Ever since last June, I’ve been putting in at least two hours a day at the gym every single day. I wake up, take my supplements and caffeine, and go straight to the gym. It’s just routine at this point. I don’t think about whether I want to go or not, I just go. My workouts are usually not noteworthy – the only thoughts that run through my head are numbers. As I count the number of reps, I inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. It’s meditative. It’s restorative. This is my time away from the world.
However, on occasion, I have work outs where I can’t get into the proper headspace at all and I leave the gym feeling even worse than before. I can’t focus on my breathing and I’m preoccupied with how physically uncomfortable I am. The weights even feel heavier and I struggle to finish what I had planned. These days inevitably become more frequent as I get closer to competition day. Being physically worn down throws me off of my mental game. I don’t function well on less sleep.
One of my teammates, an ultra-marathoner who ranked #84 among North American women, encourages me to keep pushing even if I’m tired:
You don’t ‘need’ rest days or cheat meals . . . You aren’t overtraining. Take it from someone that has run over 100 miles in under 30 hours: your adrenal gland, your CNS, and all your joints can handle being used like nature intended. It’s your mind that’s weak.
Competition prep, like most things in life, is 100% a mental challenge. You are physically capable of more than you can imagine, and this process pushes me to my limits and expands them further.
Instead of dwelling on the negative emotions swirling in my head today, I am choosing to be grateful and focus on the positives. In the grand scheme of things, my difficulties are trivial. I chose to compete again. No one made me diet and exercise to the extremes that I do to be competitive. This isn’t even my day job; it’s really merely a hobby, and I am so fortunate to have found so many activities that fulfill me.
This gratitude is something I hope to practice in all aspects of my life, not just the gym. I have the support of a loving significant other that has voluntarily acted as if he was in competition prep himself. My coach is amazing and guides my efforts patiently, encouraging me to keep pushing hard every day. My family and friends keep me sane and grounded. My dissertation committee is doing everything they can to help me finish my thesis faster. I have the luxury of eating whatever I want and working on my own schedule. This period of my life won’t last forever, and I will not squander the opportunities that I’ve been given.
What keeps you going whenever you face mental fatigue and challenges? I’d love to hear more about your story in the comments below.