It doesn’t take long to live on this earth and realize your thoughts are the most powerful influence in your life. I’ve heard this quote many times and I love it – “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” I definitely agree with this quote, and the beauty of this reality is this mentality can, and should, be applied to physical training, and it definitely needs to be taught to younger athletes.
When it comes to fitness and working out, I’ve had it easy. I’ve always been an athlete. I’ve always known about focus, concentration, and determination. I was the kid doing barbell curls and push ups with his dad at five or six years of age and I remember how awesome it was. What I need to always remember, however, is that I’m kind of different: most people are simply not like that, and they need to be encouraged to develop the proper mentality during training.
As far as adults are concerned, by the time you’ve reached your 30’s and beyond, I think it’s pretty much understood that you need to focus your thoughts on the task at hand. Physical fitness is no different. If you start a workout thinking about your bills you have to pay, your next doctor’s appointment, or the Bears’ game, you are not focused. True progress in fitness happens when you approach it with a level of seriousness that commands physical change to occur. Blocking out all other thoughts and distractions is vital during the 45-60 minutes of training, working out, or whatever you prefer to call it. If you ever expect noticeable progress in fat loss, muscle gain, or toning, focusing is perhaps the single greatest way to influence your physical transformation.
Teenage athletes need to be told blocking out most thoughts and distractions can be a reality. Kids under 12 are usually naturals at this as they have vast amounts of enthusiasm for and fewer cognizant thoughts about most things they do, but teenagers don’t have that childlike mentality anymore. They need to be motivated, encouraged, and told that focus and cutting out distractions are pivotal for success in fitness and sport. They need to have complete singleness of purpose. For those 45 or 60 minutes of play, fitness, or strength training, there must be only one thought pattern in the mind at this time: I’m here to work hard and pursue my goals, and nothing else matters at this moment.
There are two other tricks that help harness your energy and create focus in your mind during training: proper goal-setting and belief in yourself. Reasonable goal-setting is necessary because without real, tangible goals to strive for, a person is prone to constant flip-flopping of routines, excessive supplement use (just take a pill and you’ll get the body you want), boredom, and no focus whatsoever since this person doesn’t even know what they’re training for. Realistic, tangible goal-setting with actual numbers are one of the secrets to success in fitness.
And finally, belief in yourself is vital. Working out can be intimidating for a person just starting out in fitness. Small weekly and monthly goals are crucial to fostering motivation, and having a “this is for life” mentality is the biggest hurdle to jump. But it is also intimidating for a 15 year old skin-and-bones all-star baseball player to have his coach tell him he needs to gain 25 pounds of muscle if he wants to make varsity next season (I can’t count how many athletes with this story I’ve trained). Imagine, this 15 year old doesn’t have the slightest clue about how to go about gaining muscle and strength, and his varsity coach puts a demand on him that involves the physical structure and appearance of his body, and expects him to meet this demand. Now that’s intimidating, and to achieve success in this situation requires definite believe in oneself to accomplish this goal.
The Takeaway: It doesn’t matter if you are brand new to fitness or have a shot at making a D1 college team, when you are training for a goal (after you have set it), your mentality needs to be one of laser-focused concentration, singleness of purpose, and one of maximum physical effort. Hard work in fitness is a requirement for success just like any other area of life. Supplements, pills, or a weak mentality won’t get you there. Goal-setting, concentration, belief in yourself, and a mentality of always pushing your limits will take you where you want to go.