Dealing with the Big “D” by Coach Kortney
Following on the heels of the CrossFit Open and leading up to the summer months promising to be chock full of various competitions and throw-downs, I think it’s important to address one of the “not-so-fun” aspects of this sport: disappointment. Personally, I know I have certainly experienced a wide array of emotions through my participation in CrossFit over the past few years, and will infer that others may have experienced similar highs and lows. We all pour our blood, sweat, and tears into our training throughout the year. We all set goals (if you haven’t you need to! STAT!), we usually have performance expectations leading up to a WOD, particularly if it’s a competition or an Open WOD. Often times we meet or exceed our expectations, particularly for newbies who will usually see pretty constant and fast improvements in strength and fitness for their first year or so– smashing PBs left and right. Maintaining a positive attitude under these circumstances is particularly easy. We love hitting new PBs! Meeting or exceeding our expectations during a WOD is definitely euphoric. The resulting endorphin and adrenaline high post-WOD also contributes to an easy upbeat and happy demeanor, particularly when we’ve done well.
But what happens to that mental attitude when we fall short of our expectations? Or once the PBs start leveling off? I’ll bet most CrossFitters who have been working diligently on their fitness for some time now have experienced disappointment at some point in their CrossFitting “careers”. How do you handle it when the chips don’t fall the way you’d like? There are several scenarios for facing disappointment, and I have personally experienced them all:
1) Titty Baby: In this scenario one throws a temper tantrum and gets pissed off, making excuses for why you didn’t do as well as you had hoped. Perhaps blaming the temperature for being too cold, blaming the extra hour of sleep you missed because you had to open the gym for the early class, blaming the fact that you haven’t had breakfast yet, that you had a hard workout the day before, that you could have gotten a few more reps if only you hadn’t fallen off that damn box…!!! Whatever reasons you tell yourself—and others–to rationalize a less-than stellar outcome, playing the blame game doesn’t help you get mentally or physically stronger. If this is you, get over yourself, don’t be a poor sport, skip the excuses, and just do better next time. Honestly, I don’t really know any members of CFD who fit this description, but I did feel that way MYSELF following one of the Open workouts this year, so I’m pointing a finger at me here. J
Another option that I hate to see:
2) Self Deprecation: In this case, one berates oneself for failing to meet performance expectations—perhaps a little more harshly than warranted. When you’ve given your all, when you’ve trained hard and laid it all out there, giving YOUR very best effort, then there is nothing constructive about a “Debbie Downer” attitude. “I suck…” or “I’m weak…” or “I can’t…” is not the kind of mental talk you deserve when you’ve given 100% effort. It’s also not going to help you reach your goals, because you are what you tell yourself. Instead of focusing on the perceived failure and beating yourself up over it, it’s very important to stop and reflect on how far you’ve come. How much better, faster, and stronger are you today than you were yesterday, last month, last year?! Chances are good, barring injury or any other reason to have been sidelined for a while, you have improved massively in some aspect of your training/performance from when you first began. Appreciate that. Chances are also pretty good that we will not always perform as well as we’d like, but that’s no reason to trash talk yourself and harp on the negative. Find the positive in your performance—hell, just participating in any form of competition, whether it’s the Open or an In-House throw-down, takes gigantic balls (gigantic ovaries?), so that alone is an easy positive. Take it.
Here’s an option that is just a terrible idea, but it is an option so I’ll throw it out there:
3) Quit: Because we all know quitting is giving up and losing, we don’t even need to go there because we are not quitters. Period.
Lastly, and what I feel is the best approach for handling disappointment:
4) Grace (And, no, I’m not talking about 30 clean and jerks for time.): Exhibit a bit of good sportsmanship by accepting the outcome at face value and take it as an opportunity to really assess where you are in your fitness and skills and move forward. Make a new game plan, discuss with a coach how to proceed in tackling your weaknesses and ATTACK. Feel your disappointment, acknowledge that you do in fact KICK ASS and are AWESOME, but then harness that disappointment and use it to fuel your motivation and fight to get even BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER!!! Keep your head held high and be proud of yourself.
Fortunately, the supportive, positive attitude, good sportsmanship approach is predominately what I see among CrossFit Dublin members. It’s great to be surrounded by that energy, and it is infectious and uplifting. This is the stuff that makes our CrossFit community so special. Positivity breeds positivity, and I just want to say how proud I am that we have such a strong group of good sports!
However, if you find yourself experiencing post-WOD disappointment, remember that CrossFit is challenging; especially in competition or the CrossFit Open — it’s designed to be that way! Turning weaknesses into strengths takes time and improvements don’t happen overnight. Hell, they may not even happen in one year! Regardless, don’t throw a temper tantrum, be patient with yourself, and most importantly don’t give up! Learn to harness that inner disappointment and turn it into something positive: MOTIVATION. Don’t dwell on the negative. Remember how far you’ve come, give yourself the props you deserve for being brave enough to even CrossFit in the first place, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward. Get comfortable with uncomfortable, maintain a positive attitude, and you will only continue to improve!