I’m always saying that mindset is everything, and I’ve found this especially true for working out. The right mindset is more powerful than any preworkout or any other supplement could ever be. You can’t keep hitting new PR’s consistently without the right mental state in the gym. Your body’s strength is a result of your mind’s strength. In this article we’re going to look at how to create a mindset to destroy your workouts, instead of just going through the motions. Let’s dive in.
Prepare Your Mind
Before you even walk into the gym you should be preparing your mind for battle.
When I was younger, I preferred to psyche myself up before a workout. However, as the years have gone by I’ve found that calming my mind down actually works better. I prefer to start slow and build momentum.
Sports psychologists have found that professional athletes who relax their mind before a game perform better. This is one of the reasons Phil Jackson is called “The Zen Master” because he is one of the most well-known coaches to preach this concept to his players. Relax your mind and let your body do the work.
While I’m driving to the gym I typically listen to relaxing music. I intentionally relax my mind, because I know once the workout begins my mind will be focused and intense.
I relax my mind so it is rested and capable of working on all cylinders when I’m ready for it to.
That’s the first part of my mental preparation. The second part is eliminating any fears or doubts I have.
When you are progressively overloading the muscles you have to increase the weight every workout. (or most workouts at least)
It’s easy to focus on how difficult the previous workout was and start to form doubts about whether you can hit all your reps at a higher weight. If you think you will miss your reps – you will!
I eliminate these doubts by forming a vision of success.
By the time I arrive at the gym my mind is relaxed. I then spend a couple of minutes sitting in my car, going through the workout in my mind.
I picture myself doing each exercise (usually just the difficult ones) without any struggle. I picture myself hitting all my reps with the heavier weight. I picture myself hitting my reps more easily than the previous workout.
This mental exercise is mandatory for me on days where I train legs. I can get away without envisioning success on days where I am lifting lighter for upper body parts, but I always do it on days where I lift heavy.
Leave Your Ego at the Door
We’ve all heard this a million times, but that’s because it is important.
Once your mind is prepared, you have to walk in the gym with the right attitude.
You are there to put in work. You aren’t owed anything.
Ego lifting, for those unaware of this phrase, is where you try to lift as much weight as possible without a care for proper form or avoiding injury. It’s easy to get caught up competing with everyone else in the gym, but you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
Lifting with your ego is easier than lifting properly. You might have to wait a few more weeks to get to the weight you want, but that’s okay. Remember, we want to avoid the path of least resistance.
It’s easier to throw weights around and make yourself feel like you’re strong than it is to control the weight throughout each rep. (Just look at crossfitters)
Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is your previous self!
We all had to start from the beginning. You might be intimidated by other people in the gym who are in great shape, but they didn’t always look that way.
You might feel like they look down on you or something like that, but for the most part that isn’t true. Remember, they had to bust their ass to get where they are just like you do. They will actually respect you more for lifting properly than for lifting with your ego.
The easiest way to not compare yourself to other people in the gym is to not even pay them any attention. Don’t even look at anyone else.
Put some headphones in and get in your own zone. Don’t look at what exercises other people are doing, how much weight they are lifting and especially to see if anyone is looking at you. Pretend you are alone in the gym.
You don’t want any unwanted thoughts creeping in your head. Most importantly, you don’t want any distractions.
This is a serious problem in most gyms – lack of focus.
Why spend all that time preparing your mind for battle only to lose focus and have a half-assed workout?
No phone calls. No text messages. No emails. No chatting. Focus!
You are there for one thing and one thing only – to train. You can chat after you’ve completed what you set out to.
Distractions in the gym are a huge pet peeve for me. I know people are trying to be friendly when they try to strike up a conversation, but I don’t go to the gym to make friends. I’m there to train.
I make myself very unapproachable in the gym on purpose. I keep my headphones in and my eyes on what I’m doing. That doesn’t mean I’m rude to everyone, I give a friendly nod to people while walking from one area to the other – but I never engage in conversation if I can help it.
Once you get in the zone, you’ve got to stay in there.
Focus is more than keeping yourself from getting distracted. When I say focus I mean you shouldn’t be thinking about anything other than your workout.
You need to be completely in the moment of what you’re doing. Don’t think about what’s going on at work or what you’re doing with your friends later.
Think about your form. To lift heavy and safely you have got to be focused!
You need to be fully focused on which muscles you are holding tightly in place, which muscles you are using to perform the movement, how you’re breathing, the cadence (how many seconds you spend performing each rep) of your reps and how many reps you’ve done, etc.
There’s no room to be thinking about which players you’re going to start on your fantasy team! (Although, there’s plenty of time for that after the workout)
Stay focused. Be fully aware of everything you are doing. Be in the present.
You are in battle. Would a soldier be thinking about what they wanted to eat for dinner while in the line of fire? Of course not!
The greater your focus, the greater results you will see.
Here are the two common scenarios that occur with intensity:
- We start off going through the workout with ease because we are fresh and strong at first. Then when the workout becomes more challenging we up the intensity to finish it off.
- We start off super intense, going all out on the early sets. Then we crash and burn halfway through the workout and miss reps on our later sets.
Your intensity has to be consistent. Instead of treating each rep as if it were the last – treat each rep the same.
This is where focus comes into play. When the workout is easy at first, squeeze extra hard to make it more difficult.
When the workout gets tough, don’t start swinging the weights. You’ve admitted defeat when you start doing that.
Fight through the pain and hit those reps just like you did earlier. It will be tough, but that’s the point. Your results in the gym will start increasing dramatically at first when you apply this rule.
This is why the preparation was so important. You will be in pain from beginning to end. You have to have a mindset that is ready for war! You must be ready to experience pain before you step foot in the gym.
The feeling of accomplishment after a workout with consistent intensity is incredible. The pain is well worth the reward.
Don’t hope for a killer workout – make it happen! It all starts with your mindset, just like everything else in life. Preparation, attitude, focus and intensity are the ingredients. It’s up to you to put them to use.
When you have a mindset of a warrior, your workouts will reflect that and eventually so will your body. You already have what it takes. Now get off your ass and prove it to yourself!
Until Next Time,
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