Mental Toughness Training in the Primal World

Don't Give Up!This is a guest post from Jack Yee. Jack’s Primal Blueprint Real Life Story “Free at 50” was published a few weeks ago here on Mark’s Daily Apple. In this article, Jack shares his four strategies for conquering intense workouts, and becoming both physically and mentally stronger as a result. Enter Jack…

When I first made the transition from conventional bodybuilding training to full body primal workouts, I quickly realized it was one of the best things I ever did. I used to look forward to doing the primal workout of the week or the contest WODs that were sent in by some of you. There was something so liberating about pounding a sledgehammer, crawling on grass, or throwing a stone and running as if I was being chased by a saber-tooth predator (all while being outside soaking in some much needed vitamin D). The primal workouts were fun, but very difficult to get through due to the high intensity that each workout demands. Many times, I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. As a result of this training – along with the Primal eating plan – I was able to get in the best shape of my life. But, something unexpected also changed in me; I became mentally tougher.

Now whenever I coach an athlete or train a client I tell them my first priority is to get them mentally tougher. High intensity training will teach your mind how to push your body to do amazing things. The byproduct of mental toughness training is having a better body; by focusing on the mind first, the aesthetics will follow.

More importantly, I teach my clients how a strong mind will improve their overall quality of life by teaching them how to persevere. However, the majority of them couldn’t care less about being mentally tougher as they have the misconception that being mentally tough is about being a macho rough neck. This is hardly the mental toughness I teach my clients. Mental toughness is the ability to overcome adversity. It is a skill that can be honed and strengthened.

The problem is most people don’t see how advantageous it is be mentally strong. They think toughness development is only for competitive athletes. However, we all participate in the cruelest sport of them all – life. Just living day-to-day life is full of painful ordeals and unfairness. If you are weak, the harshness of this world can destroy your spirit and hinder your health recovery. When adversity strikes, it does not discriminate between age or gender. It doesn’t matter how great of shape you are in or how long you have been grain-free. If you are you are mentally weak, you will always be susceptible to falling apart during a personal crisis. This is why men and women, young and old can all benefit from some mental toughness training. We all need some improvements in learning how to stay in the fight.

The best thing about mental toughness training is that you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to join a navy SEAL boot camp and get yelled at by a muscle bound sergeant. But, you do have to go through some difficult and challenging physical training to get there. There just isn’t a shortcut to become mentally tougher. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your current workout protocol. All you have to do is add one high intensity workout per week to your schedule. Mark’s recent article on 10 Full Body Workouts You Can Do in 10 Minutes Flat is loaded with great workouts that will test your perseverance skills. CrossFit WODs or the Workout of the Week from the Primal Blueprint Fitness series also fit the bill.

Now, let’s take a look at my four strategies for destroying tough workouts and cultivating mental toughness in the process:

Strategy #1 – Prepare Yourself to Be the Aggressor

When it comes down to the workouts, there are only two outcomes – either you get through them or you don’t. Aggression is a primal instinct necessary for survival. It doesn’t need to be expressed through violence. It can manifest from your mind into positive action. The behavior you want to achieve is to finish the workouts. How you prepare for each workout will ultimately be the difference in your mental toughness progression or regression. Sun Tze’s “Art of War” is all based on winning the battle before you begin the fight. Same philosophy with this program as well.

One of the best ways to develop the mindset of one who is relentless is to understand your need to be mentally tough. Ask yourself empowering self-questions like, “Why do I need to become mentally tough?”, “What is my purpose with my training today?” Confront yourself for the truth in your preparation. Dig deep in yourself for personal reasons.

A wide range of emotions from desire to passion will be sure to surface. Stimulating your emotions can be a very powerful source of self-motivation. It doesn’t matter what the emotions are as long as they provoke aggressive ideas and thoughts to you. The more personal your answers, the more provoking they will be to arouse you to become the aggressor in the upcoming feud between you and the primal workouts. If you do not have a strong purpose or need, you are not going to be able to handle the demands from the training sessions. Finding a sense of great urgency with your purpose and need will help you pack some much needed heat going into the fight. You should do it before every training session. Let it be a ritual where you load and reload your mind’s chamber. You can go over your purpose and need when you drive to the gym or think about it during your warm-ups. Just let it build up and stew with you until you begin the workout. You want your mind and body overflowing with pure aggression before the workout. I don’t care if you are a law abiding citizen, mild-mannered person, soccer mom, or a nerd like me. When it comes to getting ready for a tough workout like Mark’s burpee ladder, you must transform your soul to become a merciless caveman with primitive aggression with only one thing in mind – you will finish the workout, no matter what.

Strategy #2 – Strengthen Your Connection with Your Will

Your ability to overcome obstacles is all dependent on your will. Your will is what imposes your thoughts and desire into action. You have to think of your will as something concrete that can be molded and shaped.

