Wednesday, March 7, 2012

M90F (vs. P90X) - Day 17: mental toughness

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Series:  "M90F: Matt's 90-day Fitness"

Day: 17

Activities: UPPER BODY - Push-ups, Ab-wheel, Shoulders & Forearms, Walking.

After about 2 weeks, you may start noticing that the restrictions you placed on yourself in the first 2 weeks no longer apply, mostly because of recovery concerns in the following day(s).  You no longer have to limit yourself to perhaps 2 sets, or 8 reps per set to avoid soreness the next day.  So then you start pushing yourself further.

If you're like me, you still may not be sore, even after doing more sets and reps.  Maybe a little, but not enough to not do more still.

So what, then, is stopping you from doing even more?  Maybe time constraints.  But consider something like push-ups.  I'm sure if you've been doing 2 sets of 30, you could squeeze in the time to do 35 reps per set instead.  Or if you've done that, then what about 40?  When do you stop, and why?

For me it's a concern over keeping the correct form.  But this is also closely tied to being tired or uncomfortable because it hurts to push yourself; maybe you feel like puking, so you stop.  Or maybe your pain causes you to lose form, so then you stop.  But wait right there!  The PAIN might be making you stop using correct form, thus it's really the PAIN that's stopping you mentally.

I recently saw on one of those Navy SEALS shows on Discovery channel that they said physical toughness can be trained/developed, but not mental toughness.  I'm going to say that I disagree.  (note that I'm not comparing myself to a Navy SEAL in any way!  Those guys are crazy tough, and have my highest respect).

Physical toughness is developed by thinking about the correct exercises to do, then doing them.  I think mental toughness is developed by thinking about thinking, and then doing what you need to.  i.e. metacognition.  More precisely, it's all about understanding your priorities, and then being aware of where you're at with respect to those priorities.  Ok, that sounds vague...

Take push-ups for an example:  my priority is keeping correct form.  On your last push-up, maintain perfect form.  If you can't do another one, your arms will shake, you will stop moving, you may start to slowly move back down, all while still pushing hard.  That's how you know you've done your last push-up: you physically can't do another one with perfect form.  You might puke, you might be in pain, but you still can't do one.

Beyond that, to go further you'd need to change priorities, like perhaps the SEALS do in training.  They'll go until they literally drown because they know the trainers are there to revive them (hopefully); they go beyond form until their bodies actually stop living on their own.  Then when they wake up after being revived they say "ok, let's do it again."

I've felt myself regaining some mental toughness I remember I used to have that I had lost; it's a great feeling!  I hope you're feeling it too!  I'm curious if anyone else has thought about this, or realized their mental toughness increasing... post below and let us know!

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