Toughen Up Buttercup: Tapping into your (Mental) Toughness

We all have goals. Some are fitness and health related, some financial, others may be work related. 

Imagining a goal, and setting a goal and mapping out a plan to get it done- are two different things. 

Start by setting a goal
First of all remember goals should be “SMART” they should be specific, measurable, achievable, result focused, and have a time frame. 

Here are some examples of how general goals can be turned into SMART goals. 

  • “I want to lose weight for summer” Ok let’s see where we can go with this. As an educator when I have heard clients say this my follow ups tend to be:
  • Do you want to lose weight or do you want a better fitness level and muscle tone? 
  • Why do you want this?
  • Summer is “x” months away- where can we start today to work towards this?
  • How often would you like to check in on your progress?
  • This same thought paradigm can 

Tap into your motivation for that goal

I have found that setting SMART goals with patients is an important ingredient- but motivation is what you need to make the recipe.

Tapping into that motivation when the going gets tough is huge. It should be that strange little place you seek shelter in that last mile, or as you add weight, or as you are dragging your heels to get that workout in. 

Sometimes I like to think of my motivation as illustrated in the oatmeal

An awkward cherub that chases me when the mileage gets tough.

Ultimately your motivation is the “why” or the finer points of your goal.

 I.e. For someone losing weight- weight loss is pretty general, so it is important to further define this- why do you want to lose weight. If it is for health reasons (better sleep, better diabetes control, etc) that can be a powerful piece to tap into when the going gets tough. As it inevitably will. 

Embrace your discomfort 

I mean this both mentally and physically (within reason). Eventually we all need to step outside our comfort zone to get shit done.

Bottom line. Depending on what you’re aiming for you may face both mental and physical discomfort – again that’s when truly understanding your motivation for this endeavor and what means to you is huge. Because when you’re uncomfortable you want to lean into that, keeping what is motivating you at the forefront of your mind.

Manage your expectations

Part of the process of setting and achieving a goal is reworking what we want or need along the way. 

Sometimes shit happens. 

As clichè as it may be, it does. Injuries, falling off track, etc. 

When this happens there are certain instances where you’re able to pick right back up where you left off. I.e. A week of poor eating- ok next week get back in your kitchen.

Sometimes with the physical goals- if you get injured – you may not return from an injury running your typical 8-8:30 minute miles. At this point you may need to refocus and adjust your expectations to fit reality. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up. 

But part of setting a goal is that it’s achievable. 

Learn patience

As I said above sometimes we get off track, part of the process of getting back on track, is being patient. If you get injured, be patient heal properly, and do what you can to get back on track.

If you have a bad week of eating don’t let that derail your plan. Take a deep breath, get back in your kitchen, and prep some meals.

The piece of patience is being patient with the whole process. A typical marathon training plan takes 12+ weeks, with weight loss we are looking at 2 lbs a week, and potentially muscle building (so potentially some weight gain- depending where you start).

Respect the process, and be patient with it. And be patient with yourself. 

Learn from mistakes

We’re going to screw up at some point. Such is life. 

We’ll eat something awful before a training run.

We’ll try to lift too much too soon.

We’ll skip food prep day, and dine out way too much on a work week.

So what did we learn? 

Ok don’t eat 4 slices of  cold pizza for breakfast before your long run.

If you’re going to add more weight- grab a spotter.

How did you feel after that week of eating out? I’m guessing not great- find those 2ish hours on the weekend to make some food for he week.

We will always have set backs. Make the most of them. 
It’s one thing to learn from your mistakes, and analyze them. But picking yourself up and dusting yourself off after a missed attempt, a missed goal, an injury- can totally freaking SUCK. 

Sometimes we need to learn to regroup mentally, sometimes it’s physical. Physically it might be physical therapy, or cross training. Mentally it could involve reflection on where you started, and how far you’ve come, reflection on why this goal still means something, reflection on the good things that came from working towards your goal. 

Personally when things don’t go well for me, I look at where I was physically 3 years ago. I do take comfort in the change that has evolved; and that typically is enough for me to not get too down on myself. 
In closing I cannot stress the importance of tapping into your mental badass.

The last 7 miles of Chicago this past year were ALL mental. My legs were just going off of momentum at that point, and it became about (lying to myself) tapping into that strength and just willing myself to move forward. 

With clients who are losing weight I have seen them use everything from faith, family, health as motivators when the going gets tough. It’s not always to get your brain, and heart, (and muscles) on the same page. 

But when you do- that’s when the magic happens.

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