San Diego Fitness Psychology – Are You Mentally Tough?
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
It’s been said, “Great attitude, great results. Good attitude, good results. Average attitude average results. Poor attitude, poor results.” When it comes to athletic performance and fitness training, it’s what makes the difference in your results.
Let’s take a look at a few key points to remember in going from good to great in your attitude. As Winston Churchill, not especially the fittest guy in the gym, once noted, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” When it comes to mental toughness, the psychological edge that helps you cope better than your opponent (or hit your number of reps), attitude is all there is. Remaining determined, focused, confident, resilient and in control under internal or external pressure—that’s what mental toughness, great attitude can do for you.
Among the elite, truly world-class, athletes that I’ve been privileged to work with and help develop mental toughness, I’ve found that self-belief, motivation, focus, thinking confidently, overcoming self-critical negativity and personal composure are critical components in any performance improvement plan.
So how can you get in that cool-headed zone that allows you to perform optimally in the gym or in competition? Be like the finest athletes and train your brain while you train your body as follows:
Positivity: If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. You can program yourself to stay positive. Oscar Wilde once noted, “If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.” Make this your focus when it comes to performance. Everyone talks to him/herself so do so in an affirming manner. Use confident goal oriented statements, such as “You will, You can, You are going to…” The second person sounds like a coach talking with you.
Visualization: See your set done before you begin. What steps are you going to take to lift, lunge, pull, push? Once it’s done in your mind, it’s easier to have your body repeat it. Visualization in any sport is a given in practice today. Picturing yourself overcoming anticipated obstacles, imagining the great feeling of success, the looks on the faces of others who celebrate your accomplishment, how you will look in the mirror, maybe even the shame you’ll feel in giving up, all help move you through the actual event. It may be a form of meditation, mental calmness, rehearsing composure, a “if plan A doesn’t work, I already know what plan B is,” approach that will take you through a tough workout. In other words, “nothing new on race day.” Visualize yourself performing the way you want to with energy, confidence and success.
Control: Staying on top of your attitude means seeing the connection between your goals and your thoughts. Is your attitude helping you feel the way you want to feel? It is helping you engage in your workout the way you want to? Is your thinking bringing you closer to your goals and dreams or further away? Are you expecting the best from yourself? If you are not moving yourself into the direction you want, try a technique called thought stopping: immediately STOP any negative thoughts by screaming to yourself as loudly as you can STOP! Once you see the red light in your head, move to a healthier set of beliefs. Ask yourself “what are the positives I see” or “how can I gain an advantage here”? It’s just a picture frame you need to change to see the picture totally different. It’s not the situation, it’s how you think about it.
Mental toughness is the key ingredient in not letting anything or anyone break you. It’s not letting anything external affect you.
Now, go hit the treadmill, resistance training, Body Pump group ex, Zumba or whatever your physical challenge is…mentally tougher than you ever thought you could be.