How to become mentally tough:
Competition is a great way to increase your mental toughness. In CrossFit, we compete with ourselves every single day. The phrase, “Better Every Day” is common in CrossFit culture and the competitive desire to do so is widespread. This is the most basic form of competition and it can be extremely potent: The competition to get a little better every day. If I competed against myself 1 year ago at anything… who would win?
The reason I use competition as a great way to increase mental toughness is because competition is one thing that is readily available to us. Now I know some of you are saying, “But I’m not a very competitive person.” That’s fine, but I would propose that you don’t even know how mentally tough OR competitive you are until you compete. I have seen some of the nicest, sweetest, friendliest, bake-you-a-casserole ladies come into the gym to train and within a week they are ferociously tracking their stats and figuring out how to climb the daily leaderboard.
The need to be mentally tough in order to SURVIVE in today’s society is minimal. But, the need for mental toughness in order to THRIVE is as prevalent as ever! When is the last time you got butterflies in your stomach? CrossFitters would say it happens almost every day right before 3..2..1..GO! And that butterfly feeling is multiplied when you are at a judged competition with spectators. Those ‘first day of school’ butterflies or ‘right before you give a big speech’ butterflies or even ‘about to propose to my fiance’ butterflies are GOOD FOR YOU! They mean you care, you are about to do something scary or uncomfortable, and when you get through it you are a better person for it.
But can you train to be mentally tough or is it God-given?
Ben Bergeron, owner of CrossFit New England, believes that it can be trained and it is not an innate sense in us. And he would know as he coached last year’s CrossFit Games man AND woman champs. As a matter of fact, he tells stories about Katrin Davidsdottir, the 2-time women’s champion, throwing tantrums in the middle of training sessions just a few years ago. This is a far image from the mentally tough warrior we have seen being so strong and stoic on the last grueling day at The Games the last two years. She has obviously trained and buttoned up her mental toughness game in order to be able to overcome the fittest women on earth. So maybe it’s pure coincidence that Ben Bergeron trains the champs or maybe he has tapped into the separating factor: mental toughness.
Sam Steen is the owner and head coach at CrossFit Pampa.