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Athlete Blog

The psychology of iron

March 10, 2017

When you’re a college student-athlete, you can be found in one of the following areas on campus: classrooms, library, dining halls, dorms and the weight room.

During your time as a student-athlete, you will be challenged physically, mentally and spiritually. This blog is geared towards student-athletes who are trying to dominate the physical aspect of the student-athlete experience.

Redefine normal.

You have to change your own personal definition of what normal is. I learned this from the football star back in high school—he was a senior when I was a freshman. He was the ideal student-athlete, pulling a 3.8 grade point average, excelling on the gridiron and was involved in community work. He ended up going to an Ivy League school and continued to dominate. I learned why he did so well in high school and college from one simple conversation. My first time being in the weight room as a 13-year-old, he nonchalantly sits down on the bench and cranks out reps of 315 pounds on the bench press. My jaw dropped to the floor. He gets up and acts like nothing happened. I asked him how he was putting up numbers like that. He shrugged and said, “It’s pretty normal.” That got me thinking. You have to work hard to elevate your own expectations, but as you go, you have to expect excellence to be a norm. You’re supposed to continue improving your numbers, you’re supposed to win in all the drills, and so on. As you begin to normalize that kind of excellence, it becomes deeply ingrained in you, and your confidence in yourself skyrockets.

Use failure as fuel.

Every team on campus always has that one superstar, where he or she will crush everyone in every facet of physical fitness. The training culture I grew up in was intensely competitive, where our teammates will try and beat each other in anything. Pushups, sit-ups and all that. If you get smoked in your competition, don’t get discouraged. The weight room is a great measuring stick for you, because now you know what you need to work on, and it provides you with all the tools you need to improve. Use that as a competitive fuel to keep you in the gym. For example, I would think about how my training partner would out lift me if I’m taking a day off from the gym. That usually gets me in the gym right away.

Breed competition and high standards.

To tie my two points into this—from a leadership standpoint, you are in a position where you can spread this kind of psychology onto your teammates. You can create that culture of excellence and make it seem normal by living that out. You have to lead by example in this situation. You are expected to dominate, but be mindful of how you go about it. If you make it seem nonchalant…your teammates will notice that. You can slowly create a competitive culture, posting lifting records, talking some trash (quite common, I would say), and hold fun competitions. These two factors can be one of the bigger factors in creating a championship team in the offseason.