Rasmus during the 2016 CrossFit Open

Breaking It Down: How to Get Through a Long Grueling Workout
Written by Holden Rethwill

“CrossFit Open Workout 16.1…I’m 7 minutes in and on a good pace. My splits are exactly where I want them to be and my body is up to the task of finishing the remaining 13 minutes. Ok 10 minutes just went by I’ve got to be close to done…I look at the clock which reads 11:00. Only 4 more minutes went by?! Oh man, ok 9 more minutes to go, I’ve got this. The 15-minute mark hits and I find myself thinking about years and years of football that have conditioned me for this moment. Ok it’s the 4th quarter, now is the time to leave it all out there.”

The first week of the 2016 CrossFit Open caught many of us by surprise. A 20-minute pure test of grit and determination. Many athletes completely overestimated the workout and found themselves out of gas with time still left on the clock. We’ve all been in situations like this. I am a firm believer that it is how we approach it mentally that separates us.

What do you do if you find yourself in this place?

For me, the answer came from my past. I found myself leaning on the years and years of competitive football I played prior to finding CrossFit. A sport where there is four quarters, the 4th being the most important. Fifteen minutes in all I could think about was pushing for that final 5 minutes just like I had done in countless games before.

I find myself doing this often with longer, more grueling workouts. Choosing to break them down in my head and giving myself checkpoints helps me to remain calm in situations like these. When I hit that final push I know that it’s time to give everything I have left in the tank.

But I didn’t play sports?

Not everyone grew up on the gridiron, diamond, or hardwood like I did. But everyone has the ability to break things down to seem less daunting. Even if you didn’t play sports, you know what one-fourth, one-third, and so on, are. Taking a lengthy task and breaking it down into smaller portions, and telling yourself where you want to be at each of these checkpoints will help you stay in the game longer from a mental standpoint.

Ok but what about the first 15 minutes?

The final push isn’t the only thing that matters. How you get there can be equally as important. It all goes back to the old glass-half-full analogy. Rather than looking at something and saying you’ve got three-fourths left and stressing yourself out, try saying you’ve got one-fourth done and that’s one less you have left to complete. It’s positive self talk like this that will help you to push from one checkpoint to the next.

Whatever it may be, finding what helps you push beyond can take the mental block out of a workout and in turn, work to your advantage. Next time you’re sludging through the mud in a workout like 16.1, I encourage you to try breaking it down and giving yourself checkpoints to push past and keep that “one less piece to get through” mentality. If you’re looking for some more tips on positive self-talk during a workout take a peek at Breaking the Mental Barrier by Josh Bridges, someone I consider a master of mental toughness.

Do you use a different strategy to push through long workouts?