You can do more than you think you can do
It’s been quoted and blogged about so much that it’s almost cliché. In fact, I’ll be surprised if you haven’t heard of it.
I’m talking about David Goggins’ (former Navy SEAL) 40% Rule. Put simply, by the time that your mind wants to quit, your body is only 40% done.
Accessing the other 60% is something that we can all learn to do. In fact, a very large amount of your progress is going to depend on how you deal with self-imposed limits and your willingness to get your mind out of the way.
But it does need to be at the right times and for the right reasons.
Because there are actually limits. And the goal of a quality strength and conditioning program should be to build you up and not break you down. As a coach, I have to balance my personality, experience as a Marine, and personal athletic training that wants to push the limits with the exercise science and personal training professionalism side of things that keeps you from getting broken.
Can you keep pushing on a broken foot? Absolutely yes. Should you?
Well, it depends…
Is your mind acting as a safety-mechanism or a comfort mechanism? Comfort-based decision-making is about the fastest way to plateau. On the other hand, disregarding a warning sign from your brain can lead to injury.
Ever seen the Key and Peele sketch “You Can Do Anything”? (Spoiler alert: a pro basketball player who just shot a buzzer-beating championship-winning basket tells kids to go jump off a roof because they can fly if they believe enough). There are times that you can’t go as fast as you could or lift for as many sets and reps as you think you should be able to.
A few good examples of this are sprint training, explosive lifting, and calisthenics. At some point as you get tired, you just can’t train fast. Or you lack the actual power to make the move happen. At this point, it’s time to stop.
Your mental limitations come in two basic varieties: holding back to avoid discomfort or tiredness and lacking the ability to coordinate a higher function.
For cardio, most strength endurance, work-rate workouts (multiple rounds of something), or anything where there is a relatively light resistance, your mind needs to get out of the way when it says you’re tired. Here is where you need to learn to push it. Give the extra bit. Put one foot (or hand) in front of the other and keep stepping.
On the other hand, for very heavy or explosive lifting, maximum speed, or elite calisthenics, care should be taken to rest enough and focus on the task at hand. Give yourself plenty of time and patience as you build up. The mental limitation here isn’t that you’re not willing to work hard; instead, it’s that the mind can’t sufficiently coordinate what’s going on with the body to express your natural strength or speed in a focused way. (For example, most people would be able to squat a MUCH heavier load if they had great technique, even without really getting much naturally stronger than they are now).
At the end of the day, that’s what training exists for: pushing back physical and mental limitations.
Start to recognize what kinds of limitations you’re imposing on yourself and take appropriate action.