I have been a terrible blogger lately – and I really don’t know why. Ok, that’s a lie, I do know why but my reason isn’t overly impressive. I’m tired! I HATE when people say this as an excuse for anything, so I’m kicking myself saying it now. BUT, in my own defense, this is a form of tired I have never experienced before. The physical aspect is there, but that’s not the problem. The hardest part to deal with is the mental fatigue. That feeling when you think of all the things you have on your to-do list and it’s overwhelming to the point that you just ignore everything? Yeah, that’s been me lately. It’s an awful feeling, and it can’t be used as an excuse any longer. Things are getting checked off the list again and I’m thankful for all the help Kyle has provided in the background with prepping my meals to allow me to get stuff done.
The other week, a friend of mine posted a link to an article which got me thinking and reconnected to a topic that means a lot to me – sport psychology. Sport and exercise psychology is my educational background, which I fell in love with in high school as a competitive athlete. While it’s always been part of my life, I haven’t paid much direct attention to it lately, which is crazy as I’m wrapped up in a sport which requires an insane amount of psychological resilience, or mental toughness.
Mental Toughness in Bodybuilding
As I mentioned before, this sport is unique in the psychological demands it places on the athletes. It’s entirely self-motivated – YOU need to go to the gym and push through your training, YOU need to get up before dawn and log time doing cardio, YOU need to prep your meals and stick to them. When you’re tired and frustrated, and all you can think of is giving in to your sugar cravings, it’s up to you to stop yourself. I’ve heard of a lot of athletes who have quit at varying points in their prep for a number of different reasons. The thought of stepping on stage and the end product is romanticized to society. The hard, muscled, tanned, shiny body in a sparkling suit LOOKS like so much fun .. but when you find yourself in the middle of a prep you look around and say, WTF was I thinking?? The few hours spent looking like a beauty queen are actually created through months of sweaty gym clothes, running shoes, tears, and chicken breasts. LOL.
Beyond holding yourself accountable to the training and meal plan, you have to push yourself past any physical limits you thought you had. Often, this means working through pain, whether it’s the basic lactic acid pain during training (good pain), or from an injury (not good pain). You need to accept the fact that your body is going to be unhappy with you, that you have to push past the pain barrier (obviously within an intelligent range) in order to get the results you’re after. Simply going into the gym and completing 3 sets of 10 reps and walking away smiling isn’t going to cut it. You got 10? Increase your weight. Struggle through that last rep until your arms are shaking and you’re out of breath. Your legs and lungs are burning after 20 minutes of cardio? Sure, you can walk away knowing that you should have done another 10, or you can push through and prove to yourself that you don’t need to quit when it gets tough. Your body is strong – you just need to convince your mind of that.
Why do it? Because it’s amazing. All the workouts, the perfectly portioned meals, the hours of cardio, and the social outings where you didn’t eat the junk food you wanted, created a physique you never thought you could have. You change your body in a way which 95% of the population can’t. You overcome so much adversity without letting it throw you off track, and that alone boosts your confidence. Plus, when you truly love and embrace the sport as your lifestyle – a lot of those factors don’t even cross your mind. Eating food out of a container again? You bet we are, because we know what’s in it and how it’s helping us reach our goal. As you watch your body change from one show to another, the reward is totally worth the effort you put into it.
The hard days come and go, they’re unavoidable. The way I see it is that everyone has bad days, so why not make those bad days worth something? If I have a bad day at work, it fuels a strong training session and the negative thoughts are replaced with energy and determination to work hard at something I love. Tough days where I struggle with how I look are outweighed by the days I’m proud of myself for staying on track.
Am I mentally tough enough? Sometimes I think I am… a lot of days I don’t. But, what I do know is that the reward of being proud of what you bring to the stage is an incredible feeling. It’s not just about the body, but it’s about what you accomplished and overcame to get there. This feeling never changes, regardless of how many times you step on stage.
The other week I had a few really tough days in a row, and I wanted to quit. I wanted to eat off plan and just “be normal” (what is THAT?). But then I started to really think this through. What would a piece of cheesecake do for me? Would it relieve any of the stress I was feeling from work? Nope. Would it take some things off my to-do list? Unfortunately not. Would it make me happy the following day? No, once it’s eaten, the taste and enjoyment is over. So, in the end all I would be left with is the knowledge that I gave up. This realization clicked in my mind and set me back on track.
Love what you do, push through the tough times, and be proud of what you achieve. One of my favourite quotes is “Great things happen outside your comfort zone”. You want to be great? Be ready to feel uncomfortable – whether that’s mentally or physically. Embrace that feeling with the knowledge that you’re doing something amazing. Because you can be amazing if you allow yourself.