Mental Toughness and Failure

faiure (On vacation and training in Northern California this week. I’m having fun visiting family and friends, but I’m still work diligently on the book. Will publish more excerpts from it in the very near future. For those who commented on the last piece, thanks so much for the wonderful feedback. Appreciate all the help! In the meantime, I hope the mental toughness army enjoys this future article I wrote for on overcoming you health setbacks.

Saying good-bye from sunny No-Cal). 

                           How to Get Over Your Health and Fitness Failure


I’m a strong proponent of raising your training expectations. We should all strive towards higher aesthetics and performance goals. However, when we come short of reaching our targeted objectives, we can get pretty hard on ourselves. When we let the discouragement overtake us, it can hinder us and prevent us from moving towards our improvement goals.

Life is full of disappointments. This is especially true in the gym where we work hard to enhance and change our bodies, yet most of the time we fall way short of our desires. When this happens, most people just give up and let themselves get out of shape and become depressed. Unfortunately, this is the pattern for most former gym-goers.

If this sounds familiar, you must break this defeatist cycle immediately.

The key to being successful in the gym is turning frustrating setbacks into positive experiences. In order to do this, you must learn to change your mind-set. With this new perspective, you will learn to change any fitness low moments to successful turning points with your physique. All you have to do is work as hard on your mind as you do with your biceps or glutes.

Once you do, get ready to take your body and training to a higher level of greatness.

Here are 4 simple strategies that you can use to get over your fitness misfortunes and move forward with your training.

1) Distance Yourself from Failure. When we miss going for a heavy PR lift or don’t hit our weight lost goals, we get so upset that we begin to identify with the failure. We shout negative labels and mean things to ourselves that can ruin our self-esteem. It doesn’t take long before inadvertently we start to believe we are failures.

When you don’t reach your goals, it does not mean we are worthless. All it means is that we just didn’t reached at a desired task. It’s as simple as that. Your identity is not defined by the incomplete task. A task is just an action and not your character. The best thing about tasks is that they can be repeated as many times as possible till you reach your goal.

Instead of calling yourself as failure, reward yourself for giving the effort. When it comes to achieving higher-level goals, effort is the most important quality. Define yourself by your actions. Giving it all you got and being persistence is one the best traits to have when you are striving to do amazing things in the gym.

2) Find Meaning in the Setback. In order to improve, you must perceive your mistakes in the gym differently. This takes time to reflect and think about went wrong and then find the silver lining in the process. Most of the time, the lessons are not obvious. But, by learning to make sense out of the setback, you can great insights on how to make improvements the next time you work toward your goal again.

Recently, I have a good friend who had a disappointed finish in a bodybuilding contest. Instead of going down a negative spiral and feeling defeated, I encouraged her to think about all she learned from the experience.

In her reflection, not only did she find the key mistake in her diet plan, but she discovered how strong her resolve is. Instead of giving up, she’s been training harder than ever. The loss taught her she is mentally stronger than she ever conceived she was. Overall, she now feels she gained invaluable experience from the original disappointment and feels she will do better in her upcoming show because of it.

We all want to win, but sometimes what we learn about ourselves is way more important.

3) Get More Aggressive with a New Plan. Most people have a difficult time with recovering from a broken hearted experience with their fitness. We want to change so badly so when things don’t go our way, we tend to mope and feel bitter. Once you catch yourself feeling sorry for yourself is when you must go back to work at the gym.

When it comes to dealing with fitness adveristies, the worse thing you can do is feel like a victim. If this happens, you begin to play the blame game and point the finger at everybody else except for yourself. In order to break out of your defeatest attitude, the first thing you must do is take responsiblilty for the past. It may not be entirely your fault that you didn’t lose the extra 5 pounds or didn’t make that 500 pound deadlift, but you must take responsibility for the outcome. By doing so, is how you can free yourself from the past that’s holding you back and begin to implement a new plan for change in the future.

Anyalize your mistakes and come up with new adjustments to help you reach your fitness goal. Once you do, be as aggressive as possible and do the necessary steps to not only achieve your objective, but to smash it.

