During the more than seven years that I’ve been strength training, I’ve discovered and become a devoted fan of a small handful of podcasts that are designed to help build resilience and improve your mindset. These have become important resources for me and I even credit some of them with helping me perform tangibly better in competitions.
I’ve explored a huge number of podcasts in the health and fitness space generally, and the strength training/powerlifting space specifically, since I started lifting.
Initially, I wanted to learn more about strength training, nutrition, and other topics about which I still knew very little. As my knowledge base grew, podcasts also became a way to immerse myself in a like-minded community that shared my passion. When I began competing, they were a way to learn more about the sport and hear directly from the most influential athletes and coaches in the game.
But beyond all of those reasons to listen, I firmly believe that podcasts are one of the most effective tools you can use to improve your mindset and build resilience.
Why you may need an attitude adjustment
Anyone who lifts—or who engages in regular exercise or training of ANY kind—knows how much attitude matters. We all have those low motivation days when getting into the gym and believing in ourselves seems to require every last bit of mental effort.
And, those of you who compete know how much mindset, confidence, and self-talk matter. In particular, the last few weeks before a meet can really screw with our heads. It always seems like everyone on social media is having the best peak of their lives, while you feel exhausted and sore all the time and haven’t smelled even a whiff of a PR in months. You may even have failed some lifts and feel like you’re teetering on the ragged edge of despair.
The very act of lifting builds tremendous resilience, but we still need other ways to create reserves of grit we can tap in those moments when we REALLY don’t want to power through those last few reps, or we’re scared to step under or up to a heavy loaded bar.
Top five podcasts to improve your mindset and build resilience
I’ve found a small handful of podcasts to be particularly valuable tools to improve your mindset. They’ve motivated me, inspired me, and helped me build resilience by reminding me of my own strength (both inner and outer). In a couple of cases they’ve helped me focus and restore confidence that was lacking as I was coming into a big competition.
Unlike many other podcasts that I love and plan to discuss here in the future, these five are not specific to powerlifting or even to strength training. One of them IS produced by an all-time-world-record-holding powerlifter, but it’s not really about lifting.
Another is the creation of a gym owner, personal trainer and entrepreneur who believes passionately in, and has transformed a lot of lives through, strength training—but again, his podcast covers vastly more than that.
Two are hosted by a former pro football player. Athletes are his primary audience, but not lifters specifically—and the reach of many of his episodes extends far beyond sports.
The last one is intended for anyone who has to face the experience of “performing,” whether that’s on the lifting platform, on an Olympic ski slope or track, on a stage, or at a speaker’s podium.
1. The Champion Mindset Podcast
Powerlifter Stacy Burr set an all-time world record in the spring of 2019 (which remains unbroken), and started The Champion Mindset podcast just a few months later to share the strategies and mindset that made her success possible.
Stacy is a fixture in powerlifting, and a true force of nature. You can’t help but get fired up and motivated when you listen to her speak, but you also feel like you’re listening to a friend, because she carries herself with humility and true generosity of spirit.
If you ever find yourself at a meet where she’s coaching/handling lifters, you’ll discover that she’s incredibly approachable, positive, polite and kind to everyone around her, and that’s exactly the tone of her podcast.
Can. Am. Will.
One thing that may surprise you about The Champion Mindset is its compassionate tone. You might expect a strength athlete who’s achieved Stacy’s level of success to posture or put on a tough front, but that’s not her approach. She’s very transparent about her own journey and struggles, and she understands that self-love and confidence and resiliency—and indeed mental health—don’t just happen. We must build them, just like muscles, through awareness and consistent effort.
The Champion Mindset is not the podcast for you if you’re cynical or think the world is out to get you, because Stacy’s having none of that. Her motto is “Can. Am. Will.”
On the other hand, if you want someone to help you take a good hard look in the mirror and dig deep to overcome fear, self-doubt, and whatever obstacles may be standing in the way of getting what you want, you’ll want to subscribe to this one ASAP.
Glance at a few episode titles and you’ll see why you might want this podcast in your life:
- Have Patience with Yourself
- 4 Steps to Managing Your Emotions
- It’s Ok To Ask for Help
- Choose the Path to Resiliency
- Be Adaptable
The Champion Mindset is on hiatus for a little while Stacy is in prep for a new adventure, her first bodybuilding show. But she recorded 100 episodes before taking this break, so there’s plenty of material to dig into in the meantime.
Episode 100 is called The Importance Of Being A Beginner. She talks about what it’s like starting over at something completely new and having to be a humble newbie. I’m really looking forward to hearing all of the lessons and wisdom she’ll have to share when she starts recording again.
