If you put your ‘self-talk’ on the loudspeaker at the gym. For everyone else to hear. Would you be proud of how what you were saying?
Here’s the scenario…
You’re midway through a hard conditioning piece. You feel your heartbeat speeding up. Your lungs are gasping for air. Your skin is dripping with sweat. You’re heating up.
The negative self-talk comes in. The inner bitch comes out.
You start questioning yourself. You start to argue with yourself. You trick yourself into slowing down. You bargain with yourself stop.
The inner bitch is convincing.
It doesn’t just say “slow down.” It goes on an epic tirade about how hard you’ve been training all week. How you haven’t eaten today. How you stuffed up the programming. How you made the session too hard.
Everyone goes through it. You’re not alone.
It doesn’t go away. Your inner bitch is ALWAYS gonna be there. It’s job is to prevent discomfort.
It’s hardwired into us to focus on the negatives in life. We were better able to adapt and survive in nature by focusing on the negatives. It’s better for our survival to learn what berries kill us as oppose to which ones taste the best. It’s better for us to learn that a grizzly bear will annihilate us than to learn which butterfly is prettiest.
But looking at life and your training through a negative lens just leads to more negativity. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s up to you to put it back in it’s place. It all comes down to how you talk to yourself in your head. It’s easy to pity yourself. It’s easy to say ‘woe is me’ during a hard session. It’s easy to get stuck inside your own head and feel like you’re drowning.
But try the following strategies and see how that goes for ya.
Smile and breathe.
What we need to do is project out. Project a positive attitude to the outside world. No matter how hard you’re breathing, try to smile. I guarantee it will make you feel better. Along with that focus on relaxing your breath. If you’re doing intervals. Try and get your breathing rate down to resting levels. Obviously, this might not possible. But if that’s the goal, you’ll be much better off than the alternative - panicking because you can’t get enough air in. Simply focusing on your exhale with each breath and trying to slow that down as much as possible is key.
Attack the challenge face on
Instead of focusing on the pain in your limbs and the breathlessness in your lungs. Focus on the challenge. Be proud of your body and your mind for being able to tolerate what you’re voluntarily putting it through. Embrace the challenge and focus on how capable you are. The body is incredible. It’s capable of adapting to this tremendous stress and strain. We don’t give it enough credit. But we should. And we should during the workout. It will light a fire under your belly, knowing that whatever you’re experiencing, the body can handle it and will continue to battle.
Take the piss out of your mates. Or out of yourself if you’re training alone. Make it fun. Yeah, it’s hard. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable. So what? Focusing on that isn’t going to make it stop. Take the piss out of your mate when you see him struggling on his burpees. Take the piss out of yourself when you’re looking down at the pile of sweat on the ground. You chose this voluntarily. Telling a joke, laughing or attaching humour to this ‘miserable’ situation is something scientists have looked at. The Navy Seals use it all the time. Laughing in the face of adversity releases dopamine in the brain. This dopamine neutrally charges you, and gives you an extra boost.
Use positive self-talk.
Literally tell yourself how easy it is out loud. I try and do this with clients as much as I can, and while they probably get sick of me saying how it’s “all too easy” it takes their mind off the discomfort and focuses instead on the humour (again). It’s important to be super careful how you talk to yourself during the session. Let’s say you’ve got a 5 round workout and it’s bloody hard, and you’re about to start round 3. Instead of saying, “this is so hard and I’m not even halfway yet.” Say – “I’m starting round 3, after this I’ll only have 2 rounds left.” It’s a small change but it makes all the difference. It put’s things into a much more manageable state and it’s effective at maintaining intensity when you think you can’t go any harder.
Even though you know you’re tricking yourself with these little tactics here and there, it does help. When you support the person next to you and tell them there’s only one round left or to ‘get up’, it fires you up. It fires you up when your training partners do it for you too. It fires you up when you do it to yourself. Attack your hard sessions as a challenge. Be proud of what your body is capable of. And don’t forget to have a laugh! It’s not that serious and it LITERALLY gives you more energy. So don’t be afraid to take the piss.