Mentally tough

My husband and I watched the season finale of the “Biggest Loser” Tuesday night.

As I watched this season’s winner, Michael Ventrella, who started out at a whooping 526 pounds step on the scale and discover he lost more than half his body weight – 264 pounds! – I thought to myself, Man! What kind of strength must it have taken for him to accomplish such a difficult task?

Obviously, physical strength and endurance had to be at the top of his list, but more than anything, I think it was Michael’s mental strength that kept him going. He started an emotional season in the right mind set by saying to the camera, “I’m going to do it. Watch me, America.”

My parents have always taught me to visualize what I wanted, and seeing Michael put those words into action reminded me of my dad.

At the end of April, my family and I headed down to St. George to watch my dad compete in the Iron Man. I have to admit, we were all a little skeptical – make that extremely doubtful – that he would finish.

Not that my dad isn’t in great shape. He is. He’s competed in several triathlons over the past few years, including a half Iron Man. I repeat: HALF an Iron Man which is a difficult feat indeed, but a much less daunting task than the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and full 26.2 mile marathon he wanted to try.

But at age 52, he had his mind set. He was going to do it, and that was that.

Weeks went by, and as May 1 of this year drew closer, my family and I began to casually ask him, “So …w hen are you going to start training?”

Occasionally he’d go for a 13-mile run, or a 30-mile bike ride. Two weeks later he’d maybe swim for a half mile to a mile, only actually swimming the full 2.4 mile distance a few days before the actual race (with an actual trainer, thank heavens.)

When we’d ask him how he seriously thought he could finish with literally no real training, he’d smile and say, “I’m a tough guy! It’s a piece of cake!” To which we’d just shake our heads and say, “You can’t just do something because you think you can!”

To be honest, I was actually fearful he’d have a heart attack mid-race or some other kind of serious injury that would render him unable to finish. Another part of me thought half way through he’d just give up and say, “I can’t finish. It’s too hard!”

But I was wrong.

Not only did my dad finish the Iron Man with an hour and a half to spare, he received his best swim time ever (1 hour, 30 min), finished the bike easily before the allotted time was up and jumped more than 200 spots during his first EVER marathon.

We were shocked. And so proud. And shocked.

In fact, were it not for the chip on his body that registered every few miles he passed a checkpoint (and the constant groaning for the next few days) I would have said he was sneaking rides on the sick cars.

Watching my dad cross that finish line was unbelievable. He accomplished something many people could only dream of doing, all because he first believed he could. Thinking about finishing an Iron Man or losing close to 300 pounds may seem like quite an “enormous” task. And a few weeks ago, I would have told you physical strength definitely “outweighs” (OK, I’m stopping with the puns) positive thinking.

But I’ve since changed my mindset.

I’d love to hear your motivating stories about doing something you thought was impossible because of positive thinking. Why do you think mental toughness is important in today’s world?

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