04 Jan Climb that Mountain! 7 Steps to Grow and Maintain an Athlete’s Mentality
What’s the difference between those who lead an active lifestyle, continually aspire for optimal physical and mental greatness and train for the sake of their long-term health, versus the New Year’s resolution crowd? It’s elementally simple, but vastly complex: mentality. We’ve heard it a million times, but I had to live through it to truly understand and assimilate that being fit and healthy is mental, rather than just physical. It was only then that I understood how to live and train like an athlete.
While playing soccer in struck my pride hard; I had been such Always think, “ Is this going to help me get college, I suffered a career-ending leg injury called compartment syndrome. After being misdiagnosed for over a year, I endured three painful surgeries, which proved to be unsuccessful. In the end, doctors told me that I was better off taking up rowing or some other sport because I would never run again.
I felt mentally and physically defeated. At the time I didn’t realize it, but allowing this feeling of defeat to consume me was a choice. Accepting defeat led me to depression and my fitness slipped noticeably. As a fitness trainer, how could I truly help people, if I lacked the will to change myself and chose to be mentally beaten? Being successful is about adopting a lifestyle that sets you up to conquer, just like an athlete prepares for the championship game. I had to dig deep and achieve intense introspection. I grew tired of feeling like a failure and after a very loving “you’re getting fat” comment made by my grandma, the spark was suddenly ignited, and my journey back to personal glory began. I adopted an aggressive take-no-prisoners attitude and decided to try everything I could possibly think of to combat my continuous leg pain. I was enlightened; my health was once again the most important thing to me and I was motivated to do anything it took to feel better. I had clear goals to get fit, to find relief from my pain and to prove to any doctor that I could run again. I did brief stints of physical therapy and acupuncture, but massage therapy was what ultimately changed my life.
Results weren’t overnight, but each day I endured, I felt a little less pain, and each day that I got a little fitter, I grew stronger mentally. Running was a challenge (I had become so out of shape that even when my shins weren’t hurting, it was hard for me to keep a steady pace). That a well-conditioned athlete up until this point. I chose to keep working hard and the weight started flying off. Sure, I had harder days, days when I wanted to quit. Through this difficult personal journey, glimpses of my accomplishment made huge differences. Dealing with injury and weight gain made me a stronger person, as I applied the lessons learned to break down roadblocks in all areas of life. Ultimately, I began running again on a regular basis. I was back to the active lifestyle that made me happy for so many years. This journey within myself led to a powerful metamorphosis; I was transformed physically and mentally.
Every day, you get up and make the choice to stay positive and focused, manifested in small things like passing up on eating your favorite unhealthy treat or scrambling to get yourself to the gym and doing things that are conducive to your wellbeing, you gain one small victory. Being successful is about adopting a lifestyle that sets you up to conquer, just like an athlete prepares for the championship game. In order to continuously train like an athlete, always remember: it’s up to you to identify and start using the tools and resources you need to feed your success:
Don’t just think up, actually write specific, measurable goals and set a time frame. Goals are the first step to success; they serve as an initial affirmation and mark the end of that specific part of your personal journey. Studies show that written goals are more effective than goals committed to memory. Create a reasonable (not impossible) time frame that gives your goals relevance; losing 10 pounds in a month is much different than losing 10 pounds in a year.
Design your game plan. There is never only one way to reach your end goal. Be realistic about your needs and tendencies when it comes to considering your plan. Hire a trainer if you aren’t sure what steps to take to get fit. If you need a place to get away from work and focus on yourself, get a gym membership. Find a regular source of encouragement, like a running buddy.
BELIEVE IN YOUR GOALS
Firmly believe in your goals and commit to matching up your daily life choices with them. If your goal is to lose weight, make the right food choices, get enough sleep, avoid drinking alcohol and stay hydrated.
CREATE A SCHEDULE
Pencil in your workout into a daily planner. As busy as your schedule may be, dedicate an hour a day to better your health. On your off days, dedicate this time to stretch, shop for healthy food, or meditate. And don’t forget to plan “you” time; otherwise, you will find yourself skipping your fitness routine to catch up on your favorite show or book.
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Committing to be healthy and fit is a big lifestyle change. If we simply change our habits for a short time we will not guarantee continued health. It takes only 21 days to form a habit, so if you feel like giving up, keep in mind that each day it will get easier to maintain the change.
RE-ACCESS and RE-MEASURE
Gauge your efforts at the end of every month period. This should be enough time to see noticeable results. Results help us stay motivated and allow us to know what we need to change and what is working.
Bask in your success and modify what isn’t working. Seeing the positive changes in your body helps you stay motivated. Acknowledge these changes with enthusiasm and reflect on how they play a role in your life. Is it easier to carry the groceries from the car? Has your energy level gone up? If you still aren’t exactly where you wanted to be, remember that good results require time and effort. Be patient with yourself and remember not to get complacent in your game plan.
Make a conscious effort to regain control and be mindful of how you treat your body. It’s not only the end goal that is important; the process is just as – if not more – important. I have yet to meet a person incapable of being healthy. There is no such thing as “too old”, “too clumsy”, “too injured” or “too ignorant” for wellness. Next time you want to whip up an excuse, Google up Jim Morris, a 78-year old vegan bodybuilder who has been making headlines for decades. If adopting a healthy lifestyle is important enough to you, you just have to identify the only person responsible for making it happen. It’s not easy, but it is as simple as that. It’s a matter of growing the athlete’s mentality deeply seeded in you.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2014 Issue of VETTA Magazine.