Mental Toughness and Exercise
Do you get bored with working out? Research has found that you’re more likely to exercise if you enjoy exercising! If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably wondering how in the world people find exercise enjoyable. Many people think exercise is simply getting on a treadmill at 6.0 mph and jogging for 30 minutes. Exercise can be so much more than that! It can be fun, but first you need to decide whether it’s important enough for you to make an effort to change what you are currently doing.
Stop for a minute and think about how your body really feels. Do your joints ache? Do your feet throb after a long day? Do you get out of breath taking the stairs? Are you always tired? These are tough questions. If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you’ve probably considered beginning an exercise routine. If you answered ‘yes’ to multiple questions, you’ve probably been considering exercise for a long time but haven’t started to diet and exercise.
The most important aspect of adhering to a long-term program is mental toughness. Most people fail to stick with a routine because they haven’t planned ahead. Mental toughness includes motivation, perseverance, relentless goal pursuit, goal setting, and contingency planning.
The first step to becoming mentally tough is to manage your body. If your body isn’t healthy, your mind will struggle to engage. Get medical clearance before beginning a program, hydrate adequately, eat before each session, and make sure to warm up and stretch routinely. Most people fail because their bodies aren’t ready for the shock of beginning an exercise routine. Start slow. Remember, some exercise is better than none, and you can always work up to bigger goals.
Goals are essential for any successful exercise program. Effective goal setting starts with small goals that work toward big goals. Running a marathon might be a great goal; but for the average couch potato, running to the mailbox might be a stretch. If your only goal is to run a marathon, and you haven’t done it before, it’s probably a lose-lose deal. The key is to always have the big goal in perspective while you satisfy smaller goals along the path.
The next key to success is to expect failure. Plan for it. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Identify pitfalls before they happen, create strategies to cope with temptation, and plan ways to rebound. For instance, if you struggle with remembering your gym bag in the mornings, always keep a gym bag in your car. If you avoid exercising at times because you’re simply unmotivated, find an accountability partner.
Mental toughness is a skill. It isn’t something people are born with. Refine it through training your mind. Be proactive, and you will be excited about the results!
Andrew Wehrli is a trainer at Nebraska Elite Sports & Fitness Complex