We’ve all heard the saying “Mind over Matter.” It’s the idea of pushing through the pain of a workout, or past your limits, simply by believing you can in your mind. This sounds like a simple practice and great way to go harder, until you’re on your set of 15 thrusters during Fran and realize that person what out of their mind cause you’re positive your shoulders will fall off if you do more than 5 reps. In truth I do think your mindset can have a huge impact on our abilities to handle things in all aspects of life, and with some simple practices it gets easier to tap into that. Of course there are obvious limitations also.
Before I get into some healthy habits for building a resilient mindset I want to show how it can have a major impact on what you can handle physically. If you’ve ever taken part in a competition, and prepped for it for a few weeks or more in advance, this might be a bit of a realization. After we sign up for a competition or it starts to get closer we want to make sure we’re totally ready, so we want to do all the extra work of some added lifting or another conditioning piece of rowing or a metcon. Before during any other random week we’d be looking forward to a rest day on the weekend, but now because we have this event to look forward to we’re throwing in more volume than we’ve ever done and not thinking twice about how we feel. This is a great example of the first habit: Set Goals!
Doing a competition is a great goal because it also gets you excited. Setting goals can be easy, but if it’s boring and you don’t really want to accomplish it then you’re not gonna reach for it. You also need to make sure it’s specific and has a time window attached to it, or you’ll give yourself ways out. “I’m gonna get in better shape” is not a well built goal because there are infinite ways to interpret it. We need to establish how we’ll get in shape and when we’re going to check in. “I’m going to go to the gym 3 times a week for the next 2 months.” Thats much better! We now have realistic standards we can maintain to keep us from being discouraged, but still push us out of our comfort zone.
Even if we use the above goal that’s just a couple months long, as what we’re aiming for, it can be difficult to stay motivated to a single task for an extended period of time. This is where it’s very helpful to have an encouraging environment. This includes the people you surround yourself, and how you communicate with yourself. Honestly when you set a goal there’s a very good chance someone you know has one that’s almost the same. It’s a lot easier to stick to something when you’re not the only one in it, and it gives you someone to be a little accountable to other than yourself. Regardless of if you have someone hand in hand with you though the ones around you everyday should be understanding or even helpful to what you’re trying to accomplish. You don’t need people to be pressuring you to push your goals to the sideline on occasion because odds are you’re already having that battle with yourself.
In the middle of a workout the only person you can really hear is yourself. If that singular voice is saying you need to put it down then how are you going to argue with it? It could even be trying to solve a crossword or put a puzzle together. Try setting a timer and solving a really hard puzzle, and at the first thought of “this is to difficult” check what the timer says. I’d bet it’s a lot less time than you thought you’d been trying, and that really shows how resilient your mindset really is or isn’t. Watch a video of a big set of thrusters you broke up, and see how smooth even the very last rep looked despite you thinking you almost couldn’t press it out at the top. We tell ourselves to stop very early often because our body and brain don’t like being uncomfortable. I’m not saying you can do 40 more reps or instantly solve the puzzle just by thinking you can, but if you’ve already done 20 I bet 1 more is there for sure and if you give yourself 1 more real try at solving the problem I think you’ll work your way closer to the solution.
There are of course legitimate limitations to what you can overcome no matter how dedicated you are to it mentally. You can’t add 100 pounds to a lift, take minutes off a metcon, or having a full understanding of quantum physics all overnight just because you think you can. With a stubborn focus and dedication, however, we can make all those things happen, and I think that speaks much more towards true resilience. If we could accomplish anything in an instant there wouldn’t be anything behind it, but to stay focused on a goal for weeks, months, or even years then I’m legitimately impressed you were able to withstand all the obstacles you were likely to encounter.