Lock your hips out more. Squat deeper. You are not bracing hard enough. Your feet are turned out too much. Your feet are not turned out enough. You could've put more power into that rep.

And so on. The inner voice, the critic can and will keep going if you let him.

The technical part of a movement can be broken down into quite a lot of steps and it is impossible to try and nail them. Well, at least for me. But that's what the critic is evaluating against. He has a checklist and is going over it for each and every rep you do.

And here's the kicker - is he being objective and precise about his observation? No. It is his judgment on how he thinks you did. Not impartial. Depends on what side of the bed he woke up on today.

But we all listen to him, and worse, we encourage him.

Think about days when you had a great training session or a gorgeous run where the mind felt refreshed and you came back beaming! I am willing to bet that somehow the critic shut up that day, or was otherwise occupied.

While I am a textbook follower for technical instruction, the "Don't think. Feel!" is my preferred approach. Because I know those days feel magical.

As I analyse my training days, the days I have the most learning are the days the critic took a vacation.

Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

Trying to shut him up does not work, and often backfires. What I do is a combination of

  1. being aware of what I am doing. This works as great proprioception (where your joints are in space) drill, with the added advantage of giving the critic something to observe. Is my back straight? Are my knees going out? Am I gripping the floor?
  2. removing emotion from what did not go well. Criticising myself after a bad rep, or even encouraging myself that I can do better. Because by using the word better, I am judging my previous rep.
  3. Putting more positivity into what I did right. Or rather, if it "felt good", I mentally high-five myself and move on. I don't analyse what felt right or replicate it or whatever. Trying to replicate seems to make things worse.

The critic hovers around not only in my training sessions but all the time. As I write this post. As I read books. As I am talking to people. Hopefully, I am able to transfer these lessons more into those places. Or is that in itself a judgment?

And so we go into over-thinking mode. And that's a good time to stop.