I did some self reflection this morning during my P90X Plyometrics workout and realized some things about myself. I am an endurance athlete to the core – I tend to take it easy in the beginning of a race or workout in order to save energy for the end. I tend to hold off on pull-ups at the beginning of P90X Legs and Back so that I have enough energy to do an unassisted one throughout the workout. I always want to make sure that I finish strong. Although I think that my strategy is practical and probably very beneficial during races such as marathons and half marathons, I think that I am doing myself some injustice by not pushing myself to the brink during my weekly training workouts. I need to work on my “mental toughness.”
During Yoga X yesterday morning I tried to focus on mental toughness. I decided that I would stay in some of the most uncomfortable positions for the entire duration of the exercise, even if I was in pain. When all I wanted to do was break from the position, I told myself to focus on something else and ignore the pain. It worked! During marathons or races I try to repeat a mantra in my head to get through tough spots. My most recent favorite is “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.” I tried tofocus on a similar mantra during Yoga.
There have been many case studies that cite the importance of mental toughness, or “grit” (ironically we watched the movie True Grit on Saturday night and maybe that’s where all of this is coming from). This mental toughness can be used to overcome great hardship and even physical torture if necessary. Most commonly though, mental toughness is referenced in connection with athletics. According to Livestrong.com, mental toughness is “the psychological attribute that separates greatness from mediocrity.”
Training for Mental Toughness
These thoughts were sparked due to a conversion that Mike and I had last night about our race strategies for the upcoming sprint triathlon. Basically, since the race is so short, you push yourself to your max on the run. Then we discussed that only way to get faster at running fast is to run fast! Make sense? A few of the reasons that some can run faster than others is because they have a higher VO2 Max (how efficiently your body processes oxygen during exercise) and their body can process lactic acid faster. When you run very hard, your legs fill with lactic acid and if your body can’t remove the lactic acid as fast as you are producing it, you will bonk. Therefore, if you want to be able to run fast, you need to train at a level that allows your body to become more efficient at processing oxygen and lactic acid.
Mike and I made promised to ourselves and each other last night to really work hard this morning during Plyo. Rather than focusing on getting through the workout, I focused on each move. I got as deep as possible, jumped as high as I could, and moved as quickly as my legs allowed. When the burn set in, I reminded myself that the burn now means less burn during the race and that less burn during the race means a faster run. The result? I had a fantastic workout AND I finished strong.
Bring It Every Time!
I reminded myself afterward that with the variety of training that I’m doing, I need to make every workout count. 80% effort isn’t enough, I need to be 100% every time. That doesn’t meant hat I need to burn myself out and overexert myself, it means that I need to focus on only that which will make me stronger. That means that when I swim, I need to focus on form, and when I do plyometrics, I need to focus on the burn and when I do a 14 mile training run, I need to focus on pacing myself and nutritioning right.
Tony Horton was right on the money when he coined that term, “Bring It.” It is an absolutely fantastic motto for a workout program and a great reminder that just because you are doing the moves or running the miles it doesn’t mean that you are improving. A jogger could jog the same course for 10 years at the same pace and never get any faster. Not only do you need to change up your routine to see results, you have to push yourself hard to get where you want to go.
With three and a half weeks until my first triathlon, it is time to bring it!!!