Mind Over Matter

These three words are the mantra of my training partner, the one person who's consistently hit the gym with me for the better part of ten years.  I've witnessed him bringing this mantra to life in his career, through the loss of his mother, and of course, in the gym.  His mental strength rivals that of his physicality, and it's clear that the former feeds the latter.  

When I found a course in Mental Toughness offered for NASM-CPT continuing education credits, I jumped at the opportunity and dove into the materials.  The course confirmed what I already knew – get your mind right, and your body will follow. 

Mental Toughness, first and foremost, requires concentration, and more specifically, focus.  The required aspects of focus that shape mental toughness are essential to athletic success, but are actually derived from research geared toward business.  Each aspect has a practical application for the casual gym-goer as much as it does for a quarterback in the NFL.

Ability to focus on performance while experiencing off-the-court issues

When you step into a yoga class, under the bench, or head out for a run, leaving distractions out of your mental space will enable you to give your all to the task at hand.  Focus on your own instructional cues, breathing, and mind-muscle connection – not the fight you had with your girlfriend, mortgage payments, or even a loved-one’s illness.

Ability to maintain focus after both success and failure

There will be days when you walk out of the gym feeling like a god, and there will be days when you feel crappy for coming in under your PR or not being able to reach as far as you’d like in Pilates.  What matters is the lens through which you view success and failure, and not allowing either to influence your next performance.  This Nichiren Daishonin quote comes to mind: “Remain unswayed by slander nor praise.”

Ability to recover from unexpected, uncontrollable, and unusual events

How do you recover from an injury?  Are you sitting on the sofa feeling sorry for yourself, or modifying your routine to enable the best performance possible?  If your gym closed for renovations, do you have a back-up plan, or would you take a vacation from fitness?

Ability to ignore typical distractions in the performance environment

Uh-oh…someone forgot her headphones.  And the music drifting from the rickety gym speaker is akin to Muzak.  The guy next to you in Bikram lays on his mat, sweating garlic and loudly blowing his nose while you’re struggling to hold a pose.  Focusing on your performance feeds the mental toughness necessary to minimize outside distractions.

Ability to focus on one’s own performance instead of being concerned with an opponent’s performance

The mentally tough athlete focuses solely on his or her own performance, and doesn’t fall victim to the pitfalls of comparison.  Your real competition is standing right in front of you – in the mirror.

Source: Jones and Moorehouse, Developing Mental Toughness: Gold-medal Strategies for Transforming Your Business Performance, 2007.

This post originally appeared on greensuperfoods.us.