The importance of exposing yourself to stress voluntarily



The mind leads and the body follows, the body achieves what the mind believes. Creating mental toughness is at the heart of training at #bobsgarage.

It is what drew me to Gym Jones and its what drew me to my mentor and coach Andy McKenzie. The phrase ‘The Mind is primary’ from Gym Jones centres around this and so does my training and the ethos of my gym #BOBSGARAGE.

Why is it important to voluntarily expose yourself to stress in the gym? Well sooner or later something is going to come nocking at your door and it will be right up in your face and you will have no choice but to face it you will have to deal with it and it will stress you the fuck out. It will range from losing your personal posessions, being confronted that your fat and overweight, a relationship ending or falling apart, monetary problems, your work getting busier and busier and asking more of you and the ‘work: life’ balance looking more like work:work:work, a death of a pet, a loved one or family member, the introduction of a new baby or child meaning more responsibilities to manage, being unsuccessful at work, accidents of all kinds, being robbed or other criminal behaviour that you have had to suffer.

My point is that your greatest challenge is yet to come and will put all the things you are stressing about now in perspective and in proportion and when you look at the bigger picture you will think Fuck why the hell was I even worrying about this or getting stressed, worked up or angry about it, think about this 5 years from now will this really matter?  No it wont perspective and perception are everything in life. Something that hurt you dearly 10 years ago will seam contrite and will mean little to you know and you will wonder why it ever hurt so much.

So why is it important to expose yourself to stressors voluntarily? Well when you face those situations that I have just listed  above and you will have to face at least 1 of these probably a year maybe more who knows, you can never really tell with life. But when you face it, its going to be hard, its going to hurt and it may even push you to breaking point or to maybe even you losing your mind, it will be right infront of you, and you will be unable to look away or hide from it, ofcourse you can try with some of them but a robbery say for example could be a life or death experience or worst case scenario a terrorist event. The stress will be there and you will fall to the level of your training, or you rise to the occasion that is a discussion for a later date.

There is a way we can make ourselves more mentally robust to deal with these problems we face in life and its through training and I am going to go onto to tell you how you can train it through the principal that is ‘the mind is primary’ I have been thinking about this topic for sometime and spurred on by the thoughts and writings by the coaches at Gym Jones. The main way in which I train this mental resilience is through getting up early most days, I get up between 4.30 and 5am 4 days a week and I coach 3 hours of classes in the morning train for 2hrs go home nap, eat work on my business and then coach 4hrs in the evening come home at 9.15pm and then go to bed at around 10-10.30 I tend to get around 6hrs of sleep and a 30minute nap in the day. I don’t complain I never have and I never will. I look for advice and support and help but I will never complain and I will never speak negatively of what I do. This in short has helped me develop a strong mental robustness. It is needed in dealing with tough customers, challenges with my business, facing failure in training, coaching, life and relationships and has generally been the bedrock in which I have built all my success. Let me stress it began with my introduction of CrossFit by the one and only Jonny Elliot. That man made me suffer.

How can you go about introducing stressors to your training? There are many ways if you are able to control your body and squat or deadlift or weightlift well then it can be done through progressive overload and challenging yourself with heavier loads. The sled is my favourite tool of choice but it could be done with hill sprints, burpees, a 2k row or 500m row, or 1000m row, pick a distance and just give it everything. On Saturday I introduced a different level of stressor, yes the workouts in our Fuck You Saturday were hard and it was long but there was also an element of planning and co ordination at the start, people had to work together at the start in order for the workout to be a success they had to work as a team they had to work together, at the start we could not see a way forward and a plan had to be formulated it was stressful but it also added to the positive effects of the workout it took people out of their comfort zones in a different way just like going up infront of a crowd would do the same or planning a solution to a problem.

For beginners You are rarely able to increase load or intensity instead you can take them out of their comfort zone by forcing them to think about what they are doing by forcing them to start being mindful about how they move and control their body by making them learn new movements, that in its self is stressful because at the start most people fail or don’t get the movement and take time to practice and learn and absorb new information and new ways of moving or doing something they had never though doing like weight lifting.

