Flipping the Switch: How I Changed My Mental Approach to Lifting

By: Lisa Guggisberg

“You’re a completely different lifter”. Brian Carroll said this to me a couple of weeks before Raw Unity 8 (RUM 8) after he looked at my weekly training video I sent to him.  I am pretty sure he meant my form and technique had drastically improved but what I didn’t realize at that moment is that he also meant mentally I had changed. I didn’t realize it just yet but he did, he saw the change.


Mild, mediocre, weak, meek, tame, gentle, quiet; these are all words I would use to describe myself as a lifter two years ago. I had little to no confidence in my ability as a lifter. Even after qualifying for USAPL nationals after doing my very first meet or when I competed at Raw Unity 7, I still lacked confidence in my ability and didn’t have the mindset of lifter. I approached the platform most of the time hoping I didn’t embarrass myself or hoping and praying that the weight would move. I showed no emotion and felt indifferent as I approached the bar. If I did have any emotion it was self doubt and fear. Fear that I wasn’t good enough to even be on a platform.  I was on the opposite spectrum of aggressive. I was pretty submissive and even worse complacent. The turning point? The moment I flipped that switch? RUM 8 when I squatted 300lb for the first time.  I remember distinctly walking up to the loaded bar, Brian and Todd standing next to the platform watching me. As I walked up I remember vividly staring at the bar and said to myself this motherf’er is mine and it’s coming up. I was a little shocked. Where did this come from? This wasn’t like me, I had anger, I had hate towards the bar, I was finally showing some emotion and I went with it. I smoked the squat and followed up with my first time pulling 300 pounds. Brian was right; I was a completely different lifter.

A lifter’s psyche

After that RUM 8 performance something changed for me. I started attacking the weight more aggressively and I finally had some confidence in myself. You can have people pump you up and tell you that you’re a good lifter but it doesn’t do any good unless you believe in yourself.  Brian talks about having a healthy fear of the weight versus an unhealthy fear of the weight. I had an unhealthy fear of the weight. I would talk myself out of taking a weight. I would think of a million reasons why I couldn’t take heavier weight. I finally realized that being afraid and a lack of aggression was holding me back. I had a lot more in me but I had to stop being so damn complacent and passive. I had finally found my inner bitch and embraced it.  I suppose I was tired of being meek. I took the fear I had of embarrassment and turned it into fear of failure. Finding the right emotional approach is central to success. My suggestions to those who haven’t been able to flip that mental switch:

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Don’t let numbers play mind games

Don’t get so wrapped up in a number that you end up overthinking and eventually talking yourself out of a lift. Matter of fact; don’t even think about the number. Respect the weight but load the damn bar and go. Don’t sit around lamenting or writing the weight love letters because that weight isn’t gonna love you back. It’ll just break your heart if you think too much about it. Attack it, get what you need from it and move on.

Trust your coach

I know Brian programs what he knows I am capable of. I know that he won’t ask me to hit weights he doesn’t think I am capable of moving. If Brian thinks I can move the weight then I can move it as long as my mind is in the right place.

Stop thinking negative thoughts

Examine your inner dialogue. Is it a lot of self doubt negativity? Start by being positive and talk yourself into believing you can. Do this even if it feels completely weird at first.


Picture yourself going through the motions and completing the lift. You may not realize it but your brain knows what body needs to do to be successful. I lay awake at night or find myself daydreaming of successfully executing lifts all the time.

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Having a mental barrier is a real Debbie Downer for your lifting. Mine held me back for years. Don’t be mentally weak, find that bitch inside and let her out.

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A self-proclaimed former high school band nerd turned meathead nerd, Lisa has been coached and mentored by Brian Carroll using 10/20/Life principals for 3 years. She started CrossFiting in 2006 but gave that up after realizing all she wanted to do was squat, bench and deadlift heavy. She now competes as a raw and multi-ply powerlifter in the 114 and 123 weight classes. Lisa has All-Time top 10 totals in both raw and multi-ply in her respective weight classes with a raw pro total of 936 lbs at 114 and a pro 1118 lb multi-ply pro total at 123 and 1090 lb multi-ply total at 114. She is currently ranked the #1 female multi-ply lifter at 123, #2 at 114 multi-ply female and #3 raw with wraps. Lisa has a B.A. in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration, but hates politics and political debates. She is a mom of two, a firefighter wife and has worked as a full time litigation paralegal for almost 20 years.
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