Whether you’re a bodybuilder, a professional athlete , or an everyday man or woman- there are a handful of general fitness standards. For example, you should be able to deadlift and back squat at least your body weight, run 3k in 20 mins or do 15 complete pushups. I personally keep pushing my limits and levels based on these standards.
During summers I focus more towards my strength and mobility and running takes a backseat until the weather improves and I am fresh and motivated to pick it up again (You can call it my pre-season training and preparations). Hence, for a while now I have been obsessed with hitting more than my body weight. With 90 kgs (198 lbs) on the bar, I could fire off 4 clean reps. So a normal thought would be that I could pull off at least a single rep of 100 kgs (220 lbs) easily.
But it wasn’t. If I loaded 100 on the bar, I could barely budge it. I just thought 100 was too much for me for the time being, and I needed to train more to get there. However, this continued for about a couple of weeks. I would look strong working up to my goal, but the 100-kg bar would cause me to flatline. That’s when it became abundantly clear to me that it wasn’t my strength that was holding me back, but my mind. I believed that pulling 100 kgs was going to be one of the hardest things he’d ever do, and so it was.
Fitness Starts In Your Mind
I started researching about this. Reading articles on bodybuilding.com and talking to other professional lifters. That is when I came across an article that talked about how you set psychological blocks for yourself and how it is that mental aspect that limits your physical potential.
My fix for was easy: One day, I asked my trainer to get me through the deadlift. We were using bumper plates, and throughout the lifting session I asked my trainer to keep mixing and matching and adding and removing plates each set. Eventually, I lost track of how much weight was on the bar.
Without knowing it, I casually pulled 105kgs from the ground with perfect form, but I did not believe it when my trainer told me I’d easily blown through my goal. I made him recount the weight twice.
I told you that to tell you this: Fitness starts in your mind.
If you say something is going to be hard, it will be hard. If you say you can’t do something, you won’t do it.
During my first full marathon, it took me 6:35 hours to get done. It was filled with cramps and blisters. What got me through was the fact that I was not going to give up! Even during my Ladakh Marathon, what kept me going more than anything was the fact that I had decided mentally, that I would finish it.
Since then I’ve seen these kinds of self-limiting beliefs hold back the strength of everyone from average guys to the professional athletes that i come across. These beliefs even held me back. I run marathons, and it wasn’t until I got rid of my self-limiting beliefs that I started hitting PBs (Personal Best Timings).
Unfortunately, the solution isn’t as easy as simply trying to think more positively. One should read the book “Who says you can’t? You Do” byDaniel Chidiac. Although its about one’s psychological and emotional journey, it has a lot of lessons and is certain to unlock our truest potential. Here are my two favourite mental hardening techniques, that I’ve drawn for myself.
Think YES Thoughts
When it comes to performance, we have two types of thoughts: “Yes” thoughts and “No” thoughts.
“No” thoughts are inherently negative thoughts. They set you up to fail. For example, “This will be hard,” “I’m not strong enough,” “I’ll probably fail.” These are the thoughts I had before I got tricked into pulling my deadlift max, and the ones I had before the marathons that I underperformed in.
“Yes” thoughts, on the other hand, are positive thoughts, which breed success. They sound like this: “I’m going to crush this,” “I belong here,” “I am capable of this,” and “Nobody works harder than I do.”
The more NO thoughts you think, the more likely you are to develop a negative self-image—and the more likely you are to fail. The more YES thoughts you think, the more likely you are to succeed.
Everyone has a balance of the two. No one is immune to self-doubt, but you need to learn to shift your thinking to tip the balance in favour of Yes thoughts.
This is a technique I read online that will help you breed yes thoughts. Here’s how: Place little green stickers over things you see on a daily basis, like your car’s steering wheel, the bathroom mirror, the inside of your fridge, or simply on the weight rack. Every time you see a green dot, tell yourself one reason you’re going to succeed and reach your goal.
This constant repetition of positive thoughts shifts your thinking, reinforces your confidence, and improves your output, essentially overriding your brain’s performance-crushing negativity.
Visualization was used heavily by Soviet sports scientists in the 1970s, and it’s something a large number of professional athletes and businessmen at the top of their game use today. There is a reason we call every inventor, revolutionary or path-breaker “A Visionary”.
The main principle of visualization is simple: You take time each day to psychologically rehearse what you want to accomplish, like you’re an actor in a movie playing in your mind.
Let’s say your goal is to deadlift two times your body weight. Mentally picture and rehearse exactly what you need to do to accomplish that. See yourself loading the plates, chalking up, spotting up to the bar, and then taking in air as you hinge back and grab the cold steel barbell.
Imagine how all of your muscles feel as you rip the weight from the ground and lock out.
The more details you incorporate, the more effective visualization is.
Scientists believe visualization works by altering processes in your brain like motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory, while also enhancing your motivation and confidence so that, when it comes time to perform, your brain is “trained” for the actual performance and success.
For visualization to work, however, you need to take it seriously and be fully committed. Every day, you should sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Free yourself of all other extraneous thoughts. Take deep breaths and simply think about exactly what you’ll need to do to reach your goal—visualize your surroundings and engage all of your senses as you see the performance play out.
If you think this sounds weird, ask yourself a question: Could it hurt?
Legendary athletes Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, and Kobe Bryant have all used this technique with great success, and science confirms that visualization has tangible performance enhancing benefits.
The best part is, this practice applies in all walks of life; for EVERY aspect of your life.
It’s the little things that make the difference between winners and losers. And the little things start in your mind, and lead to success.
Until Next Time,