Originally posted on GNC
Last time, we looked at one of the most inherently physical traits of an athlete, power and speed development. This time we’re going to focus on the mentality of an athlete, that little bit that separates talent from achievement, regional from international, medallist from finalist. Now, I am well known for prioritising physical traits over mental ones but this is only down to the fact that in order to achieve you must already possess that psychological desire for success, to be aware and fully engaged on the task ahead or presently occurring.
This may sound silly but this is a common error made by gym goers and even senior sportsmen and women, particularly those who have trained for a while and have fallen into a routine or worse, a rut! Here’s the scenario,
“You’re training chest, you load the bar with what you always start with - 80kg, you press out 10 reps because that’s what you do, you add on 10kg, you do another 10 reps, you add on 5 kg you get 8 reps out and you move to the next exercise.”
You’ve challenged your body, you tell yourself, it wasn’t easy and progress is a long, steady, path but are you really training, do you think elite athletes will settle for the same numbers every month? No! You want to improve and get stronger, leaner, better but you’ve lost that raw desire at some point along the trip. I have experienced it and even now I will question myself during a training session, did I work as hard as I could have done, was I really pushing my limits to the end? At this point you have to actively engage your brain to understand how much further you can go, how much heavier you can lift, how much lactic acid you can tolerate in your VMO but desperately important is to ignite that flame in your heart that motivates you to turn up every evening and grind away in the gym or on the track. I call this, ‘switching on your limits’.
I recently came across a motivational quote that really summed up the mentality of a track athlete or any elite athlete for that matter. It stated, that in order to push your body to the limits, you must actually work hard enough to discover what your real limit is.
Particular sporting moments that stand out for athletes who understood really how far they have to go for success and dared to discover their true limits are Michael Jordan’s historic flu game and Steve Redgrave’s training video where he collapsed during a time trial whilst still attached to his rowing machine. I’ve used these videos to motivate my athletes in the past. Not to tell them this is what they must do but to educate them on how dedicated their competitors, who succeed, are to realising their dream.
Track athletes have very thorough training programmes and you should have an element of this too, whether you are lifting weights for yourself or want to represent in a sport. They’ll also schedule several time trials or performance testing weeks in every phase to monitor their progress, almost in competition mentality (it’s a big event, you are showcasing yourself). This means you are working up to something, you are held accountable and therefore you do not want to let yourself down, so stick one of these into your schedule and it’ll give yourself a deadline to improve and drive some adrenaline into your training. Don’t fear competition either, I’ve met many athletes who actually fear competing and unfortunately they never confront this fear and as a result don’t realise their full potential. If you body build or train for physique then enter a regional competition, it can only drive you on to improve your training work ethic.
In relation to work ethic, I am often quizzed by gym regulars on ‘overtraining’ and their fear that if they do biceps on Sunday they will be overtraining. First up, overtraining does exist, second of all yes younger and beginner trainers must be aware of how much training they do in a week and how long a session is. However, the actual occurrence of overtraining is very minimal and involves physical demands and volume exceeding capability, mental stress and also sub-standard nutrition over an extended period of time. This, simply does not occur to a high enough degree to be a constant threat to the general public, this doesn’t mean ignore rest day, you still need to train within your means but recognise that a track athlete will train weights, track and mobility all within one day, 6 days a week and also perform an active rest day whilst still managing to avoid overtraining by adopting a smart training programme. Do you use overtraining as a tool or excuse for a fear of hard work? Simply recognise the hours an athlete will apply to a small technical aspect of a hip rotation during the long jump or hours plodding around a track and try to use these examples of dedication to boost your training performance.
So how do you achieve this?
• You have to have a goal – create short & long term goals
• Remember why you started training – your motivation
• Monitor your progress, do not accept plateaus – do something about them
• Question your effort level and act on it – “how much do you want it?”
• Do you really want to feel like there is someone else out there working harder than you – I’ve often repeated part track session because I felt I hadn’t switched on to my limits and there was a chance someone else was working harder than me at that very moment.
• Do you need a rest day or are you just hoping for an easy day
• Hard work cannot be replaced
Remember those key principles and apply them to your gym programme and watch your reps, weights and physique improve not to mention your productivity in and out of the gym!
See you soon, in the meantime Train Hard!