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The last couple miles on a run. Those last few reps on the bench. Heck, even the last inning in a grueling whiffle ball game. These are the make-or-break moments in fitness. There comes a point in any physical activity no matter how low-key (e.g. light jogging, competitive mini golf), where pushing onward seems unbearable. Whether you keep going or pack up your gym bag and head home, however, is up to you.
What sets apart a successful fitness enthusiast from a quitter? A positive, can-do attitude. Success in any physical activity, be it weightlifting, running or Ultimate Frisbee, depends on one’s ability to push forward mentally. Willpower is key. When people say running, golf or any other physical activity is 90 percent mental, it’s not to sound like some cheeseball motivational speaker (no matter how corny that saying sounds.)
In order to progress fitness-wise, you’ve got to push past the point with which you’re comfortable. Say, for example, you run as much as 3 miles a day. In order to reach the 4-mile point you’ve got to focus mentally and look past the pain and fatigue that comes with pushing beyond your fitness threshold.
A 100-pound weakling most likely can’t bench 1,000 pounds. Within reason, however, a relatively healthy guy can push himself beyond his physical expectations. It’s all about setting a goal and sticking with it.
The concept of no pain, no gain ties in perfectly with the idea of mental focus. In order to progress, you’ve got to endure physical stress. You can do this by focusing on your goal. You’ve got to treat temporary pain and fatigue as just that: temporary. Unless you’re seriously overexerting yourself and going way beyond your normal fitness level (from the couch to the Iron Marn Triathlon overnight is not recommended), you should have nothing to worry about.
I run fairly often. There are times in many runs when my legs feel sore, I’m out of breath and I just feel like quitting. Despite the pain and frustration, I make myself keep running. I focus on the goal at hand (which is, at the moment, training for a half-marathon) and follow through no matter how crappy I may feel.
Auto titan Henry Ford once said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” This quote fits in perfectly with the mental aspect of physical fitness. If you believe you can accomplish a goal and actually put in the work, chances are you will. If you feel something is beyond your reach, then you won’t.
The only thing keeping you from success in physical fitness is Y-O-U. Don’t blame poor genes or ill-fitting sneakers (well, unless you’re cutting off blood flow.) If those people on “The Biggest Loser” can put themselves in the mental state to succeed, so can you.
Whatever your fitness goal, keep a positive attitude and always stay focused. Think beyond the fatigue and you’ll reach new heights on a regular basis. Just don’t get so mental you actually go mental. It’s pretty hard to bench press with a straightjacket on.