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Developing an Athlete's Mindset

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

“Coaches are often frustrated and puzzled. They look back over their careers and realize that some of their most talented athletes — athletes who seemed to have everything — never achieved success. Why? The answer is that those athletes didn’t have everything. They didn’t have the right mindset.”

This quote comes from famed professor of psychology at Stanford University, Carol Dweck, in an essay written for Team USA on the athlete’s mindset. Dr. Dweck goes on to outline the differences between what she calls a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset. She boils these differences down to three major point, with a few words on communication and the coach’s influence:

  • An athlete is always in learning mode.
  • An athlete values effort above all.
  • An athlete confronts their failures.

Meanwhile, a strength and conditioning coach (much like a parent) will see diminished effort from their athletes if they praise their inherent talents or awareness, instead of pointing out the athlete’s hard work and improvement. It can be difficult for a person in a position of authority not to laud their team (or again, their children) for the natural qualities that make them superior. 

Instead, look at the most popular sports films of the last few decades: very few of them — if any — are about geniuses who get everything right the first time.

Failure Breeds Success

Have you ever searched for “gyms near me with personal training?” They say that every journey begins with a single step but it also begins with the right mindset. Once you found your trainer, what would you identify as the sole trait of your experience with them? From day one, many personal fitness guides try to instill the athlete’s mindset in their clients by giving them a proper view of what successful training looks like. 

This reveal can come as a bit of a shock: 

  • Trainers count down the reps and keep adding more weight before hitting zero.
  • Orders are given to run or jump or do ladders and burpees “until you fail.”
  • The client’s least favorite moves keep finding their way into the regimen of every session.
  • The call for “double time” or “triple time” rings out every time there are cardio exercises to do. 

What is the point of all this tortuous behavior within functional training, besides satiating the sadistic fancy of the coach? Well, it falls into one of Dr. Dweck’s pillars of the athletic mindset: confronting failure.

By feeling out where one’s current boundaries are, they are able to eventually break past them. The key is to not have a defeatist attitude about bumping up against those boundaries. Instead, the athletic mindset is to 1) learn from it and 2) use maximum effort to shatter the walls in front of you.

Strengthening Mind and Body

Once you’ve searched for all those “gyms near me” and are presented with a fair number, how do you choose which one is best for you? Knowing what we know about the athlete’s mindset — that is, that it seeks to learn, isn’t afraid of failure, and is paid for with a currency of effort — it is imperative to choose a strength and conditioning coach that will expand your mind as much as strengthen your body.

An athlete must let their efforts be supplemented with wisdom, or else they will just be overexerting themselves with little justification. Working smarter comes in different forms:

  • Using good supplements
  • Acknowledging that a short workout is better than no workout
  • Putting a premium on nutritional coaching
  • Practicing strong visualization techniques

Personal training is all about expanding one’s total fitness — their mind and their body. Working with a gym like Performance One, you will unlock the kind of athlete’s mindset that benefits the whole body.


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