Mental Strength (Part 1)

Written By: Heather
Heather Kempton Coquitlam Couples Counsellor

In athletic performance and life our mind can be our greatest ally or our biggest enemy. Despite how physically strong we are it is often how we are thinking that can be the determining factor between a great performance and a poor one. The only limits that exist when we are putting it all to the test are those we impose on ourselves. Mental strength and physical strength need to be developed and practiced in tandem. At Crossfit facilities there are dedicated coaches that help you accomplish your fitness goals and improve your overall physical conditioning, allowing you to reach that next PR (personal record). I recently read an article where the author stated that the most important game you will ever play will be the one you play on the 4 inch platform between your ears. I whole heartily believe in this statement and am here to help take your mental performance in life and in sports to the next level.

There are four key elements that I will discuss over the next four weeks that will foster mental strength in athletic performance as well as, in your overall life. When working on developing your mental strength it is essential to be aware of your self-perception.


Our thoughts and beliefs about our self, others, and the World have developed since childhood through watching and listening to influential people in our life. As we grow the people we choose to surround ourselves with, largely influence our perception and behavior. Our perception of the society we live in also play a substantial role in the choices we make. With this we develop self-beliefs that act as filters for our brain as they monitor what info we process by determining what we consider important and what we choose to ignore. Our beliefs become so strongly engrained within our self-concept that with minimal awareness we may not even notice how impactful our self-talk is on our behaviour, ultimately impacting our life. Recognizing discomfort is the first step to increasing personal awareness that can become the deciding factor for initiating change instead of engaging in unhealthy ways to persevere through the discomfort. The moment we think “I am not strong enough to do that” or “I can’t do this”, our thoughts move to immediately start to impact our behavior, ultimately sacrificing form and decreasing performance. It is like looking at a CrossFit website the night before a workout and seeing a WOD (workout of the day) that you feel is intimidating and will push you out of your comfort zone. At this moment we can choose to reinforce fear that we are unable to complete this WOD or choose to show up at the gym with the attitude that I am going to complete the WOD with the support and assistance of the coaches. The coaches may scale the WOD in order for you to complete it however, the main accomplishment is you have increased your mental strength by over coming that an initial fear of not coming into the gym and performing the WOD in the first place. It is essential to be aware of how our self-perception places mental limitations on our performance at the box and in life. In changing our beliefs we first need to bring awareness to our self-talk and begin replacing the negative self-talk. Some beliefs will be harder to change such as “I am not good enough” but within time you will build the mental strength to believe your positive self-talk which with ultimately impact your performance.

Suggested Exercise: Replacing the word “should” with the word “could”.

The word “should” ultimately translates into “we are, we were, or we are going to be wrong”. We need to replace this type of self-talk into something that is more empowering, promoting possibilities. I would like you to complete five sentences that start with “I should…”. Once you have read each one, I would like you to take each sentence and ask “why?” Now, take those five sentences and start them with “If I really wanted to I could…” In completing this exercise you will notice a shift in energy from a feeling of disempowerment coming from the critical word “should” to an empowered feeling by simply replacing it with the word “could”. The word “could” gives us a choice, creating a sense of freedom and promoting self-talk that we are never wrong.

In part two of this four part series I will be speaking to how determination and motivation play a key role in developing and supporting your mental strength. Please feel free to contact me directly through email, text, or phone if you would like to discuss how I could help you to take your overall performance in life to the next level.