I was inspired to write this post because just now my main stressor is moving into my own flat for the first time , now it hasn’t started to stress me yet but that will come soon enough, but it has started stressing my mother, we were shopping today for the flat and in all of the madness she dropped her diary in a large department store, she was understandably distressed and it all happened because she was worrying about me and what I needed for my new flat and in all the commotion she dropped her diary that is pretty much her hard drive for her memory, I kicked into gear and went helping to look and gave the store manager all her details to phone us if it was handed in, she was distraught and lost after this event and when we got to the car she didn’t know how she was going to carry on through the week, low and behold a call from the store came in and it had been handed in. A wave of relief had been lifted and she felt elated. It could have been the other way round but thankfully wasn’t.

I am not saying for a second that a PT should put my mum on a rower and make her sick, infact if they did that I would fuck them up because I love my mum. She has been introduced to stressors in her life in different ways one was running a guest house for years until it very nearly ran her into the ground and the other is dealing with me and another her rheumatoid arthritis and her chronic pain in both hips and 1 knee before she got them replaced, and a bunch of other things, my mum is as strong as they come if not physically like me but definitely mentally, however she does get overwhelmed by things like me moving out.

There are many different ways you can get your body to get used to stressors one is cold water swimming or just cold showers or baths or exposure to cold temperatures or dealing with stressful situations, my favourite in the gym has been long endurance efforts like a half marathon row or ski erg or 2hr sled drag, looking at the higher intensity stuff 100 strict burpees or a good IWT or sled work squat breathing ladder if you like having sore legs for a week.

Expose yourself to stressors in your training or just life and you will be more mentally robust for what life will eventually thow at you and could mean the difference between you making it out of the black hole of what ever despair or depression or just fucking mess that your in and it swallowing you up whole.

The choice is yours.

The Mind is Primary.

Ironman 6 week Challenge

So the Avengers is coming to Edinburgh and Glasgow. So here is the #Bobsgarage Ironman 6 week Challenge.

Ok here are the challenges to complete for the next 6 weeks:

Number 1 Alcahol,

My go to would be to stop drinking, cut it out or dramatically reduce it, the one magic pill you can take for fat loss, performance and overall health is to stop or dramatically reduce your drinking habits. If you are unable to do this then here is your second option, change all your alcohol in your house too whisky, My thinking round this, well I am pretty sure this is what Iron Man drinks firstly secondly, I bumped into a guy once at a party and he had a hip flask of whisky, he said he preferred to take small sips of his hip flask full of whisky then drink other drinks like beer etc, his thinking less trips to the toilet, less calories as you would just need to take small sips of the strong alcohol, instead of lots of pints etc. This guy eventually came to my gym and I now train him every week.

Number 2 raise your heart rate,

Raise your heart rate at least once a week doing exercise, around 170- 185 something like an all out effort of 100 strict burpees would hit the spot perfectly or a 2k row. My theory around this, Ironman is definitely going to have to get used to high heart rates as he has to deal with high octane situations, fights and situations, you too will have to deal with tough situations some day as I say a lot ‘Your greatest challenge is yet to come’

Number 3 push something till your dripping with sweat and out of breath,

Push something, if you have access to a sled load that baby up and set a distance of 20metres out and 20metres back load it up with enough weight that it takes you 45secs to push it then push it again on the minute and when it takes you over a minute reduce weight keep pushing it reduce weight as needed rest as needed go for 10-15mins, no acces to a sled, push a plyo box, push a car, push a 20kg plate across the floor. Its a whole body workout that hits just about everything and it really is my favourite exercise.


Number 4 Socialise once a week,

Since its an IronMan 6week challenge and Ironman is a bit of a social king and he is always socialising your next challenge is to go and socialise at least once a week go out and do something with all your friends, I almost wrote this one as go out and chat up 1 women a week but I wanted to keep it open to women as well! They say a change of scene is as good as a nap for keeping the mind active and avoiding boredom or tiredness and its always good to talk to other people and socialise to make you feel better so get out there once a week and socialise.

