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By Karlee Simkowskie

I am not in shape.

I am not muscular enough.

I am not strong.

I can’t do this.

What if I don’t succeed?


I’ve been called it all: Negative Nancy, Pessimistic Patsy, Debbie Downer, to name a few. I feel like I should be at a meeting where I can stand up and say “Hello, my name is Karlee, and I am a pessimistic lifter”.

In my experience I have discovered you can be your own biggest fan or your worst bully. It all depends on your attitude. You may have goals that relate to weight loss or weight gain. You may want more strength, better endurance, or improved health.

My hope for you is to add a positive mental strength to the list of fitness goals you strive to accomplish.



I have quite a bit of  experience of being both employed and working out at a multitude of gyms, I have had the chance to converse with a wide range of active individuals on a regular basis. Everyone has their ups and downs in training, but we never realize how much our own mental strength can influence the outcome.

Sports psychology research shows mental processes and physical outcome are highly linked. The basic summary is as follows:

A positive thought process often leads to a greater chance of a positive and successful outcome. Furthermore, a negative thought process often leads to a greater chance of a negative and unsuccessful outcome.


We are all guilty of negative thinking at the gym. We say and think negativity easily and casually and it’s no big deal.  However, next time these thoughts occur imagine someone else saying those same thoughts to you…

You can’t handle three miles, why even try?

You aren’t strong enough to go heavier, don’t bother.

You’d be hurt and shocked that someone would judge you and say what you can or can’t do.  Why not be shocked that you would doubt yourself, and instead change the way you view yourself.



Eight years ago my cross country coach walked up to me and told me I would be a great Captain for the team. Nevertheless, he went on to explain to me that I would have to stop being so hard on myself. At the time I just laughed it off, put on my game face, and kept the negative self-doubts in my head.  Looking back I now see exactly what my coach was trying to tell me.  

Currently I have submerged myself into the world of lifting. I have competed in both bodybuilding and strongman competitions. Negative thoughts can affect the physical outcome of any sport or activity, but I found that lifting gave me an instant response of how mental thoughts can affect your performance.

The constant practice of telling yourself ‘I can lift it’ will make you stronger. It provides the focus and motivation that encourages you to push and challenge yourself even further.



This past summer I was training for a car deadlift. It was a Strongman event I was going to have to complete at an upcoming competition. I had a few previous attempts at it, and never budged it off the ground. I grunted, turned red, got angry, and walked away in a huff, upset with myself that I couldn’t do it. At my last attempt before the actual competition to try and lift this car, I already had it set in my head that I couldn’t do it. I’ve tried it before, it’s the same car, it’s the same weight, I’m the same person, I won’t be able to lift it, ever.

The first pull was unsuccessful and frustrating. The people I was training with saw my struggle and they raised the height of the lift making it a shorter distance I’d have to stand up, making it easier. I tried again, and I failed again.  So I then threw a 25-year-old temper tantrum, stomped my feet, grunted some more, and pulled that car again… guess what happened? I stood up with it!

At that point my mind went from I can’t get this, I will never get this to I got it, I can do this!

The handles of the lift were lowered back to the original height, where I set myself up and lifted the car five more times. Just like that, positive mental strength.

Some activities take all the strength you have, but sometimes your thoughts still have the ability to hold you back. Removing the doubts from your mind is similar to taking your foot off the brake.




I am a semi-reformed self-doubter, and I know stopping negative thoughts will always be something I will have to work on. I want to be a successful lifter and reach new goals while having a positive and happier view on life in general.

Here are a few steps I have taken to turn my protein shake half-empty into a protein shake half-full outlook:


Take notice when you have a negative thought about yourself or your abilities.

This tactic will start to make you aware of how often you doubt yourself. Don’t be your own bully.


Immediately counteract your negative thought with a positive one.

Are you still trying to hit that 8 minute mile but feeling doubtful? Remember back to when you started and could barely break 11 minutes? When you’re trying for a new personal record on a lift and think, ‘I won’t be able to lift this’. Say instead, ‘yes, I can do this. I want this.’ If the weight is only 10 lbs heavier than a previous best, pick up a 10 pound weight. Feel it in your hands, make yourself aware that those 10 lbs don’t feel that heavy. It’s just a little bit more on the bar, you got this! You just gained mental strength.


Encourage others and boost their confidence.

The fitness community is full of people helping and motivating one another.  Your lifting partner, someone you follow on social media, or a fellow gym member you have yet to meet, give them all compliments! Simple things such as taking notice of their hard work and effort or if you see them at the gym on a cold rainy day will make their day. Have you seen someone hitting a new speed on the treadmill, learning a new pose in yoga, or maybe they have fun new lifting tights! We all love those little boosters.  It is extremely difficult to give encouragement and not feel encouraged yourself.  Your mental strength and theirs will be soaring.

Trying a heavier weight for the first time? Ask for a spot, this will help you feel more confident about your attempt while practicing good safety during a lift you may struggle with.



I will be confident in my abilities and stay positive.

I will look at a difficult situation as a challenge, another chance to prove myself.

I will not let myself down before I have even begun.

I will not be my own bully.

I will be my own biggest fan.


~Karlee Simkowski
Bachelor’s Degree in Biology – Biomedical Concentration,
Master’s Degree in Human Performance – Applied Sports Science. Karlee is
in the process of obtaining her Doctorate Degree in Chiropractic.
Bikini, Bodybuilder and Strong(wo)man Competitor and Lady Lifter.
Follow Karlee on Instagram at @karkaysim


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