The primal workouts is a great system that you show you how powerful your will is. Constantly putting your will to the physical test and demands of these workouts is how you raise your pain and fatigue tolerance. If you don’t quit during the workouts, you are teaching your will to be defiant. With repeated practice at even higher levels of discomfort is how you develop a will that is indomitable. The only caveat is that the workouts must provide some level of anguish like Mark’s brutal car pushing workout. When you’re struggling to get a single inch out of the car push, you have to remind yourself over and over that what you are doing is honing your skill to persevere.

After you finish each workout, you must acknowledge your will as one of the sole reasons for your accomplishment of getting through them. The more you recognize your will, the less elusive it becomes. As your will becomes more accessible, it becomes a solid tool or better yet, a weapon that you can use against any adversity that is trying to break your morale. Being mentally tough means continuing the fight, no matter how much your strength seems to be fading.

On the contrary, let the discomfort you are feeling stimulate your will even more, so it can deliver strength to your body. This is the “second wind” great athletes all have as they are able to supply a rush of energy from the power of their will. The more your mind practices pushing your body to do things it doesn’t want to, the stronger your will becomes. The ultimate sign of a tough-minded person with a strong will is they have the ability to come back stronger than ever even when they seemed completely down and out.

Strategy #3 – Optimizing Positive Self-Talk and Visualization Skills

We talk to ourselves all the time. What you say to yourself can have a profound effect on your actions and feelings. Even if we don’t say things directly to ourselves, our thoughts can unconsciously manifest in our body. You must learn to optimize your inner positive dialogue to your advantage, especially when you do a devastating workout like Mark’s challenge that requires you to carry ½ your body weight for 10 minutes. I just did this workout and by the first minute my mind was filled with negative thoughts to quit. By the fifth minute, my mind was pleading with me to stop and by the ninth minute, my mind was screaming negative profanities to drop the weight! Suppressing my mind’s negative chatter was 90 percent of this battle.

Positive self-talk is a subtle change that can put whole different meaning to your thought process. Remember, this training is all about how your thoughts influence your behavior so you want to have as much positive and aggressive action statements roaming around in your head. The good news is that most people repeat the same negative statements over and over like “I can’t do this” or “This is too hard.” Look for certain negative verbs in you thought patterns like “can’t”, “don’t” or “won’t” and replace with positive verbs like “must”, “can” or “will.”

Strategy #4 – The Power of Mantras

Mantras are strong one sentence phases that motivate you to be aggressive and relentless. They should be short and full of action words as you will repeat them often during the workouts. They are meant to inspire you in times of need. If a mantra doesn’t motivate you to keep on going, they are not effective. They should cause your body to take on a life of its own.

Mantras are a great way to teach you the relationship of how the mind can lead the body. Repeating them over and over can be very hypnotic as they will lead you into action. This is why you want to create as many different types of mantras as possible, especially the ones that really push your buttons. With every workout, there is that pivotal moment when the workout is becoming overbearing and you are close to quitting. When this happens, you need a mantra that will create some rage in yourself to force you into action. By seeing red, you’ll be able to re-energize yourself and finish the workout with some authority.

One of my potent mantras that I have is “I refuse to give up on myself anymore.” When I repeat this mantra, I always am able to jump-start my energy no matter how exhausted I’m at during a workou. This mantra causes my mind to be fuming with past memories of me when I was at my most mentally weakest. In an instant, these words are all I need for my body to regenerate itself and push through. This mantra has so much personal meaning to me, I can’t count the numerous times it saved me from letting a classic primal WOW like “I’m Gonna Be (500 reps)” from burying me.

Remember the challenge of the workouts in this program don’t start until the point when you want to quit. Only when you have reached the throes of your suffering and can’t take any more of your muscles burning or psychological stress, does the real toughness training begin. Many times the demands of primal training were close to shattering my combative caveman spirit, but my mantras that incite me, always came through. Grok on!

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  1. Hello Everybody!

    Thanks for reading my article on “Mental Toughness Training in the Primal World.” I’ll be here to answer any questions you may have on the article or on mental toughness training in general. Look forward to your comments and questions.
    Thanks again!
    Jackson – The Psychology of Getting Over Adversity

    1. Hey, Jackson. Awesome website.

      I just checked it out now, and am glad you bring up the SEALs in various posts. Those guys are tough as nails!!! They’re the embodiment of mental toughness.

      1. Thanks Mark! Glad you like like my website. Yes, I agree with you that SEALs are the baddest dudes on this planet!

    2. Very interesting Jackson.
      Nice post and nice to see your website.
      I’m actually a psychologist, researcher into willpower and sdiscipline, so interesting to see.
      Cheers again.

  2. Great article–there is a sense of the essential to these principles. Looks like something I need to pin up where I’ll see it each morning.