Where to find it
2. The NOT Born This Way Podcast
I discovered the The NOT Born This Way podcast not long after creator Scott Baumann launched it back in 2016. At that point it was called the Iron Will podcast, named after Scott’s gym in Westbrook, Maine. When the gym and company name changed to the Iron Legion Strength Company back in 2018, the podcast’s name changed too.
I mention this in case you encounter the old name when you go down the rabbit hole of his more than 300 episodes, which I highly recommend because they’re all so good.
Walking the talk
Iron Legion’s mission statement is “Empowerment through strength,” and that’s been evident in this podcast from day one. I especially love how much it reflects and embodies Scott’s own experiences. He absolutely walks his talk.
For example, one of his most constant and valuable messages is the idea of progress over perfection; of moving past the fear of failure, just jumping into things and getting started.
Scott’s creation of NOT Born This Way exemplifies this sentiment. I don’t know what tech he’s using now, but he literally recorded the first few years’ worth of episodes simply talking into his phone while driving back and forth to the gym.
He could have let himself get bogged down by the learning curve of high-tech podcast production—or worse, not recorded at all because he “didn’t have time.” He’d have as legitimate an excuse as any of us to say that: he launched NOT Born This Way while simultaneously running a gym, actively training clients, creating a brand, and also trying to be a present husband and dad.
Instead of getting paralyzed by all of that, he said to himself, “Hey, I have 10-15 minutes of time behind the wheel on the way to work. And I have a phone. And I have things to say.”
He’s kept the same pared-down approach for six years. No music beds or post-recorded intros, no fancy effects, and most of the time no guests.
The hard truth
As you may be starting to figure out, I’m not in interested in slick production or a bunch of fluff. I don’t have time for that. If I’m going to devote my precious time to a podcast, I want to listen to someone who tells the unvarnished truth about things that matter, especially if it’s going to be difficult for me to hear.
And tell the truth Scott does. About health, about fat loss, about fear, about discipline, about parenting, about entrepreneurship. The length is perfect, usually around 15 minutes. The podcast is called NOT Born This Way because Scott is all about transformation. He’s personally helped hundreds of people change their bodies and their lives through strength training. He’s also personally dropped everything and moved thousands of miles to take a chance on starting a business. So he knows what’s possible, and that’s what he’s sharing here. For example:
- The importance of the long game.
- Taking on the things that scare you.
- Toughness. Can it be developed?
- Life lessons from a 9 year old.
NOT Born this Way is straightforward, raw, and hard-hitting. Like some of the other podcasts I’m going to recommend, this one is frequently NSFW/not a good choice for your kids’ ears if you don’t want them to hear swearing. Some days it’s like a refreshing cold shower, and other days it feels like a slap in the face.
But pretty much without fail, it will make you think, it will fire you up, and you’ll walk away from it feeling stronger and less alone than you did walking in.
Where to find it
3. Becoming Headstrong
The Becoming Headstrong podcast is produced by Dr. Nicole Detling and her team at Headstrong Consulting. This podcast is chock full of evidence-based information and ideas from experts who work every day to help athletes, musicians, dancers, and other performers achieve their best when it matters.
Becoming Headstrong’s short episodes (3-10 minutes on average) cover topics like pre-performance anxiety reduction, mental toughness, focus and concentration, motivation, and self-talk. In just a few minutes of listening, you can get an excellent quick lesson about how to improve your mindset. Just for example:
- Better Bad Days – Dr. Detling
- Using Self-Talk to Find Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning – Coach Hillary
- FAIL Out of Your Comfort Zone – Coach Chelsea
- Avoid Avoidance – Dr. Nick
One of this podcast’s episodes actually inspired and informed my recent post on self-talk.
Becoming Headstrong will help anyone, but it’s especially valuable if you’re someone who competes or performs regularly (and that absolutely applies to things like giving presentations at work and public speaking). And, if you’re interested in deepening your knowledge about the field of performance psychology for any reason, this podcast provides terrific jumping off points to delve into the literature. Give it a listen!
Where to find it
4. The Sports Motivation Podcast
Former All American and NFL Running Back and mindset consultant Olaniyi Sobomehin (Niyi Sobo) hosts two separate podcasts, both of which I discuss here and both of which are must-listens for me. I’ll start with the Sports Motivation Podcast.
