How To Master Your Mind
What do you think about during a workout?
How heavy the weight feels?
The daunting number of reps remaining or time left on the clock?
A creaky knee or that shoulder that always flares up?
Whether you’re in the gym to improve your health, gaining strength and conditioning for your sport, or you are an aspiring professional exerciser you can stand to benefit from improving your mental game. Mental Game is the self talk that dictates how you execute, the inner voice calling the shots. If there have been times in training, competition, and life where you walked away feeling like you could have performed better then maybe it is time to consider improving your mental game.
In his podcast Finding Mastery, Michael Gervais interview 4x worlds fittest man Rich Froning. When it comes to the mindset of a champion there is no one better to listen to. Rich discusses his approach to training, competition, and his journey from being a relentless individual competitor to a team champion and family man.
“In training, you listen to your body. In competition you tell your body to shut up.” -Rich Froning Jr.
Rich mentions that he hates losing. In fact, he goes so far as to say that he hates losing more than he loves winning.
This is a common occurrence in top athletes that relates back to a very basic human instinct. That is, all decisions that we make are performed in the name of avoiding pain or seeking pleasure. In this case Rich could not bear the sting of losing after a second place finish in his first CrossFit Games appearance. Even after taking home 6 titles proving his dominance as the fittest man in the world, you can still hear the bitterness in his voice as he discusses that fateful day almost a decade behind him.
What separates Rich and makes him such a great champion is what he did with that experience. When most people could have complained, or quit, or cried Rich let that experience fuel his fire. He did this by attacking his weaknesses in training so that way the next year he could show up with confidence.
Rich goes on to mention that he believed he wasn’t always the best athlete in competition but that it was his willingness to push himself harder when it mattered most that lead him to victory. This is a skill he has been cultivating his whole life. Growing up in a family surrounded by older, stronger cousins RIch constantly found himself competing.
To succeed against a stronger opponent, effort becomes of the utmost importance. Like the old saying goes, “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” We can all benefit from this maxim and train like the underdog. In the training environment you can create situations that will push you into an uncomfortable place. The more time you spend in an uncomfortable place the less uncomfortable it becomes. This allows you to push deeper and find new thresholds.
Are there any areas in your life that you find uncomfortable? Do you find yourself shying away from those situations or coming up with excuses?
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength” -Arnold Schwarzenegger
Everyone’s favorite Mr. Olympia has the mindset of a champion, there is no denying that. As a successful bodybuilder, businessman, movie star, and governator Arnold shows us that with the right mindset we can achieve success and apply those principles to all areas of our lives.
So what does the mindset of a champion look like? Arnold suggests 6 rules for success:
- Trust yourself, have a clear vision of the outcome you want and go for it.
- Break some rules, be the exception, be the first, one of a kind.
- Don’t be afraid to fail, if you are not failing you are not aiming high enough.
- Ignore the naysayers, if you are serious about your goal there is no space.
- Work like Hell, harder and smarter.
- Give something back, what lessons have you learned that could benefit others?
Following these principles will benefit you regardless of your goal or undertaking. Every day is a chance for improvement and you get a fresh start right now.
Are there any areas in your life you need to start to trust yourself? Do you have toxic influences in your life keeping you from trying? What are you focused on besides your goal?
“I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot… when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.” -Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan was focused on making the shot
Not the win.
Not the loss.
Not the miss.
Just making the shot.
It’s a pressure cooker. To have the ball in your hands with the game on the line. Maybe you have been there before…maybe you have never been there, but always wondered what it would be like.
In life we aren’t always faced with such clear moments of decision, but that does not mean that there is any less pressure or less important outcomes. Every day there are perhaps dozens of little decisions we make that have shaped our character and crafted the life that we live.
Whether it is fighting for one more burpee in the workout, double checking our work before shipping a project, or even getting out of bed instead of snoozing for that 5 extra minutes. Each day we get the chance to take the shot. So many times though we don’t take it because we are caught up in our own heads.
By changing our focus to an outcome that we desire we invite in the opportunity for that change to occur. Our bodies adapt to the stories that our minds create.
Is your self talk keeping you from playing your best in any area? What is a new story you could tell yourself instead?
