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!
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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…..
Here are the latest episodes of FTF podcasts! Please be aware there are explicit lyrics, but we have one heck of great time spouting out fitness knowledge and information!! each are about an hor in length and downloadable to your phone or computer. We are working on different players to help get these into a playable mode. If this doesn’t work for you then you can try http://ftffitness.podbean.com to click on the links and hear the episodes!