AM I STRONG ENOUGH?
If you allow me, I can and will answer this question for you: YES.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, most of us ask ourselves this question and struggle to find a positive answer. Our doubts often come from the uncertainty of whether or not we possess a certain skill or strength. Simply put, we’re just not fully convinced that we are good enough.
Believe it or not, whether we are facing life difficulties or are simply at the gym lifting weights, trusting our strengths and believing in ourselves can help us tremendously. Believing in ourselves can help us to lift heavier, run faster, overcome obstacles and achieve our goals. More often than you might think, in order to improve our physical performance, we don’t need to become stronger, but rather we need to acknowledge the strengths we already possess. In our daily lives, we don’t necessarily need to become a better person, but we need to believe that the person we already are is good enough to achieve our goals and live our dreams.
Now, you are probably asking yourself, “how do I really know if I am strong enough?” When most people ask themselves this question, they don’t usually ask it with the intent of finding an honest answer, but rather in an effort to prove to themselves that they are right about what they already believe about themselves. In other words, if you believe that you are weak, you’re going to look for – and, therefore, find – anything that will make you feel weak. If you believe the opposite, you’ll look and find anything that will make you feel strong. Simply because you just want to be right about everything and anything.
Regardless of what you truly believe about yourself, the following are three simple steps you can follow to immediately increase your performance inside and outside of the gym.
First Step: Stop Judging Yourself
In order to feel strong, you must stop describing yourself as weak, lazy, clumsy, stupid or out of shape, just to name a few of the most common things people say and feel about themselves. In my opinion, you can always fix being tired, dehydrated, or distracted, but you can’t always fix lazy, weak or stupid. If you’re having difficulties lifting a weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are weak and out of shape. It just means that you have simply reached your limits. Often, we call ourselves weak and out of shape because we have failed to meet our own expectations and are, basically, just running out of breath sooner than we may want. Calling yourself names won’t help you catch your breath, bring your heart rate down, recover faster, or help you to push your limits. It will, instead, put you behind the starting lane.
If you find yourself running out of breath and don’t like how you feel, adjust your pace. If you can’t lift a certain weight, it isn’t because you’re weak. It is because the weight you’re about to lift FEELS – and, probably is – heavier than you expected it to be.
For example, let’s take your physical shape vs. an Olympic athlete’s shape. Presuming that an athlete trains more than you do, the only difference between you and that Olympian is that it will take longer for him to run out of breath than it will take you. That athlete’s limits are just higher than yours. It doesn’t mean that you are out of shape and he’s not. Unless you are a competing athlete, there’s no purpose in comparing yourself to others. And, you will never consciously compare yourself to someone weaker or heavier or in worse shape than you are. Most people compare themselves to people who are leaner, faster, stronger and better than they are for the subconscious purpose of feeling bad about themselves. This is not motivational, and definitely not productive.
Let’s take another example, weightlifting. Just because you can’t lift the same amount of weight as someone else doesn’t mean that you are weaker. It just means that it takes you less time to reach a point where your body needs a break than someone else’s body might. That’s it. You are judging and labeling yourself as “weak” or “out of shape” because you believe that these statements are a subtle motivation for you to work harder in order to get stronger, faster, and better. However, if you want to FEEL better about your performance and yourself, you must do the exact opposite. Stop making things harder for yourself because you think that’s what you are going to need to do in competition, or in your life outside the gym.
Second Step: Accept How You FEEL
Everyone’s body is different and reacts differently to effort and movement. In order to learn from your present performance and grow, you must observe from an objective standpoint how your body feels and performs.
If you don’t like how your body feels when you are lifting a certain weight, make the weight lighter or heavier. Change what you do or change how you feel about what you do if you’re not happy with your performance.
If you don’t like how you feel when you are running, slow down or go faster. Again, your opinion about how your body reacts to effort and movement won’t help you conserve energy or perform any better. It actually has the opposite effect. Once you get emotionally wrapped around how you feel during training, your brain can’t fully receive the feedback from your body and appropriately address it. Your opinion about what’s happening to your body during training and, consequently, the emotional reaction that follows will require oxygen and energy. These are valuable resources your body needs in order to perform at its highest potential.
Acknowledging and accepting how your body reacts to certain movement doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop working hard, or stop growing, or stop improving your performance. It will simply allow you to learn more from your body’s feedback during training.
