5 ways to be less of a “Negative Nancy”
-By Derek McDermott
Ill admit it… I’m a pessimist. Well, I call myself a “realist” but it doesn’t take a genius to see through the bullshit. I’m skeptical of most things, sometimes, even myself! It’s not that that I don’t have faith in my abilities, I just have a terrible habit of needing to prove myself to myself. Years later and that tendency followed me to CrossFit.
For a long time, I was the king of negative self-talk. Whenever I fell off my intended pace, I’d tell myself that I suck. When I missed that clean and jerk PR, I called myself a sissy… in much worse terminology. I used to think it worked until I read more and more about how positive outlooks can affect moods as well as athletic performance.
For years I heard about tactics such as visualization but I never put them into practice in CrossFit. Once I did, I wish I had sooner! At first, I changed only the negative self-talk, but I found there were a few other things that helped equally as much. Before I get into the list, I have a quick word for the skeptics… I know you’re out there… I used to be one of you. For the most part, we’re all willing to try the new supplement, try a new program, frankly, anything to get stronger/better/faster. If you’re unwilling to try something that is FREE and infinitely abundant, don’t take my word for it. I can gladly send you some peer reviewed scientific studies that show the same outcomes. However, the following is just a smidge of my own anecdotal evidence. Without further ado… my top 5 ways to be less of a “Negative Nancy.”
- Positive self-talk: Ok, Ok, Ok… low hanging fruit, I know. But it’s true! If the plan is to go all 25 reps unbroken and you need to drop at 19, then take a short break, tell yourself “you got this” and crush the last 6 reps. If you go into a set, or a heavy barbell with pre-existing doubt on whether you can complete it, you are preparing your mind for failure before you even begin. This leads to the next point…
- Visualization: The art of “seeing it” before you do it. You don’t have to get cute and close your eyes… but seriously, think about it. If it’s a max clean and jerk, and you know your elbows tend to be low, visualize getting out of the hole with elbows up and a vertical torso. Mentally being able to see a task completed primes you for a success, which you can build upon through a workout.
- Find a lifting/WOD buddy: When I was still in the corporate world, I had a “work wife.” We joked that we kept each other sane during the stressful days. Same goes for the gym. A loyal lifting partner can pick you up on days that your tired/sore /not feeling your best. Also, they’re great for feedback! Lifting/WOD buddies tend to be friends you see often, so odds are they know your strengths and weaknesses. Over the years, my favorite stretches of time in the gym are typically times where I had a consistent workout partner.
- Plan/Strategize: I’m all for dissecting a workout and trying to figure out pacing strategies and where you can push and where you need to pull back; but be flexible. Let’s say the workout is 4 rounds of 25 Wallballs and some barbell work. The goal may be to go unbroken on all 25 but if not, pivot and go to plan B. I always have a plan B for movements I know will challenge me. Maybe that’s going 15-10, or doing 10-10-5 with 2 breaths in between. Whatever it is, have a strategy, but be flexible. Shit happens during workouts!
- Count down instead of up: I use this strategy a lot when the WOD gets tough and you’re near the end. Lets take “Karen” for example (150 Wall Ball for time). When I get past 120, I no longer count up to 150, I count down from 30. Its cathartic seeing the number drop, and mentally smaller numbers are easier to deal with.
- Bonus Tip: Do your own workout! Seriously, we all have very different strengths/weaknesses. My current training partner kicks ass at T2B and Butterfly Pullups. On days that have Pullups, I know he will get ahead during that movement, but I still focus on me. I’m super competitive but it’s not worth comparing myself to someone with butterfly pullups, it’s so much faster and less taxing on the grip. During those 15 pullups, I pay little attention to him hopping off the bar when I’m barely at rep 10. Like #4, stick to your strategy, don’t mimic someone else’s.
For me, being more positive has truly led to better workouts, and increased performance. On occasion, I still get into “negative Nancy” mode, and I see the after effects. It usually leads to less effective training sessions.
Give these tips the good ol’ college try for a while and see for yourself!
See you in the gym.