Never mind. Always mind…


Controlled Hysteria…

It’s said often that the mind is more powerful than the body.  If a person taps more deeply into his mind, his physical capacity can be greater than if he attempts physicality with his body alone.  We’ve all heard the myth of the mother lifting the car off of her endangered child.  That, and similar stories have been recounted through many years in varying regions of the world.  Myth isn’t something that never happened.  Myth is something that happens over and over again.

The phenomenon known as Hysterical Strength is involuntary.  Hysterical strength seemingly can’t be summoned, only experienced.  It is unique to an unexpected moment, such as seeing a loved one trapped under a heavy object.  However, anyone who has been involved in strength training with more serious intentions, and who is familiar with this phenomenon, has surely attempted to experience that kind of superhuman strength on demand.  I have.

I wonder if she's wishing she hadn't picked it up...

I wonder if she’s wishing she hadn’t picked it up…

In fact, I deliberately draw from my mind as much, if not more, than I do from my body when I attempt to lift successively heavier weights.  Not just with heavier weights either.  I also draw more from my mind when I seek to lift the same weights for more repetitions, or in more complete form.  This mindset has been the primary tenet of my style of strength training for a majority of my life.  Because I’m not genetically gifted in the areas of strength and power, I have learned to use my mind to take my body places that my genetic predisposition could not meet.

One of the least explored aspects of strength training, for far too many people, is that the body is used almost exclusively to carry the load in the weight room.  The mind is too often left on the wrong side of the gym doors.  For many, it seems, there is no supreme connection between mind and body.  To me this is at the heart of progress.  So much potential remains unfulfilled when the mind fails to enter the workout.

Where my workout really takes place...

Where my workout really takes place…

Foster The Progress…

Physiologically the human body does not change that much from week to week, and less from day to day.  When we intelligently track what the body is capable of in the form of exercise journaling, we have information available to us that can be used to feed our minds, and help us increase the body’s capacity.  I have written down nearly every workout I have taken since I was 15 years old.  That’s a lot of information.  It is the most recent workouts though, that offer the most useful information; what have I done for me lately…?

My workout journal.  Written in a code so confusing the Rosetta Stone couldn't hep...

My workout journal. Written in a code so confusing the Rosetta Stone couldn’t hep…

If I have recently used a given weight for a certain number of repetitions of a particular exercise, then I know I have it within me to do it again.  True, some days are better than others.  Some days, I’m just not feelin’ it.  But that’s my point.  On those not feelin’ it days, it is more likely that my mind is not feelin’ it, with my body acting as directed by my mind. 

When I wrap my hands around a bar and begin to lift, I have one goal above all other goals; to complete my set with better form than the set prior, despite that fatigue from prior sets has minimized my capacity.  As I do this battle with gravity, I understand that the outcome takes place in my mind first.  Only after my mind accepts the impending task, is my body directed to execute that task.  It’s all I think about in-between sets.  I simply try to create myth, over and over again.

“Every battle ever fought is won or lost before it takes place.”  Sun Tsu, from The Art Of War.

The Art Of War.  Best fitness book ever written...

The Art Of War. Best fitness book ever written…

I live that ideal with every set of every workout.  Whether I’m successful in achieving this is not as important as consistently attempting call my mind into the workout.  I accept that my body is only going to get so strong.   I simply seek to make a priority of going to a place in my mind where I think exclusively about increased capacity and perfection in form.  I take what I know my body is capable of, based on history, and I then ask it for at least as much, and often end up with just a bit more.

From this management of my exercise, my capacity can be maximized to fulfill my potential.  Capacity and aesthetics are my joint destinations.  Though my body may be the vehicle, it is my mind that plans the route and steers the course.  Be well.  rc

19 responses

  1. Now THIS is a powerful, yet simple, statement: “I have learned to use my mind to take my body places that my genetic predisposition could not meet.” I will be sharing this post with some friends who are continually trying to push themselves in the weight room. Thanks for this reminder. Sincerely, Range Rover :)

  2. LOVE THIS! You know I do.. it is so much about the mind & the mental. I could never out it into words the way you did but I get it., Often I have no idea what is going on around me in the gym due to my focus & mind/body/muscle link. A person can look right at me & I may not see them.

    It is so not just about the weight!

    Thx for this great post!!!!!

    • Into a cactus flower Douglas – or perhaps from one. Thanks. Of all the people who have supported me, yours means the most. You are a professional writer, athlete, friend, and have known me for most of my life. I confess right here, there is a little Douglas on my shoulder always reminding me that I still have potential. True.

  3. Inspiring!! (and I was going to write that before I saw your comment to Jody:-)

    Once after an operation, a fellow doc came to see me about it. He told me that he was at the operation and we had a normal conversation. I had no memory of that. I only remembered my focus in doing the surgery!

    I think my best example of hysterical strength was when I survived that attack from the three pit bulls! I continually read about people severely injured or killed from a similar event and still wonder how I made it out with only one bite!

    I’ve doubled my Salmon steak intake and it’s working, thank you, Roy!!

  4. Mind-muscle connection, the only way to train. Lifting weights and pushing myself in the gym is my training zone for the rest of my life. It is amazing how practical the mental skill of getting under a heavy bar and pushing it with great form shows up in the board room. I am slowly learning how disciplining my mind and body together creates huge success in the rest of my life. Too hard? Too epic? Nope, just takes some time and discipline to make it work. I set my intention to conquer challenges with great form in and out of the gym. Love this post.

  5. I love your lifting philosophy, Roy! This striving to maintain focus and form throughout the workout is, I think, one of the factors that determines long-term success. And it’s why I hate to see people resting overlong between sets, messing with their cell phones, and chatting up their friends. You simply can’t summon forth your best when you’re constantly powering down the system.

    When I’m in the gym, I have a one-track mind, and I do everything possible to stay on that track. And on a good day, I experience a mental emptying out, a beautiful cessation of thoughts. One of the many reasons lifting helps keep people sane!

  6. Roy, such an important concept in the gym, as in life! I like to tell my clients to put their mind into the muscle. Take the time to think about how a lift is going to feel, what they need to do to prepare for it and execute it safely BEFORE contracting the muscle. Some listen, the majority do not (or try to, but can’t quite figure it out!).
    Thanks for this great post!

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