“The fastest, strongest athlete can be undone by a weak mind. Use positive beliefs, mental preparation and mental toughness to help your mind drive your body to new PRs”.
We define fitness as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains”. Performance dictates your fitness. However, physical fitness isn’t the only factor in how fit you are. Your performance will vary on a day to day, and sometimes to hour, basis depending on your nutrition and sleep. But there’s another piece to the puzzle that can affect EVERYTHING.
The mind game.
There are three things you can do TODAY to improve your overall health when it comes to being psychologically ready:
- Positive beliefs- Programming your mind to expect success
- Mental preparation- focusing your mind on the challenge in front of you
- Mental toughness- overcoming fear, pressure, and adversity.
1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in just under 4 minutes, which was previously thought to be impossible. The previous world record for the mile was held for 9 years. NINE YEARS went by with nobody breaking the record that was previously set at 4:01.
Roger Bannister held the world record for the fastest mile ever for 46 days, before it was broken. In the history of human beings, nobody had ever recorded a mile in under 4 minutes. Scientists said it was impossible and that the human body couldn’t survive that stress. Bannister did it, people realized it was possible, then 46 days later somebody else beat his time. The belief that it could be done was the only thing that changed.
“What if I don’t make this lift?”
“This is too heavy for me”
“I’ll never run that fast”
“There’s no way I can step all the way up on that box”
These are all things I’ve personally heard from athletes seconds before they did the thing they didn’t think they could do. Then, magically, they started to do the impossible on a regular basis.
Here’s another thought experiment: When you bought your last car, you all of a sudden seemed to notice that car everywhere you went. If your mom recently bought a yellow jeep, you’ll see yellow jeeps suddenly appear all over the place! That’s called the Reticular Activating System, and it happens when you see or think of something intentionally, and then your brain starts noticing that “thing” 100 times more often. If you constantly tell yourself you CAN’T do something, you will find excuses to avoid it. If you get in the habit of telling yourself all the things you CAN do, you’ll start doing all kinds of cool shit.
Getting your mindset, your focus and your mood aligned to help you deliver your best performance. This is where routines can help you out. Every time you get ready for a workout, have a plan ahead of time. Find a physical cue that you can repeat every time you do a movement (take one deep breath into your belly, do a few little hops in place, tell yourself a certain mantra in your head). Doing this over and over will help you develop a comfort level with doing any movement, the same way an NFL kicker has the same steps to the football before kicking a field goal. It’s exactly the same. Every. Single. Time.
Improving your mental toughness is a missing piece in a lot of athlete’s game, especially if you’ve never played a team sport growing up. Mental toughness is the ability to maintain confidence-enhancing positive beliefs and laser focus on the immediate task at hand, no matter how tired or physically overwhelmed you are.
We all have an inner voice that comes out when we get tired. Contrary to popular belief, you DO have control over that voice. Tell yourself what you’re going to do instead of how you’re feeling. For example, “I’m gonna do my kettlebell swings and I’m holding onto it until I get all 20 no matter what” is much more productive than “OH GOD I’M SO TIRED. THIS KETTLEBELL IS SO HEAVY. I’M GOING TO DIE. WHY AM I HERE. JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL”.
In conclusion, the mental aspect of fitness is just as important as the physical. It will improve your overall health and wellbeing, and that’s what my goal is for every single member of our gym. Best of all, the mental game can be practiced and improved, just like any other skill.