Mental Toughness Strategies for CrossFit Athletes

crossfit quarterfinals

Mental toughness is a crucial component of success in CrossFit, as it allows athletes to push through the physical and mental barriers they may face during training and competition. Developing mental toughness can be challenging (some days more than others!), but with dedication and the right strategies, it is possible for CrossFit athletes to cultivate this important quality.

Strategy #1: Set goals

One key way to develop mental toughness in CrossFit is to set specific, challenging goals for oneself. This can help athletes stay motivated and focused, even when faced with difficult workouts or setbacks. These goals should be set in the context of the workout or task at hand while also considering your abilities. Let's look at an example:

AMRAP 15’
3 Wall walks
12 Dumbbell snatches (22.5 / 15 kg)
15 Box jump-overs

If you did the CrossFit Games Open in 2022, you probably recognize this workout as 22.1. A deceivingly aerobic test of endurance.

In terms of setting goals, you can consider technique or performance. Depending on your ability, a solid technique-based goal could be to go unbroken on the snatches, or to stay efficient on the box jump overs by turning as you approach the ground.

As for performance-based goals, you can commit to stick to a split time per round or set an objective to hit x reps before the half-way point. 

It's important to choose goals that are realistic but still require a significant amount of effort to achieve, as this will help athletes stay committed and motivated.

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Strategy #2: Stress Management

Another important aspect of developing mental toughness in CrossFit is learning how to manage stress and handle setbacks. Odds are that you enjoy training because it helps you to manage stressors from your daily life. Between work responsibilities, studying, and obligations to friends and family, for many people, CrossFit is a healthy way to cope with pressure that they feel from other parts of life. The problem is, sometimes worlds collide, and feeling out of control in other parts of life can negatively impact your performance and shake your self-confidence. Not finishing the WOD or missing a PR can make training feel like a source of stress rather than a solution.

CrossFit athletes are often faced with physical and mental challenges that can be stressful and overwhelming. It's important for athletes to have strategies in place for managing stress, such as deep breathing, meditation, or visualization techniques. These techniques performed before and/or after a workout help to keep you calm and positive, even when you’re not having your best day.

Feeling disappointed with your performance after a workout or a training session is normal but shouldn’t consume you. Even though you want to give your best effort, remember that for most of us, the stakes are low: only a small percentage of athletes make a living from working out. Either way, managing stress is a crucial skill for athletes at any level.  Start to view setbacks and mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning rather than as personal failures.

If you did the CrossFit Games Open in 2022, you probably recognize this workout as 22.1. A deceivingly aerobic test of endurance.

Strategy #3: Be Present

Have you ever been in a WOD and little by little, your plan begins to fall apart? Your hand rips on the first of many sets of pull ups, you keep tripping up in your double unders, and the barbell feels like it gets heavier every time you pick it up. The common results are either you panic and start to improvise, you throw in the towel mid-workout, or maybe you feel discouraged and down afterwards. 

Everyone has a plan until “3, 2, 1, Go!”, but unfortunately sometimes plans must change. This is where practicing mindfulness and being present in the moment come into play. This means focusing on the task at hand and being fully engaged in the workout, rather than getting distracted or dwelling on negative thoughts. 

Remember, even the top professional CrossFit athletes have “bad” workouts at times. Professional or not, the difference between a good athlete and a great one is mindset. This means being able to keep calm and carry on even when things aren’t going as hoped as well as to be able to bounce back from setbacks and failures. Practicing mindfulness can help athletes stay focused and motivated, even when faced with difficult challenges.

Final Thoughts

In addition to these strategies, CrossFit athletes can also benefit from working with a coach or mental skills trainer who can provide guidance and support in developing mental toughness. A coach or trainer can help athletes identify and overcome mental barriers and provide guidance on how to stay motivated and focused during training.

Overall, developing mental toughness is an ongoing process that requires dedication and effort. However, with the right strategies and support, CrossFit athletes can improve this essential quality and achieve their goals in training and competition.