by Teresa Parsons
How choosing a positive perspective is making me a better athlete.
I am not an expert on how brains work. Certainly not on how anyone else’s mind operates, and often not even my own. However, I have found that a few small changes in my perspective, in and out of the gym, have made me a better athlete and a happier person.
I enjoy pouring as much effort as I can into everything I do: I am an all-or-nothing person. I have found over the past few years that this all-or-nothing attitude has had some negative setbacks. Too often, I allowed anything I considered a failure in the gym to define the rest of my workout, and the rest of my day. Similarly, I would let a bad day outside the gym follow me into the gym. These negative emotions, although driven by a passion to succeed, weren’t doing me any favours. A bad set or failed lift in the gym would bring me close to tears, grinding reps, losing my patience, or just being unpleasant to be around.
After watching friends become sick, injured or otherwise unable to train at all, I realized how ridiculous it was to allow a workout to ruin my day, or a day to ruin my workout. If the worst thing that happens in my day is struggling to complete a lift, then in reality things are going pretty well. I have made the conscious decision to remain positive in the gym and about my training; after all, I am in control of how I respond to my thoughts and emotions. There will always be things I can’t control, but the gym is my place where I get to choose. I am unable to control the outcome of each workout, but I do decide how I respond. More often than not, I have found a positive attitude results in a far better training session. When things get hard I remember how fortunate I am to have a mind and body healthy enough to train as often and as hard as I do. The ability to be flexible and self-forgiving in pursuit of my goals has served me far better than the attempt to be perfect in every aspect along the way.
Physically and technically I still have my “bad days”, but I work very hard to maintain my mental strength despite this. Just like I train my body for competition I do the same with my mind. When lifts don’t go my way, I have learned to let it go, and focus on what is next. Practicing this in the gym has also helped me on the platform. In my two most recent competitions, I successfully completed third attempts after failing seconds. In these situations, I didn’t allow midway failures to define my ultimate outcome.
I choose to share my experience about mindset because I often see people both in the gym and on social media putting themselves down and complaining about how much things or they SUCK! I understand everyone has their own reasons to be at the gym, and their own things happening in life outside of the gym, but despite these reasons we all have some internal drive that keeps bringing us back for more. So I challenge you next time you find yourself saying “I suck” or “I can’t”, instead try “I am getting better” and “I can”. Or, when you’re thinking, “man this training session is the worst”; remind yourself that every rep is an opportunity not a punishment.
I am certainly far from perfect with this. I found myself the other day trying to blame my bench for my lack of heavy bench presses. When I realized I was doing this, I instead chose to say I am glad I have a bench to train on. Believe it or not, since replacing that negative thought, my bench press has been consistently heavier. So just like squatting, bench pressing and deadlifting, positivity takes practice!