The ONE THING That Separates GOOD from GREAT ATHLETES
I'm not the biggest, the fastest, or the strongest CrossFit Athlete, but I have something that separates me from my competition - and the good news is that you can develop this one thing too.
Let's start with two quick stories...
A buddy and I were just getting ready to go head to head on a workout. As the clock counted down to start, he looked at me and said, " just so you know, I'm willing to die to win." He knew I would beat him. Yet, he threw his hat into the ring and declared that he was not "going quietly into the night."
My 21-year-old son participated in the half ironman with me last month. It was his first race ever. He started behind me so I didn't get to hear about this until the end of the race. But he ended up swimming the full 1.2 miles with one eye of this goggles filled with water. (watch the video below for the full story)
We all know grit when we see it. It's passionate perseverance. It's a resilience to overcome despite mounting obstacles. It's someone who is still "trying" long after everyone else has thrown in the towel. A person with grit will outwork and outlast.
There are two main aspects of grit:
On a micro level it's the ability to hang tough in a specific training session. To hunker down in the pain, and agony of the moment. whether to build you tolerance for pain or have the capacity to eek out a win in a competition. ... The ability to outwork.
Grit, on a macro level is... staying true to a goal, a long term outcome that requires you to stick with it through hell and high water. The gritty individual looks to the future. Their advantage is stamina. ... The ability to outlast.
I believe my grit has been an integral part of my success. Truth be told, I didn't develop grit out of a healthy place. I am the kind of person that has to be achieving something. I have a need for achievement. It's not so much that I want to win as much as it is fear of failure. My grit is a result of me running scared. Afraid that someone will catch me. Afraid I'll be dead last, or third, or second. Do I recommend this as a good way to develop grit? Absolutely not... if you're like me see a good counselor. I do. lol... But, regardless of how I learned these lessons, I learned them nevertheless and want to share with you.
Developing grit is like building muscle: Thinking about it, researching it, understanding it will not make any difference. Watching this youtube video won't make you a grittier individual.
Grit requires action.
And just like strengthening any physical muscle, you will have to do the reps and increase the load over and over in order for you "grit muscle" to be broken down and rebuilt stronger and stronger.
You have to push yourself a bit further than you think you can and grit will grow. Pretty soon, what you're doing now will feel like a warmup.
The first way to build grit is to do hard things outside of your workouts:
- Expose yourself to cold
- Cold showers, cold plunges,
- Do breath work.
- breath holds.
- Wim Hoff breathing.
- Get out of your comfort zone. How often do you train in uncomfortable situations?
- Drop into an unknown gym
- Workout at a different time than ususal.
- Purposefully workout without perfect conditions.
Second way: Play Head Games.
- Create a mental game for yourself - i.e. you get to take a break for 5 seconds if you go unbroken on this set. take 3 breaths between reps. That's it. And then forcing myself to step back to the bar. I barter to keep myself in pain.
- What motivates you? One woman imagined her children in life-threatening situations, and every thruster, deadlift, etc was her saving them. For me, it is forcing myself to push that last round of a workout as if I'm being chased down in the final event of the CrossFit games.
- Occupy your brain with action-focused thoughts. We all hit the wall of pain. When that happens, I give my brain a task to deny it the chance to start thinking about how much pain I'm in, how much it hurts, etc. I was doing an awful workout (1000m run, 75 75# thrusters, and finished with 25 48" burpee box get overs). About halfway through the burpees I felt it. I wanted to die. To lay on the floor. Instead, I focused on two things: get my chest off the ground and my foot placement. I kept my mind busy enough to endure those final reps.
Takeaway: next workout, choose one way...
Next: Don't take shortcuts.
It's choosing to do that last piece of accessory work or mobility, even though I'm really done with working out for the day.
it's choosing to eat what I eat every day. It's choosing what not to eat. What to drink and not drink. When to go to bed, when to wake up.
Know your numbers so you can't slack off the intensity. If you know you can do 50 wallballs unbroken... when the time comes in the workout, you know what you expect yourself to do.
And finally, the great thing about grit is you will acclimate. Grit is something learned. It's like a tolerance to pain. you don't just have it... you develop it. Hear that again... grit isn't something you're born with. Anyone can develop it. Maybe you aren't the most gifted athlete naturally, but you can be the grittiest.
You get use to the pain. you get use to the cold water. You get used to the panic that you can't breath and should stop. You build confidence in your ability to endure pain, to feel it, to let it overwhelm you.
You accept the challenge thrown at you. You can outwork and outlast everyone else.
Final note: Grit doesn't mean being reckless.
And push damn hard.
Every single day.
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