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Roundtable in Tahoe: The Psychological Component by Various - CrossFit Journal

In Athletes, Videos

November 13, 2010

Video Article

With some of CrossFit’s top athletes in Lake Tahoe, Calif., for the Rogue Vs. Again Faster Throwdown, it was a great opportunity to throw the athletes into a room and get them talking with the cameras rolling.

In this installment, the athletes discuss the mental side of CrossFit. James Hobart asks the stoic Mikko Salo, “What is it that you do or what is it that goes on in your head that keeps you so psychologically determined and psychologically put together?”

Salo says his strength is in his confidence. He explains that he always gives his best effort, and he says, “If it’s not enough for the win, so be it.” This mental fortitude comes from many years of training—more than most of the other athletes—and a regimented pattern of training.

For Chris Spealler, he pushes himself, and his hardest critic stares right back at him in the mirror. The athletes agreed that it’s tough not to hinge your self-worth on your performance.

“Your performance and your identity are two totally different things,” Spealler says. “You have to walk that line of being vulnerable and allowing yourself to believe you can win, but if you don’t, it doesn’t matter.”

Has CrossFit put the fire in them or is CrossFit just the outlet for that passion? Watch this animated discussion about mental challenges and different ways to overcome them.

14min 25sec

Additional reading: The Mind Game by Steven Shrago, published March 27, 2010.

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27 Comments on “Roundtable in Tahoe: The Psychological Component”


Tracy Coughlin wrote …

Win, lose or draw - as long as you give it your all - that is what matters. How much do you all just love Chris Spealler? I agree with Chris in that what makes CF great isn't the elite athlete3s - it is the athletes (elite included) that give it their all and dive to touch the bar to be first. Great video!


wrote …

Everyone faces this dilemma. In fact, that's why I think so many people fear 'Fran.' It's so brutal that it presents the very real possibility of not getting as good a score as the last time around, and therefore not validating the way you've trained - or who you've been - for the weeks or months preceding, if CrossFit is that much of your identity.


Brittney Anderson wrote …

Awesome Video! Chris is a beast! Its really helpful hear his words! Its so true it doesn't matter if you rock one day and totally suck the next, it doesn't change who you are. Even if you have a bad day you'll be right back the next day to face another WOD!!! Thats why we are CrossFit!


wrote …

Great video, this may come out a little wrong, but I wonder if Chris' spirituality helps him obtain such "peace" during his workouts. Either which way, my respect for Chris has gone up ten fold, not only is he one of the top athletes in Cross Fit, and someone for me to strive to emulate with my athleticism, but also he is something, I feel, we could all benefit from the " spiritual" or " psychological /emotional" side to what we do.


wrote …

That video was pretty deep. I really enjoyed it. Spealler should write a book. I would be the first to buy it.


wrote …

Reminds me of the video where Spealler explains why he never does a wods more than once anymore. Why beat yourself up if you get a 2:20 on Fran vs 2:18. It is just not worth it mentally


wrote …

Speal has got it together. It's impossible to not root for him.


wrote …

I really appreciated this video. It is awesome to hear someone like Chris Spealler articulate what many of us 9myself included) say to ourselves all the time...


Do you remember when/where this video is posted?


wrote …

Wow... I apologize if it was a long rant to the rest of those in Tahoe. Just trying to express what was going on in my head and had no idea it took that long to do it!!

James, thanks for the thought provoking question as it's something we all battle with for sure.

Barber, thanks for asking for my input

Heather, you're such an awesome athlete, try to relax and have some fun in the midst of the chaos :)

To all, sorry if I took the floor for a bit too long. All of your input is extremely valuable. Mikko, short and to the point, noted :)


wrote …

no apologize needed chris , it was great to see you guys go off on a tangent with this subject. only in the crossfit world can a guy call a beautiful woman like heather a beast and a monster and its a compliment !! love you all!!!!!!


wrote …

This video is interesting. I was about 3 feet from Chris at the USAW/Crossfit meet during the metcon that he slayed. Being my first Crossfit event I expected the crowd to be going nuts screaming for him but honestly it was fairly quiet. It wasn't that quiet because nobody wanted to cheer. Instead, I think we all were just amazed by his performance and recognized that he wouldn't hear us anyway. The level of focus he displays is amazing. Great job Chris.


wrote …

Love the psychology. Don't know if you've heard of Dr. Albert Ellis, Chris, but he'd be happy to hear how you separate your psyche and your performance. Will talk something similar to athletes I train tomorrow before we do Fight Gone Bad. Great stuff. Keep it up.


wrote …

I love the psychology talk and Speal is amazing. As someone of a build that I can most closely relate to, he has always been someone I have looked up to but all the recent videos have shown just how great he is. Keep up the awesome effort and thanks for the glimpse into your mind


Frank DiMeo wrote …

True humility is such a great strength.
Here it is exemplified.


replied to comment from Jordan DeRoo

I had the exact same thought. You could almost hear him thinking the word "Faith" but not able (or allowed) to express it in such a forum as this. I've found that there are certain subjects that are uncomfortable if not outright taboo to discuss: politics, race, and religion.


wrote …

This is an interesting video with more angles than just the obvious one.

