It’s All Mental

//found at theascentblog

Tuesday night’s WOD was a tough one. 7 Rounds: 400m run, 4 heavy power cleans, 14 wall balls, 24 horizontal jumps over the bar. Time cap: 30 minutes. My clean max is 100#, so I used 85# for the WOD, and it was so heavy that TJ was personally supervising my every rep. My wall balls were just miserable, and knocked me on my ass on more than one occasion. And in case you were wondering, no, I didn’t finish before the cutoff, and I came in at least 1 full round behind everyone else.

In the past 14 months, I have done almost 200 WODs, but as I began the run to open my 3rd round of this WOD, I started to feel like it might as well have been my first night at the box. Almost everyone else lapped me before I made it halfway around the block, and as they all casually jogged past me (or so it seemed from my perspective at the time), I started to get pretty dang frustrated. Why do I still suck at this? I thought.

I know, I know. I have heard all of the “It’s You vs. You!” and, “Just think of how far you’ve come in the past year!” lines. I’ve heard them a lot. Because I still have these experiences a lot. And in my better moments, I can and do focus on how far I’ve come in the past year, and focus on Me vs. Me and all the other inspirational one-liners of CrossFit. But sometimes, I just get really frustrated that my name still ends up at the bottom of the list every day. Should these things matter? No. But do they still matter sometimes? Absolutely. And this was one of those moments.

As the others disappeared around the corner, leaving me in their dust, I began thinking things like, “I mean, if I stopped now it wouldn’t technically be a DNF. I’d still have 2 full rounds finished…” and “I could just stop running and hobble back into the gym and say I rolled my ankle…”

And to be honest, 15 months ago, I probably would have done just that. I would have filed this experience under the “Stuff That Doesn’t Matter in the Long Run” category and walked the rest of the way, telling myself that it absolutely didn’t matter that I didn’t finish, and that this experience had no real bearing on who I am as a person, anyway. And at the time, those things would have been true.

But then, as cheesy as this sounds, a switch flipped in my brain. I took a mental step back and looked at the situation, and I literally thought, Are you seriously having a pity party right now? Do you seriously think it’s ok for you to just WALK back into the gym and sit down? If you really believe that, then what are you doing here? This internal voice was accompanied by a mental version of my infamous “You’ve Got to be F@#&ing Kidding Me” face, which I typically reserve for strong girls who use 20# kettlebells, and people who stop at the beginning of a quarter-mile long merge lane because they feel the need to immediately enter traffic.

And then the next thought that popped up was, You are better than this!

Wait a second, wasn’t I just thinking, Why do I still suck at this?

As I continued on my run (by the way, this was one of those things that takes 5 minutes to explain but happens in your head almost instantaneously), I tried to drown out the Why do I still suck at this voice with the hyper cheerleader You can do this! voice. I jogged back in through the door and weaved through the rest of the class, some of whom were already getting ready to leave again for the next run. I power cleaned my 85-pound bar, and slammed myself in the chest with it.

“That’s heavy!” said TJ.

“I noticed,” I replied.

In the next two rounds, I would be knocked over by the wall ball twice, and get lapped again by almost everyone else. With 28:02 on the clock, I headed out for my 6th 400m run. I can make this, I thought. I bolted out the door, determined to do whatever it took to finish my 400m lap before the 30 minutes was up.

I’m not sure that I have ever taken a 400m run so seriously. I used every technique I could think of–I even tried repeating a mantra in my head to keep me from focusing on the fact that I felt like my lungs were about to begin frothing. My mantra, repeated with every stride of my right leg, was this: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I rounded the final corner and sprinted up the hill (yes, the last 100m of our 400m course is a hill. it’s agonizing), pushing everything I had into the pavement. I collapsed through the doorway, gasping for breath.

But everyone was already done, laying on the floor near their barbells or hunched over a wallball. The 30 minutes had ended. I didn’t make it. No poetic justice tonight.

