Updated: Aug 13
I must warn you this blog post is not for everyone as I want to explore the depth of the unknown and the unproven. What if that proof is around us, but our mind is calcified to see things for what is beyond surface level? I want to bring forth a realization that we, as humans, have this ability of conscious and subconscious thought. We can create any world if we can allow ourselves.
You're probably thinking, what does this have to do with fitness? Well, fitness is not only a physical aspect, but a conscious realization and reflection of one's self. If you don't believe me, go and talk to the person in the gym that keeps to himself/herself and has headphones on with his/her hoodie up. This person may seemingly be a loner and angry at the world, but I guarantee you he or she will be the nicest person you have ever met with an amazing back story. Ask why he/she exercises and I am certain the response will be "this is my escape" or something similar to that.
Some choose fitness so they can have the appearance of what societal standards defines as "healthy" or "beautiful". Is walking around with less than 5% body fat healthy? Some can argue that it is not. I will tell you from experience having anything less than 8% body fat is a miserable feeling. Although I looked "healthy & fit", I did not feel good at all. I was always fatigued and could barely function. I felt like a shell of my self. Whether I was "dieting" for a bodybuilding's specific division competition or for a photo shoot for sponsors, I was never feeling 100% me. This experience has altered how I viewed myself in all aspects. Having a realistic goal or an accurate positive mental image of yourself is incredibly humbling. Typically, how we view ourselves is not an accurate depiction, because we tend to use inaccurate data from a memory fueled by some type of negative emotion.
My experience in bodybuilding and "dieting" for photoshoots was incredibly difficult and unrealistic to maintain my physique all year round. What did this teach me? Just like when the military broke me down mentally to be an efficient war-machine it was all about mental toughness simply because it is what I had to do. However, with this I had to explore my unknown and decipher from my reality of the world my mind created. Having mental toughness has helped me overcome the harshnesses of a "reality" that was not...real.
What is mental toughness? That definition can be defined by you, the reader. What is your definition of mental toughness? Take a moment and explore this aspect of yourself. Did you immediately think of someone else's experience like the construction worker digging holes in the scorching sun or the U.S. Marine in full tactical gear and go-bag hiking up steep mountains? How about the Stay-At-Home mom who is juggling her time to keep the house together and having breakfast, lunch and dinner ready by the time everyone is home? So, did you think of someone else's experience before your own? Just asking...
So, what is your definition of mental toughness? Your interpretation of mental toughness is exactly your definition and never allow anyone to take away your power. We often times overlook our inner strength and use our memories from a time and place where we once struggled as a focal point. Overtime those memories are altered through our emotions and those memories are used as a reference point to answer questions we are in search for. Those memories are an interpretation of past feelings and often times those past feelings does not serve us for our now and future actions. Think about a time when you struggled and remember those emotions. Think back of how difficult that time was. Now, let's change your perception of that time. Yes, it was a struggle, but what did we learn from it and how much of it actually occurred? [Rhetorical]
Its often difficult to decipher what actually took place in the past, especially with negative emotions driving that memory, which in turn will alter our perception of ourself. The point is, it may not be useful to focus on a memory of our past self and experiences. Do not allow yourself to be contained or imprisoned inside walls. Remember, our minds our powerful enough to create a reality. Once those walls are put up it is difficult to see beyond the known to the unknown. Trust yourself and always speak positively when referring to yourself. Your subconscious is always listening and learning from your habits.
Although a fitness journey can be overwhelming and seemingly an uphill climb to the never ending top, but confidence and thoughtful decision-making will ensure your success. Own your moment as something you are exploring as a new avenue versus giving your power away of comparing yourself to a memory that may have been altered. You are in control of your world. See yourself in the scenario of the goals you want to attempt and visualize yourself accomplishing these goals. Your subconscious mind will map out the directions and steps you need to take to accomplish your goals. Allow yourself to be your own hero in your story and your body will follow. It all starts with a strong mind. Explore your unknowns because that is where change exists. I'll see you there!
Herman is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer and a fitness nutritional specialist. He is also an Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) certified group fitness instructor with a Sunrise Yoga Specialization.