Get Confident In The Gym: 3 Ways to Improve!

Written By Charleh Dickinson  |  CrossFit 

You're in the gym, and coach is walking the class through the workout, but inside, your stomach is making all kinds of summersaults. You're still scared to speak up, but you really don't want to do the workout. The movements are scary! Yeah, we've all been there; that's why in today's article, I'll be breaking down 3 ways to improve your confidence in the gym, and help you to be the best version of yourself.

It's all about mental strength, and today's article features special guest, Dawn Fletcher of Driven Mind Training. She has been coaching CrossFitters and functional fitness athletes at Games level for a very long time.

She doesn't like me bragging about her, but I will brag about her. She's actually one of the reasons why WODprep exists.

>>>>You can download her awesome ebook here<<<

The free download includes 20 ways to keep pushing when the going gets tough. This will give you ideas for how to keep pushing in a workout, especially when sh*t hits the fan.

Being able to really push through workouts is one thing, but being able to attack workouts that are scary is another. If you find yourself cherry picking classes or your CrossFit programming, then this is the article for you. Continue to find out how you can push through the mental barriers that's stopping you from achieving your goals.


Self Talk - Are you a negative nancy?

When I'm working out a lot of times, especially when I had an untrained mind, I would tend to focus on the negatives. When I would fail a lift in a workout that wasn't in my wheelhouse, I would focus on the negatives. The monkey brain inside me would say; "That was crap. I'm just crap". 

But, how does negative self talk affect your confidence?

A lot of athletes in the gym get caught up saying things like; "I can't do this", or "I really suck at that". It's just not helping you perform your best. 

Self talk is about improving what you're saying to yourself, especially when you're facing challenge, and you're uncomfortable.

How can you talk to yourself in a way that's going to help you keep pushing towards those goals that you have?

If I'm approaching your workout, for example, it's the CrossFit open - all of a sudden, BOOM, ring muscle ups are programmed.

"Oh my gosh, I can't do ring muscle ups."

It's so easy to become all pouty, frustrated and angry at whoever programmed the workouts this year. But if I said I can't do something - how can I reframe it?

The Open is a great example of how sneaky movements will pop up, and they won't always be movements that are easy to do. That's what the Open is about. Really testing your limits.

So if negative self talk is a regular occurrence, and you repeatedly tell yourself, you can't do something? Guess what? You won't be able to do it. 

But there is still something in that workout that you can optimise, and you can do to give yourself the best score possible.

  1. So you want to start thinking about for that workout?
  2. What can I do in this workout to set myself up for success?
  3. How can I attack trying these ring muscle ups in a way that's going to get me practice so that I can improve for next time?

What I'm doing when I'm asking myself these question is, taking the [I can't do blank] and focusing on the fact that you maybe can't do them. 

Maybe transitioning that to I can't do them yet. But perhaps I'll allow it to happen. So I'm taking a can't, and I'm turning it into somewhat of a positive, and maybe I can at some point. I will learn how to do [blank] movement. If I continue to practice and when the Open comes around again, I will be able to do it; it just happens to not be right now.

What are some other things that we can do in terms of self talk?

So let's say there's a heavy snatch, and I tried to hit it, and I failed. Once again, I'm all frustrated and real mad! What can I do to improve my sour, sad mood?

If you're struggling to reframe the situation, you can focus back to the task at hand. Give yourself those movement cues for how you will hit that snatch. Think about the bar path. Think about punching or getting under the bar. Remind yourself of those queues as you're getting ready to lift that bar. 

Typically, you will see weightlifting drop the weight to reframe and focus on the movement patterns before scaling up and hitting heavier weights. 

Finally, negative self talk can be seen in the form of pressure.

I know there are a lot of athletes, especially myself; back in the day when I was competitive, I would always say:

"I have to do mobility." "I have to eat healthily."

There was all this like pressure on things that I should do, or had to do or have to do

How can we reframe this kind of negative self talk?

