The mental game

Working out is as much physical as it is mental.

I’d actually argue it’s even more mental than physical.

And here’s why, using myself as an example.

I run. I love it. But I didn’t always love it. In fact, I used to gasp for breath, telling my husband and running partner that “I can’t do this.” And it wasn’t because I couldn’t physically handle that run, it was because I mentally wasn’t prepared for the challenge. I didn’t know how to let go and just let my body take over, trusting it to carry me along. Today, I do. I trust in myself, not just physically, but that I’m mentally capable of crossing the finish line of another half marathon, or completing another group fitness certification, or finally learning to swim. I trust. Therefore, it will happen.

I’m a self-professed Core Fusion addict. As you all know, from my Core Fusion Challenge, I struggled the most with changing my mental attitude towards a workout that didn’t leave me breathless like a killer spin class, or drenched like a hot and sweaty summer run. But it was that mental shift that helped me to see and embrace the benefits that Core Fusion has offered me. It’s given me a stronger core, leaner legs and arms and increased flexibility. But mentally? It’s my source of “finding my center” in the midst of chaos – something that will certainly come in handy during SXSW this week in Austin – but it’s also my source of inner strength and quiet confidence. Something that I haven’t found through any other workout.

So what’s the theme in both of these examples? That it took me overcoming mental blocks for me to push myself physically, to challenge myself, mind and body. But it’s those mental blocks that are often the hardest to overcome – especially if you aren’t even sure what kind of workout you might even enjoy. I’m thinking of a beginner, someone who has struggled to get and stay fit. To commit. For them, it might not even be the physical challenge that’s the hardest, but it’s the mental piece that is key. A key that isn’t always so obvious or easy to find and unlock.

Am I making any sense here?

I guess what I’m saying is this: if you’re struggling to commit to living your best life yet, explore the mental side of that workout that scares you/intimidates you/that you’ve been avoiding for a million reasons.

Go for it.

Trust yourself.

Let your body carry you, leading the way.

Once you figure that out, you’ll be golden.

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25 thoughts on “The mental game

  1. Yes! I’m discovering this more and more – whatever direction, system or philosophy you’re approaching it from, it seems to be the same answer – the mental/psychological side is as important, or more so, than the physical.

    And once you’re made progress with the mental side, the side benefits start spilling back over into the rest of your life 🙂

  2. I beleive distance running is 100% mental. i was not into my long run today mentally or physically and I mentally got myself through 17 miles… Its difficult some times, its easy to quit but harder to keep going…
    Good blog!

    CHEERS

    • Oh absolutely agree with you – there’s no way any runner could get through 10, 15, 20 mile distances without mental strength and endurance and confidence (probably the most important). cheers to you!

  3. I’m just sitting here nodding my head. Just a year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of calling myself a runner. There is no way in hell I would have thought that I would have run a half freaking marathon let alone be looking at signing up for another one! And it was absolutely a mental shift that happened over the summer. It was like flipping a switch. And every single weight workout – totally mental. I mean do you push yourself and go heavier or do you take the easy way. Physically you know you got it, it’s the mental game though. It’s amazing how much we hold ourselves back just by thinking “I can’t do that” or “there’s no way.”

    • YES! I still struggle with the mental game sometimes when running. Scott pushes me to go faster and harder at the end of our runs because HE knows I have it in me to push it out at the end. But in my head I scream “I can’t!” but I try to push on, even into that uncomfortable-I’m-gonna-puke mode. It’s worth it at the end though, feels so triumphant when you push farther and harder than your brain thought was possible.

  4. I totally agree sis. While I am still fighting back at the running thang, all of it’s mental. Core Fusion is a great example, I used to have no patience and just got frustrated. Now I look FORWARD to the challenge. Awesome feeling.

    • I’m glad you’re finally agreeing with me that your running funk is mental. You fight me on that point but it’s true. You are MORE than physically capable sis. It’s your brain that’s holding you back.

  5. So true! For me, the mental piece is so strong that the workouts I choose are often not the ones I am most physically fit for. Instead, my workouts are ones that draw out the emotions of joy and excitement. While I can wrap my head around running marathons, the thought of a session with the weights sends me running for the hills.

    • Such an interesting point – that you choose workouts that might be harder for you physically but mentally they bring you such joy that you’d glad choose a 20 miler over a weight training session. I say your mental toughness is supreme – I still can’t quite wrap my head around such long distances…13.1 was long enough for me (for now anyway!).

  6. my 10-miler on saturday was so horrible because i mentally wasn’t there – didn’t have the mental stamina. it’s something that i’ve been battling for a few months and felt like i was turning the corner and that 10-miler made me feel like i was reverting in the wrong direction. how do you know to write exactly what i need to hear (okay, read)?

    • I have no idea, I guess I have impeccable blog friend support timing?? I’m glad it “spoke” to you! Hang in there – it’s sometimes so much harder to break out of a mental rut than a physical one, huh?

  7. Great post Jess, yep it’s definitely the mental side and having the motivation or not to do a workout. I think visualisation helps me with the mental side and sometimes I have to see myself finishing a workout or knocking out the last tough rep.

    • visualization is a great technique! It came out big time during the half – I had to focus on that finish line for the last three miles. without that focus, I seriously contemplating quitting before the end.

  8. I totally agree that the battle for a good workout is at least half mental, if not more. I commented to someone the other day that I think the biggest improvements I’ve seen in terms of change over the last 6 months have been in terms of mental strength.

    And like you say, that doesn’t have to mean pushing yourself really hard over a finish line, or gasping under really heavy weights. Sometimes it takes mental strength to pull back, like you did with CF. This is how we expand our limits, and our physical and mental well-being. By facing up to the thing we’re not good at, and doing it anyway.

    In fact a good example of this is me NOT running the half. So thanks for you support on that 🙂

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  10. I’m late in commenting, but I wanted to tell you how much I loved this post. It’s amazing to me HOW much in life is mental, which has become more and more obvious as I experience a pretty intense physical/mental/emotional transformation. I don’t think you can separate one from the other…in any aspect of your life.

    • Aw thank you friend, I LOVE when you comment because it means my blog post spoke to you. I know you don’t have tons of time to comment and such even though I know you’re a faithful reader. Love you dearly!!

  11. I actually sat in on a talk that a sports psychologist gave to our coaches here, and he said the SAME thing. It’s 80% mental, and only 20% physical! You cannot possibly do the physical without the mental. After hearing what he had to say, I completely believe that!

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