When you're out of shape it takes mental toughness to decide you need to workout regularly. After awhile, being in shape may not be enough. You want to be the best you can be. That takes extra work, and more mental toughness. Face it, just about any physical achievement, from climbing a mountain to bench pressing a record weight, taxes your mind as well as your body. Without the right stuff in your mind, you won't push yourself to new horizons. There are plenty of workouts to toughen your body, but can you develop more mental toughness too? Yes, you can, b/c mental toughness is not inherited, so it can be learned and improved upon.
Most of us don't have access to a sports psychologist or a coach, and have to work on their own motivation. We're all individuals in our own right and have to find out by trial and error what works best for us. Here are a few things you can try:
How you choose objectives is important. Easy objectives are worth little. Although your main goal may be just to keep fit and healthy, it's a good idea to have at least one tough objective. Don't go overboard. Your goal should demand commitment and work, but still be attainable. If you aim too high, you set yourself up for disappointment and a feeling of failure. Reaching a hard-won goal makes you feel good. It gives you self-esteem and a sense of self satisfaction. This is of prime importance b/c if you don't feel good about yourself, you can't expect others to feel good about you. Lack of self-esteem can get in the way of developing a good relationship with other people as well.
Exhilaration that comes with reaching a goal doesn't last long. It's rather like working out. You don't do it once and say, "That was great. I'll remember it for the rest of my life." Instead, you say, "That was terrific, and I look forward to the next time."
Just about every demanding physical achievement brings a share of physical discomfort. As you aim higher and higher, the physical price rises and discomfort becomes pain. There's everything from dull aerobic aches to burning muscles full of lactic acids when you go anaerobic. The best way to tolerate pain is to work out with a partner or a group. Nothing helps the pain problem more than knowing it's shared. This is why running with a friend or a group of friends makes a long distance run much easier.
This is a well-known trick of psychologists, who also call it imagery, and it's common in sports. They teach you to see, hear and feel your goal performance. You begin with your arrival and warm-up. They recommend you include every detail: weather, images, smells, sounds, and positive feelings in your body. You imagine yourself completely relaxed, confident, strong, and in control of every aspect of your performance. They even have you write everything down or tape it. Then you review it and look for flaws or details that would set up an improved performance. You go somewhere quiet 3-or-4 days per week, and go through this script of your great performance. This approach helps you mentally, and that raises your physical achievement. This is something my old college soccer coach would tell us to do and believe it or not, it works. So if you're searching for something different, I would suggest giving visualization a try. What do you have to lose?
You can get a big boost out of life by tackling a completely new adventure from time to time. Do something new which takes skills and strengths you don't have. Tackle something risky, maybe with even a hint of danger. Something that makes you feel a little fear. There's nothing wimpy about fear. It's a kind of regulating valve that gets the adrenaline flowing to tone up your system. When you can face something that brings fear, you're still in control. I don't trust people who claim to have no fear. There's nothing to hold them back from being reckless and therein lies real danger. When you've faced fear and handled it, you know you can do it again and again. Even for guys who workout regularly and stay in shape, life is not always a smooth ride. When you know you can handle fear, you're in better shape to overcome the unexpected hurdles that life sometimes puts in your path.
Tackle something you're not sure you can achieve. Take a well-calculated risk and put yourself on the line. If you never take a risk, you can't reap the greatest rewards. Each time you go for something new and challenging, two things will happen. First, you will grow as a person. Every new achievement reinforces your self-esteem. There will come a time when you'll realize that you can do just about anything if you're mentally tough. Second, your relationships with other people will develop. Nothing brings people closer than achieving a tough goal together, especially if it involves risk. People who take great chances together often have to put their safety in each others hands. There is nothing to match how they feel about each other when they succeed.
Most of your workouts will be routine and fun. Occasionally, you need to hitch your goals up a notch. This will toughen your mind and your body and add a little spice to your lifestyle. When you come to a point that feels close to your limits, it will be your mind that says "quit" is the worst four-letter word and you'll find your body will respond accordingly. The way I see it: I know my limits, I just don't obey them. Train hard, train smart, think BIG!