The Mind Game

By Steven Shrago

In Competition, Rest Day/Theory

March 27, 2010

PDF Article

The fastest, strongest athlete can be undone by a weak mind. Steven Shrago recommends using positive beliefs, mental preparation and mental toughness to help your mind drive your body to new PRs.

CrossFit’s 10 domains of fitness cover the full range of physical and neurological components, but do they tell the full story of fitness?

We measure fitness as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains,” which implies a necessary element of performance: you are only as fit as you are able to actually demonstrate your work capacity. Talking a good game doesn’t cut it.

But performance varies on a daily, hourly and minute-by-minute basis. Rest and nutrition can affect one’s ability to perform, but so can another aspect of fitness: the mental game. A wide variety of components go toward making someone mentally ready. For the CrossFit athlete, three are especially important:

Positive beliefs—programming your mind to expect success.

Mental preparation—focusing your mind on the challenge ahead.

Mental toughness—overcoming fear, pressure and adversity.

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16 Comments on “The Mind Game”


wrote …

Great to see an article from you on here, Steven!


wrote …

This is exactly the kind of article I needed to read. Thank you so much!


Tom Seryak wrote …

The most under-rated and often ignored aspect of sport and fitness has made it into the journal. Steven, thank you for writing this article and HQ thank you for publishing it!


Olivia de Santis wrote …

Great read, especially for someone who didn't grow up with competitive sports. Thanks!


wrote …

This is what really gets me every time. For some reason I talk my self out of going as hard as I can. I'm always doing it. So, should I find something positive in my life and think about it before I do my work out and during? Would that be dissociation? Good article.


wrote …

Great article Steven. I'm sure we can all relate to many of the points in your article with ourselves when working out and in our clients.
The mental toughness that CrossFit can build with individuals can often far outweigh the physical.


wrote …

Great observations! I believe confidence & mental toughness are the most important results of training. Thanks for your article.


wrote …

I needed to read this article! Thank you. I can think back to movements that I have given positive thoughts to before a workout and not only did well in those movements but enjoyed them! And the opposite is true as well, if I gave into negative thoughts the WOD became a total train wreck. Thank you again!


wrote …

awesome article, thank you for the mental boost


wrote …

I x V = R

Imigination (times) Visulization (equals) Reality.

Take another twist to it is:

Positive Imagination (times) Positive Visualization (equals) Positive Reality


wrote …

I agree with and enjoyed the article very much. The interesting part of this topic that was not covered as much as I thought it would be was the interplay between conscious and unconscious behavior drivers. Any of us can decide to respond to the effects of a WOD, but the champions also have unconscious alignment that supports their conscious processing of events. I think it's what we see as 'desire.' An interesting challenge is how to use the conscious mind to help focus the unconscious mind on outcomes it may not see as desirable - like enduring higher and higher levels of discomfort in order to perform better. If the UCM associates mounting discomfort with loss of control for example - and loss of control is programmed as being more painful than failing to cut 10s off the Fran time - the UCM will be just another limiting element. To re-associate the UCM such that 'loss of control' seems less painful than failing to accomplish another milestone WOD PR, we then get the benefit of alignment between conscious and unconscious drivers. The difficulty is that re-associating unconscious programming is not easily reducible to conscious effort. At least, that's my understanding of the issue based on exposure to Robbins/NLP concepts.

Rich topic, looking to see more from Steven.


Web Smith wrote …

Great Article Steven,

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recently wrote an article covering the same sort of psychological element of competition. I would love to know what you thought.

Web Smith


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Well-written and very informative, thanks!


wrote …

Thanks for writing this article. I don't think burpees will ever be my friend per se, but I'm going to use your techniques to stop being so negative about them. It's bound to help.


wrote …

Thanks for the very kind feedback everyone - I'm really pleased you enjoyed the article, and (hopefully?!) got some benefit from it.

The specific techniques may not be for everyone, but I hope that the underlying message is fairly universal: the strength of will/mind to keep performing when your inner voice is screaming/pleading/tempting/encouraging you to stop is a skill. And like any skill it is one that can and should be practised and developed.

Just like the other fitness skills that crossfit teaches, it can also pay real dividends back in the 'real world'.


wrote …

I printed this article out. It has already been helpful, as I prepared to do a deadlift work out. I am going to use the physical move/mental cue in my snatch practice -- and now I understand better what those Olympic Weightlifters are doing right before they lift, perhaps those butt up/butt down/roll the bar movements are reminding them of specific techniques they need to concentrate on. Thank you!

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