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The Mental Game of Fitness
All Progress Begins In The Mind
You’re going to look like the mindset you have in the gym—muscle is first built in the mind. The biggest issue many people have is they aren’t mentally ready to commit to what it takes to be successful with their fitness goals.
Mindset is everything in life, and especially in lifting. It’s going to be hard, you aren’t going to enjoy it all the time, and you will think about quitting in the beginning—all the time.
One day, you will just accept it, then at some point you’ll embrace it, and eventually you will come to enjoy the entire process.
Motivation is worthless long-term for anything that requires work—it’s a short term emotion. However, this can serve you for fitness, very much so. You just need to be motivated for an hour a few days a week. We can take advantage of this.
You will NOT want to rely on motivation long term, discipline wins this game; however, if you think I don’t do everything I can to get myself amped up on the way to the gym, you’re kidding yourself. It provides the edge I need to surpass my limits and boundaries.
Some days it isn’t there, but DON’T SKIP— get the fuck up and do what has to be done.
I get asked all the time “how do you stick with this? I fall off all the time and skip workouts.”
I wish I had a good answer for you—“personal trainer Twitter” will tell you it’s all about making it fun for people and teaching them how to adhere.
If you need someone to hold your hand and make your workouts fun, you’re in the wrong place. I don’t train pussies, I train people who are ready to get in the best shape of their life. If this isn’t you, the red X is in the corner of your browser—click it.
I will help you from day 1, but I WILL not coddle you and tell you it’s okay you’re 100lbs overweight and you don’t need to stop eating pizza and Doritos.
Spend your money with those dorks, they will take it and spin your wheels as long as they can make money. I don’t want your money—I want your results.
We talked about the mindset to get to the gym, but what about in the gym? This is a whole different ball game.
If you put in half-ass effort, you’ll get half-ass results. AKA you are wasting your time and effort. Sure it’s better than nothing, but I don’t write for mediocre people. Again, Fitness Twitter is filled with them, I suggest giving them a follow and buying their $19.99 course…
When you’re in the gym, you need to attack your sets with intensity—this is the main driver of results. “Workout harder than last time”—do this and you WILL without a doubt see results.
In bodybuilding we call it the “gun to your head” method. You will perform your sets like you have a gun to your head and you will be shot if you don’t give your set 100% effort. Stay safe, use great form, but lift until you 100% don’t have another rep in your tank.
Okay, this is starting to read like a Tony Robbins seminar, and I don’t sell dreams. Let’s get into some actionable advice you can take to get your mindset and workouts to the next level.
Methods In The Gym To Mold Your Mindset
First thing is getting into the right state of mind for the gym. Set some time, nothing crazy, 5-10 minutes and create a ritual—something to give you a feedback loop that the gym is about to happen to get your mind and body prepared.
This could be as simple as taking your preworkout, playing some music, heck even just changing into the gym clothes can set this in motion. Personally, I put everything down, put my headphones in, mix my preworkout, and hop in the car. My mental state is 100% different in the end of those few minutes than it was before: It’s war time.
Consistent gym times will keep your mind and body physiologically ready to go to the gym during these times as an anticipatory response.
When you get to the gym: get in there, put your bag or whatever down and get to wherever you need to be. Whether you’re warming up on a cardio piece of equipment or going straight to your warmup set of your first exercise, get it started. You are not there to talk and socialize, you’re there to get the job done and leave.
When you’re done warming up: take a second, dial in, and get ready for your working sets. You only have a few sets that really matter during your workout—these are your main compound lifts. You need to give everything you have on these sets.
You’re there, its going to hurt and it won’t feel good, but if you stop short or half-ass your set, you just felt a degree of pain for suboptimal results. It’s going to hurt regardless, so you might as well get something out of it.
Keep track of your lifts in a Logbook—track all of your weight, reps, and sets. Every time you perform the same lift, try to beat the number by either weight, or 1 more rep. This almost gamifies the whole process and ensures you’re making progress.
Lifting with music has been found1 to increase your performance and motivation in the gym. Simple, find music that amps you up and listen to it. I don’t care what your favorite “hardcore influencer” tells you, music in the gym helps and 99% of the jacked guys I know listen to music while they workout.
Preworkout is a very powerful method of increasing motivation through chemical pathways. When you have caffeine and other “nootropic” type blends coursing through your veins, you’re going to be much more motivated and perform better during your lift.
Steps To Take Outside The Gym
Let’s take a step back and talk about ways outside of the immediate gym that will shift our mindset into one where going to the gym becomes effortless and engrained in your lifestyle.
Find fit friends—they will also probably be your best friends you’ll ever have. They won’t pressure you to eat doughnuts and grab beer and pizza after work. They will actually probably check you when you are slipping up. That accountability is priceless.
Buy gym clothes—real gym clothes. This is a lifestyle and you are a serious person, wear stuff that breathes well and stretches. To quote one of the greats “when I look good, I play good”.
String together “perfect days”. I’ve talked about this in the past—this is when you mentally (or physically) check the box for everything you needed to do that day to ensure your progress. Good workout, check, followed diet, check, got your daily steps in, check. Not everyday has to be a perfect day, but the more you can get in a row, the more progress you’ll have and the more you’ll adhere to your program.
It takes around 30 days for something to become a habit and 60 days for the behavior to become automatic. That should be your focus if you are new to the gym, or are looking to get back into it. 1-2 months and this will become engrained in your life like brushing your teeth.
You can’t really teach this in a post—you either have it or you don’t. The key is don’t lie to yourself and say you’re giving it everything you have when you aren’t. This skill takes some time to develop, but you have to be honest with yourself.
There will be a moment when everything clicks and you realize that fighting it takes more effort than just doing it.
The day you make the mental shift from “wannabe” to “gonnabe” you’ll take off. I’ve seen this happen countless times.
This shift doesn’t just effect your gym progress, it forces you to become better in all aspects of your life.
There are lessons about real world results and action that only the gym can teach you. You will become a better man, husband, father, entrepreneur, etc. when you can shift your mindset from a wanna-be-getter to a go-getter.