So I observed them and their attitude before, during and after the workouts. When I came back home I wanted to know more about the mental skills Crossfit athletes need to have.
Crossfit is hard. Of course, all sports require hard work but Crossfit has the specificity of incorporating several disciplines such as gymnastics, weightlifting, endurance, etc into its workouts. The athlete needs to cope with all these skills to be a good competitor. And mental capacity plays a key role.
Events are one level higher. Athletes are there to prove something to themselves and others. They assume the result at the end of the day will reflect their hard work.
That’s why the mental preparation is an important step to cope with the pressure and thoughts of big events. The famous “It is just you against you” quote has a special meaning in this case.
Forging elite mental fitness
I have met a psychotherapist to understand better how can we improve our mental skills. Valérie Pichâ, who is specialized in cognitive behavioral psychology explains: “Our thoughts, positive and negative ones are the result of belief coming from our personal life. For example, if you were described as the loser of your team when you were a child, it can affect your thoughts and evolution during important events.”
She adds also that sports help to change the mindset and to be more confident. Actually, there are a lot of testimonies of people saying that they consider the sport as a therapy and they feel better since they are practicing a sport.
I also interviewed a Crossfit athlete, Emilie Boufflette who has participated at the recent German Throwdown finals.
The hard work and the pressure, she deals with them both in her professional and sport life. Indeed, as a co-owner and coach of CrossFit Ember (Belgium), she juggles between all the matters of her box and her daily training program.
“Stress can influence positively but also negatively the course of a competition. A little stress induces an adrenaline rush which is a really good thing as you can be more efficient but it can have a bad influence on your performance if the heart rate increases or if you are shivering.” She adds that the adrenaline is magic because it makes us perform unbelievable things we did not succeed during training sessions.
Like the body, the mind can be trained
There is a solution when things are not going well.
According to the psychotherapist, it is important to work the emotional aspect of our mind which is the principal cause of negative thoughts and doubts: ” We can adopt different approaches to help the patient as the sophrology, the self hypnosis, the visualization, the relaxation and the meditation. The objective of my work with the patient is to let him be himself in any circumstances, without being disturbed by the noise, the judges or other athletes, playing his game even if he is losing.
The nutrition is also a significant point influencing our mood, our intellectual and emotional sides.” Indeed, some studies have proved that consuming food rich in Omega-3 is beneficial to the mental health.
Our Belgian athlete, Emilie, has adopted some techniques which seem to suit her. “The worst situation is when you start to doubt. In order to cope with stress, I am following the good advises of a sophrologist. She teaches me different techniques to control pressure. Managing your breathing is the baseline. So, I have done a lot of breathing exercises to decrease the tension in due time.”
“Then, I also use the visualization technique. I imagine the perfect Crossfit workout with the perfect rep. This affords me to set my mind in a positive attitude.”
The technique of visualization is used by a lot of sportsmen and sportswomen. On the photo below is Yelena Isinbayeva, world record holder in pole vault. This is an image that we are used to seeing so many times. Holding her focus before the vault, she is doing some gestures, visualizing the perfect jump.
Let’s come back to the German Throwdown. As usual, there were a lot of Crossfit supporters coming from different countries. They were there to encourage their athletes, partners and coaches.
Emilie told us about her feeling being encouraged during competitions: “The encouragements are certainly very important. When you have all these people supporting you, the positive energy is surrounding you and it helps you to succeed. During a few seconds of my Crossfit workout when it becomes really hard, I am usually looking for my guys clapping, yelling at me to have some mental support.”
I would like to add that, as a supporter at the German Throwdown, I saw Emilie focused and self controlled. So, the work and mental skills could be the key success!
We have approached some mental skills here but there are many other that you can work with a psychologist or a mental coach.
We all know that the human brain is complex and has its mysterious parts. As Crossfit athletes, competitors or not, we learn everyday about our physical and mental abilities.
It is up to you to make things happen.