Fitness Mind Games: What’s Your Next Move?

A lean, sculpted masterpiece of a body is first created in the mind, then by your actions. It’s a game against your own human nature, it’s going beyond your ideas of what’s acceptable and reasonable to do to achieve your goals. Most people don’t reach to their full potential, not because they don’t have the basic knowledge about the key components diet and exercise — but due to focusing all effort in the gym for working the physical muscles while giving no time to strengthening the mind.”

This quote from Pauline Nordin set something aflame in me when I read it – the passion that caused me to begin this blog in the first place.

You may have seen Pauline… she’s the extraordinarily muscular yet lean woman striking a badass fighter pose in magazines. Besides an international fitness model and IFBB Pro, Pauline is a trainer, spokesperson at, and the creator of the Fighter Diet – a hardcore plan for staying sculpted 365 days a year. It’s a complex diet for professional models and others serious about staying shredded year round.

While you may or may not have aspirations to be a fitness competitor or model, her philosophy applies to any goal related to your body. Having your ideal body is about discipline and mental strength – whether it’s to be ripped and cut or lose x number of pounds.

She continues:

The key is to learn discipline, acknowledge the sensations and knowing where and why your brain is trying to sabotage your pursuit. Do not say you cannot help eating, cause you can. Remember that a thought is merely a thought. You do not need to act on the signal. And you cannot if your goal is to lose bodyfat!”

Let’s face it: Diet has everything to do with the health and appearance of your body. So many people have good intentions… Why don’t they succeed in losing weight, being cut, gaining muscle?

Clearly, our bodies come with genetic wiring and there are many, many reasons why people never attain a “sculpted masterpiece” or even a healthy body. Plenty of people want it bad and still never get there. What’s the answer? Unceasing exercise? Drugs or diets that will cause you lose weight quickly?

If you surrender to strong appetite suppressing medications that are dangerous for your health, what are you going to do the very day they are not working anymore? Or when you must discontinue? Then you stand there with a grueling hunger, stronger than ever to compensate for the time you were not listening to your body’s signals.”

Pauline says it best. You cannot rely on quick-fix remedies and expect them to last. Quick fix is the opposite of long-term fix. But people continue to try things like the HCG and Sensa diets, hoping that getting lean will be fast and easy. The bottom line is that while drastic cuts in calorie intake will cause weight loss, this solution is only temporary. It’s not a long-term  solution to use sprinkles on your food to keep your appetite down while ignoring exercise and the type of food you eat.

And exercising like a maniac while continuing to eat whatever you want isn’t going to get you there either.

If a rock hard body was created in the gym, all the people going there would be in excellent shape. I’m sure you know it’s far from the truth.”

There are so many people with good intentions doing the wrong things to their bodies. To win – to gain a stronghold over your health and body – you need to pay attention and being stronger than what’s going on in your mind.

Take time to master your mind. Take time to learn to be comfortable with feeling a bit hungry or a bit tired. It’s natural, it’s part of the game. Either you want to play it and win, or you will try to bend the rules and fail. In the hunt for the perfect body, you need to play by the rules and accept the rules. And yes, at times it feels like looking at grass growing, but remember it is a chess game where each move counts for the final outcome, so don’t treat it like Russian roulette.”

Most of us aren’t looking for the perfect body. But most of us are looking to make improvements. Hardly anyone has perfect flexibility, balance, strength, body fat, or reactive power. Perfect your vision of what your “ideal” body looks like, and like a chess game, make your every move one that gets you closer that goal.

So what’s it going to be? Are you going to let your mind play games that keep you from the health and body you know you want? Or are you going to expose your mental weaknesses and conquer them, strategically playing to win? Make your next move now.

*Quotes from Pauline Nordin’s essay, “Master Your Mind.”

33 thoughts on “Fitness Mind Games: What’s Your Next Move?

  1. Ahhhhhhhh! The mental part of this journey? It’s definitely been on my mind . In so many ways I am determined, focused, persevering and STRONG. But with fitness (the exercise part), I am not…. I’m sort of like a quitter… I don’t like discomfort… I don’t trust my body…
    So I will continue to contemplate this – perhaps some little mind games to fake my way to being a bit tougher.


    • I know you will Kris! You’re already doing it so you’re ahead of the game. It’s all about our goals… and whether we really want to get there or just be happy with where we’re at. I have no aspirations to be Pauline Nordin… but in another life? Definitely!! 🙂


  2. Great post. I know I have the fitness stuff down but I tend to get stuck into ruts and do the same workouts. It’s the food issue I struggle with–which makes sense because it was the food issues that made me gain 100 pounds. It’s a struggle.


  3. I know it sounds hokey, and I placed a similar comment on another blog last week, but what’s wrong with exercising willpower. Example: I have challenged weight-loss clients to but cookies, candy, or ice cream and see how long they can keep it — not by ignoring it, but by having a little bit every day, but no more than a little bit. THAT is an exercise in willpower. Make a pint of ice cream last 30 days, and you will have gained something much more valuable than muscle….


    • Not at all hokey, that’s a very interesting exercise. Willpower is everything, even though it’s not popular to point it out. People are hesitant to talk about willpower because it implies a weakness in character. But willpower is simply learning to master the mind, as Pauline says, instead of letting it master you.


  4. “Quick fix is the opposite of long-term fix.” Absolutely true and yet one of the hardest sells in fitness. The fastest way to achieve our body goals–whether they involve looking great naked or reducing the odds of getting diabetes–is the slow and permanent way. So few people are willing to accept that!


