4 Steps to Building a Mental Six Pack

Happy Hump Day!

Routine is beginning to take over as people settle back into the working realm, and the memories of the holidays continue to move further away. The holidays are great because it’s the opportunity for serious R&R&R (reflection and rest and relaxation) and can bring renewed energy and excitement back to the workplace.

For me, the start of the year has brought new-found enthusiasm to hit the training hard, excel in my final semester of my MBA, and get back into the things that make me, me. Of course I can’t help but pore over Ironman training guides, nutrition articles, tasty cooking recipes, and any other triathlon related factoid I can get my hands on. I love expanding my knowledge, especially for a hobby that is really a lifestyle, and so much of it is available that it can make your head spin. One of the many nuggets of knowledge I stumbled across was the idea that Ironman athletes not only need to be extraordinarily fit but must develop a “mental six pack” as well.

Without a doubt, the six pack is the most coveted piece of human musculature, and for many it shows that they have poured blood, sweat, and tears into their training and fitness. However, abs require a lot more than just throwing weights around or investing in gimmicky machines that will help you get abs in 5 minutes a day. Ha! Yeah right… a six pack shows that you have discipline, drive, and the ability to tackle a challenge. It requires healthy eating, commitment to exercise, reducing your consumption of some very tasty foods (double bacon cheeseburgers for me), and setting a rigorous yet attainable goal for yourself. You make it to the end and can’t wait to show the world what you pulled off.

A mental six pack is exactly the same but even more valuable. For those of you who aren’t entirely sure how important your abdominal muscles are, here’s your anatomy lesson for the day! Your abs hold all of your guts together, give you support, and help you move and breathe, so basically nothing too critical ….. oh wait. Without a strong core you are toast! Just like the core of a business gives it life, your core gives you life. Here’s four steps to building a mental six pack:

  1. Don’t bail because it’s uncomfortable – While the phrase “no pain, no gain” is sure to wind you up in the hospital (or with terrible, season-ending shin splits) there will certainly be no gain without discomfort. Comfort zones are there for a reason… to make you feel good about yourself! BORING. You have to break through the comfort ceiling to make gains in many areas of life. Athletics, friendships, the workplace. The list goes on and on. Don’t settle for being average, strive to be phenomenal and the discomfort that may come with that!
  2. Admit when it’s time to quit – There is a time and a place to let things go. For some of us, myself, there is often a very blurry line between “Of course I can press on because that’s what I do” and “Red flags everywhere! Escape while you can!” When you are unhealthily in over your head, it is time to readjust. You can’t always do everything (much to my chagrin) so acknowledge when you’re sinking. It’d be great to spend all kinds of time with your friends, train for an Ironman, play in the orchestra, travel overseas, finish your massive business book library, go ballroom dancing, get an MBA, and watch movies every night but it just isn’t practical. I guess movies and overseas are out :P
  3. Rest before you burnout – Rest isn’t for the weak, it is for the recovering! I value rest because I’m an athlete and because I have an issue prioritizing my life. Rest is a chance to physically recover but also to emotionally unwind and evaluate. Without rest, you are a surefire case for burnout, which has an even worse impact than simply resting when you need to. You have to take time to come back down from your high on life and really figure out what it is that you want to do with your time.
  4. Strive on; dig deep – Failure is only a failure if you stay down in the dirt and refuse to get back up. Sometimes tripping and falling is a sign that you’re doing too much or headed the wrong way, so make the adjustment. No one is forcing you down any one path. Be the master of your destiny and take charge, find courage, and carry on. That Ironman isn’t going to run itself and you are solely responsible for the outcome. Face your fears and press on.


So there you have it, four tips to developing your mental six pack. As far as your real six pack, you’re on your own!



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