I got to the gym a few times a week, where I do lots of strength work. This is a great complement to my Paleo diet and is making so many positive changes. I've been giving lots of thought lately to what goes through my mind in the middle of a really hard set. When I first started, I used to think
“This is so hard, I can’t do it, I want to stop”
And guess what, as soon as I allowed those thoughts to enter my head I did stop! This is clearly not a helpful thought to allow. I've noticed on the Biggest Loser that a few of the contestants have that defeatist “can’t do” attitude in training. When they think they can’t do it, it always seems to become a self fulfilling prophecy.
Once I realise how damaging this attitude was, I tried to distract myself from what I was actually doing, to not allow myself to think how heavy the kettlebell was and how much I wanted to stop the reps. Thinking about my plans for the weekend or planning my next holiday was a far better strategy than focusing on how hard the set was, but I still felt I could do better, especially in terms of technique. I don’t want to “just do” a set after all, I want to do it with good form.
I've been trying lots of different mind strategies myself, but the most enlightening thing has been speaking to the fit and strong people in my life and asking them exactly what they think about when the going gets tough. I’ve been really interested in the answers they've given me, and have been trying out a different mental attitude in each of my gym sessions lately. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the strong, fit people have devised such good mental strategies.
Kevin suggested I repeat the mantra “this is easy” with every rep – which is the exact opposite to what I used to say! This immediately made a big difference.
My PT Karl tells me he focuses on how much he enjoys a difficult set. I'm not quite at this stage yet, but I will get there!
I asked an Iron Woman what she does in the middle of a 180km cycle, when it starts to feel really difficult. She looked at me in surprise and said she can’t let herself think it's getting difficult. She has no option but to continue cycling – or she won’t get home! She focuses on the cycling, her technique and on cycling home.
A PT friend said he feels the set doesn't get going until it starts to get difficult, perhaps not until rep seven. At this stage he tells himself this is where he’s making the difference in his muscles, so he focuses on making these reps as perfect form as possible. The harder it gets, the more he focuses on his form.
Trying to copy these strategies is helping significantly with my training. But I still want to understand the mind set of more fit, strong people. I’d love to hear your mind strategy – how do you get through a hard training session? What goes through your mind?