Mastering the Box is looking at the mental aspect of success in CrossFit this week. Following up our article, “Mastermind: Winning the Mental Game“, we asked Masters about how they exercise their ‘Mental Muscle’. Past interviewee, Justine Howlett (45-49 Qualifier in 2017) was kind enough to share her experience.

How important do you think mental toughness is for success in CrossFit®?

Yes, I think mental toughness is extremely important in Crossfit and any sport to be honest. When it gets painful that’s when the arguments within happen. It’s a case of pushing on and grinding through that pain to get it done. If you can’t tough it out someone else can and that’s when the race is lost in competition.

Do you consciously train to develop mental toughness?

Not specifically no. I predominantly train on my own so I have to really push myself through some of the metcons. I started running marathons for the mental challenge rather than the physical challenge. I enjoy pushing myself to see how uncomfortable I can get. I’ve still got a long way to go! I’m doing one of the toughest middle distance triathlons in July this year so that will definitely be a mental challenge!!

What strategies do you employ when the going gets tough?

I tend to break the numbers down in my head as I’m working through a tough metcon. I did this when I ran as well, just ticked off each mile in my head until I could stop! I still need to learn to suffer better for sure.

Do you use positive self-talk?

That inner chimp likes to come out sometimes for sure! I’ve got much better at keeping it caged though! I’ve had my lifting coach stick me on a time out bench before because I was letting my head interfere with the lifts. He makes me breathe, focus, forget, lift. I now aim at telling myself that I can do something and focus on that rather then let doubt creep in. Sometimes don’t think, just GO!

Is mental practice / rehearsal / visualisation something you do?

Yes. I’m not sure if I do it on purpose but leading up to an event I have always visualised how it will go and how it will feel. The reality has usually been different but it hasn’t put me off thinking this way prior to something important. I have done it with every Open workout and with the AGOQ this year.

Do you have any tips for controlling arousal levels when stressed / competing?

I am terrible in a competitive environment! I get a real adrenaline dump and have felt quite sick sometimes so I think I need some tips from others here lol! Once I start it all goes and I’m focused but the build up is terrible.

Would you recommend any books, websites or other resources for someone looking to improve their mental game?

I’ve not really used any material with regards to this. I’m stubborn so I just channel that and use it in a positive way and never quit!

How do you train your mental muscle? Let us know in the comments, below…

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Our Favorite Mindset Resources

The Invictus Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness

The Invictus Mindset: An Athlete's Guide To Mental Toughness by [Martin, C.J., Sun, Calvin, Fearon, Heidi, DeHart, Nichole, Barto, Aja, Burgener, Sage, Nahama, Justin]

Carol Dweck – Growth Mindset

Mindset - Updated Edition: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential by [Dweck, Carol]

The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive
by Jim Afremow
The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive by [Afremow, Jim]


Mentality WoD Self Talk Strategies for WoDs

Ben Bergeron and Katrin Davidsdottir podcast

BoxRox: The Crossfitter’s Guide to Developing Mental Toughness

Chris Hinshaw: How to Teach Crossfit Mental Toughness

Build Mental Strength: The Psychology of CrossFit Games Athletes

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