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A Mind for Intensity

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Thinking about Intensity a few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how we can define intensity to help grasp a better understanding of what is needed for Intensity = Result.  By the end of the article, I concluded the following:

“The felling of intensity = When you mind says keep going, but your body wants to rest.”

Shortly after releasing the article, I had a member approach me to ask, “how do I develop the mindset needed to tell my body to keep moving while it says to stop? ”  Unfortunately, the answer to this questions depends entirely on who I am talking to and the mental strength and positivity of each individual.  However, I am able to make some general suggestions for some mindfulness strategies everyone should try.

Our starting point may not be where most people would think to start.  It doesn’t involve positive self talk or motivational mantras.  Quite the opposite, we need to start by doing absolutely nothing.  I have talked before about the distractions of today’s technology culture.  Noise everywhere, constant alerts, constant media consumption, etc.  If you really want to start developing mental strength, you have to turn all of this OFF.  You need to re-acquaint yourself with the voice in your head.  When was the last time you really listened to it?  Do you know what the voice in your head is saying about you, your surroundings, your challenges?  Is it a positive voice or a negative voice?  Is the voice strong?  Or, does the voice present a lot of doubt?

Once you start to listen to yourself, you have to acknowledge what your mind is telling you about your workouts and your effort.  What was your inner voice saying during that 20 min AMRAP or at the point when your legs started failing on the back squats?  Sports psychologists recommend using tools like a journal to record your thoughts so you are able to really confront what your mind is saying.  This is where most fail and why most people struggle to develop an unbeatable mind.  Either they don’t want to take the time to write thoughts down or they are too afraid to confront the voice.  They refuse to live in their heads and instead let the outside world dictate.  Without some level of self-reflection and acceptance of where you are at this point, you cannot affect change.

If you have taken the step to write down your inner voice and you now have a picture of what you’re thinking, what does it say?  Did your mind tell you stop when the workout started getting hard?  Why?  Were you afraid of failing? Afraid the weight would be too heavy?  Did the feeling in your lungs scare you?  Did your mind say, “I can’t keep going at this pace, I have to slow down.”  If so, these are examples of I would consider your mind telling you to stop before your body wants to keep going.  As such, it is time to change this inner monologue.

Start this change by acknowledging that you are in control of your mind and your thoughts.  “I can’t keep up this pace,”  is a reaction to the situation.  You are reacting in a negative manner and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy to fail.  If you are still with me, and you have recorded and acknowledged this reaction, then you are ready.  The next time the WOD gets hard, the next time your mind wants to stop, actively change your inner voice.  As soon as your mind says, “I can’t keep up this pace,” you need to have an opposite response ready.  This is positive self-talk or a motivational mantra.  Instead of “I can’t keep up this pace,” you tell yourself, “You can keep going, keep moving, don’t stop, get to the end, you can do it.”  When you do set your mind to accomplish something, and push through the adversity, your mind grows little by little.  Before you know it, you have changed your outlook.  It will expand beyond your workouts and you will start to see changes in the way you approach situations in your regular life.

Your mind dictates your reaction.  You control your mind.  Therefore, you control how you react to the situation.  Will you fail or set yourself up to succeed?  Will you let your body influence your mind and flood your brain with negative thoughts?  Or, will you be stronger and tell your body that you aren’t giving up?

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