Mental toughness and your inner crybaby
Mental toughness and your inner crybaby
Now I'm not sure how it works for you personally, but my head really tries to get in the way of my workouts. Here’s a typical conversation I have with myself when I’m getting fatigued, my heart rate’s unnervingly high, I can’t catch my breath or am otherwise reaching a point where I’m seriously uncomfortable: “Oh, you should really fake passing out now ‘cause this hurts way too much—Stop! Stoooo-oooo-oooop already, you idiot!—You will die. You’re gonna die. Look, watch this, dying, right now. Okay, you’re dead, now stop!—You can’t pick that up. No, literally, I will not let you pick up that stupid bar again. See that? You’re limp. You can’t move anymore. Done-zo.”
I’m not exaggerating; it’s that bad. My inner voice isn’t a coach cheering me on… it’s more like a whiny 7-year-old utterly convinced the world is ending because she can’t have another Snicker’s bar.
Why am I telling you about the weird mental game I deal with while I work out? Mainly because being mentally tough is just as important as, if not more important than, having the physical ability to accomplish something. And if you have an inner voice that’s similar to mine, you’re not alone. Everyone has some kind of thought process going on when they’re working out at an intense pace. Perhaps yours doesn’t necessarily beg you to throw up so you can stop, but maybe it demands that you slow down immediately or that you lose momentum or drop to the floor and rest instead of cranking out the rest of your workout.
Whatever it is, it’s normal. When your body gets exhausted, your brain tries to protect it, so it is undoubtedly going to send you signals that you need to stop. So what do you do? Do you indulge the screaming kid in your brain and quit? Do you ignore it completely? Can you?
Here are some things you can do to try to keep the mental screaming under control and keep yourself coming back for more:
1. Remind yourself why you’re doing it.
Maybe you love working out; maybe you don’t. Whatever the case is for you, your healthy lifestyle depends on you committing to taking care of yourself. Plus, you love how great you feel now that you’re active and healthy. You love the transformation you’ve seen in your body and your life.
But then the day comes. You know, that one. The workout you maybe thought about skipping because you knew how hard it would be. The one that makes your bones ache to think about doing. Wherever you are with your fitness, there’s something that gets to you, whether it’s a specific movement or just that place you get halfway through a workout, thinking there’s just NO way you’re only halfway done.
That’s the moment when you have to remind yourself of who you are and why you do what you do. You’re a fighter. There’s a reason you’re here right now instead of lying on the couch with a bag of chips. You’re taking responsibility for your health. You’re doing this for yourself, yes, but also so you can be active and healthy throughout your life, to be there for your kids and grandkids. Remind yourself of those things when you’re on the verge of giving in.
2. Forget about the mistakes.
There’s nothing worse than a “no rep” to slow you down and make the mental battle that much tougher. As someone who frequently hits herself in the face with wallballs, drops weights and trips over stuff constantly, I understand. Pretend like it didn’t happen. If you focus on the fact that you failed, you’ll be overcome with the idea of failure. Then the negative inner voice wins, and it can be nearly impossible to finish your workout, let alone finish it well. You’ve got to let the failure go and press on as if it never happened. Do the best you can to forget it and move on.
3. Stay calm, stay focused, stay present.
Yes, that’s easier said than done, I know—especially when your inner whiner is attacking you at full force. But try hard not to think about what you’re going to do after the workout. Don’t even think about what it’s going to be like six minutes into the workout. Take it one lift, one set, one lap at a time, and go from there.
We all have weaknesses when it comes to mental toughness. It’s okay to have weaknesses; what you don’t want to do is give in to them at the expense of your well-being. If you fight back at your inner crybaby and keep at it until the bitter end, you will reap the benefits. If you give up too early, you’ll be left wondering how much better you would've done if you had fought harder.