Number 5 Do at least 30mins of pullups, press-ups and dips a week,

Pretty simple really bodyweight is key to being jacked and strong, doing high rep bodyweight movement will be really good for us all as we age and its a great way to workout when we don’t want to load ourselves up with squats, deadlifts or bench or press. So set the timer to 20-30mins and get some reps in, rest as needed don’t go to failure and if you cant do pullups do horizontal ring rows, seated ring pullups, negative pullups and if you struggle with press-ups go for raised press-ups, straight arm planks or crawls.

Number 6 squat, deadlift and bench press once a week,

compound lifts are key to getting jacked and tanned like Ironman, get some good volume in but not too much for your squat, deadlift and bench on different days, make sure it is at a good intensity but not too heavy go sub maximal. If you struggle with any of these movements then break it down use regressions but always make sure you can control the weight and it doesn’t control you.

Number 7 get up before 6am at least once a week,

You think you are going to be as successful as Ironman by not seizing the day? By not getting up early and using that time before work? The most successful people get up early every day between 4 and 5am and they don’t fucking moan or bitch about it they are up and chasing their targets and goals because they know that no one else is going to do the work for them.

Number 8 Join a gym that pushes and inspires you to take you out of your comfort zone,

Life is all about perspective and perception, the people you hang around with and spend time with will change and effect you, if you train and spend time with a group of people  who are continually pushing themselves, working hard and being consistent and committed and becoming strong, fit, healthy and solid strong athletes in themselves then you yourself will be helped to up your game and take your training and body to another level.

Number 9 workout tapps Aff,

Ideally this would be done while you are either doing your 100 burpees, or lifting some heavy weights or doing your 30mins of bodyweight training.

Number 10 refeed like a boass,

At least once a week eat steak and at least once a week go to a quality burger restaurant, I can name a few but my favourite has to be 5 Guys.

Ok to finish here is the Ironman 6 week challenge workout;

This could be done in your bodyweight session once a week and every week you can compare your score to last time and see how your improving

Death by Ironman

Minute 1

3 strict pullups +1

Minute 2

5 Dips +1

Minute 3

10 press-ups +3

The first minute do 3 pullups the 2nd minute 5 dips the 3rd do 10 press-ups on the 4th minute do 4 pullups 5th minute do 6 dips 6th minute do 13 press-ups. Do this till you can no longer do the added reps, when this happens go back to the original reps and start again. Do this 5 times, if by the first round your fucked that’s all you do. If these reps are too high for you reduce them or if you can do pullups resort to negatives, seated ring pullups and ring rows, press-ups can be raised, do just the negatives do straight arm plank for 30secs or do a bear crawl for distance and increase distance each time  same for the plank add 1 second, for the dips if these are weak then do straight arm dip holds same idea start at maybe 5 second and add 5seconds each time, or you could do holds at the bottom of the dip or you could do ring dips with feet on the ground to take some of the weight with your legs could do the same with the Bar dip if it moves.

One last thing, Sleep, quality food intake and stress management dare I say it Meditation is definitely key here, your recovery is when you are getting stronger, when your in the gym you are just stressing your body, pushing it and weakening it by lifting weights or high cardio efforts like rowing sprints or burgees or sled, but your weaker at the end of it, you couldn’t do it again. When you are recovering that is when you are getting stronger so make sure to get quality sleep 6-8hrs, eat lots of green leafy veg, manage your stress. You can bet that Ironman is always cool under pressure and manages stressful situations so if you want to achieve high level success then you have to get used to remain calm when your put into high pressured and stressful situations every day.

If you have any questions or want help with your 6 week Ironman Challenge then get in touch, and I will look to help you as much as possible or get you into the gym either for a PT session into our small group individualised classes or into our bootcamps.