How Competing in Britain’s Strongest Man Tested – and Improved – My Mental Toughness

There is nothing worse than settling for mediocrity.

Taking the path of least resistance and never testing one’s self against the challenges that life presents is worse than never living at all. Do not slip into the shadows to avoid these challenges.

Instead, step forward with your head held high, step forward and crush these challenges and if you fail then you learned and will be a stronger, better, more complete person for it.

The above passage came to me in 2007. I was 10 days out from the final of Britain’s Strongest Man Under 105kg and was suddenly hit with a terrible sickness.

I had been walking around weighing a solid 106kg and feeling very strong and ready for the competition, but after three days of basically drinking/eating very little and feeling absolutely terrible I had dropped to 97kg, felt as weak as a kitten and ached from head to toe!

My head was awash with negative and defeatist thoughts. “How could I compete like this? I didn’t stand a chance. I would look stupid in front of all of the fans and spectators that expected so much of me.” And so on.

These thoughts were consuming me and I didn’t know where to turn. Then something deep inside me started to fight back saying, “What are you thinking Scott? You’re not a quitter. Don’t let all of your hard work, all of your blood sweat and tears go to waste.”

That was when I grabbed a pen and wrote the opening passage in my training diary.

That passage started a fire burning inside me. I was determined to overcome any doubts I had and use my fears as fuel to get back on track and win the competition that I had trained two times a day, six days week for over the past 16 weeks.

I had spent years dreaming of just competing in Britain’s Strongest Man, and up until I had fallen ill I felt like I had a legitimate chance of winning.

As my words unraveled on the paper it all became clear to me! I didn’t want to live a mediocre existence. I wanted to rise above the norm and achieve something that would define me and make me feel truly alive.

I wanted to improve as an athlete as well as a person and face my fears head on. The next week was a blur of eating as much a physically possible and training like a crazy person to gain back as much size and strength as possible before the competition that Sunday.

Sunday morning came round in blur and before I knew it I was on the scales weighing in. I had clawed my weight back up to 102kg but still felt jaded and weak. I told myself, “Come on Scott, just dig deep and give it all you have, then win or lose you can walk away knowing you gave it everything you had!”

The competition kicked off and I did surprisingly well in the first event. Then I just drove on winning some events and placing well enough in the others to keep me in the race for the title.

The final event came around, which was the infamous Atlas Stones, and the top three places were all hinging on who could pull it out of the bag in this final, last-ditch effort for glory.

Having won the previous event, I had the benefit of going last which I took 100 percent advantage of! The other contenders had put in heroic efforts but I knew exactly what I needed to do to win, which was load four out of the five stones faster than the closest guy to me. And that is exactly what I did, tearing the stones off the floor with all of my might.

One went up, then two and three and four. I had done it. The fact that I had failed the 180kg 5th and final stone and tore my neck muscles in the process didn’t matter. I had won. I had overcome my personal setbacks, doubts and fears and dared to try and win!

Since that day I put pen to paper and those words flowed from deep within me, I call on them in times of weakness. They keep me resolute in my quest for self improvement as a father, husband, provider, coach and entrepreneur.

The lessons I learned through giving it my all to compete at world level and win two national championships have carried over into my approach to business and every day life. Although I do not compete anymore, I now use my experience and knowledge to help and train others to achieve their goals in sport and in life.

 

The following tactics are simple, but if applied and formed into everyday habits, they will change your life for the better, 100 percent guaranteed.

1)Get Up Early And Start Your Day With Physical Activity.

I can hear the rebuttal from some of you even as as write this. “I haven’t got time. How can a fit this in. I can’t make it to the gym,” et cetera et cetera.

Look, I’m not saying you have to get to the gym or run a marathon before work. But if for whatever reason you can’t get to the gym you can at least get up 30 minutes early to crank out a body weight circuit in your garage or living room, buy some kettle bells and resistance bands to add some variety and functionality to your workouts.

Getting this workout in first thing in the morning will make such a huge difference to the way your mind and body operates for the rest of the day. You will be improving your health and fitness at the same time!

So set your alarm, put it across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off, get up and Get After It.

2)Eat A Breakfast That Is High In Protein And Good Fats.

Your first meal of the day is so influential on your hormonal response to food and energy levels for the rest of the day.

