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Being Mentally Tough: Today’s Workout

March 6, 2012

A couple day’s ago, I wrote a post about being mentally tough. Today’s workout illustrates what I was talking about in that post.

Over the weekend, I had signed up for the Tuesday at noon crossfit workout. Last night, I checked what the workout would be: 3-3-2-2-1-1 front squat (3 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps, 2, 1, 1; trying to find max weight for one rep on the last rep). Followed by 10 minutes, as many rounds as possible of: Clean and Jerk (135 lbs), 15 lateral jumps, 20 situps. Clean and jerk is intimidating to me. I knew the amount of weight was going to hurt, and I’m nervous about the movement. I’m still mastering the technique for it. And my arms were still sore from a lot of thrusters on Saturday. This was going to be a tough workout.

And yes, part of me wanted to skip the workout. “I could just go for a long run, the weather outside is supposed to be gorgeous.” “I could do something else.” But I’ve decided to make crossfit part of my base-building for the Ironman. Crossfit is helping me develop power and strength. I decided to ride my bike to crossfit to take advantage of the good weather — first time back on my bike post accident! — but I was still going to go in to crossfit. Once I made the choice to train for the Ironman, and how to train, everything else flowed from that.

The front squat was not too bad. I have a prominent collarbone, so I always struggle with maxing out: putting that much weight across the front of my shoulders is painful (I maxed out at 205 for one rep today). But I’m getting better at positioning my shoulders to avoid hurting my collarbone.

But the clean and jerk was definitely intimidating. (For those who don’t know, “clean” means lifting the weight from the ground up to the shoulders; “jerk” is getting the weight from the front of the shoulders locked out overhead. Both parts use a lot of leg strength to get the bar moving.) Getting my body underneath that much weight? After we reviewed the movement, I started out by loading my bar with two 25 pound plates. 95 pounds. Tested that. I could do it (I knew I could do that much.) It was enough weight that I would be sore and tired from the workout. And I almost stopped there. 95 pounds is heavy enough, right?

I said to Coach Eric, “I think I might just do that.” He just asked “did you test it to make sure you can do it?,” but didn’t say one way or the other whether he thought I should do more. But I knew I was there to build strength. And I knew I could do 95 pounds. That was playing it safe. And I had made a choice not to play it safe. I knew I was going to have to push myself to complete my Ironman. I had decided that a long time ago. Okay. I put on an additional 10 pounds on each side of the bar. 115. Let’s push. Eric watched me test 115 pounds before we started the workout. He told me “be sure to get the bar over your knees before you engage the back and keep the bar closer to your body as you bring it up for the clean.” Other than that, I looked okay. I was going to struggle with the weight, but I was going for it.

Before I had time to second guess my decision to do the workout at 115 pounds, Eric started the clock. 10 second countdown. Okay, and here we go! My form was way off on the first rep. The bar was way out in front of me on the clean. And my balance was all off on the jerk. I almost dropped the bar behind me! And I ripped open the skin on the back of my right thumb and it started bleeding. This could be ugly. I was tempted to drop the weight back down to 95 pounds right there. This was an inauspicious beginning to the workout! But something stopped me. I took a deep breath. I wanted to push myself. That was the choice I made a long time ago. I needed to push myself. And I could do 115 pounds a lot better than that. Okay, another couple deep breaths, and I decided I would give it another try. If the second rep was also really bad, I would scale back down to 95 — safety is important, and if I couldn’t control the weight, I had better scale it. Deep breath, and go. That second rep was a lot cleaner than the first. And so was number three, and four, and five. I could only do one rep at a time and had to rest between reps. But I could do the 115.

After finishing my first set of 5 clean and jerk, I looked at my hand. A smear of blood covered the back of my thumb — not a lot of blood really, but more than enough to catch my attention. Deep breath. Keep going. I sucked the blood up as best I could, patted it with my towel, and turned to the lateral jumps. Normally I can knock out lateral jumps like nothing (jumping sideways, back and forth over the bar we’re using for lifting). But after that clean and jerk, my legs were really sore. I struggled. And I think I did 18 lateral jumps, even though I only was supposed to do 15. Oops. Focus! Get back with it.

By the second set of clean and jerk, I was mentally back in the workout. Before every rep, I took a deep breath, and reminded myself to do it clean. A few times Eric commented that my lockout at the top of my clean and jerk looked good. Yay! I was hurting, but I was doing it. My arms felt weak, but none of the remaining reps felt as uncontrolled as that first one. I ended up finishing the workout with 3 rounds + 22 (meaning 5 c + j, 15 jumps, 2 situps, 22 total). I had done 20 clean and jerks at 115 pounds. As soon as the workout was done, I wiped up my hand again and bandaged it to stop the blood, then took an antibacterial wipe to the bar to clean my blood off of it. As expected, no major hand injury, just ripped a layer of skin off the back of the thumb. Just enough to get a sheen of blood, that’s all.

And I felt really good. I stuck it out. It was a good day. But I was only able to be mentally tough because I knew this was part of achieving my goals. I wasn’t thinking about the Ironman per se of course (and if I was, I don’t think it would have helped much — it’s honestly still too far). But I was thinking about how this workout was going to make me stronger, was going to push my boundaries, was going to help me build my power and strength. And then when I got home, and my quads were trembling, and I struggled walking up the stairs, I decided it was time for an ice bath. So cold getting in, but after 15 minutes soak, the legs feel so much better! A lot less pain after that. And of course later tonight I’ll take a hot shower :-).

257 days till Ironman Arizona.

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From → motivation, training

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