Part two: Focus of Intent
Is it a great thing to learn to deal with discomfort? Yes! Because eventually you may discover that there are very few real emergencies in life and fitness training is not one of them. The acceptance of discomfort opens the door of physical possibility. It is not an end all, be all. Pushing too fast and too hard is the mistake of an inexperienced or un-attentive mind. Strength, endurance, power, and flexibility all build in increments. So do the mental reserves to productively govern the body’s building process. Staying fit and healthy is a marathon, not a sprint.
Some time-tested avenues to develop focus of intent for physical training, the second aspect of mental toughness, begin with the following three practices listed in order of priority:
• Calm, even, consistent breathing… It does not matter if it is fast or slow, percussive or silent; just equal out and in without being held. Holding the breath means you are overreaching or working too hard. Back off and quit building tension. Avoid injury. Breathe.
• Non-reactive thinking…that means to challenge yourself without judgment. There’s a big difference between doing something you later decide was stupid and thinking you are stupid because you did something that didn’t work. Give it a shot. So what if you lose balance or fail? Don’t buy in to somebody else either, there’s no comparison here. You will learn about your own edge by finding it, not by comparing it to someone else’s.
• Wholehearted doing without attachment to the result…that means to give it your all. Whatever that is on this day, you accept the outcome so as to be able to continue forward. If an injury has you on the sidelines, then have fun watching movies or researching a good health practitioner to help you. If it feels as though you can work harder than you planned, do that. Honor your purpose.
Achieve these three touchstones regardless of the circumstances in a given moment and you have a focus of intent. This is learning to respond rather than react. It is best to practice the first one (calm, even, consistent breathing) no matter what. Never, ever sacrifice the breath to achieve something. It is critical for staying healthy and grounded in the body’s wisdom. Trust your breath to show you your edge. If you can’t breathe in the way described above, you’re way past it. Add the other two as you can while preserving and maintaining an even breath.
Mental toughness knows mistakes happen, setbacks occur, problems can develop, and it embraces them all as part of a bigger perspective. Cling to nothing but what is right in front of you in this moment to do. Pay attention to what your body is telling you instead of ignoring it. Pain is nature’s way of letting you know something is wrong, not that you lack toughness, or that you will never get fit. Drop that mental bully and pick up the three touchstones instead. That boot camp class gets a lot more interesting if you are showing up with your three buddies in mind.
Training that works over the long-term becomes the evolution of desire and discipline in personal action. It is a gift to know your body well enough to challenge your individual comfort zone secure in the understanding of where there is the room to work and what is best left alone on this day. The gift of mental tenacity cannot be given. It is only earned with time, repeated effort, and attention to results.