Taking and owning responsibility is always the first step to learning from mistakes and turning them to oppurtunties for positive growth.

4) Know That You are Getting Stronger. Like my friend who over came her disappointment at her bodybuilding contest with a stronger mindset, you can do the same. When you return to the long and hard road of trying to reach greatness, know that every move you make is making you stronger. Even the attempt to bounce back from major discouragements a sign that you have the tenacity to fight back.

Having the fighter’s spirt is a must when we tackle obstacles that almost destroyed our fitness ambitious. I say almost because by striking back, you are refusing to give up. Every little victory you get on the comeback journey is a reflection of your mental toughenss.

Dealing with a major struggle is how one develops grit. To get your body compostion in single digits or to finish a CrossFit WOD with an elite time, you must have plenty of grit to help you demolish the obstacles that are in your way as you hit your goals.

Embrace the upcoming battle. In time, you will be thankful for the challenges as they will make you stronger and better than ever.

So, transferring a negative experience to a positive one is the key to achieving not only our gym goals, but are life time dreams. The process is not easy, but with perservance and a will that refuses to give up, you can make the impossible, very plausible and ultimately reachable.

Get ready to even surprise yourself at all you can do once you have an undefeated mindset.

Today’s Litvinov WOD –

6 sets

1. Thrusters – 6 reps

2. Kettlebell swings – 10 reps

3. Burpees – 12 reps

I don’t care how confident a person you are. When you saw this WOD combining thrusters and burpees, I’m sure you had instant doubts of being not being able to finish it. In your mind, you could picture and feel how miserable it is going to be. Being miserable is exactly the theme of today’s WOD. After you are done with this WOD, I want it to be on the top of your list of WODs that you hate. It has to be this awful, if not you won’t learn today’s mental toughness lesson.

We are going to stay with the “magic in the misery” concept for today’s Litvinov WOD. I don’t care how what a bad ass you are, you will feel great levels of agony from going from the thrusters to the burpees. When the suffering and extreme breathlessness starts to engulf you, the threat of quitting will be very real. Instead of giving up, you must counter this temptation with your belief in the “magic in the misery.”

When you feel like you’ve had enough, tell yourself of how much HGH you will be releasing from this WOD. At the height of your discomfort where you can barely breathe, calm you anxiety with the reassuring thought that you will get one hell of a metabolism boost from this WOD. When you don’t think you can do another burpee, crank out 3 more because you know each one will make a huge mark in your mental toughness development.

As fucked up as it will get, remind yourself that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

When you are resting between sets, tell yourself that without any of the discomfort, the whole WOD would be worthless. You want it to be this bad. You actually need and crave this misery because the training has transformed you into a beast that is not only addicted not only to challenges, but to defeating them.

As you get close to finishing your final burpees, anticipate the joy that you will feel when you are finally done. Summon the soon to be ecstatic emotions and let it push you to finish the last couple of burpees with the most speed and explosiveness that you can muster.

As you lie there motionless in a pile of your sweat when you are done, you may not remember all the details of the last couple of minutes to this WOD. It probably will feel like a blur to you. Feel the glory and pride of staying with the misery to getting the job done today. As bad as it felt today, leave the gym knowing that in upcoming WODs, you can handle even more challenging WODs as this one. This was nothing to what you know you can tolerate and overcome. Bring on the next one and make it even rougher. You look forward to the next WOD because you know It doesn’t stand a chance in hell with you.

Feel the rise of power within you. You not only need the misery, but now you fucken love it.

This is how tough you are becoming.

Scaled back version of this Litvinov WOD –

1. Omit the swings and only do the thrusters and burpees. (Although, this may even be harder because of the greater intensity!). An easier version is to omit the thrusters.

2. Do only 3 sets.

3. Run in place or do jumping jacks for 1 minute instead of the burpees.

4. Do only 5 burpees and 5 swings.

Acceptable alternatives –

1. You can use dumbbells or a barbell for the thrusters.

2. You can use a dumbbell for the swings if you don’t have a kettlebell.

3. If you can’t do the burpees due to an injury, jump rope for a minute.