There are many layers to the mind. Sometimes it’s hard to understand how far the mind can go until it’s forced to. During my recent half IRONMAN event, I discovered yet again that my mental strength has more in its armory when the going gets tough. At the beginning of the event, the 1.2-mile swim was physically challenging, as was the 56-mile bike ride, however it was the final segment which pulled each fiber of my mental being to the surface as I ran 13.1 miles to the finish line. During that latter stage of the half IRONMAN, I was physically ready to give in. My hip flexors had become so fatigued they could barely lift my legs to stride forward, each leg felt like they weighed 150lbs each. It was all about my mental conditioning from this point forth; where most would have folded under the tantalizing physical pain and 92 degrees of heat, I decided to keep moving. It was my will to to push my limits mentally that I used to get across that finishing line today. If I can spill just an ounce of that over you, then you’ll be better equipped to achieve under the harshest conditions.
This is how I condition my mind to be unbreakable.
As I stood there in my wetsuit ready to tackle the first segment of the event, I didn’t feel anxious. Although I knew there would be physical pain, the fact I’d prepared properly allowed me to calm any nerves which might have otherwise taunted me. The mind becomes more fearful of a challenge when it thinks there’s a high chance of failure. It’s the “fight or flight” mechanism that every human is built with, designed to preserve us from excessive struggle. We’re designed to avoid challenges like this. To bypass this natural inner-built system preparation is paramount.
Knowing that the right amount of preparation has been done alleviates anxiety and any tendencies to run from the challenge. The lengths I went to prepare for this event were extreme. At each transition station I had my RE-KAGED, HYDRA-CHARGEand fermented GLUTAMINE and BCAAs portioned out into bottles ready to go. Knowing I had the very best supplements in me during the event gave me more belief because I know for a fact how well they help me. Dehydration is possibly the biggest culprit for causing people to fail at events like this so I ensured that I consumed 24oz of water for every hour to enhance recovery and performance
Break the Challenge Up
It’s easy to become daunted by the task at hand if it’s viewed in its entirety. During the 13.1 mile run I broke each section down into small comprehendible parts. I’d tell myself to get to somebody stood on a corner in the yellow top; once I got there I’d then set the next small target such as a tree, a signpost or an aid station. This made things more realistic for my mind whilst my hip flexors were screaming for me to stop.
This technique can be used in any challenge. If I’m crushing a 50 rep set on the leg press, I won’t think about that big number. Instead, I’ll focus on the first 20, then the next 10. Breaking big challenges up into smaller ones helps strengthen mental resolve.
They say not to fear failure, in many respects, I agree. However, in this context that’s exactly what I do, fear failure! Whenever I’m feeling mentally vulnerable in a challenging situation, I’ll create a really harsh scenario for myself to conjure up more courage. When every fiber of my physical being was asking me to stop I kept telling myself “if you stop something bad will happen to somebody you love.” As much as the pain victimized my limbs there was no way I was going to stop, I couldn't because of the scenario I’d just put myself in.
As cruel or crazy as it might sound, I’m yet to fail once I’ve put myself into this mental situation. Sometimes fear can bring the most out of us!
Reminding myself why I’m doing something always gives me more courage to persist. Sometimes I’ll be doing an event to inspire people, other times it’ll be for a charity I support. Whatever that reason, it’s really important to me I’ll never give in!
Mental conditioning takes time. However every time I think I’ve found my threshold there’s always been a little bit more in the tank when it’s needed. Only when you ask more of yourself will know how far you can really go. All I know is the mind can go much further than 99% of the population gives it credit for!
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