Training Your Mind
Whether you are a novice to training or a professional, when you are exercising, there is a voice in your head. It’s the seed of doubt. It’s whispering, “Quit. Quit now, this shit is hard. This can’t be good for you. You CAN’T do this. Quit.”
Ignore this voice. Push it to the back of your mind, and when that voice suggests you to stop your activity, refuse. When it tells you to take it easy, refuse. When this voice repeatedly pleads for you to doubt yourself, continue refusing. Yes, eventually you WILL break.
I think we all eventually break. But don’t listen to that voice the first time. Ignore that unwelcome visitor to your mind as many times as you can. And if you accomplish this to the best of your ability….you’re not a quitter. You’re actually winning. You’re challenging your body to adapt to your new, higher training demands!
Simple concept, right? So simple in fact, that most of you out there won’t take this advice seriously. So simple that you probably think you have this under control. Except, an expert is telling you, yes YOU, that you’re probably still training in a “comfortable” zone. You quit when you should be continuing. You keep the bar lowered when you can do more. So much more.
Think about this: is there anything more encouraging to hard work as genuine, visible, measurable progress? You might be uncomfortable pushing your body, perhaps even needing the help of a coach or peer. But without reaching uncomfortable levels in your training, your odds of remaining in a stagnant, improvement-free zone increase, as will the odds of your quitting as a result of…a lack of results.
But have no fear, because this lesson is so easy a kid can do it! In fact, my greatest student of such mind mastery was a child. Yes, a CHILD. Not an advanced athlete, not a pro athlete, not a weight loss transformation success story, not even a fitness competitor. A CHILD took this lesson, this SIMPLE lesson, and mastered it to a level far exceeding her peers. Allow me to share her story, displaying both the simplicity and impact of this lesson.
NOTE: You should know my background is originally in education. At heart, I’m an educator in all my endeavors. Having worked in this field, I realize the impact of nurture on children and to appreciate their blank slates, or at least slates less filled with crap than adults. I believe a great teacher, or a great lesson, can impact a lifetime. Even a SIMPLE lesson.
Years ago I trained a 10-year-old girl who wanted to improve her ability in soccer. She wanted to surpass her peers and had the dream of advancing to playing for a competitive, select team. At the time, she only played in a recreational league, and while above average in her recreational league, she was far behind the other girls who began specializing in the sport years before.
Even at 10, she was more than 5 years behind the girls playing in the more competitive leagues! My job was to help prepare her both physically and mentally for the road before her. One day for basic conditioning work, I took her jogging.
Within two minutes it began. “I think I need to stop.” Calmly I replied while continuing jogging, “Not yet. Your mind is going to tell you to quit, but your body can keep going. Trust me.” Listening to my advice, and probably stepping up to the challenge, she ran maybe ten more minutes, and when we slowed down the conversation was simple.
Me: “You just went farther than you thought you could, by a LOT.”
Her: “I just kept going, I didn’t quite as soon as my mind told me. I didn’t think I could run this far or that hard! I’m glad I didn’t quit at the beginning.” (as she laughed at how absurd that distance now was)
Seems like a simple lesson, I know. But sometimes it’s about the basics. This child took this basic notion of, “Control your mind” and ran with it, specifically to her advantage in athletics. While not naturally blessed with elite athletic ability, she quickly transformed herself from a below average athlete to above average, though not elite, an athlete who DID climb the competitive ladder and surpassed most of the other girls of her age with much more experience. Mentally, she was TOUGH. Her mind allowed her to push her physical training, getting stronger, faster, and more coordinated.
More than just physical maturation, her mastery of the mind took her athletic and physical prowess to new levels, feeding a self-confidence that provided her with an edge her athletic peers could not match. Within a couple of years of displaying such mental mastery, she reached the highest level of competition, playing on a club team that at one point was ranked #3…IN THE NATION.
If you think you can’t do something, you are probably right. “I can’t run any longer. I can’t lift this weight one more time. This is too heavy” Maybe so. But thoughts like these poison your efforts and handicap your potential. Instead, use the mind to your advantage.
Make the effort to think positively when the going gets tough. Learn what your limits are NOT bound by the mind telling you to quit! Turn down the volume in your brain that receives those negative messages and imagine instead of the imagine the possibilities!
Lastly, I would like to share where I myself learned this lesson. I was lucky enough to see this motivational quote posted in my high school weight room, where my fitness journey took flight, back when I couldn’t even be considered skinny, but more like a stick-figured adolescent. You might recognize the author. It’s a SIMPLE message. And perhaps the most influential message of my bodybuilding path. And I teach it to every client I train.
“It is always the mind that fails first, not the body.”
Training your Mind by Mario Singelmann, Fitness Director Paleo Movement Magazine