02 May 2019 - Improving your Mental Strength, Part 1: What is Mental Strength and Mindset?

What is Mental Strength?

Every one knows that when you get to top level athletics, the difference between winning and losing is a matter of only fractions of a second, one single rep, .5 more kilos lifted. Would you like to know what the top athletes are doing to gain that extra kilo, that additional rep, and that fraction of a second?

It's not the reps they're putting in at the gym. It's the work that's going on between their ears.

The difference between winning and losing is often decided by an athlete’s mental strength. This goes beyond their ability to push themselves harder on competition day; it is how they react to bad training days, their willingness to take risks, the way they take constructive criticism and feedback, and their ability to mentally and emotionally bounce back from failure.

Think the importance of mental strength is limited to the top athletes? Think again! This is just as true for elite CrossFit Games Athletes as it is for you and me. However, our mental strength might not be evidenced in beating our opponent by a fraction of a second, but in the way we keep trying when the barbell defeats us, when we keep laughing even though we're getting frustrated by a progression, or when we drag our asses to the gym when work gets stressful or when our friends are at the pub.

If your Mental Strength is akin to your 1 RM back squat, then (in this little analogy), your Mindset is the accessory work – the lunges, split squats, midline work and pause back squats – you do throughout the week to PB your 1RM back squat. Your mental strength is developed and improved upon (or weakened!) by the quality of your mindset.

What is Mindset?

A mindset is a set of beliefs or a way of thinking that determines one's behaviour, outlook or mental attitude.

An individual’s mindset can often be broken down into two separate categories: Fixed and Growth (if you’ve been training with us a little while, you will know ALL about Fixed and Growth Mindset!)

In a Fixed Mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone, without effort, creates success, and if you are bad at something, there is no changing that fact. Those with a fixed mindset have a desire to look and feel talented; therefore, they will only try if they know they will do well, and they will have a tendency to avoid challenges that may result in failure. These people give up easily or see effort as pointless (unless they feel they can win or succeed). They often feel threatened by the success of others and see feedback as a personal attack.

Conversely, in a Growth Mindset, people believe that their basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Those with a growth mindset have a desire to learn and as such, embrace a challenge and persist with that challenge, despite setbacks. Failures and mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn and grow and they seek out feedback from others in order to improve.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
— Wayne Gretzky

Do you have a Fixed or a Growth Mindset?

Read each of these 4 statements:

1: You have a certain amount of talent and you can't do much to change it
2: You can learn new things, but you can't really change how talented you are
3: No matter how much talent you have, you can always change it quite a bit
4: You can always substantially change how talented you are

Which do you agree with the most? Which do you think applies to you the least? Do your answers change if you focus these statements on your professional life and career? Your training, health and fitness? Your personal relationships?

If you agreed with statements 1 and 2, your mindset is most likely Fixed. If you agreed with statements 3 and 4, your mindset is most likely Growth.

Coming Up Next… How can you Improve your Mindset and Mental Strength?

In our next blog, we will be discussing how you can flip your mindset and improve your mental strength.

But first, some homework!

In all areas of our lives we have certain areas within our control: Our relationships, our career or the job we choose (yes, you have a choice!), what we eat and drink, etc.

We want you to decide… what does success look like in these areas for you?

With profound simplicity, Coach John Wooden redefines success and urges us all to pursue the best in ourselves.

For more information on the Fixed vs. Growth Mindset, read “Mindset” by Carol Dweck or check out this video:


Speaking of Mental Strength and Mindset…

A) Gymnastics & Weightlifting Conditioning

Death by…*

- Rest 5 minutes -

Death by…
Hang power snatch @ 0.5x bodyweight

* With a continuously running clock perform:
- 1 rep in the first minute…
- 2 reps in the second minute…
- 3 reps in the third minute…
- Continue until you can cannot complete the reps in the minute