Training Your Brain: How The Mind Guides Your CrossFit Experiences


It’s no secret that CrossFit aims to challenge your body in ways you have likely never experienced. The ability to explore new movements, develop stronger muscles, and gain unparalleled endurance is available to you through your daily workout regimen. You train to build a better body, but there’s one thing that can hold you back: your mind. When your mind is not a positive part of your CrossFit equation, everything else suffers. Let’s explore some common training challenges and solutions when it comes to training your brain.

Comfort: Stuck In a Rut
Initially, there is nothing comfortable about CrossFit. Your muscles ache, your workouts are rough, and your mind is still trying to figure out why the hell you started this madness in the first place. But then, after some time, you develop a comfort level. You don’t worry about the workouts, because you know you can finish them. You don’t worry about the pull-ups, because you know how to scale. And you don’t worry about the whiteboard because you’re experienced enough to at least be somewhere in the middle, even on a bad day. This comfort level, although reassuring, does not lend itself to continued progress. When you consciously detect comfort, it’s time to step some things up. Maybe you consistently scale heavier workouts or use a small band on chest-to-bar pull-ups. Or maybe you jog that last shuttle run. If so, it’s time to make a move that guides you outside that zone of cozy and back into your very own uncharted territory.

Fear: Fight or Flight
The fight-or-flight theory is based on an individual’s psychological response to a stressful situation. A threat in CrossFit might come in the form of a benchmark workout, 1-rep maxes, or new skills. These milestones can be induce a sense of stress, and an athlete’s mind will dictate whether their body chooses to attack the physical demand or hold back. Sometimes, an athlete may even skip the workout entirely to avoid what they fear most. For me, it’s running anything more than a mile. Gross. But if you lean on your trainers and peers a little to help you develop enough confidence to tackle anything, it makes fighting easier. You have a team backing you up and a community experiencing the same feelings. Rest assured that you’ve probably already achieved some things you never expected, so face each challenge head-on knowing you’re fully capable.

Cheating: Bad Behaviors
It takes only a couple times to develop a bad habit. They generally stem from an action that we gain a little relief and/or joy from — eating a cookie every day at lunch or rolling out of bed and into work 15 minutes later than we should. When it comes to CrossFit, cheating is a bad habit. Whether it’s not adhering to full range of motion and movement standards, or skimming reps, cheating is an easy habit to fall into. And the worst part is in some situations it can take months to change that behavior that took you moments to develop. During an attempt to change behavior, an athlete may experience slower times, stiffer muscles and then easily slip back into their worrisome ways. Although trainers can call people out, no-rep, or provide feedback, the behavioral change must come from mindful discipline. Each CrossFitter has to have the mindset that they will finish every rep, every round, and cut no corners, and they should be OK with the fact that their performance may not always be at the top of the board. The best CrossFitters are not necessarily the ones who win — they are the ones who participate with integrity.

You are not entirely free to grow as an athlete until your mind is in the right state. It’s important to train your mind as intensely as you train your body. Your brain and behaviors are the key to a successful and rewarding CrossFit experience, regardless of level. With adaptation, tenacity, and integrity you can do anything you put your mind to. So go on and get it.

Abi Reiland
Owner / Trainer
CrossFit 8035