Question: How’s your confidence lately? Now that the Open is well underway, I am regularly getting emails and calls about results with some very different tones to them. The funny part is that I could have almost predicted the outcomes of the last round just by the training — or should I say, the respective confidence levels — of the athletes with whom I have been in contact.
Why was I not surprised by the scores? It is not because I have a crystal ball, but because I can read the signs of your training — things like your approach, your attitude, your exercise selection, and the facility where you train. The last of these having many other influential factors, of course, such as atmosphere, programming, and equipment, just to name a few. These are merely some of the keys to having and building confident athletic success.
Confidence Is the Key to Success
There is an old saying: “Confidence is a close second to talent in athletes.” The truth is that confidence may actually be tied with talent and at certain times, be more important. There are many times in sports when the belief that you can do something is more powerful than the sheer ability to it. “The will to win must be greater then the skill to win!”
At my gym we are masters of this; we truly believe there is nothing we can’t do. If we can’t get it right now, we can figure it out and we WILL get it tomorrow. Having that kind of attitude is something many athletes lack and really need to work on, but at my place we prioritize this and constantly work on it.
I do seminars and clinics worldwide and work closely with many CrossFit athletes, and I see the same situation in many places: there is little to no mental training going on. Everyone is focused on skill technique, met-con training and body composition, yet the biggest weakness in CrossFit is none of the above. One of the biggest weaknesses in CF (alongside the need to focus on developing absolute strength) is happening above the neck: many of you don’t believe 100% that you can do it — really do it. “It” being whatever it is you are going to do.
Personally, I don’t think that there is anything I cannot do. I do not do CrossFit alone, though we use and really like many CF exercises. We participate in many strength sports, and currently we are training for Strongman very hard. We are knee deep in that training right now and having a blast. In fact, we are looking to compete at an upcoming meet, where we will kick some ass, be assured. Cocky? No — confident.
If we were competing in the CrossFit Open, we would beat you and you know it. You can’t beat us. You are not strong enough physically or mentally, and you don’t have the confidence. That is one of the primary differences between top-shelf athletes and middle-of-the-road guys: true confidence in one’s self.
What does this look like? My son has never done a thruster in his life, yet the other night we did squats at 455lbs for 5 then directly into thrusters with 215lbs for 5×5 sets. Although his form on the thrusters was not perfect (he didn’t put his head through at the top), he just threw the weight around like nothing. He even did a few reps at 245lbs at the end.
For anyone who was there watching, there was not a single shred of doubt that he could do it. Actually, we all laughed at the first warm up set of 185lb thrusters because he practically tossed the weight up in the air. He was positive he could do it. No lack of confidence, not for one second.
How Do You Perceive Yourself as an Athlete?
How do we achieve this level of confidence? It all starts with self-perception. You have to picture yourself in certain ways. You must see yourself as a successful strength athlete. Envision all the traits that the top athletes have and start to make those traits your own.
Your athletic persona must become part of you, a role you must develop within yourself. In your mind you must create the athlete you want to be. If you act a certain way, then people will start to treat you that way. The two go hand in hand — if they treat you like a successful athlete, then you will act like that and before you know it you become it. You have to live the part.
Most days before we train, we spend time getting our heads ready. We don’t just show up and train; we first mentally prepare to train. I like to sit in my office at my desk with my headphones on, my hoodie up, feet up on the desk — many times with sunglasses on — and I work myself up into the right frame of mind. At that point I need to get deep inside my own head, and when I exit the door out of the office, it is a feeling of an entrance into the arena. At my gym we all have pre-game rituals that are a key part of our preparation. Ever see a successful athlete without a pre-game routine?
One difference between great athletes and not-so-great athletes is the ability to control the negative emotions that arise. I call it personal emotional momentum, and I am sure we all know the power of momentum in sports. Well, you have it going on inside you as well. It happens to all of us, but great athletes control it better. Start telling yourself how bad it is and even if it’s not, it will get there pretty quickly.
My greatest weapon is my mind. I was once asked by an interviewer, “If you could only train one thing, what would it be?” My answer shocked the interviewer when I said, “The mind.” He said I thought for sure you would say the squat, but without the proper mental confidence, the squat is not nearly as valuable to me.
The old proverb “A man will become his thoughts” is very true. You have to have that belief in yourself all the time. You have to see yourself as the athlete you want to be. Not only when you look at yourself should you see it, but you also have to feel it from your soul.
That ability will affect everything you do, from your training approach to the outcomes of your training. You have to carry this mentality with you even when you are not at the gym or in competition. It is not that you walk around like a yahoo all day, but inside the fire is burning at all times.
Confidence is also built through a belief in your preparation. Again, my athletes know we have installed a solid base strength level and met all other aspects of our training needs, so there is no reason to feel doubt. We can check any preparation concerns right off our list as we are thoroughly and properly prepared each day.