How to Deal with Mental Fatigue While Training

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By Hannah Cunningham, CrossFit Humanity

For those of us who first tried CrossFit and quickly understood, “I like this because it’s challenging and it’s doing wonders for my training” we exploded out of beginning on ramp ready to try anything. We suffered through benchmark WODs like the Filthy 50 as newbies and even felt like a wall ball or 2 in the face was not enough to keep us from coming back to the box the next day. We asked our coaches to come and check our form on everything from how to explode out of the bottom of a bench press to how to progress to a full strict muscle up. Our love affair with the sport was peaking to an all-time high as we actively sought to make connections with anyone who could understand the world we inhabit either before or after going to work; anyone willing to talk about beatings and bruises as badges of honor for finally making it up the rope for the first time or getting a first double under. We watched the veteran CrossFitters at the gym glorifying them as gods and goddesses and made a promise to ourselves we would drive and drive to be at THAT level someday. The above scenario can be viewed in two ways:

The first is reading this as motivated: This camp of people who take to CrossFit immediately and seek to immerse themselves in training hard for the sake of self-improvement are probably highly motivated in other areas of their lives. Motivation and hard work are touted and valued in our society and of course we are just the percentage willing to put in the work to be the best, right?

Some may also look at the above and see an obsessive compulsion risking injury due to overtraining. For driven personalities, many ride the line of traditional ideas of hard work equals success but inadvertently take it too far. For many, living right below the motivated put together exterior is a perfectionist: A self-punishing internal reel that pushes too hard and can catapult one into a zone of overtraining making ourselves almost as unhealthy as if we never trained in the first place.

Aside from the physical fatigue we read about in overtraining articles it’s important to check in with your mental fatigue as the body demands a balance of rest not only physically but mentally. You may take 1 or 2 rest days per week but if you’re obsessively worrying over your areas of weakness and relentlessly strategizing how to win your next competition driving you to push harder RIGHT NOW, it’s time to take one big step back and gain some perspective.

CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF: Here are some check points for mental fatigue i.e. when it’s time to raise the white flag and stop pushing so hard.
1) The idea of working out that day seems more like chore than a bright spot in your day.
2) You start to psyche yourself out of participating in benchmark WODS or fun inter gym competitions because you’re scared to not meet the goals you’ve set for yourself.
3) You realized you haven’t seen the sunshine or fresh air, period, outside of your box because you’re too busy training and meal planning on the weekends.
4) You used to have other hobbies that have fallen at the wayside because you’re too mentally exhausted to engage in them after work and CrossFit.
5) You find yourself short on patience with your nearest and dearest (a reflection that you’ve gotten too short on patience with your own self expectations).

REGAIN YOUR BALANCE: Here are some things you can do to get back to the happy place. The reason you love working hard in the first place.
1) Focus on the smaller gains you’re making. So what if you don’t have a sub 25 min time on the Filthy Fifty yet, you moved smoothly through the kettle bells and felt better than you ever have in that portion.
2) Get outside on the weekend (especially if you’ve trained hard all week) bring your hard work into the world and apply your functional fitness hiking, walking, putting your toes in the sand.
3) Take a moment for gratitude daily. Stop for a sunset, take a breath in your car and thank yourself and your body for how far it has allowed you to come. Love and forgive yourself instead of berating yourself.
4) Stretch and give your muscles some mobility loving! Invest in a lacrosse ball or leg roller and work that stiff area until it’s supple again.
5) Lessen your comparisons to others and avoid peer pressure: So what if Sally is doing her 5th day of training in a row? You won’t get out of shape for taking Day 5 off and Sally certainly won’t beat you on the first WOD back because of it.

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