If you start your day with a load of carbohydrates, cereals and simple sugars, you will spike your insulin levels which will in turn caused your blood sugar to crash and then you are playing catch up all day trying to balance out those blood sugar levels. This will cause brain fog, lethargy and diminished productivity!

Instead of embarking on this blood sugar roller coaster, try going back to a basic old fashioned breakfasts like bacon and eggs, salmon and avocado, steak and eggs or even just down a bulletproof coffee!

3)If It Takes Less Than a Minute Do It Now.

Out of all the tips I could give you this is the easiest to apply and will probably have the most impact on your life.

If a letters needs opening, an email needs a quick acknowledgement, the rubbish needs taking out—just do it, there and then, so it is out of the way. It won’t be added to the never ending list of things that will require your attention throughout the day.

This may sound silly, but if you master this at home or in your personal life then it will carry over into your work ethic. Believe it or not, this practice will free up time for you to use in a productive manner later on down the line.

4)Take Control Of Your life, And Own Your Mistakes.

If you missed your morning workout, you decided to do that. If you are late for a meeting, if your keep stuffing your face with terrible food and are putting on weight, if your relationships at home or at work are not as good as they should be, it is you and you alone who bears the responsibility to influence these things and improve them.

Take a step back and take ownership all of these less-than-perfect areas of your life. Then take your ego out of the equation. You will soon find your own perspective changes and you are able to deal with difficult situations in a much more productive way. If you drop the ball or make a mistake, own it wholeheartedly. Then step back from the situation to see what lessons you can learn to ensure this never happens again.

If you are struggling to get up in the mornings to get your workout in, then I only have one thing to say to you – GET UP and stop struggling.

The fact that you can’t get up is all in your head. And let’s face it if you can get out of bed to do one of the only things that is 100 percent guaranteed to improve every aspect of your life, then how the hell do expect to achieve or be successful at anything?

5)Start Combining Sauna and Cold Showers.

Taking a 2-5 minute cold shower brings with it so many health benefits it boggles the mind. Research has show that using cold water therapy will cause the release of norepinephrine in the brain which will result in heightened awareness, focus and attention. Cold exposure will also lower cortisol and ease stress, improve immunity, lower body fat levels, improve hair and skin condition, increase testosterone and fertility, relieve depression and speed up recovery from exercise.

It will also release what are known as Cold Shock Proteins. These proteins aid in Mitochondrial Biogenesis. Mitochondria are the power plants of all of the cells in the human body so if you can keep these turning over and doing their job, then you will live a much longer and healthier life.

Taking a sauna has to be one of my favourite remedies for melting away stress. I combine sauna and meditation because not only does this kill two birds with one stone, but I find it much easier to effectively use meditation when I’m in the relaxing atmosphere of nice hot sauna.

If you are new to meditation then I recommend starting with mindfulness of breath. It requires nothing more elaborate than focusing on each breath you take and letting all other thoughts just come in then float away. Simple but very effective!

The most effective way to use cold and hot is to combine your sauna and cold showers by doing 15 minutes in the sauna and then taking a 2-5 minute cold shower, repeat this cycle 3 times to gain maximum benefit. But just one round will still provide amazing results.

Read here for more in-depth information on both of these treatments.

6)Stop Multitasking and Take Regular Breaks.

Multitasking is a illusion. You may think that you are being productive, but you will be producing substandard work. You will never produce your very best work unless you give the task at hand 100 percent of your attention.

So instead of stressing over 10 things at once, allocate them time slots through out the day and then stick to these times.

Building in a 5-10 minute break every hour is also very important. It will allow you to reset and refresh your body and mind. This does not mean sit at your desk and look at Facebook!!

Get up and go outside, do some press ups or simply make a cup of tea and breathe deeply. The point is to rejuvenate yourself for the task at hand.

7)Learn Something New Every Day.

Whether this is reading or listening to a book, listening to a podcast or research paper on your commute we can all learn something everyday that will benefit us and help move us forward in life or at work. Stop wasting your time listening to music on your way to and from the office and instead use this time to improve as a person.

The above tips will definitely help you in your pursuit for personal and professional success, however you will get nowhere without self belief and good old fashioned hard work, so dig deep and make the most of every day.

Also feel free to use the passage I wrote in times of weakness and doubt, I guarantee it will give you the kick up the rear you need to get back on track.

 

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Photo credit: British Strongman