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We all know that when the going gets tough, the tough get going - but what if you don't want to?

One of the things that I’ve really started to enjoy over the last few years, is going to the gym.  On the days when I’m not working it’s the one fixed point in my calendar and sometimes I’m able to go every day of the week.  The health benefits are obvious and, I learned this week, physical exercise actually helps the middle-aged brain (which, I suppose, mine now is) create new brain cells and stay sharp.  That’s not the only way in which it’s good for me mentally; exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural happy drugs, so exercising can often change my mood for the better.  The other thing I’ve learned by going to the gym, however, is that as powerful as the mind undoubtably is, it’s often the weakest muscle in the body.

The kind of training I do relies on progressive overload - lifting heavier and heavier weights, until failure.  What that means is I’m looking for a weight that I can press or lift until I physically cannot lift or press it again - usually after around eight repetitions.  This training to failure relies, obviously, on picking the right weight and then lifting it until you cannot lift it again.  That’s the failure part - you just don’t have the physical strength to do another rep.  I stress physical because the thing I’ve noticed is (with me, at least) the mind gives up before the body does.  

There have been so many times at the gym when my brain has been crying, “enough, no more” but I’ve pushed through that barrier - and it is purely a mental barrier - and found that I’ve got another one or two reps left in the muscle.  The flesh was willing but the spirit was weak.  I think the thing that’s taught me is the importance of mental resilience.

We will all face obstacles in our lives; people will not listen to what we say, they will deny us what we want, or circumstances will make achieving even the simplest things difficult.  There will be times when we will want to put the weight down and just give up.  Those are the times when we need to practice this mental resilience; the times to practice the discipline to force ourselves to go on. We have the capacity within ourselves, if we can only ignore the barriers that our minds raise.  As the Japanese say, fall down seven times, get up eight...

One Response

  1. On the radio to work

    This morning Billy Ocean’s "When the going gets tough" ( on the radio and it has given me some motivation, so I certainly echo your post! Still trying to decide wether Mr Ocean or the Japanese proverb says it better! 😉


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