Mental toughness is key to any new adventure you begin. One of the ways I learned to build my mental toughness is through exercise. I exercise at least 3 or 4 times a week as it is a part of my weekly routine.
I returned from a beach vacation last week. It was a vacation in every sense of the word. No running, no weight lifting, no push-ups, nothing. This week, I struggled to get back into the groove and definitely felt ‘laziness’ creeping back in to my life. I had forgotten how hard it could be to motivate your self to get moving but it was a good reminder of how being idle is a waste of your precious time.
I got to back to running on Wednesday. It was a warm morning in the low 80s with a good amount of humidity. Mind you, before the trip to the beach I had been running three miles in 90 degree weather with little difficulty.
That first step of the run, I knew it was going to be a tough three miles. I could definitely feel the extra weight I was carrying from a week of good eating and drinking. Sweat instantly began pouring off my brow and increased with each step. It must have been a result of all that delicious beer I drank while sitting at the beach. I took a slow pace, to get my body back into the rhythm of running. If you’re a runner, you know it takes a bit to get your breathing right and your body readjusted as you come back from a break. As I approached mile 1, I knew it was not gonna be an easy run. At this point of the run, I usually feel back in the groove but with the heat, sweat, and that achy feeling in my legs, I knew I’d have to rely on my mental toughness to complete this run.
As I approached mile 2, sweat was pouring off of me, blinding me as it ran down my face, my shirt was completely drenched as my body continued to detox itself (again the beer), and the heat was increasing. This was the point where the voice began telling me to “stop and just walk, what’s the difference, you’re still getting exercise! Heck, let’s just turn back now, and we’ll hit three miles later this week.” Don’t listen to that voice. He wants you to quit (it’s a he in my head) and not make your objective. He wants to give you a way out. Through my years of running I’ve learned to develop a “don’t give up and don’t give in” mentality. I push through mile two with the mental determination to not stop … to not quit … despite the physical “uncomfortableness” I was feeling. Through mile two, I had some hills to push through, and the sun was kicking my butt, but I kept moving my feet and making progress to mile 3 marker. That last quarter mile was brutal. It’s basically a straight stretch of path with no shade. You can actually see the mile marker in the distance which when you are feeling good is an inspiration to kick your run into high gear and finish strong. I didn’t finish strong. I struggled that last quarter of a mile which with the heat seemed like a lifetime to complete. Each brutal step bringing me inches closer to complete my run, yet the marker seemed so distant…but I did not stop and completed my run!
Was it a tough run? Yes! Did I want to quit? Yes. In my early days of running, I probably would have quit the run in less than a mile and made an excuse on why it’d be OK. Over the years, pushing myself physically has allowed me to build up my mental toughness to complete goals even if they are uncomfortable.
This year was an uncomfortable year for me. I’ve turned things up a notch by working a couple of jobs and there were points where I wanted to quit. The “voice” popped into my head questioning whether or not working so much was worth it and tempting me away from my goal. There were some points where I just pushed the voice out of may head and grinded harder. I kept a steady pace and kept moving toward my mile marker. Working out has definitely helped me to build my stubbornest to complete my goals.
Check out this study from Harvard outlining the benefits of exercise on mental performance. I encourage you to build you’re mental toughness through physical fitness. The benefits are tremendous and cost you very little to do. It could be as easy a committing to a walk everyday …