Positive self-talk: establish yourself as a conqueror
Ugh, this bar is heavy. I’m just worn out. How many more times?
We’ve all been there. There’s a point in every WOD when that little head voice tries to tell us enough is enough. Right then and there we have a choice to make. We can either give in and give up, or we can say to ourselves I can do it; I am strong and keep going.
Positive self-talk is a key component of a successful CrossFit lifestyle. It comes in two general varieties: motivational and instructional.
Motivational – I can do this.
Motivational self-talking is providing yourself with encouragement just like you would another CrossFitter in the gym. Statements like I am strong, I can do it, or keep going all do the trick. This type of self-talk has been shown to markedly improve strength and endurance, which comes in handy during heavy lifts, AMRAPs, or any workout that gets grueling.
Instructional – Drive hard and squeeze my gut.
Instructional self-talking happens when you give cues to yourself on how to effectively and efficiently move. It’s like having your coach in your head on repeat. You can mentally say knees out before squats, punch hard before jerks, or anything that gets you to move the way your body was designed to move. Instructional self-talk improves your technique and execution of complex movement. CrossFit, if anything, is definitely complex.
So…why am I talking to myself again?
CrossFit is inherently designed to require both strength and technique. That makes both types of self-talk very practical for us as CrossFitters. Take the snatch, for example. Poor technique practically destroys your ability to snatch relatively heavy weights. Then, even if your form is perfect, you still need to be strong if you want to lift really heavy weight. A little combo of motivation and instruction goes a long way.
More important than the immediate gain, positive self-talk establishes a pattern of success in our minds. We develop something called an engram as we learn and grow. Engrams are physical changes to our brains that correspond to things we’ve learned or experienced. The most common example is muscle memory. For every time we put a movement or state-of-mind into action, we establish or strengthen a natural pattern.
One of my favorite examples of a success-oriented mental pattern is the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 7). The champion, Goliath, stands 9’9” tall and is armed to the teeth. David, the scrawny, part-time sheepherder, stands against Goliath with only a slingshot and some rocks. Before the fight, David says, “I have defeated a lion and a bear; Goliath will be the same.” David verbalizes his thought pattern for us. It would be reasonable for him to be thinking this dude is huge! How will I win? Instead he thinks I’ve been here before, I can do this. He remembers his natural pattern as a successful person—a conqueror. The result: David wins hands down.
Self-talk, whether it’s instructional or motivational, develops in you a natural pattern of success. Cueing your own movement develops your technique, and you become more efficient. Every time you push through that grueling final portion of a WOD by thinking I CAN DO THIS, you train yourself to take on that success-oriented mindset. You become a WOD conqueror.
It’s a coach’s job to encourage, cue, maintain safety, and yell “Woooooo,” but your success depends in large measure on how successful you choose to be. That attitude spills over into your life outside the gym too. If you just hit a new PR in the gym, one you didn’t think was possible, what’s stopping you from achieving all the other goals in your life? Nothing.
I love to tell my fellow athletes, “be awesome,” because I know they are 100% capable of that statement. My hope is that they—that you—would come to think I am awesome. It’s a game changer guys. You are awesome, so be awesome; conquer your life.
Written by Brock Crystal