Growing up in the suburbs in upstate New York, I was extremely active. I rode my bike everywhere and played sports (baseball, football, soccer) with the boys in the neighborhood. I was quick (the boys called me “the bullet” because of my speed), and I was strong and athletic.

In my mind, being fit was just part of who I was — so much so that when it came to the school testing that many of us Baby Boomers experienced in junior high school (remember the Presidential Physical Fitness Award?), I would score higher than others. The tests included a one-mile walk or 1.5 mile run, one minute’s worth of sit-ups, push ups until failure and a sit-and-reach exercise that measured flexibility. I was a champion in sit ups. In my mind, I knew I was the best. And do you know what? I knew there were others who were better athletes than me. But somehow, in some way, I just made up my mind that no one would beat me. I did the same thing as a freshman in college and ended up with my name on a record-setting plaque. Crazy huh? To me, it was, since I really wasn’t going the athlete route. I was on a college dance team. (Ever hear of the Kilgore Rangerettes?) How could I do this? I believe it was in my mindset.
Tapping into the power of the mind is what many super athletes and their coaches believe is the key to reaching their ultimate goals of winning. If you feel you have failed to reach your ideal weight and fitness goals, you may want to consider these three tips — they’ve helped people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and other Olympic champions.

Believe in Yourself: Arnold Schwarzenegger became a world body-building champion in spite of his humble beginnings. Humble is not a word one would typically associate with this man, right? Still, the way he thinks and believes about himself no doubt helped him accomplish such high goals. “We all have great inner power,” says Schwarzenegger. “The power is self-faith. There’s really an attitude to winning. You have to see yourself winning before you win.” And I love this quote from him too: “The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.” If you feel it’s difficult to get into a positive space in your thoughts, I highly recommend that you begin listening to motivational podcasts. The key is to turn on that switch that says: “I believe in me and I can achieve my goals.”

Predetermine Your Success: Brian Diemer, the 1984 Olympic Steeplechase bronze medalist, says predetermining the outcome is key to winning. Now a coach, he shared some of his advice at the 2008 Michigan Track Coaches Association Clinic. He said that envisioning an event from beginning to end, seeing one as successful and even overcoming a fall or a problem that may arise is very powerful. I have heard that many athletes do this, perhaps even playing a “movie” in their heads where there is a positive outcome. I really feel this is effective — seeing yourself as successful, smiling, satisfied at your ideal weight or achieving a fitness goal. Close your eyes and predetermine your success and infuse that vision with positive feelings.

Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone: Arnold says: “The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.” Whether you are working out in the gym or tackling a strict healthy eating program, you are going to feel some discomfort, right? Achieving the ultimate in health and fitness is not always a comfortable process. Whenever I facilitate classes either in my Diet & Detox programs or fitness classes, I always address this fact. Get ready to be uncomfortable, I tell folks. Making positive changes in your health and fitness will involve leaving comfort behind. I truly believe you have to push yourself just beyond your comfort threshold in order to achieve your ultimate goals.

Years ago, in my heyday of teaching group exercise classes, I used to say this one thing: “You’ve got to change your mind before you can change your matter!” Matter, in this case, is your physical being. Believe you can achieve it. See yourself successful. And go beyond your comfort zone. I have no doubt you can be a champion too.