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What do you think about during a workout?

How heavy the weight feels?

The daunting number of reps remaining or time left on the clock?

A creaky knee or that shoulder that always flares up?

Whether you’re in the gym to improve your health, gaining strength and conditioning for your sport, or you are an aspiring professional exerciser, you can stand to benefit from improving your mental game. Mental Game is the self talk that dictates how you execute, the inner voice calling the shots. If there have been times in training, competition, and life where you walked away feeling like you could have performed better then maybe it is time to consider improving your mental game.

In his podcast “Finding Mastery,” Michael Gervais interviews 4x worlds fittest man Rich Froning. When it comes to the mindset of a champion, there is no one better to listen to. Rich discusses his approach to training, competition, and his journey from being a relentless individual competitor to a team champion and family man.

“In training, you listen to your body. In competition you tell your body to shut up.” -Rich Froning Jr.

Rich mentions that he hates losing. In fact, he goes so far as to say that he hates losing more than he loves winning.

This is a common occurrence in top athletes that relates back to a very basic human instinct. That is, all decisions that we make are performed in the name of avoiding pain or seeking pleasure. In this case Rich could not bear the sting of losing after a second place finish in his first CrossFit Games appearance. Even after taking home 6 titles proving his dominance as the fittest man in the world, you can still hear the bitterness in his voice as he discusses that fateful day almost a decade behind him.

What separates Rich and makes him such a great champion is what he did with that experience. When most people could have complained, or quit, or cried, Rich let that experience fuel his fire. He did this by attacking his weaknesses in training so that way the next year he could show up with confidence.

Rich goes on to mention that he believed he wasn’t always the best athlete in competition, but that it was his willingness to push himself harder when it mattered most that lead him to victory. This is a skill he has been cultivating his whole life. Growing up in a family surrounded by older, stronger cousins, RIch constantly found himself competing.

To succeed against a stronger opponent, effort becomes of the utmost importance. Like the old saying goes, “hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” We can all benefit from this maxim and train like the underdog. In the training environment, you can create situations that will push you into an uncomfortable place. The more time you spend in an uncomfortable place the less uncomfortable it becomes. This allows you to push deeper and find new thresholds.

Are there any areas in your life that you find uncomfortable? Do you find yourself shying away from those situations or coming up with excuses?

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

Everyone’s favorite Mr. Olympia has the mindset of a champion, there is no denying that. As a successful bodybuilder, businessman, movie star, and governator Arnold shows us that with the right mindset we can achieve success and apply those principles to all areas of our lives.

So what does the mindset of a champion look like? Arnold suggests 6 rules for success:

  1. Trust yourself​, have a clear vision of the outcome you want and go for it.
  2. Break some rules​, be the exception, be the first, one of a kind.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail​, if you are not failing you are not aiming high enough.
  4. Ignore the naysayers​, if you are serious about your goal there is no space.
  5. Work like Hell​, harder and smarter.
  6. Give something back​, what lessons have you learned that could benefit others?

Following these principles will benefit you regardless of your goal or undertaking. Every day is a chance for improvement and you get a fresh start right now.

Are there any areas in your life you need to start to trust yourself? Do you have toxic influences in your life keeping you from trying? What are you focused on besides your goal?

“I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot… when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.” -Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan was focused on making the shot. Not the win.
Not the loss.
Not the miss.

Just making the shot.

It’s a pressure cooker. To have the ball in your hands with the game on the line. Maybe you have been there before…maybe you have never been there, but always wondered what it would be like.

In life we aren’t always faced with such clear moments of decision, but that does not mean that there is any less pressure or less important outcomes. Every day there are perhaps dozens of little decisions we make that have shaped our character and crafted the life that we live.

Whether it is fighting for one more burpee in the workout, double checking our work before shipping a project, or even getting out of bed instead of snoozing for that 5 extra minutes. Each day we get the chance to take the shot. So many times though we don’t take it because we are caught up in our own heads.

By changing our focus to an outcome that we desire, we invite in the opportunity for that change to occur. Our bodies adapt to the stories that our minds create.

Is your self talk keeping you from playing your best in any area? What is a new story you could tell yourself instead?

“If you can see yourself doing something, you can do it. If you can’t see yourself doing it, usually you can’t achieve it.” -David Goggins

David Goggins in no stranger to overcoming obstacles. From losing 120 lbs to becoming a Navy Seal, pull-up world record holder, and running 203.5 miles in 48 hours this man has what I would call mental warfare more than mental game.

How did he do it?

By facing his fears head on. Goggins recognized that by making decisions in fear he was headed down a path that he was ashamed of. He made a choice to become the opposite of all his worst fears, but this change did not happen overnight.

He describes the early days where he couldn’t run around his neighborhood block without stopping and returning to the couch for a chocolate milkshake. He was able to transition and improve by telling himself to be better and try it again. He internalized the message that he was not going to quit by training it every single day. Just like a muscle it grew over time. David would rely on this muscle every time he tackled a new challenge that felt insurmountable.

These are the lessons and tips from some of the best in the world. So how can you start flexing your mental muscles and change your self talk?

Next time you are talking yourself through a workout or challenging project keep these lessons in mind. Focus on the outcome that you want, not the negative result if things don’t work out. Break things down into small manageable chunks. Focus on your most immediate action and doing it to the best of your ability. And of course, work like hell. The challenges in life are there for growth, tackle them head on.