"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."
Even the most driven athletes can feel like throwing their alarm clock across the room when the buzzer sounds. So what enables some people to put their feet on the ground every morning and chase their goals while others roll over and hit snooze?
CrossFit motivation is a tricky thing. There are countless variables that affect your ability to get excited about the masochism we know as CrossFit. Some factors, like whether the sun is shining, or whether your car broke down on the way to the gym, can have a huge impact on your motivation, but are largely out of your control. On the other hand, there are a few variables, like your mindset, your process, and your environment, that are in you sphere of influence and can have a 10x impact on the athlete you become! This article unpacks five of the most important factors influencing your ability to get in the box and crush your goals! More importantly, it provides you with actionable steps to help keep you motivated and primed for success!
Find Your Purpose
If you've read our training guide Winning the Whiteboard then you know the importance of having a strong purpose driving your actions. Many new athletes drag themselves into the gym in pursuit of a superficial goal that wouldn't even motivate Tony Robbins to say "I". Instead of chasing a six pack, a 405lb back squat, or a trip to the CrossFit Games, consider asking yourself, "Why am I even interested in achieving that goal?". Perhaps the desire for a six pack stems from being overweight as a kid. Perhaps punching your card to the games is an attempt to accomplish something significant with your life. I know we just got really deep - but that's the point. When things get tough, it's easy to skip the gym if all that's motivating you is a superficial aspiration. However, if you've done some soul searching, and realized for example, that your real motivation is to do something amazing with your time on Earth, then you'll have a strong passion driving you when things get tough. Identifying what your underlying motivations are is imperative to keeping yourself fired up in the gym!
If you're having a hard time coming up with a deeper purpose, check out Winning the Whiteboard. It outlines a proven process that has helped thousands of athletes find their motivation.
Having a strong purpose is essential to staying motivated as a CrossFit athlete. Dig deep, find what's driving you, and let it fuel your actions.
Believe in Yourself
Imagine you are standing in front of a barbell. It's loaded up with 101% of your one-rep-max deadlift. You turn up the music, close your eyes, and tell yourself you can rip this weight off the ground. (Note: Everyone's PR process looks a little bit different. Yours might involve more chalk, yelling, and stomping around. That's cool.) Whether you realize it or not, this ritual is about building what is known as self-efficacy. Self-efficacy measures whether a person believes that they are capable of achieving the goal in front of them. Anyone who has attempted a one-rep-max with even an inkling of doubt in their mind knows that not believing in yourself (ie. low self-efficacy) is the kiss of death. You might get halfway through your lift, and when you need to grind the most, that little voice of doubt pops into your head. This shit is heavy. Maybe you can't do this? Before you even realize it, the bar clangs down on the ground. Lift failed.
Believing that you are capable of achieving your goals is absolutely essential to staying motivated as a CrossFit athlete. Here are a few practical ways to help you raise your self-efficacy:
- Set a goal that is just right. Your targets need to be just the right balance of ambitious and attainable. Something that is overly attainable is boring and won't get you excited to work hard. On the other hand, something that is overly ambitious can actually lower your self-efficacy to the point that you feel like you will never be able to achieve it. Studies have shown that overly-ambitious goals can have such a negative impact on self-efficacy that people don't even try. This is obviously something we want to avoid. One way of finding a realistic stretch goal might be to set yourself a "Target Window". If, for example, you are aiming to lose weight for the summer, then you might consider setting a goal window of losing 5-10 pounds. You plan and aim for 10 pounds, knowing that this is the stretch goal. If it turns out that you lost 7 pounds, great! That is still two more than the overly-attainable goal of 5.
- I think I can, I think I can... Telling yourself that you are capable, smart, strong, funny, (insert desired adjective here) can have a tremendous impact on your self-efficacy. Obviously it is not enough to stand in front of the mirror every morning and tell yourself these things. You must really feel it. Picture yourself achieving your goal. How will you feel in that moment? Allow those sensations to run through your body already now. Visualization can be extremely motivating and is a great tool for building self-efficacy.
- Surround yourself with people that build you up. If you're spending time with people that are constantly pointing out your flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings then it's time to find some new friends. Humans are very impressionable, particularly to the voices that are closest to us. Make sure that those voices are telling you something encouraging. Research has proven that your brain will naturally seek out more positive things to focus on. The result? A snowball effect of positive self-efficacy that will help you achieve your goals!
Believing you can is half the battle. Find ways to encourage yourself when things get tough, and don't stop believing!
