Column: Where are the mental gyms?

Column: Where are the mental gyms?

I have been working out conscientiously all summer long at the John Ondrush Golf Fitness Academy in Syosset.

I have no doubt that I am stronger, more flexible and have better balance. My golf fitness trainer is Ryan Moresco and each session we go from machine to machine working out different parts of the body.

I start out on the Octane, which is a lateral motion machine and go to the cushioned walls doing leg swings to loosen the hips. We proceed to walk through various hip and leg stretches and then get to medicine ball work, TXR exercises, and the Rip Trainer designed to add distance to your game.

You stay at each station for about five minutes and by the end of the hour you begin to feel a little like Rory McIlroy but not quite as rich.

Players working out in the Ondrush golf gym. (Photo provided by Tom Ferraro)


As I go through my training sessions with Ryan I often think that I should create a mental gym with machines which would give my patients time to work on various parts of their mind in order to obtain psychological strength.

Kind of like going through the stations of the cross in church but without any mention of the crucifixion.

I mused about this to Ryan and he then called my bluff. “Doc, that actually sounds like a good idea. Why don’t you do it.”

After giving it some thought here is what I came up with. This kind of mental workout could be used not only for athletes but for business people as well.

Every athlete or business person of course has varying needs. Some may have to cope with anger, others anxiety, some are lazy, some go too fast, others have poor focus, poor self esteem, etc.

So here is the model for my mental gym. Let’s call it ‘Dr. T’s Mental Gym Workout.”

Station #1: The Dream Machine. Symbol, a couch. The Drill: A five minute review of a dream you want to achieve within two years with a written copy produced by the end.

Station #2: The Focus Machine. Symbol, blinkers. The Drill: Create a plan that you would use to achieve your dream which includes a budget. Give a written copy by the end if five minutes.

Station #3: The Action Machine: Symbol, a ticking clock. Drill: Set up deadlines for each part to the action plan and post the deadline on the bathroom mirror.

Station #4: The Courage Machine. Symbol, a pair of red boxing gloves. Drill: Discussion with the therapist/trainer which results in a mantra you can repeat to self like “ I can do this.” I remember that Sammy Davis Jr. would kiss his ring and chant “I’m a star. I’m a star” before he walked on stage.

Station #5: Self Belief Machine. Symbol, a mirror. Drill: discuss your most significant achievements and consolidate them in to a single phrase to memorize. (What I always use is the statement “ I have won college torunaments.”)

Station #6: The Drive Machine: Symbol, a tear drop. Drill: Discuss the pain or losses or deprivation of childhood that is fueling your ambition. Without past loss you would have no drive at all. Any high achiever has a past which contains torment and loss and shame.

Station #7: The Risk Machine. Symbol , a big cushion. Drill: Discuss the way in which one can comfort oneself or obtain solace after failed actions.

Station #8: The Winning Machine. Symbol, an ice cube. Drill: Permission to get focused and cool and quiet while you play. One must be able to tap into a feeling of being separate from the opponents in order to win. Jack Nicklaus was the best at that.

Station #9 The Pride Machine: Symbol, a man walking with shoulders back and head held high. The Drill: Instruction in body language and how to walk tall and with pride.

Research done by George Kelly shows that when you walk with pride you actually begin to feel proud and dominant. This attitude helps both in sports and in business.

Station # 10: The Aggression Machine. Symbol, the teeth of a snarling tiger. Drill: You are here given permission to defeat your opponent. When he was just a child Tiger Wood’s mother would tell him “Go out there and kill them all.” When you are given permission to be aggressive you usually become a winner.

Station #11: The Celebration Machine. Symbol, a trophy. Drill: discuss the ways in which you will enjoy your victory and thereby integrate and digest your achievement.

Now all this may sound like a silly exercise in fantasy. Who in the world would go to a Mental Gym to obtain psychological strength on a weekly basis?

Well it may be that the reason no one has gone to one of these mental gyms yet is because no one has ever built one. But like in the film “Field of Dreams” the saying is ‘build it and they will come”.

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