Winning The Mental Game

Article by: Ryne Milner

Every day we come to the gym to train our bodies so we become stronger, faster and more physically fit.  We pour sweat, rip hands and sometimes even give up our lunch in order to continue to pursue a healthy life.  Most days we leave the gym sore and drenched in sweat feeling great about what we just did.  However, there are other days where things just don’t click and we don’t achieve everything that we wanted to.  When we go to the gym we are not just working our bodies but also our minds.  The mental side of fitness is often neglected and ignored but can be a powerful tool in our belt or a giant brick wall that is standing between you and your goals.  Our attitudes and the way we talk to ourselves play a vital role in our performance while at the box.

For many athletes, self-talk is a make or break factor on the field or in the gym.  Self-talk is simply the conversation that is going on inside your head.  There is an old cliché in sports that goes, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”  While it is an old, used cliché, the lesson remains spot on.  The way we perceive our own abilities inside of our head goes a long way towards the way we perform.  Now I am not saying that I am going to walk in to the gym tomorrow and hit a 600-pound bench press just because I think I can.  But when you are attempting a ten-pound PR on your back squat, negative self-talk can be absolutely crippling.  Have a strong conviction inside yourself and believe that you will get the job done!

So how do we fix it?  We can practice and train the way we think just like we train our bodies.  Be conscious of the thoughts that are bouncing around in your head while you are at the gym.  Don’t allow yourself to use words like hope to or want to.  Replace those words with absolutes.  ‘I am going to pick that weight up and put it over my head.’  ‘I am going to pull my chin over that bar.’  If we begin to think about what is going to happen when you fail, you will fail more times than not.  If you catch yourself using negative self-talk, take a step back, a deep breath and change the story in your head.  Replace it with positive thoughts and vibes.  This doesn’t only apply to when you are at the gym.  This can be practiced in your everyday life.  If you struggle with negative self-talk when you are at the gym, there is a strong chance that it carries over into other parts of your life.  Begin replacing those negative thoughts with positive statements!!!

A great tool to help you battle negative self-talk and negative thoughts is through visualization.  When I was in college I was a baseball pitcher.  When you are a starting pitcher in baseball you only get to pitch once per week.  Visualization became a huge tool for me to continue to hone my craft.  In between starts I would visualize what it was going to be like during my next start down to the very last detail.  I played out different situations in my head and see myself executing exactly how I wanted to.  By the time that the game came around it felt like I had already played that game 100 times.  Similarly, we cannot train at the gym all day long.  For most of us, we only get an hour a day to spend working on all of our lifts and skills.  If you want to improve on those lifts and skills, visualize yourself performing those movements perfectly.  This can be done in the first person or the third person.  Picture everything down to the last detail.  See the gym and the rig.  Hear your friends talking in the background.  See yourself walk up to that bar and perform that lift with perfect form and confidence.  By the time you get to the bar to perform that new PR weight, in your mind you will have hit that lift countless times.  This will give you a great wave of confidence as you go and grab the bar.  I can do this, I have done it many times before.

For as much fun as we have at the gym, mastering the skills needed to be a high level Crossfitter is very challenging.  Getting strong and learning new skills is hard enough on their own, let alone when you are battling with yourself in your head.  Strengthen your belief in yourself and all of your goals in the gym will be within your reach.  See it happen in your head and then go and do it!