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Andrew Bernstein on Stress: Parts 7-8 by Andrew Bernstein - CrossFit Journal

In CrossFit, Rest Day/Theory, Videos

March 04, 2011

Video Article

In this multipart series, Andrew Bernstein, author of The Myth of Stress, presents to CrossFit athletes and coaches his process of dealing with stress.

In Part 7,the group analyzes a new stressful situation: “I should be the best right now.”

Bernstein allows the participants to individualize the stress they feel about striving to be their best and feeling like they aren’t there yet. Using the worksheet, they work through the problem, describing their feelings and actions stemming from the stress. As they flip around the sentiment to negate it, they hit a potential problem. Saying “in reality, at this time I should not be the best” feels demotivating and defeatist to the group.

“It takes a little bit of practice doing this to trust the process enough to see that’s not where it actually goes,” Bernstein says.

“It’s like a muscle that’s never been stretched, you know, and this asks you to stretch it in a way that’s awkward, but when you do a few of these and you understand what ‘should’ means and what this asks you to do, it makes more sense, and it will actually start to seem really cool,” Bernstein says.

In Part 8, Bernstein asks the participants to list reasons why the statement “in reality, at this time I should not be the best” is true. It’s an uncomfortable but constructive task for the group. According to Bernstein, finding reasons why you fall short helps you find ways to improve.

“When you realize ‘I did my best and now I’m going to find out what I didn’t do right and practice that and train that and do even better,’ that’s a clear mind,” he says.

“We’re just trying to see reality,” Bernstein says. “This will help you get honest with yourself.”

Part 7
8min 13sec

Part 8
8min 59sec

Additional reading: The Positive Impact of Physical Fitness on Emotional Fitness by Dr. Brooke R. Envick and Rick Martinez, published May 25, 2010.

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5 Comments on “Andrew Bernstein on Stress: Parts 7-8”


wrote …

I never know if it's kosher for the speaker to comment on a video, but I want to make sure I'm clear on the point raised by Chris Spealler and a few of the other trainers. Going into a WOD, a regional, or a sectional and thinking "I can be the best" is great. I want all of you in the CF community to sustain your passion for competition, training, and life. So if it's working for you, keep it up.

ActivInsight is for the areas of your life where you experience frustration, self-judgment, regret, and other negative emotions. Those are what slow you down, and if you're succeeding and still feeling that way at times, you're succeeding in spite of those feelings, not because of them. So that's where this can play a part.

I'd love to start a CF subgroup of people doing ActivInsight and prioritizing mental fitness as well, both for competing and just for living happy, balanced lives. I'm going to launch an online program later in the year to make this practical. If you want to stay in the loop, join the mailing list at And let me know here in these comments if you have any questions, or shoot me an email. I know these clips are a little tricky without all the context, and I'm happy to help people in the CF community think this through.


wrote …

Thanks for this Andrew!! I just signed up for the CrossFit Journal and accessing this video series has already been worth my $25! I grabbed a copy of the PDF from your website (not sure if it's linked anywhere in these entries but I got it from -- very useful to go along with these videos) and will be sure to go through a ream of paper printing these out.

“I realized that it’s insane to oppose it. When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.” Byron Katie


wrote …

Hi Andrew, my name is Jeff, logged in with my wife's account :)

This particular video has really got my wheels turning, as well as Speallers it would seem! It has raised a challenging question for me, What if I HAVE done my best?

If I truly have done the best I could, all things considered, what a burden of guilt and shame that could be lifted. Certainly those thoughts/emotions of guilt & shame are NOT helping me move forward the way I would like to. It could be a worthwhile thought experiment to believe I truly have done my best, but still strive to do better in the future.

More and more, I've come to believe that who I am today (richly blessed, healthy) is at least 95% due to the geographical location I was born into (a wealthy society), and the parent I was born to (they loved me more than life itself). 5%, at best, of my good fortune is a result of my own efforts. I stand on the shoulders of giants, and can't take credit for my successes. God knows I've put in some good effort, but its possible it was even my best effort. On the flip side, those who are not experiencing the same success are also possibly "doing their best" with what they have been given.

This places another burden on me, but a better one: "to those who have been given much, much will be expected."

There is another quote that summarizes some of the tension I think Chris is experiencing in this video: "Be content, but never satisfied"

To sum it up, here is the belief that I am challenging in myself thanks to this video, "I could have done better. They could have done better." Maybe its just NOT true! It's true I have fallen short of the mark, big time, but perhaps I did my best, and will aim for better next time.

I will be signing up for more info on your site Andrew!


wrote …

@John, great to hear that you found the videos (and the pdf) useful. Let me know how it goes. I love that you know Katie's work too.

@Jeff, I think part of why Chris responded the way he did was because he initially misunderstood what I was saying. People CAN do better NEXT time. But we can't have done better LAST time. Last time is over, and we did what we did. Thinking it should have gone differently is a massive waste of energy and prevents us from really seeing why it should have gone the way it did, learning from that, and strategizing for the future.

So if someone has a burden about the past, I would say, look harder at the belief that it could have gone differently or you could have done better, and in the honest clarity of seeing the truth, you'll learn what you can improve going forward. But you don't need a burden to motivate you. Lose the burden through insight and you'll move that much faster.

We have stories (in our culture and in CF) of heroes who tough it out and excel with their burdens, but I think the real heroes are the ones who set the burden down and fly.


wrote …

Andrew, This was a powerful tool, thanks for sharing it with CrossFit. I can imagine this as a very powerful tool in a gym for coaches for those that find it useful enough in their own lives that they want to help clients with ActiveInsight.

It has been a strange experience - my first thought was "I never think the thought 'it shouldn't be this way'." Since then, I've noticed I think that all the time! Powerful insight. Paul

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