Friday, January 20, 2012

Mental Toughness

Moneyball was such a great movie, and one of my favorite lines from Billy Beane is "I hate losing. I hate losing even more than I like winnning. And that's a problem."

I think one aspect of mental toughness is the ability to get into a hard situation, sucking air, someone depending on you and/or giving you instructions, and not freak out, not panic, not get upset. I am really terrible at that aspect.

Well, maybe there are a few other aspects of mental toughness. Dedication. Showing up when you're scared. I can do those things. I can wake up early and go to Crossfit 5 times a week. (The hard part is not going every day.) And I can show up even when I'm scared of the workout. But sometimes showing up isn't enough. Sometimes I am scared of the workout and when I show up it is still a lot worse than I thought it would be.

When I get to a certain level of out of breath, I feel like I'm having a panic attack, which sets off a vicious cycle of breathing even harder and panicking more. It's worse if I have observers. Even more so if I'm partnered with someone. My Crossfit intro workout back in October was a partner workout. With jump rope. I never wanted to come back again.

So a long partner workout, especially with someone who is a lot better than me, is a test of my mental toughness that so far, I fail. A long partner workout where I injure myself is about the worst thing I can imagine. Welcome to today.

Today's workout:

In teams of two, complete this 30-minute AMRAP:
400 Meter Run
30 Box Jumps (24″/20″)
30 Wall Ball Shots (20#/14#)
Team members will alternate tasks, with only one member working at any one time.

Last week when I was doing sprints I felt something pop painfully in my calf. Today I did the first run and felt it again. And I still did the first round of box jumps, which was probably a mistake. It was probably a good move to admit that I was having a problem. Coach Sara switched me to 24" box steps and rowing, so at least I didn't have to scratch.

My partner and I did 5 rounds + 1 run + 3 box steps. And I failed, very much, to exhibit the sort of mental toughness that I would like to.

But the only thing I hate worse than failing is giving up, so here is the plan to address my lack of mental toughness:

1. Don't run or jump for one month. February 20, I will try running again and see how it goes. This has nothing to do with mental toughness, but I need to do it anyway.
2. Conquer wall balls. In the next month I will do Karen twice, once with 10# and once with 14#.
3. In the next month do at least two chipper workouts, longer than 20 minutes. I'm confident in my ability to handle a 20 minute AMRAP, or something that takes up to 20 minutes. Beyond that, I am not.
4. Do any partnered workout that comes up, because they are so likely to push me to panic faster than a workout I'm doing on my own.


  1. I hurt myself in a partner work-out and pushed on through because of some idea that I didn't want to let my partner down. I hear ya.

    I think the most important part is showing up. Do that with your head in the right place and the rest will fall into place, especially if you listen to your body so you don't get hurt.

    Have you considered talking to a physical therapist about your calf?

  2. If my calf problem becomes chronic, I might. I think if I stretch it, rest it, and warm up better next time I do sprints it will be okay.

    Thanks for the good advice.