Below is an article written by one of our CrossFitters, Danielle Medrano. Dani, as she is know around the gym, is a Performance Consultant and owns her own business, Mindful Management. She helps people mentally prepare for performances in high pressure contexts. Dani has worked with State Senators in preparation of national television and world radio interviews, college students get over test anxiety and athletes preparing for competition. Dani is also currently completing her masters degree in performance psychology. Check out her advice on mental tips to improve your performance in the gym. 

“The greatest adaptation to CrossFit takes place between the ears.” Greg Glassman

Developing our mental superpowers doesn’t happen naturally as a result of exercising, but it’s an opportunity CrossFit can give you as it ruthlessly exposes our fears and self-doubt. Next time you’re in the gym, here are a few tips to incorporate and exercise your psyche.

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Goal Setting: There are 3 types of goals in the world of sports psychology: outcome,
performance and process goals. An outcome goal simply compares your performance
with someone else, for example, beating them! While a goal like this can be motivating,
it also increases anxiety, and too much anxiety can cause your body to work against
you. Performance goals on the other hand, put the focus back on you. Examples of
performance goals would be to complete a WOD faster than your previous time or
banging out all of your air squats on Cindy without stopping. Process goals are moment-
to-moment goals you can implement during a WOD like pumping your arms on the side
of your body (instead of across) when you’re running.

cole on pu barSelf-talk: Here’s an easy tool to use in your next WOD or for the rest of your life. Focus on a word or short phrase that emphasizes either technique or motivation. For example, a high school long distance racer repeats “Ole Miss”, his college of choice, when it’s time to position himself during his 5,000 m runs. The only rule around self-talk is to keep it positive and here’s why. When we’re under stress, like a CrossFit workout, our minds are in a highly “programmable” state, in other words, what we say to ourselves goes straight to our subconscious mind, bypassing logic and reason. And our subconscious mind is where our habits are stored, not just our physical habits like the ability to rep out power cleans, but our thought habits too. Repeated thoughts become beliefs, and what you believe becomes your reality.

Relaxation: There’s a certain level of adrenaline needed to execute a great performance and that varies from person to person. A common misconception is that athletes should be totally relaxed before competition, not true! However, if you find yourself feeling overly anxious pre-WOD, you can breathe your way back down to a comfortable level. Big belly breaths or allowing your belly to go “Buddha” will help ease you out of fight or flight mode and into the feeling of having an opportunity before you versus a threat. You can also incorporate breathing into certain movements. Derek calls this “conscious breathing” and has a great tip for the rower!

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As with anything, building these habits into your workouts consistently will yield the
mental muscles you need to improve your performance in the gym. And the great thing
is, they can crossover into your everyday life. So if you feel nervous or worried about an
upcoming event outside of the gym, try one of these tips to get you re-focused and on to
achieving your goal.