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How to Train Your Mind Around Your Workouts to Achieve Your Full Athletic Potential

Where in years past athletes might have only focused on their training to rise to the top, it is now clear that the mind is a powerful tool and can lead you to great success or, conversely, be your biggest hinderance.

Athletes of all levels have to know how to navigate self-talk and the stories each mind creates revolving around training sessions and perceived success.

Ben Bergeron, a celebrated CrossFit coach, is known for his unique approach towards mindset in training and coaches athletes such as Katrin Davidsdottir, Cole Sager and Amanda Barnhart.

During the episode “Mindset Strategies for your Next Workout” of his Chasing Excellence podcast, Bergeron outlines the power of mindset and discusses mindset strategies to use before, during and after your workout to help you succeed in the sport.


How to train your mind before a workout?

Sometimes, the prospect of facing a workout on the whiteboard can seem daunting, especially if it is full of exercises you don’t excel at.

Once you acknowledge that you experience negative feelings before the workout, it becomes a lot easier to try to deal with them. Our minds can play tricks on us and while in most cases this is a positive thing, in sport your self-preservation instincts and other feelings can set you back.

Many athletes seasoned in the sport have experienced how the mind can limit the body in its efforts to protect you – telling you for example that a box is too high for you to jump – and how training can teach the mind that your body is capable of much more than it initially thought.

Our bodies are capable of being extremely uncomfortable for a long time, and fostering the right habits, principles and protocols before each training session can lead to creating routines, which make diverse situations easier.

Mindset strategies for before your workout:

  1. Start by asking yourself why you feel negatively to start with? Most of the time this is related to pressure. Realise that pressure is a fabricated feeling coming from past experiences and concern for future consequences.
  2. Pull yourself away from the obsession with results. Stop focusing on results – in workouts this includes times, trying to beat others or trying to beat yourself – as you can improve more if you stop worrying and consider your training holistically instead. You’ve done the hardest part already by showing up.
  3. Long-term success comes from consistently showing up; consistency yields very good results. When it comes to your workout, don’t worry about maximal intensity and results, but focus on what feels right.
  4. Reward your character. Tell yourself a story of positivity instead of focusing solely on your results. This might look like something along these lines: “I am the type of person that shows up, I am the kind of person that works hard but doesn’t self-destruct, I am the type of person who is in-tune with his/her body.” An athlete with a strong character can stick to almost anything no matter how hard it gets.
  5. Realise that every workout is a stepping stone. Every training session will bring you closer to your goal, so your result doesn’t necessarily matter; there’s no need to put that pressure into your training sessions.

How to take pressure away from workouts?

No one is inherently born with a set of abilities and weaknesses.

Your self-worth is not tied to the results of your workouts. If you think it is, you will shy away from your weaker areas and experiences.

This comes out of fear of exposing inabilities and not wanting to be beat, and happens at all levels of sport.

If you want to unlock your full athletic potential, you’ll expose yourself to the areas you need to work and develop way more than those you are phenomenal at. There’s a huge necessity for humility in sport, and being okay with not being the best today, so you can be better tomorrow.

mindset strategies for sport


The voice inside your head can be the missing piece of the puzzle or it can be your biggest hinderance.

If you were to put your mid-workout inner voice on a loudspeaker, would you be proud of it? Pay close attention to your self-talk, be aware of it and, from there, realise that you have control over these thoughts.

It is widely accepted that you won’t perform to your full potential with a negative mindset. Therefore, silence the critic inside your head and populate that area with something else.

When negative thoughts spiral out of control, try to flip them; ultimately your performance, edge and motivation will thrive or crash depending on the story you tell yourself.

Problems start when things become bigger than they actually are and you become overwhelmed. Strategize mentally to separate things – be it reps, rounds or your overall training session – into smaller, manageable portions.

Top mid-workout mental strategies:

  • Think about the round you’re about to start, instead of the round you’re finishing.
  • Highlight the positive; anything that starts with ‘don’t’ or ‘not’ won’t be efficient (such as don’t ‘drop the barbell’, instead think ‘hold on to the barbell’).
  • Focus on something that will be productive. That way, you’re not focusing on how hard something is but on your effort, technique and efficiency.
  • Be grateful that you get to work out, instead of thinking you have to do it.

Practise these mental strategies every training day so you can recur to them on game day. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable and build your character through repetition.


What your mind tells you right after a workout will set you up for the next session. This happens regardless of whether the self-talk is positive or negative. The note you finish your workout in will be the one you remember when things get hard next time (think peak-end rule).

Lay the foundations for your next training session by rewarding your actions at the end of your workout or training session. Give yourself credit for the workout you’ve just done, be proud of your efforts and enjoy your feelings.

If you keep showing up and doing what you just did, you’ll get everything you want out of your fitness journey.

Be proud of the effort you put in, even if you think you could have done better.

characteristics of a great coachSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

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