You’re standing in front of a steel bar loaded with a lot of weight. It’s you’re first attempt at this weight for this lift. As you approach the bar hands sweating with nervous tingles in your fingers, you reflect on all the cues you’ve received in the warm up lifts. Core tight, drive through the heels, fast hips, explode and stay tight. You set up. Here we go. Boom! The bar crashes to the ground. Shake it off and try again right? OK, add fast elbows to that previous sequence. Up again and Boom! the bar crashes to the ground after the high pull. Argh! With frustration you add high pull to that sequence. Maybe with another attempt you get it to the front rack but just can’t explode the bar and get your arms locked out for the jerk. You’ve gotten every cue in the book and executed each one but it just isn’t coming together. It’s OK. You may be just overthinking everything. How do you solve this overthinking? Try a smile.
I recently remembered a TED talk I watched about how a smile can affect our mindset and bodies. I’ve watched this video multiple times. I love the science presented. (Nerd alert!) While it doesn’t pertain specifically to working out I felt the overall message does. As a test, I applied the ‘smile technique’ a few times in the gym, during workouts and lifting over the last few weeks. I’m sure someone may have caught me smiling but just chalked it up to me being ‘strange’. Interestingly enough, it did change my mood. Instead of losing myself in over-thinking the movement, my stress melted away. I just smiled. It helped change anxiety and stress into something positive. Your brain already knows what to do. That muscle memory is there. The thread that sews it together is to stop overthinking and just let it happen. Smile and relax. Sure we want to be a stronger better human being, but it won’t hurt you to smile while you are becoming one.
Smiling, no matter what you’re thinking or current emotional state, tricks the brain into releasing endorphins. We have also been conditioned to recognize that smiling means being happy and relaxed. In the video Ron Gutman touches on this. What is even more wonderful is that when we see other people smiling you can’t help but to do the same! It’s a superpower! How awesome is that. We can change moods with an upturn of your mouth, we can influence how other people feel, we can be healthier and maybe we can find the confidence and allow our muscle memory to make that lift.
“Smiling can help reduce the level of stress-enhancing hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine,increase the level of mood-enhancing hormones like endorphin and reduce overall blood pressure.”
Calming yourself by smiling can help alleviate the stress and anxiety you may feel before a big lift or during a workout.
It can be a bit difficult to remind yourself to smile during a long chipper workout or during a lift, but try it anyway. The only ‘damage’ it will do is make you happy and happiness is never a bad thing.
Check out the TED talk and smile.