Thursday, June 04, 2015

Mental Toughness

I lack a certain mental toughness.

The thought came to me yesterday as I was doing my run.  I have increased my overall distance this week as I signed up for an obstacle course and want to be able to run it.  What I found is that running 4 miles is mentally a lot different than running 3 miles.

This does not make sense to me.  After all, it is only 33% more.  And I am not a hard runner, running for speed or time  But from the very start of the run it just felt incredibly long, much longer than a 3 mile run would have felt.  As I passed the familiar landmarks of my run all I could see was the infinite distance I had left to complete, not the fact of how far I had already come.

What it made me realize, as I listened to a broadcast on the with Zach Even-Esh, a fitness and strength trainer (and apparently a bit of an unorthodox one) is that there is a concept of mental toughness in strength training - and all life - that I was not fully cognizant of.

As I thought about the concept, I realized that I was a least conscious of this on the level of work or activities.  I am familiar with the concept of sticking out to the end or finishing what you start or completing the task even you do not what to (True Grit, as John Wayne would say:  "True Grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done" - or like, a billboard says with Wayne's picture on it. "Don't like quitters much, son").  But this has always been rather an intellectual exercise for me, something that I knew existed but would find justification for why it did not apply to me: I do not want to because it does not matter, I do not want to because it reap no benefits for me.

Most critical for me, I do not want to because it will not succeed.

And this is the underlying concept of mental toughness, the fact that one can succeed.  That no matter what one is trying to do failure is not an option.  It is a sort of self confidence that says you can succeed in something, but it is also the self confidence to believe you can do it - that you are capable of it, even it takes longer in time or course.

You probably all know this, of course, but this is a bit of revolutionary thinking for me.  Banishing the thought of not succeeding not because I am presenting excuses but because success is possible.  For Me.

Old Dog, New Trick.


  1. Maybe that follows the old concept that you can do something after you know it is possible kinda thing?

    1. Possibly, Preppy. Certainly my range of interests is a testimony to the concept that if someone else has done it, then I can do it too, if maybe not well. The nut I am trying to crack is the fact that many worthwhile accomplishments are not accomplished in a short amount of time. I am excellent at starting things; I am much worse at completing them. And this is the crux of my problem, getting to that point of knowing success if possible - and sticking it out until I get there.

      You yourself are an excellent example of this - I think I have followed you for two years now, maybe a bit longer, and in that time you have relentlessly moved forward in accomplishing your plan. That's the sort of thing I am try to grasp.

  2. Difficult one for me this as I too lack that 'mental toughness', not sure what the answer should be TB

    1. I get hints, John - and they are only hints - that the answer is actually much simpler than what I am trying to complicate it into being. The Nike adage of "Just Do it" falls short on the whys (which is what I, and it sounds like you, are looking for) but captures the concept readily enough: just set your mind and move forward, regardless of obstacles.

      As I am writing, I think other elements which I at least miss in my execution (or lack thereof) of such things include knowing what the goal is and mapping out an award - without a finishing point, things simply become an endless grind (literally).


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