The battle of the mind can be a sensitive topic.
We all have different stories and experiences that impact how we view the world. Inspirational leaders have started the conversation of how a positive mind is the gateway to create your future. All through the power of thought. Sounds awesome, right?
However the question most people search for whenever they talk about mental toughness is:
“How do I strengthen my mind?”
There’s no better person to discuss this topic with than Cameron Hudson.
Hudson, an athlete and CrossFit coach, started a movement when he posted a photo of himself standing in front of his bathroom mirror which had the words ‘Practice what you preach’. He openly discussed his story on positive mindset and even went as far to ask “If you’re on board, take a picture of one of your messages”.
Within a matter of days, the mirror messages spiraled all over social media!
I was intrigued and asked the athletes who participated on how the mirror affirmations were going. The responses were phenomenal! Some said that it not only helped with their mentality, but it made their training “more fun!”
Can words create such an huge impact on the mind?
I was given the opportunity to interview Hudson himself to discuss his training methods, mental battles, and the importance of the relationship between the body and the mind.
Take a read below and I hope you enjoy!
How long have you been an athlete?
I’ve been an athlete almost my entire life. Mostly in water sports like swimming and water polo. I did that really competitively in high school and college.
What drew you into becoming a coach?
After being an athlete for so long, that’s what led me to coaching. I started coaching high school water polo and swimming while I was studying for my Masters. I just loved coaching and being the person that could change the way athletes think.
Now I work with some kids but mostly adults, which I think is actually cooler because adults are so stuck in their ways. You hear that saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. But when you get them to do something, the light bulb in them goes off! It’s like “Holy shit that was awesome! I’m 45 and I just did a handstand push-up.” And I’m right there saying “Yeah dude that’s fucking awesome!”
What’s your process with your athletes?
Lately I’ve been reflecting back on my athletic career. Not to knock any of my coaches because I had some really awesome coaches, but the thing I probably would’ve benefited from more was positive reinforcement. I’m not the type of person who responds well to a drill sergeant coach.
I think about that, about what I needed as an athlete, and it makes me realize “Okay if I needed that, I bet other athletes need that too.” I started to look at coaching and sports as a whole and I realized that’s a huge missing link. So I implement positive mindset and reinforcement in my training.
You’re so close with your athletes. Why do you think they relate or respond to you so well?
It’s about approaching them in a humane way. Let me get to know you so we came establish a baseline of communication and that takes a while. I’m not going to have someone walk in the first day and boom, we’re bonded. But the more conversations we have, the better. That’s the key: having those conversations.
When people walk in, I stand right by the door before class starts so that I can greet every single person. Whether I know them or not, it’s a fist pump and a “Hey how’s it going?” It seems like I’m just asking a polite question, but I look for how you respond. I read your body language and that gives me an insight.
If somebody walks in and they’re like “I’m ready to go!” I know we’re gonna get it today. But if they say “Good” with a sigh, it tells me maybe they had a long day. Maybe they got some stress going on so I’m not gonna be as hard on them. I’m gonna work around it and spend a little extra time to see if I can open them up a little more. But that’s where it starts, in that opening line of how’s it going.
A lot of coaches choose fitness first and mentality second. But you do the opposite.
Yeah because if I know where your mindset is, I can tweak the session according to what you need. If someone is pretty energized and the weight they’re using is a bit heavy, I’ll think ‘Hmm that weight is heavy for you, but you seem fired up today so let’s get it.’ But if you came in head down, shoulders shrugged, then today’s not gonna be the day where I ask you to go heavy. I might let you go a little lighter because I want you to get a victory.
Sometimes they know that I’m taking it easy on them, but that creates trust because they can tell that I know them. So when they’re stressed, I can approach them and say “Hey I know you’re not feeling it today but this is what I’m looking for. Give me what you can.” And they end up going all out on a workout because they don’t want to let me down. Regardless of what the training is, if I can tweak the session accordingly then my quality as a coach will always be high.
How important is mental strength and positive affirmations to you?
