How to Integrate Mindset Coaching into Classes

by Colm O’Reilly,

Whatever is important to you and your coaches as leaders in the gym will be important to your clients. We adapt the value system of the group we’re in. If you want to slam heavy bars and crank the music loud, that’s what they’ll want to do. If nutrition is important to you, healthy eating will be important to your clients too. The same holds true for placing as much value on mindset and mental health as we do on fitness and physical health. 

Breathing Drills

This is an excellent place to start, as breathing drills are both an important warm up exercise and a non-hippy way you can introduce mindfulness to them. In its most fundamental form, teaching them to focus purely on the body sensations of breathing builds their ability to be present, calm, and focused. 

Most of us, your clients included, are rushing from one appointment to another. Giving them the gift of a purposeful pause, a mindful minute, a quick clarity break (whatever you want to call it!) is an incredibly powerful positive thing you can do for them. It allows them to lower their stress, let their brain clear some of the days strain, and be more present and focused in class! 

If you want to take this further you can turn off the music, set a timer for one minute, and invite them to slow down before they get stuck into their training. 

Setting Intentions

Yoga teachers are great at this, they’ll literally ask their clients to set an intention for the practice. “What do you want to get out of this session?” We can adapt that in our CrossFit/Functional Training Studios to ask them to focus on what they’d like to achieve today. Is it a good sweat? To improve their form with the barbell, to hold pace each round. 

In our gym we present the challenge of each workout, the strategy we’ll use, and the victory we’re aiming for. You can then individualise your approach as you speak to each athlete. Simple expressions like “the more deliberate we are with what we want out of every training day the better results we’ll get” go a long way to getting buy in for this. 

As we teach intentions we’re building our clients sense of agency and self worth. 

Language/Self Talk

Like it or not, our mindset and how we talk to our athletes is impacting their mindset and how they talk to themselves. So it’s important we are deliberately positive/constructive in how we speak to ourselves, and our clients. 

What impact does “this workout is gonna suck” have on a class’s energy and expectations? What about “this high intensity piece is going to really build our fitness”? 

Jason Khalipa once famously said that you should coach yourself through a workout like you would your best friend. In the middle round of “Fran” are you thinking about how out of breath you are and how time is slipping away, or are you telling yourself to pick up the bar because you can do it? Once a week encourage the class to listen to their self talk and gently work on improving it. 

Each expression is like an extra second in a workout, a pound on the bar, or a couple of calories. Over time they add up to VERY different outcomes. 

Bright Spots/Savouring

Many gyms do a Bright Spots Friday post on their private members page. But how much more powerful would it be if we did it in person at the start of class? 

This also gives us the opportunity to explain the key points of bright spots: that it’s exercise for the mind to make us more positive; giving a reason why helps cement the benefits; and acknowledging what’s going well balances our perspective on life? 

Letting Go

Michael Jordan’s Mindset Coach George Mumford talks about not taking this play into the next one. During lifting sessions we can teach our clients to set aside the previous attempt and concentrate on this lift. Letting go is a powerful practice, and is a gateway towards a daily forgiveness practice. 

Nick Saban follows a similar rule with his players. After a game, they’ve 24 hours to celebrate a win or mourn the loss. Then they’ve got to get back to the business of getting better. At the end of our workouts we can ask our own players to review the workout – what went well? How do they feel about it? How could they improve? Now, set it aside and move on. 

Goal Reviews

Start asking your clients about their mental health, and what they’re doing to care for their minds. This may make them uncomfortable at first (who wants to admit they’re lacking in any area so important!?) so it’s important we do this in a non-judgmental, safe way. 

When they do share what’s going on internally, it’s a fantastic chance for us to practice empathy with them. This will help validate their feelings and builds trust between us. If it’s appropriate, we can suggest simple mental health habits or more in depth mindset coaching.


Finally, nothing helps shape human minds like stories. When we hear a story of how we improved our mindset, or how our thinking shaped an outcome, our brains can make sense of the lessons we’re trying to teach. 

Share your mindset journey with your clients, your stumbles and successes, and you’ll unlock a previously unexplored method of enriching their lives.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to be sure you dont miss any of the valuable content we publish, just subscribe here.

If you'd like to continue the conversation with us, simply hit reply to the next email that hits your inbox. We love to hear from our followers!