It’s no secret that the workouts we do each day demand as much (if not more) mental fortitude as physical exertion. One issue that can hinder our optimal performance is to lean on a mental crutch—something familiar that takes us away from the task at hand for a few moments before we begin the next movement. For some it can be in the form of a nearby water bottle, while others may walk over to rechalk their hands. While it’s important to control our pace and be prepared for the next part of a workout, we often use mental crutches to provide that sense of comfort, thereby taking us out of that “uncomfortable zone.” This ultimately defeats the purpose of the workout, which is to push ourselves past what we thought were our limits. Here’s a few tips you can try incorporating into daily workouts that may help with getting rid of mental crutches.
During shorter workouts, say “No” to H2O. While doing 20+ minute workouts such as Murph in the 90 degree heat may require a water break or two, many of the other workouts we do at Flow fall into the 5-15 minute time domain. Hydration shouldn’t be something that you seek during one of these shorter workouts, but rather an issue that can be addressed before even stepping into the box. By simply making sure you’ve been drinking water throughout the day (or for the morning crews–as soon as you wake up), you can take care of all your water needs before the clock starts.
Chalk it up only if absolutely necessary. As we’ve discussed before, chalk should only be used when necessary—for deadlifts, Olympic lifts, and sweaty palms on the pull-up bar or kettlebell. Chalk is certainly an important tool for assisting with grip-centric movements, but it shouldn’t be something we use every workout. In addition, use only what you really need—we don’t need to be making Lebron James-esque clouds of white powder all over the box. If you find your grip slipping in the middle of a workout, run over and take a quick chalk break—if you don’t truly need it, skip the trip and you’ll shave a nice 20 seconds off of your time.
When resting, stand up tall, hands off of knees. A familiar (actually, probably daily) sight is one of ourselves hunched over, gasping for air with our hands on our knees. Knowing when to take a quick break and prepare for the next portion of a tough workout is a critical component of improving at workouts. However, putting our hands on our knees and staring at the ground or the bar on the ground might not put us in the best mindset for tackling the remainder of the movements. The next time you find yourself needing a break, stand up tall and count off a finite number (breaths, seconds, etc.) that you need and force yourself to move on. You may surprise yourself and find that your rest break may be a bit shorter, or that you feel more energized to take on the next task.
When in doubt, take a deep breath and smile: Nothing is worse than the “nightmare” workout—seeing a workout with a movement you dread. For some it’s running or box jumps. Or double unders. Or kicking up into a handstand pushup. We worry about the workout the entire day, and when it finally begins, we get frustrated. It’s safe to say that we won’t be able to fly through every workout with ease—in fact, the point of Flow is to not do this. So on these workouts where you find yourself struggling, try taking a deep breath and cracking a smile. I know this sounds like the opposite of what seems natural to do in this situation (such as spouting off a colorful four letter word), but smiling can force us to take a step back and think about what we’re actually doing at Flow—improving the way we live. It takes a certain type of person to subject themselves to something that pushes them to their limits, as well as picks apart their weaknesses. The reason we can afford to smile is that we are making a concerted effort to address those weaknesses head-on. Yes, many of us train with the intent of competing in something, but at the core we workout because it’s something we enjoy. The next time you find yourself with a seemingly endless number of wall balls or kettlebell swings, take a deep breath, smile, and give the next set your best shot.
This list is by no means comprehensive, merely a few things that I’ve found to work for me. Experiment with your own methods, and see how you can force yourself to push through workouts just a little more quickly or what resting crutches you find yourself leaning on. I am by no means advocating for everyone to start doing their best Cheshire Cat impersonation and smiling their way through workouts (Wolfie might decide to make the programming harder than it already is), but a few small changes in the way we approach our workouts can result in large differences in achieving higher levels of performance.