How Physical Challenge Can Make You Stronger Mentally

    April 17, 2009

    In my quest to be nice to myself (and to my body) I decided to take on a new physical challenge. My original plan was to take up pilates at a local studio or take a spinning class. One day I was combing through my township recreation brochure and found a 10-week Boot Camp class. The small blurb promised that we would get a full body workout, 3 days per week, at 6am. Outside. In all weather.

    I immediately signed up so I wouldn't back out and thought 'how bad could it be?' I run 5 days a week and do mild weight training. The day before the class started I googled the name and found a website for the class. There I found that it was led by a former US Marine captain. There was a scary picture of him with the tagline 'Pain is privilege.' oh boy...

    The first class I arrived at 5:45am in freezing weather and rain. The class was filled with people of varying ages - most over 40. The next hour was filled with more push ups than I've done in my entire life (in the mud), sprints, squats, pull ups and various other pain-inducing exercises. I also watched as about 90% of the class sprinted right past me - and I was going full speed. Then at the end, as we gathered in a circle to get a pep talk from our instructor, I got dizzy - so dizzy that I wanted to throw up. Afterwards the instructor came up to me and told me this was normal, and that I pushed myself too hard for the first class. He said not to worry about what other people were doing and instead give it MY 100% effort.

    After that class, something changed. I felt incredibly sore (and couldn't move) but I loved the spirit of gathering with 20 other people to work toward a common goal - to get healthy. My physical fitness insecurities now turned into motivation to get there 3x a week and try my best.

    I've just completed my second week and learned the following:

    • Sometimes your mind says you're pushing yourself, but you're really not. I always thought I 'ran' 3.5 miles, but found out I really 'lightly jogged' it. This became evident in our 2-mile running test
    • The only thing trapping you into a category is YOU. Last Friday I was in the 10-minute mile crowd. This morning I ran 3 miles (as my warm-up) and did each mile in 9-minutes. Telling myself that I was a 10-minute mile girl kept me locked there
    • Don't assume. I assumed that because the class was comprised of varying ages and not a bunch of fitness model-looking people that it would be easier. I learned 'fit' doesn't always equal young, skinny-model type. I also learned that I wanted to get 'fit' and not just be 'skinny'
    • Band together with positive people working toward a common goal. Much like we do here on Savor, the fact that 20 other people are there at 6:00 in the morning ready to workout in freezing weather and rain gets my butt there
    • Never stop learning. I learned that I'm not sprinting correctly (sprint on the balls of your feet), not using my back to help with pull ups, and not going down far enough with push ups
    • Pick the toughest critic as a partner. My instructor says you mine as well stay home in bed than come out and do a half-ass workout. I chose a male partner that had been taking the class for 5+ years during fitness testing because I knew he wouldn't let me get away with anything. He made me use proper form during push ups and sit ups and pushed me to run faster and longer. I knew there were plenty of people there that would tell me the form was good or that I had run plenty - but choosing the one that wouldn't helps me reap the most benefits

    Melissa blogs regularly on Savor the Success about her life and her you don't make them! Her professional blog can be found at

    Read Melissa's other blog entries >

Please Wait