Strength Training and Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is necessary for strength training and it is also a result of strength training.

Athletic endeavors reveal character, focus, attitude, thought patterns, motivation, determination and decision-making. Having confidence in yourself and in your physical and mental abilities can be helpful in unexpected ways at any time. 

Mental toughness may manifest in small ways, such as navigating a fall, or in bigger ways such as using your physical strength and mental acuity to save your life or the life of another.

The goal of everything we do in the gym is help us to move better and be stronger outside of the gym.

Patty applies her mobility and strength to all areas of her life; enjoying grandchildren, travel, walking, hiking, yoga and moving heavy things as needed.

Patty applies her mobility and strength to all areas of her life; enjoying grandchildren, travel, walking, hiking, yoga and moving heavy things as needed.

I believe that people who are mentally tough are often attracted to strength training because they desire the physical and mental challenge. I define strength training as lifting heavy things in different ways to increase physical and mental strength with application to everyday life.

Strength training produces positive changes in nearly every system in the body: integumentary (skin, nails, hair), skeletal, muscular, lymphatic, immune, respiratory, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and fascial. The key to strength training is to deliver the right dose; not too much and not too little. It is my job as a coach to manage that for my gym members.

Check out this article and other resources for understanding and developing mental toughness.

People of all fitness levels, and all ages, desire to move their bodies in interesting ways and to push safely to the edge of their ability. I believe that strength training is as much for the mind as  for the body. The result is increased confidence, enthusiasm, energy and mental toughness.

Steve deadlifts 245# and gets stronger almost every time he walks into the gym. He is mentally tough and physically tough and getting tougher each day.

Steve deadlifts 245# and gets stronger almost every time he walks into the gym. He is mentally tough and physically tough and getting tougher each day.

What we do with kettlebells, barbells and bodyweight movements requires serious focus and patient practice to complete the movements with safety and with precision. 

With strength-training, we learn to think and feel what our bodies are doing. This tuning it to what is happening both physically and mentally helps us feel more connected, more knowledgeable and honest about our physical and mental strengths and weaknesses; I argue that this contributes to our mental toughness. We become can-do people. What that means will vary for you and for me. We feel different and we are different after these training experiences.

Jennifer is new to us and is learning the 7-steps of the Turkish Getup. She is a professional organizer that places serious physical demands on her body. This training will help her get stronger and know how to move, lift and carry heavy boxes and other items on the job.

Jennifer is new to us and is learning the 7-steps of the Turkish Getup. She is a professional organizer that places serious physical demands on her body. This training will help her get stronger and know how to move, lift and carry heavy boxes and other items on the job.

With strength training, we can increase our strength if we are honest about what is truly happening in our thoughts and identifying what we feel in our bodies. As a coach, it is my job to help people focus on what they think and feel, help them stay positive and in-control as they manage how the load is reacting with their bodies.

The ability to dig deep and practice when we don’t feel like it, when we don’t like doing a particular lift or movement, when it’s difficult (but not dangerous), and even when we might even be a little unsure if we can do it, can help us develop mental toughness.

I am proud of people when they are honest about what they do well and can admit where they can improve. This is mental toughness. They persevere because they know they need it. They want to meet a challenge head-on. It requires being humble and confident at the same time. This is a skill that carries over into our professional lives, relationships, hobbies, and in serving at church and inn the community.

Terry is one of the hardest-working athletes in the gym. She is up for any challenge, but as a coach, she also knows when to back off; mental toughness is knowing when it is time to go and when it is time to stop.

Terry is one of the hardest-working athletes in the gym. She is up for any challenge, but as a coach, she also knows when to back off; mental toughness is knowing when it is time to go and when it is time to stop.

Many of our gym members are lifting weights they never dreamed they would be lifting. Some never considered themselves athletes or participated in anything athletic activities as a youth. Some are re-starting their athletic careers with strength training in their 50s and 60s after years of doing other activities.

