Physical Progress through Mental Strength: 6 Tips for Controlling Your Body with Your Mind!
Whether you’re trying to lift more, gain mass, or get lean – MENTAL strength will be the key to your success. Your goals may be physical, but your mind ultimately controls everything you do. Just read some biographies of great athletes – bodybuilders, lifters, football players, and even runners. Their sports may be different, but all true champions get to the top by honing their mental game. Almost every trainee has a capable body; it’s the willing mind that sets the successes and failures apart!
Don’t think YOU can get away with a mediocre mentality, either. Whether you want to gain 5 pounds of muscle or 50, lose 10 pounds of fat or 100, you’ll need to make big changes to your habits, work ethic, and lifestyle. Improvement is the name of the game when you’re trying to change your body. In fact, it might be just as tough for a newbie to get himself to the gym as it is for a world-class bodybuilder to prep for a contest. Only YOU really understand how hard your journey is.
Feeling the pressure? I sure hope so! It’s all on you to get results, but that just means YOU have the power to make things happen. With a few changes to your mindset, you can make your daunting goals seem like obstacles you just can’t wait to tackle! To help, here are 6 of my favorite tips for improving mental strength.
1. Know what YOU want.
Before you start on your journey, you’ve got to know where you’re going. What do you really want to accomplish with your body? Are you a young guy looking to get big, or do you want to lean down? Do you want to focus on strength for a sport, or would you rather focus on mass? Do you have dreams of becoming a professional, sponsored bodybuilder or fitness model? It’s up to you!
Still, these are tough questions for a lot of guys. One reason they’re so hard is that they force you to come to terms with your current state of affairs. You might want to be a behemoth bodybuilder, for instance, but if you’re already chubby then gaining more weight isn’t a great idea. You’ll have to diet first, and that sucks! It’s a lot easier – and a lot less fulfilling – to just waffle back and forth between “cutting” and “bulking,” never making any real progress. The same is true for skinny guys who freak out as soon as they lose their six-packs.
Outside influences can also make it hard to focus on your personal goals. Even well-meaning friends and family might try to discourage you from spending too much time, money, or energy on bodybuilding and fitness. Don’t cave in, but don’t ignore them, either. Think about what it’s really going to take to achieve your goals, consider the sacrifices and trade-offs you’ll have to make, and then make a solid decision. The day-to-day hardships of training and eating will become a lot more manageable when you’re sure of your goals.
2. Surround yourself with positive people.
This is a huge deal for people with big families, and big social circles, and socially demanding jobs. Once you decide to change your body, you find that all sorts of previously pleasant people start to become discouraging. It’s rarely anything overt, though. You’ll hear off-hand comments about your “spartan” diet or “obsessive” training schedule, and people will not-so-playfully poke fun at you for taking fitness seriously.
In the long run, these kinds of people can be poisonous to your progress. Outside negativity will eventually wear down even the most strong-willed, independent-minded person. And, even if you never cheat on your diet or miss a workout, constant negativity will cause you some serious stress – a real progress-killer for bodybuilders and lifters.
While you’re always going to have to deal with stressful people, you need to minimize their influence on your life. You don’t need to cast out ever person who’s NOT a die-hard fitness fanatic, but you should limit your exposure to people who belittle your goals.
Just as importantly, you’ll want to surround yourself with people DO offer encouragement. Even if you train by yourself, try to spend time with other lifters and athletes who are just as serious as you. You won’t need to rely on your internal motivation when you have others holding your accountable, and their progress can inspire you to be better.
3. Do what you hate!
If you want to make everything else in your routine seem a little easier, aggressively tackle the stuff you hate the most. Dreading your next leg day? Do double your normal volume on squats! Cardio getting your down? Crank up the treadmill speed and tough it out. Getting a little sick of your diet? Try eating everything with ZERO flavorings for a few days, and see if your normal meals don’t seem a little less boring.
You can only make so many tough choices per day, and it’s a lot easier to fall off the wagon when every meal and every workout feels like a burden. By forcing yourself to do the hard stuff, you effectively make all of exercise and dietary habits “easier,” freeing up your mental energy for other tasks.
In fact, it’s even more important to apply this principle outside the gym. If you’ve got a stressful life where you’re making tough choices all day, it’ll be impossible to muster the motivation to train hard and eat right. Tackle big challenges in your career and personal life, and your “normal” activities like lifting and dieting will seem easy in comparison.
4. Maintain momentum.
“The highs are high, and the lows are lower.” That old adage applies to most endeavors, and fitness is no exception. For myself and most of my clients, training hard and eating right only become easier the longer we do them. They’re like any other habits – good and bad – tough to start, but even tougher to break.
With that being said, consider your own momentum the next time you think about skipping a workout or having a cheat meal. Is it really worth it? You won’t just suffer the ill effects of that one bad decision – you’ll be making it easier for yourself to slip up in the future.
On the other hand, making one tough choice in the present – sticking to your diet, finishing your workout, or going to bed on time – will make things far easier in the long run. You won’t have to “torture” yourself daily, since your now-difficult routine will become second nature. Plus, consistent clean eating and training will make you look and feel better! The more your body improves, the less you’ll be tempted to return to your previous state – smaller, weaker, or fatter.
5. Set new goals.
When you’re trying to improve your body, one of the worst things you can do is to become complacent. It’s fine to take a break now and again, and even pro bodybuilders will have “maintenance” periods. But you need to constantly keep new goals in mind if you want to make continual progress.
To keep yourself moving forward, always have short-term AND long-term goals going at the same time. Say you want to increase your squat. If you’re currently hitting 225 for 5, you might have a short term goal of 275 for 5 – but don’t stop there! Think about how much stronger you really want to be, and set a lofty goal: 405, 495, even 585 for 5! You can constantly accomplish and update your short-term goals, but you’ll always have that long-term motivation keeping you going. Even when you slip up or take short breaks, those big goals will keep you focused and help you maintain momentum.
6. Embrace Failure!
Finally, know that you are going to fail – probably quite a few times – before you reach your ultimate potential. Even if you exert the utmost control over your diet and training, you’re going to have setbacks: bad workouts, low energy, injuries, and external stress. This isn’t an excuse to be undisciplined, but an understanding you’ll need to have to stay in the game for the long haul. If you don’t understand the likelihood of occasional setbacks, then every mishap will seem like the end of the world.
This isn’t an excuse to be undisciplined, though. You never HAVE to eat bad foods, and nobody’s MAKING you sit on the couch instead of going to the gym. Optimize everything that you can actually control, and understand that the things you can’t control may sometimes bring you down. The right mindset will allow you to bounce right back as soon as possible!
If you are looking to get motivated and see serious results, join the Mind Muscle Academy!