Getting CrossFit, Day 18: Seeing the benefits

Sunday, June 28th

    Today was rest day, and I needed it. After a number of CrossFit WODs in a row, combined with training for soccer and squash, I felt a rest day was well deserved. That feeling was unprecedented. Before CrossFit, I worked out seven days a week. Not necessarily at the gym, but I always did something very physically demanding every day, whether it was a hard run, soccer game, and/or squash match combined with a quick ab circuit. Whenever I didn't, I'd get a weird anxious feeling that made me go psycho until I finally did break a sweat. I never thought I deserved a day off. Now, I think with the hard work and effort I've been putting in with CrossFit, I finally feel deserving. Go figure.

    I have been lightly touching upon the psychological/mental benefit of CrossFit training in a number of blog posts. As I continue to attend the WODs, I have been steadily increasing how far I can push myself. When I exhaust myself daily throughout the various WODs, I'm not only building my physical endurance, but I'm also increasing my mental tolerance for the state of exhaustion. The feeling is becoming more and more familiar, and therefore more and more manageable. Though I feel like I have a long way to go before reaching my work  rate threshold, I am noticing the benefits of this newly acquired mental fitness. This benefit of CrossFit, I feel, is the most valuable. In sport, it's not always the athlete with the superior talent or even fitness that wins. The winner will be the competitor who can endure the pressure, push themselves farther, and win the mental battle. There's nothing like being mentally fit when competing in sports. It provides a level of confidence that is empowering. You know you're going to win before you even set foot on the stage. I found this weekend, that through CrossFit, I've improved this mental toughness leaps and bounds. Here's how.

    Following my 9:00 AM WOD, I had precious little rest time before I had to play in a highly competitive squash match.

Note to newbies: To give you some background, squash is the game that was created when somebody finally told tennis players to drop the purse. It's an indoor racquet sport with longer rallies, no towel breaks in between points, and lots and lots of sweat. The game is scored on an eleven point scale. First to eleven wins the game, then the first to three games wins the match. My Dad got me into it at around age thirteen. Since I started late, I had to make due for my less than perfect fundamental skills with athleticism and competitiveness. I had to be mentally tough and physically fit if I was going to succeed in a sport dominated by deep pocketed kids who routinely get private lessons from professionals. This summer I'm playing in a league with the top college players in New Jersey.

     Having matches soon after CrossFit WODs isn't new to me. It used to be very difficult to play after working out at CrossFit, but now I find my recovery time has improved ten fold. After stopping home briefly for a quick bite to eat, I was off to play the match. I hadn't played my opponent before, but I knew of him. He was one of the nation's top college recruits, and had reached as high as fifth in the nation as a junior. I knew he must be good.

    I got to the court a little late, introduced myself, and we started playing. The first two games were smooth sailing. He must have come unprepared. I went up two games to nothing very quickly. I was excited, knowing that a win over such a highly touted player would bode well for my confidence. Well, in my excitement I let my guard down. He picked up his work rate and quickly took the third game making it two games to one, still in my favor. In the fourth, I realized that going for all sorts of difficult shots wasn't going to win me the match, errors were costing me dearly. Instead, I played to outlast him: my usual strategy for playing opponents with superior skill. However, regardless of my efforts, he came out quickly with the lead in the fourth game. He was beginning to pick up his confidence, and started hitting great shots. At 7-1 in his favor, I realized winning the fourth game was probably out of the question. I elected to simply make the remaining points as long as possible so he would be exhausted in the deciding fifth game. I chased down every one of his balls and made him work hard to win those final four points. Though finally prevailed in the fourth game, I could tell he was getting tired and frustrated with fatigue.

    We went into the deciding fifth game dead even at two games each, he had the momentum having won the two previous games, but I had the mental advantage. I knew I could outlast him. However, much to my horror, the fifth game began in the same fashion that the fourth had. Though points were long and intense, he came out on top in the majority of the rallies. I felt the same burning in my legs that I did during my "Filthy fifty" box jumps a couple days before. But I had been there before, and I was fine with a little burning. My opponent on the other hand spent what little time there was in between points resting with his hands on his knees and taking desperate, deep breaths. Regardless, to my frustration he continued to win points and before I knew it I was down 9-3. But I wouldn't let myself down. If he was going to win this match, I'd make it as difficult as I could for him.

    I stayed calm, and waited for him to endure another fit of heaving before serving the ball again. That point must have lasted a full three to five minutes. Neither of us wanted to give up, we both knew what that point meant. If he won, he'd have seven straight match points, if I won, I was back in it at 4-9. I would be lying to you if I told you that the rally wasn't incredibly arduous, but it was nothing I hadn't already experienced during "Fran," or "Cindy." Though breathless, I felt comfortable, and even smirked as my opponent grunted while lunging, diving, and chasing after my shots. As the point continued I felt almost a sadistic pleasure in running him around the court and watching his face grow increasingly purple. After a few more shots he capitulated, neglecting to chase down a routine shot. Though he was more exhausted than I had been after a quarter mile of lunges with Sean Hector, I still understood the danger I lay in at being 4-9 down, and was careful in my shot selection, continuing to draw rallies out to be as long as possible even if that meant running my more myself.

    By 6-9, in his exhaustion he looked about as comfortable as Charlton Heston might have at a gun control rally. Two points later, I heard his racquet crash against the wall as he threw it with frustration: 8-9. At 9 all, I thought he had given up until disaster struck. I served a fault (very rare in squash), and it was 10-9 in his favor, good enough for match point. Nervous, I thought of racing Mickey for my famous Saturday morning WOD victory. I pushed harder. The hardest rally of the match ensued. Truthfully, I don't even remember what happened, but the rally ended with my opponent hopelessly diving for a shot. After failing in his taxing effort, he lay on the floor, unable to get up for what seemed like a solid minute. When finally back on his feet, he didn't even take his non-racquet hand off of his knees as I quickly dispatched him in the two points that followed.

My Result: Victory, 3-2. Game scores: 11-6, 11-1, 7-11, 10-12, 12-10

Next Workout: Monday, 9:00 AM

   

   

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