Forging Mental Fitness: From the Gym to the Office

“Your strongest muscle and worst enemy is your mind. Train it well.” In this episode, I pull in some of my CrossFit L3 study material to draw correlations between forging a strong mental game in the gym and the workplace. Sometimes the area we need to work on most is between the ears.

This week’s episode was inspired by the CrossFit Journal article “The Mind Game” by Steven Shrago.

Positive beliefs – Programming your mind to expect success. When it comes to athletes, there’s a significant difference between simply hoping, thinking, or feeling that something is achievable and actually realizing it. It’s all about a shift in their belief system. Instead of fixating on goals that seem impossible, they start perceiving them as attainable. Negative beliefs have a way of wreaking havoc on our progress every single time. It’s like programming your brain to expect a certain outcome. Think of beliefs as the filters that shape our core personality, determining what we pay attention to and what we consider important. They have a self-fulfilling nature, influencing not only our performance but also setting limits on it.

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Mental preparation – Focusing your mind on the challenge ahead. When it comes to mental preparation, it’s all about aligning your mindset, focus, and mood to bring forth your best performance. Your mind can be both your strongest ally and your toughest opponent, especially when fatigue sets in. Establishing athletic routines plays a significant role in directing the athlete’s attention to the immediate task at hand, whether it’s an Olympic weightlifter approaching a barbell or a batter stepping into the batting box. These routines shield the mind from wandering toward negative thoughts or emotions. They also provide a consistent framework for preparation, instill confidence in the athlete’s abilities, and foster trust in their training. Alongside these routines, technique cues play a crucial role in achieving success. Think of phrases like “Head and Chest forward” for kipping pullups or “jump to full extension” for the snatch. These cues serve as reminders to optimize technique and enhance performance.

Mental Toughness – Overcoming fear, pressure, and adversity. When it comes to mental toughness, it’s all about the athlete’s ability to maintain positive beliefs and unwavering focus despite physical exhaustion during a workout. There are three effective strategies for building mental toughness: dissociation, association, and self-talk. Dissociation involves intentionally redirecting your attention away from pain or discomfort by focusing on a specific task or breaking up a large number of reps into smaller achievable sets. Many athletes find music helpful or concentrate on a particular aspect of their performance. Association, on the other hand, emphasizes focusing solely on the physical sensations of the body. This can include paying attention to breathing rhythm, muscle fatigue, or recovery speed, using these real-time indicators to boost confidence, self-assess, and push forward. Self-talk is another powerful tool, involving repeating positive beliefs, offering personal encouragement, counting reps, and providing positive technique cues. These practices keep your mind engaged, concentrated, and locked into the present moment.

The capacity to build, hold, and reinforce positive beliefs helps new athletes get over their fears, maintain motivation, and progress faster. Help athletes positively reframe their beliefs and develop a mental toughness that will carry over into their life as their newfound enhanced work capacity. Just like the 10 components of fitness, psychological readiness can be trained and developed.

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