The name is accurate: Niyi’s primary audience here is athletes, although he also coaches business owners and entrepreneurs. Non-athletes can still get a lot out of this one, so don’t let that put you off if you’re not currently lifting or engaged in a sport. If you seek to be a high performer, whether in sport or in some other pursuit, this podcast will resonate.
Life in the jungle
Niyi pulls no punches. He has no interest in making anyone feel warm and fuzzy about themselves. In his world, there are two kinds of people. There are those who seek excellence and do what’s necessary to achieve it. Those folks live in the “jungle.” Everyone else lives in the “zoo” where it’s safe. If that idea rubs you the wrong way, skip this podcast.
Niyi calls you out. He hones in like a heat-seeking missile on your weaknesses, your tendencies to be lazy about whatever you’re lazy about (we’ve ALL got SOMETHING), your fear, your complacency… and gives you a good swift kick in the ass. So don’t listen to the Sports Motivation Podcast if you’re not interested in having someone push you to grow.
But here’s the thing: Niyi ALSO provides tools and new ways of thinking that will help you address all of those things.
You can see this in this tiny sample of episode titles:
- How to deal with MAJOR setbacks
- The right way to practice Gratitude
- Dominate The Morning (part of a four-part series)
- How to respond to repeated failures
One interesting and unique feature of The Sports Motivation Podcast are the “BARS” episodes that Niyi regularly drops. He shares hip-hop lyrics that resonate for him, how he interprets them, and ideas about how to apply them in our lives.
If you devote some time to this podcast, you’ll quickly discover that underneath the tough talk, Niyi clearly has great compassion. More importantly, you can hear that he’s talking to himself as much as he is to you. He’s not saying anything to or demanding anything of you, his listener, that he doesn’t say to, or demand of, himself on a daily basis.
If you are, or want to become, a high performer, The Sports Motivation Podcast needs to be on your playlist. (Note: frequent swearing, so maybe NSFW/small children depending on your preferences.)
Where to find it
5. Get Ya Mind Right (GYMR)
Get Ya Mind Right is Niyi Sobo’s other podcast. I’ve saved it for last because this has become the single most valuable podcast to me as a competitive lifter.
Where the Sports Motivation Podcast tends to take more time (up to an hour) to break down a problem or issue and provide ideas and solutions for it, GYMR provides very quick doses of medicine for your right brain, your emotions, and your spirit. If you ever find yourself needing something quick and hard-hitting to shift or improve your mindset, help you reduce anxiety or increase confidence, this is the podcast for you.
Some GYMR episodes actually serve as self-hypnosis tracks. The first half of these walks you through a series of guided relaxation exercises; this makes your brain more receptive to the message that Niyi is going to deliver in the back half few minutes of the episode.
I keep some of these episodes saved on a playlist and listen to them the night before a meet. I’ve found this one especially powerful.
GYMR also includes what Niyi calls “Mental Reps” episodes. These are similar to self-hypnosis in that the same very simple phrase (or slight variations of it) is repeated over and over again on top of a music track.
If you’d asked me how effective something like this might be prior to my trying it, I would have been quite skeptical. Then I actually used a couple of Mental Reps episodes in the weeks leading up to my last big competition, USPA Drug-tested Nationals.
They changed everything.
Meet prep had been rough and my confidence had taken a real hit. I needed something to help me restore my self-belief. My self-talk needed to change, and change deeply, not superficially.
So I started playing these two episodes on repeat:
I listened to them over and over again: in my car, at night, any time I could find.
Reprogramming my brain
At first, the words felt completely fake and artificial, and I felt ridiculous listening to them. Not surprising, because they very much did NOT match the soundtrack that was playing in my head at that time.
Here’s the remarkable thing, though. The act of repeatedly listening to them actually did change that inner soundtrack.
I started saying to myself, and then thinking, and then actually believing, that I WAS ready and that I AM a beast.
It’s worth noting that Niyi understands a critical principle: you can’t talk yourself out of fear and anxiety. If you try to pretend they don’t exist or ignore them, they actually get worse.
So, in the process of repeating the positive messages in this type of self-affirming episode, he throws in acknowledgement of the negative thoughts you’re trying to shift. For example, “I’m scared, but I’m still ready.”
For me, that grace and permission to feel what I was feeling, PLUS the tools and language to move past those feelings and perform DESPITE them, was absolutely key.
Suffice to say I set two PRs (squat and deadlift) at Nationals, and in the process hit two big milestone weights I’d been chasing for years.
I credit the GYMR podcast for playing a significant part in that success on the platform.
Whether you compete or perform regularly or just need to speak more productively to yourself, Get Ya Mind Right is essential listening.