Written by Caitlyn Trout
Mental toughness is an attribute that needs to be developed in order for a lifter to succeed in both training and competition under the most adverse circumstances. It is required for optimal performance. Yes, there are several other factors that go into a successful meet/training performance, but the way that we feel and handle ourselves mentally has a great impact during this time.
What is the competitor’s mentality? It is our frame of mind in which we walk into a competitive or high-stress situation. With this mind-set you keep focused on your goals, have control over your thoughts/emotions (not letting nerves set in), determination, commitment, confidence, intrinsic motivation, and positive attitude toward the task at hand. It is believing that no matter the situation or environment that you’re in, you will prevail. In fact, with this mentality, you shouldn’t view the situation as being stressful at all. It should be a welcomed challenge. In other words: when the going gets tough, you don’t give a crap because you’re going to do it anyway! There is no room for fear, doubt, or distraction in powerlifting so you need this mentality to perform at your very best.
There are several reasons why we let our train of thought get the best of us. Maybe you’ve had one of those days where you feel a little off balance or have allowed a missed lift mess with your game plan. You might be nervous in a meet or training because you’re trying to hit an all-time pr. Maybe you were injured previously and have a fear of re-injury, or maybe you’re just new to the sport and have yet to build confidence in yourself as a lifter. No matter what the reason is, the truth is that people tend to dwell on the negative when adversity strikes or when something requires a little more effort than usual. This is where mental toughness is needed to drive through these situations and continue on with the show.
Check out Caitlyn’s World Record squat of 391 pounds in the 123 pound weight class…
So what does it take to have a competitor’s mentality? In regard to what I said earlier, I’ll now elaborate.
- Stay focused on your goals. During training or competition, if you are thinking about anything other than the bar in front of you, you’re distracted. Keep your eye on the prize and leave all other life events and conundrums at the door. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already missed a lift or if you had a really crappy day at work. This is the current task at hand and it’s time to work. You can worry about your crappy work day later.
- Control your mind. We all get nervous at times but competing at a meet is not one of them. Nerves cause hesitation, hesitation causes mistakes. In training make sure that you do everything exactly as you would do in a meet so that it becomes instinct whenever the competition rolls around. It will feel natural and will take the thinking out of the lift, leaving less room for hesitation and mistakes. If you are nervous, remember this is a time to be excited, not afraid. We aren’t making a living off of competing here so you must be participating either for enjoyment or thrill right? A competitor enjoys a challenge. If it doesn’t excite you, then why are you competing? Just calm down, sit in a corner by yourself, and listen to some music. Do whatever it takes to clear your mind. If you have trained and prepared for this meet then you have all of the tools necessary to reach your goals, just follow through with what you have worked so hard for.
- Be determined, confident, and committed. Go in with your mind set on never giving up. You won’t drop the bar on deadlift, you won’t stop pushing on bench until lockout, and you’ll fight to get that squat out of the hole. People really underestimate their abilities when they let doubt creep in and take over. You’re beating yourself if you’re already doubting your success before you even touch the bar. Grow a pair and just do the damn thing! If you are red lighted, then ask what you did wrong and then correct it on your next attempt. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t worry or freak out because it’s the past and you can’t change it now. Prepare for your next attempt and believe that you will accomplish it. Commit to the lift. You choose your attempts, so pick wisely and then give it hell! By this I mean don’t get scared of the number and psych yourself out, you chose the weight. Go lift it.
- Be intrinsically motivated. A person with a competitor’s mentality is self-motivated. You shouldn’t need your coach, training partner, significant other, or whoever else to stay on your heels to motivate you. If you do then you need to ask yourself why you’re here in the first place. Make goals for yourself even if they are small ones. Remember, you lift because you love it. You push because you stay hungry for progress. Bottom line, you should love to test your limits and capabilities.
Some of us may already have this frame of mind engrained in us while others have to develop it with time and experience. Everyone is different, but everyone can acquire a competitor’s mentality! Just keep the attitude positive, be patient, and run the show!