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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 02-23-2013, 01:58 AM   #1
John W L Hall
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Location: Zurich  CH
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How mentally tough are CrossFitters, and how do you know? - research study


First to introduce myself. I am relatively new to CrossFit, I am following a CFE-type program to prepare for my next ultramarathon (Transgrancanaria mountain race, 119km/74 miles and this different mode of training seems to be really paying off me for, will find out for sure soon as the race is in a week's time! I am also a psychologist, specialised in sport, exercise, business, and organisational psychology. Which brings me on to my research question.

I've been impressed at how data-driven CrossFit is; this also makes it a promising area for research. I am interested to measure mental toughness in individuals who do CrossFit and relate that to outcomes in their WOD stats, so for example I could demonstrate whether greater mental toughness does really equate to greater performance, or in fact it is just effective use of basic mental skills such as visualisation, relaxation, goal-setting etc. Mental toughness is a big deal in sport psychology right now, but also controversial as it is one of those concepts that could mean everything, or nothing.

So what I am asking for on this board is ideas on how the WOD data can be used to show up differences between individuals that go beyond just the physical. Knowing that X can back-squat 25% more than Y, or their 'fight gone bad score' is 310 compared to 270, does not help. X could be twice the size of Y, twice the VO2 max etc. So what in the stats is a marker of the mental side of CrossFit, that shows beyond the physical who is a better performer? Is it something about consistency of workouts, or pattern of PRs? Is someone who scores the same on all 3 rounds of 'fight gone bad' mentally tougher than someone who's score drops 20% each round? In summary, what in the routinely collected stats indicates someone may have a mental edge?

Would be much appreciated if there are some good ideas that could help me design my research study. If it works out, I will be sure to submit an article to the journal on what I find!

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Old 02-23-2013, 02:26 AM   #2
Nick Hoffman
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Vancouver  WA
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Re: How mentally tough are CrossFitters, and how do you know? - research study

I think what you're asking is a question that military spec ops types have been trying to discover for a long time now, without success.

And you may want to rethink CFE for ultramarathons. The only person I know of that's actually completed an ultra while using it doesn't think to highly of that program for ultrarunning these days. I don't believe the creators of CFE have been able to finish an ultra since they've been using their methods, either; even though they have before it.
I know it's a good workout when blood vessels in the back of my eyeballs POP! No agony, no bragony! Am I right?
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Old 02-24-2013, 06:20 PM   #3
Chris Mason
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Re: How mentally tough are CrossFitters, and how do you know? - research study

Mental toughness is such a subjective term. If you want to generally define it as the ability to push oneself physically beyond what the average, non-motivated individual can do then we can agree it is an important component. The trick, in my opinion, is that mental toughness allows us to really push our bodies, but once you get beyond a basic level of adaptation your ability to recover from said "going beyond" becomes an issue. In other words, if a Rich Froening went all out all of the time he would mentally and physically burnout in relatively short order. I think management of intensity of effort is HUGE in CrossFit, but many, many practitioners don't know that. CrossFitters like to envision themselves as hardcore and the more hardcore someone is the more accolades they get. For long term success that has to be carefully managed. To be honest, I think a certification that addresses the issue would be a great one for CrossFit to offer.
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Old 02-24-2013, 10:37 PM   #4
Adam Shreim
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Location: San Diego  CA
Posts: 437
Re: How mentally tough are CrossFitters, and how do you know? - research study

I have spent a lot of time with people that are determined to be "mentally tougher" than the average person and the only real difference I have noticed is the ability to tolerate and compartmentalize pain... that and they are so used to it, that dull and nagging discomfort is less of an issue.
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