Want to get strong? Get ya mind right!

The first time I attempted a snatch, I fell on my ass and dropped the barbell on my shin.

That was the end of my snatch escapade.

My first deadlift was through an absurd CrossFit WOD featuring high reps at a weight I had never pulled before. I couldn’t walk or sit for days as a result, and I avoided deadlifts with fiery determination after that.

Thank god I got over that because I effing love deadlifts today.

And I’m finally learning how to snatch like a boss.

Even as a fitness professional, my journey into strength training was full of mistakes, pain and stupidity. Over the years I’ve embraced the fact that I’ll never know everything there is to know about fitness, and there will be plenty of times I’ll drop the bar. But this time, I won’t drop it on my shins or attempt a complicated exercise with atrocious form for high reps ever again.

A Snatch Gone Wrong Photo credz: Grigory Dukor / Reuters

A Snatch Gone Wrong
Photo credz: Grigory Dukor / Reuters

The point is that every body starts somewhere. When you look back on your fitness journey, do you see progress or failure? Did you evolve or did you give up after one bad workout? How did you approach each failure?

Mindset is everything

When it comes to dieting and fitness, mindset is everything. Your perception – be it of yourself or the goal – makes all the difference. Your self-limiting beliefs block you from achieving those goals. When your limiting beliefs rule your life in fitness and in health, you end up approaching every goal with what I call a ‘collapse mindset.’

This individual sets unrealistic expectations and gets frustrated when he doesn’t master a move or habit right out of the gate.

The collapse minded individual fails once or twice and gives up. He follows his new diet plan perfectly Monday through Friday, falls off the wagon Saturday and Sunday and beats himself up on Monday with limited calories and intense exercise. This vicious cycles ends up affirming the limiting beliefs of ‘I’ll never be healthy,’ ‘I’ll never get in shape,’ or ‘I’m not good enough.’

The collapse minded person believes in his self-imposed limitations. With this way of thinking, the individual falls apart, mentally or emotionally, when things don’t go their way in the weight room or with a new program or trainer.

If you’re trying to change your habits, learn something new or attempt something different, the collapse mindset will take you down within the first few steps you take. And it won’t be pretty.

This is different than the ‘fixed’ mindset coined by Carol Dweck in the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (my favorite book, like, ever). The fixed individual assumes he is born with some innate talent that will make him great at something, never assuming that talent is a learned skill that must be cultivated over time.

Avoiding the collapse mindset

The collapse mindset is cultivated by fear, limiting beliefs and ego. Consider my first attempt at the snatch. As a personal trainer, I want to get the snatch right on my first try. I want to clean & jerk like I’ve been doing it my whole life because heck, I’m a damn fitness professional! This should come naturally! Am I right?!

Umm, no.

I dropped the bar because it was too heavy and because it was a new and complicated exercise. To get it down right, I’d need countless hours breaking down the technique and practicing the movement. I decided to nurse the massive bruise on my leg and to my ego instead.

Whenever you’re attempting something new, be it overhauling your eating habits, learning a new movement, or simply losing weight, patience, perseverance and a growth mentality will lead to success.

Let me repeat:

Patience, perseverance and a growth mentality will lead to success

This means that if you drop the bar ten times, you consider hiring a coach to help you hone your technique so you can stop dropping the bar.

If food is the issue and you fall off the wagon one day, it means you view the next meal, not the next day or week, as a chance to try again. You don’t fall apart because you gave in to a bag of Doritos. Instead, you tell yourself to skip the wine during dinner and practice eating moderate proteins of protein and vegetables. Your next chance at improvement is at the next meal.

Making change is hard. Learning new skills is hard. If your limiting belief is ‘I’m not good at this,’ you’ll collapse at the first failed attempt. If your ego chimes in with ‘You should be good at this,’ and you aren’t, it’s much easier to walk away entirely. You may not be great at everything right away but you do have the potential to be great. That takes changing your mentality and applying consistent practice and patience.

This past week, I joined a gym. As in, I’m a paying customer in a facility where snatches and deadlifts happen on the daily. It’s a humbling experience to walk into a gym as a beginner instead of the coach. The collapse mindset would have never allowed me to walk into this place. I would have given up after the crappy WOD and snatch snafu. However, I’ve been flirting with Olympic weightlifting for two years. It was time to drop the ego and limiting beliefs and allow myself to be the trainee rather than the trainer. I’m digging it.

Your journey into strength training, nutrition and everything in between will get ugly sometimes. There will be bruises and sore muscles. If you collapse and give up, you’ll never improve or learn anything new. The best thing to do is put some ice on it and get some help from an experienced trainer or coach. Or it may mean hiring a nutritionist. Whatever it is, don’t give up the journey because something didn’t go right the first 100 times. Surround yourself with people stronger, faster and better at something than you are so you can practice, learn and grow everyday.

Want to follow me on my Olympic weightlifting journey? Follow me on Instagram for updates, PRs and recovery days with my dog

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