Coaches Chat - Colleen Fotsch’s Mental and Physical Fitness Training

Coaches Chat - Colleen Fotsch’s Mental and Physical Fitness Training

27 Apr

Coaches Chat - Colleen Fotsch’s Mental and Physical Fitness Training


Sam Smith has worked with Colleen Fotsch in multiple capacities, but he’s been her head coach for the past year.  Colleen is a high profile CrossFit Games competitor, but she’s also become a wonderful friend to people in and around Big Dawgs. We wanted to have her on to talk about a few things that she’s seeing, working on, worried about and excited about as it relates to her training. 

We ended up discussing quite a lot about what Colleen is working on mentally. Many people know how talented Colleen is in the water - swimming - and with a heavy barbell - well, any movement haha - but Colleen is also working very hard to build her mind into a world class asset too.  She and Sam gave us some wonderful thoughts about improving her mental game during and after the Coronavirus passes. Enjoy!

How Are You (Colleen Fotsch) Feeling During This Virus-Stressed Time?

Colleen recently posted about being a bit worried about her makeshift pull up bar breaking out from the door that she’s got it set up on - post HERE. The CrossFit Games IG channel shared that - post HERE - and it made me think how great of a metaphor that post is for what Colleen, and others, may be thinking during this time. There are many reasons to be stressed, so we asked Colleen how she was feeling at this moment.

I appreciate Colleen’s perspective and openness on this. She said that she’s taking this day by day. Some days she’s very calm, but some days she’s very anxious. She and Sam have spoken a lot about being prepared for either path - if CrossFit has the Games this year or not. Colleen is nervous, but she is working hard to ensure she’s focusing on what she can control while allowing what’s out of her control to dissipate around her. 

Colleen is somebody who likes to have her gameplan mapped out, so she speaks often to Sam about her training and her food/lifestyle outside of the gym, but she’s learned a heck of a lot from preparing for CrossFit because it forces her to adapt to a challenging/changing environment. She’s allowing this ever-changing environment to change how it will while she remains focused on improving those places she most needs to improve

What Are Some Strategies Helping Colleen To Stay Relaxed In These Trying Times?

Sam has helped Colleen learn how to focus on what she can control, and Colleen has to remember that when she sees the news or social media spouting 1,000 different strategies to “be your best.”  She’s had to shut much of that extra chatter out of her focus area when she’s training and recovering, and it’s helped her greatly to reduce her stress.

What Is The Biggest Thing You Love About Training And Competing In CrossFit?


“CrossFit has pushed me to be the best version of myself.” - Colleen Fotsch


Colleen loves learning about where her limits are so that she may exceed those limits with training, focus, and time. 

What Is Sam Working With Colleen On To Help Her Express Herself At Her Highest Level?

Sam wants to help Colleen grow through the adversity that both training and competing offer to her. 


“Athletes have to become more resilient at more adversity as they get farther into it” (better at the sport) - Sam Smith


Sam is working with Colleen a lot to learn how to cope with that adversity that she is facing. He does that with the workouts he gives to her, with asking her to reflect back on those workouts - and the sets/reps/thoughts she faced during them - and with the other aspects of her life that may or may not be supporting the training and competing she’s doing. 

Can The Virus Provide A Better Environment To Learn Adversity And Overcome It?

I asked Colleen if she can use this difficult time to come out the other side a better athlete and person, and she responded with “100% yes.”  She didn’t just say it, it was all over her face that she believes it!

What Is Colleen Focused On Mentally Right Now?

Since the Wodapalooza competition in early 2020, Colleen has been exploring her mind more and more with Sam. As Sam says, her physical abilities are reaching peak levels, but she has room for even more success as her mind sharpens and calms.

Colleen is using this time to learn how to “lean into challenging situations” because it’s just her right now. While competition is a wonderful environment to showcase how far you can lean into pain and effort, it must be learned when nobody is watching. What better time than now to work on this mental game when it’s impossible for others to watch. It’s only Colleen, and she’s experiencing, reflecting, and improving her process day in and day out right now.

How Much Of CrossFitters and Colleen’s Success Is Mental vs. Physical?

Sam started by answering this question. He said that athletes who wanted to go to regionals or who now want to go to Sanctionals can get away with a physically dominant capability set. However, athletes who want to go to the Games and compete at a high level at the games must learn themselves and improve their mental strength because everybody is peaked physically so it comes down to decisions and will.  Sam is putting the most focus into Colleen between the ears right now as well

Colleen then answered this question similarly but she used a key word when she said “it’s about who wants to hurt more.”  It takes willpower and mental power to go into a place that physically and mentally “burns you to the ground.”  At the highest level of the sport, the best can go there when they need to where others either can’t go there at all or can’t go there when it’s all on the line. This is additionally to all of the physical gifts and work they possess.

How Does CrossFit’s Mental Game Compare To Swimming?

Colleen was a high level swimmer in College, so she’s felt a lot of nerves and challenging situations in the general sense. What she had to learn, though, was how to make decisions and how to adjust to changing environments. She swam a race that was 50 seconds long, so she did the exact same thing day in and day out and she didn’t have enough time to think about it. In CrossFit, however, with longer workouts, with intense weekends/weeks, she’s had to mature her mind to take control of it. She’s had ups and downs, but she’s really loved the process, and she’s had a lot of “a ha’s” this year!  CrossFit has pushed Colleen to investigate herself in ways that she never had to in swimming.

What Are You Most Looking Forward To For The Rest Of The Lockdown And Then When The Lockdown Lifts?

Sam answered this question first.  In terms of during the lockdown, Sam is very much looking forward to Colleen’s shoulder fully healing. In a sport that doesn’t really have a true off-season, it’s hard to get enough time off to fully heal, so Sam and Colleen are focusing a lot on that now. Sam is also excited to continue to work with Colleen to develop her mental game by putting her into challenging mental workouts, having her reflect on how she did, and then building the habits that will become automatic for her when she’s on the starting line when competitions come back.

Colleen is excited, similarly, for getting all of the way back to feeling healthy. Colleen is also excited to win her training mentally. She’s really enjoying journaling her workout thoughts on a weekly basis. She appreciates the accountability that it puts on her to continue to improve

When it comes to what they are each excited for after the lock down lifts, Sam is really excited for Colleen to get to challenge herself physically and mentally, and Colleen is really excited to put herself to the test.

We’re really excited to watch Colleen continue her progression, and I’m also selfishly excited to have Colleen and Sam back on for more coach chats! 

Cheers everybody,

Sam Smith IG

Jim Crowell IG

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CrossFit® is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. Big Dawgs' uses of the CROSSFIT® mark are not endorsed by nor approved by CrossFit, Inc., and Big Dawgs is in no way affiliated with nor endorsed by CrossFit, Inc.


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