The Number One Key for Mental Toughness (Part 2)

delayIt’s ironic that that I have been blogging on this site for over three years and I never touched the subject of eating. For many of you, getting pass your bad eating habits is the daily obstacle that many of you face. Even though, I consider myself a very clean eater and many of my friends are amazed at my extreme discipline with my what I put in my mouth, it is still a struggle for me. Just the other day, I finished my third glass of wine and wanted another one. I knew I had a difficult WOD the next morning and another sip of vino would greatly impair my performance.

So the dilemma in my mind began. Should I or shouldn’t I have another? My thoughts began to race and rationalize on why another glass of red wine wouldn’t hurt me. Even though, I was favoring myself to have another drink, I understood the psychological concept on why I was tempted to give in to my weakness.

I was submitting myself to my need for immediate gratification. Once I was able to identify my apparent weakness, I was able to say no to more booze and felt a great sense of satisfaction for wining back my self-control.

This is my latest example of how I delayed gratification in order to get a bigger pay-off down the road and more importantly, become mentally tougher. If I would have taken the extra drink, it would have felt good at the moment, but I would certainly would have suffered from it the day. So instead of fulfilling my immediate pleasure, I forgo it and waited the next day to get my reward. That is, kicking ass in my WOD the next morning and getting my rush of endorphins for the rest of the day.

If you can gasp this principal of immediate vs. delayed gratification, you will be able to understand and make faster gain with your mental toughness growth. In other words, the ability the put off satisfaction will make you stronger in the gym, persevere on your job when things are going badly and help you achieve your biggest personal goals when you’re feeling like they are unachievable.

I’m sure you all buy into this notion, but is confused to how that extra large order of chili fries you had last night is related to improvements in becoming mentally stronger. Your eating habits can break or strength your mental toughness growth.

How? It reflects your decision-making habits and revels if you are a weak-minded human being or a person with supreme discipline. To test this theory, all you have to do is take a stroll in your local mall and check out how overweight the average person is and then watch the slothful crowd stuff endless colossal grub and sugar beverages rapidly down their throats at the food court.

If having an extended belly isn’t a sign of being mentally weak, I don’t what is.

I’ll be the first to admit that this a very judgmental opinion as I know tons of super fit dudes and chicks that have weak minds, but eating food that you know is bad for you is a huge representation of having a lousy will. The italics part of this statement – know is bad for you is what is the most frightening. In other words, the average person will continue to poison and sabotage their health just for a few minutes or even a couple of seconds of temporary joy. I stress temporary because most of them will feel like shit very quickly after their gluttonous fare. What’s worse is that the majority actually know they will feel awful going into their pig feast, but they still will force-feed and slurp themselves to physical sickness and mental guilt anyway.

This incapacity to stopping yourself from harming your health is the major problem most people have. And again, a major sign that one is not a strong minded person.

This food issue is something we all have to deal with as deficiency with food choices will have a negative trickling effect on everything you do in life. If you can’t delay rewards with what you eat, you will never achieve the empowering skill to overcome adversity, as you will be constantly defeated by your weak impulses and give in to temptations. When applied to life, this means you give up way too fucken easy. In terms of your mental toughness report card, you’ll get an “F” in life achievement.

The good news is that you will get plenty of practice to strengthen your delaying reward system. The more you get to put this skill to use, the stronger it will become.

You all have plenty of opportunity to solidify this essential part of your mental toughness training, too. It doesn’t take place in the gym either. It occurs three or six times a day when you consider what you put in your mouth.

These are your daily tests that you all face and must conquer.

Before I go on further, I want to stress that this article is not about eating healthy. What one considers to be healthy eating is up for debate and one day I’ll write a whole series on it. The goal is this blog is to teach you how to be aware of your immediate vs. delay gratification quandary. Once you understand the psychological principal of your choices, you will be in better control in making stronger decisions and avoid being a weaker person.

Again, my goal is teach how to become mentally tougher and not how to eat properly. But, by gaining strength in your decision making process with your food choices, it will have a direct and positive effect on your ability to go on when you want to quit in the gym, and keep fighting for your life long dreams when everything looks like shit.

Holding out for better things while being in discomfortable state is what delay gratification is all about. It’s the quality that all successful athletes, billionaires and pain expert navy SEAL officers have. I doubt if, if they were born with this magnificent skill either. They had to learn it. I had to learn it too. Boy, I had to learn it the hard way. Those were some awful pathetic times and sometimes I revert back to these bad habits. Like I said earlier, overcoming my immediate gratification needs is never finally cured; it is a life long work in progress that I have to be always aware of

Most of the work I have advocated on this site has took place in the gym or track, but for today’s challenges in will take place in your kitchen, dinner table or work cafeteria

(To be continued)

Today’ WOD is a classic CrossFit one:

“Cindy”

20 minutes of as many rounds as possible:

5 pull-ups

10 push-ups

15 squats

“Cindy” is one of the most popular CrossFit workouts because you can do it at your girlfriend’s home, a gym, Iraq, anywhere. It is also one of the toughest bodyweight workouts ever and it will test your resolve. Make sure you go into this WOD with the sole intention of becoming mentally tougher. “Cindy” will work your biceps, chest and legs, but your concern isn’t about getting all ripped up from this WOD. It’s about coming out the WOD being mentally stronger than before you started the workout.

When you start off with “Cindy” it will seem very easy. After a couple of rounds, you’ll cruise through the workout and will wonder what this CrossFit fuss is all about. But, by your fifth minute, it will immediately feel like a tire iron has blind-sided you.  Your whole body will suddenly ache and you will feel a rush of exhaustion. I warning you all – this overwhelming feeling of wanting to collapse will happen without any warning. When the body is about to give in to the rush of whole-body fatigue, you must bring the mind to the rescue. The more aggressive your thoughts, the more likely you will beat out “Cindy.” Example of aggressive thoughts that lead to action can be “I am unstoppable. I will not quit…..I will plow through this workout no matter what….I am tired, but my mind will lead me to finish this WOD….I refused to let “Cindy” beat me. I will go! Again, these are example thought patterns that I have when I facing “Cindy.” Use whatever thoughts you have to motivate you go on instead of quitting.

Power yourself through “Cindy” with a mind that is relentless and uncompromising to any notion of giving up. Focus on completing one task at a time with an aggressive attitude of refusing to quit, no matter how much the pain is taking over your body. The challenge is to rest as little as possible between rounds.  Whatever you do, avoid looking at the clock as much possible as it will cause you to more mental turmoil. The 20 minute countdown to the end of the workout will seem to move strangely slow, especially when yours thighs are quivering and your drench in sweat. No matter how much you pray or keep looking at the clock, it will not speed up the misery that you will be in. What will save you from the punishment that “Cindy” will dish out at you, is your unyielding will to out duel her. You have two choices – either you can passively sit it out and let the clock tick down or you can battle this tough broad with aggressive actions as you drive through the many pull-ups, push-ups and squats.  If you chose to be the fighter, go down swinging. Don’t stop moving till the time is over. 20 minutes of battling and you will have accomplish one of the most intense workouts on this site.

Scaled back versions for this WOD:

  1. Use a Woody Flex Band for the assisted pull-ups or do inverted rows instead of the pull-ups, Here’s a great tutoral: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8Hg-rCJwDY
  2. Omit the pull-ups
  3. Do the pushups from off your knees
  4. An alternate reps scheme can be 3 pull-ups, 5 pushups and 8 air squats
  5. Perform the workout in ten minutes

Make any changes to the WOD that suits your current fitness needs or combined as many different adjustments as needed.