mental monday

Give Me Strength!: The Process

It hurts.  The short-term effects from strength training often leads to pushing the body to places the mind may not want to go.  But, if the mind is open and willing, the body can be pushed to places it may not realize are possible.  Strength-training, like any activity, requires a detailed process, which focuses on daily progression.  Below are three tips to help your mind stay right as you get your body tight:

  1. Goal-Setting:  It’s imperative to have daily, weekly, and monthly fitness and strength goals.  These should not just be based on weight loss/gain or amount of weight lifted.  Instead, there should be deliberate practice goals, which focus on progression.  Focus on the process of improvement rather than simply end results. Examples: Daily - Commit to trying one new exercise [pick one to help you put extra emphasis on a weak area or an area you enjoy training] for each daily training session for a month; Weekly - Commit to a weekly schedule of weight training, avoid a haphazard approach... what time does your workout begin? Don't be late!; Monthly - Did you achieve your daily and weekly goals? What does the next month look like, what are you planning to accomplish on a daily level? Is it time to do a quantitative test yet?
  2. Willpower Talk:  Use committed words like “will” over words like “gotta”.  Direct attention to what you will do rather than what you gotta do.  The more you talk about will the more you will get. For example, what is your weakest area that you WILL improve to build muscle and strength? A lower body unilateral exercise, perhaps?
  3. Expectation Scorecard:  Create a scorecard for yourself to grade your mental performance during a strength-workout.  Have categories like attitude, positive self-talk, energy management, etc. so that you will grade your mental-toughness.  This will hold you accountable to maximizing performance.

A couple other things to consider: what is your pre-workout preparation? It probably involves some foam rolling and a warm-up, but are you preparing your mind to take full advantage of the soon to start training session? Are you fully focused when the first set begins?

Like most things in life, success in strength training, fitness, endurance training, fat-loss, etc. is at least 50% mental. The process of engaging in a long term progressive program also teaches excellent (mental) practices that translate into many other areas of life (discipline, goal setting, enjoyment, commitment, etc.).

Confrontation Culture

Boston Strong. Oklahoma Resilience. We Are Sandy Hook-We Choose Love. Certainly these tragedies were all horrific, but they also brought out the best in their respective communities. Police and Fireman were heroic, but even ordinary citizens came together to help each other. Typically, in the face of adversity, good rises to the top, and the survivors become stronger than they were before. While sport culture is certainly different than community culture, lessons can be taken from how communities confront difficult situations.

The greatest organizations are not afraid to confront, even if it leads to tension. They embrace those moments as opportunities to improve and get better. Too many sports teams are afraid to confront; Do not upset the superstar. Stay away from giving honest, even if it’s difficult, feedback. Do not question the coach under any circumstance. Confrontation often leads to rocking the boat, and many captains are afraid to ride potentially rocky waves.

The truth is we become our best when confrontation is embraced. The word itself may cause you to think of negative examples, but the definition revolves around face to face clashing of idea. Does that sound so bad? Accusatory, finger pointing is not confrontation. It’s blame. Cultures that embrace confrontation believe that there may be a better, newer, smarter way of doing things. They strive to thrive when the going gets tough. Rather than simply surviving the rocky waves of the past, and storms that may be brewing in their future, they figure out how to keep the ship moving forward in that moment.

Confrontation cultures have open lines of communication, embrace questioning and believe there is no straight path to success. How are you using confrontation to better your culture? What ways can you encourage positive confrontation? Will you run away or run towards the storm?

Learn how to be a positive confronter and you will make a positive impact on your culture.

Want more from Brian? He's hosting upcoming classes at SAPT! Check out the schedule and description.

Timeout Strategy

One of my favorite hand motions in basketball is the signal for a “20 second timeout”.  Coaches lift their arms, bend their elbows, and touch shoulders with their fingers to signal a stoppage in play.   It’s a technique that I often use with clients, family, and friends to pause discussions. While the 20 second timeout signal is universally known in the basketball world, the communication that occurs after the motion varies from coach to coach.  I have been fortunate to be part of many different teams, in many different sports, and often observe the strategies used in that brief, but important interaction.  Below is what I have found to be most effective.  If you aren’t a coach think about when you have to deliver information to people in a quick and concise manner.

Attention Getter:  Whether it’s clapping, demanding eye contact, or simply asking a question, it’s imperative that attention is gathered quickly.  Make sure to have an attention getter that gets your team focused.

Encourager:  Once you have their attention offer an encourager.  An encourager will keep their attention and let them know what they are doing well.  It will open their minds and foster opportunities for more feedback.

Information:  The meat of your timeout should occur after the attention getter and encourager.  This is a time to give feedback, negative or positive, which should be the most important point you are looking to provide.

Encourager:  After the information has been processed an encourager is recommended to send the team on their way.  It’s a great opportunity to build cohesion leaving a huddle and remind the players that you believe in them.

Hope you can find a way to use the attention getter, encourager, information, encourager method whenever you have a timeout today.

Competition vs. Participation

It seems like we are at a crossroads in youth sport.  Perhaps mirroring the politics of today, the opinions of how sport should be played appear to be as polarizing as ever. One camp believes we are in the midst of the “wussification of America”.  They believe that today’s children are given too much and participation trophies are creating generations of American’s who don’t know how to win.  They believe that success, failure, and learning from those experiences bring out the best in our children.  The “wussification” camp has it’s own site and has even claimed that teaching activities like yoga is breeding a generation of non-competitors.  Comedian Adam Carrola went off on the “Participation Trophy Generation” and talked about how it’s impacting our economy.  Even the Iron Man, Cal Ripken Jr., talked about his concern with where youth sports are heading.  There’s statistics that show that the millennial generation, who the Wall Street Journal labeled “trophy kids”, are as entitled as ever.  Let’s call this camp “old school”, where they believe we are softening up on our future leaders and creating a less competitive culture.

The other camp believes that sports have become too serious.  Rick Reilly, a popular ESPN columnist, wrote about Pee Wee Coaches imploring 8 year old football players to have a “killer instinct”.  Last month, The Bloomington South High School girls’ basketball team made headlines by beating  Arlington High School 107-2.  Athlete’s are being offered scholarships before they get to high school.  Parents are being jailed for fighting at games.  Sports have become big business, and many parents have become more interested in athletic scholarship, or making it to the Pro’s, then emphasizing academics and using sport experience as an opportunity to learn.  Let’s call this camp “new school”, where they believe our society has placed too much emphasis on winning and not enough on participation and having fun.

So, who is right?  Well, both believe our children may not be learning as much as they should.  And I am not sure either is wrong.  I don’t believe in “old school”, I don’t believe in “new school”, I believe in “right school”, and figuring out what mix of the past and the future is best for the present.

Clearly, this is a topic that will continue to garner attention and changes will be made.  Whether, the emphasis for change needs to be solely on increased competition or participation, perhaps, like our politics, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

So What?

A golfer misses a putt. A basketball player misses a shot. A baseball player swings and misses. Often those misses seem like a matter of life and death before, during, and after the moment. But, the truth of the matter is they are not. Your ability to recover is where mental toughness lies. Over the past few days my work with athletes brought discussion on perspective. Perspective on the tragedy in Newtown served as a simple reminder that our misses are not nearly as big of a deal as we make them out to be. A game is a game. Many of us fear failure and the emotions that come with it. Yet, it’s failure that allows us to grow, which allows us to live. Failure is where brilliance is born. It's how we learned how to walk, talk, and read. It's all part of the process of greatness.

So next time you miss, and your thoughts start racing about all of the bad that can happen; give yourself perspective on the situation and ask yourself, so what?