Matt Mund is the owner and founder of Mission Fitness. He is dedicated to helping his clients of all fitness levels achieve their personal goals
There is probably not a topic that my brother and I discuss more than MENTAL TOUGHNESS. Maybe because this area is the biggest struggle we have with our clients. Many people know what it is, but they fail to understand the importance of it, and what it is capable of. They have no idea that they are capable of so much more than they think. I also believe many people choose to never exercise this area because it is easier to just rely on your physical strength, and when things start to get tough, to stop.
I want to start by saying I DO NOT think that every person needs to push themselves to uncomfortable. There are some people who are simply exercising to remain in shape, and not gain weight. These people are okay with maintaining their current condition. However, if you come to us complaining that you have “plateaued” or are not dropping the remaining pounds, not finishing races fast enough, or “will never be a runner”, you may need to start changing the way you workout.
While running at Gay City today, this topic came up again. (I must note that it was discussed just before I started to feel the cramps, rubber legs, and pukey feeling. It was motivation when Matt pushed about 20 yards ahead of me for the last mile and I did all I could to keep him in sight and not throw up.) We discussed how people think Matt and I have good genes, and how it is “easy” for us. You couldn’t be more wrong, and to be honest I take offense when people say this to me. Why? NOTHING about how we train is easy. I dislike running just as much as the next person, and I have never been a “runner”. When I am 5K training, I never “feel good” while I am running and when I am done I don’t have another step in me. I simply go as hard as I can for as long as I can. I accept that it is going to hurt, be uncomfortable, and not be easy. I thrive on that, and take each second of “uncomfortable” as a training experience. Why? Because I don’t want to ever give less than 100% in anything I do. The “genes” you think we have is more like “work ethic”. Our father was an ex-marine who expected and gave nothing less than 100%. We carry this with us in every activity we do.
Some people who do not train like this, or at all, may wonder why we do this. Why do we push ourselves so hard that we feel like we could puke? Part of it is because we aren’t just training for the race, we are training for everyday life. Getting to a point when you feel you cannot go another step, but somehow you find it in you to push further….this is something that can be used in your everyday life. When your job, family, kids, etc make you feel like you want to throw in the towel…trust me, you have more strength in you to hang on.
Why doesn’t everyone have mental toughness? Some people just have no desire to get better in what they are doing, be it exercise, life, etc. It could also be the way they were brought up. Many think that the mentality is instilled in you by your surroundings growing up. Another reason, which I personally think is the biggest reason, is it is much EASIER to NOT be mentally tough. To not care how you do, to stop when you are tired- these are all much easier than pushing through the pain. However, the issue with this is you will never see improvements you are looking for.
Everyone has their own goals in life and in health and fitness. I understand that and I am fine with that. However, own where you are and how you got there. Be truthful with yourself and know that you will get what you put into a workout or life. One of my favorite quotes is, “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always got”. Do not wish to be a top finisher in a race if you are not willing to put the time and effort in. We are all capable of so much more than we think, but you, and ONLY you know how much you truly have in you.