Does your mind hold you back in training? Learn how to overcome mental challenges so you can smash your sessions.
Common mindset challenges for athletes
Sport is great for mental wellbeing. Most people who train are naturally more confident (it takes a certain amount of self-belief to get started), and regular training only strengthens that attitude.
But we all struggle with mindset blocks from time to time. Left unchallenged, these barriers can stop us from going to the gym, prevent us from trying new things, or keep us from pushing ourselves.
Why we struggle with mindset
Mindset issues can happen for a number of reasons: stress from other areas of life, injury or accident, harsh criticism, or even seeing someone else hurt themselves in the gym.
A mental block isn’t the same as a loss of mojo. If you’ve temporarily lost your motivation to train, a few days rest (or a good session with a training buddy) will have you fired up again. Here’s how you can try to overcome difficult mental blocks.
5 mindset blocks and their simple solutions
You feel overwhelmed
Having a big goal can be motivating, but it can also leave you feeling like “what’s the point?” If you’ve lost all enthusiasm for your goal and it feels like you’ll never make it, try this.
The solution: split it into mini goals
Training for a 20km OCR if you currently don’t run at all is a huge ask. So is getting your first pull up if you currently struggle with ring rows. That’s not to say you won’t get there eventually – you will – but setting mini-goals will help you overcome the feeling of overwhelm. Make sure you acknowledge and celebrate the mini goals as you achieve them.
You don’t feel at home
Training environment has a huge bearing on your mindset. If you feel unwelcome, lonely, or like you don’t fit in then how can you expect to be excited to go and train? This is your hobby, after all.
The solution: reconsider your environment
Think about what you need in terms of kit, space, music, people and vibe. Spend some time visiting different gyms, sports teams, clubs or CrossFit boxes. The new views will fire you up, and when you find somewhere that feels like home you will want to train again.
You don’t have a goal
Lack of a goal can lead to a mindset slump. After all, what’s the point of training if you’re not aiming for something? If your mojo has been MIA for a few months, ask yourself what you want out of training. Why do you do it? What does it mean to you? What needs to change?
The solution: find a challenge
A goal doesn’t have to be a competition or event. It could be working on a particular lift, learning a new style of training, or mastering a skill. Make it personal to you and get excited.
You can’t imagine progress
There’s nothing less motivating than believing you’ll be stuck in a rut forever. Who in their right mind would show up to training several times a week for years on end only to make zero progress? If you’ve stopped making progress, maybe your mindset is holding you back.
The solution: visualisation
You’ve got a goal and a training plan. But you’re still not making progress. The barrier could be all in your head. This is pretty common with skills-based stuff, and big lifts when they reach a significant number. Picture yourself being successful. How would it feel? Get really specific: feel the bar in your hands, imagine the emotions, picture your friends cheering for you. Now go and do it.
You get distracted
If you keep showing up to training thinking about the past or worrying about the future, your mindset will suffer. Training demands that you show up in the here and now.
The solution: mindfulness
Get used to shutting out worries, plans, and stress. Write things down before you start training if you need to. Make sure your head is clear so you can focus on the physical experience of training: feeling the kit in your hands, managing your breathing, pushing yourself.
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