A Trick to Mental Toughness

Wednesday, 04 July 2018

Kristine Santos Squat Banner

Olympic weightlifting requires incredible strength, speed and flexibility. But none of these will make a champion without one crucial ingredient – mental toughness.

Snatching is 10x harder than it looks. You can be the strongest lifter in the gym but not necessarily the most technically efficient lifter at the snatch. The same applies to clean and jerk! It requires a lot of technical proficiency to lift the heaviest amount of weights overhead in the most efficient way.

Kristine staying Tough!

I have missed more than 100,000 snatches, jerks and cleans over 2 years of training. Did I get discouraged? Of course not! It is really hard for athletes to see the light when they are deep in the valley but weightlifting is about mental and physical adaptation. It's a long, tedious and often emotionally draining road to technical perfection and even the best athletes fall off this path. The only ones that survive and make it through are the strong ones – not of the body but of the mind because when it gets really tough, only the tough ones keep going!

Anyone who has tried doing the Olympic lifts knows that it is incredibly frustrating! And anyone who has been doing it for years would know that Olympic weightlifting training is a serious grind. It can be soul crushing when you keep missing lifts you shouldn’t and mind-numbing thinking about all the cues before executing the lifts. Training hours are long and muscle soreness is very common. Joint pain? Yeah that! Some days your lifts look so perfect and you breeze through your session because the weights feel so light and easy. But most days you find yourself struggling with 70% of your max weights because it feels like 170%.

Weightlifting can send you to an emotional roller coaster and 95% of the time it’s not easy. Most training days are tough and will beat you to the ground! If this sounds familiar don’t worry, you’re doing it right! So, I want to share one thing that will improve your mental game.

I didn’t write this to give you a list of ways to strengthen your mental toughness because we can all just google exactly how to do that (meditation, visualisation, positive self-talk, etc). I want to share one thing that I always tell myself and the lifters I coach that helped us to get through our own lifting struggles.

Focus on what you control.

For example, when you're preparing for a competition. If your goal is to win the competition, you are setting yourself up for a possible disappointment. There is no guarantee that you will win because this outcome is not (entirely) under your control. Sure, you can influence it but it also depends on several variables that are independent of your efforts, including the competition from the other lifters or maybe the judges just don't think your lifts are technically good enough to give you at least 2 white lights. This is why your goals should instead be based on what you can control. For example, when preparing for a competition your goals are to eat the right type and amount of food, get enough sleep for optimal recovery, train as hard as you can and lower your stress levels before the meet day. Then you can mentally prepare to accept whatever the outcome is with equanimity, knowing that you may win or may not win.


What do you gain by being anxious about something you don't control? Or angry at a result that did not go to your plan? You are simply adding a self-inflicted injury to the situation, compromising your happiness and confidence in your abilities. It is the mark of a real champion to realise that things don't always go the way we wish, yet this does not stop the best athletes from trying again and learning from the experience.

So… Focus on what’s under your control! Embrace the grind and the weightlifting gods will bless you with gains. Just keep working hard, believe in your abilities, stay focused and you got this, 1 kg at a time. 

This piece was written by Kristine Santos, Brookes Sport Ambassador. You can find Kristine on Instagram.

If you would like to try your hand at weightlifting, visit us here for our specialist courses!