• Mental Toughness

      I know we have all had this conversation before, but I think it's time to have it again. And if this turns into a rant, then I'm sorry.
      Maybe I take things differently than the average person. I don't know. Maybe I'm not as "sensitive" as I think I am. But I'm irritated with people lately. I don't think it's anyone in particular who will read this, but you never know. Maybe this applies to some of you. Maybe everyone...
      Why are people so weak? Holy crap, toughen up!
      Everybody thinks they're tough and they think they're hardcore. Chances are, you're not as tough as you think you are. We just had (are continuing to have) a conversation on overtraining and how it relates to the mental aspects of the sport. Why is it then that I read people's training logs and guys are licking their wounds if they don't feel good? They act like if they train when they're sore or don't feel good that they'll just fall to pieces. Maybe the discussion on overtraining being mental didn't get the message across. If you're feeling overtrained, yes there is a rational response. Yes, sometimes you have to back off. Yes, you have to let your physiology catch up. But what's going on with the freakin' self pity? Quit feeling sorry for yourself! Nobody is making you do the workloads that you're doing and chances are they aren't that high of a workload anyway.
      They just finished the Cup of Titans and had magnificent performances from lots of athletes. Do you know what kinds of workloads those guys put in? I am willing to bet that they are working harder than most of the people who get "overtrained" and feel sorry for themselves. "Oh but they're on drugs and they get state support and they have great genes and the sky falls on me every time I touch a weight." Yes, some of those things might be true and they do have an effect on how things pan out in reality. But those lifters also don't feel sorry for themselves for working hard. And it's not just the Russians. There are plenty of Americans who have some mental toughness. Plenty of Swedish lifters, Norwegian lifters, Canadians, English, etc, etc, etc. All flags have their champions. All flags unfortunately have a bunch of wusses too.
      If you have a family and can't devote the time, I'm not faulting you for that. If you have school and get stressed out, I'm not faulting you for that either. If you just straight up don't want to be strong badly enough to do what it takes, that's fine too. We can all be friends and I promise there will be no hard feelings. But don't kid yourself. Own it. If you're not willing to do what it takes, then own that. It's nobody else's fault. It's yours. It's okay if you have other priorities or just don't want it. But don't kid yourself by thinking that you're as hardcore as the best of them but you "just don't got it" or something. Well, actually, you're right. You "don't got it", but the thing you "ain't got" isn't "talent". It's drive. That's okay, too. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. It doesn't mean you're inferior. It just means you're not driven to be strong. Own it.
      But if you look at yourself and you are driven to be strong, then own that too! Quit feeling sorry for yourself! Self pity is an eroding disease. If you allow that to creep in, it erodes away your resolve to be or do anything. It's disgusting. I'm reminded of a quote from DH Lawrence:

      I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

      Self pity is a disease and if you've got it, the only cure I'm aware of is to control your own thoughts. Don't let the disease take root and eradicate it as soon as you see it. Self pity is not something to be played with because feeling sorry for yourself will kill whatever you are trying to do -- not just lifting weights. Controlling your thoughts is tough to do at first, but you'll get the hang of it after a while. It goes back to this conversation we have from time to time about mental toughness. The truly tough people that I know would never label themselves as tough. I know they are tough because I see them walking through all the crap life can throw at them. They don't think they're tough because it never even occurs to them to just quit walking. Why? Because they are walking this direction for a reason and to quit means that the circumstances are too hard for them to take. They won't allow any self pity. You want to be tough? Quit feeling sorry for yourself.
      At the risk of belaboring the whole dang post, I'm going to make one more point. The whole mess is interrelated. If overtraining (at least a good measure) stems from a psychological basis, then it needs to be treated on a psychological basis as well. If you break down easily, then you need to get tougher. There are lots of ways to do that and it's really more appropriate discussion for the other thread, but the point is this... you can't be tough if you're feeling sorry for yourself for having to be tough. Read it again, it makes sense. You see, I'm ticked off about all this because I see lifter after lifter wasting their time and talent because they are weak minded. I know that's blunt and it's not politically correct to call someone weak minded, but that's the truth as best I can see it. They train, feel a little sore, and the world is lost. Self pity creeps in and steals your toughness. Then you convince yourself that you're working hard and "deserve" a break (BTW, you don't deserve anything). So your weakness never gets stamped out. It just propagates itself until you quit at some point and point to everyone better than you saying .
      There's no good way to end this kind of rant. I'm sure this will ruffle some feathers. Some of you may take offense and leave the site. Fine. You were never going to get it anyway. But maybe a rant like this steps on someone's toes just the right way. Maybe now some people will stop feeling sorry for themselves, take control of their thoughts, and actually achieve something worth remembering.
      Comments 2 Comments
      1. Hughes14's Avatar
        Hughes14 -
        Awesome post. Will spread this around!
      1. dlocas's Avatar
        dlocas -
        Overtraining was unknown to me back when I was given a YORK barbell set for my 14th birthday, way back in... 1953? Nope... Back in '86, when Rocky IV had just been released. When we watched Rocky training, it never occurred to anyone of us kids to think "Man... but he's overtraining! We just knew he was getting super tough so he would kick the big Russian's ass! But back to my first barbell set: it came with a blue booklet explaining the basic lifts. Not a single mention of anything remotely akin to overtraining (it was more like "do this, and this and this, and you'll get stronger"). There was even a section which said "If a body-part starts to lag behind, you can work it daily in special sessions"! This is how I started squatting, deadlifting and benching three times a week. I would faithfully do what was written in the booklet, which called for three full body sessions per week... less some muscular behemoth like the Road Warriors would materialize out of that booklet and call me a sissy if I didn't! Not that long ago (I'm not even old yet!), overtraining was a little bit like "Back to the Future" Plutonium in 1955: much harder to come by. Now it seems to be readily available everywhere!