Monday, August 9, 2010

Tough Cookies...

I hate people who half-ass everything. I know a lot of these people. They spill something, they KIND OF clean it up. They go to work, they KIND OF do their job. They have school work to do, they KIND OF try. I see it all the time, and I will never understand it. I really never half-ass anything. The way I see it, if I am going to spend my time doing something, I am going to do it the best I can. Especially when it comes to exercise. I know that if I am going to set time aside to workout, it is going to be the most kick-ass workout I can do. Of course, we all have days where our most kick-ass workout is miserable. I have been known to put on all my athletic gear in the morning only to realize I am too tired and crawl directly back into bed, sneakers and all. Talk about a kick ass workout! But, whatever! This post is not about the days when you don't workout at all. This post is about those days where you are almost in tears after the very first round of a torturous five round workout. This post is about the days where your last pushup sucked, and you don't think you have the strength to do the extra one to make up for it. This post is NOT for the half-assers out there. This post is about mental toughness.

“ At least I did something.” I used to say that sentence all the time. When I would be out at dinner eating french fries or drinking 800 calorie margaritas after work, I would think back to my twenty minute walk on the treadmill earlier that day and say that sentence in my head. Sometimes I would say it out loud too, but it always fell on deaf ears. I was really just trying to justify my lazy gluttonous lifestyle to myself, not anybody else. Looking back, I am just embarrassed. Why did I spend those twenty minutes walking on the treadmill to begin with? I put all my gym clothes on and drove to the gym for THAT? At the time, I thought it was better to do a tiny bit of easy exercise than no exercise at all, but now that I am older, wiser, and sexier I know the truth. The reason that I was doing a workout fit for a 100 year old woman when I was 20 years old was because A) I was lazy as all hell and B) I lacked the mental toughness to push myself to the point of physical discomfort. As a result of this, I looked like a slightly less crazy version of a pre-Trim-Spa Anna Nicole Smith, and I didn't even have my own TV show. But these days, things have changed, and I think I have developed some great strategies to push through the pain, and complete workouts that before I wouldn't even have tried. No half-assing, no giving up, no complaining, (ok maybe a little complaining) these are the ways that I have become and will continue to be, one tough mother effing chick.

I already told you that when I do something, I do it it the best I can. This way I never have to make excuses for not putting in 100% effort. Rule number one of becoming mentally tough is that there are no excuses. You never want to finish a workout and have to justify to yourself why it sucked. “Oh, I ran 1 ½ miles instead of the 2 miles I wanted but it was hot and I had a wedgie.” No, you only ran 1 ½ miles because it hurt. Your lungs hurt, your legs hurt and you quit. The excuses are just covering up the fact that you set a goal for yourself and you didn't achieve it. Next time, achieve it. Even if you have to log roll the last half mile, figure out a way to finish that workout. You know what you are capable of, so figure out a do-able workout and DO IT. Don't stop until its done. Finish all your workouts with no excuses, and I guarantee you will grow a little stronger, faster, happier, and tougher every single day. And, if you really did have a wedgie maybe you deserved to be uncomfortable because everyone knows you do a few squats to make sure your undies are comfy before you leave the house.

So now that we know how to stop our tighty-whiteys from creeping up, lets move on to my next mental toughness strategy. The second tool that has helped me change from an excuse making giver-upper into a lean, mean, workout machine is something that I think a lot of people overlook. I became grateful for my body. I am lucky in the sense that I suffer from no chronic pain anywhere in any of my body parts. I have never had surgery, and a doctor has never advised me to refrain from any kind of physical activity. Until recently, I never realized how grateful I should be for this, but lately I have made a habit out of channeling my gratitude into energy to get through tough workouts. If you could get inside my head while I am working out, you would be embarrassed for me. It is not uncommon for me to be repeating “ I love my legs” over and over in my mind while I am flailing around like a lanky puppy on that final lap of my workout. This doesn't mean I run around the track focusing on how great my legs look. It means I am literally loving every muscle, tendon , ligament and bone allowing me to run that lap. Admittedly, it is hard to keep this focus while your muscles burn and sweat drips into your eyes, but sometimes you need to direct your focus to something positive to get your mind off the pain. There are a lot of people out there who physically cannot exercise and would love to be able to get out there and be active. Next time you want to give up, think about how lucky you are to be able to move and exercise and use that positive energy to give it all you have. However, if you are going to be repeatedly loving a body part of choice for your entire workout, I would recommend keeping it in your head rather than saying it aloud. I know this from experience as I got several perplexed looks after I accidentally gasped “you are so awesome” to myself upon completion of 20 pullups at Planet Fitness. But you know what...I AM so awesome!

The final strategy that I want to discuss for building mental toughness is using your emotions to your advantage. As a woman/girl (I am not going to call myself a woman I am only 25,) I have had plenty of days where a particularly sentimental episode of Full House has brought me to tears (RIP Papouli.) In the past, on a day where I was particularly weepy, angry, or just feeling a little off, I would skip the gym in favor of my bed and some ice cream. Not anymore. Boss yell at you for reading my blog at work? Boyfriend tell you he has no money for your birthday present because he spent it on video games and Mountain Dew? Radio DJ played “Christmas Shoes” and you almost drove your car off the road from bawling your eyes out? Get yourself to the gym and sweat out your troubles! If you are happy, blast “Walkin on Sunshine” on your Ipod and go through your workout with a giant smile! (just remember not to lip synch!) If you are mad, pump up the angry music, make a crazy face, and take your anger out on those weights! Once you figure out how to harness your energy, whether it be positive or negative, and use it to to kick a workouts ass, there will be far less occasions where you skip the gym because you “had a bad day.” Soon, it will no longer be your emotions making it hard to get into the gym, it will be your muscles making it hard for you to fit through the door! Zing!

The message I really want to get across with this post is that giving up because something is hard is dumb. Call it mental toughness, call it determination, but however you refer to it know that its a necessary quality to possess if you ever want to reach your fitness goals. There is nothing like the feeling of going through twenty minutes of absolute torture, yet still ending the workout with a smile of disbelief on your face because you are truly in awe that you not only completed the workout, but you gave it your all. You are never going to be able to experience this feeling if you give up because you realize mid-workout that you think you may be coming down with Syphilis. So stop half-assing, quit it with the excuses, and find a way to channel your energy into giving it your everything at the gym. I will bet you anything (except money) that you are capable of doing much more than you think!

Here is an example of a workout that REALLY tested my mental toughness last week. I did this one at home in the backyard so the neighbors wouldn't call the police on me.

5 Rounds

Run 400 Meters (One standard track lap or .25 on a treadmill)

30 Burpees (Jump down to the ground on your belly. Push back up, jump in the air and clap over your head. Football players do these. For some reason that helps a lot of people know what I mean when I say Burpee.)

* Time yourself and write down the time. Then, do this workout again in a few weeks to see if you have improved!

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