Title: Mind Gym: An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence
Authors: Gary Mack with David Casstevens
As required reading for my graduate program (M.S. in Applied Physiology & Kinesiology at the University of Florida!), I read Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence and it was, by far, one of the best books I have ever read. It was captivating and I could barely put it down. Mind Gym is a collection of anecdotes set into four sections to unlock the secrets of the mental aspects to performance, with each chapter focusing on a specific lesson. There is something for everyone in this book and anyone can relate to the detailed triumphs and fails woven throughout the book. From the first chapter the authors detail the ‘why’ behind mental preparation. “Achieving inner excellence is a process. Building mental muscle, like building physical muscle, requires time and effort. The more you work on the inside, the more it will show on the outside”. 
My Top 3 Takeaways from Mind Gym
The author talks about the Parachute Principle in the excerpt, 'The Next Level'. “The mind is like a parachute – it only works when it is open. Athletes who hope to improve must recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Then they must work at turning their weaknesses into strengths”.  I love the author’s analogy of the mind being like a parachute. If you are open to learning and critically analyzing your weak points, then you can certainly find ways to improve, and you may then find new strength and power where you least expected it. Sometimes it can take a leap of faith to discover and work on our weaknesses – hey, it’s more fun to do what we are good at right!?! In the end, where do you want to end up? Do you just want to have fun or be the best version of yourself that you can be? I like to think that creating the best version of yourself will reap greater rewards. Rewards are the fun part, right!?!
The author details the A.C.T. principle in the excerpt, 'Good Enough to Dream'. “Believe in the power of your dream, then A.C.T… Accept your present state. Create your desired state. Take action through goal setting”. 
Accept Your Present State: As discussed in the previous excerpt, “The Next Level” an athlete needs to understand their current strengths and weaknesses to determine a starting point. What areas can I improve on? What am I doing right? Accepting your present state and learning what actions need to be taken to change the present state are a great place to start. Even if you are not satisfied with your present state, it is important to accept where you are starting from so you can enjoy the journey to reach your dreams.
Create Your Desired State: This is the fun part of the A.C.T. principle! What is your dream? What do you see yourself achieving? What do you want out of sport, life? Make sure to write down your desired state. Remember from our The Art of Goal Setting: Our Best Tips and Strategies for Ultimate Success! blog, “vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success, and people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t”.  So, write down that desired state and start the journey to your best self!
Take Action Through Goal Setting: “It is said that extraordinary people live their lives backward. They create a future, and then they live into it”.  You created your desired state in the last step, well now it is time to create goals to achieve that desired state. Need help, we’ve got you covered. A great recap for creating those all-important SMART goals can be found in our Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know About Goal Setting… and Then Some! blog. Don’t worry – you got this!
The author details the four key dimensions of an effective mindset in the excerpt, 'The Four D’s'. “Once you have your dream and direction, it is desire, dedication, determination, and discipline that keep you going”. 
Desire: What is your dream, your wish? What do you want to achieve more than anything? If you know what you want and are ready to take the steps to achieve your desire – fantastic!
Dedication: Dedication is turning your desire, your wish, into action steps. This requires commitment. Are you ready to commit to achieving your greatest desire? Are you all in? To make your wildest dreams come true, you will need to fully commit to your action plan.
Determination: Everyone wants to be successful, but those who achieve success are steeled by an unwavering resolve. Determination is one of the key aspects of the four D’s. It creates an emotional connection to your goal or desire. You have to WANT to do the work necessary to be successful.
Discipline: How will you create an action plan to be successful? Will you do what you need to do to be successful? Will you motivate yourself to do the work even when it gets tough? Without discipline, it can be extremely difficult to achieve that ultimate desire.
There are so many more anecdotes to take inspiration from. You can apply the principles discussed throughout Mind Gym to really take your mental game to the next level. The aforementioned excerpts from Mind Gym are just a taste of the tidbits, strategies, tools, and principles found throughout the pages of this fascinating book!
Top Four Favorite Quotes from Mind Gym
I am a huge proponent of positive thinking and positivity. Pat Summitt said it perfectly: attitude is a choice. I choose to live a more positive and optimistic life because (1) it’s more fun and (2) “a number of studies have shown that optimists enjoy higher levels of well-being, better sleep, lower stress and even better cardiovascular health and immune function”.  There is definitely power in positivity! One of my favorite possessions is a necklace I wear for running, training, pretty much any athletic endeavor. I know I’m partial, but it’s a beautiful rose gold script “smile” necklace, inspired by graffiti in New York City and designed by Paloma Picasso (daughter of Pablo Picasso!). It’s a tangible reminder to always smile and be optimistic and positive, huge parts of my personality. So, now it’s time to turn that frown upside down!
This is such an important quote as Vermeil talks about surrounding yourself with the right people. I am a huge proponent of surrounding myself with positivity, which includes the people in my life. Having a positive support system can go a long way to helping you achieve your goals.
I love this quote by Hank Aaron because it rings so true. Consistency is what really counts when working towards achieving a goal. As discussed previously, the four D’s (desire, dedication, determination, and discipline) are key to turning a dream into a reality. If you have a desire, are dedicated and determined to achieve it, and are disciplined (consistent) to achieve that desire, then you are already on the road to success. A great analogy is thinking of consistency as a bank. Anything positive towards achieving your goal – a great workout, run, etc. – is a deposit in your bank. As long as you are consistently depositing into your bank, you will reap the rewards of the hard work.
There is a saying that you will never work a day in your life if you love what you do. This applies to sport, fitness, exercise, pretty much anything. If you love what you do, the journey will be that much sweeter! This quote by Mary Lou Retton speaks volumes, but for those who are trying to find that fire, don’t give up! Great things are worth the wait and when you do find that fire, it will be that much greater.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mind Gym, as it is truly an inspiring read. The title itself is so clever - learn how to work out your mind like you do your body. If you go to the gym to get physically stronger, why not create a “gym” for your mind to make it stronger too. The principles and tools described in Mind Gym can be used in all facets of life, not just sport, and I encourage anyone who wants a guide to inner excellence to read this book. There is something for everyone and I hope you are ready to take the next step in achieving your dreams by finding your inner excellence!
If you are interested in finding your inner excellence or are looking for your next great read, grab a copy of Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence here.
Happy Sunday and all my love! ❤️ Kelly
 Mack, G. & Casstevens, D. (2001). Mind Gym: An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence. McGraw-Hill.
 Sorois, F. (2022). Why Optimists Live Longer Than the Rest of Us. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/07/03/optimistists-live-longer-why/