“If you can see yourself doing something, you can do it. If you can’t see yourself doing it, usually you can’t achieve it.” -David Goggins
David Goggins in no stranger to overcoming obstacles. From losing 120 lbs to becoming a Navy Seal, pull-up world record holder, and running 203.5 miles in 48 hours this man has what I would call mental warfare more than mental game.
How did he do it?
By facing his fears head on. Goggins recognized that by making decisions in fear he was headed down a path that he was ashamed of. He made a choice to become the opposite of all his worst fears, but this change did not happen overnight.
He describes the early days where he couldn’t run around his neighborhood block without stopping and returning to the couch for a chocolate milkshake. He was able to transition and improve by telling himself to be better and try it again. He internalized the message that he was not going to quit by training it every single day. Just like a muscle it grew over time. David would rely on this muscle every time he tackled a new challenge that felt insurmountable.
These are the lessons and tips from some of the best in the world. So how can you start flexing your mental muscles and change your self talk?
Next time you are talking yourself through a workout or challenging project keep these lessons in mind. Focus on the outcome that you want, not the negative result if things don’t work out. Break things down into small manageable chunks. Focus on your most immediate action and doing it to the best of your ability. And of course, work like hell. The challenges in life are there for growth, tackle them head on.
How Eating Better Makes You Feel Better
Nutrition is an individual journey. We owe it to ourselves to determine which foods and what style of eating works best for our bodies. Just like learning any new skill, nutrition takes practice.
The goal should be to develop an approach to eating that makes you feel great, maintain a healthy body, and achieve your goals. We all run into moments of weakness around food, but if your current diet makes you feel angry or sad on a daily basis it’s time for a change.
Let’s take a look at some different ways that eating better can make you feel better:
- Improved mental function
Our brain is the control center of the body and just like our muscles and organs it requires fuel to keep it going. In fact, some studies have shown that the brain uses up to 20% of our body’s daily energy.
Focusing on eating to improve our brains function is a great way to feel better. The brain loves wild fish like salmon and mackerel. That’s because these fish contain omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. DHA helps our brain send signals to our body and improves our memories. Try adding 1-2 servings of wild caught fish each week to get an optimal dose.
The foods we eat determine the way our body and mind perform. Next time you reach for that donut try to picture how your brain will run using the donut as fuel. Instead look for some fresh veggies and hummus, a handful of nuts, or a stick of turkey jerky to give your brain some jet fuel to run on.
- Add Muscle, Burn Fat
The battle to fit back in those jeans from college starts and ends in the kitchen. No amount of exercise can overcome an unhealthy diet. Figuring out the right foods in your diet is the key to unlocking your ideal body composition. Imagine how good it would feel to go out on your anniversary wearing the suit from your wedding rehearsal! Protein is known for building muscle but it can do more for your body than help you recover after a workout.
Set the bar at breakfast. A high protein breakfast is one of the best ways to improve body composition. Studies have shown that consuming 30g of protein at breakfast helps with satiety and improves glycemic control. This means less desire to snack on high carbohydrate or sugary snacks later in the day. One study showed that participants who ate a high protein breakfast on average consumed 441 calories fewer each day!
- Foods that light you up
Eating is often thought of for fueling performance, but food plays another important role as the building block of our cells. Certain foods help build healthy hair, skin, and nails.
If you’re looking for a youthful glow and to get carded until you’re 50 try these 3 superfoods:
- Avocado. Rich in vitamins A, D , E, and many phytonutrients; avocado promote supple skin, help prevent environmental damage and prevent signs of aging.
- Bell peppers are high in vitamin C, an essential nutrient for forming collagen which holds hair particles together.
- Lentils contain Folate, a B vitamin needed to repair cells in your fingernails and skin.
- Get Creative
Preparing meals from whole foods can be a fun and relaxing part of the day. Learn how to season dishes using herbs, spices, and complementary pairings. This eliminates “empty calories” from your diet that show up in sugary sauces and dressings.
Eating is a time for bonding and camaraderie, get together with family and friends to create a new dish. Focus on great conversation, chewing your food, and turning off the TV and electronics. By giving new meaning and tradition to your meals, eating can be a source of enjoyment beyond just the food.