You’re expanding yourself without even knowing says Keith Richards, in the documentary “Under The Influence”.
Keith Richards is, of course, the guitarist of The Rolling Stones. Keith is talking about being encouraged (and challenged) at a young age to learn Spanish Magenta guitar music from a guitar loving relative.
Keith accepted the challenge and was willing to pay the price. He practiced hours, days and years. In his own words, he “expanded” himself. He never gave up.
I’ve given up before. In college, I dropped classes because they were too hard. I dropped the same class more than once. Occasionally, I still have dreams (nightmares?) in which I wake up and feel like I forgot to turn in my homework or overslept and missed an important test for those dropped classes. Will I have these dreams forever? I hope not because they are horrible reminders of quitting.
WHAT’S THIS GOT TO DO WITH FITNESS?
People who exercise regularly expand themselves. Challenging, consistent exercise will result in mentally expanding yourself whether you realize it or not. Do not underestimate this. Do not say “I already know this” unless you are using this benefit and your health is perfect both on the inside and on the outside.
A couple attended my Fitness Weekend a week and a half ago. We were into the Q and A part of the weekend – the last day where we really dig deep to uncover reasons for lack of success or progress in terms of health and wellness.
- He was overweight
- She didn’t know how to support him and admittedly instigated a lot of his behaviors
- His blood pressure was high
- He had recently lost a good friend who was only 48 years old
- He had started and stopped many different weight loss programs
- They felt helpless and hopeless
There was laughter, discovery, admissions, and tears. He shared how he had wanted to be a Doctor ever since he was a young boy and how he spent 16 hours a day studying. That takes gigantic discipline. That takes huge desire. It paid off because he successfully turned his dream into reality and became a heart doctor. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t find that same drive to overcome his eating and health challenges.
After spending Friday evening, all day Saturday and now Sunday morning with this couple, I felt like I knew what they needed to hear and what they needed to do to overcome their health and fitness challenges once and for all.
An object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force – Newton/1st Law Of Motion
There has to be a powerful enough reason for us to want to do something. Physical transformation programs are not enough. You have to transform MENTALLY first and then you have to keep practicing mental toughness forever.
As I looked straight into the couples eyes, I offered up a simple three word sentence that fueled their DESIRE to change. You could hear a pin drop. This sentence has become their battle cry and their personal motto. It’s different for everyone.
Is it magic? No.
It’s just a matter of spending time together to erase any junk on your mind’s mental white board, educating, creating desire, simplifying, creating support/community and acting with consistent purpose. Exercising your mental toughness. Getting out of bed in the morning, driving to work, fighting traffic, standing in a long checkout line, dealing with life’s daily challenges is not mental toughness. That’s called L-I-F-E.
BUT WHAT IF I’M NOT MENTALLY TOUGH?
Congratulations! You’ve just taken the first MOST IMPORTANT step. You’ve admitted something that could be perceived as a weakness but you’re aware enough to want to overcome it. Sometimes, I’m not mentally tough either. But I work at it. Consistently.
If I didn’t work out (exercise) what would happen? I would become unhealthy and weak. It’s the same with mental toughness. You have to practice it regularly to get better at it. Once you get better at it, then you can unleash that beast at will whenever you need to. It will help you with both fitness and personal challenges – finance, health, work, school, sports, life. It’s what the Russians used to win the most Gold medals at the 1976 Olympics. Dr. Charles Garfield, PhD wrote a book about this called “Peak Performance: Mental Training Techniques Of The World’s Greatest Athletes”. If you haven’t read this book, it is highly recommended.
When I ran my fitness bootcamp for 6 or 7 years, I saw mental toughness in action. I saw mental toughness being developed in people right in front of my bleary 5:45am eyes. They were doing burpees, trying to climb 25 foot ropes, running a timed mile and more. Were they complaining? Sure, sometimes. So was I but this is where the support and community come into play. If you don’t find that support, you will fall 99% of the time.
Whatever that bootcamp is costing you each month, it’s worth it if for nothing else but for the SUPPORT!
BUT I DON’T WANT TO JOIN A FITNESS BOOTCAMP – WHAT CAN I DO TO PRACTICE MENTAL TOUGHNESS?
Here’s what you do. You find ways to practice mental toughness. There are tons of them.
My friend Joe Vitale bends nails and horseshoes in his home gym. That takes focus and effort. The pay off is increased mental toughness. It buries self doubt, self delusion and self deception. You can either bend that nail or you can’t. Mental toughness is something you should practice for the rest of your life. You don’t stop being mentally tough just because you don’t play high school sports anymore. Mental toughness is not about regular activities that you should be doing anyway – like waking up in the morning, going to work, laundry, tight deadlines, exercising or following a healthy diet. Mental toughness is challenging yourself by yourself regularly to do things that make you a little nervous.
Does getting out of bed in the morning make any of us nervous? Hope not.