    1. Thanks Tom B-D! Yes, and you can applied these 4 principles to your personal adversities as well. I use these 4 mental strategies to help me overcome obstacles in the gym and when I leave the gym. The goal is to be mentally strong in all areas of your life. So it doesn’t matter, if you are struggling to get through a brutal WOD or a problem in your personal life. You want to train your mind to be defiant and to wipe out whatever stands in the way of your goals. Good luck!


      1. Interesting.
        There is a lot of misinformation in Psychology that I have to trawl through in my work about mental strength, willpower and discipline.

        Lots of interesting mental games and tricks come up in the research, mine and others.

        Cheers for the post!


  3. Love love love this post. There are so many mentally weak people out there. (“I can’t possibly stop eating pasta”) Can’t help but think that their diet is of no help. Just going Primal eating can start the journey to the mental AND physical toughness.

  4. Thanks Nocona! I agree with you. For most people, food issues is their greatest adversities that they face everyday. Strengthen one’s ability to dealing with obstacles will help many people overcoming these issues.

  5. Good article. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines in Starting Strength regarding the deadlift:

    “The deadlift also serves as a way to train the mind to do things that are hard.”

    1. Thanks Zack! I agree with you! I know so many people who are strong in the gym, but pushovers in life. If want you are doing in the gym is not transferring to how you are living, you are missing out on the full potential to what strength training really is.

      If you are kicking ass in the gym, you need to kick ass in all areas of your life!

  6. This post is so awesome I kind of want to print it out and show it to my therapist! 🙂 I struggle with negative self-talk. I think a lot of people do. This was the reminder I needed to ACTIVELY work on this stuff and not just expect it to happen on its own.

    1. Thank Kathy! Just negative self talk is a real downer and can inhibit you in reaching your health and livelong dreams. Just remember that all that negative chatter isn’t from you, but from all your enemies in your past. When you commit yourself to mental toughness training, you will drown out those negative people with positive talk like “I know” to “I must.”

      This new positive voice is who you really are. You have been suppressing it for all these years. Listen to it and be who you are suppose to be.

      Good luck and let me know if I can help you in anyway!

    2. And BTW – Kathy, I agree with you that you must actively work on overcoming your neg-talk. The Primal WODS, plus the strategies in the article will help. Look at each workout session as a test for you to demolish your negative talk. Expect for them to arise and when they do, be prepare to change each negative statements with positive ones.

      Make overcoming your neg/talk your number one priority when you workout. The workouts is not about losing weight, gaining muscles, but destroying these terrible debilitating habit. If you make this your primary goal, I have no doubt that you improve on your positive self talk skills. Plus, you’ll probably improve on your body composition as well. A win-win situation for you!

      Overtime with the physical training, you will noticed that you will begin to change the negative thoughts to positive thoughts in your daily life as well. This is the evolution of mental toughness training and what we do in the gym MUST translate to how we live our lives.

  7. A good way to train mental toughness is to hike one of America’s national scenic trails end-to-end, or even just for 3 months. The trail doesn’t care what you want. You have to hike whether it’s raining and you have inadequate rain gear, whether you can’t stand another minute of the overgrown bushes on the side, whether your feet hurt, whether you’ve run out of food or water, whether it’s going uphill way too long or the downhills are killing your knees. You have to keep going. You have to accept the conditions whatever they are. After doing this I’ve been able to tolerate almost anything with a quiet confidence inside and a feeling that nobody can take anything away from me.

    Sadly, though, nothing can make me capable of enduring the side-effects of sprinting. I can’t seem to figure out how to not wet myself embarrassingly when I sprint. If there was a way to forge bladder toughness that *actually worked*, I would be very grateful to know what it is.

    1. Hello Diane – agree with on the long hike. Congrats to you on that incredible accomplishment! Give yourself an extra props because you just did something that most people can’t do or even dream about doing! Did you read the book “Wild”? Great book on a similar experience.

      Don’t have any idea for the bladder, but…who cares if you wet yourself? From your adventures of the hike, I’m sure you went through worse cases of long periods w/out showering.

      The point is, sprinting is great for you. Don’t let what others think stop you from doing something that is wonderful you. Bring a towel w/you and when you are done, go straight home.

      Again, high props to you for getting through that 3 month journey! I know I won’t be able to do it!

      1. Thank you. Yes I read Wild and my standard disclaimer is that I didn’t do ANY of the things she described in her book. No shooting up, no sex on the beach, no night clubs. I just hiked, that’s it. About the only thing in her book that was similar to my experience was being accused of being a hobo.

        I usually sprint at lunch on work days. Last time I wet myself so bad it was visible as a huge stain. I tried to sit out in the sun and dry off before walking back to my office, but that didn’t work. I even forced myself to pee on my way to the track and then once when I got there just before sprinting and I still peed all over myself. God help me if I sneeze and my legs aren’t crossed. I’m 48 years old and had a hysterectomy 10 years ago so maybe that has something to do with it.

        1. Haha! The line about the hobo was so funny!

          Can you sprint after work?

