Mental Conditioning Tips for CrossFit

It has been said before that the last unexplored frontier of CrossFit is the Mental Conditioning Tips for CrossFitmental game.  Greg Glassman has spoken on this subject and several within the CrossFit community have embraced this idea as a method to boost one’s own abilities.  Greg Amundsen  – one of the original “Firebreather” in CrossFit is a walking, breathing example of mind over matter as he practices what he preaches and speaks around the country on this subject.

Albert Einstein, one of the smartest minds this world has ever produced – said that we only use a small portion of our brains during our lifetime. We are looking at the tip of the iceberg. It may be that he was right on target.

Check out this article on Joey Warren and his efforts to place in the CrossFit Regionals last year.

Many athletes are wondering – how do I condition myself mentally to become a better athlete?  Mental conditioning and the ability to challenge yourself – is all around you.  Do you have to go out to SEALFIT Camp (a.k.a. Kokoro Camp) to be challenged and become mentally tough?  While I think that Kokoro is the toughest camp outside of the military (BUD/S , Ranger school ) there are ways you can begin to sharpen your mental conditioning in your own home garage or CrossFit box and then take the plunge to Kokoro Camp.

There are two paths.  You can get off the couch and attempt to do hard stuff (CrossFit, long distance trail run, BUD/S, etc.).  You hear of athletes that are gifted and take this route and do well and exceed.  It is not the norm and many crash and burn and fail as they really are working the physically and accidentally get part of the mental toughness. For every 100 that apply to BUD/S initially only 1 warrior athlete will make it. You have a better chance of climbing Mt. everest. This “all or nothing” method can work – but can also lead to disaster in your first set back or failure.

The second way is to start at the beginning and work your way up.

Each of these steps can put you one step closer to gaining mental conditioning to help you reach your goals.  Confidence is not innate in human beings it is an aquired skill. To quote Bill Starr in a recent CrossFit article “Many believe that the quality of self-assurance is innate. You either have it or you don’t. I don’t agree.”  So If you dont have it – how in the world do you get it?

Here are a few building blocks to start you on your journey and to help you build a stronger base so that you dont implode along the way.

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Build confidence
  3. Deep Breathing
  4. Affirmations
  5. Yoga
  6. Visualization

The first step is to believe in yourself.  You can write all the affirmations and chant them inside your head.  You can visualize and breathe deep all you want…but if you do not belief in yourself them you will fail at the first venture. How do you go about learning how to believe in yourself? First, pick a small goal (run or walk 1 mile) and then train by running or walking around the block and slowly work your way up to that goal.  As simple as this sounds you will have built up the first block of your foundation and on your way to the next.  Pick another goal that is slightly bigger.  Another goal and another.  Dont fall into the trap of having too big of a goal too early.  Yes; it is good to have big audacious hairy goals.  But if you are not equipped and have not built your base then you will fail and be sent back to square one.

The other pitfall is to have a big bad *ss goal and then actually reach it.  That is good.  But sometimes we have athletes that meet that big goal (climbing a mountain) accomplish it – and dont reset a new goal.  They crash and burn and lose interest and then drift in the sea of mediocrity until they read an article like this that “resets” their thinking and gets them back on track.

Deep breathing.  Sounds kinda new age doesnt it?  It works.  Ever since the dawn of time, warriors have practiced deep breathing to clear their mind before they do battle or go out into the wilds to hunt and take on larger more dangerous animals.  Modern day warriors like Michael Jordan and Tom Brady also use this technique as they prepare for a game or the final 2 minute drill for the Super Bowl win.

Can you imagine seeing Michael Jordan coming out onto the court for a game winning free throw and he is breathing erraticly and glancing around nervously.  No, he is poised and calm and complete in his focus of making the free throw – and he does.

Affirmations are the chants that you say to yourself to boost your mental concentration.  Sit down and write out your affirmations.  They may be that “I am a winner”.  I am a warrior.  I finish strong. Stronger, better, faster.  Something along those lines.  Try to be positive.  Resist saying things like “I will not quit” or “I cannot fail”.  Those affirmations use negative connotations. They may work as what we are trying to do is trick the mind – but it is my belief that a positive affirmation rules.

With affirmations it is important to realize that left to its own devices – when the body becomes uncomfortable from outside stresses (cold, work load, pain) it will begin to send you negative thoughts.  You have to control your brain and talk to yourself and take control of the situation.  An excellent article that I like is this one:
Affirmations & Mental Conditioning Saved Marathon Runner’s Dream
Check it out and read it and email me and let me know your perception of this article and how it may be helping you.

If you ask your typical American on the street what “yoga” is they will either say it has to do with stretching or is a dessert.  It is neither.  Yoga is a system of exercises practiced as part of the Hindu discipline to promote control of the body and mind.  Notice that is includes the “mind”.  It is not merely postures and stretching of the body.  For thousands of years, Yogis from the far East have used yoga as a method to control their minds and to focus their senses.

Training the body is just one of the lower stages of Yoga which can be very helpful but is not at all the actual goal as meant and defined by the word “Yoga”, meaning: Union.  Yoga practice reaches all the way from retaining physical postures to attaining that state of absolute mind control and enlightenment.

Years ago when I was very young and sitting in the freezing surf zone my teeth began to chatter and I shook uncontrollable.  I did not know what to do so I began to search for any answer.  My swim buddy next to me chattered to me “think of something warm”.  So I did.  I thought of a cup of coffee and it simmering while it sat in front of me. The ceramic cup was warm to touch anGd the diner that I sat in was also toasty and a haven from the cold outside.  Little did I know but I had just hatched my first visualization.  As rudimentary as it was – it worked.  For a few seconds my mind was diverted from the awful cold and it took my mind off the muscle tightening frigid water.  Yes; the water was still cold – but my mind was temporarily displaced and only thinking about the warmth of my visualization.  As corny as it sounds it works. Time after time.  Pro athletes like Michael Jordan use it often as he visualizes the ball going in the basket well before he even makes the shot.  Try it out and see your results.

You dont have to only rely on the physical to obtain higher levels of performance.  You now have several tools to help boost your athletic game to where ever you want to go.

Do You Have what it Takes? SEALFIT Camp (a.k.a. Kokoro Camp)


Brad McLeod is one of the top mental conditioning coaches in the world today helping to coach many CrossFit, Special Forces and Kokoro athletes to success. If you are interested in reaching your maximum potential – please email

SEALgrinderPT can provide you with custom workouts and programs to increase your strength, flexibility, lower your running times and increase speed.  For more info check out or contact SEALgrinderPT at to get started today.

I look forward to hearing from you and starting you on your path to your goals today.

Related Articles:
10 Tips on Writing Goals for CrossFit Athletes
10 Tips to breaking through plateaus
Unbeatable Mind Academy Review
10 Tips to Breaking through Plateaus
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Log PT workout tips for Special Forces Athletes

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