    • One of the hardest sells indeed. I try to convey that personal training is cheaper than paying for years of medical bills and prescriptions, but views of the short term prevail.


  5. Ah yes, back to Juvenal’s “Mens sana in corpore sano” – sound mind in a healthy body.

    Mindset is vitally important in so many aspects of health and fitness, maintaining a vision of the desired outcome, even the possibility of mental rehearsal adding the effectiveness of exercise – the Inner Game is just as important as the outer game…to my mind 🙂


    • Love the phrase “Inner game.” I’m probably behind in my inner game reading… lived and resolved much emotional pain in my earlier days (and did much of my reading then too), but never hurts to refresh the mindset.


      • Hi Suzanne – I agree, everything stems from mind. The brain (hypothalamus, I think?) might direct the production of our proteins, but what comes before this process – Consciousness. Actually, in “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding”, Arnold actually does mention something about the power of visualization. He would always visualize the particular muscles he was training, expand, as he contracted them during his sets.


      • There you are :), glad to finally get your comment to show up. Indeed, Arnold totally believed in the power of the mind. I read something by him fairly recently that said exactly that – he used to visualize what he wanted to look like – EVERY detail. I admire him greatly!


  6. The mental part of the journey has been the toughest part of my fitness regime, the part that has given me the most hassle and the part that seems the most ungrateful at the results! An interesting post that I will read through a few more times to feel the full benefit from it.


  7. Setting down the donut…

    Yup, you are right. There are times when my personal self control is determined by how many miles I ran that day and that is totally the wrong reason to go ahead and have the donut.

    Finding better rewards may be the key. Non-food rewards.

    Good stuff, as always!


  8. Crikey – that Pauline looks scary!

    I have to say that the (was it NASA or Olympic athletes’) research into physical training that showed the body couldn’t tell the difference between actual and mentally gone through physical exercise has a certain appeal – and tallies nicely with my idea of mental contribution 😉

    Short cuts all that pain for gain and willpower stuff!

    Fortuitiously, I came across the Lefkoe Eating report earlier today, which I haven’t even finished reading yet but looks like it might be interesting – you can download it from here


  9. I see why you are so enthused about Pauline – her philosophy rings so true. Fitness starts in the mind and that’s how I’ve managed to maintain my weight loss for 20 years and continue to take things up a notch. BTW, my personal trainer is helping me get STRONG! I did over 300 pounds on the leg press machine on Monday and was so proud – could only muster 40 extra pounds on it back in October! Hope you are doing well!


    • Wooooo Shira! Can you even believe you press that much weight with your legs?? So glad the trainer is working out… the main reasons for that are your commitment and consistency. Hat’s off to you.


  10. I don’t know why more emphasis isn’t placed on the power
    the mind has to create a beautiful body. Whether it’s business,
    love or working out, it’s imperative to see what you want in your
    mind and see it clearly, like being there. Focus on what you want
    and then make choices and decisions that will get you there. Find
    pictures of people with the body you want using Google image search
    and download those pictures to your iPod or phone. Just search for
    keywords like “perfect butt”, “perfect abs”, etc. and choose what
    you think looks most like what you can realistically achieve. You
    may never have a butt like Beyonce, but you can still have a butt
    that’s beautiful and perfect for you. Create a slideshow of those
    pictures to run continuously so you can watch as you work the
    elliptical or the treadmill. Watch the slideshow even when you’re
    not at the gym, like when you get up in the morning so the images
    stay fresh in your mind. Imagine your face on that perfect body.
    See yourself in your head with a hard, flat stomach, and focus on
    that image or that movie in your head as you work out. When you’re
    ready to eat, look at those iPod images before you cook, order in a
    restaurant or buy groceries and you will choose foods that will
    make that body happen because you’re keeping your goal right in
    front of you. See yourself exercising in your perfect body. Here’s
    a workout for your mind that I call “The Mental Margarita”: Create
    a place in your head where you exist in your perfect body and live
    in that place for little awhile each day, enjoying the things you
    love to do. My place is the beach in Florida or Nassau…places I’ve
    been where I can enjoy my beautiful beach body. My workout partner
    goes to Aspen and sees herself in sexy ski clothes. When you start
    to get down on yourself because your body isn’t what you want and
    getting in shape seems to be taking forever, instead of going on a
    binge, go to that place you created in your mind and live for
    awhile in that body. When you feel like giving up, go to that place
    and imagine men/women craning their necks to admire you, or
    catching the eye of that certain someone. Imagine your lover/spouse
    jealous because people are flirting with you, dying to get their
    hands on that gorgeous body of yours. See yourself wherever you
    want to be, looking the way you want to look, wearing something
    you’ve been dying to wear. Be there. Feel the breeze, the sun on
    your body, the sand between your toes. If you have trouble doing
    this, get a white noise program for your computer, iPod or phone. I
    recommend “Ambiance” as it has thousands of looping sound effects
    like beach waves or mountain snowstorms that are almost as good as
    being there. Also, Google “Creative Visualization” by Shakti Gawain
    and check out her YouTube videos on visualization techniques. Try
    these techniques in conjunction with your workouts. It’s


    • Amazing and helpful visualization techniques, Gina. If doing this helps a person get to their goals then you’re right, more of us should focus on it. Having a laser-sharp image of what you want is essential!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s