The game of iron is much more than a physical one.
Whether you’re training in bodybuilding, powerlifting, any other endeavor of fitness, or for your own personal reasons, there is much more to what we do as lifters than simply physically going through the motions.
Your head has to be in it if you want to get the most of what you do.
If your mental game isn’t on point then your physical game suffers both in terms of training and results.
Like you would make it a point to evaluate your training by checking sets, reps, weight used, form, and other aspects of that nature, you need to take some time to remember to improve your mindset, focus, and motivation as well.
These 11 tips can help you get your mind right and focus on point which we all need because where the mind goes, the body follows.
1. Remind Yourself Why You Started
It’s a common phrase but it fits to be included here. We all start somewhere. At one point we were all beginners in this passion with weight training. Something triggered our minds that made us decide at that very moment, we must start training. We couldn’t get to the gym fast enough. Take a few minutes to remind yourself what that was.
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Did you want to get bigger and stronger for a sport? Did you see an event that inspired you? Was it a photo of a great champion that was jacked and tan or exemplified the beauty of fitness?
Think about not only that source of motivation but the energy and feeling you got from that experience. It could very well breathe new life into your mindset if you’re struggling with the commitment to train.
2. What do YOU want out of this?
Just like something or someone inspired you to start training, there is a goal or reason you’re doing it. Unfortunately, there are some people who feel like they should give in to peer pressure and focus on a goal that others feel is worthy. It doesn’t matter what endeavor you take part in, if your goal is to please someone else then you’re doomed for failure.
The whole purpose of you training is so you can benefit from your efforts. So don’t worry about what others feel you should do or what they believe is possible for you. Ask yourself what you want to do or what you want to achieve and make that your sole focus. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.
3. Make Your Social Media Work for You
As great as social media can be, there is one downside. Many people for whatever reason feel the need to share everything negative they possibly can. Whether its bad stories from the news, personal drama, or talking negatively about whatever is on their mind, that negative energy can bring you down.
However there is good news. There is an “unfollow” button that you can use on every form of social media so you don’t have to see it. You can hide friends’ posts on Facebook or mute them on Twitter. You wouldn’t hang around with people that bring you down in the real world so why do it in cyberspace?
Instead of worrying about the drama, follow those that are close to you who can stay positive. Follow those people who you look up to. Post successes in your own life so you can be that positive influence you would like to see others be as well.
Setting up your social media accounts so that the feeds are more positive will get you in a positive mindset which can flow into your training.
4. Study the Success of Those who Inspire You
I’m not going to list off names here because I don’t want to risk offending someone who I didn’t include but we all have those fitness icons and stars that inspire us. We see the newest video or tweet and it instantly pumps us up.
It’s great to follow them and feed off of their energy but you should go a step further and learn more about what they did that led them to that success? How did they start? How long did it take them to get where they wanted to go? What adversity did they have to overcome?
Learning more about their journey can help you as you go forward on your own journey because you will know that if they can do it, you can do it.
5. Be a Student of All the Games
Ask any expert that is considered a master or great in his or her field what led to their success and you’ll likely hear similar answers to the effect of “I never stopped learning.” The greatest teachers and instructors always look for more knowledge.
Once you feel like you know everything, you’re done. There is always more to learn and it might not be where you expect it. For example, if a bodybuilder wants to improve his legs he might think more about squats. If that’s the case there is no greater source of information for the squat than the guys who do it in competition.
Powerlifters want to be as strong as possible on the squat so they must train their muscles to help them achieve this goal. Thus, watching Ed Coan talk about the squat and how to improve at it would be highly beneficial for a bodybuilder whose goal is to develop those same muscles.
Conversely, if a powerlifter struggles on locking out during the bench press, he might have weak triceps. Who better to help provide information on isolating and targeting the triceps than a top bodybuilder? This thinking outside the box can help spark your motivation and help improve focus because you’ll want to pay attention to what you’re doing.
6. Create a Support System
There is some bad news here that is inevitable. Eventually life will get to all of us and we will go through some times that are tougher than others. Focusing on getting to the gym or getting ready to train just won’t be that simple. As much as you try, the motivation won’t be there. If you do get to the gym, your focus will be elsewhere.