        2. There is some sort of cup thing women can use to pee outside with. It is called a SheWee. I saw one at and thought about getting it but haven’t yet, so I can’t give you a review on it or anything. They way be cheaper elsewhere, too…..haven’t looked around yet. Guess it is only useful if you know ya gotta go…

        3. A fruit juice carton (possibly not something you have if 100% primal! 🙂 ) emptied, then you shape the top into a lozenge shape, directs the wee away from you… source: camping & festival going with female friends. Come to think of it, a milk carton would probably be much the same, anyway I’m sure you get the idea. Plus side above those manufactured things is a carton folds down flat, to fit a bag or pocket.

      2. “….Again, high props to you for getting through that 3 month journey! I know I won’t be able to do it!”

        Jack ! Of course you will be able to do it.. “Can’t” and “won’t”, don’t belong to your dictionary.. 🙂

    2. Diane – the wetting is an issue for me with heavy lifts. After an accident squatting in the gym and the very kind and supportive reaction from my trainer, I decided F it! I enjoy lifting and won’t let that stop me. I just wear “protection” like an old gal and forget about it. In the beginning I was embarassed to have to do that, but there are a lot worse things in life and I’d rather keep lifting.

    3. Diane, I have the wetting problem, too, esp with jump ropes & running. I found that modifying my diet helped tremendously & I’m not talking primal. Check out the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations for stress incontinence. Kegels with a device are also very helpful. I even wrote a blog about backpacking with stress incontinence on my redelephanteats blog. Like Susan, I also use a pad when necessary & I have a pessary sponge I use for days when it’s not entirely under control but not so bad as to need a sponge. And let me say that adjusting my diet to these new demands provides ongoing practice in mental toughness.

    4. Hi Dianne – a Urogynecologist (sp?) is a great place to start. And I think that actually doing the activity that causes the problem eventually strengthens the muscles involved.

    5. Hi Diane, I ould suggest that you look into Kegel exercises for the pelvic floor muscles- i.e.:
      There are also resistance tools for this muscle group similar to this one that help:
      The kegel exercises will help with this kind of pelvic floor muscle weakness, and it is really common for women (especially if you have kids) to struggle with weakness of the pelvic floor and the associated stress incontinence (you leak if you sneeze, cough, or run). So try Kegels – and dont give up on those sprints!!! Best of Luck!

    6. Don’t forget you can do your sprints on a stationary bike or swimming.

      I too suffer from pelvic floor weakness. It can be debilitating. My advice. Wear a incontinence pad when exercising. See a pelvic floor physio. They will do an internal and confirm you are doing your exercises correctly.
      You can work to improve it, just like any muscle.

      1. And make sure your bowels are operating well.
        Constipation can play a huge role in incontinence.
        I have found a magnesium supplement can help.

    1. Hey Rhonda – I still feel like a weenie, everyday of my life. It’s always in the back of my mind that I can have relapse and fall back into my old bad habits of living a weak life.

      This is why I work so hard at being tougher with my Primal training and lifestyle. Since I used to overweight and mentally weak, I know I am very vulnerable. However, with the physical training from CrossFit and WOW, I have drastically improve my perseverance skills and have be defiant to quitting.

      Being mentally tough teaches one to never take anything for granted. I have to work at being fit, healthy and mentally strong every day and moment of my life.

      Let me know if you have any direct questions!

  8. I so needed to read this today, especially strategy #1! I’ve developed a decent level of mental toughness over the last few years, but right now I’m facing a huge challenge. I was in a car accident and I have to pass up aggressive workouts in favor of disciplined PT. It’s really hard to focus myself on doing the tiny little movements perfectly and taking on the PT exercises robustly twice a day rather than just giving up and saying “I can’t do my normal workouts, I’m just going to chill on the couch till my body feels better.” Mindset and will are key.

    1. JJ – I’m glad this article has uplifted your mood. A while back I had to go through some serious PT work myself that I just wrote about. Here’s the link –

      I’m sure it is nothing to what you are going through, but what it taught me is that I can get through any adversity as long as I put my mind to it. My accident was one of the worse things that happen to me, but in the long run, I am so thankful that it did. In time, hopefully you will gain the same life lessons that I did.

      In the meantime, proper mindset and rest is what you need.

      Please keep in touch. I know you will get through this situation and I have no doubt that you will become mentally stronger because of it.

      Anything I can do to put a smile on your face or help you out, please email me at [email protected] or go to my site.

      Please don’t hesitate. Be more than glad to help.


      1. Aww…. Jackson, thanks! And I appreciate the article. It’s not a really terrible injury, less bad than tearing ligaments. It is however requiring a serious chunk of time to heal and the same toughness you describe in rehabbing your ankle. It’s easy to get depressed and mopey. It’s hard to scale back enough to heal and to persist with boring PT exercises that you know you need to rebuild.

        I might drop you a line to chat… you’ve got some really great perspective on this.

  9. “The more your mind practices pushing your body to do things it doesn’t want to, the stronger your will becomes.”