A willingness to try new things is a sign of mental toughness. The willingness to hang in their when it gets harder reveals and builds mental toughness.

I argue that feeling physically strong gives you a mental edge that perhaps you can’t quite explain. You might feel happier, more confident, energetic and enthusiastic. There might be a new sense of freedom because you can do more physical work with ease. 

The RKC System of Strength requires safe lifting; we never go to failure. We are not seeking dangerous thrills. My gym members are not defending their country with our lives or working as first responders. I think the RKC Snatch Test (100 snatches at a prescribed weight in 5 minutes) is an incredible test of physical conditioning, but even mores a test of your mental toughness.

Eric prepared for the RKC with perseverance, focus and a great attitude. Mental toughness is one of his strengths and I believe as a new RKC he will be able to coach other people to do this well.

Eric prepared for the RKC with perseverance, focus and a great attitude. Mental toughness is one of his strengths and I believe as a new RKC he will be able to coach other people to do this well.

The result of our way of strength training is that we feel energized and invigorated, both physically and mentally. We feel good being challenged and we are mentally and physically renewed.

It is difficult to wrap the words around mental toughness because it is impacted by our upbringing, our athletic past, life experiences and personality traits. 

Mental toughness is revealed in our desire to get just a little bit better, in small ways, every day.

Being around other people who have that same desire also helps us build mental toughness. In our strength-training community, we learn from each other and we inspire each other to new levels of greatness. Cindy(video below) is an example of a gym member who greatly encourages and inspires others.

Getting just a little bit better gives us the courage to keep striving to improve, in some way, daily, weekly, monthly and over many years.. Mental toughness might not be why we started our strength journey, but it becomes a key reason we keep coming back for more.

5 Formidable Benefits of Consistent Exercise

Your body is simply amazing, just as it is, since the day you were born.

Imagine if you challenged your amazing body with moderate physical activity on a consistent basis, starting right now, so that you learn to move, strengthen and lift in new ways that transform your outlook on life. According to the CDC, only about 20% of us get the recommended amount of exercise each week, so what is holding you back?

Matthew Closeup 2 hand swing low res.jpg

Now is the perfect time to start.

How does exercise transform your daily life? Your relationships? Your work? Your play? Your overall health? Your impact on others?

With the new year, people are thinking about exercise in relation to losing weight -- and that is fine, but I challenge you to look more deeply into the truly transformational role exercise can play in your daily life:

  1. Experience the thrill of learning something new. It is exciting to learn a new skill and engage the brain and the body in thought-provoking activity. We know that exercise promotes neurogenesis, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and grow new brain cells, at any age. Humans are meant to learn and thrive at all stages of life and exercise gives you a daily dose of this.
     
  2. Be the most energetic person you know. What you eat plays a role in your energy level of course, but so does the number of mitochondria you have. Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria transform energy from food and turn it into cellular energy. Exercise increases the number of mitochondria in your body, thus improving the body’s ability to produce energy. This helps you exercise with a higher energy output (i.e. faster and longer) and the result is you feel great. Side Note: train moderately with light, medium and heavy training days and lots of mobility work, but more importantly, train consistently (2-3-4-5 days a week - listen to your body.) Learn the doses you need and you will train well into your elder years.
     
  3. Feel calm and peaceful with more mental clarity. Exercise normalizes insulin resistance and boosts the natural “feel good” hormones and neurotransmitters associated with mood control, including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and more. The feeling of calm after exercise is real.  With regular exercise, changes in the heart occur, including potentially a decreased heart rate which can help you feel more calm. There are positive changes in the circulatory system. Many physiological and neuromuscular changes occur in the body during exercise that contribute to your overall sense of feeling good and feeling well.
     
