. They’ll be buzzing for you as you tried your hardest, however if you say you got 11 rounds and they dug out blind for 10 then they’ll be upset.

This got to a head the day before the 2014 Open. I was training in a class with my mate Jack and the workout was running, pull ups and box jumps. I was ok on the run, couldn’t really do pull ups and hated box jumps. A few rounds in we’d came in from the run together, I “breezed” through my reps and was heading back out on the run when I heard Jack’s voice booming over the music, “Stop cheating you ****ing P***!” Needless to say, this got the message across. The class had 25 people in it and they all heard loud and clear! I decided then I was going to start again, and the upcoming CrossFit Open was the perfect chance. I could test what my actual fitness and skill level was and go from there. Now since then I can’t say I’ve not had those thoughts in the middle of a workout, but I’ve pretty much remained all above board.

Now, please don’t take this as licence to start slandering other members to your hearts content. I think it’s rare that someone cheats their reps out of malice for their fellow members. I think it’s down to a self-conscious feeling of inadequacy and the perceived idea that’ll you’ll be judged by your peers on your score. If you are judged by your peers, it will not on your score but on your effort. When they see you grinding through something, they know you struggle with and come out the other end in a heap of sweaty, mumbling victory afterwards. Now this is not a recruiting drive for the rep police, we don’t need a Boar City enforcer, I think calling people out in front of the class is pretty harsh and 100% not a culture that we’d be keen on fostering. We need to remind ourselves that the scores are there for your personal records. Of course, the competition aspect of CrossFit can be hugely motivating for some. This is great if it stays friendly and honest. CrossFit is hard, another minute or round on a workout can mean a massive amount of effort and grit. So stay in your own lane but celebrate success whenever you see it!

Once I’d let go of my ego after the first open, I started to make actual progress and could be proud of the numbers and times I was putting up. I was chasing the intensity and scaling WODS like it was going out of fashion. It was this point that I saw the true power and potential of CrossFit to make you super fit if you are consistent and don’t BS yourself and the whole process.

It’s a cliché and it’s difficult to do but try your very hardest to leave the ego outside. It will benefit your progress and the speed of that progress.

Progression and PB’s

This section will look at how our mental outlook on our training can determine our progression in strength, fitness and skill improvement.

When you first start CrossFit the PB’s and progression naturally come think and fast. You’ve got a basic level of technique and are fired up to learn everything. This slows down a bit after a couple of months and you hit a plateau. This can be a tough time mentally to keep going. You may see the other guys in your class continue to improve and make strides forward, but u feel stuck. This is where consistency and rest can make such a difference. To achieve those improvements especially in technique, you need to spend time in the gym working on them. It’s a fine line however, if you are training twice a day, 7 days a week you’ll struggle to improve and will be very susceptible to getting injuries. We talk about intensity a lot and it’s the key to hitting your goals. If you change your schedule and train 5 days a week, it’s not uncommon that by Thursday and Friday you will be mega sore, mentally drained and become frustrated that you aren’t hitting lifts.

Clearly there are exemptions to this. Plenty of people can train every day and make awesome progress. However, if this is your plan then your diet, sleep and head need to be in the right place. Now, it can sometimes be a great idea to come into the box and just move and get the blood following. If you’re feeling extra sore or unmotivated just getting into do some sort of exercise is a great mental win.

To summarise the completely conflicting points above……..listen to your body. If you’re good to go but can’t really be arsed to train that day get yourself in and you be so much happier afterwards. If you feel like you need to come in and train, but your body is knackered then take it easy, scale and be comfortable not paying attention to the leader board.

I believe patience and a clear, calm approach to your training is your best tool. All you have to do is scroll social media for 10 minutes or glance at a magazine cover and you’ll be told that you can get a six pack in 30 days. Yeah sure you can, if you only consume some sort of extortionately priced “meal replacement shake” and spend 3 hours on the elliptical machine then yeah there may be a tiny chance you have a six pack at the end. You’ll probably be pretty ill, a nightmare to be around and have ZERO fitness. There are no quick fixes, real change takes time and that has to be accepted. You can’t PB every day, you can make great progress in a short time, but real sustainable and valuable change takes time and a fair amount of self-awareness about how your mind and body best adapt and improve.

Final thoughts

I’ll use myself as an example again, of what not to do, in regards of ego and injury. More than two years ago I hurt my back whilst being silly with deadlifts. Long story short I haven’t approached the issue as well as I could have. Initially, I was back fairly soon, and all seemed well. I may have rushed back into training and didn’t learn from technique flaws. Before long I couldn’t really train again…….but there’s the crux of it. I could train. It was a very small list of movements and exercises, but it was enough to remain conditioned to some extent. Until recently, I had gone from doing nothing to not checking my ego and going to silly too soon. My reason for doing CrossFit has changed since I’ve been doing it and that’s fine. I think it’s important to think about why you do exercise and are you giving yourself the best chance to get as fit and healthy as you can. Are your ego and mindset disrupting that? If so, try to remind yourself that you’re already making amazing positive steps towards your goals. It may take some time but it will take longer if you cut corners. Be proud of your progress, where you’re at now and how far you’ve come. Be honest with yourself and the gains will come!