Programming Your Mind for Athletic Success
As avid lifters, we often hear about the best ways to train and the best kind of nutritional supplements we need. This is after all extremely important. But what many of us tend to forget about is the relationship between the mind and the body and its importance in reaching aesthetic and athletic goals. How many times have you heard that the body is a machine? For me, too many times to count. And I have come to believe that as the body is a machine, we can actually program it to achieve the goals that we want.
Think about the human body and athletic performance as a computer for a second. The components of a computer include the physical accessories (keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, etc.), the physical components that make things work (the battery, the motor, etc.), and finally we have the software (the programs, the code, and the start-up process). Translate this into physiological talk and we have:
The physical components that make things work: the body, limbs, organs, bone structure, nerves
The accessories of a computer: the foods and supplements we take in to optimize internal processes
The software: the mind; the center of signals ordering all operations to take place
The Physical Components
Training is the focus on building up our physical components. Or rather, creating micro-tears in the physical components to prompt an improvement. Optimizing the body is what allows us to achieve greater levels of performance.
Supplementation and nutrition, of course is a crucial part in maximizing the machine’s ability to perform. Multivitamins and minerals are crucial to maintain healthy cells. Branch chain amino acids are fantastic for the body to stay away from hard earned muscle during prolonged physical activity. Whey is a great, complete source of protein that can be delivered with a quick absorption rate. Total Nutri-reds; another fantastic supplement that offers a blend of superfood extracts and digestive enzymes. And for those that don’t know, digestive enzymes are a key when you are trying to maximize the utility of everything you eat (i.e. on a summer shred at 2200 calories).
And finally, we have the mind. The control center that makes sure everything operates for survival. The mind controls what we are and what we are to become. Therefore, limiting yourself mentally is simply handicapping the results you would have been able to acquire.
But, let’s face it- in this day and age we are surrounded by constant noise from people that don’t believe that great results are humanely possible. It is an external element that can create that mental block from earlier on. I have certainly experienced many moments of adversity and many external voices telling me that I would fail. In the midst of all these things, I have learned 3 key mindsets and techniques that I use time and time again to mentally program myself success.
1) Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable
Sounds like a broken record, but this is in my opinion the first and most important mindset to have before any change takes place. Why? People love routine, and with routine comes the feeling of comfort- the assurance that nothing threatening will happen and that the environment will remain constant. Sounds secure, safe, but this means that things will forever stay the same. Unless, of course you get uncomfortable. With new experiences and challenges the body and mind adapts to the new environment. Simply put- to achieve a bench press at 225 lbs, you will first have to press it up with discomfort, insecurity, and ideally…with a spot.
2) Value your word
This one truly is a lost art. What is your word worth? Start training yourself to make commitments. Promise yourself that you will achieve something. Don’t just think it for a second. Say it to yourself. Believe it. Print that promise out and stick it on your wall. Why? This validates and acts as a constant contract that you have mentally signed to meet conditions of. Once you have your promise make a step by step plan for success and execute. Get so good at this that you begin to hesitate saying you will do something, unless you are ready and committed to do this. This is truly a powerful mental programming tool that you can apply to training, diet, and any other aspect in your life.
3) Give people your word
The last and final step is a result of implementing the first two mental programming mindsets. Now that you know the value of your word and are comfortable with being uncomfortable, you need to use that to leverage and control your external environment. The fact is that you could be the strongest person (mentally) but if a negative external environment manifests around your life, your goals and the mental program you built will cripple. So how do you avoid this? Well, now that you know the level of commitment that comes with you giving your word to something, it’s time to show others exactly how powerful your word really is. Our lives are surrounded by social media. It’s time to use this to your advantage. Amplify your promise to your friends or “friends” on Facebook, announce it to your followers on twitter and Instagram. Here’s why. By doing this you now force yourself to be accountable to however many people saw your post. Nature has developed us into social beings, and we cherish the way people view us almost as much as how we see ourselves.
These steps may feel uncomfortable, but as I mentioned before, growth comes when you step out of the comfort zone. You may find that you receive some criticism, but this will simply be an indication of who your real support group is. The real friends and supporters will come forward, and those people will be your controlled extrinsic environment; working for you as the mental reinforcements you need on your fitness journey.
Nik Vasilyev (Digital Fitness Coach)
Online Personal Trainer