Got ANTs in your… head?


A guest blog today from CFNZ Coaching intern, Nick Jones.

 I recently completed a NZ Army experiential leadership course in our beautiful and rugged Southern Alps.

The theme of the course was “Resilience”.  Resilience is a realistic concept because it acknowledges that life is not always rainbows and unicorns.  In a nutshell, resilience is all about bouncing back from adversity and using challenging situations for growth.  Over the course we learnt about the following four resilience tools – flexible thinking, optimism, physical fitness and tactical breathing.  We also learnt about looking out for “ANTs”.  What are ANTs you ask?

In resilience speak, ANTs are “Automatic Negative Thoughts”.  ANTs are deeply embedded in our thinking and tend to emerge when we are doing something which is outside our comfort zones.  The problem with ANTs is that these can result in our negative emotions controlling our positive ones.  We all have our own unique ANTs - the trick is being aware of our ANTs and developing the mental skills to deal with them!

ANTs article - photo

As a total skiing and mountaineering novice, I suffered from a whole heap of ANTs when staring down the barrel of steep off-piste slopes while carrying a 25kg pack on my back  …. skiing down the slope (and crashing multiple times) forced me to dig deep into my resilience reserves, especially knowing that I would have to get up and do it over and over again. While lying face down in the snow after yet another fall, I struggled to be optimistic and open-minded and found that my ANTs were threatening to take over!  To try to stay on top of my negative thoughts and emotions, I found that Tactical Breathing really helped.

Our course instructors taught us that breathing quickly and shallowly increases feelings of anxiety.  We also learnt that slowing breathing down is like a brake system for our heart rate.  Our sympathetic system (high heart rate, fast-breathing, increased adrenaline) winds us up, while our parasympathetic system winds us down.  When we are over-aroused or too wound-up (perhaps caused in part by our ANTs), our thinking tends to narrow (tunnel vision modes like fight, flight or freeze appear) and performance can be hindered.  Breathing is the only aspect of the sympathetic system that be controlled … the rest is automatic.

Now here’s the cool bit.  As well as being a school where we get fitter, stronger, faster and move better with our friends, our awesome community at CFNZ is pretty much perfect for mental resilience training (yep, that’s right, resilience is a mental and physical skill which can be trained through daily practice)!

I’m confident that all of us will be able to identify skills, movements, lifts, WODs or frustrations which give us ANTs.

When these ANTs come up (we all have ‘em), as well as respecting the physical process required to improve performance, maybe try taking a moment to employ some tactical breathing.  Slow tactical breathing can help us to relax and is particularly useful when nerves or anxiety are detrimentally impacting our performance.

A good start is to just take a moment before whatever is throwing you outside your comfort zone and to try;

  1. Inhaling for a count of four and filling the belly (not the chest) with breath.
  2. Exhaling for a count of four.
  3. Repeat as needed!

Give it a go – it might just be the first step to dealing with those ANTs!


Back Squat
3 x 8
- negatives, partial ROM etcIn 2mins
Run, 400 m
Max rep DB Snatch
3 rounds
Strict Pullups
3 x 8-12
Single Leg Romanians
3 x 8-10 e/leg
10 Russian Swing
10 Pushups
AMRAP in 5mins2 lengths Bear Crawl
2 lengths Deadball Front Carry
50m Farmers Walk
3 rounds
Hang Power Clean
5 x 310 KB Cleans
10 Racked Lunges
10 Burpees
10 Wallball
4 rounds
Front Squat
3 x 5
DB Row
3 x 8-10 e/arm5 Deadlifts
5 Hang Power Cleans
5 Front Squats
5 Pushpress
50m Sled Drag
AMRAP in 10mins
Press 3 x 5
Pushpress 3 x 3
Jerks 3 x 1
Alternate with,
Strict Pullups3-2-1 TGU e/side
18-12-6 DB Snatch
Spring Challenge Baseline
In 5mins, find max load for;
1 Deadlift
2 Hang Cleans
3 Front Squats
Rest 2mins
10 Wallballs
10 Burpees
10 TTB/Situps
AMRAP in 6
Rest 1min
1000m/800m/100singles or doubles


Back Squat
3 x 8
strict HSPU
3 x max repsIn 2mins
Run, 400 m
Max rep Clean and Jerks
3 rounds
3 x max reps
Single Leg Romanians
3 x 8-10 e/leg15 KB Swing 24/16kg
15 Pushups
3 rounds

2 lengths Bear Crawl
2 lengths Deadball Front Carry
50m Farmers Walk
3 rounds

5 x 1.1.112-9-6
Squat Clean 70/45kg
Bar Muscle Up
Front Squat
3 x 5
DB Row
3 x 8-10 e/arm20 Thrusters 60/40kg
20cal Row
20 KB Swings 32/24kg
20 Cal Row
20 Burpees
Press 3 x 5
Pushpress 3 x 3
Jerks 3 x 1
Weighted Pullups
9x13-2-1 TGU e/side
18-12-6 KB Snatch

No Comments Yet.

Leave a reply

Protected by WP Anti Spam