Got your mental game for the Open?

The Open is here and it’s time for all of to put the last year’s effort and progress to the test.  Exciting, isn’t it?  If you have been training with even moderate consistency you are seeing progress in skills, strength and conditioning since last year.  Whether these gains are modest or extreme, this event on the worldwide CrossFit calendar offers an amazing opportunity to revel in the product of a year’s work.

We know that the Open is no time to expect new skills, although the spirit of competition can bring out the best unexpectedly.  The same goes for our arsenal of psychological skills.  Athletes at all levels are now recognising the importance of their mental approach.  CrossFit presents unique challenges to athletes.  We need a broad range of mental skills to meet the demands of wide ranging physical tasks.  We also compete as a matter of course in CrossFit, even if it’s just against our own whiteboard scores.

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I’d recommend that all CrossFit athletes spend time on their psychological skills as a standard part of training.  But if you haven’t considered all that until now, never fear.  You can still bring your best to the Open WODs.  Here’s what I suggest:

1) Take stock –  If you are taking part in the Open, at whatever level, you will have certain helpful mindsets already.  Some research suggests that the willingness to be involved in competition is a signal of the kinds  of helpful thinking styles of successful athletes.   Take a few moments to consider the times over the last year that you hit PBs, beat times or felt proud of your efforts.  Remembering your strengths physically as well as times when you demonstrated resilience –succeed or fail.  Give yourself credit for these and spend time thinking about your successes.

2) Bring your primal mode – The biggest complaint prior to competition is anxiety.  We need it to perform at our best, but too much and we’ll be sabotaged by it.  Again, this is not the time for new skills, but we can view the experience of pre-WOD nerves in useful ways.  Our anxiety is the work of a primal part of our brains, and it’s not very good at distinguishing between primal threats like cave bear attacks and modern concerns like, missing a load of double unders.  The good news is that no matter how anxiety feels, it can’t hurt us and can lead to increased physical ability.  If you feel it leading up to a WOD remind yourself of that and imagine your inner cave-person coming through to fight for those reps!

3) Don’t play sport-shrink – Even the fact that you’re reading this suggests that you appreciate the role of thinking in your performance.  But if you haven’t been working on those skills in a structured way, now is not the time for self-analysis.  Even if you have fearful or negative thoughts, don’t fight with them or see them as a sign of bad outcomes.  A thought is just that – a thought, not a reality.  If worries are bothersome, imagine them as clouds drifting by high above and tune into the other things that are also going on.

And above all, enjoy yourself.  Win or lose, you are part of an amazing process of transformation towards a fitter, happier, healthier person.  Let this year’s Open be a reminder of that and good luck to all of you.

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