Make It a Lifestyle
Willpower is overrated. Yes, it's great that you have the ability to resist temptation when that pint of Ben & Jerry's is calling your name, but why even pick that fight? Having this argument with yourself every night can be extremely taxing on your motivation. Wouldn't it just be easier to not have ice cream in the house and avoid the internal struggle to begin with? Making it a lifestyle is about setting yourself up for success in a very practical manner; do you have the time and energy you need to achieve your goals?
One of the biggest factors impacting your motivation, both in and out of the gym, can be your friends and family. Are they helping you achieve your goals, or pulling you away from them? For example, if all your friends are going to the bar while you want to go to CrossFit it might be time to find a new crew. On the other hand, if you have a family with two kids, finding time to train might be a challenge. Perhaps you need to invest in a garage gym, or set goals that are realistic under the circumstances. Whatever your situation might be, look at your friends and family and see how you can arrange your life to better support your goals.
Considering that you spend roughly 8-12 hours with your colleagues and only a fraction of that with friends and family it may be that the bigger blocker is actually your employer. While I wouldn't suggest going to your boss and complaining about how your job is getting in the way of all these gains you're trying to make, it might be worth looking at optimizing how work affects your motivation at CrossFit. Would it be easier for you to train at a box close to work, rather than the gym near your home? Can you train during lunch? Are your goals realistic considering your work-life? These are not answers. They are simply prompts for how you might reduce stress and keep your motivation levels high.
Regardless of whether it's at work or at home, be on the lookout for things that create friction in your life. We all have a finite amount of energy to spend. Don't blow it all on things that could be avoided with a little planning.
Anyone who has been a part of a great CrossFit box will tell you that one of the most important aspects that determine whether you enjoy your training, and stick to it, is the community at the gym. It's the people, not the programming or the progress, that make training at 5AM something you look forward to. This means that, while it's possible to be a good CrossFit athlete when you train alone, having someone to commiserate with can be a great source of motivation. In fact, studies show that the accountability derived from friendly competition significantly improves the odds that people will achieve their health goals.
CrossFit does a fantastic job of promoting this friendly competition by scoring workouts, and displaying them publicly on the whiteboard. The founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, points out that people "will die for points", and intentionally leverages this insight as a tool to push people outside of their comfort zones. While I have yet to die in pursuit of winning a workout, I consistently find myself sprawled out on the gym floor, gasping for air, because I just had to win.
Anyone doing CrossFit alone is missing out on one of the most motivating aspects of the sport. Join a gym, find a training partner, or submit your scores online. Whatever you do, find a way to get competitive and let it push you outside your comfort zone!
Focus on Progress
CrossFit's motto Better Than Yesterday is a great reminder that our focus should always be on making progress. Sometimes we think that personal records only come in the form of pounds - pounds added to your one-rep-max, or pounds lost from you hips. However, you can walk in the gym every day for a year and PR on something new! Max duration, max reps, max weight, shortest time, all different kinds of tests for countless exercises. Here's an example of how someone who is working on handstands could use several different PRs to stay motivated in their training:
- Max reps kipping/ strict HSPU
- Max duration hand-stand hold (against a wall)
- Max duration hand-stand hold (freestanding)
- Max depth kipping/ strict HSPU
- Shortest time to complete 25, 50, 75, 100 HSPU
- Max distance Handstand Walk
- Shortest time to Handstand Walk 25, 50, 75, 100 Meters
Suddenly the list of things to play around with and make progress in has grown substantially. Rather than trying to go from one HSPU to unbroken sets of 20, you can use some of these variations to push your limits and progress gradually. The same goes for any other exercise you want to improve. Incorporate some of these "variant PRs" into your daily training - they can be extremely motivating!
It may sound unbelievable, but a 1% improvement every day will compound to be nearly a 3800% improvement over the course of a year! That means you would be 38x times better in one year by making small, incremental progress. Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. Focus on small wins, celebrate them whenever they happen, and keep moving forward!
Staying motivated is half the battle to reaching your CrossFit goals. When you are excited about training it's easier to wake up early, stick to your diet, and grind through tough workouts. We hope that this list of tips has helped get you fired up to work hard.
- Find Your Purpose
- Believe in Yourself
- Make it a Lifestyle
- Get Competitive
- Focus on Progress
If you have any questions or comments related to CrossFit Motivation please feel free to drop a line below. We'd love to hear from you! In the meantime, thanks for reading and keep working hard!