Change Your Mindset, Change Your Performance

How in the world is this article on mindset going to be any different from the hundreds you’ve seen before? How is it any better than the ones written by people with PhD’s in psychology? Well, I’m taking a different twist. I’m going to try to tell you about the psychology of a world-class strength gym so you can see how the mindset of its top athletes can help you perform better at Derby City.

I realized I needed to hit on this topic when I read the blog post of a Derby City alum, Taylor Drescher, titled 5 Tips for the Young. She briefly hit on the importance of “mindset” as a big reason behind her ascent in the fitness competition realm. I knew her message, but it dawned on me that it’s a foreign concept to many.

So, an old rite of passage in gym culture is the thought of “training to failure”… to push against the edge of physical breakdown and somehow find a way to mentally beat back those barriers and fears. Taylor, and her mentors at Westside Conjugate, believe that mentality is flawed because it teaches our brain about failure, rather than only feeding it examples of success. Imagine if your brain only knew what it was like to succeed. Imagine setting up in front of a heavy clean attempt and hearing only a positive monologue that says that you’re about to succeed. Instead, most of us have heard that inner monologue telling us we could be crushed by that weight.

A common teaching in gyms, and America in general, is “as long as you try hard, it’s okay.” But, it’s not okay to try hard and fail. We want you to try hard and succeed. If your nutrition is on-point and you’ve been recovering well, then we want you succeeding. Maybe you missed a lift or bombed a workout because you didn’t sleep well the night before; and in that case, that’s okay. But, if you always hit 98%, and are constantly PR-ing, then your 98% is consistently increasing as well. You’re constantly seeing progress. We want you always thinking you’re going to succeed, because by doing so, you’re more likely to actually succeed.

Chad Wesley Smith at Juggernaut preaches a similar ethos… if you never miss lifts and see only success day-in and day-out at the gym, then you’re more likely to succeed in competition or on that retesting of your 1RM. He believes you should have a laser-like focus and an utter certainty that you’re going to make each and every rep.

How do we cultivate success in the gym? By not overthinking lifts. Make success in the gym a common occurrence. Visualize hitting that lift and then let it flow, just like any normal day. If you’re feeling stellar one particular day at the gym, feel free to up the load slightly, but don’t go for broke with a 30lb PR attempt on a random Thursday. Engrain success and flawless technique, especially when fatigued, so you’re more likely to perform better when it really matters. You don’t need to be a hero.

Now, to be clear… that doesn’t mean you never have to push yourself. You do. You have to strive for more. You can’t settle for what you did last week or last month. You need to push the envelope. And that’s why we push you at Derby City, to make sure you’re walking that tightrope of 98%, but being careful to avoid the potential pitfall of 1% more.

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