It’s extremely important. There’s a study called Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). In summary, it’s the science of how your brain and body communicate together. The big thing they start with is changing the language. So instead of ‘I can’t’, take the word can’t out and change it to ‘I’m going to’.
You’re saying the same thing, but now it has a whole new meaning. It’s almost like the glass is half full or half empty. It’s the same concept, there’s still 50% liquid in the glass but how you talk about it is what makes the difference.
So when people say “I’m too weak, I’m not good enough, I’m can’t do this.” What happens is you end up creating your own destiny by putting that in your mind. It might seem silly to tell yourself “Hey I’m great” but it translates because your mood is going to be better, you’re going to have more productive training sessions, and it’s going to stem into a lot of different areas of your life.
Was there ever a time where you had difficulty with your mental toughness?
I was a sophomore in college and was taking on too much. I was 19 years old; 1,500 miles away from home, pressure in school and training. I ended up transferring and moved home for one semester because I needed that break. I needed to take a step back, evaluate my why, and what I wanted to do. At the time I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, but now I look back and understand why I did that.
I was in a really bad place. I remember calling my mom and telling her “I’m done. I want to come home. I’m not having fun. I don’t like this.” And that was tough. I was always brought up to think you gotta be tough and stick it out and here I am calling my mom after practice. But then when I was with my team, I put on a front like “It’s all good. We got this.” And the reality is everyone goes through this, men and women.
If I would’ve had those conversations with my coach or spoken to someone to work through it, who knows maybe I wouldn’t have had to move back home. Now I’m really secure with myself and accept that if I’m beat, I’m beat. If I’m burnt, I’m burnt and I have no problem opening up and telling you how I feel because that’s what’s going to keep the wheel moving. We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk to someone.
I’ve seen the mirror messages you started doing. Where did that come from?
I’m sure somebody created the mirror thing way before me, but I put my own twist on it. I was watching a show about the Cleveland Browns and one of the players on the team stood up and said:
“I want you guys to write down your WHY. Write it on a post-it, piece of paper, whatever, and put in a place where you’re gonna see it. It’s going to be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night.”
So if you wake up, check your phone, and see the post-it that has the message that’s meaningful to you, you’re already reminded before the day starts. For me, the first thing I do when I wake up is snooze the alarm and go to the bathroom. So what’s the first thing I see in the morning? It’s the mirror. Right off the back, the day starts with whatever I wrote on the mirror.
Also the mirror is like a selfie. It can be pretty intimidating to look at especially when your level of confidence isn’t so high. But if you write something on the mirror that is reflected back at you, you own it.
What are some tips that’ll help someone who wants to try and strengthen their mindset?
For the last two years, that’s something that I’ve been implementing: how to get people to re-frame their thinking. As I said I work mostly with adults now, so you’re talking about people who are in their 30’s – 40’s give or take. They’re in their ways man: they’ve been doing stuff for a long time in a certain way. So I can’t just tell them “Write I’m awesome on your mirror and then you’ll be good at everything”. It’s not going to work like that and it’s not an overnight thing. It’s a process.
If you’re just starting out, keep it really simple. Don’t try and do everything all at once. Give yourself one focus, like a focus for the week. If it’s something at work or something in the gym, whatever it is. There’s no right or wrong to whatever you want to focus on, but make it about how you want to feel as you’re going through that.
Make that your mantra. It doesn’t have to be poetic and elegant. You can do whatever you want and that’s the cool thing about it. Run with it and make it your own.
Okay important question. If you had to choose between tacos or burgers, which would you choose?
Tacos – not burgers. I can make a taco burger! Tacos are the greatest thing in the world. There are an infinite number of possibilities! Breakfast tacos are my jam. I mean in New York you guys have a breakfast wrap, but in Texas we have breakfast tacos. Tacos all day long!
What are some steps you take to challenge your mind? Leave a comment below and let me know. Also if you like this post, make sure you share it with friends and family.
Til next time homies,
Photo by Emily Hunter Photography