Training Mental Toughness

Since I started keeping a training journal, I’ve noticed a few key things about myself and my training that I hadn’t noticed before. Namely, motivation and its effects. Lately I’ve been having trouble finding the motivation to work out and even then, sometimes a wave of “who cares?” washes over me and I quit.

I reached out to some of my Volée teammates and was encouraged to hear that I’m not the only one who struggles with the “so what” of workouts sometimes.

For me, it’s also a matter of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. With running and workouts, running a race for a medal can be extrinsically motivating and I think that’s what prompts people to cheat. They want the fame and public admiration for winning or doing well, and it outweighs any inner reward for doing well. There are articles of people cheating to get into the Boston Marathon, cheating to win Ironmans, and cheating to break records.

Sometimes the extrinsic motivation helps me get through the race and over the finish line, and it can also be a reason why I sign up for the race in the first place, like with the Nike Women’s Half Marathon where the medal is a Tiffany & Co. necklace, or the promise of special challenge medals in runDisney races. But the danger is when that’s the only reason to take on challenges. At that point, you might as well just buy the medal online. I mean, they actually sell Boston Marathon medals on eBay, you don’t even need to run the race. That’s what one woman did this past year.

Granted, I only ran the Boston Marathon shadow race, but I ran a full marathon and at 5,600 feet and in a combat zone, and my name is listed in the results on the B.A.A. website so I feel justified in keeping my medal and hat and t-shirt.

That brings me to intrinsic motivation, which is my primary source of why I do anything – because I want to do it. I wanted to do the Bataan Memorial Death March in the military heavy category because it was hard and I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to join the Marathon Maniacs because I was impressed with the challenge and wanted to do it. A shiny medal might be enough to draw me in or help me suck it up to the finish, but at the end of the day I do these things for myself and no one else. I do things because I want to do them.

Where I struggle is when my intrinsic motivation is running low and I’m trying to find the “so what” of my workouts.

The good news is that you can train your brain to be tougher, which helps with the intrinsic fortitude to get through and with the motivation to get started. Some of my Volée teammates use mantras like “All Day Long” or other positive refrains to focus on and drown out the noise. I’m also currently reading through The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow and he is big on visualization and other sports psychology techniques to help you reach your goals.

5 for Friday: Gym Bags That Can Handle Real Life

I had a pink Nike duffel bag I used for several years before I got tired of having to carry it by its handles (since in uniform I can’t carry anything except a plain black bag on my shoulder) and it was looking pretty worn out.

I did some research and came out with the REI Tech Beast bag. I loved it because I could fit my entire uniform in there, even boots, my hygiene kit, and that it had a separate shoe compartment where I could put my shoes and sweaty clothes after working out. Unfortunately, it was also a two-toned green/black color so I wasn’t technically able to carry it on my shoulder.

These bags all have some sort of shoe compartment and should be big enough for my daily packing list for work, based on comparing them to my beloved REI Tech Gear bag. Those were my only true criteria, and that it be mainly black (I figure I can Sharpie out logos or dye them). I don’t like gym bags that are like oversized totes and prefer a shoulder strap, but that’s just me.


Gym Bags for Real Life



1. Lululemon Urban Warrior, $148

2,565 cubic inches and has a drawstring pouch for shoes. I like that the lining is a lighter color so you can find what you’re looking for more easily. I use black hair ties and black bobby pins so this would help find them when they’re hiding and I’m in a hurry.

2. Beast Duffel, $199.99

This one deserves its name. It’s the biggest at 3,036 cubic inches, has a shoe compartment, but also a meal compartment with portion-sized containers for meal prepping. I really like that, but I’m probably not going to wash the containers every night to use them again. I still think this would be a great option for anyone who meal preps and wants to condense the number of bags they carry.

3. DSPTCH Gym/Work Bag, $192

I think this one looks the most professional and wouldn’t look out of place in an office at all. It’s also the smallest bag at 1,720 cubic inches, and the shoe compartment looks a little smaller which likely wouldn’t work for my combat boots I have to carry.

4. King Kong Original Bag, $125.95

This is one of my favorite options and has great reviews online. It’s plenty large at 2,880 cubic inches and my favorite part is that it has separate compartments for your running and lifting shoes.

5. Datsusara Gear Bag Core, $120

I first thought this one looked too tacticool for my tastes, but it has glowing reviews online and I liked that it was made of hemp which is both breathable and antimicrobial. It’s pretty large at 3,125 cubic inches and has plenty of pockets to keep things separated. It also has a “nasty bag” to keep your stinky clothes contained in one spot.