by Erik Castiglione
We are creatures of habit, and most of us follow routines that simplify our daily lives. The same is true in the gym. How many of you have a square that you gravitate towards? Or, pre-pandemic, a favorite squat rack/platform that you used for lifting? What about a favorite spot on the pull-up bar? This is perfectly normal. However, it becomes a problem if you get to a point that you NEED to have your preferred workstation to have a good workout. If using a different square/rack/platform throws you off so much that it interferes with your training, then it’s time to work on becoming more mentally resilient.
The same goes for music. If we lose power as we have in the past, or the internet craps out, or the speakers go, do you have the mental fortitude to grind through a workout in silence? Or what happens if someone else wins trivia or whatever contest we use that day to award the music choice, and you can’t stand what they pick? Can you suck it up and grind through the workout anyway?
CrossFit was designed to prepare it’s followers for the “unknown and unknowable.” Your environment and training conditions can certainly reflect this. Once this pandemic ends and competitions return, you often have very little you can control on game day. Hell, old school CrossFit competitions wouldn’t even tell you the workouts ahead of time, they would just give you a list of movements and weights that you needed to be able to handle to compete (we mostly follow this format with the Hopper Challenge). And I’ve been to a couple competitions that weren’t DJ’d; they simply had the gym’s crappy Dubstep playlist blasting through their speakers.
In other strength sports competitions, the same is true as well. In the sport of weightlifting, you don’t always know WHEN you’re going to lift. Sure, the start time of your session is given, and based on other lifters declared weights, you can try to figure it out. But, lifters can change their numbers and alter the order in which you lift – this is why in a team environment, there is often a coach whose sole job is to count attempts and ensure his/her lifters know when they’re up. In Strongman, many competitions announce weights and events ahead of time. But it’s more common than not to see events change their format or the weights used on game day. Sometimes, the weights end up being heavier than advertised. Sometimes, instead of going for a max weight, the organizers pick a weight and make athletes go for max reps. In all cases, you must be prepared to adapt and overcome.
So, what can you do to prepare to train, regardless of your environment? First, figure out what mental state you need to enter to perform at your best. Do you need to get super amped up before you lift? Or are you at your best when you’re calm and focused? Louie Simmons said it best: “If you’re a crazy person, you have to go crazy in the gym. If you’re not a crazy person, I want you calm.” Once you know this, establish an intrinsic routine to get you there. It should be independent of external factors outside of your control. Need to get amped? Sip your coffee/pre-workout, think about what pisses you off, smack yourself, or whatever, and GO. If you need to be calm and focused, take some deep breaths, remind yourself of some lifting/training cues that you’ll need to follow to be successful, and do it. Repeat this over and over again and make it your pre-training routine. Want to give it a shot? Next time you’re in the gym, pick a different workout station from the one you’re used to and try it. See you there.
 <rant> It’s amusing to me that metalcore and death metal seem to be the genres that members complain about the most. I can guarantee that your disdain for metal pales in comparison to the visceral hatred I have of rap, hip hop, country, and big bootie mixes. Yet I am forced to endure countless hours of that interminable dross, and I do okay. You can tolerate the occasional hour of metal. And I’m sorry that your fragile ears can’t appreciate the layered melodies and rhythmic complexities that comprise it. Some of us grew up playing classical music and jazz and find the musicality soothing; it’s order out of chaos. That, and growled lyrics are highly cathartic. It’s cool though, enjoy your electronically produced sounds, auto-tuned vocals, and 4-note songs. Snobbish?: With music and beer, you’re goddamn right I am. Living in a world that constantly shits on and literally demonizes your preferred music genre doesn’t help. But, to end on a high note, enjoy the clip below.</rant>