Mental Preparation for the 2012 CrossFit Games: Aja Barto

Mental Preparation for the 2012 CrossFit Games: Aja Barto

Aja Barto is the first of many CrossFit Games athletes who will share his experiences and thoughts on the mental aspects  - read and learn from the best:

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Aja is the owner of Behemoth CrossFit, and has been doing CrossFit for about 2 years. He placed third at the CrossFit South Central Regionals, and is now ready for the 2012 CrossFit Games!


What mental skills have been most important to you on your journey qualifying for the CrossFit Games this year?
Just continuing to quiet the voice in my head. Everyone has one, its just how you deal with it. Training alone has really developed my mental game. I love training alone because it’s not just a physical battle but a mental battle as well. If you can push yourself past limits when you’re alone and quite that voice, any other setting will be a walk in the park. CrossFit in general is discomforting, it is how we deal with that discomfort mentally that will allow us to prevail physically and make the types of gains we all desire. I visualize and use positive re-enforcement at all times in my life. I never let myself be negative regardless the situation. I strongly believe that our thoughts dictate our actions and if we have the slightest bit of negativity, it will carry over.
How do you deal with fatigue, pain or negative thoughts during a workout?
I use positive self-talk and brief countdowns that allow me to keep a sense of urgency. I embrace the pain. Like I said earlier, the discomfort of workouts is expected and unavoidable. The more we embrace that and embrace the suck of the workout, the easier it is to focus on staying within the movement and focussing on completing the workout 1 rep at a time.
How do you prepare for the unknown, in terms of the mental aspect?

I train as hard as I can and try and simulate situations that I may see in competition or in real life. Dealing with the rigors of a CrossFit workout can prepare you for any event that you may ever encounter. Your heart rate is extremely elevated, your core temperature is through the roof, your adrenaline is running rampantly, your gut is turning and you are faced with that fight or flight feeling.
I will always fight, whether it takes me 5 minutes or 5 hours, I will never quit and I will never give up.
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I think this mentality can be carried over to the “unknown”. When I am faced with the “unknown” regardless of where or when that is, I will be as prepared as I possibly can be because I have put myself in those situations physically/mentally/emotionally and I know how to respond. I believe that ultimately there is no real way to prepare for the “unknown” because it is exactly that, the unknown. If we can train ourselves to properly handle our mind and body before and during workouts, we can best prepare ourselves to respond when it’s called for.


How do you deal with expectations – your own and others?
I have my goals and I believe I’m capable of achieving them no matter what others think or believe. I have fun and I don’t take myself nor this sport too seriously. I took all of this stuff way too seriously when I was playing professional baseball and it ultimately ruined the game for me. I no longer found it fun and saw it as a task rather than a privilege and that turned me off completely. Regardless of how big this sport grows, whether it becomes a professional sport on the level of the MLB, NBA or NFL or continues to stay as it is, I will always keep my humility and remember to always just have fun.
In terms of the mental aspects, what is going to be your biggest challenge at this years Crossfit Games?

The challenge of pushing myself to new limits, grinding harder than anyone out there and being able to just embrace the suck from the start to the finish. I think everyone at the games has a great chance at being crowned the fittest. It just comes down to what comes out of the hopper, who shows up and who can simply grind the hardest, the longest.


Any advices you will give to fellow CrossFitters, who want to become great performers?
Believe in yourself and always stay positive, no matter what! The human body is capable of much more than the mind thinks it is capable of. Learn to quiet your mind and direct your thoughts towards succeeding in the task at hand. Dictate your limits, don’t let them dictate you


Any last comments you want to share?
This is not something that happens over night. A sound mind is something that takes continuous work and development and is something I am always working on. No one is perfect. There will be times where you just get your teeth kicked in, but as long as you keep coming back and you keep believing in yourself, you WILL conquer anything


Aja Barto is a great performer and a huge inspiration to many CrossFitters – thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts, so others can learn. I wish you all the best to the 2012 CrossFit Games!
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