How to think tough: Mental stamina

By Di Westaway 30 April 2010
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Mental strength is key to staying on top when the adventure gets rough.

IT’S A COMMON FEELING: you find yourself cranky at the end of a long trekking day, with excruciatingly painful blisters on your heels, an aching neck and shoulders from your heavy pack, and you’re not sure how much further it is to camp.

It is possible to prepare for setbacks like these by starting some simple training exercises before you depart to prepare your mind and body. Developing mental toughness will help you endure extreme physical and psychological challenges and requires great commitment, endurance and focus; while emotional toughness is just as important, giving you the tools to remain positive and motivated no matter what the adventure throws at you.

Mental toughness work-out:
>> Carry a heavy pack up and down stairs for one hour or train carrying a heavy pack in soft sand and rain.
>> To prepare for a Mt Kilimanjaro summit, the Wild Women on Top girls sleep outside, wake at midnight and complete a 60 km undulating trek with 10 kg back packs – exercises like this assist in building up endurance and combating potential sleep deprivation. Too extreme for training? Feel free to tone it down but push past your comfort zone.
>> The best way to prepare for extreme weather is to exercise in it. Carry your pack up stairs and through suburban bush tracks in torrential rain and high winds.
>> If you’re planning an adventure in summer or into desert environments like central Australia, you should consider training in the heat to prepare yourself for this.

Emotional toughness training:
>> Try not to get ill-tempered and don’t share negative thoughts with others publicly during tough sections of a trip.
>> Prepare for emotional challenges by practising emotional control at home – train yourself to stay positive, control your thoughts, and try not be influenced by the moods of people around you. This will assist you in maintaining control in wilderness environments.

Source: Australian Geographic Adventure Nov-Dec 2009

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