Mental Toughness

Posted: February 10, 2011 in high school wrestling
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Some of you guys know I’m a big fan of Crossfit.  The main reason why is the mental toughness side of it: of course, the guys are strong.  Of course, they are athletic.  Of course, they can do amazing things with their bodies.  I admire most, though, the way they push themselves past their limit.

Jordan Oliver, #1 wrestler in the nation at 133 lbs, NCAA D1

On the Crossfit Games website recently, the organization featured an interview with one of the top athletes, Joey Warren, where he discusses mental toughness.  I think there are many connections there to wrestling, so I’m posting excerpts here.  Notice how he deals with obstacles and pressure:

Discussing Mental Fitness with Joey Warren

The Games Competitor Balances Life and Training

During the spring of 2010, Joey Warren was finishing up his Master’s degree in Sports Management. At the same time, he was training to qualify for the CrossFit Games for the second time. The final project, which he needed in order to graduate, was due the same week as the Southwest Regionals. Joey wasn’t sure if he would be able to ” juggle graduating and train to be top 4 in the Southwest Region.”

Qualifying for the CrossFit Games is never easy, but it’s especially difficult in California. The 2010 Southwest Regional was arguably the most competitive regional in that year’s Games qualification process. Many big names from the 2009 Games, including Josh Everett, David Millar, Pat Barber, Jeremy Kinnick, J.C. Nessa, and Peter Egyed were competing. Each of these athletes had finished higher than Joey Warren at the 2009 Games.

The day before his Regional, Joey presented his final project to his university’s department panel. A few hours later, he took a flight down to southern California to compete in the Regional. At the end of weekend, Joey had both qualified for the 2010 Games with a 4th place finish in the regional, and received a phone call confirming that he’d earned his Master’s degree.

This busy weekend is emblematic of Joey’s outlook. Joey has found that discipline and success in his training promote more positive outcomes in his career and personal life. Following the Southwest Regionals, Joey went on to take 13th at the 2010 CrossFit Games, fulfilling his goal of reaching the top 15. What follows are Joey’s thoughts on training and life.

On CrossFit and Mental Fitness:

There is such a tremendous mental side to Crossfit that draws me in. There is nothing that will challenge that voice inside your head quite like it.

It can never be perfected just like the physical aspect of Crossfit, it can only be practiced and striven for. This is another part that keeps bringing me back to Crossfit, striving to meet my human potential or perfection. This is why my blog is titled “Progress to Perfection.” It’s definitely addicting when you see improvement every single month and this will always bring me back because you can never perfect everything, physically or mentally.

How often do we get to truly test ourselves in our lives? Not often, but Crossfit gives you the ability to practice every day for when that time comes. It’s very primal! This quote captures this mindset, “Perfection is unattainable, but if we strive for it, we can catch excellence.”

On Motivation and Weaknesses:

Striving for my potential is what keeps me competitive and the mental growth is what keeps me coming back. You can’t feel it until you experience it, which most Crossfitters know. Everyone has trouble with motivation and staying committed. I think how I stay so focused is by being honest with myself. It’s tough to leave your pride at the door and work on weaknesses. For me, growth comes from exposing my weaknesses and being vulnerable. This is how I understand what needs work. I’’ve never been too stubborn or arrogant to realize that I have weaknesses and knowing this gives me the confidence to do my best in every workout. If you look at these two recent posts on my blog (unbroken and deadlifts) they demonstrate the improvement I’ve seen over the last couple years, but in different ways, one from a physical strength standpoint and the other from a strategy.

I never have regrets after a workout and this is partly because I know I trained 100% and never doubt my training and partly because I know I will always learn something valuable from the workout. I see people in my gym “turn it down” during a wod, they fear getting to know that voice in their head and they don’t want to feel weak. I think feeling mentally weak is what people are more scared of than being physically weak (after you get past the initial embarrassment that you are weak but nobody cares). Understanding that the voice in your head is going to try to make you doubt yourself is what makes it OK to feel vulnerable. But this is where you have to understand and come to terms with it; you can never be perfect. That is what I try to welcome, that voice will always be there, it’’s how well you can train it. I won’t even program my own workouts, I would over-think them too much and doubt myself. This is partly why I have a coach program my workouts and I just have to follow, feel, and learn.

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