‘Mind over matter’, ‘your mind will give in way before your body’, ‘push your limits’, ‘get uncomfortable’
Do these phrases sound familiar? They’re all sentences we hear in the gym, strewn across social media and used in many health & fitness magazines. The question is, what do they actually mean? What does ‘mind over matter’ actually entail?
It is not about putting yourself through pain for no good reason, doubling up on classes or pushing to hit a PB just to injure yourself doing so. ‘Mind over matter’ is simply believing beyond your own expectations. It is taking a dream, something you want to achieve and never thought you could, and setting out to do it, no matter the obstacles met. It is learning to trust your own ability and realising that you are stronger, faster, more skilled than you thought, and coming to terms with the fact it’s a journey. It’s one that may feel uncomfortable but it’s important to remember this is only because it is new and unchartered territory. What else could you expect from a body and mind that already gives so much?
Whilst learning to cope with my OCD, I was fortunate to discover how strong we really are, opening up to true power of our minds. Exercise was my therapy . Every time I lifted heavier, ran further, rode faster, I believed more and more in my strength as a person. After being held back for so long by OCD, a condition that made my body feel like a mere puppet responding to ‘needs’, I began to realise what I was truly capable of and it was more than I ever had imagined.
It was at this point I started to test it, to push it, to believe a little more in what it could do. The possibilities were endless and the feats excited me. Snowboarding in snowstorms, dropping into powder bowls where stopping isn’t an option, completing the 3 peaks challenge in under 23hours, scaling Scafell pike with 4ft snow, moving weights that looked unmovable, flipping tyres taller than cars… this was living. Sure I failed on the way, but what I learnt was persistence. I learnt to be resilient, to fall down 99 times, stand on the 100th. It’s that slow get up on the 100th time, that’s the deal breaker.
In October 2016, I signed up for my biggest and most farfetched challenge so far: an Ironman. For those who don’t know what an Ironman is, it’s considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. An Ironman is a long-distance triathlon of a mind-boggling magnitude, consisting of a 2.4mile open water swim, a 112mile bike ride and tied up nicely with a marathon (26.2mile run). This impressive 140 mile course is to be completed in under 17hours.
At the time of signing up; I was on crutches, had last taken a dip at about the age of 12, had ran about 10km 4 times in my life and never cycled more than 36miles in one go. I had also never done a triathlon, completing only 1 ‘race’ in my life, which was a small Duathlon of a 5km run – 20km ride – 5km run. My odds were not looking good.
The UK Bolton Ironman I had entered was on July 16th 2017, so I had about 8months to go from crutches to competing in one of the toughest races around. What’s more, I had innocently signed up for what was deemed as one of the toughest Ironmen routes out there due to it’s hilly bike ride (1,800metres climbing) and equally hilly marathon (1,000metres climbing). Gulp!
When I found out how tough it was, it was too late, so I was left with no choice but to get my head down and train. Fitting in up to 20hrs a week of training around work was challenge in itself. I spent hours on a turbo bike in the basement of AthleteLab, rose early to be first in the pool at 6:30am, and ran miles after work. Every weekend built around 7hour+ bike rides, swimming in cold lakes, sprinting for reps up Primrose hill, each whilst combating the British weather. Bi polar temperaments were experienced as frequently by me, as they were the weather. It was tough, there’s no denying that! At times it hurt, I spent 99% of the time tired, I cried, I questioned what I was doing so many times, but there was never a moment I was doubted, at least not by those around me. I made an incredible network of friends through training, and who knows if I would be wearing my UK Ironman finisher t-shirt & medal at this moment if it wasn’t for them. This industry really is an incredible space.
Though there were moments I questioned what I was doing and whether I could really do it, not trying was never an option. I picked up a running injury 2 months out which meant I wouldn’t be able to run again until the actual day, but despite this there was never a suggestion I would not meet that start line. If I couldn’t run, I would walk. If I couldn’t walk, I would crawl! I would keep moving as far as I could until I ran out of time, and that’s exactly what I did. One limb in front of the other I just kept moving forward. It didn’t matter how fast or in what style (my swimming is atrocious!), all that mattered was that I trusted my body to carry me as far as it could, and it did just that.
We swam 2.4miles in 1hr 40mins, we rode 112miles in just over 7hrs and ran all the way to mile 18 before resigning to limping the final 8miles. It was there I was carried by screaming supporters to run the final 100m along the red carpet crossing the line that headlined my dreams for 8 months. At just over 15hours, arms in the air, we passed under the towering Ironman arch guided by the iconic phrase “Chloe Trigg, you are an Ironman”. I then (of course) broke down in a puddle, crying into the arms of the pro athlete who won the race, as a medal was placed on my neck. Despite every intention of remaining sane and ‘together’, mind over matter tends to fail you at that point!
I’m not saying that everyone should go out there and do an Ironman, in fact far from it. I share this journey to give one example of what we can achieve if we simply choose to believe, to work hard and persist. Whether you want to run your first 5km, join a football team, lift a new PB deadlift, climb a mountain, swim 500m without stopping, or maybe compete in a sprint triathlon, I’m here to remind you the first step will always be the hardest. I’m sorry to say that there is no quick fix, no Youtube video or step-by-step instruction that will get you there without any fuss or bother. What I can tell you, is that you are stronger than you think and your body is capable more that you could ever imagine. The only thing holding you back is your mind. Here I ask you to trust in what your body can do, believe in it, and be confident in taking that first step. It may be a long journey, longer than you’d hoped, you may hit some obstacles on the way that cause you to take some side steps or shuffles, but these are all part of the road to achieving your impossible dream.
The human body, with the right mentality, is unstoppable. Stop making excuses and starting adding apostrophe’s: turn impossible into I’m Possible. That is where you mind changes, and begins to matter!