When it comes to fitness success, you may think it has everything to do with your physical ability. But that’s not entirely true. In fact, so much of our physical ability actually comes from what’s going on inside our heads.
That’s right, your mental attitude and self-talk could be the difference between flunking a race or running a Personal Best, finally pumping out those 70 kilo bench presses or failing. Even if you’ve trained hard, have nailed your nutrition and are in peak physical condition, if your mind is off then chances are you won’t perform at your best.
Developing mental resilience to match your physical strength can be challenging, but it's an important process for everyone, from Olympic athletes to weekend warriors. So if you feel as though it’s your head rather than your muscles holding you back from hitting your fitness goals, keep reading. Here are our five top tips that you can put into practice to hack your mindset and reach your ultimate peak performance.
Hack 1: Tune into Your self
We’ve all been in that place before, when a workout isn’t going according to plan and thoughts of self-doubt begin to fly around your head, growing louder with each passing second. The best thing to do to help get yourself out of this funk isn’t to give into those voices, but instead to tune into what’s really going on internally.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and actually start paying attention to how you’re really feeling. While tuning into these feelings might seem counterintuitive, you’ll be better able to identify the unhelpful thoughts and then “flip the script”. This involves taking note of the negative self-talk and flipping it to make it positive. So instead of thinking “I’m not strong enough to do this”, think “look how far I’ve come so far. I’ve accomplished more than I thought I ever could, so I can do this too!”
It’s vital to give yourself encouragement to succeed and to try and achieve the goals you’ve set out to accomplish. There’s no way you’ll do your best unless you believe in yourself.
Hack 2: Speak in the 'You'
Science suggests that speaking to yourself in the second person, that is, the ‘You’ voice, can help to increase your physical performance during a tough workout, race or sporting competition.
While there’s no conclusive reason as to why it works, studies have shown that athletes who referred to “You” while utilising positive self-talk during a race performed better than those who referred to “I”. For example, they would have said something such as: “You’ve worked so hard and you can do this”, as opposed to “I’ve worked so hard and I can do this”.
The reason for this could be that when the “You” voice is used, it’s as though the encouragement is coming from a third party rather than yourself. This makes a lot of sense, given that humans are typically prone to self-doubt, whereas it’s typically much harder to ignore other people’s positive feedback.
Hack 3: Harness a Winning State of Mind. Every. Single. Day
Sometimes it can be hard to stay upbeat when things aren't going your way. Remember, winning is an attitude and only you can control your outlook on the world. Having a positive perception can help set the tone for your workout, allowing you to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
While you might not necessarily feel like a winner every single day, you want to make yourself feel like a winner in at least some way each day. Even noticing the smallest of positives can make you feel 100 times better and give you the encouragement and motivation to keep pushing forward.
Furthermore, it’s always helpful to track your goal on paper to make it real, taking it out of your head or the less tangible world of your smartphone. Posting motivational quotes around your house or office can also help establish the positive mindset you’re trying to reinforce.
Hack 4: Visualise Your Victory
While it might sound a little wishy washy, hear us out. Visualisation can be an incredible motivator when it comes to being able to accomplish your fitness goals.
It might sound strange, but simply by visualising yourself crossing that marathon finishing line, climbing to the top of that mountain or smashing out that last rep can help all of these things become a reality.
By spending a few minutes every day visualising yourself accomplishing your goal and the sense of achievement and empowerment you'll have after doing so, you can get yourself in a mindset primed for success. You'll get a better sense of what you’re after, and your brain is already in the right headspace to get there. Better yet, when things get really tough, you’ll be able to remember how great that sense of achievement felt and be able to push through the pain to get there again!
Hack 5: Recover for Real
When we’re pushing to achieve a particular goal, it can be easy to get carried away and overtrain. But in reality what you should be doing is giving your body the adequate rest and recovery it needs to perform at its very best.
Nothing spells a mental breakdown quite like overtraining. You’re pushing your body to the absolute limits, training every single day (sometimes multiple times!) but you’re not seeing the results you’re wanting. Nothing will send you into a confusing spiral of self-doubt faster than this.
Instead, acknowledge everything your body is doing to help you achieve your goals and give it the respect it deserves. By being both physically and mentally kinder to your body you’ll be able to step up to the starting line feeling refreshed and motivated rather than burnt out and mentally fatigued.
If you’re trying to up your fitness game, achieve a fitness goal or compete in a sporting event, make sure you don’t just focus on the physical component of your training. Having the right mindset will likely be what helps to push you across the finishing line more than that extra hour in the gym ever could.