My mind was unclear, muddled, and slow. My body was broken. Still, I knew I would walk home with that belt around my waist.
The game is 90% mental. We’ve all heard that phrase before but how many of us actually believe it? I do. Hell, even if it was 50%, you’d be surprised to see how few athletes fail to even think about training the mental side of their sport.
After reading With Winning in Mind by Olympic Gold Medalist Lanny Bassham, I realized the importance of mental training and immediately felt the results in my previous fight. It helped me reach that flow state all athletes dream of having control over. (I will definitely post more about this topic, I can go on for days about it.)
Luckily this mental training sent all symptoms of depression out the door on fight day. I 100% believed the belt would be mine, and after three tough rounds I walked away the victor.
Finally I can put all this depression BS behind me, I’m the champ now. I thought it would be that easy.
Sure enough my body and mind just couldn’t catch a break. After gorging on gummy bears, pizza, buffalo wings, and all the food I missed during the previous month and a half, my weight shot up to an astounding 160 lbs in two days. Yup, that’s 25 lbs in two days. After checking in with the doctor, I had higher than normal liver values and I was suffering from pitting edema, which is swelling due to excess water retention. And to make matters worse, I still felt like crap mentally: no drive, no inspiration, no creativity, and I sure as hell didn’t feel like training.
Here’s the step-by-step breakdown of how I beat this mental rut:
- Physical Rest. My body clearly needed a break. I took a solid two weeks off from training of any kind (aside from some light jogging and mobility work). After all, this whole adrenal fatigue or depression thing could have purely been caused by me pushing my body too hard for too long.
Prioritized De-Stressing. Trying to catch up on missed work for my job, while running two (albeit little) businesses of my own, was too much to handle. I had to trim the fat, the excess stresses of work, and prioritize my work life. The gym job pays the bills, so I shifted my focus purely on that and the giant project we were working on. Unfortunately that meant shelving Mana Sport, The Mana Kids Foundation, graphic design work, and this blog until I had the time and mental capacity to take them on again.
- Mental Re-Programming. I listened to a great podcast by Judah Pollack in which he talked about something called your Default Mode Network. Basically, the DMN consists of the parts of your brain that are active when you’re not focused on anything in particular, or when your brain is at wakeful rest. Your DMN determines where your mind wanders when you’re on autopilot. During states of depression, your DMN can send you into a trench of self-loathing and helplessness, and the longer you continue to walk this path, the deeper your trench will grow. You’re in essence strengthening the neural pathways of your depression.
Escaping this trench is easier said than done. Do what you can to keep yourself busy and your mind active. When you do fall into DMN, be mindful of negative thoughts. Understanding how the DMN and negativity work hand-in-hand can help your eradicate these thoughts when they arise.
- Socialize With Your Comfort Tribe. Your comfort tribe is comprised of your loved ones, friends, and family that give you energy. I stress the “give you energy” portion of that last sentence because we all have close friends and family that also exist as energy vampires. I'd recommend staying away from those ones for now.
I spent the last month re-energizing by reconnecting with my buddies from high school, traveling to SF to visit the old crew, hanging out with my immediate family, and watching some legit Netflix shows with my girlfriend at night (I usually never watch shows but I’ve fallen in love with Silicon Valley, Daredevil, and True Detective Season 1). Depression is draining, but kicking it with a solid comfort tribe never fails to re-energize me.
I’m not 100% back to normal, and my body is still trying to find homeostasis after all the extreme dieting and overtraining, but I can’t complain because I’ve gained such great value from this experience. This whole thing was just another obstacle that helped me learn more about myself and life. Here are my biggest takeaways:
- I learned where my overtraining and dieting boundaries are
- I learned not to gorge on sugary crap immediately following a weight cut
- I recognized that my winning mindset will overcome self-doubt
- I value my comfort tribe more
- I learned about the DMN, and have a better understanding of depression
- I learned the value of prioritizing to de-stress
- I learned I can be a champion
Shitty times come and go, but it doesn’t take a champion to turn these obstacles into opportunities.