Originally Posted by BendtheBar
Most of us know the importance of mental strength, but I thought it would make a good topic for conversation. We talk endlessly about programming, but rarely discuss the component of training that is even more important - mental strength.
--What defines mental strength? What does mental strength mean to you?
--Were you always mentally strong?
--How did you cultivate mental strength?
--What role does mental strength play in your success?
--What percentage of people fail to reach their goals because they lack mental strength?
--Are there ways to approach training that allow lifters to build mental strength and toughness?
Mental strength is about being able to focus and channel your mind when you need to. Its about blocking out the cardio bunnies and grumpy gym employees yelling at you right before you squat. Its about letting everything but the iron fall away from your awareness. Its about pulling your head out of your ass and hitting those reps even though you don't feel like it.
However, it shouldn't be confused with bullheadedness and bloodymindedness. This is what I'm usually guilty of, ignoring the obvious signs that I'm about to damage myself. There's a difference between pushing through the pain and doubt and just being stupid. I'm not always that great at getting it right.
I wasn't always mentally strong, and I'm still not always mentally strong. Some days just suck and I'm a pansy. Some days I'm able to pull through and find the zone, and others I walk in the king of my own little squat rack and its no trouble at all. Its the days that I make the switch that I focus on, and being able to do that more often.
It all falls into mental discipline, which I was trained in for a long time as a kid. Memorization played a large part in it, critical thought , deductive/inductive reasoning, mathematics, physics, mechanics, the scientific method, and lots and lots of reading. This was all outside of school, beginning when I was around 2. At that point, it focused only on memorization, but it kept going from there. A sharp mind is vital to controlling your body.
Mental strength plays a large part in my success. From committing to losing weight when I was diabetic and 360 pounds to blocking out the voices that tell me "this is a really bad idea" as I walk up to the deadlift bar, its all in the mind. The brain (and spinal cord) are the CNS. Controlling the CNS is controlling your fate.
I think 90% of people who fail to meet their goals fail because of lack of mental strength. Bulks and cuts fail, routines fail, results fail because people give in, don't take it seriously enough. This pizza won't hurt. Or more frequently ,"I'm full, and don't want to eat this pizza". I'll just do some leg extensions, squats feel too hard today. Man up, belly up to the bar, and make it happen.
The only way to build mental strength is to push yourself past where you thought you could go. It helps to have a partner to push you, they can see your physical limits and harangue you until you push past your mental barriers and begin to push your body. Mental training including solving puzzles, memorization, and creative writing are also helpful.