Published on May 18th, 2014 | by Grinds4Gamers0
Mental Toughness: Unleashing Your Inner Dragon
One of the questions I get on a regular basis from athletes of all skill levels is:
“I feel like I’m going nowhere. How do I break through my plateaus?”
At that point, I usually delve into their diet, sleep patterns, training regimens, active rest periods, stress and the like. Aside from these possible causes for slowing progress, a vast majority of the time I find myself inquiring about the athlete’s intensity levels during their training. More times than not (especially with athletes new to high-intensity interval training), there is room for improvement in intensity. Well, duh, Kash. I guess the true goal of all high intensity training is to do it faster and with less breaks, right? Yes, that’s correct. Performing movements faster and more efficient than the last time can indeed indicate progress, but at some point, no matter what your skill level, your mind smacks your body and tells you to slow down or stop. This is where your mental toughness comes in.
If you’ve been around G4G for very long, you’ve heard me mention the term. Mental Toughness. The ability to push past the pain and “cowboy up” when you’re ready to quit. This is a term that can mean different things to different people. Your life’s experiences will vary the level of mental toughness you are capable of reaching. One person’s maximum output can be vastly different than another’s. For example, an Ex-Navy SEAL will likely be much more mentally tough than a librarian. My 100% effort may be different than yours. This, of course, is all perfectly acceptable.
Why is this acceptable? Because body types and skill levels are different. Unless you’re in the realm of competition, you’re not battling against anyone else except yourself. Although I believe training in a group setting is much more beneficial, your personal level of mental toughness is just that. It’s YOURS. It’s yours to improve upon every time you train. It certainly helps to have that guy or gal next to you that is close to your level of fitness pushing you to excel past your mind’s capacity. Trust me, you’re capable of much more output than you may think. What’s holding you back? Mental toughness.
Active rest. You’ve all heard that term by now. This term means to take a breather from your normal high intensity training and go easy for the day. But you’re still required to move. Your body needs to circulate blood in order to cycle toxins from your previous workouts. It helps immensely in your muscle recovery, keeps your body stretched, lubricated and it keeps your mind on a training footing. However, one of the things I have found in my fit lifestyle is how difficult it can be to get moving when I am tired and sore. I’ll wake up in the morning and as I slowly get out of bed and hear the creaks and cracks of my bones, I try over and over to talk myself out of my active rest workouts. The only thing that gets me back in the gym is my mental toughness.
Look, I’m not a world-class athlete. I’m a middle-of-the-road athlete that happens to be good at the sport of working out. I enjoy staying in shape and maintaining my current level of fitness. That being said, I freely admit that I dip deep into my mental toughness reserves during every single workout I perform. The truth is, I hate these dang workouts. They hurt. Lifting weights is hard because they’re heavy and my body constantly tells me to put them down. But my mind is strong. I constantly fight a battle in my head to keep moving. Do that enough and you can release your inner dragon. You will watch your body and mind transform into something more powerful than you ever imagined was possible. You’ll officially be winning the battle and you’ll reap the rewards.
All that being said, there’s a fine- line between being mentally tough and being just plain stupid. We’ve all been there. There’s some hot chick or dude watching as you’re on the last round of your workout. You decide that it would be a great idea to get in some extra reps or push past your known max on that lift. The next thing you know you’re yelling “ONE MORE!” across the gym like a Romanian power-lifter and you end up with a sweet back strain. Solid work, dumbass. What’s the point? Somewhere along the way, you lost your form and your concentration. Your lack of mental toughness resulted in stupidity. Do yourself a favor and regardless of how hard you want to train, don’t train past your ability. You know your body better than anyone. You’ll know when you’re doing something dumb. The goal is to be efficient in your movements, true in your form and intense in your execution.
Unleashing your inner dragon through your mental toughness is not just beneficial in the gym. Having a strong mind is incredibly valuable in your everyday life, as well! Imagine crashing your car and being injured and stuck at the bottom of a ravine with nobody to help. What’s going to get you up that hill? Or what about being at work with an intense deadline approaching on a project. Something unexpected happens and now you’re well-behind schedule. What is going to prevent a nervous breakdown and get you back on-track and thinking clearly so you can complete the job? Your mental toughness. You know your mind because you’ve trained it. You know what you’re capable of accomplishing!
As many of you have already experienced, these workouts are TOUGH. If you can get through them, you can get through anything life throws your way. ROAR! So when you need an extra boost during your workout, suck it up, buttercup. Unleash your inner dragon. It wants out! Do it safely and smartly, but do it. It’s completely do-able, if YOU choose to do so.