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Mindset of Fitness


Written by James Lawrence


5 Mental Tips to Achieve Your Body Goals

In 2015, I did the impossible, completing 50 solo Ironman triathlons (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run) in 50 states in 50 days. It was an incredible physical challenge, requiring me to overcome chronic exhaustion, extreme weather conditions, severe sleep deprivation, a brutal bike crash, a litany of injuries, and a whole lot more. But the mental challenge was even greater. After all, if I didn’t actually feel any of my physical struggles, it wouldn’t have been so hard!

So you could say I know a thing or two about the mental side of achieving physical goals. One of the reasons I did the 50/50/50 was to empower others to conquer their own challenges. Following are five elements of my fitness mindset that helped me do the impossible and can help you get where you want to go with your body.

1. Set scary goals.

A few months before I started my 50/50/50 quest, podcast host Rich Roll asked me how I was feeling about it. My reply was brief and honest: “I’m terrified!” But I considered this a good thing. A goal that doesn’t scare you a little is not a good goal. That’s because the function of a goal is to motivate your best effort. Easy goals don’t motivate. Your fitness goals should seem attainable but barely so. Only then will they inspire you to put everything you’ve got into achieving them.

2. Be nearsighted.

Once you have set your goal, forget about it. I’m serious! Keeping your eyes constantly focused on how far you have to go to reach your ultimate destination will only intimidate and demoralize you. It’s much healthier psychologically to keep your attention rooted on the step-by-step process of executing your plan. Throughout the 50/50/50, I rarely thought any farther ahead than completing the swim, bike ride, or marathon I was currently engaged in. Breaking my journey down into bite-size chunks made it far less daunting for me

3. Embrace the challenge.

I did not do the 50/50/50 to lose weight or lower my cholesterol or for any of the other reasons people normally exercise. I did it because I wanted to discover my ultimate physical and mental limits. When things got hard, I didn’t worry too much, because I wanted my journey to be hard.

In a slightly different way, you can use the same perspective to achieve your goals. No goal worth achieving comes easily. So don’t go into your fitness journey hoping that it will be struggle-free. Expect it to be hard and embrace the challenge as a part of what will make it so rewarding to finally reach your finish line, however you choose to define it.

4. Have a short memory.

Setbacks are inevitable when you pursue any type of fitness goal. The key to achieving such goals is not avoiding setbacks but overcoming them. And the key to overcoming setbacks is a short memory. Don’t carry your failures and missteps with you and allow them to ruin your confidence. Whether your latest setback takes the form of a three-day flu that keeps you out of the gym or a weekend of binge eating that breaks all of your diet rules, just dust yourself off and move on.

Throughout the 50/50/50, I had a short memory for setbacks (such as blowing out my right shoulder on day three in Washington State and collapsing with a dangerous level of dehydration on day eight in New Mexico), and I am certain I wouldn’t have gotten through it otherwise.

5. Be smart, not just tough.

I get a lot of compliments on my toughness. But let me tell you: I did not survive the 50/50/50 just by being tough. I was also smart. I took care of my body by receiving daily chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy treatments, maintaining a healthy diet, and taking advantage of tools such as compression recovery boots. By doing every little thing that could contribute to keeping my body strong and sound, I didn’t have to be quite as tough as I would have had to be otherwise.

Whatever your fitness goal is, pursue them with the same combination of toughness and smarts.  

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