More on the mental game- Something to know and understand. Both Change and Challenge occur in life. What makes this wonderful is our ability to overcome the change and challenges set before us. Every time something is laid before you, think how you would approach it in the gym. And then attack it as if it was your next PR, your next workout, your next lift. Obstacles are only obstacles if you see them that way, otherwise they are opportunities! – Coach K
We are presented each and every day with challenges in the gym. We are presented with weaknesses that can attack the very essence of who we are as athletes. It can get deep into our soul and create a frustration inside us that we don’t understand. I have done my share of throwing jump ropes, getting mad at the rings, dropping bars on my head, and laughing at myself more than I ever have. This is probably one of the most important things to learn through all of this is how to laugh at yourself.
Something I want to talk about today is a challenge I know many of us have faced and some of us are probably facing even at this moment. This is.. “I am not what I once was, but I know I can be back there”. Have you ever been at the point in the gym where you’re just having a bad day? Or have you ever just put your fitness program on the back burner in order to deal with this thing called life? and then you get frustrated with yourself because you’re not where you were, you don’t feel it, you’re not at the point you think you should be at.
Life happens at the speed of light. This means that things that affect us today, may change the way we perform, the way we train, the way we live. We go through cycles in our lives. We also go through this thing called aging. It’s a process we can’t fight. Each year we may or may not be better at things we train all the time. It is important to realize that we aren’t always going to perform at our optimum level. For example- let’s say that last year, you were well conditioned because of your training regimen. A large event or a large change occurs in your life and the first thing to go typically is our mental game which affects our physical game. You have to remember that in times of stress and change, our body is under extreme adrenal load. This mimics doing back squats in the gym all day long. So we may feel fatigues or not perform as well. This is the time to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to perform at the level your body is able to perform at.
Maybe there was a hiccup in your program and you had an injury. Maybe it’s looking in the mirror and seeing that you aren’t in the same “physical” state that you were in your peak condition. Remember that there are so many variables in our training and that affect our peak condition. Sleep deprivation, food, stress level, work, divorce, death, marriage, moving, job changes, etc. All of these things definitely affect how we feel AND how we perform. We need to be able to recognize when we are at a different level and allow ourselves the moment. We need to allow ourselves to be exactly where we are and applaud our accomplishments. We need to celebrate the little successes during this tie. It is important that we congratulate ourselves for being IN THE GYM rather than on the couch. If you are a competitor, allow yourself to have a bad day, bounce back and get on it again. Get through the mental hump by just mentally walking away from the bad day.
One of the things I talk about with some of my athletes is to pretend there is a large brain vacuum at the door of the gym. And in this gym, it sucks all the proverbial shit of the day and puts it in a bag. Then I actually have walked my athletes through the drill of taking them outside, explaining the vacuum and then have them take the proverbial bag of shit and set it outside the door of the gym. I explain to them the great thing about it is the bag of shit will be sitting there waiting for them when they leave the gym, but once they walk in the door of the gym, it’s time to get their game face on and give it everything they have that day. If we approach our visits to the gym this way, we can clear our head and get ready for what is to become of that workout for the day.
Another challenge we may face: how about looking at those around you wondering why you may not be as lean, as strong or as “in shape” as them? This is an important thing to talk about. One of the most dangerous things we can ever do for our mental game is compare ourselves to others. Not just in fitness, but in life. I do know that a level of measurement is important and watching others does give us something to aspire to, BUT the important thing to remember is that we are exactly where we are at today. Each one of us is at a different level in our fitness journey. We should aspire to do the best WE can and focus on that every day. We are not other people. We are only ourselves. The other part of this is how we talk to ourselves. If we tell ourselves we are out of shape or slow or weak, then our bodies, our cells, hear this message and respond with more of that. We need to continually tell ourselves we are better than yesterday and improving.
One other aspect of fitness is to realize that in the normal world, personal records don’t happen all the time. In the sporting world, in particular Olympic Weightlifting as an example, you may only have a personal best every few months. So thinking that we are going to have a personal best every time we walk in the gym may not be the best way to approach it. But GIVING your best every workout may be a better way. Allow yourself to have days that are training days, days in which you succeed at some level and not have a personal best. Push yourself but let yourself relish in having a great workout.
Another aspect I have noticed since the advent of a particular sport that time has become the focus of most of our working out. What if for a second, we took away the clock and focussed solely on good technique and form. This is a HUGE advantage to get rid of the clock every once in a while for those who use the clock as a measurement device. Remember to have FUN during the workouts and not always focus on how fast you are going. I have had to learn this in many times where I don’t feel up to par. Instead of focussing on getting the clock to be the guide for my workout, I focus on how I can just really focus on the movements in the workout. One thing I tell my athletes also is to focus on a point of weakness you see in the workout and make that the focus of the workout. The rest just falls into place.
There is so much more to the mental game than is on the surface, but we will end this article here and give you some time to digest it. In my next article, I will talk about aging and working out , how it affects recovery etc. And after that, some technical knowledge on how to improve some of the movements we are experiencing in our FTF facilities.
Here is to your mental and physical game!