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How to Think Like an Athlete

A red-headed woman wearing boxing gloves draws her arm into a punch.

Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Simone Biles—a few names that come to mind when we think of athletic greatness. But were these individuals born great, or is there a secret to achieving peak performance?

While it’s impossible to deny that genetics shape our athletic ability, they’re certainly not the only factor at play. So what else is it that separates professional athletes from the rest of us (or even pushes a regular athlete to superstardom)? The answer: the secret to athletic performance lies in how you think abouttraining. Athletes can only become extraordinary by practicing the right mindset when working towards their fitness goals. 

So what does this mean for you? You don’t need to be a professional athlete—whether you’re training for a race, playing in a rec league, or simply trying to level up to an advanced workout program like Mike’s Path, you can benefit from applying these lessons in your everyday life.

Here are 7 ways you can adopt an athlete’s approach to fitness:

1. Reach for the Stars

The greatest athletes are those who accomplish what we previously believed to be impossible. They take pride in pushing the limits, both of their physical abilities and mental willpower. When you think of your own fitness journey, ask yourself: “Am I capable of more? Have I been playing it safe?” If the answer is yes, try to envision how you could set your sights higher.

2. Think Positive

An often-overlooked trait among star athletes is their positive attitude and optimism towards life. When they attempt to win that gold medal, throw that game-winning three-pointer, or sink that hole-in-one, they truly believe it is possible. Believing in yourself and your abilities is vital in achieving your goals—be confident that you are capable of whatever you set your mind to.

3. Take Small Steps

Goal-setting is a crucial skill for professional athletes, who are endlessly methodical in how they measure their progress over time. So while you may have lofty goals in mind, make sure to break these down into smaller milestones. You may find it helpful to keep a workout journal, plotting out the steps you’ll take to gradually build up to an accomplishment. Not only will this make it easier to track your growth, but ticking off the smaller boxes will boost your confidence along the way!

4. Keep the Passion Alive

An athlete’s entire life revolves around a passion for their sport. That may be a bit overboard for the regular fitness buff, but it’s still important to find an activity you genuinely enjoy! If your heart isn’t in it, try taking a new class or switching up your workout routine to refuel your motivation. Find what you love and stick with it.

5. Build Team Spirit

In team sports, athletes perform the best when they feel a sense of trust and belonging within the group. This is especially true when they play a unique role—quarterback, receiver, kicker, etc—that they know provides value to the team.

Even as a gym-goer, you can apply this to your life by forming a workout group  (even a virtual one!) with your friends or family to keep each other motivated and accountable. Plus, try assigning specific roles (e.g. the designated driver, the spotter) to help everyone feel like they’re an important part of the team.

6. Learn from Failure

Professional athletes see failure as a challenge. They know that the best way to become strong is to know your weaknesses—that way, you can target those areas to strengthen them in training. If you’re not seeing improvements from a fitness routine, consider filming yourself while you perform the moves. Review the footage and look out for any signs of improper form. By correcting your mistakes, you can boost the effectiveness of each training session.

7. Honor Your Commitments

Of course, none of the above steps make much of a difference if you don’t have the grit to work towards your fullest potential. Athletes don’t expect to become the best overnight—they dedicate themselves to becoming better, one day at a time. If you truly commit yourself to conquering your goals, you can become a champion.


Ready to train like an athlete? Challenge yourself with Mike’s Path in the fit52 app! Join former NHL player Mike Fisher in an advanced workout program that will have you training like a pro. Download fit52 now.