alone pondering

The Road from Being Good to Great


In light of the upcoming Brawl on the Bund event this Saturday, which I have been a part of as their guest trainer, today’s blog will be part one of five in a series that talks about the topic that I trained the boxers on – mental toughness.  Today’s post is specifically on how mental toughness plays a part in high intensity training.

It’s unfortunate that this genre doesn’t get addressed more, but the importance of having mental toughness can’t be more stressed.  This is especially true when performing at the elite level.

When we look at olympic athletes, what separates the gold medalists from the silver medalist is the nebulous stuff between the ears – the mind.  They have access to the same training systems, and all their facilities are state-of-the-art.  All the competing athletes are at the top 99.9999th percentile of the human genome for their sport.  The only remaining factor that’s still open is their mental state.

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to compare olympic athletes’ abilities with the common man (or woman), but mental toughness is not only an area of concern for elite athletes.  It applies to everyone and in every situation where there may be challenges.

I’m sure all of you who attended my training sessions are well aware that high intensity training isn’t easy.  In fact, it’s downright torturous and it takes quite a bit of willpower to even consider signing up for a class.

So how does mental toughness come in to play for these boxers and for you ACT participants?

Mental toughness is involved whenever you face a challenge and you need to summon mental strength to engage in the challenge.  It can be any kind of challenge as mental toughness is completely transferrable and can apply to to just about everything.  Mental toughness is also a skill and can be developed by deliberate practice and once honed, it can be a formidable tool that can enhance your life – as I said before, it is a transferrable mental skill.  For the purpose of this blog, I shall keep to the boxing and my high intensity training sessions when talking about mental toughness.

There are many parallels the boxer face that ACT participants face as well.

Boxing is an extremely strenuous sport.  It is a high intensity activity because you are practically fighting for your life – well, maybe not that extreme but not too far off.  This is exactly the stimulus your body requires for it to adapt and get stronger.  You are squared off with an opponent with an equal level of fitness and ability, who is out to destroy you.  Barely surviving this encounter, your body realises the dangerous (challenging) environment in which you live in and makes adaptations to ensure your survival if you should encounter a similar opponent again.  These adaptations will come in the form of stronger muscles, denser bones, increased lung capacity, higher red blood cell count, up-regulation of human growth hormones, the list goes on.

Mental toughness is also a skill and can be developed by deliberate practice and once honed, it can be a formidable tool that can enhance your life

Does this sound familiar?  This is precisely the reason why we ‘train to failure’ in my sessions.  We are artificially creating an environment where your body is fighting for survival – with the added benefit of doing so in a completely safe surrounding.  You get all the benefit of high intensity training while minimising the risk of injury.

It is not sufficient to just coast through the workout as it does not elicit that stimulus of a near-death experience.  To volunteer and subject yourself to that amount of discomfort and to endure through the class requires focus, determination and willpower.  Improving your mental toughness, will improve your workouts, and in return will improve your mental toughness – a positive feedback loop.

Stay tuned for next week’s part two post where I go into the depths of mental toughness starting with How To Reach Your Untapped Potential.


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