"In short, mental preparedness is knowing what state of mind is required to achieve optimal performance"
This article will cover seven aspects of what the mind of a weightlifter should look like and why they are immensely important for optimal performance.
Mental preparedness is an extremely important aspect of performance. For weightlifting, specifically, the mental side of the things is, to some degree, of greater importance than the actual physical abilities to execute the lifts properly. In weightlifting the margins of error are so small, the tiniest of inaccuracies will be the difference between success or failure. In the moment when the next lift will determine what the future holds, in regards to a weightlifting career, being on top of your mental game is crucial.
So, what is mental preparedness?
In short, mental preparedness is knowing what state of mind is required to achieve optimal performance. Going into uncertainty increases the chance of failure, hence the reason why mental preparedness is key! Mental preparedness is all about strengthening self-belief and weakening self-doubt.
Now, there are numerous methods, techniques, and strategies of achieving a mental state in which significantly increase the chances of success through self-belief. And as crucial as mental preparedness is, before one can establish a proficient method, one has to be familiar with the effects mental preparedness can have on performance and what they are. So here are a couple that could be used to help with that.
If you were gonna look at the mind of a champion as a pyramid, the foundation and therefore the most important aspect of the pyramid, would be self-belief. Without it everything else will suffer. Whether in training, competition, or life in general, your mind will always be there, like a nagging ex-girlfriend it will be trying to tell you you're not good enough and that you should stop whatever you're doing. On top of actually being good at whatever task is in front of you, believing in your abilities to complete the task is closely linked to succeeding at that given task. On the other side of the coin of self-belief is obviously self-doubt. Just like those who believe in themselves increase the chances of success, those who doubt themselves increase the chances of failure. And since the rest of the world is, highly likely, doubting you already, why would you join their side and start doubting yourself? Exactly, f*ck the doubters and start believing in yourself. Anything you do should feed to your self-belief. Setting goals, finding your internal motivation, developing your mental toughness etc. Self-belief is the foundation that all else builds itself, so never neglect it.
2. Internal above external motivation
When pursuing weightlifting for the pure enjoyment of it, you are doing so because you are internally motivated. When one's motivation for engaging in a certain activity arise entirely from within, rather than out of a desire to gain some type of external reward, then one is internally motivated. That is not to say that external motivation isn't good because it certainly does have it's benefits, however, for external motivation to have the best effects one has to make sure that the external motivation comes from receiving the reward rather than avoiding punishment.
With that being said, you must have an idea of what internally motivates you. For many it's happiness, a healthy lifestyle, socialising etc. While for some it may be their dream to compete in the Olympics, to prove to themselves that hard work pays off etc. The takeaway message here is that you need to be doing it for the right reasons, for your benefit, and not for the benefit of others or temporary satisfaction. Find your WHY and you'll start to excel.
3. Goal setting
"Without a goal in mind you'll just be a wanderer in the dark hoping to be heading in the right direction". Continuing the analogy, "A goal will be a light in the distance guiding you in the right direction". A goal serves three advantages.
1. It gives you a sense of direction. While most people do what they think is right and are just hoping it will get them somewhere, with a goal one can strategically themselves to reach the goal they've set. #FailingToPlanIsPlanningToFail
2. More specifically, your goals can act as a tool to measure success. With a clearly defined goal you'll be able to see if you're getting closer to the goal on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual bases. This gives reassurance that the process is working and further increases self-belief. #TrustTheProcess
3. A goal your mind will give peace of mind and encourages laser-like focus. If you're not focused on the task at hand distraction will make whatever work is planned will be unnecessary work. #FOCUS
Making sure that one's goals are based on both internal and external motivations will improve the goal remarkably!
Many athletes, weightlifters included, use visualisation as a method of telling themselves that what they're about to do is possible. By actively imagining the scenario play in your head before the event one can be convinced that it can be done. It encourages self-belief and therefore increases the chances of success. When you see athletes, minutes before their event, sitting in isolation with their eyes closed and their headphones blasting they're probably going through some visualisations. Take it from me, visualisation is not always an easy task. To start with, just visualising a good lift might be difficult. Your mind will play tricks on you and make that visualisation completely the opposite of what you had planned out. Instead of making the lift in your head, the mind will, in some mystical way, make you miss it. Only after some practice will you be able to visualise exactly what you want, and only then will it have the benefit. Yes, it may seem like an odd thing to do; plugging your favourite song in your ears, closing your eyes in the middle of the training hall for a couple of seconds or minutes. Don’t knock it before you’ve tried it.
Self-talk, like visualisation, is another method of reinforcing one's self-belief. Loads of people use a mantra as their self-talk strategy before attempting a difficult challenge. Like, telling yourself "let's do this", "I can do this" etc. Now, although one might get fired up with such self-talk, connecting the self-talk to one's goals and internal motivations will have a greater effect. Why, you ask? Good question. When your goals are based upon your internal motivation (as they should), your self-talk will become a double-edged sword. Instead of just gaining temporary confidence from the self-talk, you’ll increase confidence both temporary and in the long run.
6. Mental toughness
Taken straight out of the oxford dictionary, the definition of mental toughness is described as follows:
"A quality of mind or intellect characterised by, among other things, a refusal to be intimidated, a determination to finish a contest even when things are going badly, and an ability to control emotions and remain highly focused when under pressure of intense competition"
Let’s make this into something more tangible. When you’re in a situation where everything you’ve planned just goes south. When sh*t hits the fan and pieces are flying all over the place. Can you, at this time, calm your self down get out of the mental blackhole that has emerged and find get into a mental state where you’re in 100% control of your emotion and can make clear and concise decisions? Being able to break through the wall of doubt, indecision, and uncertainty in a time of chaos and stay cool is a quality of mental toughness.
As a weightlifter, mental toughness is crucial, no doubt. However, it's not a quality one develops by just doing weightlifting on its own. It’s not something one can choose to be good at, but rather, it's a result of strengthening areas of the mind that will take control when sh*t hits the fan and still put you at ease!
7. Create a pre-lift routine
A pre-lift routine is a series of techniques to boost self-belief, like the ones mentioned in this article. A routine is extremely handy, but instead of just having any type of routine I'd encourage you to be intentional with it. You might use some of the methods mentioned in this article or you might use others, the point I'm trying to get across here is that your routine shouldn't just be a generic one, but rather one that uses methods that aligned with the self-belief system. Don't be afraid to try pre-lift routines out to see if it's something you like or not. That's the only way to find what works best for you. Being intentional with your routine
Thanks for reading!