    And the less you hear what your body is trying to tell you and the more you hasten the day when you burn out.

    I speak from experience; 10 years at high level amateur triathlon racing.

    I had massive will; It very nearly killed me.

    1. Do you honestly think this is going to be a problem for the majority of readers here?

      1. Yes, actually I do. Read the forums. There are a significant minority who are able to drive themselves beyond the limits of their bodies. This isn’t Primal, and it isn’t healthy.

        1. Kelda, thank you so, so much for your comments. I train in karate in a traditional dojo, so there is a lot of pushing on top of my own over-the-top pushing of myself. I’m now working on coming back after an extended illness; my efforts to regain stamina are challenged by a vasovagal reflex that leads to me passing out occasionally after performing a form at speed.

          For me, developing my mental toughness right now means paying attention to my body’s signals, staying in my work, and not listening to the “push” signals that surround me. I was very close to forgetting that after reading this (admittedly inspiring) post.

  10. Love it!! I use many of these strategies without knowing it in my CrossFit workouts, and also used many last year while training for and completing my (first and only) half marathon. If we could only get out of our own way, life would be easier!!

    Great post! Thanks!

    1. Thanks Amy! Yes, we all do these 4 strategies naturally. My goal was to make each strategy specific and concrete. By doing so, you’ll be able to reach into your mental tool box to fight and demolish any adversity in your life.

      Good luck!

  11. I always thought mantras were silly until this year, seeing as I am in the middle of training for a Tough Mudder course (, where mental resilience is equally as important (if not more) than physical resilience. My mantra during challenging workouts (or even during days when I don’t feel like lifting heavy things…) is ‘I WILL be a Tough Mudder!’, it always helps me push through and find my REAL breaking point.

    1. Lara – agree with you. There are lots of cheesy mantras that you see in Hallmark cards. The key is to pick and develop ones that are personal to you. It seems that you found one that really incite you!

      Good luck with the training!

  12. Great post, nothing in life is more important than mental toughness, with it you can accomplish anything.

  13. When we take Boy Scouts to the Philmont Scout Ranch and walk up and down mountains with a heavy pack for 10 days, I see a lot of this happen. Most people don’t know they can walk for three miles up a 45 degree incline carrying a third of their body weight. But you can. After you do it once, you change forever.

    1. And this is why I really want to do a backpacking trip this summer. I live in Alaska and there are so many great places to go! Unfortunately the friend I was planning this with blew out her knee playing flag football, so I’m trying to either find someone else that would like to go or thinking of going solo.

      1. I highly recommend reading “Wild.” Great personal story on backpacking solo.

      2. Go solo. I hiked the Pacific Crest solo. No instant messaging, nobody to bother me, nobody to appease. It was great. Plus I met lots of people. Consider hiking in Washington during when the thru-hikers are going through. You’ll meet a lot of interesting people every day as they blow by you going 30 miles a day.

    2. Thanks for sharing Damien. Whenever you do overcome any challenging obstacle, it does change you. The key is to use that accomplishment to propel you into your next challenge. Mental toughness training is about teaching you how to use the momentum to have a carry over effect to your personal life as well.

  14. I remember using the mantra “I WILL be a National Champ…I WILL NOT get second place” one summer when training for volleyball at my junior college. We got 2nd at nationals the previous season and for most of us that just wasn’t good enough. What do you know, the following year, National Champs! I did a similar thing my senior year at my DII school for our Conference Championship, and we won that too. It’s amazing how your attitude and your will shapes so much of what you can accomplish. I find these things to sometimes trump talent only…if you’re talented, but have no will or mental toughness, someone that is less talented but has more will and more mental toughness will beat you, every time.

    Anyway, post-collegiate sports career, last summer I set an alarm on my phone that went off everyday at 5.30 when I got off work, with a message that said “Today, you are closer to the person you were meant to be.” It was such a great reminder everyday that I was taking steps to be a healthier person. I think I might have to do that again after reading this post! Thanks!

    1. Stacy that’s the best thing I’ve heard in a while! I think I’ll go set my phone to have the same message 🙂

  15. Being mentally tough is all about desensitization, too. Imagine having to live a week as paleo-man.. we’d be miserable! But for paleo-man himself, it was everyday life.

    Or, look at Navy SEALs. Yeesh, those guys go through hell and back. After their training, I’m sure anything they encounter in the field will pale in comparison to BUD/S and Hell-Week.

  16. Hey Jack. Great post. Appreciate your time in putting this together. I do have a question for you though, but this one is about your story, not the article. In reading your story I was very curious about two things, one why you didn’t lean bulk for health but rather just eat anything in sight and got fat. My second question is based on your pictures. You claim you “bodybuilt” your whole life but yet you look like somebody who has trained for max two years and has low body fat. Both of these things lead me to believe you had no idea how to eat right and no idea how to train right. Is it possible this new program is working for you because your doing everything right since its so simple as opposed to everything wrong when bodybuilding spinning your wheels to get nowhere? It’s also possible you have lost 30plus lbs of lean mass when you dieted down finally by eating primal. Your thoughts in advance are appreciated. Also I hope you don’t take these as negative comments as I am truly curious about your answers.

