Keeping in trend from my previous blog posts I’m going to front load the practical takeaways, and if you want to read on and get the rundown you can.
Add a 5-minute cardio-based cool down and stretch after every lifting session, especially if you train in the late afternoon/evening.
Combine your training warm-up (if you aren’t doing one, start) with positive self-talk and positive mental framing to prime yourself for a good session.
‘I feel shitty’, ‘I’m still super fried from last time’, ‘Oh god it’s THIS session’.
‘I have a bunch of fatigue, but I’ve been training real hard, that’s expected’,
‘I still have fatigue from the last session, but repeated bouts of fatigue are normal in training. If I have concerns, I’m sure I can ask my coach.’,
‘This isn’t my favorite session, but that’s probably because it pushes me out of my comfort zone, or it’s things I need to work on the most.’
Allow yourself to feel good and proud when you talk yourself out of a negative or neutral choice into a positive one. Example, going to the gym even though you’re tired, and you’re busy, and you’re not feeling it. But you go anyway.
HYPE THAT SHIT.
The why - positive self talk
Now to begin in the middle! As a foreword, I believe sport psychology is a criminally underutilised avenue of resources. The way I choose to frame it [foreshadowing detected] is that compared to other things we do in aesthetics, health, or sporting pursuits, mere thought takes up very little time and very little of the resources that we use elsewhere. That being said...
I AM NOT A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST!
These are just practical tips that have both anecdotal success with my clients, and have professional vindication from the smart people with the letters in front of their name.
Let’s dive into my practical examples. Everyone should have a warm-up in their training, it vastly reduces injury risk, and substantially increases performance output. One thing a lot of people don’t have is a cooldown. Especially if you train later in the day, the heightened alertness and sympathetic nervous system engagement can disrupt sleep and elevate cortisol, both of which impede recovery and subsequent training. Adding a 5 minute cardio based cooldown and/or stretch period where you deliberately focus on taking deep relaxing breaths will not only help you wind down from an intense lifting session, but will also hasten your recovery and adaptation to the training.
My second tip takes up even less time than the first and you can do it at the same time as plenty of other things: positive self talk, and positive reframing. This is one that everyone could do better with - you, me, your mum, your dentist, everyone. It is incredibly easy to allow negative emotion to creep into your mental loop when you are not obviously progressing,succeeding, or feeling good. This can develop into negative self talk, either internally or out loud:
‘I really hate this session, it’s my least favourite.’
All of you almost certainly thought about a recent leg day, am I right? Or possibly a heinous hill sprint, sled pushing, acid bath. Thinking about things in this way begins the feedback loop that leads people to have disappointing sessions, or even skip these kinds of sessions altogether.
To avoid this, try reframing your thoughts towards more positive or constructive language:
‘This is my least favourite session, it really pushes me out of my comfort zone. But I need to do it if I want to accomplish my goals.’
The same session, while still not a fun prospect, now presents as a necessary step to success. This is why objective targets like competitions, scale weights, and personal bests can be very motivating, as they can be used as a carrot to get you to reframe things towards what you want.
It’s hard to explain the ‘why’ without getting the water super muddy. Let’s try another example.
‘I’m super tired from the last session so maybe I’ll just skip the gym today.’
What we need to do here is acknowledge the facts that are underlying this feeling:
Fatigue from training is normal.
DOMS can be very uncomfortable, and pretty scary especially for new trainees.
Is skipping the gym objectively a good idea? Or is it just the easy choice?
We can now take a more pragmatic view of the same situation, and constructively rephrase.
‘I have some fatigue from the last session, I’ll make sure and tell my PT so they can change stuff if it’s appropriate.’
‘I’m pretty fatigued from last time, I’ll make sure to train a different body part or discipline this session so I have plenty of time to recover.’
I hope this illustrates that positive reframing of thoughts can really hard pivot how your session/day/week is going to turn out. I must add the caveat that it is not easy, and like anything takes focused practice to get better at - which leads me to my last tip.
I am proud of you.
Not to wax poetic, but I encourage you to bask in the satisfaction of good choices made. Any time you find yourself with your hand outstretched to the biscuit tin like Smeagol but manage to pull away and resist temptation you should be happy with yourself. You should hype yourself for those positive choices. People love to belittle and criticize these small victories because they seem insignificant, but considering that the world at large has an obesity problem, when any of us have a moment where self-discipline kicks the door in and you make the harder choices, it is a win worth hyping. Even if it’s only to yourself.
I’ve talked about it before, but those small wins can be built upon to create an upward spiral of good choices that can propel you through things that used to be challenging. You can use them as fuel to overcome harder and more challenging choices - even better, as you get more and more practice, and become more and more disciplined you’ll start crushing it.
What can get in the way of someone who will go out of their way to get their training in? Double shift at work? Doesn’t matter, they’ll get it done. Moving house? They put down a Kit Kat when they already had the foil off - compared to that, shifting boxes and furniture AND getting a lift session is child’s play. Build on those small wins, and let yourself feel awesome about it, then very little can stop you.