From making a last second free throw to win the title with millions watching to an epic 4th quarter collapse when the game is all but won; it is very hard to argue that mental toughness does not play just as big a role as physical ability in these situations. 

Understanding that an athlete’s mental strength and mindset can be the secret to unlocking their true potential can allow you to help them achieve new levels in their fitness and performance. 

As trainers it is very easy for us to just focus on the physical toolbox of our clients and athletes.  As the physical is a huge part of the equation, if you study those who are world class in whatever they do a very common thread is mental toughness and understanding that a positive mental attitude can unlock many doors.  That is why people come to us, to achieve a higher level than they are currently at.  The mind controls what the body is capable of, what the mind sees the body can achieve.

Many books written by coaches, athletes, trainers, marketing specialist, leadership experts, personal development leaders and business experts speak on the subject of the power of thought.  One common thread through all these very different books, authors and subjects is understanding the power of mindset.  Some books I have read spend the whole text explaining a different way of viewing the world and thinking about things by give example and case studies.  The author’s goal is to change your thinking and have you look at the world differently. 

How does all this apply to training? Let’s look at 3 ways to enhance mental toughness in your training to unlock your clients and athletes true potential.

Play to your strengths and always look for the good

Both fitness and performance athletes will always be harder on themselves than you could ever be on them.  If you are the yelling, screaming, or belittling you are not helping.  When an athlete makes a mistake they are more disappointed in them self than you could ever be.  Encourage your athletes when the make a mistake or don’t reach their goals.  Point out all they did well and WHY they will reach them next time.  Get them thinking about what they do well and how to maximize it, I have never met a champion who did not know what their strengths were

Look where you want to go

I heard a great story about a ski run in Canada called lone pine run.  It was about 200yrds (meters for our neighbors to the north) wide and had a single pine tree in the middle of the run.  They actually had to remove the tree because too many people were hitting it!  How is that possible!?  When you are going down the hill and looking at the tree and thinking “don’t hit the tree, don’t hit the tree” what happens? You hit the tree!  The moral, look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go.  If the last time I ran a 5k and all I am thinking about at the starting line is that the last 2 times I did not meet my goal time of 25 minutes, guess what?  More than likely I will not meet my goal of sub 25.  Positive thought is like movement; the more times you do it the stronger it becomes.  The more I think positive troughs the stronger they become; unfortunately the same is true for negative thoughts. 

Don’t let their natural ability hold them back

I coach and do the strength and conditioning for your local high school football team.  There is a player who is going into his senior year that has started on varsity since he was a sophomore.  This young man is a natural and gifted athlete and that is his biggest problem.  There are so many things he is naturally good at that he hates the feeling of not being good at something.  I have seen this time and time again with his training and his on-field play.  When we are doing a drill or exercise he is having trouble with he simply quits, when things don’t go well on the field he breaks down.  Sometimes our best athletes (and clients) need to fail, get comfortable not being the best, learn from it and grow because of it.

Get into your athletes and clients heads to break through plateaus and show them positive results both in and out of the gym

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About caseystutzman

Casey Stutzman is an AFAA certified trainer and has been actively involved in the fitness industry since 2004. Since 2006 he has acted as the Head Trainer at the Bay Athletic Club in Alpena Michigan. Casey’s love of athletics and competition drove him in to the fitness industry. He uses his experience as a division 1 college football player, amateur bodybuilding competitor, strongman competitor to help others reach their goals in all areas of fitness. Casey spends his time at Bay Athletic Club teaching Boot Camps, small group training sessions, training clients and working with participants in Bay Athletic Club’s Corporate Fit Challenge program. He also develops strength and conditioning programs and does performance training for a number of local athletic organizations and high school teams. As an Ignite Performance Master trainer and Master Instructor for TRX Casey travels North America to educate and connect with fitness professionals to help them offer more to their clients and athletes. Time outside of fitness is occupied with reading, travel, indoor rock climbing, snow sports and being an active outdoorsman. He enjoys spending free time with his wife Mary Beth, his daughter Vesper, son Indiana and Turkish the family dog.

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