    1. Hello Jeremy: Be glad to answer those questions!

      a.) I bulked with crap foods because I was young, naive and very insecure. I started training in the 1970’s and back then most people bulked up with as much food as they can to get “big.” Getting huge was my priority back then and up to my 30’s. I didn’t really get concern about health issues until my dog got cancer. After that, I slowly began to make the shift to good health over the aesthetics, but that didn’t happen overnight.
      b) I did body built training for nearly 20 years, which meant I did mostly machines/single body part training. Yes, you could say I was spinning my wheels as I stopped making a lot gains and got fat on this approach. I doubt that I lost 30 pounds of muscles as most of it was fat.

      Looking back on it, I “thought” I was training and eating right, but I wasn’t. I did everything the muscle magazines told me to do and actually trained at the legendary Gold and World Gym in Santa Monica.

      No regrets though. I’m just lucky I was able to turn it around. Now with clients, I only teach full-body movements and yes, the primal eating style.

      Hope that answers your questions.

  17. This is completely appropriate, not just to my workouts, but to deal with everyone (co-workers, friends, family, etc.) who don’t ‘get’ my daily diet choices. Thanks a lot, Jack. On to your blog!

    1. Hey Brad – looking forward to seeing you on the blog! I understand what you are going through. My family thinks I”m weird for my food choices and at work, I’m the guy that “never goes to happy hour” or the Xmas dinner party. However, this is the life that I chose. For years, I would make decisions based on pleasing people. Screw that. This is sign of someone that is weak and I was tired of being that person.

      For most of my life, I was overly concerned with what everybody thought of me. I was so weak and constantly seeking approval from my circle of friends. When I become stronger with who I was, I eventually started to careless of what others thought or how they judge me. When this happen, it actually empowered my perseverance skills. I began to trust myself more. Listening to myself was a huge progress in my mental toughness growth.

      Thanks for your support!

  18. This article is guilty of overreach. I clicked on it to see how mental toughness could help my mental illness. Because the teaser copy led me to believe it applied to all aspects of life. Positive self-talk, mantras, that stuff I have used for a long time (it’s called cognitive-behavioral therapy and it’s been around for decades). But this bothered me: the assumption that you can do it all yourself. Believe me, the mind that contemplates picking up a shotgun and blowing one’s head off thinks it’s being tough. But that’s delusion. That’s when I need to pick up the phone and call for help.

    1. Casey, it’s the mind you have that made you reach for the phone, not the shotgun, that’s tough – I know, I’ve been there myself several times due to MH issues. Tough isn’t always the part of you that howls in rage (that’s handy for workouts) – it;s the part of you that dares to hope. The part that somehow finds the ability to face another day, when you feel that way. THAT is courage – you’re here, and commenting, so you obviously have plenty.

      And you’ve faced down a life-challenging situation more than once, which is more than many people ever have to face – give yourself kudos for that as well, Life & Death aren’t stakes most people ever have on the table.

      i truly wish you well!!

    2. Hello Casey – Thanks for chiming in. If anybody out there has some mental illness issues, I strongly advocate asking for professional intervention. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, especially when you are suffering during dark times.

      And yes, positive self-talk and mantras have been around for decades with the psychotherapy world. However, the problem I have w/the usage of cognitive therapy is that is way too cerebral.

      My mental toughness program combined with CrossFit or Mark’s WOD, is a physical training program with great emphasis on using the body. This major problem with self-help books – is all in the head. We need to get out of the head and let the body express itself. By doing so, you learn how the mind and body can act as one unstoppable machine in the face of physical and psychological adversities.

      1. I couldn’t agree more. It’s so important to get out of your head and into your body when depression strikes. Exercise is not a cure all but it definitely helps ease the symptoms of depression. Talk therapy and body therapy combined are the best medicine for a healthy mind.

  19. Wow thanks for this post, very inspiring grrrrrrrhowl ahhrg chomp chomp!

    1. Wild Grok – I always appreciate your comments! Thanks my friend!

  20. I just saw that link to the car push workout which also led to the hilarious park stalking workout. I think I can get Doug Mcguff’s workout done all at once with no expensive machinery. Except for the car.

  21. A timely post! After a tough day at work doing a job i hate for a boss who treats me like crap, and working for a company who’s ethos i don’t believe in, I realise i need to be mentally tough, formulate a plan and get the hell out of there!

    1. Hey Richard – Thanks for posting! Hang in there! If I can do it, you can. First thing is to do is to devise a realist plan to get yourself out of there. In the meantime, take out your frustrations by doing some of Marks’ WOD combine with my mental toughness strategies. Instead of getting bitter, you want to better yourself through your training.

