Believe It

PhotobucketThe good old L-sit. Here are some standouts of the day, nice job folks! All of the recent lengthier posts have been a little abstract and probably not that popular in the fitness and training world. Words like patience, imagery, attention, focus, motivation, attachment and perspective. Does not sound like a training facilities website topics? Similar to these topics and probably the most recognizable sport and exercise psychology concept, is confidence. Sport psychologists define self-confidence as “the belief that you can successfully perform a desired behavior” (Weinberg and Gould, 2007). What is cool about discussing confidence now is that all of the other “abstract” topics previously examined help to create confidence.

Yesterday we tested the clean. Watching a lot of the lifts throughout the morning, there was one dividing or determining factor in whether someone made the lift or not, and that was confidence. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being worried about a max clean, it can be a pretty scary thing. It is just interesting to see that the main thing holding most people back from reaching their potential is themselves. Not the weight, not the technique and not the strength, but rather what is happening between the ears. What is good about this is that there is no further training (in the physical sense) that needs to be done. There just has to be a stronger belief. It is that genuine belief that when you step up to the bar, there is no doubt you will complete that lift. The hope here is to give some ideas on how to create that confidence.

It is important to note that you can have genuine belief and true confidence but fail. Having confidence does not mean you always succeed. Take a quote from future Hall of Famer from the New York Yankees Derek Jeter, “I never lose my confidence. It doesn’t mean I am going to get hits, but I have my confidence all the time.” This is crucial to understand, it is not always about the result. Failing the lift is fine, but you have to maintain the confidence and belief that you can succeed. If this belief is sustained, the result will take care of itself.

If you do not have the belief that you can accomplish the lift, what you are doing is creating a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. This has all to do with expectations. If you expect you will not be able to make your clean PR, your wish will most likely be granted. And then starts a vicious cycle, as your negative expectations are enforced by the actual failure. These negative expectations and lack of confidence start to create anxiety, decreased concentration and even undesired muscle tension (which can be seen in people trying to move the bar too much with their arms). Fortunately there are many ways to build confidence. Thinking and acting confidently, using imagery, adequate preparation, social support and setting, focus and attention, attachment and motivation can all help to shape someone’s confidence.

I read pretty recently (will probably butcher the story but hopefully you’ll get the point) about a guy (Hank) who was always pissed off and angry, which led to health problems at a very early age. A doctor suggested he change his behavior from being so angry to more patient and compassionate. The guy told the doctor that’s not possible, “I am just an angry person.” So the doctor challenged him for the first week for one half hour a day to play an actor, his favorite actor Bob Biffnard, who in this part was playing a very nice, compassionate and patient guy. So Hank did it, he acted patient and kind for one half hour every day for a week, and the other 23-½ hours he was a real A-hole. The next week the doctor moved it up to one hour/day, the next week 2hour/day, the next 3 hours and so on. Before he knew it, he started acting like Bob Biffnard with out even realizing it. People started seeing Hank as patient and kind, which of course reinforces the behavior. If you can think it, feel it and act it, you will eventually start to believe it, and that is transformation by conditioning. A lot of people think they are some pre-determined mold of a person with a fixed personality, but the truth is we are all creatures of habit constantly in flux who are all products of our own conditioning. The cool thing about it is, you can change yourself by this same conditioning. You say you aren’t confident? Well try acting confident, play a game with it, pretend to be. It may feel unnatural or forced at first, but sooner or later, if you genuinely play the part, this acting will slowly start to condition your confidence. That means in the gym, when you are challenged with a one-rep max clean, think only positive things, keep your chin up, shoulders back and back straight. Believe in yourself, no matter the result. Who cares if you fail the lift or not, to me it is a way bigger victory to have genuine belief in yourself for something like a one rep max clean than actually getting the PR. Big picture, a 5-pound increase on your clean or believing in yourself, what one are you going to take? And the good thing is if you’ve done everything you can to prepare and you believe in yourself, the result will take care of itself, there’s nothing to worry about. Start playing the part, believe it works.

Imagery, seeing yourself complete the lift successfully helps to build confidence (see previous post on imagery 12/30/11).

Adequate preparation is essential. This involves having a plan (good night sleep, adequate warm up, give yourself enough time to avoid being rushed), a routine (consistent set up and technique on all lifts, sufficient rest between attempts), a strategy (how and when you will attempt PR) and an approach (efficient build up sets). You want to prepare to the best of your ability to put yourself in most ideal position to succeed.

Social support and setting can be huge. I know I do not speak for myself when I say I would not have been able to clean what I did yesterday if it weren’t for the social environment (especially if I don’t believe it). The environment or context helps. We would all love to be able to train at the Spa with the same energy and intensity as we get at Crossfit, but the truth is it doesn’t happen. Go run three 800’s at the track by yourself, and then come in and do it in a class - you know what I mean. Also, other people believing in you, this sort of inter-confidence works in a similar way. For example I saw a good amount of failed lifts yesterday that I know for a fact that lifter could have completed. When these people failed the lift, it did not change my belief in them. And that should be the goal, whether you fail or succeed, belief must be sustained. This will foster confidence.

We talked last week about focus and attention. Very hard to do but if possible, this could be all you need in avoiding the negative self-fulfilling prophecy and producing confidence. Focusing on one positive word or maybe even your breath, won’t allow the negative thoughts to creep up and therefore affect your performance undesirably (post 1/4/12). In this same realm but what also has other parts that add to its legitimacy is getting fired up, pissed off, aggressive or whatever you want to call it before a lift. This may even be the most effective approach. Not only does it focus your attention on one thing (avoiding the negative self-fulfilling prophecy), you can actually stimulate more motor units in a super psychologically stimulated state (the story of the 100 pound boy lifting the 300 pound tire off his little brother).

Attachment and motivation can be thought of together. We talked before about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (post 12/21/11), both are good, but intrinsic should be the foundation. If you are dependent on the outcome (attachment), meaning you define your success or failure on whether or not you make the lift, for most of us, our confidence will be shaken when we fail. Again, I am not saying completing the lift successfully is not legit motivation, it’s only when that is your only motivation that it becomes a problem. There has to be a level of acceptance with failing a lift, as that is part of training, and not a total dependence or attachment to the lift outcome. It would be too easy to get down on yourself (shaking confidence) when you have an off training day with failed attempts.

Before 1954, most people claimed no one would ever run a sub four-minute mile. A lot of the top times posted were all right above that four-minute mark, 4:04, 4:01, 4:02. Most runners agreed it was physiologically impossible. Robert Bannister was not one of those runners, he believed it could be done, and he did. And after that within a year a dozen or so runners conquered this four-minute barrier. Was it that everyone got faster or was training harder? No, they saw that it was possible, which instilled the same belief Robert Bannister had, pushing them to this amazing achievement.

Everyone is different and there are many different ways to build ones confidence. If you have prepared to the best of your ability, the only thing left to do is believe in yourself, there is absolutely nothing to worry about, the result will take care of itself. Believe it.


Complete work at each station.

Rest as needed between stations

Station 1

2 min. total L-Sits/30 double unders

Perform L-sits for a total time of 2 min. 

Every time you need break from the l-sit, complete 30 dbl unders

Record total # double unders

Station 2

3 rounds:  50m Max prowler push/2 rope climbs

Increase weight each round, then complete 2 challenging ropes climbs

Record total final prowler weight

Station 3

3 rounds:

200m running jump rope

10 burpees

Record total time

Programming: Helene

Specialty Kettlebell Class with our very own Dominic Griego!  Take advantage of this amazing opportunity.  January 28th, 12-2p.m.  Part of the unlimited membership and regular drop in price.