This one is more subtle, but if you look at it on paper - "should do", "had to do", and "have to do" - you don't have to do anything. Really, as an athlete, you have chosen this.

So, when you're thinking about all the different elements of training, such as mobility and eating healthy food, it's a case of reframing the situation to say "I get to do these things".

I get to train today with an attitude of appreciation and gratitude. I can train and take care of my body/mind. This is important to me.

By changing how to think about training, it automatically connects to your values. It resonates with WHY you train in the first place.

By focusing on these three areas to improve your negative self talk, you instantly feel more confident in the gym.

Body language - stand up tall!

So, the classic example: I failed the snatch.

All angry, I'm stomping my feet, mad and hunched over. You can see my body language. I'm pissed or sad, or pouty? What do we do there?

This is pretty typical scene in CrossFit, especially in training, and it's ok to be pissed. Let it out of your system, but then you better be really quick at changing your body language as you're getting ready to approach the bar again, shoulders back, eyes up, chest up. 

Make sure that when you're approaching that bar, you're nodding, and you're saying to yourself something like, "I got this", "I can do this".

 Remind yourself that you can snatch the bar in front of you. Let your body language match what you're trying to feel.

If you reframe, the weight's the same, your ability level is the same, but all you think about is alright, "I can do this".

You can step up your confidence with a proud chest and a smile on your face. I mean, you see people stomp their feet on the ground in powerlifting, slap your chest, like be the gorilla you want to be, that might actually make all the difference, as crazy as it seems. It's whatever works for you - as long as you're not slouching! 

By paying careful attention to your body language, you'll realise how much it affects your mental performance and, therefore, confidence. Switch that to more positive body language, and it's going to increase your performance and increase your confidence. 


Practice, practice, and practice your weaknesses some more!

What does it mean to practice your weaknesses? And why is that going to help us increase confidence?

As mentioned previously, you can't feel better about something unless you practice it and you begin to improve. So all of those skills or movements, time domains that you're avoiding, they're just going to keep growing as far as fears, and they're going to keep limiting your confidence.

It's really important for you to start to get after that stuff that limits you in the gym and begin to get on a plan for practising anything that holds you back. You must expose yourself to your weaknesses to feel more confident.

That's the only way for you to get better. That's why CrossFit is SO tough after all! Be kind to yourself; CrossFit is a hard sport.

There's something to be said for momentum. If you're not good at that movement yet, taking a step in the right direction, or at least feeling like you're taking steps in the right direction, is a tremendous boost for confidence.

Let's compare that to someone who lets something that they're afraid of keep them in fear; they do nothing to take action on it. 

What do you think's going to happen to the confidence it's not going to improve?

So what would be a piece of advice that you give to an athlete if they're like; 

"I am absolutely terrified of box jumps; I can't jump, I won't jump. I don't want to jump. I'm terrified of it. It's scary, and I don't want to do it."

In CrossFit, it's normal to have fear. What's important is making sure you're taking those little steps and getting help bringing in coaches and training partners so that you're on proper progressions. You want to make sure that you are gaining confidence as you move along those progressions. Start small, keep taking small steps, and you will always progress!

So whether it's learning the specific progression to help you overcome Box Jump fear, or admitting you're afraid and telling someone about it. 

Then by taking several more steps that help you build that momentum to conquer that weakness eventually, or at least improve upon that weakness. 


Putting it all together 

So to review, there are three things that we can do to improve your confidence in the gym.

  1. Improve yourself talk
  2. Improve your body language
  3. Make sure you're working on weaknesses.

I know for me personally, out of the three things, I would say my self talk is probably the thing that I really need to work on because often times in the middle of a call, "not so Ben" workout. I'll tend to go in with a negative attitude, and then the speech that I'm giving myself in the middle of work, "I was like This sucks. I need to improve on that." 

That's something I will be forever working on - but I'm also only human, like you! 

Leave a comment below on what is the one thing in today's list that you need to improve on. Let us know!

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