      A huge part of mental toughness training is turning any negative to a positive experience. If your boss giving you a hard time, go and train and get the best workout of your life. If you had a awful day in life, see how the crappy day can motivate you do meaningful with your life when you get home. Again, learn to reveres any negative aspect of your life to a positive one is a sign that someone is mentally tough.

      Good luck!

  22. I dunno. I pushed, and pushed and persisted and never skipped a workout. Bootcamps, progressive lifting, crossfit WODs, all to the best of my ability. And what did I got? Still pretty plump, then my sleep got disturbed, then my joints started hurting, then I injured my knee, and on the whole I went from 30 lbs OHP to like 65 lbs OHP. In 4 years. Yeah. I can swim or run for an hour, I can squat and I can do a turkish get up (with 10 lbs, f’ing wow). But what’s the point if fat sticks & muscle do not grow?

    Toughness gets get some folks those great results, and the rest of us get nothing for all the efforts. Well, no, we also get disillusionment.

    1. There’s plenty of info on this site that will answer the question of why you are not losing weight and what you are doing wrong. Search the site or post questions in the forums. Don’t give in to bitterness. Don’t give up now.

    2. Lieda – I feel your frustration. The major flaw of HIT training is sore joints. It sounds like you may be over training.

      Need more info to help you with your bone pain and lack of weight loss.
      How often do you train? How much sleep do you get? Rest? How strict are you with your Primal eating?

      You seem to do the physical aspect right, but need all living parameters (sleep, rest, food) to be dialed in as well.

      The more specific you are, the more I or the others on this thread can help you out.

      1. You run for an HOUR? How often? Is that primal, or just self-punishment/based on a calories in/calorties out mindset? Hope you don’t mind me asking, it’s just I’m involved in animal welfare issues (yes, and still eat meat) and one major objection to horse-racing is that no animal, even a herbivore with limited self-defence, would run as hard as that, as often, and for as long. Watch a lion hunting gazelles, they sprint a bit and then stop. Sorry if my answer’s not helpful but it;s hard to cvonvey how un-snarky I am asking this via a comment form, and my limited skills typing. But I question the need or desirtability of running for an hour, especially if you’re female with the different pelvis, and also I hope you’re eating enough collagen/connective tissue via bone broths and stews of meat like lamb’s neck and others with collagen etc in.

    1. Hello Matty – Thanks for your wonderful comment! IMO – mental toughness is the skill to overcome adversity while self-discipline is ability to finish out a task. You need both when attacking your obstacles. For example, if your personal adversity is weight issues, you need self-discipline to help you go to the gym and avoid bad food choices.

      This article I wrote on self-discipline might clear things up –

      Let me know if you have any more questions. Be glad to help you out!

  23. Mental toughness got me through a tough life. I didn’t always have it – I was about to succumb to depression and apathy about what I thought were insurmountable problems in my youth. But something inside wouldn’t let me do that and made me march forward. At middle age, I thank my young self for developing that toughness.

    I only wish I knew how to convey it to others – those around me, especially relatives who went through the same issues and did succumb to darkness that tinged their whole lives. I don’t know if it CAN be conveyed to someone who doesn’t have it in themselves to begin with. If you want to be a SEAL, you start out with the will to some degree already.

  24. Hey Pure Hapa, thanks for responding! Glad you were able to get through the dark times in your life. I agree with you that having toughness is in intangible that is almost impossible to measure. The Navy academy can test for physical strength, but the one factor they can not measure is one’s toughness. The good news is the Navy academy believes that mental toughness is a skills that is attainable if someone is willing go through some major suffering for it.

    I write a lot of SEAL training in my blog. Here’s an article that might interest you on SEAL training –

  25. I’d have to agree with the Mantra’s……I use the line “I can do it, I can do it” over and over in my head when i am doing something tough.

    1. I have to agree with the mantra’s too, but only if they have a deep emotional connection to something or else they probably won’t work for long.

      I had a not exactly positive mantra (more like a memory) when I was younger and very competitive in Taekwondo. I did lots of competitions and one day the leader of our entire organization told me that I should give up on Olympic style sparring and focus on point style sparring because I wasn’t suited for Olympic. To say that peeved me was an understatement. I let what she told me fuel me further and further and years down the road she asked me why I continued to train in Olympic style sparring. I told her, “because it’s what I love to do.” She smiled and said that it shows and complimented on how far I’ve gone because I didn’t give up (and I got the medals to prove it :))

      1. Jacob – Great story! Thanks for sharing! Never give on your dream or let people tell you how to live is the by-law of the mentallly tough!

        1. So long as you good people and fellow explorers of the real (as opposed to the marketed, the easy and the lies) are aware that the FIRST symptom of clinical (as opposed to situational) depression is the feeling that you’re worthless, therefore, there’s nothing to fight for, no point, not even a “sad” or “bad” feeling – just a deadening numbness, and the sense that youy’d be better off gone.

