Hardening Your Brain

Article written by Amy Payne

You want to be a badass in the gym…always pushing never quitting. But sometimes that voice pops into your head that says no more, it hurts, and so you stop.is what I refer to as your mental toughness. The inner voice says do more, go faster, the drive which makes the body perform when we are tired, muscular fatigue sets in and in pain. Vince Lombardi described it as “Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.”

So how does one gain a tougher mentality? One study suggests that mental toughness development proceeds first through the development of tough attitude( strong focus and strong self-belief); upon a tough attitude, and athlete learns how to develop mental toughness attributes needed for training then for competition.(1) So what does this mean for you and I? You got to train mental toughness, surprise, surprise, just like every other muscle group of the body. If you want a strong confident mind, you must develop it in the gym. As you develop your abilities in the gym you will grow self-confidence. Your lifts become more stable, your strength improves, your endurance increases allowing your mind to become comfortable being uncomfortable.

Another training image you must grasp is that of the word “quit.” You must understand that this word no longer exists, yes you may fail but you will never quit. Once you learn to quit it becomes habit. (Lombardi) To many this may sound cheesy but how often have you stepped up to a bar tried to pull or squat and you had already decided it was going to be too heavy? I know most of us have and if you say no you’re probably lying to yourself. This has to be the shift to thinking differently. This is when you crank up your intensity in your training. You no longer coast through your workouts. We all have our breaking points but continually raising the bar in the gym you will find that your threshold will be at a higher throughout your competition. Never allow your mind to quit, stay focused on the task before you. Make the decision to lift the weight or finish the millions of wall balls before you even begin the training session. A Strong mindset will enable you to endure the fatigue that inevitably mounts throughout your training sessions. Do not doubt what your body can handle. We must improve the mind so it works for us not against us. Is it easier to take the easy path? Bet your ass it is. Is it worth it though? Usually not.

Now am I telling you to not listen to your body? No. Rest is a necessity to grow and make gains in the gym. What I am trying to tell you is, it is ok to be in a painful place in the gym and not quit, it is ok to be self-confident in your lifts and approach the bar 100% confident every time you step up to the platform. Never self-doubt your ability, you are the only one that can tell you no, do not let your mind become your worst enemy.

Muhammad Ali once said “I hated every minute of training, but I said, don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

So ask yourself, what would you rather endure the pain of one day, one hour, one minute? Or the feeling of knowing you quit, never knowing if you could do more, go harder, faster and be the champion we all have inside us.

(1) Conughton, D., Hanton, S., & Jones, G (2010)

The development and maintenance of mental toughness in the World’s best performers. The Sport Psychologist, 24, 168-193

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