One phrase that I hear uttered over and over again is that “sports are 90% mental and 10% physical.” I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement. If one does not think that they can complete an athletic task—for example hitting a 90 mph fastball, doing a back flip, snatching 300 lbs, or dunking a basketball—then he or she will definitely not complete the given task.
My goals in my “quest for dunkage” are to dunk a basketball, snatch 90kg, and clean and jerk 115 kg. There are a few stars that need to align in order to make this process a smooth one. First of all I need to eat well and eat well consistently. In an earlier post I defined eating well as eating paleo (meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar). Right now I am primarily running on meat and vegetables in a some what ketogenic diet, but that is a subject for another post at a later date (expect a “Ketogenic Diet and Athletic Performance” post in the near future). Secondly, I need to train hard consistently and intelligently. What I mean by training intelligently means training the energy system --the ATP-PC system (Alactic)--that will allow me to become more explosive and consequently dunk a basketball and improve my Olympic lifts. Thirdly, I need to recover well. Recovery includes sleeping well, stretching, and self-massage (and also nutrition, which I already mentioned). Finally, I need to maintain consistent mental toughness and persistence in the face of adversity.
The maintenance of adequate mental toughness can be achieved in many different ways. Yesterday as I approached the bar for my first of three sets of 89% clean and jerks, I remembered something that I read three years ago in “The New Toughness Training For Sports” by James E. Loehr. In the book, Loehr stated that success begets more success. In that vein, he suggested doing or even thinking of oneself doing a “fist pump” or any celebratory action before, rather than after, attempting to complete a difficult athletic task. For example before a difficult putt, pump your fist and think of the psychological feeling of sinking that putt. This method of (pre) positive reinforcement is applicable to any and all athletic endeavors. So before I approached the bar on Wednesday, I would do a fist pump and think of myself successfully completing an ultra fast and extremely smooth clean and jerk. It was amazing. I was a completely different lifter: 95 kg felt like a toothpick and my training partners said that it was the best technique that I had utilized to date. Needless to say the mental approach can be the difference between success and failure in many instances.