All in your head?


I had a startling reminder yesterday of how much my mind can contribute to, or hinder my performance. At my Olympic Lifting class we were practicing overhead squats and trying to test our one rep maxes. I’ve never tried to go heavy on an overhead squat so I didn’t have a number in my head that I was aiming for or trying to beat. What I did know was that my hips felt tight.

imagesIML42RLLOverhead squats are challenging – first you’ve got to press the weight over your head from your shoulders, then you’ve got to squat, without falling over. As soon as I stepped up to the platform I could hear my inner voice saying “ooh these are going to be hard today, my hips feel tight, I won’t be able to get very deep into the squat”

And what do you think happened? Exactly that. I got the bar overhead with no problem but then ‘couldn’t get into a decent squat position at all. “You really need to be getting lower than that Becca” said Sally the coach. “I know, but my hips are tight today” was my response.

I took myself off into a corner and decided that on my next turn I’d do better, slow the move down and concentrate on getting lower. And low and behold that’s what happened. Suddenly out of no-where I was squatting to parallel with 30kg over my head. All because I’d decided that I could, rather than I couldn’t. Nothing had changed physically at all. The change was entirely in my head.

untitledThen at the end of the session we had box jumps as part of a circuit. I stood in front of the box and pretty much froze. I literally could not get my feet to leave the floor. I’m not sure if I was scared of injuring myself or whether I just couldn’t work out what to do. All I know is that my feet were not budging off the floor and I felt pretty stupid.

I took myself off to the other side of the gym where there was a baby box and tried some jumps onto that.Those I found relatively easy and it built my confidence. So I returned to stand in front of the medium box this time deciding that I was going to do it. And again, sure enough I did. 5 reps with no pausing, and then another 5 in the next circuit.

As with the overhead squats the only thing that had changed was the way that I was thinking about the move. Clearly I had the physical ability to do both moves the first time but my mind was holding me back. I left the session feeling proud that I’d overcome my mental block but also feeling quite reflective.

What else does my mind hold me back from?

What, if I had my head in the right place am I actually capable of achieving?

Food for thought!


6 thoughts

  1. Thanks for this one – very timely for me this week and I’m going to remember this all the way round!

    ps – I don’t think I could have brought myself to do those box jumps no matter how much of a talking to I gave myself. Terrifying so big kudos from me for those!!

  2. Such a good point! It’s really important to remember how closely the mind and body are connected when it comes to health and fitness – but so easy to forget. This is a good reminder to me to exercise some mental muscles this week 😉

    Laura xx

  3. Ahhh box jumps! I always end up with my shin smashing into the box because at the last minute my mind holds me back – I think they are the perfect analogy for psyching yourself out of something!

    1. That’s what I was afraid of Dash – thankfully it didn’t happen but that’s what I imagined every time I stood in front of the box. My gym has some less rigid ones so I think I’m going to have a practice there and build some confidence.

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