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What gives some people the ability to push into challenge, pain, or struggle while others run from it? Or the ability to not eat that piece of cake versus giving into your cravings more than you don’t?

A big portion of someone’s will or want to drive towards these things has a lot  to do with our “lizard brain” and our “Limbic Cortex”.


The limbic cortex is what houses our emotions, addictions, mood, and other mental and emotional processes we will go through each day.

The lizard brain is in charge of our fight, flight, feeding, fear, and fornication. It’s the part of the brain that subconsciously whispers words like “you’ll never” “you can’t” “this is impossible”.


From the moment, we are born our surroundings begin to shape and mold not only the way we dress, or the type of foods we like, but the emotions we feel and our ability to process these emotions either rationally or irrationally.


Then we have our Neocortex, which is in charge of Logic, reasoning, and forward planning. This is where we take “You’ll never” and turn it into “you aren’t there yet, but you’re on your way”.  Or “this is impossible” and change it to “if I keep working, one day I’ll get it”.


The situation we find ourselves in when needing to make a tough decision and our past experience’s shape why we make the choices we do.

For Example:

Someone who grew up without running hot water has no problem jumping into a cold lake to bathe themselves, while someone who grew up with the luxury of running hot water would definitely think two or three times before taking the cold plunge.


Now imagine an individual who was showered was sugary treats as a kid when they did something good. That craving for sugar when feeling down and wanting to feel better can feel overpowering!


So how do we use our new understanding of the brain to help combat these cravings or help us push into more challenging tasks that we may otherwise shy away from?

First recognize when these emotions come up and identify what they sound like. If the words “can’t” “impossible” or other definitive negative tones are there, take a deep breath. Breathing deeply into the diaphragm and slowing down our heart rate and respirations helps shift our nervous system from a sympathetic state (where the lizard brain mainly lives) and into a more parasympathetic state (our rest and digest system).

This simple first step will allow us to start to tap into the Neocortex and logically work our way through the situation. One more rep in a workout can go from “I can’t do it” to “let’s try and see”, or “I’ll never loose the weight” to “I’m making progress and will get there eventually”.


The more we practice switching our mindset when negative thoughts creep in, the stronger we make these pathways and the easier it becomes over time. Just like adding pounds to your back squat, it takes consistent effort over a long period of time to overpower the lizard brain and think logically about any big situation.


If you’d like to learn more about how to strengthen your positive mindset a great resource is @mindgymforathletes on Instagram. Mental coach Bob Fystro has been helping athletes at the highest level of sport as well as everyday moms and dads overcome the challenges one will face daily when trying to compete against the best in the world or get through our busy lives that seem to get busier and busier each day. Coach Fystro posts quotes and exercises we can all utilize to be the best version of ourselves.


Also, check out this week’s upcoming Coast Range Podcast (releasing Monday, February 18th) where Coaches Natalie, Brett, and Wes dive into how to keep a positive mindset around the infamous RX on the whiteboard and the upcoming OPEN workouts.