5 Fitness Fallacies: Shift Your Mindset in Strength Training

Martin shares the mindset mistakes – the fallacies of thought, negative self-talk, and worries – he hears that often become obstacles to a great workout. He offers a shift in mindset in strength training for better physical and mental outcomes.

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Why Does Mindset Matter in Strength Training?

Mindset Mistakes are what we call the fallacies of thought, mis-perceptions, negative self-talk, and worries that we often see and hear. Martin notices how holding onto a mindset mistake often interferes with the process of improving health by becoming an obstacle to the best, most efficient workout and, ultimately, limiting results.

Martin lifting a kettle bell

5 Mindset Mistakes in Strength Training and New Mindset Shifts

These are the top 5 Mindset Mistakes that Martin sees and hears most often. With each Mindset Mistake, he offers a New Mindset Shift – a way of looking at the same situation, but with a new perspective; one that offers potential for progress and growth.

Mindset Mistake #1: “I should complete the whole program.

It is a fair assumption to make: “The trainer, or program, says to complete 8 repetitions per set, and complete 3 sets of this exercise. So, that’s what I SHOULD be able to do.” Or maybe, “I was able to complete this program last week, so I SHOULD be able to complete it today.”

First, let’s just be up-front that the word, “should,” is a nasty word in our house and we try not to use it, especially when discussing plans, goals, etc. We consider the “s – word” inconsiderate, irrelevant, and un-useful. Life changes. Things happen. What was, is not now. Our expectations, for others and, especially, for ourselves, are often unrealistic.

We suggest replacing, “should,” with the word, “COULD,” whenever possible. Try it. It will totally change the way you feel about your plan for the day.

New Mindset #2: “I could complete the program.

Understand that the program, even if your trainer is designing it specifically for you today, is a starting place. When you shift your thinking to, “I could complete the program today,” that leave room for other thoughts like, “I could stop short if that’s what my body is telling me; I could add weight but drop reps; I could totally blow this program away and still have fuel in the tank for an extra set…” It helps you remain aware, mindful, and leaves you open to responding to the energy of the day.

Read more about Mindfulness in Strength Training here.

Try replacing the word, “should,” with the word, “could,” and see what shifts in your mind.

Mindset Mistake #2: “I should perform to perfection.

We get it! Gyms can be intimidating places. Even though many gyms try super hard to create a welcoming and inclusive environment, it can be a challenging place to really express your confidence. Especially for women, new members, people coming back after a long break, and those of us who feel very out of shape. Even if there are no outside forces putting the pressure on you, there may still be a mindset of, “I should perform this program to perfection – I don’t want to look weak, incapable, or like I don’t belong here.”

*Notice: there is that nasty “s – word” again. yuk.*

To this end some of us feel we need to only do the number of reps, or use the weight, where we can maintain excellent form and technique. Here’s a little treat for you today: You have permission to be imperfect.

New Mindset #2: “Progress. Not perfection.

We are NOT dismissing the importance of solid technique – good form will keep you safe and keep your workout sustainable for the long-haul!

But,… you are allowed to sometimes be messy, especially at the end of a set or the end of your workout. You are allowed to struggle with a new exercise. You are allowed to look like you don’t know what you are doing until you do know what you are doing. You are allowed to laugh at yourself. Who cares?! We are all here to better ourselves. And, honestly, most people in the gym are so focused on themselves, no one noticed you shake like grandma’s jello mould at the church pot-luck on that last press. Embrace the messiness. Aim for Progress. Not perfection.

Mindset Mistake #3: “I should stop at discomfort.

We are definitely NOT fans of the mantra, “No Pain, No Gain.” But there is a huge chasm between reaching discomfort and reaching injurious levels of work. Think of it like a long scale with easy and comfortable levels of work on one side and painful, injurious levels of work on the other. This scale is not fixed, it moves daily and is different for each of us. And we must each learn how to read it. But we don’t have to learn alone.

