Last week, we started a 15 part series that explores mental strength and high intensity athletic performance.
In this set, we explored the first two steps of the process and today, we will be looking at the third step in the series.
Step 3 – Mastering Negative Thinking and Self Doubt
When you start mental strength training, you will encounter some situations that will end up testing your mental strength during crunch time. These will be negative thinking and self-doubts.
For this post, we will look at two strategies and specific tactics available you can use with each strategy. They will address:
1. Negativity before the event. This will explore how you handle negative thinking over the course of an entire season and understand that it impacts your athletic performance.
2. Neutralize negative thinking and self-doubt immediately before and during a competition or any high intensity performance such as CrossFit is important. Here, we will explore the negative thinking that can come up and prevent you from ever reaching your peak performance.
3. How negativity can feel like the flu in your body. When you have that blah feeling combined with a lack of energy, the world looks dull and you no longer feel invested. You have what some call a “why bother” attitude.
Eventually, the negativity and your own self-doubt will lead to quitting and failure in the long run.
Shake It Off
As humans, we know it is very common to hold on to past experiences.
Sometimes we hold it for a week; other times, it can hold on to us for a month or even years. We are unable to shake the memory as it consumes us and before long, we no longer have the same level of enthusiasm.
Soon, we allow the emotions to take over and as this continues to happen, if we choose to do nothing, we are deeply buried in a well of despair.
We know it takes character to remain positive, and mental strength and guts are necessary.
So…how do you stay positive when you are in game mode or focused on your high intensity performance workout routine you do as part of your CrossFit regimen to maintain peak levels of performance?
Remember the two strategies we discussed earlier in this post? If you follow these, you can learn to shake things off and step it up to be successful.
Regular Daily Training:
In this part, we will look at some things you can do during practice and throughout your daily activities. This will take some patience to follow and you should allow yourself a month for this process.
Assignment One – Investigative Reporting
Start a week by being an investigative reporter in your life. You will want to take a look at your negative thinking and see when it appears and what comes to mind. You should do this when you are in a game or doing your CrossFit high intensity performance workouts just before you reach your peak. Pay attention to the self-talk and learn to understand how all of this is impacting you.
Maintain a journal and enter each situation and what was going on in your mind after every situation. Pay close attention to doubts and fears that started up in your mind. As you explore these things, you will find that, eventually, you will be able to take action.
Assignment Two – Count Your Thoughts
With the above task completed successfully, you can now count the negative thoughts that appear in your life. In a five-minute period, count the number of times something negative comes up.
As you count them, you will notice they will stop.
During this process, it will be important to look at the when, where, why and how these negative thoughts crawl into your mind as they will keep impacting your performance on the field and when you are trying to hit your CrossFit peak.
Assignment Three – Thought Stopping
From the moment you notice you have a negative thought, demand that it “Stop!” and then proceed to take a deep breath and imagine the negative thought is being expelled with your breath.
Once that is done, try to think on the opposite end of the spectrum and let empowering and positive thoughts fill your mind.
Mental Strength Tactics before High Intensity Performance
• Thought stopping technique (the same one as above).
• Wear a rubber or elastic band on your wrist and snap it each time you have a negative thought and think of a positive one instead.
• Decide on an “interrupt” word, i.e. stop, cancel, no thanks, etc., use it to cease negative thoughts and turn to a supportive thought instead.
• On your equipment, place a small dot, smiley face or something that reminds you to stop thinking of the negative and focus on the positive when you are on the field or workout floor.
• Take a moment to write down all the negative thoughts you have and other things bothering you. Destroy the paper and note that with the paper’s destruction, your negative thoughts are destroyed as well.
• Share your self-doubts with the coach or a mental strength coach and get a supportive perspective on this topic.
• In your mind, write all your negative thoughts on a backboard and then imagine you are erasing them from the board and your mind.
• If it helps, imagine you have a volume control in your head and turn down your negative thoughts.
• Imagine circus music is playing in your head when the negative thoughts are at their worst.
• Pretend to be an opera singer and sing the negative thoughts. If you are a terrible singer, this will really put them in their place.
So now that you have practiced these skills on the field and during a CrossFit session, what do you do with the ANT’s (automotive negative thoughts) that won’t quit?
Perhaps you have done all you can think of and they just won’t go away.
One by one, these negative thoughts will rage in a storm in your head and block out even a single ray of sunlight.
You say to yourself, “Oh no…this is wrong…I’m not supposed to have these thoughts. I’ve been practicing, what’s wrong with me?”
This ends up causing a panic state and before you know it, your athletic performance has tanked.
What you need to understand is that every athlete, no matter how incredible they are, has experienced this very situation.
The main difference is that these performers do not allow the situation to impact them and instead, they break away from them in the process. They choose to instead focus on the positive and often surpass their own capabilities in the process.
How Top High Intensity Performers Think
1. There is an understanding this is normal and they use it as a signal to understand they are ready.
2. They treat the thoughts as though they are in another language and ignore the conversation.
Just like sitting high above a river and the only way you get wet is if you choose to jump in. Since the water can be cool and clean, you can also feel great in the process. If you believe negative polluted water is under you, you know you will believe that nothing good can come from the water.
This means your mind is just like a flowing river and you can embrace the cool, clean water and allow the dirty, polluted waters to be washed away.
If a negative thought comes in, don’t jump into it. Instead, look for the proper focus cues that are in place.
In short, you will back away from the thought.
No matter where you stand in the process, it will be important for you to focus on the positive and learn to refocus. Doing that, you will be able to step back sit from a situation and refocus, using your positive performance.
When you have become proficient at practicing and controlling your negative thinking and knowing every athlete gets pre-game jitters, you have the resources to correct, continue and turn in a peak athletic performance.
Gregg Swanson is owner of Warrior Mind Coach and specializes in the development of mental strength to reach your human potential and achieve peak performance. He is also the creator of the Mental Strength Coaching Certification, providing the tools to help trainers and coaches get the most from their clients and athletes.