Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Con Game

Moving weight is not purely physical. Confidence plays a huge part in determining the success or failure of a lift.

Today, we were working on the Jerk at Crossfit Boston. Before you can jerk the weight overhead, you have to get it to your chest--you have to clean it. Several athletes missed their cleans at heavier poundages.

The didn't miss for lack of strength or extension. On each failed attempt, the bar came to chest level or higher.

They failed because they lacked the confidence to pull themselves under the bar. Physical ability had nothing to do with it, evidenced by the fact that these folks are more than capable of front-squatting the poundages they were working with.

There are several ways to boost your confidence and succeed at heavier lifts. This confidence is the fuel for setting personal records and achieving new athletic milestones.

First, forget how much weight is on the bar. Approach every lift like you're moving a 12 ounce pvc pipe. If you can trick yourself into forgetting about the weight, confidence won't be an issue. You won't "know" how much you're moving, so you can't be intimidated by it.

Second, exude confidence. Walk up to the bar, grab it, and go. The more time you spend with your hands on the bar and the bar on the ground, the more time you have to psych yourself out. I actually talk to the bar. More precisely, I swear at it.

"You're coming with me. I'm gonna rip you off the ground."

It might seem a little drastic, but it works. You're more likely to believe what you're saying if you articulate it verbally. Human beings have a propensity to maintain a position once they've expressed it publicly, regardless of the evidence.

Witness the last argument you had when you were wrong and you knew it. You probably didn't retract your position immediately. You might not have retracted it at all.

Express your position loudly and publicly: "I'm gonna rip you off the ground!"

Set yourself up to win. Tell everyone in the room you're going to make the lift. By doing this, you're setting up a positive expectation. When everyone else expects you to succeed, you'll expect you to succeed too. You'll develop confidence.

Using these tricks may not be natural for you. You may be the stoic type. In this scenario, let your love of humility go. The confidence you express will permeate the room. Every athlete on the floor will be more confident because you're more confident, and you'll be able to feed on their energy. This cycle is self-sustaining and very powerful.

There is no place for self-doubt in the gym. Recognize this simple fact, and you'll walk in the door ready to set PRs.

Picture of me, several PRs ago, courtesy of Neal Thompson.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I know this echoes my comment I left on Monday's blog, but you are right. I think that a huge obstacle in not acheiving our goals, is not the actual "act", it is the lack of confidence in our ability to overcome the obstacle. Sometimes the fear of failure is what keeps us from succeeding. You have proven once again that you are all knowing... as in that old tv series I used to loved to watch, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues...."the student has now become the teacher"!


7/26/2006 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jon,

You know, for the first time I've actually found myself profoundly disagreeing with something you write.
You advocate cognitive dissonance, which sounds like a fake - teenage - sort of confidence to me.
Confidence isn't words, isn't gestures, isn't posturing. Confidence isn't the desire to impose yourself on your environment, it's the knowledge that you have a talent for something worth doing, and that you'll give it your all regardless of whether you fail or not. In other words, confidence is feeling at ease with yourself without sacrificing the desire for self improvement.
It doesn't matter when someone recognizes this in themselves. You can be lifting 5 lb. or 500 lb; you can be out on the street or a multi-millionaire. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that you realize who you are. People who can't look themselves in the mirror aren't confident. Nor are people who try to stare themselves down in the mirror.
So while I think we're singing from the same hymn book, the song sheets are probably different. I'm not saying there isn't a place for really wanting something, but that's separate from confidence. Gyms are filled with far too many men who confuse confidence with desire.

Thanks for the training today.


7/26/2006 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Gilson said...

I like the spirit of your comment, Toby. I'm not advocating cognitive dissonance, but rather, resolution thereof.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person's actions or feelings do not match his or her beliefs.

In the case of the failed lift, the athlete believes he will not make the lift, and doesn't make it. No dissonance there.

In the case of using psychological means to impart confidence, the athlete believes the lift is do-able, and so completes the lift. No dissonance there.

Only when the athlete believes he/she can make the lift and doesn't will that uncomfortable juxtaposition of thoughts and feelings occur.

I want you to make your lifts :)

7/26/2006 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon, I agree with you that you really have to want something if it's hard to get. But that's still desire and not confidence ;).
One could argue that once you've done the lift - having gone from wanting something to knowing you can do it - now that's confidence. And yes, that's a great part of it, but that's not all. Knowing that you can fail and still being able to do it would be the next step in the right direction.

You're definitely right about the debilitating power of doubt. Our minds can become the quicksand in which ambitions drown. I think what you're really writing about is willpower.
As Nike says, "Just do it". And they're bloody rich to prove it.

7/26/2006 07:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Mere Datet said...

Again Faster-

Confidence is tricky. I looked it up in the dictionary, English not being my first language, and found this: "Confidence stresses faith in oneself and one's powers without any suggestion of conceit or arrogance." The impression I get is that this Jon person running this blog is a complete arrogant egomaniac. You have spoken so many times of failing because your head wasn't in it, or that you have a bad temper. So, does this confidence you speak of generate from being a spaz, or merely seeking praise for your ego?

7/27/2006 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Gilson said...

Many times, I've confronted my shortcomings as an athlete and as a human being. By confronting rather than hiding, and by airing my psyche in a public forum, I hope to share the things I've learned.

The tone of my postings isn't always humble. Nonetheless, I consider athletic progress to be a process of failure and rebirth. You have to recognize failure to benefit from it, and sometimes you have to express confidence where there is none in order to maintain forward momentum. I share my failures along with my successes, and I express confidence when and where it is warranted.

I've dedicated a portion of my life (some might say all of it) to becoming a better athlete, a better coach, and a better friend to the people around me.

The process of becoming better is not an easy path. I don't do it for my ego or for your entertainment, but in pursuit of becoming something more than a complacent drone.

I strive to learn from experience and from my observations of the people I choose to surround myself with. I hope that I share these lessons lucidly and toward the end of benefiting others.

If you choose to associate with Again Faster, please make a positive contribution. Come to our workouts, and motivate each other. When you visit our site, think before you post.

There is no membership fee to be a member of our community--just the desire to work hard and become a better athlete. Our currency is character.

Why are you here?

7/27/2006 06:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Mere Detet said...

I am here on a student VISA attending classes.

7/27/2006 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon, you have ballsy aspirations. So far, you've always given us well-written food for thought. I hope the many people who visit this site will soon join in the discussions about your articles. Sniping and name calling by anonymous pranksters just wastes our time (unless it's really, really funny, in which case I say carry on).
The greater the communication, the more we all get out of it. I look forward to hearing more about your triathlon preparations/weight gain 3000 project. I also hear you're a good chef. Maybe a quick and easy recipe every now and then for us busy athletes wouldn't be amiss?



7/27/2006 07:43:00 PM  

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