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Change Your Mind 4 - Mental Toughness

Apr 7, 2015

Change Your Mind 4

Mental Toughness

Let me start this week by saying thank you all for reading and giving me such great feedback! It means a lot to me that my words are having a positive impact! Okay, enough with the mushy stuff…

What comes to mind when I say the phrase “Mental Toughness”. Do you think of a specific person? Maybe someone you admire? Do you think of a situation? A time that you or someone you know, demonstrated mental toughness? When you think of these things are they a positive association? If they aren’t, either this is the first post you have read, or you have not been paying attention to my earlier posts. Either way please stop reading now and click here to start from the beginning haha!

This is something I have heard many times, but when I read the words Mental Toughness the other day a specific experience popped into my head and I would like to share it with you. Just so you know where I was at mentally as a young man, my step father was an ex stunt man. My favorite quote and life motto was from a snowboarding t-shirt. I received the t-shirt from a ski bum in Aspen Colorado when I took a trip there to snowboard and dirt bike. The quote read “Bones heal, chicks dig scars, pain is temporary, glory is forever” and the shirt had a drawing of snow boarder holding a tweaked out method off a cliff drop.

Back in the day… when I was just a beardless young boy I got a brand new Cannondale mountain bike for Christmas from my uncle. My uncle loved mountain biking and wanted me to get into it as well. He apparently also wanted to teach me a valuable lesson in finances. I was only allowed to ride it with him, until I paid back the $330.00 it cost by helping him clear the trees from his land and turn them to fire wood. When we finally cleared $330.00 worth of trees I was able to take my bike home and I could ride it whenever I wanted… which was all the time! I went back and cleared more trees so that I could buy myself a pair of clip less petals and the shoes to go with them. By the way, this type of pedal helps a boat load because it locks your foot to the pedal. However, when you are still learning to get out of them, it leads to extremely goofy looking slow motion tip over’s, that end up with you laying in a mud puddle stuck to your bike. Great entertainment for my friends!

My friends and I would get on our bikes and ride to the country store for some Surge (a soft drink from the 90’s that was discontinued… but I hear its coming back) multiple times a day. We would strap our skate boards to our back and ride to the skate park. Our bikes were our freedom and we EXERCISED it… see what I did there.

One particular place we would ride on occasion was called “Fire Tower Road”. For those of you who have never heard of a Fire Tower they are basically large metal towers placed at the top of a mountain. Rangers hike/ drive to them and look out for forest fires. General public can climb the stairs of the tower and they usually have maps showing you what mountains you can see from the top!

We were lucky we had one in our small little New Hampshire town! Every once in a while, after we had been to the country store 5 times and drank all the Surge we could stomach. We would decide to tackle the Fire Tower Road on our freedom machines! We knew it would be tough to make it all the way to the top, without having to push our bikes, but we all made an agreement that we would try. Now, they called it Fire Tower Road, but only the first 100 yards or so was an actual paved road. After that, there was about one mile of dirt road just wide enough for one car. The final 2-3 miles was barely maintained single track full of tree roots, rocks, sticks, leaves and most of the time deep mud puddles. As a side note, when you road through the muddy water, your rear tire would shoot the cold brown liquid up the back of your shirt and it looked like you got into a fight with your dinner from the night before and lost… as young boys we found this hilarious.

Any ways, as I said, every time we decided to tackle this adventure we made a deal, we would all try to get to the top without pushing our bikes. When we made this agreement, I always told myself that I was going to do it no matter what. Like Yoda said, “do, or do not, there is no try”! I did not know it at the time, but looking back I have to believe that this was the key difference between my friends and me. To this day I was the only one who made it (yes I am currently high fiving myself for my extraordinary accomplishment). If you didn’t get that joke please click here to read my blog about positive affirmations haha. There were times that I would tip over because I would get stuck in a puddle and not be able to get my feet free from the pedals (this was probably the only thing that made my friends want to keep riding this mountain with me). When this happened I would bring my bike back down the path a short ways and get back on. I figured this still meant I rode the whole thing… and more if you think about it (another high five, go Mike!). Sure my heart was racing, and my legs burned like crazy trying to climb this mountain on a bike, but I told myself before I even started that there was no way I was going to give up. So, when my brain was saying “you don’t need to do this, your muscles are working to hard, you need to just walk for a little bit so you can recover, then you can get back on”. I pedaled harder just to prove to myself that these thoughts were wrong. I did not know why those things were popping into my head, but I knew they were lies. I knew, not only that I did not need to stop, but could go even faster. Even though we all reached the top and were looking at the same trees, lakes and mountains. I always knew that I had the best view!

I am not immune to those negative thoughts. Often times those words telling me to quit win out and I do stop sooner than I need to. This is a normal human reaction. There are days that I am tired, stressed or just in a bad mood. Those are the days the negative thoughts have more of a fighting chance to make me quit. It was easy to resist those thoughts as a kid because I did not have many other major stressors in my life at that time. Luckily I unknowingly took full advantage of this fact and trained myself to resist those thoughts from an early age. This has helped tremendously in my current life of real world responsibilities!

I can’t tell you how many times I have been training with clients and we are trying to beat a plank or push up record which they had previously set and they stop 2 seconds or 1 rep shy of setting a new best. Afterward I tell them they were close and they come back with “oh man I wish I would have known, I could have kept going!” That breaks my heart. If they are feeling that way, it means their body was capable of setting that new personal best, but they didn’t have the mental toughness in that moment to allow their body to shine.

I still don’t know how to turn those thoughts off; however with practice you can overcome them. The body is designed to be energy efficient. This is great if you live in the Stone Age with little food and lots of manual labor. Today though, that is not the case. You train with your trainers at Fitness Together Newtonville to expend energy. When the muscles are burning it means you are using a lot of energy to make them work and even more to repair them after breaking them down. This is why your brain says “whoa buddy tone it down a bit you’re going through our supply to fast!” Take a moment to make sure that something isn’t really wrong. If all is well, relatively speaking haha, remember the burning pain you feel in your muscles, the shortness of breath you’re a experiencing, the pounding you feel in your chest and the salty wet substance coming from your face are all temporary. The glory you could experience from pushing through these short term annoyances will empower you! The view is always better at the top, when you worked hard to get there!

Yes it is true; I write my blog the same way I order my burrito… extra cheesy!!!

Live a high quality life!



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