1. Play loud music, but be mindful of your breath.
There’s almost nothing better than a good old fashioned 808 or a raw, sharp snare roll just before the clock hits the final second before you jump off into WOD. Personally, I prefer the grimiest street rap music streaming can provide. It reminds me of where I’m from, and of the work ethic that comes along with coming of age in a tough, unforgiving environment. If the Kanye West song “Homecoming” spins forth during a session of mine I visibly accelerate.
This is all well and good. Music is a phenomenal motivator. Whether it’s a baseball player walking to the batter’s box or a mixed martial artist mobbing towards the octagon. However, what it may be meant to drown out—the nearly agonal effort for breath—is squarely what should be foremost in our priorities (alongside technique and will, to be addressed later).
Breathing is perhaps the least coached and most impactful parcel of CrossFit. It’s an intrinsic component that does not possess corners to be cut. Only in being mindful to remain calm and breathe fully can the athlete actualize their full potential for processing oxygen. One must “fill the canister,” as once told to me by local muscle magician Jeremy Collum (https://darkhorsemassage.com/). The canister being our bellies, and the filling by engaging the diaphragm and consciously retaining control of the practice even at a high heart rate.
Additionally, if you have enough O² in your bloodstream to denounce your coach’s musical selection, you certainly have enough to get back to work.
2. Imagine technique is your heartbeat.
This supersedes EVERYTHING, I don’t care. Yesterday we did a 1RM Deadlift for our strength component and a few times throughout the day’s classes I’d see an athlete struggle to finish a rep, meaning they would be unable to go heavier and remain safe.
I’d say, “That’s it for today.”
To which many replied “But I’m ___ pounds from my PR.”
And my response across the board was, “I don’t care.”
This is because a 1RM day isn’t necessarily a Lifetime PR day. Those two days can be one in the same, but can also be years apart. Shoot, the last time I pulled 450+ was in ‘Nam. Additionally—a conversation for another blog post—external factors at play in approaching Personal Records: things like Sleep, Nutrition, Stress, Workload, etc in the days prior to maxing out. This is not the conversation today.
You’re a questionably-structured rep away from a a long road of recovery. There is no single PR that is worth an injury. Even within WODs where you’re cycling the barbell, clinging to the rig or bounding off the rubber your movement should be intentional FIRST, then willfully intense. Just as you’re being mindful of your breath, listen to the coaches cueing, then visualize and implement clean, technically sound movements to the best of your ability. This safeguards you from a world of pain.
3. Be willing to die for reps.
Once the two elements above are mastered, it’s time to suffer.
Every CrossFitter will at one point or another step away from whatever task is at hand and think Oh God, this @#$%ing sucks. The truth is if you can think in this moment, you can move. The truth is if you can think how bad it is, you can tell yourself you’re capable. I personally have a single word I say to myself—something from my life—that motivates me to continue. It’s a mantra that reminds me I’m not dying, but that I am tough. That I’ve been through worse.
In being willing to die for reps (conditionally, that you’re breathing mindfully and remaining intentional) you’ll find another room in your CrossFit life. This room is yours and yours alone. It’s where you succeed regardless of how other athletes perform because day to day, workout to workout, moment to moment progress is based on how you exceed yourself. This is a measurement of mental fortitude and nothing more—a final and ultimate barometer within CrossFit—the technique between your ears.