The Heaviest Lift is Your Brain


Your brain is the heaviest weight you will pick up in a WOD. If you enter a it believing you can’t do a movement or complete the rep scheme, you will always be right.

But there are tips for getting over the mental hurdles of a tough workout and coming out the other side stronger physically and mentally.

Believe it is hard, but not impossible.

Some of the toughest workouts are the ones that look easy on the whiteboard. The danger of entering a workout thinking it won’t be that difficult is that you enter mentally unprepared.

No matter what it is, psych yourself up and embrace the fact that it will be tough. You will sweat, you will breathe hard, you will struggle. Even on “coffee days,” there is still the aspect of struggling to get a heavy weight or even a personal record you have been shooting for.

But there is a flip side to that coin. Prepare for it to be hard, but never think it is impossible.

The movements, the workouts, the rep scheme are all hard for. But none of them are impossible for you. Half the mental battle deciding you will finish. But sometimes it is too difficult to see the entire workout and believe it.

Break it down.

I love showing people our WODs. Every time, they look at me and ask, “Did you do that all in one hour?” They look shocked when I say it took about 12 minutes.

But seeing the workout as a whole can be overwhelming and intimidating (but never impossible). It always helps to break a total workout down into chunks.

For me, I hate running. So whenever we have running programmed, I know that is going to be the part I hate the most, especially when the running is more than 100 meters.

But that is when I break it down. I can’t see a 400-meter run because that terrifies me. But I can see four, 100-meter runs. We run 100-meter runs for a warm-ups. That is nothing.

Sometimes though, even 100 meters is too much. So I look at 50 meters. Just run to the road. I think. Just make it to the wall.

The same is true for rep schemes. Josh Bridges writes about this. If he has a workout with 30 heavy thrusters, he decides to do five. After doing five and feeling good, he does five more. Then five more. Now it is getting heavy so he does two more. Two more. Two more. One more. One more.

You always have one rep in you. But when the bar is too heavy to lift at all, change the focus from your number to your movement.

Focus on small goals.

Tabata Times has a great article on this. Focus on the movement or technique. Don’t think about how heavy the bar is. Spend your mental energy on checking if your grip is correct. Are your elbows high? Is your chest proud? Are you feet the right width apart? Zeroing in on these things accomplishes more than you think.

First, it gives you small victories to celebrate (I had great form on that lift. Let me do it again.)

Second, great forms helps you lift heavier weight more efficiently. So better focus equals better form, equals more reps or higher weight.

Lastly, it breaks your focus on the difficulty of the lift. If all your mental energy is focused on the heavy bar in your hands it becomes even heavier. Ever seen a child get a scratch on his knee? He cries and cries because all he can think about is how bad his knee hurts.

But offer him ice cream and screaming magically stops. The pain is still there, but it’s no longer his singular focus.

Getting your head on small aspects of your movement is the exact same principal. It doesn’t make the bar lighter, but it helps make it possible.

Have faith in your coach.

There will still be workouts and moments within workouts you don’t think you can continue. You will think you don’t have one more rep in you. But Sonny, Scott, Beth, and Erin believe you do.

Have faith in your coach.

They know where you started. They have seen your progress. They know how hard and how far to push. When they say you can do something, believe it.

Sometimes you are going to be in the middle of a workout and have zero faith you can finish. In those moments, have faith in the faith your coach has in you.


Sometimes all these mental tips and tricks just don’t cut it. You’re tired. You’re sore. You feel like you can’t lift your arms, much less a barbell. In those moments, breathe.

Don’t stop moving. Don’t stop working. But take a second and breathe; but breathe intentionally.

One article from Seal Grinder puts it like this, “Ever since the dawn of time, warriors have practiced deep breathing to clear their minds before they do battle or go out into the wilds to hunt and take on larger, more dangerous animals.”

So before you attack a wild WOD, take a few minutes and breathe. In the middle of the workout when you have lost our focus, breathe. When you have given all you can, breathe.

And when it all over, get ready to come back tomorrow for a hard, but not impossible workout.


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