I don’t always like to end posts like this with a moral, because 1, I think it’s cheesy, but 2, there isn’t always a “bright side.” Sometimes, nights like this one just suck, and that’s that. But on Tuesday night, even though I finished dead last without even a Rocky Balboa ending to show for it, I left the box feeling pretty good. Because even though I may not be as fast or strong or flexible or powerful as I wish I was by now, I am no longer the person who gives up when things are tough, or convinces myself that I’ve done enough, even though I know I could do more. I am no longer that person I used to be, and that is more important than making it back through the door before the time ends (although that would have been nice, too).

  • Cathy

    I enjoyed your post! I’m about 6 weeks into crossfit and really liking it…but there are days when I can’t feel I can do anything in the wod and feel discouraged. Good post. :)

    • clairechapman

      thanks! I am definitely finding that that feeling might not ever totally go away… which I guess is part of CrossFit, huh?

  • jellyfish

    Thank you Claire for this post. I am nearly always last in the WODs and it is embarrassing how slow I can be but everyone really does cheer me on while they are standing around recovering. :) I guess because I am considerably older than everyone else, they just think it’s great that I am even finishing. Yeah, well so do I! I personally know no other nearly 52 year old women that do anything like Crossfit. I am at that age where most of my female friends are overweight, slowing down, eating whatever they want, drinking more, and “just taking it easy.” For some reason I decided to do the exact opposite. I guess I just want to live longer and healthier!

    • clairechapman

      that’s awesome! My mom is 56 and just started CrossFit in January!

  • Jill E.

    This about sums up most wods for me. I am 26 and I have been doing crossfit for 9 months and I am usually deadlast, lift the least weight and using the most mods. It is crazy how much of it is in your mind.

    • clairechapman

      Totally. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be in the Games (ha!) but the difference between feeling great and feeling terrible about your performance is just a matter of perception!

  • NJ Paleo

    85 lb cleans? That’s heavy and to be honest, that’s probably what slowed you down! You were working at 4 x 85% for 7 rounds??? My Wendler 5/3/1 has you doing 85% for 5 reps! I know what you mean though — you don’t want to be last or not finish. I bet if you’d worked at 70% or even 75% you would have been fine. Still, you didn’t quit, that’s a big deal! And you don’t suck….

    • clairechapman

      Yeah the cleans were definitely slow but the 7-set-of-2 wall balls didn’t do me any favors either :) And thanks for thinking I don’t suck! lol ;)

  • Chelsea

    Was debating about not going to my box tonight because we’re doing ME snatch and C&J. The last time I tried getting my PR snatch I ended up with the bar landing on my back and getting a pretty nasty bruise. Gonna go tonight, after your post. Thank you.

    • clairechapman

      Wow, Chelsea, that is awesome. How did you do?? For the record, I have fallen over backwards into a pile of boxes while trying to max on my snatch before…

  • Simone

    You’re seriously like my favorite person ever.

    PS. Your last 2 sentences = truth. That’s the most important thing crossfit teaches us, I think. The mental toughness. The rest comes. (Or so I keep trying to tell myself as someone who still makes a derp face whenever cleans are in the WOD.)

    • clairechapman

      I totally agree. If you aren’t mentally tough, you can’t expect to be able to put in the hours it will take to get physically tough. I loved catching some glimpses of the Regionals competitions this week and watching the facial expressions on those athletes–none of this is easy, even at the elite level, and it isn’t supposed to be!

  • AllieLimey

    Wow, true story, of all the days to see this post… I was running today on a trail and totally let my thoughts get the better of me and so I QUIT. Ew not a fav word of mine… but I did and quitting is a habit and quitting a run flows over to your everyday life. This post was just… PERFECT for today. Thank you for being so open and vulnerable because your internal dialogue helps me realize people are more alike than we know! Congratulations! You won the day! And now I’ll make THAT a habit of mine each day! THANK YOU YOU ROCK!

  • Theresa

    Yep, some days just suck. And we get whiny (in our heads or outloud), we bitch, we moan…but you pushed and ran (literally) with it. You rock!

  • Terri

    Good for you!! That moment you are being lapped can be killer but it’s all worth in the end when you relax and focus on YOUR workout!!


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