Dr. Lenny Wiersma is a Professor of Sports Psychology at California State University, Fullerton, where he has taught since 2001. He has researched and worked with a variety of extreme sport athletes, including big-wave surfers, ultra-marathon runners and cyclists, channel swimmers, and even UFC fighters.
He’s here today with some advice that will help you be more present in the gym and perform better.
Read, enjoy and share,
I don’t know you at all, but I know there’s one thing that you can do right now to see an immediate improvement in your training. It has nothing to do with diet. It has nothing to do with rest, or even technique.
The most important change you can make to your training is to change your primary focus from quantity to quality. You must shift from thinking that doing more is better, to thinking that doing better is better. You have to shift away from the feeling of having to get through a workout, to excitedly doing a workout. Your ability to do that depends on where your mind is at when you first walk into the gym, and where it goes once you are inside.
I am a sport psychology consultant who works with a wide array of athletes from college sports to big wave surfers, even professional fighters. All of these athletes are balancing an awful lot on their schedule and, in addition to school, family, or work stressors, most also have sponsorship demands or scholarship pressures to add to the mix.
The most important thing I help them do is to establish a mindset – Whatever they are doing at THE moment, they need to be thinking about that. They can’t be thinking about all of the other stuff they have on their plate and all of the other things that they have to do. They have to Be Here Now.
I’ll give you two examples.
First, I’ve been working with a young swimmer from one of the top competitive programs in the country. This is also an academically challenging school. Swim season runs from September to March, which cuts right through two-quarters of his final exams. That’s tough.
When finals approach, I remind him that when he’s in class, he needs to be 100% in class. He can’t be thinking about the meet against his rival school this weekend, or the workout he’ll be going to that afternoon. He has to keep his mind in the classroom if there’s any hope of performing well.
The opposite if of course true. When he’s in the pool, he can’t be thinking at all about class or the exam he will be taking tomorrow. He has to keep his mind 100% in that pool, on the training goal, on each stroke. This simple process allows him to perform better any one moment, while also alleviating the stress he would otherwise feel.
Like I said, I’ve been working with UFC athletes recently with mental preparation before the fight. What stood out immediately as a very unique challenge is that MMA fighters have so many disciplines to practice and master. There is always some anxiety about how to balance training time so that everything important gets done.
In this regard, it’s even more important for an MMA fighter to prioritize training time and keep their focus on what they are doing in the moment. There’s no room for worrying about all of the other aspects they are not working on at that time. It sounds very simple, but in practice, this process is an incredible challenge for both the athletes and their coaches.
To “Be Here Now” means to put your mind where it needs to be, exactly when it needs to be there. To be in this moment, focused on this task, right here. This simple phrase has a great impact on the quality of your performance today and every day. But it’s something that you need to decide you will do, because if you are not aware of where your focus is at, you can bet it’s someplace it shouldn’t be.
As an aspiring athlete you’ve got a lot going on in your life. You are doing your best to balance work, training, school, family and a social life. There’s the nagging soreness and skipped lunches as you rush around from one commitment to the next. That’s not to mention that fight with your girlfriend, which was the last thing you needed to be dealing with, right?
All of that is on your mind when you pull up to the gym. Are you going to take all of that with you when you step inside?
When you get into the gym there are all kinds of distractions. You are watching others and you are worried that others are watching you. Crappy music might be playing. Some jackass is doing something incredibly stupid next to you. Maybe the air conditioning is not working, or nonexistent. All of this will compete for your attention and focus.
Are you going to allow it?
Give this a try.
The next time you go to the gym to train, create a mental checklist of all the things that are on your mind when you pull up in your car. Then say to yourself, “These things are still going to be there when I’m done training,” and then leave them in the car. Keep your mind in the gym.
Don’t just get through the workout, commit fully to the workout! You owe it to yourself. Do this every day for just a week and you will find that you’ll have better, more consistent workouts. You’ll also find that your training time is even more valuable, because it will also give you a welcomed break from all of the mental baggage that you carry around during the day. If you want to perform better right now, start there.
Do what matters most, right now.
- Learn more about Dr. Wiersma here
- It’s not about how you feel – Dr. Lenny Wiersma
- The Science on Motivation with Dr. Lenny Wiersma – Episode 266
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