Sunday, April 1, 2012

The CrossFit Goal Setting Course

“The Greatest Adaptation to CrossFit Takes Place Between The Ears!”
- CrossFit Founder Coach Greg Glassman


As an ultra-endurance athlete and coach, I have studied the "mental game" for almost 20 years now. Lately I have been re-reading a book on Neurolinguistic Programming ("NLP") to improve the way I communicate with myself and others "in the moment". At the same time, I have been reading Daniel Kahneman's fascinating new book which includes an examination of how our "fast" and "slow" brains make decisions, remember, judge and distort past experiences or possible outcomes:. It's called "Thinking Fast and Slow".

One of my key take-aways from both of these books is the way we view and define the quality of our past, present and future is naturally heavily influenced by our intuition, unconscious empirical bias ("priming") and sometimes irrational emotions. However, your mindset, world-view and attitude are controllable things that heavily influence relationships and the outcome of any task or goal. This is up to you. This is a learned skill-set.

OK, so what tools, skills or "Jedi Mind Tricks" do the most effective and successful people leverage to overcome these natural tendencies? The answer is not as complex as many believe. What I have found over time is that there are, in fact, Jedis among us. They do use their Jedi mind tricks to navigate life's harshest times; those of our own choosing or not. Many come from paths of great adversity; military, ultra-endurance sport, or martial arts. The common thread is that they have chosen the path of great resistance and encountered countless obstacles along the way. Each is a test of their mindset and resolve as much as physical or intellectual capacity.

The good news is these skills aren't innate gifts, but learned and accessible to anyone willing to change.


A few months ago I wrote about how we often battle the "devil" sitting on our shoulders. We hear whispers of very convincing excuses and discouragement in times of stress. Any CrossFit or endurance athlete knows EXACTLY what I mean. Your body may be working hard, but your brain must work even harder to block out the constant noise of negative thoughts. Repeatedly fighting through to the end, whether it is during a hard 20 mile run, the last round of a fight or the last round of Fight Gone Bad, brings adaptation. There is a very real re-calibration of our capacity, both physically and mentally.

"We are enriched by life's harsh moments, especially those of our own choosing"-Mark Allen, who won 6 Hawaii Ironman Championships after trying and "failing" 6 years in a row.

One cool thing I have learned from sport and studying NLP is how actively control our mindset in life's harsh moments with a positive pretense, impacts our odds of "success". This can be while negotiating, speaking with a loved one, racing, a tough workout or even a fight. Actively managing our mindset is a SKILL that must be learned and practiced. By evaluating obstacles with a positive pretense, creative solutions appear and success becomes a much more likely outcome...


If you are asked to climb a 50 foot rope to the top of a gym. And you're terrified. You could tell yourself "It would be just my luck to fall and break my leg, but I won't let myself fall off this rope"...OR... "I am going to safely, methodically and powerfully use my best possible technique to climb this rope to the top before descending safely back to the gym floor".


With an actively positive pretense you tell yourself confidently what you CAN do, rather than what you want to AVOID. This is a familiar concept to my fellow cyclists: When riding down a technical, dangerous trail you want to pick the line where you want to go, not where you don't want to go...or you will surely crash. You have to focus, decide and believe!


There are many people in the world qualified to lecture coaches, athletes and business owners about the power of maintaining a positive pretense in our thoughts and words. Very few do it better than CrossFit's Greg Amundson.

Greg Amundson is known as one of the original "Firebreather" CrossFit athletes, trained by Coach Greg Glassman, from the very first CrossFit in Santa Cruz. He is a legend in the CrossFit community with an impressive background in the military, law enforcement, martial arts and as a federal agent with the DEA. Think of the most passionate person you have ever met, bursting with knowledge, experience and rich stories. Now, quadruple that energy and you almost get the idea.

