As an endurance athlete, I'm sometimes asked where I find the most challenge during an event. Is it the swim portion, elbowing for room through a pandemonium of competitors? Is it the bike as I strive to maintain my pace through a series of hills, or is it the run, the final stretch?
Without hesitation, I always answer the mental game is where I find the most challenge and reward.
I have experimented with focused breathing exercises to relax my mind before an event. I've used some of these techniques to relax my body and limber before the starting line, as well as urge a shot of energy the moment my body wants to back down.
Yet, as an amateur athlete who's gone from a complete newbie to placing in the top three in my age group, I've been unable to maintain gains beyond certain strength and stamina thresholds.
From consulting numerous nutritionists to incorporating a variety of strength training programs, these barriers have persisted. Had I reached certain impassable thresholds in my physiology, or were they perceived? Was there no way around them, or did I simply lack the key?
Six months ago I came across a camp designed specifically to challenge and enhance the physiology of mind and body. The Kokoro Camp (Japanese for warrior) put on by SEALFIT of Encinitas, California, has in a relatively short period of time become the world's premiere camp for forging mental toughness.
Founded by former Navy SEAL Commander, Mark Divine, along with his core group of ex-Navy SEAL instructors, Kokoro is based off of the famous Navy SEALs Hell Week concept with an emphasis on teaching through experience, rather than a focus on attrition. Each camp participant is provided with the tools via field and classroom instruction to push the body and the mind way beyond previously perceived limits.
In my particular case, it set those limits on a hard cement floor and crushed them into powder beneath the weight of 50 hours of intense physical training.
The concept behind the camp can be broken down into three main components:
- Mental toughness
- Full spectrum functional fitness
- Self awareness