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Training & Exercise

Podcast 137: World-Renowned Sports Psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr on Mental Performance

August 24, 2021

Dr. Jim Loehr, one of the world’s leading experts on sports psychology, joins the WHOOP Podcast for an in-depth discussion on mental performance, energy, stress and finding purpose.

By Will Ahmed

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Dr. Jim Loehr sits down with VP of Performance Kristen Holmes to share what he’s learned in over 30 years of research. He discusses mental toughness, the connection between physical and mental strength, how to manage your energy levels and overcome stress, and the importance of finding your purpose in life.

There’s a lot to take away from this conversation, whether you’re a competitor, a coach, or just a high performer in general, Dr. Loehr covers how your identity is not your scorecard–and how we can all find a place of deeper fulfillment.


Dr. Jim Loehr Mental Performance Podcast Quotes and Highlights

2:38 – Mental Toughness. Jim details his beginnings in the sports psychology and mental performance space. He published his first book, Mental Toughness for Training for Sports, in 1979. “At that time, the words mental toughness didn’t really resonate with anyone. We understood physical toughness, but mental toughness was kind of a strange concept.”

5:23 – “The Zone.” Kristen and Jim discuss the concept of athletes being “in the zone,” or an ideal performance state. Jim explains why for an athlete to compete at their peak, they need to harness everything, not just their physical performance. “It’s a multi dimensional construct. … It’s physical, emotional, it’s mental.”

7:56 – Performing in the Moment. “The ability to execute flawlessly in a high-stress venue means you have to learn how to control this very delicate mind-body balance. It’s probably the most important frontier of competitive athletics, learning to control that. It can be hijacked and derailed.”

11:30 – Habits and Preparation. “The most important dimension of performance is preparation. And there are preparatory activities that need to be done over and over again so it becomes almost second nature, but it’s never second nature. And the things that you can control in competition are the things you focus on. You can’t control winning and losing. You can’t control the score. You can’t control bad luck. … You can hold yourself accountable. You can expect from yourself to give 100% of your full and best energy every single second you’re out there. And the other thing you can [do is] you can exude a great positivity … a sense of joy in being out there.”

15:35 – The Power of Full Engagement. Kristen recommends Jim’s book The Power of Full Engagement, which focuses on energy management and the mind-body connection.

17:23 – Body and Mind. “The mind is the body and the body is the mind. What is true for one is true for the other.”

19:54 – Energy. “The single most important resource we have as human beings is our energy. Be careful where it goes because you’re giving life to whatever you give your energy to. If you give a lot of energy to being a victim, to being for negativity, for sarcasm, cynicism, impatience, those can become some of the most dominant parts of who you are. … What should we put our energy into in the time that we have? That then opens the door to purpose and spirituality. Who do you want to be in life?”

27:08 – Trying to Get Home. “We’re all trying to navigate in life. We’re trying to navigate in sport. We’re trying to navigate in our relationships. Metaphorically, we’re trying to get home. Home is trying to end up at the end of your life where you want to get where you want to end up. And there are lots of detours, there are a lot of faults. So when you get in your car and you want to go somewhere, the first thing you have to know, or you’re not likely to get there, you have to know what the destination is. That is purpose.”

29:05 – Finding Yourself in the Present. “If you don’t know where you are at this moment – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – if you’re not sure where you are right now, you have no idea of how to close the gap between where you want to go and where you are now.”

31:24 – Purpose. “We are a purpose-driven species. The door that opens this treasure trove of energy is purpose. If you get the purpose right, the doors of that energy will open up and you’ll be able to be a big investor. As long as the energy is in the vault. Purpose begins the whole process. Then we need to face the truth about what we are and who we are.”

34:20 – Training the Brain. “The brain is infinitely trainable,” Jim says. “This neuroplasticity of the human system, the ability to [create] new pathways. As long as we know what it is we want we just continue to pave those very primitive pathways, like a four-wheel-drive road. But if you pass them enough, you build enough myelin, they become like a highway. Maybe ultimately a six lane highway.”

42:29 – Life’s Choices. “You never did anything to get here. It was nothing that you did to come into this world. You won this lottery of life purely by accident. … You never chose to come into the world. The only thing you can do is you can choose to decide what you’re going to do with your life.”

43:42 – Purpose and Meaning. “Without purpose, life is chaos. With the wrong purpose, life is chaos. If you really understand, it was never about you. It was about what you can do for others. The more you can help others be happy and understand what life is about and become a better person, somehow it comes back to you a thousand fold, and you’re more likely to scale the mountain.”

52:35 – Renewal and Motivation. “You have to pay attention to the renewal side of the equation or you end up one day hating what you’re doing. When you lose motivation, what that means is the body is trying to save you because you’re starting to spend more, you’re going into deficit and your reserves get lower and lower and lower.”

56:20 – Dealing With Adversity. Jim discusses how you can train yourself mentally for hard times and adversity in life. “We’re never finished growing. We’ve got to continue to get stronger every day. Every obstacle, every traffic jam, every insult that someone delivers in our direction, every crisis … if you actually use that to grow, what you will find out eventually in your life are the things that pushed you the most actually have helped you the most to become an extraordinary force in the world.”


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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.