The Mental Side of Training - The Sports Mechanic

So your diet’s on track. Your training is on point. You’re steadily making gains. Everything is rolling along nice and smooth. But for some reason you get to a certain point and things keep falling apart. Whether it be during competition or just every now and then during training it all becomes a mess. You get stuck on the same number for everrrrrrr or plateau at the same point only to scrap everything, rebuild and plateau again.

Maybe you break down during competition and struggle to put into practice all the things you’ve made a point of learning so diligently in the gym, day in day out. You find yourself having to go through the struggle of re starting and getting everything working together and rolling along again and fighting to progress from where it fell apart. You also have to be able to take the mental hit, which for some people can be more difficult to come back from.

You might feel like you’ve failed or it’s just too hard to get to where you want to be, or what a massive set back you’ve had and worrying that the plan is now not going to plan at all.

This can all tend to happen because yep, your biceps are big and your squat is now massive but you’ve been forgetting a huge part of your body in your training that can give you an honest advantage over your competitors or just help get you to that next level you want to be at where you are working so damn hard to get to. It’s that mind muscle of yours! You’ve been so busy working on all your goat movements and perfecting ring handstand pushups or some crazy chest to bar/toes to bar complex that you haven’t even given any thought to your mental game. Big mistake!

But don’t fear, you can start now and it’s just a practice like all our other training so if you take some of the tips I have been lucky enough to collect and learn from many different sources over the years and put into practice what works for you, in no time you will have that mental edge over all the athletes that forget their body’s can do anything, it’s your mind you have to convince.

1. Meditation and Mindfulness. It can be done anywhere, anytime, by anybody so no excuses. A regular practise reduces stress, increases positive emotions, and in the case of sport, it allows us to identify in the moment when our thinking is destructive and helps to redirect it.

It is very simple. Focus on the breath, on body sensations, on sounds, on a candle lit in the room, or whatever else. This is not a time to “think.” If a thought arises, observe it and let it go away and bring your awareness back to whatever it is your were focusing on.

If you’ve ever tried to meditate, you know that inner voice won’t shut up. It constantly delivers a running commentary on our likes, dislikes, fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams. It projects into the future and ponders on the past. If someone told you they hear voices in their head, you might think they’re crazy—and maybe they are—but the reality is we all have at least one voice in our heads.

Now is not the time to focus on that voice but more to just be aware of it and let it go. And don’t put expectations on your meditation, let it be whatever it wants to be. You may have a calm quiet one but you also may have a crazy, busy, noisy one. Either way, it’ll still be beneficial.

They do say if you can’t find 10 minutes in the day to meditate you should probably be doing it for an hour!

2. Positive self talk – I don’t know how many times I have actually seen the point where someone gives up in a wod or a lift flick across their face. I basically see the moment at which their head says no and they agree and they lose all will to fight through the wod.

Your positive self-talk has to be louder and more aggressive than that pesky negative voice, and sometimes that means it’s got to be very, very loud and very, very aggressive not to mention persistent. I also know that quite often your mind responds better to positive words rather than negative words. Sounds obvious, but how often do you hear ‘don’t quit’, ‘don’t drop the bar’, ‘don’t give up’?

Try to replace these with ‘yes’, ‘I can’, ‘keep going’, ‘you’re strong’, ‘go faster’, ‘you’re good at this one’, ‘you’re nearly finished’ and so on. And it’s also a practise, fake it ‘til you make it. Start saying it over and over and eventually you and your mind will believe it.

3. Visualisation – Mental Imagery- the practice of “you must see yourself do it first.” Starting off, you may close your eyes and picture yourself doing a movement perfectly. This can be a clean and jerk, a muscle up or even a whole wod or competition.

You can practise in many different ways, maybe broken down in steps or an entire sequence of movements. See yourself doing it absolutely perfectly. Over time this will give you more confidence in these movements and physiologically prepare yourself to perform the movements with better technique, more speed, or whatever else is your focal point. You can practise visualisation anywhere and at anytime for it to be beneficial for you.

4.Breathing – Sounds like a simple one and it is. Practicing calm and controlled breathing when you are in a relaxed state will help you put this into practice when your heart rate is sky rocketing and you are feeling heightened emotions such as stress, anxiety, nerves, adrenalin; many feelings you may have on competition day or before your big lift.

You can practice it in a very simple manner such as focusing on the breath, counting each inhale and exhale or you may look into something a bit more structured such as Box Breathing – This can be done by focusing on the breath for 4 minutes, inhale for a 4 count, pause for a 4 count, exhale for 4, pause for 4, repeat.

There is nothing special about the number 4. It is a good starting number because it is easy enough for most people to handle and can be increased as you practise more. This will help you practice awareness and let go of stress and help to overcome panicked breathing.

5. Become ok with failure – A huge part of progressing your mental game is learning to become ok with failures, setbacks, mishaps and all the things that come with setting the bar high for yourself and pushing your body to it’s limits. You need to be able to accept where you are while still striving for a goal. Our natural tendency is to think that we are failures for not already being where we want to be.

If you feel like banging your head into the barbell or smashing your scale with a hammer, stop and re assess for a moment. Is the toddler a failure for stumbling when he tries to walk? Of course not. You win some, you learn from some. Have faith that you will learn and grow as you’ve learned and grown in a thousand ways before. Be proud of every small, measurable step you make in the right direction. Focus on the small wins and learn from the stumbles.

Failure is not a reason to quit, it’s just feedback. Great athletes look at failure as an opportunity to learn, evolve, and improve.

Commit and trust the process, tweak as necessary, and you will eventually make your goal. Whether it happens in the next set or five years from now.

The MINDsense model


“The Power Within – How to create a high performance mind”

Written by John Newcombe and Michael Duff

A gift that was given to me that helped kickstart my learnings of mind training and all that goes with it. I couldn’t see the relevance at the time. But years on it’s become an invaluable tool I have referenced too many times too mention. And if nothing else it’s an interesting, easy read, that I highly recommend.

Content originally posted by SCOTT WAUGH in

About Coach Amanda: Coach Amanda is a certified Personal Trainer and an expert on all things goal setting and mindset.


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