Often when I work with people who are successfully performing an exercise, they find something wrong with the exercise, itself, for not being challenging enough. On the other hand, if they’re struggling with an exercise, they’ll often blame themselves for being weak and out of shape. It’s a lose-lose situation. If you want to reach the next level of your performance, this vicious cycle needs to stop.
Third Step: Accept Your BEST
In order to have a stellar performance, you must believe that giving 100% of your effort is good enough to achieve your goals. You must believe that choosing to run at a certain pace or choosing to lift a certain weight is your best choice at that particular time under that specific circumstance. These “circumstances” are the environment surrounding you before, during, and after your performance. These circumstances are the emotional and physical events you deal with on a daily basis. They’re called, “Life”.
For example, a fully-hydrated YOU, with 5 meals and 8 hours of sleep, will feel different and make different choices from a slightly-dehydrated YOU, with only 2 meals and 5 hours of sleep. So, before you attempt to lift a certain weight or run a certain speed, or before expecting a certain performance from yourself, you must first acknowledge which YOU is showing up at your training session.
Do you notice that I call them “choices,” not exercises or pounds or intensity or speed? The intensity of your exercise is simply your choice. You don’t just lift weights. You choose the weight you are going to lift. You don’t just run. Again, you choose the pace you’re going to run. You don’t just train. You chose what type of training you are going to have.
45 pounds of weight will feel a lot lighter to you as you attempt to lift it after 5 meals and 8 hours of sleep compared to when you only have 2 meals and 5 hours of sleep. Naturally, you’ll feel stronger with more rest and more fuel. You’ll need to dig far deeper if the YOU with only 2 meals and 5 hours of sleep wants to equal the performance of the YOU with 5 meals and 8 hours of sleep.
The same principle holds true with the speed you want to run, the weight you want to lift, the attention spam you want to have available during training, or with any other resource that would help give you an outstanding performance. As you begin a training session, ask yourself which YOU is showing up so that you’ll know what to expect. Only then will you be able to decide what choices to make and what kind of performance you are going to have that day. With this approach, you’ll have more realistic expectations that you are more likely to meet, and, consequently, have what you consider to be a better performance. You’ll also learn more about yourself and your real strengths.
I hope you believe me when I say that your performance each and every day is your best. What you do in training is your best performance according to who you are with the resources available to you at that specific time. If you could have performed better, you would have. You must always trust that you have made the best decisions at the time you made them. If you could have lifted a heavier weight, you would have lifted it. If you could have run faster, you would have done it. You can’t expect to feel or perform the same when you are sick, dehydrated, injured or tired as when you are healthy, rested, hydrated and mentally available. Remember, if you expect the same stellar performance at every training session, you either need to adjust your expectations or work harder when the circumstances are not in your favor.
In order to increase your performance, start focusing on what you need to do to feel great and perform at your best. Trust that you’ll only make the best decisions for yourself. Trust that you will always have your best interest at heart. By doing that, you’ll take the doubt out of your thinking process and eliminate the emotional component that drains your energy and clouds your decision-making abilities during training.
Without learning to accept that your best is more than enough to reach your goals, you’ll always feel the need to do “more.” That’s a very slippery slope because you will always put yourself behind the starting line. Your body and your confidence will suffer.
Confidence is the thermostat of the resources that are stored within you. Confidence comes from trusting your own decisions, your ability to perform, and from believing that you have everything you need to achieve your goals. You can only develop that kind of trust if you believe that your decisions are the right ones every time – before, during and after your workout performance.
We all want to perform better. However, have you ever thought that the first thing you need to do to accomplish that is to believe that who you are, and what you do is good enough? Have you ever thought that one of the first things you need to do to increase your performance is to start believing that you already perform at your BEST?
Who you are right at this moment is the best version of yourself, given your personal past and present circumstances. Once you stop living in the past and comparing yourself to who you could’ve been or what you could’ve done, you’ll be able to fully take advantage of your resources, strengths, and skills. The quality of your performance is just a consequence of believing that who you are – and what you do – is better than enough.
This is the first step towards a stellar performance and amazing results. This is the best gift you can give to yourself.
Leo Frincu is a world wrestling champion, author, speaker and performance coach for business leaders and athletes worldwide. To learn more about his training philosophy, check out his latest book, “WELCOME HOME, 3 Simple Steps On How To Reach Your Highest Potential,” available on Amazon and iBooks.