The words we associate with Fitness:
Success, Personal Record, Difficult, Challenging, extreme, competitive, Physical feats, amazing, inspiring, motivational, capable.
Then there is the other side:
Frustration, feeling of defeat, discouragement, fear, anger,
What athletes and members throughout the world have in common is the inane desire to make themselves better. What most of them DON’T think about is how mental the game really is.
You see, the deal is that throughout our fitness Careers, we will be pushed in so many different ways and if the program you are following is an appropriate program, it will expose every single one of your weaknesses, including your mental weaknesses. This is where I want to focus today.
In the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to discuss this very phenomenon with several, (not just one or two but about 15-20) of the athletes I have the privilege of coaching on a regular basis from all over the world. Here are the recurring themes:
“I didn’t hit my numbers this week and I know I can do it”
“I am not making gains on this movement as fast as i want to”
“I feel like I can’t perform as well this week”
“I don’t know if I can do that”
“It’s going to hurt when I do it, so I’d rather not”
“I’m afraid to do it because I know I have been injured before”
“I don’t feel energized when I workout”
“I feel like I have no motivation this week”
OK.. so let’s take a look at these statements and what they project: Each of these statements screams defeat. Here’s the deal. with Fitness as with ANYTHING in life, the attitude you go into your workout with, is the same as you will perform. If you go in with a poor attitude, then you will more than likely perform poorly. If you finish your workout and let’s just say it wasn’t what you shot for and you LET that defeat you, stating that you didn’t hit your goal and you LET it frustrate you, then you have allowed yourself to be defeated.
Life is going to be full of challenges, as is your fitness. You see, the mental game of fitness is the biggest part of it. We MUST allow ourselves to realize a few things about training programs and in particular as we approach our peak athleticism.
When you are new to a program, gains will come swiftly because of neurological recruitment patterns becoming more efficient as well as endocrine, physiological and psychological changes. As we get better and better at a skill, improvements may not be as quick, or we may not see much of a difference in our growth.
As you defeat your weaknesses through continued training and development, you will find that as you get closer and closer to your genetic potential in strength, that it will be harder and harder to make gains. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is a fact. Also, you will find that you will flow in cycles.. where maybe during the winter season you perform better than during the fall. Maybe you work out better during the morning than in the evening.
Let’s talk about the “Max testing” phase- What are some of the things that can affect our 1 RM etc- Sleep, food, stress, fear, time of day, how much rest between sets, how many sets you do prior, etc. Here’s where the challenge lies in recent discussion- The ME phase of training, if done properly and periodized correctly will enhance the progress of testing.
You must realize when you start to “Analyze your numbers” that you MUST only compare your progress to YOUR last results, NO ONE ELSE’S. The challenge we have in the fitness Community, in particular, those who wish to compete, we compare our results to those who we find to inspire us, or whom we find drive us harder. While it is always fn to see where we stand in the grand scheme of things, we must look at our OWN success within our program and realize we are making gains. We must also take a step back and look at what our weaknesses are and what have done to improve upon them.
I’ll use the back squat as an example since it has come up as a “defined weakness” by about 10 athletes within the 30 I coach all over the world. Last week, I programmed a very agressive program in which failure during a set was expected by me, to train the mental game. What I wanted to do as a coach is see how the athletes responded to a feeling of “defeat” or failure if you will. This week, after I spoke and encouraged them all week, I had a LOT of people ask questions how to improve their “weakness” rather than continue to dwell on it.. BUT that was a WEEK after the fact. During the week, I heard a HUGE amount of self defeating talk, frustrated they didn’t hit their target numbers, etc.
When shit like this happens, we NEED to be able to overcome the challenge of the mental defeat we might feel for not performing like we think we should. If you HAVE one of those days, then DON’T LOOK at the whiteboard, Shit, don’t even TIME yourself on the workout.
Listen tot the way you talk to yourself before a lift, before a WOD, before a competition. If you are using self defeating talk like the examples above, you HAVE to adjust the way you think and talk to yourself. You can NOT allow things to get in your head prior to a workout and especially once the workout is happening.. you MUST be able to adjust the crap in your head and tune out all of the “Stuff”. This is where learning about the “TRAP DOOR” comes into play.
Each and every one of us has more than we know inside of us. It is learning to tap into that potential and not allow anything near us when we are in the zone. Unfortunately, when we are working on a performance, one little mental thing can throw it off… but ONLY if you let it!! Once you find the trap door, hang on to that feeling. understand the trap door is what pushes you beyond your comfort zone. It is what opens your body and frees your mind. Once you blast through it once, it becomes easier and easier to do. Let nothing close that trap door back up.
Train your mental game as much as your physical game. People can do amazing things when they put their mind to it…. More to come…..