Mental toughness: the thing that separates two equally fit athletes.
CrossFit Games Open Workout 19.5 is for all athletes a test of will power.
For top athletes who can do unbroken or large sets of thrusters, it will be question of finding the will to move quickly and do the reps despite the burning. Those who will need to break things up regularly must find the will to step back to the bar maybe 100 times in 20 minutes. That takes commitment.
Last week, we wrote about how 19.4 was loaded with intensity. 19.5 has a measure of that because thrusters and pull-ups are great for generating power, but 105 thrusters and 105 chest-to-bar pull-ups significantly reduce the intensity and ensure everyone will be taking breaks. This isn’t a straight-up Fran, in which athletes can go unbroken on everything and post 2:00 times.
No, this is a mental test.
19.5 is all about mental toughness.
Mental Toughness: I Can, I Will
In recent years, the Open has more often than not concluded with challenges that test your will. Every Open workout makes people a little nervous, and every workout tests resolve. But longer tests for time don’t allow you the escape route that’s available when the workout is for reps. 19.5 has a time cap, but at 20 minutes, you can be certain you’ll be talking to yourself quite a bit.
We’ve done lots of workouts like this during the year. In fact, we’ve done some that are longer. I recall many Friday monster mashes and lots of 5-round workouts where the end seemed so far away. With a huge number of reps in front of you, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and beaten. That’s when the inner monologue starts:
“I can’t do 105 pull-ups.”
“I’ll never finish.”
“I can’t do this.”
“I’ll rest a little longer and wait for the time cap.”
But it’s in this type of workout that you have a chance to improve your mental fitness. You’ll improve physical fitness, too, but the real gains in 19.5 will be made in the brain.
That’s no mistake. CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman has long said the greatest adaptation to CrossFit might be in the mind, and he’s also said he’s proudest of the workout Fran, his most famous creation. So 19.5 is a significantly more difficult version of Fran, and you have a chance to improve your mental toughness.
One Rep at a Time
It’s a cliché, but the secret to this workout is to break it up into a series of winnable battles. For some, every rep will be a battle, and it’s important to keep you mind only on the task directly in front of you.
I’d encourage everyone to set realistic, measurable goals. Here are a few:
Do the set of 33 reps in 5 sets.
Rest a maximum of 15 seconds between sets.
Break the pull-ups into singles right from the start to avoid failing later.
Stuff like that. The exact goals will vary from person to person. Crystal said that when she attempts this workout after the Open, she’ll try for 33 unbroken thrusters because that’s an area of strength for her. She’ll also break up the pull-ups into 5s no matter how good she feels in the first set. That’s smart, and it’s realistic.
Setting realistic goals ensures you avoid that tidal wave of failure you feel when you make a mistake. And it allows you to set up a series of wins that build momentum. That’s what’s needed here: momentum.
The old saying holds true: The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single rep. Or was it a single step? Either way, it’s true. You have 210 reps in front of you. They’re hard reps. You’ll get to enjoy the dark hole at the bottom of a thruster 105 times. And 105 times you’ll get to make that squishy face you make when you give the last bit of effort required to bring chest to bar.
Master Your Mind
A lot of negative thoughts will pop up in 19.5. Some are probably popping up already. But you’d do well to accept that they’re present, then replace them with more powerful thoughts. Develop mental toughness.
I’m tired, but I will keep going.
I’ll do one more rep.
I’m not going to quit.
Forget about carefully laid plans. Forget about knee sleeves and pre-workout supplements. Forget about your favourite pull-up bar or your lucky barbell. Forget about music.
Forget about all of that.
For 20 minutes, you get to talk to yourself. You can choose to cultivate hope or despair. You can choose to feel beaten or to feel unbeatable. You can choose to say “quit” or “keep going.”
So what will you say in Minute 12, when the end seems so far away?
Make that decision now.
And if you choose wisely, you’ll feel like a victorious warrior when the clock hits 20:00.