One of the things I’ve struggled with the most during my time during training and racing is overcoming the voices inside my head. They tell me I’m too tired to finish this set, I’m going to die in the pool (happened during 90% of my swim practices) and my legs/arms/abs are physically incapable to continue moving forward. Most recently, I was confronted with this problem while I was charged with doing jump knee tucks while one of my boot camp partners ran two laps around the building (I told y’all boot camp was fun!). This takes about 2.5-3 minutes to do and I was nervous about my injury and failing/having my legs give out from under me, so I switched to sprint high knees. My trainer immediately saw me mentally struggling and stood in front of me with his death stare. I was being held accountable for my actions and forced to push myself to my limit. I kept going, gritting my teeth, letting my breath get short and uneven, while he coached me through it “your legs are going to tell you your tired, you don’t have the cardio endurance, you can’t do this. Keep pushing” I replied in my nicest tone, “please shut up” and kept going for another 10-15 seconds before having to stop for fear of hyperventilating. While this should feel like a small victory, I know I can do better. This is what I’m doing to change it:
Picking a mantra: My Team in Training coaches drilled this into our heads and it’s something I’ve been trying to practice. It’s a phrase or word you put all your energy toward when you’re tired so your voices don’t have an opportunity to make themselves heard. I’m testing out “The Rock Wasn’t Built In A Day” and “What Would Dwayne Johnson Do?” I’ve also used “I am an athlete” because it has a great rhythm that matches my running gait.
Getting my nutrition right: I have way more issues pushing through a tough workout when I’m dehydrated and my caloric intake isn’t quite right. I’ve actually cried during one dirty double leg day work out because my yoga mat was getting bunched up under me while I was trying to do resistance band donkey kicks. Sobbed. It wasn’t the yoga mat, it was really because I’d only eaten roughly 180 calories and drank half a glass of water before burning over 900 calories. I’ve also been sluggish and brought down by overeating before a work out. Take notes (I track my food using MyFitnessPal) and make notes in my Garmin Connect Activity so I know when I get it right.
Count the Reps: When I’m doing a larger set of reps, I break it into more smaller amounts so it seems more manageable. For example, I tend to break down 50 reps into one set of 20 and two sets of 15s. That’s not to say do the 50 reps with breaks built in, but it makes the total number seem more manageable so I can mentally chip away at it. I also find that counting during a timed workout (ex. power planks for 3 minutes) helps keep my mind occupied and gives me a benchmark to hit when we inevitably repeat the round.
Sing and Dance: I’ve borrowed this from my sister and I’ve been happy with the results. The lyrics and dance moves are mainly in my head (I’ve been called out for really singing and dancing during work outs) as to not compromise my breathing and form, and they fill my mind so the hater voices can’t be heard. The main thing to remember here is to not let your mind wander too far so you’re not focused on giving your full effort.
Practicing: Nothing will get easier unless you practice. Maybe my mantra is too long? Maybe I’ll need to eat more before plyo vs. athletic conditioning. Perhaps I should be eating closer to my workout time instead of earlier. It may not work the first few times, but like anything in life, it will get easier to silence the haters within your mind.
As one of my trainers tell me, every rep is a choice. You can choose to only push so hard, or you decide to change yourself and change your life. The choice is ours.
What techniques do you use to overcome the negative thoughts within your head? I’d love to hear them in the comments!