After first learning about Greg a couple years ago through the CrossFit website, I have scoured the internet in search of his speaking and writing. While recently reading about NLP and Kahneman's studies, I came across Greg's new traveling seminar, the "CrossFit Goal Setting Course". The seminar is currently touring CrossFit boxes around the world. Coincidentally, the very next stop on the tour just happened to be near my home in Santa Barbara, California. I jumped at the opportunity and on Saturday drove the 40 minutes down Highway 101 to CrossFit Ventura for a day of learning from "The Jedi".

Greg resigned from his position with the DEA this year in order to work full-time for CrossFit, presenting his Goal Setting Course. He shares his message in the context of colorful, relevant stories from his diverse background. With his animated delivery and strong presentation skills, this approach keeps it fun and engaging, making the material quite memorable.

Make no mistake: the course was not all didactic. Throughout the day there were several interactive exercises that required everyone to implement the taught skills right away, on the spot. We used Goal Setting workbooks to list specific goals with timelines to achieve each one, while creating powerful anchors to reinforce our successes.

Like many driven, self-motivated athletes, I felt like I went into this course already familiar with the gist of the subject matter. However, the way Greg presented the material, framed his stories and taught anchoring was especially powerful. This was a powerful learning experience. I would highly reccomend Greg's course to anyone, regardless of background.

At the end of the day, Greg offered to stick around for two hours to work with anyone one-on-one to discuss their individual goals, offering on-the-spot coaching. Most of the crowd (predominantly CrossFit Box owners and trainers) took advantage of this awesome opportunity. I left the seminar with some solid take-aways and skills that I can implement right away.

"It's mind over matter, Clancy. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter!"-Spoken to me by a Navy instructor, 1996, while I blasted far beyond physical and mental limits...both my own and what I considered humanly possible at the time.

From the CrossFit Goal Setting Site:

When harnessed, practiced and understood, Goal Setting and Positive Self-Talk are powerful assets to any Athlete. Although the physical attributes of CrossFit Athletes are indeed elite by any standard, the mental, emotional and character development that is forged through the difficulty of the workouts is also worthy of our study and contemplation.

Goal Setting and Positive Self-Talk are applicable to any physical or professional endeavor. When mastered, the lessons we learn in the CrossFit Affiliate gym are a tool that may be successfully applied to academics, relationships, business, leadership and profession.

During an early CrossFit Seminar in the winter of 2003, Coach Glassman remarked to Greg Amundson that, “The greatest adaptation to CrossFit takes place between the ears!” These influential words shaped the course of the next six years for Greg. As an athlete at the original CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz, California, Greg was able to witness first hand the power of the mind in the development of his own physical fitness and that of his peers.

In June, 2008, Greg published an article in the CrossFit Journal called Coaching The Mental Side of CrossFit. The article captured the attention of the CrossFit Community and resulted in immediate requests for speaking engagements that would elaborate on the mental adapation of CrossFit. For this reason, we like to think of the CrossFit Goal Setting Trainer Course as a creation of the CrossFit Community. The CrossFit Course Goal Setting Course is a true reflection of the amazing history, culture and Community of CrossFit.

Many of the greatest subject matter experts and athletes in the CrossFit Community have contributed to the development of the CrossFit Goal Setting Course. Coach Greg Glassman, Coach Mike Burgener, Coach Brian MacKenzie, Coach Kelly Starrett and Lisbeth Darsh have all shared strategies for mental toughness and personal success. Powerhouse CrossFit Games Athletes Josh Everett, Rob Orlando and Tommy Hackenbruck, through their example in competition and leadership, have also provided to the content of the Course.

Whether you are a veteran CrossFit Athlete or brand new to the Community, the CrossFit Goal Setting Trainer Course will educate and inspire you to unleash the power of your mind, body and spirit.


Recommended CrossFit Journal Resources

Forging Elite Leadership – CrossFit Journal Article
Coaching The Mental Side of CrossFit – CrossFit Journal Article
CrossFit HQ History – CrossFit Journal Article
Staying In The Fight – CrossFit Journal Article
•Accomplishment of a 10 Year Goal [video] – CrossFit Journal Video
•What It Takes To Be A Leader [video] – CrossFit Journal Video
•Positive Self Talk – The Greatest Adaptation [video] – CrossFit Journal Video