This is why you need some loved ones and close friends in your corner. When you have one of those days, you should be able to text or call them up and share your issues. Those people you rely on for this need to be positive and supportive of what you’re doing.
Whether it’s your family, training partner, or close co-worker, having someone like that can make all the difference between skipping the gym and having a productive workout.
7. Be Optimistic
Why do something if you don’t feel you can achieve the results you want? “Well, I’ll never be good at this but I’m going to do it anyway.” You have already set yourself up for failure and depression.
If you’re going to commit to this, you should be optimistic that you’re going to do well not only in reaching your goals but for every single workout. You should start training with a feeling of confidence and finish with a feeling confidence.
It might not work out like that every time, but if you don’t feel that way the majority of the time... it’s time to change what you’re doing.
8. Be Realistic
And this might be what you need to change. If you want to improve your squat by 50 pounds over the course of 12 weeks, then you can’t expect to improve by 20 pounds in week 1. This isn’t being optimistic. It’s setting yourself up for failure. Your goals should be to improve every workout.
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That means if you did 225 for 7 last week and you got it for 8 this week, you improved. If you were able to add 2.5’s to the bar and did five more pounds, that is an improvement. You don’t walk a mile by taking a leap. You do it one step at a time.
These slow improvements are your steps and that goal is your finish line. Focus on those realistic, smaller, weekly goals and the rest will take care of itself.
9. Track Your Progress
Whether you’re old school and use a notebook and pencil or opt for an app on your phone, tracking your progress can remind you of what you did so you can focus on improving now.
If you see that you incline pressed the 100’s for 11 reps last week and it was easier than you thought, then perhaps you decide to try the 105’s this week.
Your log can serve as your training map so you can make the most of that next workout.
10. Control Your Phone
Smartphones are a blessing and a curse. We can track our progress, listen to music, and pull up that article you read too fast. However, you can also take more time than you planned on Instagram, texting, or making that workout official by posting a selfie.
There’s no way anyone will give them up or turn them off, so instead decide that unless you’re an emergency responder that you won’t take calls or texts until the workout is over. Keep the phone use to a minimum so you can focus on the task at hand.
11. Celebrate the Success
This is the final one but it might be the most important. You worked hard to achieve those goals. You committed time, effort, and even spent money on food and supplements. So when you reach those goals, celebrate them! Enjoy yourself and the moment.
That success and joy will motivate you to go further and will help you focus more on the next training session so you can improve on that foundation of progress you created. Being modest and humble is great but you worked hard to get where you are. Celebrate and be proud of that! You deserve that.
There is a lot of wisdom in these eleven tips. Some I have known for years but thanks for your effort and concern for all who work toward making their body stronger and healthier. I started lifting in March of 1951 and it has rewared me with srength and health ever since. Even now at 84 I still reap benefits from "Ironj pills" and exercise in general, but weights do give quicker results than any other method, Thanks to some German strongmen who toured our country in the 1930's who brought along their barbells. God blerss you!
Chuck, I'm honored to read your post and admire your six decades plus of dedication to fitness. Thank you so much for your comment and feedback. Tomorrow I will knock out some extra reps in your honor.
I think the most important point is #8 Be Realistic. I have a constant problem with this because I like to constantly improve at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, my body does not respond that way and then I suffer for it. Coming to terms with what your body can do and not do is very important.
Marty, I appreciate your feedback and comments. It can be tough for all of us to accept when progress slows, especially after we first start and see results immediately. Although you should accept what cannot be changed, I hope you remain motivated to maximize all of the potential you have. Thanks for reading and supporting M&S.
Great ideas; I cannot believe I am the first to comment on this article. I plan to make a copy at the library and carry it with me in order to memorize it and practice them until it becomes part of me like my name.
Steven, I'm very pleased that you liked my article that much. It's a blessing to be in the fitness industry and to see my work impact people like yourself. I hope that you will let me know how you progress and I appreciate my words being carried with you. Thanks for reading and supporting M&S.