Why is everyone so hung up on the term ‘Mental Toughness’?
We’ve always found it fascinating that people seem only to think mental toughness applies to times we are pushing ourselves through something difficult.
Workout starts hurting? Pain is temporary, push harder. Gotta be mentally tougher!
Tired from working overtime? Push through, and definitely don’t skip your gym session afterward. Don’t be weak!
Didn’t get a whole week’s worth of meals prepped on Sunday? Don’t eat until you have those meals perfectly calculated to your macros. Have that mental discipline!
You’ve got the picture, right? Ready for the biggest secret you’ve been missing though? Let’s blow your mind with the single biggest hurdle to your long-term success when it comes to the mental game. The single piece that is most overlooked and is the TOUGHEST for all of us to overcome… Drum roll, please!
REST, AKA not taking enough time off.
Once you’ve established going to the gym as part of your habit and your identity, it becomes incredibly difficult for most of us not to hit the gym. Instead of resting and recovering when we very clearly feel tired and sore, we beat ourselves down further with a workout under the banner of growth or mental toughness.
The result of not resting enough?
As coaches, we see athletes that know we’re doing four to six intervals at a high-intensity in-class workout struggle to finish just three sets. Instead of listening to our coaches and their own bodies, we watch ego kick in, they think they need to be mentally tough — and they struggle to complete another set.
They’ve just dug themselves deeper down the well, and recovery is going to be just that much more difficult.
We’ve all been there. We understand the feeling. Tell us if these inner monologues sound familiar:
- We can’t be the only one not to finish the workout
- We have to try to RX the day even though we’re feeling trashed.
- Another athlete is getting better while we rest.
- By not working out a certain amount of time each and every week, we are somehow lazy or underachieving.
Physically, we want all the good benefits working out provides us. Endorphins are rea. and addicting. There is definitely a feeling of “workout high” when dopamine and serotonin are in our systems after a tough workout. They also make it much tougher to actually listen to our bodies when they need a break. Again, that is rest.
Changing the way we think about rest days
So what if instead of being masochists and eviscerating ourselves through a fourth set when we’re obviously spent, we actually had the mental fortitude to opt-out? We could use that fourth set instead to mobilize some tissue and do low-intensity work to recover. We could rest. Even though we crave more, it can at times be to our detriment.
Similarly, what if after working a 12-hour day, when we feel depleted and totally worn down, we skipped the gym and focused on getting a healthy cooked meal in and getting off our feet instead of pushing through another workout? How much tougher would you be not only mentally, but physically?
Rest is THE secret to maximizing your gains.
Taking time off is as much a game of mental toughness as is working out. Once we understand this, utilize it to its fullest, then we can really watch our gains maximize.