“Training hard and lifting heavy are all important, but belief in your own ability [is what] makes you … a champion.”
“Weightlifting is 50 percent mental and 30 percent technique. Power is only 20 percent, but everybody has it reversed.”
“Think, plan and expect positive results.”
Tommy Kono, Olympic champion and coach
Tommy Kono, widely considered weightlifting’s all-time greatest competitor, is no longer with us, but his inspiring training philosophy lives on. When I read his quote about weightlifting being 50 percent mental and only 20 percent power, I felt sure his views on mental attitude would be helpful in our writing.
Weightlifting and writing may seem to be an odd couple, but Tommy himself was not only a fabled athlete, he was an author as well. His guide, Championship Weightlifting, Beyond Muscle Power, The Mental Side of Lifting is valued by aspiring world-class competitors because it explores the impact of mental attitude on performance.
For Tommy, mental strength was rooted in maintaining a positive attitude. Plagued by asthma and other health problems as a child, he rose to Olympian heights by pursuing a simple, but powerful philosophy: “…we should all strive to keep improving ourselves no matter what happens…adversities and objects are there to challenge our mettle and to make us better, stronger persons. It is… accepting that challenge that makes us persevere for the bigger goals in life.”
Tommy was a firm believer in deliberate practice and the power of continued, focused effort. He believed in training with a realistic purpose and planning each workout so that it brought an athlete one step closer to his or her goal.
The key to his success, Tommy said, was mental training. “Successful weightlifting is not in the body,” he once observed. “It’s in the mind. You have to strengthen your mind to shut out everything — the man with the camera, the laugh or cough in the audience. You can lift as much as you believe you can. Your body can do what you will it to do.”
When asked about building his mental stamina, Kono said, “I just stress the positive aspects of life — it’s always worked for me… You must believe in yourself and focus on the task at hand—and put everything else out of your mind.” Kono described the mental focus
required to achieve a personal record as akin to “using a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s ray to a pinpoint to start paper or wood burning….The focus is only on things you can control.” For example, don’t waste time and energy thinking about your opponent or the referees. Don’t let outside factors influence your performance.
Practice deliberately, apply continuous, focused effort, keep improving, believe in yourself: Great advice from an Olympic champion we can all apply as we write on.