Does running a mile as fast as you can make you a little nervous? For most of us, including me, I’m sure it does. I’m not talking about jogging and walking and whistling “zip-a-dee-doo-dah”. No, I’m taking about running to your neighbors house which is a mile away because your house is burning down and your phone doesn’t work. I hope this never happens but if it does, mental toughness will serve you well. Of course, if you like options other than running a mile as fast as possible, keep reading I’ve got you covered.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Champions are famous for concentrating their energy and efforts on what they want and blocking out anything or anyone who threatens that focus says Steve Siebold, author of “177 Mental Toughness Secrets Of The World Class”.
I love this topic – mental toughness. It’s something that I discuss at great length with my clients. I love to see their eyes light up when they accomplish something physical that occurred because they got stronger mentally. I could keep writing about this but in order to keep this post somewhat brief, let’s wrap things up for now.
HERE ARE MY CURRENT FAVORITE WAYS TO PRACTICE MENTAL TOUGHNESS.
- Barbell Squats 10 sets of 10 reps. Men use 50lbs minimum over your current body weight, women use 25 lbs minimum over your current body weight. Example: I weight 180lbs so I would use 230lbs minimum for each of the 10 sets. I have used 315lbs, 275lbs when feeling really good. Choose wisely, once you choose your weight, you are not supposed to reduce it. All 10 sets stay at the same weight. Use a full range of motion – no partial reps allowed. I use a Dynamax medicine ball as a target under my butt and make sure to touch that target for each rep. No touch, no count. Do this workout once every 4-6 weeks. If you cannot do 50lbs/25lbs over your current body weight, then adjust the weight. Keep at it until you start working towards adding that 50lbs/25lbs.
- Hang. Find a bar – one that you can do pull ups on, a bar on the jungle gym, or even a strong smooth surfaced tree branch. Set your stop watch and go. Try to hang for 90 seconds. Feet cannot touch the ground or anything for that matter. If you can only get 10 seconds – GREAT! Go for 11 seconds the next time. This is how you practice and build mental toughness. Once you get to 90 seconds, you’ve arrived. Now add 10 lbs and start over. Do this drill once or twice a week. Forever.
- Wall Sits. Sit against a wall or tree. Slide down until you’re forming a 90 degree angle with your shins and thighs. Hold that position for 3 minutes. You cannot place your hands on your legs – just let your arm dangle along your sides.
- Plank. Hold for 3 minutes. Perfect form. When your form starts to deteoriate, that’s it – you’re done.
- 1 Set Of 20 Reps. These are called “Breathing Squats” in the bodybuilding and strength training world. Load up a Barbell that you can do 10 challenging reps with. I mean you can barely get 10 reps. Now do 20 reps. Take as long as you need to. Rest for 30 seconds or more in between reps. It should be CHALLENGING like you would rather do almost anything else in the world except this. Why? Guaranteed to develop mental toughness. Do it once every 4 weeks or so.
- Farmers Walks. Grab a heavy set of kettlebells – one in each hand. We use 53lbs and 70lbs. Set a timer and GO! Start walking while holding a kettlebell in each hand. Walk 100 yards down and 100 yards back. See if you can make it without stopping or dropping the kettlebells. Time yourself. What was your time? Try to beat that time the next time you do this drill.
- Pull-ups. I’m currently up to 36 with perfect form and working towards 50. It sure hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to work at it. Can’t do a pull-up? Start with hanging from a bar regularly until you can hang for 90 seconds. Do partial reps. Use a resistance band to help you get that first rep. Stick with it! Get that first rep!
- Double Unders. Get a jump rope and start jumping. Once you are warmed up, try to do double unders instead of single unders. How many can you get in a row? Write it down and keep trying to beat that number.
- KB Drill. Women use 15lbs/men use 35lbs. With a kettlebell in each hand do:
6 kettlebell clean and presses
6 kettlebell cleans
5 kettlebell rows
6 kettlebell stiff legged deadlifts
16 kettlebell push ups.
Repeat twice. What was your time? When you can do 2 rounds of the above in less than 4 minutes, it’s time to increase the weight.
Sprints, Extreme Stretching and 1 1/2 reps are a few other favorite techniques but the 9 above should keep you busy for a while!
Does all of this really work? Will it really help me become mentally stronger so that I can finally stick to a healthy nutrition program, become stronger, be able to play with my kids and grand kids and get a clean bill of health from my annual checkup?
I say “Yes” but don’t take my word for it. My results include:
- Qualifying for the True Athlete Games Championships on December 19th 2015
- Winning Austin’s Fittest Man Over 50 – 2015
- Getting a clean bill of health from my Doctor at last weeks visit
As a busy hands on father of 4 young kids – ages 3, 7, 10 and 13 – what other proof do you need?
P.S. There’s still time to register for my November or December Fitness Weekend 2015. Reserve your spot now and give yourself (or a loved one) the best gift – the gift of health in a fun filled, educational weekend that you will never forget!