One of the biggest educational sins you can commit, in my opinion, is a failure to research outside of your niche. For example, an Environmental Biologist investigating the affects of fracking on local migration patterns would be ill advised to draft a proposal of change without understanding both the local human populations and the regional economy. Similarly, if you are a student of the Sport of Fitness, it would behove you to look at other fitness-based activities and the traits that make their champions successful.
A great piece of work on Ironman Distance training is the book Going Long, by Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn. You might recognize the former’s name as the assistant author of The Paleo Diet For Athletes. Joe Friel is a great coach with a thorough understanding of both what it takes nutritionally and physically to win, but also psychologically. In his work, Joe outlines these following traits. I’ve merely given them a CrossFit basis for you to better relate.
1. Confidence – Whether it is Regional’s or just another WOD, you need to be confident that you can complete the task. If you are not, you are subject to the workout winning. You’re all too familiar with the feeling of quitting and getting water, or picking up the bar. Be confident, and you’ll always make the right choice.
2. Focus – This can’t be overstated. Stop worrying about the person next to you not getting no-repped or cutting their sets short. Focus on what YOU need to do to achieve the best result possible.
3. Self-Sufficiency – It was not the judge’s fault. It was not the equipment’s fault. Learn that! You and you alone are responsible for what happened. Perfect reps never get no-repped; only reps in a grey area do.
4. Adaptability – Game plans change. If a workout is tougher than you thought, or perhaps the standards changed last minute, you need to be able to think clearly and focus (#2), and adjust what you need to in order to keep going at the best of your ability.
5. Emotional Stability – This is a big one. From the daily enthusiast to the multi-time GAMES competitor, I have seen minor set-backs bring tears and destroy one’s work ethic during a WOD. Take a breath, adapt (#4) and have confidence (#1) that you can persevere.
6. Mental Clarity – You need to be able to focus on having the best, most efficient technique every rep of every workout. If you are focusing (#2) on something else, and it is causing you to take your mind off of the task at hand, it will only slow you down, and potentially cause harm to yourself.
7. Being appropriately psyched – Sometimes under-appreciated, but keep in mind that a personal record snatch does not take heavy rap metal, but instead great concentration. Whereas, a 1RM deadlift will best be accompanied by Rage Against The Machine. Getting too psyched for a long workout might make you come out too fast, or lose mental clarity (#6) and focus (#2) on shorter, more difficult workouts (Think of Jason Khalipa on benchmark WOD Amanda at the 2010 CF Games.)
There you have it, folks; 7 mental traits from the legendary coaches of Tri-athalon, Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn. Learn what they have to say, and apply it correctly to your own training and you will only see improvements.