Mental Exercise

crossfitI’m not in great shape.  I’m not completely out of shape either.  I’m somewhere in the middle, you know the spot, between athlete and armchair quarterback.  I was active through most of my early life, and played sports through college.  Even after getting married and having a family, I managed to stay active in local basketball leagues for quite some time, usually playing against younger challengers and doing reasonably well.

I have what many would consider a “desk job” for the most part, but because I like to stay busy, I tend to only be in front of my computer screen during the day about 30% of the time.  The rest of the time I try to move around, working with my co-workers in the warehouse operations, or with our customer service reps, or another member of the management team.  On the weekends, I stay active, working on my own landscaping, or washing one of the cars, or organizing the garage, fixing an appliance, whatever is on the “to do” list for the weekend.

My wife recently signed me up for a free class at a local “crossfit” gym.  She really wanted me to try it out, and reluctantly I agreed to go.  Wow….I’m still feeling it today even as I write this post.  Crossfit training is a fairly recent trend in exercise that combines some traditional equipment (balance bars and medicine balls) with everyday types of exercise (squats, push ups, running, sit ups, etc.), paced in such a way to work up your cardio and get you moving and sweating.

It was painful….in many ways.  Sure, it was painful on a purely physical level, and I was challenged to really move my body in ways it hadn’t been challenged in quite some time.  But even more importantly, I was challenged mentally and emotionally, in a way I hadn’t expected.  As I moved into the routine for the evening, I could sense my body fighting to get through the exercises and keep up with the rest of the group (who, by the way, were all closer to my kids ages than my own).  But mentally, in my head there was an all out war being waged.  It was as you’d expect, thoughts of “you can’t do this” battling with “keep going, you can do this”…back and forth.  Equally at odds were thoughts of “this isn’t so tough” and “you’re almost there” versus “your knee is going to give out” and “why are you killing yourself with this stuff”.

I came away with thoughts at the end of the night that stayed with me the next morning.  I realized that the mental challenge was way more difficult to get through than the physical challenge.  Sure, I need to exercise, and the benefits of such a program seemed pretty obvious–improved flexibility, weight control, improved overall strength and conditioning–but what was really interesting to me was the mental aspect of pushing myself through the physical activity.

Mental toughness is a key ingredient found in nearly every successful venture. It’s a necessary component of anything worth doing right, whether in life, business, relationships, all of the above.  Physical challenges will vary from person to person, and to be sure, I was probably more challenged than most in my class that evening.  But more importantly, we all shared a common ground–the battle within, the mental game.

As you face your day, be aware that overcoming the mental blocks, the mental “what if’s”, the fears of failure, the self-doubting at times, these are worth focusing on and finding strength to overcome.  If you can get past the mental challenge to the work you face, the obstacles blocking your success will be much easier to overcome.  Remind yourself whatever the challenge you face that you aren’t alone, that others have gone through your particular challenge, or are facing a similar task, and know that “it” can be done, whatever the “it” is.  Pushing through the negative thoughts is half the battle.  Getting the job done is other half, but really, when you consider it all, actually doing the job is the downhill portion of the trip.  If you can set your mind on your challenge with the view that you can and will accomplish the task, you’re likely to be that much more successful in whatever the challenge you face.

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