There’s little doubt that times have been especially challenging. So when Rockay decided to delve deeper into helping athletes develop and harness a strong mindset to overcome adversity, there was no one better to talk to than our very own ultra athlete and action-man, Marcus Smith.
An entrepreneur, influencer, motivational speaker and coach, as well as being a former professional rugby player, Marcus’ mantra and aim in life is to ‘make peoples’ lives better’.
Together, we share a similar determination in wanting to empower athletes of all levels – as such we gladly found a gap in our busy schedules to unpack how you can build your very own ‘unbreakable mindset’, and turn results in your favor.
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The basis of mental strength is self-awareness
On a daily basis we hear of athletes gunning for their first ever race, taking things up a level in intensity, or flipping the switch and turning to a more healthy, active lifestyle.
Yet all too often ‘mental blocks’ pop-up. Be it motivational or just day-to-day life. Marcus recently faced up to such an issue when completing one of his many ultramarathons, and is keen to insist that we do not bat away emotions, and to instead fully embrace what it all actually means;
“It’s super important to be in touch with those emotions and that really starts with self-awareness. Knowing that you’re having a good time, and why are you having a good time? Knowing that things can be a struggle, and why is it a struggle? That really is the basis of mental strength – self-awareness.”
“To be in a tough situation and to start to deny that situation, does not make that situation any better. The first step is to admit there’s a problem, or admit what’s really going on around you. This is really important.”
To fulfil potential we must adopt an attitude
When listening to Marcus talk so passionately, it’s obvious that one of the most common errors that people are making from a starting mindset is that there is already an excuse ‘in-place’ before the start of a challenge – be it in a race or a task in-life.
Take a marathon runner for example, they may have had some negativity in their build-up to raceday, maybe the weather isn’t looking so great or external voices are not of the most encouraging nature. Thus, to make light of the race, the runner will take ‘pressure off’ by putting doubt on their ability to succeed.
“If you remove that option [to succeed] from the table before a challenge and you know that you literally cannot walk, move or something drastically happens [that risks your safety], then you are going to get to the end. That’s an attitude. It’s one we must all adopt if we are to fulfil our potentials.”
We all have ‘our own Everest’ to conquer
This past year for many athletes, has been the ultimate test of our mental patience – in one way or another. The majority of the racing calendar was wiped out on grounds of safety, leaving many to turn to virtual racing or personal time trials in-isolation. Similarly, Marcus took on a pursuit of his own, one upping the majority of us mere mortals, by racing night-to-day in the searing heat of the Dubai desert, covering a gruelling 150km on-foot and bike.
When quizzed on the success of his own challenge, the former rugby pro was quick to state that his feat in the Arab Emirates is completely applicable to any goal that an athlete has going on in their own life, right now.
He phrased it in such a way, that it completely elevated the magnitude and importance of even the smallest of goals – ‘we all have our own Everest to conquer’.
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“I think it’s important to identify that we’re all fighting our own wars or climbing ‘our own Everest’. A lot of the time we get caught up in comparing ourselves to each other. 5km to someone is their Everest – that person is going to go through all those emotions that I too would be going through in an ultra endurance race, it’s really no different.”
So what can we do to embrace these situations, and not to just understand them, but to turn them into personal ‘wins’?
“What you have to have is an incredibly open mindset and to have thought about why you’re doing what you’re doing. A lot of the time we hear people speak about, ‘what’s your why?’ For a lot of people they’re actually looking for a ‘why’. They might not know it, but when you go looking for something you have to look with your eyes open. Your eyes being open is a signal that your mind is open.”
The question is how do you get ready to behave in these situations?”
“If you know that you’re going to do something that’s extremely challenging, difficult, maybe running a 5km race for the first time, you need to have an ‘open mindset’ and know that the emotions you’ll feel, are ones that you’re going to be feeling for potentially the very first time.”
“I believe that’s what makes these situations really quite special, because you’re going to get all these new feelings, and if you’re open, and you don’t fight them, you can embrace them and learn.”
Training the mind is equally, if not more important, than training the body up to get you from A to B. If we don’t have the mental capacity to rationalize the magnitude of tough moments, it’s likely we’ll stumble in pursuit of our ambitions.
It’s not just the power of positive thinking, it’s that we have to tap into a place that we may not have been comfortable to go before. We have to be honest, accountable and have ‘eyes open’ to the situations presented.
Debunking the ‘voice telling you to quit’ myth
On behalf of many runners and athletes who interact with us, we had to broach one of the more common subjects, and that’s of the ‘inner voice’ – when you ‘hit the wall’ in a race or training.
The ‘wall’, an intimidating barrier that puts up doubt and makes you want to stop in your tracks in the latter stages, when your body stores are depleted and the size of the task overwhelms the senses.
Marcus replied, as if he knew this was coming – and it’s not surprising considering how many articles and talks are dedicated to arguably one of the most common mental blocks amongst athletes.
“To be totally honest, that [inner] voice is you. Lots of people speak of voices in their head but I think if you have self-awareness, if you’re tuned in, you should ask yourself, when you’re feeling the strain, ‘what can I do to make this feel a little bit better’?”
“Like life, challenges and races are not linear. It’s not just plain sailing, there’s going to be ups and down. I always say to people, when you’re on the up – enjoy it, but know why you’re there. Then when you’re on the down – enjoy that too, and also know why you’re there, so you can figure out in the future how to avoid it.”
Next time you’re facing up to something that doesn’t feel particularly comfortable, remember the words of a man that has been there, done it, and got the t-shirt multiple times.
We at Rockay are inclined to listen, and hopefully you too can take something from Marcus’ wealth of knowledge, that will ultimately see you turn results in your favor and develop your very own ‘unbreakable mindset’.