There are four types of people.
1. Those that aren’t mentally tough at all.
2. Those that are mentally tough in the gym but not elsewhere.
3. Those that are mentally tough in their lives but not when it comes to working out.
4. Those that are mentally tough in every area of their lives.
Which one do you choose to be?
Because it really is a choice.
Mental toughness can be built up in the gym. (And note when I say gym it doesn’t have to be lifting weights or on machines. In fact, I would say there are some even better exercises that can be done anywhere, with your own bodyweight.) Physical exercise is one of the easiest ways to build not just physical but mental toughness as well.
If you’re lifting a weight you can push to lift one more, and one more after that. When your body is screaming at you to quit, from the lactic acid buildup and part of your mind says you’re done, you can choose to go longer.
My personal favorite for mental toughness is working high intensity cardio exercises like hill sprints or kettlebell snatches. In either of these you can always push a little bit faster or a little bit longer.
Now not all exercise needs to work on your toughness. In fact I believe only a small portion should. If you over do it, you can burn yourself out or get injured. Some people are of the opinion that every exercise must be taken to the limit. With that you’re setting yourself up for failure.
When you’ve become mentally tough you can always unleash it once again if you choose to. I’d say at most you really only need to push your boundaries in this regard once a week or even every other week. The occasional big challenge will do more for mental toughness then a little bit here and there in every workout. And keep in mind this is different then the discipline it takes to workout every day. That’s mental toughness in a different manner.
Mental toughness can also be built outside the gym in a wide variety of circumstances. You can challenge your comfort zones. You can build your own business. You can ask someone out on a date when you’re afraid to do so.
So let’s talk about what to do if you’re in any of the areas above. If you feel you have no mental toughness right now what should you do? Get started! Start an exercise plan. Gain the discipline to do it when you said you would. Push yourself on the exercises. Realize you will fail at certain point but except that and move on when it happens. Mentally tough people are not perfectionists. Also start doing some small things in other areas of your live to push your comfort zone. As you build it you’ll start seeing some big changes.
Here’s the truth, if you have a resource in one area of your life it’s easy to transfer it over into another area.
If you’ve found you do great in the gym but don’t seem to be so great elsewhere here is what you do. Imagine yourself in the gym gutting through a hard exercise, and pushing to do just a little bit more. Embody that attitude you have there. Now take it with you as you think about another area of your life, looking through the eyes with the same confidence, toughness and resilience you have there. Then take action.
If you’re great in any other area of your life but not so when it comes to exercise you can do the same in reverse. Access that state of toughness where you achieved a goal or got something done, then transfer that over to working out.
And if you’re mentally tough in every area of your life congratulations. Keep up the good work and keep building. Also if you ever find a situation where you’re not being so tough, do the same drill as you’ve done above and you’ll achieve that state. Soon you’ll become an unstoppable machine capable of anything you put your mind to.
Logan Christopher is a physical culture renaissance man. If it has to do with working out and using the body he’s at least tried it. Still he has a number of specialties, being one of the best kettlebell jugglers in the US, working on a wide range of bodyweight skills, and a performing strongman. One of his most famous feats is pulling an 8800 lb. antique firetruck by his hair.
You can find much more at his two main websites. Legendary Strength covers all aspects of physical training with lots on kettlebells, bodyweight exercise and feats of strength. And at Lost Art of Hand Balancing you can learn how to do handstands, acrobatics and much more.