For me personally, whenever I have had thoughts about inner strength, a video of the five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave comes to mind. In this video Sir Steve is completing some intense intervals, being sick in a bucket then jumping back onto the rower without a second thought. To complete something so gruelling, whilst your body disagrees with you would make most people stop, but for those that want it enough it means much more. I also look at more recent successful athletes such as David Goggins and Ross Edgley. These guys present with the same inner strength as Sir Steve Redgrave. They have that innate ability to keep going to complete what most would class as unimaginable fitness events. David Goggins has completed many ultra-endurance events and arguably one of the most famous enduro runners. If you do not know who he is, google the guy or find him on a social media platform. He is considered one of the best ultra-endurance athletes in the world and when you watch podcasts and even some of his videos on Instagram it is easy to see why. He is a driven individual that has had experiences in his younger life that gave him his driving force moving forward. Another Impressive individual is Ross Edgley who has also completed some pretty impressive challenges, can you remember the guy that swam around Great Britain? That was him. Prior to this he had also completed a marathon whilst towing a Mini Clubman as well as doing a triathlon whilst having a log attached to him and a few other crazy challenges. His driving force was to be able to see what the body was capable of doing when preparation met opportunity.
Both of these men have trained and challenged their mental and physical state. However, from my own past personal experience, there is always “THE UNKNOWN.” This aspect of any challenge whether you are a seasoned veteran or it is your first event, will inevitably happen. You can train and mentally prepare for anything in life but how versatile are you when there is a roadblock along your planned journey? I have experienced such roadblocks a few times both on a personal level and also with clients whereby you are forced to delve off course and be adaptable to ensure you carry on moving forwards. Having worked with a BMX athlete you get used to delving off plan and a term one of my mentors use, “Embrace the chaos.” You can have a plan but what happens when it all goes wrong? You accept your new situation/environment and move forward.
Of course, you need to train for such events following a progressive program that fits in with your daily/weekly life, thus maximising your bodies physical and mental potential. However, with any event you are preparing for you need to know your WHY because when s*** hits the fan during training or during the event, that is going to be the critical factor that helps you to continue. What is your reason that will keep you taking stride after stride, pushing your physiological boundaries for that extra 10% increase in performance, when your body is on the verge of shutting down? Can you manage to find that inner strength to push through?
Through my own personal experiences, my WHY has always helped me in times of need. From completing an ultra-marathon, The Brighton marathon, rowing a marathon, walking a marathon through the Peak District, completing 1000 “lie down-stand ups” (burpees) and various other fitness challenges, there has always been something that has kept me moving forwards. This motivation has usually been raising money for a local charity that is close to my heart or the willingness to succeed in said challenge.
I learnt the hard way about the importance of having a why when completing Brighton marathon in 2017. At this time, I was in my last year of completing my University degree, I had my dissertation to complete, I was running my own business, my uncle had passed away and to prepare for the marathon I was running once per week. Under prepared doesn’t even cover it. I was raising money for a charity close to my heart and that whybecame massively important to me as I reached mile 15. As I took one step past the mile marker, low and behold cramp had kicked in which turned my run into a run-walk then a walk-run and then walk and hobble and eventually, by mile 26, it looked nothing like either as I struggled to get over the line. If I didn’t have my why, that 11.2 miles that I had left would have been a hell of a lot harder knowing I wouldn’t have had a reason to finish.
Now, I am certainly not stating that having a why will ensure you pass the finish line no matter what state your body is in… because let’s face it, I should have put a lot more work into my preparation, however having thewhy gave me that inner strength to carry on and find whatever was needed to ensure I passed the finish line.
(of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
Challenging your mental state helps build resilience. Challenging your physical state helps build resilience. Basically challenge yourself because there is no growth in comfort, it takes energy, perseverance and consistency to grow and increase your inner strength. Some people think they are weak when in fact they have gone through very tough periods of life and are still here, you are resilient, to the single parents you are resilient, to the athlete that was injured and is now back doing their sport, you are resilient. Life is always going to through challenges at you, the question I pose to you is, how are you going to respond? Hide away or are you going to own your shit?
That ability to be able to withstand and bounce back from challenging situations or periods of life I believe can be trained. To do that, like anything we need the right amount of stimulus to create an adaptation. This is where I like to use an adapted analogy of “Goldielocks and the three bears”. Without having to start with “once upon a time”, when Goldilocks found the three different porridges, she took a taste of all three until she found the right one. Having too much or too little of a stimulus will either be a detriment to you or not have a significant impact to cause you to adapt, so it is about trying to find the “just right” bowl, and that is true of all aspects of life. Enough stress to cause growth but not an overload whereby it causes a breakdown. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong but as long as lessons are learnt then progress is being made.
I stumbled across the passage below which I believe summarises what inner strength is. Take what you want from it and I hope in times of need it is something that you can recollect and it helps spur you on:
“True strength and power comes from a deep reservoir within filled with inner wisdom, confidence, and courage. It is active and dynamic, taking responsibility for everything it says and does. It wants to win, but it wants everyone else to do well also. It is sturdy enough to disagree respectively and apologizes when wrong. It knows its own voice while still listening to others. It has a wellspring of love, kindness, empathy, and understanding.”
- Tracy Uttley, (True Strength Comes From Within, 2018).