We’re entering a typically quiet time in the outdoor adventure scene. Daylight is brief, and the temperatures are falling as we head towards winter. Most people are likely to spend the next few months huddled inside by the radiator.
We Brits aren’t great at dealing with bad weather; strange given all the practice we get. In the UK we get one, maybe two months of decent weather each year. If we refuse to leave the comfort of our sofas unless the sun’s out, we’re not going to get much done.
It’s time for a national effort to toughen-up.
There’s lots of motivational stuff online these days and honestly, it’s a little touchy-feely for me. Sometimes a few kind words of encouragement and a shoulder to cry on aren’t good enough. Sometimes what you need is a kick up the arse.
Prepare For Some Tough-Love…
Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can build your mental and physical resilience. In the Marines, we called it “exposure training”, but it’s also known as “conditioning”. This is a legitimate thing that more people should be doing (There would be a lot less moaning, that’s for sure).
The more you’re exposed to something, the less it affects you. The less affected you are by life’s little discomforts, the more you’ll be able to take advantage of the amazing things there are to do out there.
Below are 5 methods you can use to start building up your mental fortitude today. Be sure to read them in a stern, no-nonsense voice. Remember: Tough love.
Work Out. Every Day
If your workout consists of you reading a book whilst on a cross-trainer for half-an-hour, it doesn’t count. A good workout should feel uncomfortable.
Most of us spend our days sat in a heated office. When we go home, we plop on the sofa for the rest of the evening. Setting an hour or two aside each day to move your body and push yourself out of your comfort zone is a great way of building mental and physical resilience.
This is even better if you can do it first thing in the morning. Most people have to ease themselves into the day with a warm cup of coffee and morning news. Force yourself to get up and hit the gym while the rest of the world is tucked up in bed.
Run Your Way to Mental Toughness
This is not the same as working out. The aim of this exercise isn’t to become fitter, it’s to become tougher.
Champion UFC fighter, Forrest Griffen, has a great technique that he uses to build mental resilience in the gym. UFC fighters are well known for their toughness, so it’s worth paying attention:
Set a treadmill to run at the following interval:
- 2 minutes at a comfortable jogging pace.
- 1 minute at a bonkers pace that you know is really difficult for you.
- Repeat until your legs turn to jelly
A treadmill works better than going for a run because you can’t slow down or stop when it starts to hurt. And if you’re doing it right, it will hurt.
Too many people give up on things the second they start to hurt. This exercise helps you get familiar with being deeply uncomfortable for a long period of time, something most people never do. It’s also a great way of proving to yourself that you’re capable of pushing through pain.
Take a Cold Shower
For a while, this was doing the rounds on social media for having several health benefits. That may be the case, but it’s not what we’re interested in here.
Jumping under a jet of freezing water is horrible. That makes it the perfect conditioning exercise for building real toughness.
Don’t try to ease yourself in. Crank the shower to the coldest setting and get your head and shoulders in there.
At first, try to last for just 20 seconds. Then add 10 seconds each day until you can do it for a full minute.
Wim “The Iceman” Hoff writes a tonne of stuff on the benefits of cold therapy and it’s benefits if you need any further persuasion.
Have a Laugh. Even if it hurts
“Cheerfulness in the face of adversity” is one of the core values of the Royal Marines. And with good reason. In the marines, we learnt to laugh at things that would make an HR manager’s head explode.
Nothing was off-limits.
Learning to laugh at shitty situations is a powerful tool. There are studies that show simply the act of laughing, even if forced, can help trick your brain into feeling better.
Next time you’re planning on going out for a run and the weather’s wet, cold and miserable; take a minute, have a quick chuckle to yourself, and crack on.
Just Get Out There
This one may seem obvious, but it’s the best way of building up resilience. It’s called “Exposure Training”. The more you do it, the less it bothers you.
We used to talk about this while training in the mountains. I even started to prefer the nastier weather because with each passing hour I felt like I was building resilience to the cold.
It may be cold, it may be raining. Take a deep breath and go for it. It’s not going to kill you, and it’ll be easier next time.