The Power of the Mind

My barbell is on the gym floor and I am contemplating my next move as I stand above it, staring at it. My coach, Joe, programmed a 1 rep max snatch and clean and jerk for today’s strength workout. These are hard movements. Whenever I see anything programmed with hitting a 1 rep max, my thoughts begin to run and it takes everything in my power not to be carried away with them. Doesn’t he know this stuff messes with my head?

I load my barbell and work up to my previous 1 rep max, hoping I can lift heavier weight today.  My first lift at 85lb feels good, so I add 10lb to the barbell and hit 95lb. I ask myself, should I add 15lb and go for my last 1 rep max or should I go up in smaller increments and hit 100lb? I decide I should stick with moving up in small increments, and I hit that rep at 100lb smoothly. I add weight to the bar and get to 105lb. Then it starts … that voice begins to taunt me: “What if I can’t lift the weight? What if Joe stops investing in me as a coach because there are better crossfitters out there? I’m so weak! Who am I to think I can lift 110lb? I suck at crossfit!!” I withdraw my grip from the bar to grab hold of the negativity rising up inside my head.

It’s too late. My thoughts took hold and instead of trying to control them, I listen and I’m convinced I am too weak to lift this bar.

Reluctantly, I turn back to the barbell knowing it’s already won. I place my hands in the snatch position and I pull hard. It’s heavy and I can’t do it. I throw my hands on my head in frustration knowing I sealed my own fate before I even touched the barbell.

This is my struggle in the gym and with crossfit specifically. I struggle more with my mental game than with the desire to workout. I struggle with my negative thoughts more than with what kinds of food to eat and when. I battle my thoughts every week, during every metcon, and during every lift.

The voices in my head take over when a workout is tough or the weight gets heavy. The thoughts of “I can’t”, “What if” and “I’m not strong enough” come at me from every angle and they are louder than the music playing over the speakers (and that music is loud). In this area of my life, training my body isn’t enough; I have to train my mind too.

We underestimate the power of the mind. I do not believe in the power of positive thinking, but I do believe our thoughts should be positive. Philippians 4:8 says to fix our minds on things that are true and right (Look up the entire verse. I’ll explain why below). Our thoughts guide our bodies and are first to enter our hearts. When my mind goes negative in the gym, my body follows. I couldn’t hit my max lifts because I let my mind take control of the workout in a negative way. Don’t we all do this? We seal our fate through our thoughts on our ability and we live up to the low expectation we’ve established in our own heads.

Life is no different. Our thoughts guide our course. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” If we do not renew our thinking, we are conforming to the patterns of the world. Conforming is to take on the form or patterns of something else, just as water conforms to the container it is poured into. Transforming your mind is something that can only be done when you train your thoughts. It’s easier said than done, but I can tell you that I HAD to learn this. It was life and death for me.

Thirteen years ago, I suffered from severe anxiety. My thoughts of “what if” would haunt me all day long. What if my kids died? What if our house burnt down? What if Dean lost his job? What if ….

Those “what ifs” crippled me. I struggled to drag myself out of bed to give the boys a bath. I choked down a half sandwich so I’d have strength to make it through the day. It was hell on earth. My thoughts moved so quickly. Within minutes, my thoughts went from hopeful to hopeless.

I’ve been around church my entire life, but I didn’t rely on God’s word back then like I do now. My mind was so weak. It was easily swayed by my thoughts. I couldn’t keep a steady pace of just living life. In this dark time, I felt the Lord drawing me to His word like never before. I began to study His word intently, and He began to reveal it to me in ways I’ve never known. I specifically asked God to help me think on the things written in Philippians above, asking him to fix my mind on things that are true and right. I kept my mind on Him because He would keep me in perfect peace as I did (Isaiah 26:3). I was tired of my thoughts directing my day, controlling my moods, and effecting my reactions. But He taught me an important lesson. My thoughts can be controlled; they don’t have to control me.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” Every thought? Even my defeated gym thoughts? Yes, we take every thought captive. Why do we do this? Because they guide our course. They are what we live up to and they determine what we become. But if we can transform our minds, and keep our thoughts on Him and what He says about us, our lives begin to be transformed … just like our minds.

I don’t like telling people what to do without telling them how to do it. I can tell you to renew your mind, but you might ask me how. Anxiety and depression have not crippled me in more than 13 years. My thoughts were transformed by reading and studying God’s Word.  He graciously performed a work in my life that has truly helped me become stronger mentally. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, ” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and you have access to His thoughts. It’s your Bible. I encourage you to read it. Study it. It will change the way you think, and as a result, it will change the way you live.

And one more thing … do you know God thinks good thoughts about you? Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you,” says the Lord, “Thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you an expected end.” Isn’t that amazing? God’s thoughts toward us are always good, never evil, and our expected end is an eternal future with Him. If that doesn’t give us something good to think about, I don’t know what does.

I would like to end this week’s blog by emphasizing the need for God’s Word in our culture. Anxiety and depression cripple so many in our society, especially women. I would like to express extreme gratitude to a God who makes Himself known to us and has extended His arm of strength in our times of need. When we think we can’t hear His voice through the noise of our thoughts, we can. All we need to do is dust it off and begin to read the pages. I promise you won’t be disappointed.


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