HOW TO THINK LIKE AN ATHLETE: 6 SIMPLE STEPS TO MASTERING YOUR MIND AND IMPROVING PERFORMANCE

August 22, 2018

how to think like an athlete and improve fitness performance

You do not have to be an athlete to feel like an athlete.

Woodside personal trainer Shelby Chadd takes us through a few tips for taking your fitness to the next level by thinking like an athlete.

I often find myself in conversations with my clients that center around their insecurities and physical limitations. Many times, they’ll say something like, “I’m not the athlete I was in my 20s,” or “I’m just not the athletic type.” These comments are not only incorrect, in my opinion, but also can be very damaging to a person’s self-confidence and esteem, which translates to less-than-optimal sessions on the fitness floor.

Before we dive deeper into this subject, let’s look at what the term “athlete” really means. By definition, an athlete is, “A person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.”

The term “athlete” comes with many stereotypes and can be hard to put a label on. I recently posted the question to some of my friends and clients on Instagram, asking them, “What does it mean to be an athlete?” A majority of their responses were someone who:

  • played high school or college sports
  • is the fastest, strongest or leanest
  • has won multiple awards for sporting events
  • is paid to play a sport

 

While some of these responses were what I expected, I was shocked that there were so many answers not mentioned. As a society we have created such a strongly held definition based on broad ideas of what an athlete should be, that so many people feel like they don’t or won’t ever fit the description of an athlete. I often hear, “I can’t do that move or exercise because I am not fit enough, coordinated enough, strong enough, fast enough, etc.” And my response is always the same… “Try, and see what happens”. Personally, when I think of the word “athlete” I think of the terms:

  • hard working
  • motivated
  • intelligent
  • determined
  • willing to try
  • prideful

 

These terms all relate to athletes and what they do – and they can relate to each of us each time we approach a workout session. What if we shifted the perspective from one of titles (professional football player, collegiate volleyball player, etc.) to one that describes a mindset, belief system and a set of actions?

When we make that change in our minds, we open ourselves up to possibilities and potential we never knew existed. That might sound far-fetched, but I’ve seen it many times in my career when training with clients. If you’ve struggled with “feeling” like an athlete, or if you don’t “feel” athletic in your current fitness routine, take a look at my short list of tips below.

6 TIPS FOR THINKING, AND THEREFORE FEELING, LIKE AN ATHLETE:

  1. Change your mindset. Just as Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” our minds are the most powerful tools we have at our disposal, and successful athletes recognize that. In order to push past old beliefs, lose all preconceived judgments of yourself and what you “think” you should or should not be able to do. Recognize where you are at, right now, and be proud of the fact that you have made the decision to change. Own it and be ready to move forward free from old beliefs or mental limitations.
  2. Set goals that have measurable outcomes. I know this might blow some minds right now, but not all goals have to be weight-loss-based. Have you always wanted to do a pull up? A push up? Bench press your body weight? Squat your neighbor’s weight? Whatever it is, figure out what motivates you, gets you excited, lights a fire under you – then figure out how to break it down to something manageable.
  3. Make a plan. Athletes always work off a plan. Have you ever seen an interview with Serena Williams where she talks about just showing up to the courts a few times a week to hit, hoping to just see what happens? Sounds crazy right? That’s because athletes always know what they are training for, and how to get there.
    To make a plan that works for you, first, find out where your fitness level stands today. This means understanding how and where your body moves best, what your physical limitations might be, what you enjoy doing, what you don’t, and based on all of that, come up with a plan on how you are going to get to your goals.
    A great place to start is with an Ortho-Kinetics® assessment with a trainer at Woodside. It’s completely complimentary and will help educate you on how your body moves, what it’s best at, what might be holding you back and what type of programming is going to give you the most chance of success. Sometimes the reason you can’t quite reach your ideal bench press weight might not be the reason you think.
  4. Try. And try again. Being vulnerable in such a public place (like a health club) can be difficult. True athletes have mastered the ability to quiet outside noises and distractions in order to focus on the task at hand. You can do this too. Remember step one: forget about judgements, be happy for where you are today, and just give it a try!
  5. Celebrate the small victories. Find the positivity in the things that intimidated you before, celebrate the fact that a move you used to find challenging or awkward is now second-nature. Brag about an extra five seconds in a plank. Whatever it is that gets you excited, be proud that you put yourself out there and are trying new things and growing from them.
  6. And finally, keep challenging yourself. Athletes are always pushing boundaries, getting uncomfortable and maximizing their fullest potential. Keeping in touch with a workout group or a personal trainer is an excellent way to stay accountable, and optimize your programming so you are continually improving. Set new goals for yourself, change up your goals (once you’ve lost the weight, change your focus to mastering a new type of fitness, or gaining strength in a specific muscle group, for example). Keep it fresh, keep it exciting and keep it challenging.

 

SO, WHAT IS AN ATHLETE?

Do you want to feel like you accomplished something you never thought you could? Do you want to end your day feeling proud of yourself? Do you want to feel more empowered in your work and life environment? Then we have a new definition for you to start exploring.

Woodside ath·lete : a person who is capable of exploring their own strength, stamina and achieving goals to become more proficient in physical exercise, and in life.

If you are interested in learning more about what it means to work with a Woodside trainer, how an assessment can help get you on the right path, or generally want to chat about fitness or sports, reach out. I’d love to meet you!

 

Shelby Chadd 

Woodside Personal Trainer