When we are just starting out on a fitness journey, and for some of us, long into the process, there is some lag time between doing the work with our bodies and being aware of the work in our bodies. During this gap of awareness, and even beyond, it is useful to have the experienced outside eye of a trainer to help us navigate our way through the discomfort, so that progress comes without pain and injury.

New Mindset #3: “I trust myself. I trust my body. I trust my trainer.

Interception is one’s ability to feel and be aware of sensations happening in the body. For example, we notice when we are hungry, thirsty, have a full bladder, are getting a cold, etc. Interception changes and develops over time: young children are developing interception when they potty-learn, (the older term is, “potty-train.”) Some people are blessed with excellent interception and others have to work for it. (More on this in our article, “Interoception and Fitness.”)

One of the gifts of regular exercise is heightened interoceptive abilities. We become more adept at knowing, for example, the difference between muscles that are just beginning to fatigue but have a few more reps left and muscles that are completely fatigued and need rest. We also learn things like, “My right hamstring attachment reaches an injury before my left.” And our trainer learns more and more about us the more we work together. All of these knowledges combined are super useful in progressing toward our goals. And they are never discovered when we always stop at the first signs of discomfort.

Mindset Mistake #4: “I shouldn’t take breaks.”

Faster is better, right? “Just gotta get through this exercise so I can get on to the next one. Gotta get through this workout so I can get back to my day.” Maybe your competitive streak kicks in and you make a game of it, “I bet I can do my 10 presses faster than she can!” Maybe you’ve even thought, “If I do this routine as fast as possible, I am getting more cardio work. Bonus!” Not exactly….Speed does not always equal quality.

New Mindset #4: “Pause. Reflect. Respond.

Rather than training as fast as you can, consider training as smart as you can. We like the mantra, “Pause. Reflect. Respond.”

Pause: Consider adding weight until you feel that the last rep or two is so difficult that you really need a pause to catch your breath between sets. Check out, “Strength: Defined,” for more on the concept of “training to failure,” and “Train Smart with Dumbbells,” for more about choosing the correct weight and workout.

Reflect: Consider giving your body and mind time between sets to reorganize so that you can maintain good(ish!) form.

Respond: After a short break, go back into the next set with the intention of maintaining quality.

Mindset Mistake #5: “I don’t want to fail!

If this is your mindset, progress and growth are difficult. Progress and growth happen at the edge. And to find the edge, we sometimes need to move past it. We don’t want to leave every session feeling defeated, depleted, and discouraged! Just the opposite. But we do need to hit points now and then, maybe once per week, or once every other week, where we physically can not perform the task.

New Mindset #5: “Failure is my biggest accomplishment!

Reaching failure at your last rep means you have found your edge. And THIS is the place growth happens. The edge is where your muscles start growing. It is the place where your mental game peaks. It is the place to get curious and wonder, “Will I be stronger tomorrow than I was today?” Yes! You will.

If you haven’t downloaded our free Healthful Habits Bundle, follow the link below to go get it. It includes several printable habit trackers, which are essential to seeing and appreciating the progress you make as you continue to push your edge further and further. Whether you are working toward better eating habits, more consistent exercises habits, or specific PRs, there is a tracker in this bundle to help you see and manage your progress and growth.

Also, read, “How to Know Which Habits are Worth Tracking,” to help get your started.

Get our free Healthful Habits Bundle with habit trackers, inspo and how-to guides here.

Chime in

What are your thoughts on Mindset in Strength Training? Do any of these Mindset Mistakes resonate with you? Have you caught yourself using some of this negative self-talk? If so, try shifting your mindset in your next session and see how it goes. What other Mindset Mistakes do you identify in yourself? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at TrainMovePlayPT@gmail.com with your thoughts or comments.

If you are interested in having a routine or program mindfully designed specifically for you and your needs, contact us at TrainMovePlayPT@gmail.com and let’s chat.

Train Smart. Move Well. Play Hard, friends.

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