Mental Hacks for Better WODs

Let’s be honest: no amount of self confidence is gonna make Murph hurt less.  Sure, being confident in yourself will help, but confidence ain’t gonna make that vest any lighter.

We can pretend all day that there’s some sort of “mental edge” some elite folks have, but those that claim to teach it are usually snake oil salesmen.

HOWEVER, I do think a large percentage of people make loads of small costly mistakes throughout a workout.  And, over the course of many workouts, these small mental mistakes leave lots of progress on the table.

Again, these mental tricks won’t take you from 200lbs to 300lbs on their own, but they will help you get a little bit better each day.

Trick #1: Micro-Goaling

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

Micro-goaling is just finding a way to keep taking bites of that elephant.  It’s very easy to get caught up in how much there is to do. “100 Wall Balls? That’s like three digits worth…” But 10 sets of 10?  That’s not so bad, right?

Obviously saying 10 sets of 10 isn’t revolutionary, but mirco-goaling is slightly different.  When you micro-goal, you do focus on ONLY the task directly in front of you. So it’s not 10 sets of 10.  It’s 10 reps, and only 10 reps.

You know how it seems much easier when you only have those last 10 reps of the WOD to go?  Why not take that mindset throughout the entire WOD.  

The hard part is developing the mental focus to concentrate on only those 10 reps in front of you.  When you get those done, we’ll focus on the next 10.

As you get more fatigued, make the goals get smaller and smaller.  Instead of 10, it’s 5. Instead of that mile run, just concentrate on getting to that next tree or stop sign.  Only when you get there will we worry about the next one. Clear your mind of anything else you have to do, afterall, there’s nothing you can do about rep #45 until you get through rep #10.  So worry about this bite of the elephant for now; we’ve got plenty more for later.

Trick #2: Count Down.  Not Up.

Once you’ve committed to micro-goaling the next step is being smart about how we approach our micro-goals.

Counting up, quite literally, goes on forever.  The workout is already gonna feel like it takes forever, there’s no need to add to that feeling of eternal suffering.

Counting down, on the other hand, is incredibly final.  Knowing that you only have 5,4,3,2 and 1… is mentally a lot easier to grapple with than 46, 47, 48, 49 and 50.  Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel makes it that much easier to get the hell out of the tunnel. Counting down is makes that tunnel much much brighter.

The only real downside of micro-goaling and counting down is it’s a little harder to keep track.  The benefits far outweigh the downside but it does require a little bit of commitment to math. And while we can all probably admit we’re bad at math, we’re all adults, we can count down by now.

Trick #3: Stop Looking at the Clock

You ever wonder why there’s tons of buzzers, lights and whistles when someone hits a jackpot at a casino?  But absolutely nothing happens when they lose? The casino wants you to vividly remember all the times you win and unceremoniously forget all the times you lost.  Ask any gambler what they remember most and it’s the big wins, not the many many more middling losses.

I’ve found that looking the clock is the same as getting lucky in a casino. Sure, there are times when you saw that there was only 2 minutes left, you found another gear and really crushed the remaining time in the WOD.  But I’ll guarantee there are many many many more times you looked at the clock, got discouraged by how much time there was left, thought “oh crap, this is only gonna get worse” and entered into survival mode instead of attack mode.

Afterall, there’s just nothing you can do about the clock.  It’s gonna keep ticking at the same rate whether you look at it or not.  So keep your attention where it needs to be, on the task at hand. The last thing you need to do is worry about things you can’t control anyway.

As I said in the beginning, these tricks will not take make Murph any easier; but honestly nothing will.  The real trick is to optimize your performance with as little investment as possible. These little mental tricks will help you add a few more reps here and there; and that’s the real trick for success.  

Andrew Killion