Psych Yourself Up (not out!) for Your Workout

CFLA Creed No. 5 Like Julie, one of the co-founders of this blog, I’m a CrossFit enthusiast-cum-evangelist.

What I love most about the CF training is one of its core principles: Routine is the enemy. There’s a seemingly infinite number of CF workouts and in the past six months, I’ve never repeated one.  Not having the same routine helps keeps muscles constantly stimulated and forcing them to adapt to get stronger. Plus, it beats the boredom of other types of exercise.

Another CF advantage is that I never know what’s in store for me before any given workout. Another core CF principle, Training for the unknown and unknoweable means there should be an element of surprise to our workouts so that we’re prepared for whatever, whenever.  At my gym, the Workout of the Day (WOD) is posted online the day before for those that want to preview—but I avoid looking at all cost. If I look, I will psych myself out.

April Shunn CrossFit
April "Killing" It!

However my best friend and fellow CFer, April, likes to know the workout in advance so she can psych herself up for it.  She religiously checks the site..then would proceed to email them to me.

Hey Kel,

WOD: 20 minute AMRAP (AMRAP means As Many Reps as Possible)

5 Power cleans

10 Toes to bar

15 Wall balls

See you tonight!


I’d panic.

I can’t get my toes to the pull up bar. Surely my body will fail me on the power cleans.

By mid-morning my stomach was in knots and by the afternoon…

I feel a “headache” come on. I have  four loads of laundry that had to be done–tonight! There’s no way I can make it to the gym.

Then, I realized I was psyching myself out.

Sam Martin, CFLA
Sam Martin post-workout: I hope he didn't throw up in the bucket...

Team Psycho

“Was I normal or having an CF-induced panic attack?” As soon as I saw my coach, Sam Martin of CFLA,  I asked him if my reaction was normal? “Some people like the surprise and ‘unknown’ aspect of their workouts while others like to be surprised because they fear if they see something they don’t like, they won’t come,” he explained.

But on the flip-side, Becca Borawski, a CF coach and blogger said, “Some people are need-to-know-types.  They might have injuries or schedules that they need to work around, so knowing the workout helps them.” Others, like April, just use knowing the workout to psych themselves up all day before it.

I’m convinced she spends the day visualizing how she’s going to “kill” me at CF…

Psych Up vs. Out

Becca Borawski, CFLA

In the end, it comes down to different strokes for different folks. There are those who psych themselves up and those who psych themselves out. It’s important to know which type you are so that you can structure your exercise and motivation around what works for you.

For me, I decided that I had committed myself to becoming “shredded,” and knew this wasn’t going to transpire from folding laundry. I was also jazzed that I was narrowing in on jumping that 24-inch box and inching closer and closer to an unassisted pull up. I got my butt to the gym.

Bottom line

What motivates you? Find the exercise that you love (and fear).  A hard workout won’t kill you, will probably make you stronger (in more ways than one) and you’ll always feel that amazing post-workout sense of accomplishment and euphoria once you’re done.

Kelly Plowe, MS, RDThis post is from guest contributor, Kelly Plowe, MS, RD, (aka Julie’s niece).


  1. says

    Hello from a fellow RD & CF addict (2 years now). I’m the “wanna know ahead of time” so I can psych myself in both directions, plan for scale (less & less now) or to work around my deltoid tendonitis or if I need a rest day (I alternate 2 on 1 off with 3 on 1 off). This month our box is doing the “surprise” route. No posting, and each trainer has their own programming – which makes life really difficult since they coach different times on different days. I’m very uncomfortable not knowing. And then I get disappointed when I see the other WODs and wish I was doing the workout of another trainer.
    That pull-up is just around the corner!
    hlbrewer, MS RD CDE

  2. Greg G says

    I like to know. Overcoming the psyche out is as rewarding as overcoming other technique, weight or rep barriers. I like to feel fearful of my workouts and in fact, once in a while I will program a workout that I literally don’t think I can complete… only to complete them – most times.

    CF is like life in a microcosm. What you get out of it is a product of your choices and the energy and commitment you apply to those choices. And sometimes life is really f’n challenging and sometimes it just plain sucks. Training CF makes me more emotionally hardy and resilient. Period. There are no short cuts to improved mental or physical performance IMHO.

  3. Kelly says

    Thanks for all of the feedback. Greg, I hear you on the strength you build in CF working its way into other aspects of our life – relationships, career and other challenges. I feel better equipped to handle life’s hurdles.

  4. says

    I have just discovered crossfit, and I am completely addicted! And I love your creed! Awesome!!!

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