Sometimes, the worst thing you can do in CrossFit is think. Nobody is better at getting in your own head than you. Before you know it, your confidence is shot to hell.
We’re coming to the close of a 6-week back squat cycle. The first week was a 10-rep max. Everybody hit their heavy set pretty easily. The next week, we had them do a set of 12 reps at the same weight as the 10. This time, confidence was shaky and athletes struggled, especially on those 2 extra reps. For the most part though, everybody made it through.
Then something extraordinary happened. In the following weeks the sets of 14, 16, and 18 looked easier. What’s happening? In my experience, athletes tend to underestimate their own strength. They ease up on the set of 10 because they’ve never had to lift that many heavy reps unbroken before. Then they get into their own heads with the set of 12: if 10’s their max, surely 12 is impossible! However, by week three, the pattern emerges and the idea of “what’s 2 more reps?” becomes the mindset.
This is my favorite strength cycle because no other programming at CrossFit has improved my confidence in myself more than hitting those 20 back squats. Suddenly, seemingly outlandish Rx weights seem achievable. 5 squat cleans at 155 doesn’t sound so bad knowing I nailed 20 squats at 185. 20 unbroken wall balls are no big deal when you squatted 5-10 times that weight for the same amount of reps. We call these “I can do this” moments. They work wonders in making us stronger athletes.
Oddly, a great friend of confidence is failure. Athletes who try and fail and try again will always progress faster than those who fear failure. Fear of failure leads to “the yips”. When you just stare at a tall box rather than jump on it, or if you grip and regrip a bar because you can’t get yourself to lift it, you’ve got the yips. For a great example, go to YouTube and search “Charles Barkley Golf Swing”. He’s got it bad.
So how do you get rid of the yips? You try. Fail or succeed, just go for it. If you fail, oh darn, just try again. If you succeed, there’s your “I can do this” moment.
Two quotes come to mind:
“Do, or do not. There is no try.” - Yoda
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” - Wayne Gretzky.
Yoda may be wise, but this quote is toxic. Sure, he’s telling us to approach matters with full confidence, but it has undertones of “failure is not an option”. The Great One, on the other hand, is telling us you never know what will happen if you go for it. Failure is only certain when you don’t. This is why Gretzky won 4 Stanley Cups while Yoda spent the rest of his life in a swamp.
We train to build strength, endurance, coordination, etc, but we also train to build our minds. The next time you see a daunting WOD, don’t just focus on the gains or the scores, but also on the stronger and more confident person that emerges when you shout “TIME!” at the end.