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Are you mental?

Not only have I gotten stronger and fitter physically with a lot of my recent training, but I’ve also become mentally tougher.

And that mental toughness is honestly a HUGE part of why I’m stronger and fitter.

For one, that mental toughness means that I’m able to really explore how strong I am because my mind doesn’t tell me “I can’t” too soon.

Two, that mental toughness has made me feel even more capable and accomplished so that I feel driven to continue to push and work hard.

But more important than the fact that my new mental toughness has helped me become physically stronger is just the fact that I’m mentally tougher.

Which is why I’ve begun to realize that while the physical health benefits of working out are AMAZING, the mental health benefits are even better.

So how do you reap all the mental health benefits?

Do you go push yourself until you can’t move? Do you have to run a marathon or try to lift 100 more pounds than you’ve ever lifted before?

NOPE!

While pushing your physical limits can build mental toughness, you don’t need to push yourself to the point of complete failure (aka barfing, falling over, not being able to sit down to the toilet for weeks on end).

Mental toughness is built with small victories day in and day out. And the effects…well they go beyond the gym.

It can be as simple as you make it through the workout. Maybe you had to stop for a rest when others didn’t. Or maybe you couldn’t use as heavy a weight as your friend.

BUT YOU DID IT.

You didn’t give up.

And that small victory means everything.

Which got me again to thinking (and mind you this post was developed in my head at 4 in the morning so I apologize for all the changes in direction BUT….), is it more important to have absolutely perfect form or to prove to yourself that you CAN in fact do it?

This thought came up after a Saturday morning training session with another trainer at my gym. I HUGELY respect this trainer and he knows a ton about form, movement and imbalances so I usually am in complete agreement with what he says and even turn to him for some advice. (Just letting you know that I totally respect what he did in the situation I’m about to describe).

Anyway, we were doing box jumps. Form is very important to protect the knees but also to insure that someone doesn’t get injured jumping onto the box.

One of my clients was nervous about jumping onto one of the boxes even though she had done it the week before. Her form had been good aside from the fact that she occasionally got nervous about making it so landed a bit hard.

The other trainer made her use a very low box, which she easily did. She even easily did the box above it.

But then she faced the red box and she got nervous. She easily cleared it, but she landed a bit hard.

She could easily do it and with good form, but mentally she just didn’t have total faith that she would make it.

So he took her down to the lower box because she did land harder than she had on the lower box.

I, on the other hand, would have pushed her to keep trying the higher box.

Because she COULD do it. And I firmly believed that if she had the CONFIDENCE to do it, her landing would instantly have gotten softer.

While his reaction to her attempt at the red box were correct did that benefit her as much as it would have to DO the red box?

Her form wasn’t at all dangerous…just not perfect. So he had her do the low box to really ingrain the form. Which is great…

But lacked the added benefit of building mental toughness through accomplishment.

So what should you do?

In this case, I would have had her do the red box. Because it would have built her confidence and helped her continue to push hard day in and day out. Because she COULD do it…She just needed to believe a bit more in herself!

In this case, I would have had her do the high, intimidating box because she is FEMALE.

Yep…that’s right…I’m discriminating based on her gender!

There is a strength and sense of accomplishment that you get from pushing yourself in the gym – from doing something new or better than you did the day before.

This is definitely sexist, but I honestly feel that more often than not, women don’t push themselves in the gym. (And because society really doesn’t expect them to).

But the strength and empowerment that women can get out of working out….well I think that is irreplaceable.

So above all in the gym, I work to help women feel a sense of accomplishment because the strength they gain from that spills over into other aspect of their life.

It makes them more empowered individuals.

Anyway, after all of these ramblings, what do you think? Have you found that working out has made you mentally tougher and given you the strength to attempt things in day-to-day life that you haven’t before!?!

 

Strength grows from vulnerability

Sometimes it is hard for me to want to do things that I know I’m bad at.

I don’t like failing.

But if I don’t make myself vulnerable to failure, if I don’t attempt the things I’m bad at, I will never grow stronger.

It sucks, but it is the hard truth.

And I want to be strong. AND you are only as strong as your weakest point.

So I work on my weak points. Sometimes I want to cry or puke. Sometimes I just want to give up.

But every time I push through, I get stronger.

Not only do I get stronger physically, but I also get stronger mentally. I become more empowered every time I make myself vulnerable and overcome an obstacle.

I actually think sometimes we focus too much on the physical obstacle without realizing how much pushing ourselves to do something will make us grow and become empowered as a person.

And honestly, isn’t growing stronger as a person really the most important part? I mean who really cares if you lift 45lbs or 300lbs?

No one.

The point is to OVERCOME something CHALLENGING to you. The numbers don’t matter. The exercise doesn’t matter.

All the matters is that you take on the challenge and make yourself vulnerable.

That in and of itself is success.

And sometimes that success is very hard-won and comes about in a form in which you didn’t necessarily intend. But that success is strength.

You made yourself vulnerable.

You took the risk.

You got stronger.

Empowerment

Empowerment [ɪmˈpaʊəmənt]

  1. The giving or delegation of power or authority; authorization
  2. The giving of an ability; enablement or permission

I started thinking a lot about this last night as I was falling asleep….(Which unfortunately kept me from falling asleep and then made me start hearing creepy noises around the apartment, which I don’t usually hear since I’m passed out by like 8….)

Anyway, I started to think about how much more empowered I’ve felt since I started doing my heavy lifting/Crossfit style workouts a couple of years ago. Not only have I gotten physically stronger, but I also feel mentally stronger – more confident, more enabled, more capable.

I’m not intimidated by challenges or other people’s negativity. I actually believe that my workouts have helped me develop a stronger sense of self.

It’s kind of weird to think that something I’ve always done just for fun and to keep physically healthy, may have actually done even more for my mental health and strength.

Why has working out made me feel so empowered?

Because I’ve taken risks and experimented. Every single workout, I risk failure. I risk not lifting up more weight. I risk not being able to complete all of the challenges I’ve written out for myself that day.

Each and every workout though, I REFUSE to give up. I refuse to not push myself to my limits.

And guess what? I never fail even when I fail.

Sometimes, I can’t lift up as much weight as I want. Sometimes, I can’t run that last sprint as fast as I would have liked. But the thing is, I TRIED. I risked failing.

Just like I risked failing when I entered that powerlifting meet.

And guess, what? The risk paid off because now I’m more confident and stronger. AND I even found something I enjoy!

I dared to try something new. And each and every time I experiment with my workouts, I push myself to overcome new challenges and risks. I’m not afraid to face failure because I know it will only make me stronger.

Daring to try something new. LEARNING and EXPERIMENTING. Risking and ACCEPTING failure…No wonder I not only got physically stronger, but also mentally tougher….

And the thing is, I think my new dieting endeavors and experiments are having the same payoff.

There are risks every time I adjust my diet. I always worry the new adjustment won’t get results or will even cause me to backslide. Each and every time I change something, I make myself face new challenges. Sometimes I even push myself to the limit of my self-control.

But each time, I learn something new about myself. Whether or not I succeed or fail, I learn something new.

And the thing is, I never give up.

And never giving up, gives me confidence not only in the realm of diet and fitness, but in everyday life. My experimentation and risk-taking with diet and fitness have empowered me.

Now, what makes you feel empowered?

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