Yes, the best athletes all over the world have the ability to quickly forget about their mistakes and move onto the next play/rep without having that change their ultimate performance. I think everyone agrees with that, but the other interesting point is how these athletes that were at some point just "snow bums" and "cubicle dwellers" are now facing a certain amount of celebrity status and how they are dealing with it.

This is an interesting angle because it is usually unseen to the masses. Imagine if you could have the opportunity to view famous athlete go through this change during their time in the spotlight. I wondering what Tom Brady thought about his life while before and after his first Superbowl win and how he thought people would judge him as a professional athlete. Is it fair? Does it add pressure? How do you deal with it?

I have been following Crossfit for a few years now (i.e. BTJ- Before the Journal) and the popularity is great, but for those athletes that appear on the blog and in videos (which may or may not benefit from this popularity) they will have to become comfortable with that bit of celebrity, even if it is not Tom Brady status.

Just an interesting angle.


wrote …

I love the idea that getting through the WOD that crushes you is almost (if not moreso) as important as the one that you PR in. That mentality to me is the essence of what Crossfit is. It is overcoming something that you never thought you could possibly do. Yes, you may have lost some time or dropped a few pounds off of a max effort, but you got through it and no one can take that away from you. It is just really humbling to me to hear that coming from Spealler...someone whom you don't think of having "off" days.


replied to comment from Paul Jolstead

Im just interested that you said not able or allowed to express thoughts on faith, spirituality or religion. I don't see who's stopping anyone from expressing those things and why they would do that. I think people are all too often afraid to open the window and speak about faith for fear of what others think. I believe part of what crossfit is about is sharing what works to be come more FIT. Could that be mentally fit, physically fit or spiritually fit? Could my faith, prayers or belief system help me to be focused and get a better Fran time? Maybe. If so I should be able to share that within the community as another piece of the puzzle. Just as coaches in the community shared with me how to dead lift or double under.

Please respond if I made any sense. I just hope people aren't holding back on speaking about faith if it is helping them in their crossfit journey. Not saying that the comment boxes have to be a platform for people to preach, but if it is relevant to the issue then lets hear about it.


Adam Brown wrote …

Really cool video. I find Chris Spealler one of the most inspiring athletes on the planet, not just in CrossFit. He hasn't let the CrossFit hype get to him but that humbleness is balanced perfectly with a ferocity to his training and a single-mindedness that ensures he always gives 100%. What more do you want? To hear one of the CrossFit elite more or less say that CrossFit isn't everything, is refreshing. I am inspired by all of those athletes at Tahoe, but Spealler is the man.


wrote …

I think one important take away from that room is everyone in it has a self critical nature rather than self congratulatory. Every participant in that room has reason to pat themselves on the back, but each of them can tell you five mistakes they made that day.

Just a thought.


replied to comment from Cody Lewis

I guess I put it badly, "not allowed" is no really what I meant rather, uncomfortable to discuss in most situations. I don't know Chris at all but from what I can tell he is a person of faith. Because I know this (or assume or infer) I assume that his faith is more important to him than his Fran time (I'm rather sure of this). I don't we are forbidden to speak of subjects such as this but rather we self-censor so that we don't have to have those uncomfortable moments. I know that within my circle of friends you DON'T talk about religion because we would like to continue to be friends and the disagreement in such a conversation might dent that friendship (I know, I know, "if they were your true friends...").


wrote …

Fantastic video. All those guys and girls in the room are amazing athletes. I like that the point was raised that CF is and always will be about the regular CrossFitter attacking the WODs each day in their garage gym, on base, over seas, or at their affiliate.


wrote …

GREAT !! video... always inspirational

In the word's of Nobutada from the Last Samurai
Nobutada: too many mind.
Nobutada: Hai, mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind enemy - -too many mind.
Nobutada: No mind.

Mind the workout and nothing else (difficult I know)


wrote …

This is just what I needed tonight. Yesterday I had my final test to promote from orange belt to green belt. It was my last chance, or I would have to wait a whole month to promote. I did pass, but I put so much pressure on myself that I was a HEAD CASE during the entire test. Tonight is promotion and I am going to be calm and rock it!

Thanks for talking so honestly.


wrote …

Just now found this and echo what others have said - it's great to hear some of the top athletes share about their struggles and then hear Chris share of the strength/peace he's found. Having a secure identity and knowing who you are and what defines you frees you to face work/workouts/etc without the dreaded fear. I was able to work through that myself before CF and it has helped me face the constantly varied challenges of CF; many of which leave me feeling broken and are still a struggle to perform well. I keep doing them because I know they help to make me stronger - inside & out. I hope to keep this in mind as I coach clients; to encourage them to believe in themselves more than the results/time/score.


wrote …

Somehow, it appeared like Mikko's advice was taken the wrong way. At first I thought Mikko was just this stone cold, rock of a man who did WODs. Now, I've come to admire his ability to lay out the work and be satisfied knowing that there was nothing more that he could've done. If you prepare yourself and If you can say you gave it everything you had, what could you possibly be ashamed of. You have to believe in what you're doing and how you've trained. It's the same as what Spealler explained in detail.

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