          Then I’m with you on the upbeat stuff!

          If not, search up “hyperbole and a half depression part 2” because it’s a comic strip, nothing to do with me, that covers this issue better and in a more relateable way than I can.

          Telling someone who has clinical depression to do things that make them feel good is like telling a guy with a fractured pelvis that some sit-ups will help him get back in shape, though! :o)

  26. Great motivational article. Ironic thing is I’ve been doing quite a bit of functional training the past couple of years, I decided recently to change pace and do a little traditional training for a while to muscle up a tad. My diet is so clean and with the Leangains approach I lost 25 pounds over the course of a year and at 149 pounds 5′ 8″ feeling the need to bulk up some. I’ve been hitting the bench press, squats, deadlifts, pullups and chinups twice a week (and some ab work, stretching and HIIT the another day plus racquetball twice a week) for a couple of weeks now. Plan to do that for a few months then back to the rope climbing, sled pulling, pushups with chains, squat thrusts, burpees and other such craziness. The guidelines here still apply though. Thanks so much Jack!

  27. Hey George! Great work yourself! Nothing will test your mental resolve more than sled pulls/pushes and rope climbs. Keep it going with the craziness and the pursuit of being a bad ass!


  28. I feel like this is one of those things that may have a slight benefit in the modern world, but was completely unnecessary in Grok’s time. “Refusing to give up on oneself” is a mantra based on the consequence of having negative factors in our lives: the junk food lying around, the negativity from outside forces; all things we did not necessarily create ourselves. Indeed, we do have to go against the grain, to go against our humanity (being social creatures, we are designed to want that which is wanted by others) in order to be healthy in the modern world, but pushing our bodies once a week to the limit and creating aggression? Seems a bit exaggerated for optimal health, and counter-intuitive.

  29. Brian – thanks for your comments! However, I disagree with you completly when you say mental toughness was unnecessary for Grok. If Grok was mentally weak – he probably won’t survive during this time period of constant chaos.

    Also, in terms of pushing the body to the extreme once a week, I agree it iisn’t for everybody. However, I think part of this problem with society is that we have too many people that are “too soft” and back off from challenges. The point of the physcial challenge is to strengthen the mind and to show how it can lead the body to overcome any physical adversity. Without the challenge, it is very difficult to achieve mental toughness developement.

    Aggression is one of those words that have mulitple meanings. On the one hand, it can be looked down as someone who is bullying. I detest this sort of negative behavior. The aggressive behaviour that I am advocating is one that takes actions and to have purpose behind the actions. Most people are way too passive when adversity strikes them. They hope, wish, pray their problems will go away. I teach my clients to come up with a plan and take relentless actions vs. your obstacles.

    This positive mental outlook that you can defeat any adversity, rather it’s cancer, a pink slip or broken heart is huge when it comes to optimal health.

    1. Agreed. Today’s culture has told us all anger and aggression is bad. I say bull. It’s all how you focus and release the anger/aggression that matters. Whenever our Taekwondo school tests, every student has to break boards (number of boards depends on belt level). After a few failed attempts you see who’s going to be struggling for a while. Every so often you see someone get angry. Some will flail at the board and just wind up hurting themselves. Others will focus that anger/aggression to give them an adrenaline boost to make it through the board(s).

      Sadly, you don’t really learn anything when you break your boards the first time. It’s when you struggle trying to break boards, your hands are hurting, and you’re getting frustrated and flustered, that’s when you are truly being tested mentally, emotionally, and physically.

    2. Ok, then how do you think mental toughness was necessary for Grok? Because I just don’t see it. He didn’t have the stress of working 8 hours or day, or even 16-20 hours a day like some people have to endure, he doesn’t have to endure war, drought, famine, degenerative diseases, a low quality of life, alienation, loneliness, STRESS, being unhealthy.. Grok had it good. He was in his natural environment. If a tragedy happened, such as a death, he had almost every single person he knows around him for support. His friends and family and tribal members were just there… they weren’t off traveling, moving away, busy with their own lives or working. It is in the modern world where mental toughness is necessary. Grok didn’t need to push himself, it was all laid out for him.

  30. Great post; great tips-relevant and important to all. My daughter worked on a trail crew for her first summer job and it was very difficult. We were discussing the adversity and how the teens coped. I told her, the only way we ever learn what we’ve got is when we’re placed in situations that force us to dig deep inside ourselves. Some people don’t like what they find. Some of them change as a result. Some rise from their hero’s journey triumphant and ready to face new challenges with confidence.

    I especially liked this post because it followed a really rough day for me, due to someone treating me badly. In analyzing the situation, I concluded the individual had not been able to step up and do the right thing because he was weak. I was left with the fall-out. At that point I just felt bad for his lame ass-ness and I went for a run and ran really hard.

    1. Danielle – Thank for the wonderful and supportive comments! I believe a “good run will make any day, a good day.”