  4. Tune in to your true appetite. It is widely accepted that exercise, along with eating to match activity level, can help individuals achieve optimal bodyweight. Exercise directly impacts appetite along with the individual’s resting metabolic rate, gastric adjustment to ingested food, changes in episodic peptides (such as insulin) as well as the amount of tonic peptides, such as leptin. So starting a new exercise program does not necessarily mean you will eat more; you may feel like eating less (hydrating more!), eating healthier or begin craving specific foods that your body needs for muscle repair. 
     
  5. Enjoy increased creativity, productivity, optimism, joy and confidence. When the body feels peaceful, strong, conditioned and purposeful, there is the potential for increased joy and confidence in daily life. Isn’t that what we want most? Research shows that exercise can enhance cognitive abilities related to creativity, productivity and optimism.

We are currently accepting new gym members, and during the month of January, 2016, you can take advantage of one month free with a three-month commitment. We invite you to experience our way of training in a strong community of men and women who seek to be their best every day, in every way, to live full and fulfilling lives.

The RKC-I Experience from the Heart

I cry fairly easy. In fact, I cry at every certification event, no matter what role I play because of the intensity of the experience.

The candidates put a great amount of time and effort into preparing ... and when they arrive an emotional and unpredictable journey begins.

We recently had the privilege of hosting our first RKC-I event at our gym, MoveStrong Kettlebells, and I was reminded of the tumultuous emotions that weave in and out of the 3-day event. This is a group of people who are striving together toward a very specific goal that is tough to achieve: to be RKC.

Men and women of different ages, fitness levels and backgrounds come together to refine their hardstyle kettlebell technique in their own bodies,. They test their metal with 100 snatches in 5 minutes. They teach kettlebell skills to each other and also to people from the community we invite in to give them a real-life experience.

Read Neal's perspective (one of the RKC candidates) in his Dragon Door blog post here.

They learn a lot about their bodies and how to mobilize them with different stretching and movement techniques throughout the weekend to complement the presentations, workouts, kettlebell skill practice and of course, coaching each other.

RKC candidates can spend many months, even years, with an eye toward the RKC.

Their understanding of RKC principles is facilitated by watching and cueing each other with instructor presentations and continuous hands-on practice. They become more comfortable and confident with each other and with themselves as the weekend unfolds.

Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. we are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.
— Wilma Rudolph

The kettlebell facilitates this experience of learning how the body moves and then how to move the body better. Developing ballistic power and patience for grinds is not necessarily intuitive. It is developed with mindful practice and an understanding of power production from the hips, managing relaxation and tension combined with the proper preparation in terms of strength and conditioning. 

The RKC-I is filled with striving and growing, excitement and exhaustion, and to some degree, a stepping out into the unknown of what the body and mind can do when safely challenged like it has not been challenged before.

The RKC experience reveals something new to each candidate; it may awaken, change, disturb, surprise, invigorate or distress. Or maybe all of these, and more, over the course of the weekend. It is an experience they will never forget. It may even change the direction of their careers, and therefore, their lives.

The body and mind might tire, but the marvelous display of the human spirit marches on. The candidates relish each other's improvements and accomplishments as if they were their own -- because the group eventually begins working together as one. 

Challenge is the pathway to engagement and progress in our lives. But not all challenges are created equal. Some challenges make us feel alive, engaged, connected, and fulfilled. Others simply overwhelm us. Knowing the difference as you set bigger and bolder challenges for yourself is critical to your sanity, success, and satisfaction.
— Brendon Buchard

Some will have a few skills yet to refine after the RKC weekend concludes, but it does not diminish the experience. Instead, it presents yet another growth opportunity for these teachers-of-strength.

As with any skill, the learning process continues on, and joyfully so.

Great friendships are forged, fond memories are made and then it's home to infuse their lives with the power and energy of the RKC.

Our RKC sisters and brothers span the globe. With these skills we can touch people in gyms, schools, teams, community centers, churches, military, law enforcement, social groups, families and more.

While we are physically moving iron, we know that it is truly not about the iron, but rather how we can impact people with strength that leads to healthy, happy lives. We can't ask for much more. ~Lori Crock, RKC Team Leader