By: Paul Alkoby

Even with the perfect program, equipment, and coach, sometimes the mind can be what holds us back. If your mental game isn’t in check, the barbell isn’t going to leave the ground. Here’s five ways I learned how to dig deep and keep going when the going gets tough.

  1. Set a Mantra. When I began taking training seriously I followed the training log of a strong gentleman named Alpha. Alpha had overcome much adversity from possible career ending injury to tumors. Alpha’s numbers were very impressive, 650+ Deadlift, 500 Bench (without a lift), 600+ Squat. He wasn’t a professional Powerlifter either and had broken his back. One thing that set Alpha apart was his mental fortitude. He would consistently drive through adversity using his mantra “Die Empty.” What he meant by that was, die having given your all. There are many great short sayings that can help you when life kicks you in the balls or the weights get heavy. Another great one that is very easy to remember is WIN or What’s Important Now. I like to use this when I have a stressful chaotic situation.
  2. Do what you hate. One of the best things you can do to boost your confidence and build some fortitude is progress at what you suck at. If you do CrossFit and hate running, go run some 400’s and 800’s with not much recovery and I guarantee when you smoke the run WODs at your box you will feel damn good. If you hate public speaking attend Toastmasters and overcome that goat, it will better you as an individual and give you a vital skill. A problem with our society today is people get embarrassed when they are either new to something or not proficient rather than embrace it and learn how to be better. Constantly pursuing progress will help you excel in all aspects of life.


  1. False motivation. At some point when shit sucks, and it will you need a little help from within. When I was at a tough school early in my military career I had a very distinct moment within that I carried through. It was about 30 degrees and I was getting blasted with a cold hose, I felt my body lock up as we were going through exercise after exercise. I remember thinking it could all be over anytime I wanted and had to completely kick that, what did I do? I thought about sitting on a beach in Hawaii and yelled out a short mantra to the rest of my unit. Later that night an individual thanked me because he had thought about dropping at that moment as well. Sometimes a little false motivation may not only help you but help others.
  2. Mentor. One of the most difficult things to do is teach, it will truly challenge you every day and put you way outside of your comfort zone. Mentorship not only challenges you to teach but also to be an all-around role model for an individual. This could be in fitness if take a newer lifter under your wing, business if you reach out to an up and coming individual with a similar career path, even in life if you look into an organization such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. I have been fortunate to have some incredible mentors in life that have helped become the person I am today; I have also mentored individuals that have taught me great lessons and challenged me on a whole different level.
  3. Compete. Want to really learn about what’s deep within? Put it all on the line. If you do CrossFit find a local throw down and go smash it. If you are a Weightlifter get on the platform and make shit happen. You will truly find what’s deep within when you have to perform under pressure. It will expose strengths you never thought you had and make you push through the suck.

Paul is an avid CrossFitter as well as CrossFit Level 1 Trainer at a nonprofit military affiliate overseas. In addition to heavy barbells he is also a coffee connoisseur and enjoys thug life videos. By day, Paul is a medic in the military.


Photo Credit: Lydia Valentin by Hookgrip, Navy Seals by Lance Iverson


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