The Power Of Mental Fortitude.

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post about mental toughness entitled Are You Mentally Tough? You can read this post HERE.

In this post I wrote about what exactly does it mean to be “mentally tough”?

In my definition, mental toughness (or mental fortitude) is having the ability to be “comfortable” being outside of your comfort zone. If you seek change, or want progress or growth in your life, yourself as an individual, in your training or sport, or to your body, then you need to dig deep to find that mental toughness to get out of your comfort zone and to do what it takes to make those changes a reality. Transformation and growth does not occur remaining status quo or having a happy hour cocktail in your comfort zone.

You hear a lot about mental toughness in training, sport, or competition:

“Having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.” (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002)

Mental toughness allows a person to persevere through difficult circumstances and emerge without losing confidence. However, mental toughness does not just apply in training, sport, or competition, it also applies in life. For example, are you mentally tough enough to make the sacrifices it takes to not let every challenge that comes your way bring you down, and persevere in order to make a drastic career transition, be a business owner, or raise a family? These are just a few examples.

As human beings with are faced with situations and tasks daily that test our mental toughness in our training, our sport, and in life. We demonstrate our ability to be mentally tough by approaching these tasks or situations, no matter how daunting they may be, with intent.

If you have been following my social media and blog posts since Saturday, we hosted a DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Certification with Steve Holiner a.k.a. Coach Fury at Iron Body Studios last past weekend.

Eric and I also attended the certification.

Fury and the Iron Bodies 9 20 15

As part of the certification requirements, you are required to complete a clean and press test with an Ultimate Sandbag (USB). One must complete 50 USB clean and press within 5 minutes. The weight of the sandbag that you are required to use is based upon your bodyweight. Women 150lbs and under are required to use a 40lbs USB. You can read the complete testing requirements HERE.

As I wrote in my previous post Challenge Yourself In The Weight Room I have never trained with Ultimate Sandbags (USBs) before, and knew nothing about the details of the DVRT USB system going into the certification except that they seemed like a tool that would very nicely compliment both the kettlebell training and bodyweight training that we do at Iron Body Studios.

In addition, I probably shouldn’t be admitting this but I had never touched a USB in my training before, ever, before going into this DVRT Level I and II certification weekend.

NOTE: THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED if you are going to go through the DVRT USB Certification weekend.

Going into the certification weekend, I knew that I was going to have to complete the clean and press test before lunch on Saturday. However, I had not looked up the details of how many, how much time, and what weight I would need to use, nor investigated or practiced the clean and press technique with a USB according to the DVRT System.

My thoughts were that I would see how things went learning the skill and technique on Saturday morning and that I would give it my best shot. I really had no idea if I was going to pass the test or not.

That morning I learned that a 40lbs USB feels much heavier and is much more unwieldy than a 40lbs kettlebell or double kettlebells adding up to 40lbs.

I also learned like with any training tool, kettlebell, barbell, and also a USB that it is common to suffer battle wounds as you learn and improve your technique. In my case, at one point as we worked through clean to fist with the USB, I felt like the knuckles on my right hand on my index finger and thumb were raw and chafed. Sure enough I looked down and they were red and chafed. I asked Coach Fury about this and he confirmed that if your technique needs work with the clean to fist then you would end up with chafed and possibly bloody knuckles.

My next thought was, “This is going to be awesome for the clean and press test.”

I put some medical tape on my fingers and kept practicing. I still had a clean and press test to do no matter how my knuckles were holding up. I signed up for this and it was my own fault that I had not physically prepared for it by practicing the skill and training with the USB prior to the certification weekend. I just needed to suck it up and get it done.

The time came for the clean and press test. The first four people went and it was reminiscent of a hardstyle kettlebell instructor snatch test (100 kettlebell snatches in 5 minutes with a weight based upon your gender and weight class), only a bit worse, a bit harder, and a bit more challenging. Just a bit.

The second four people went and I started to think, I really don’t know if I am going to pass this thing.

As I watched the first two groups go through the test I confirmed that it took an average of 40 seconds to complete 10 clean and press per minute, with 20 seconds to rest, diminishing slightly by 5 or 10 seconds with each minute following the first. It was very similar to the hardstyle kettlebel instructor snatch test in that it takes about 40-45 seconds to complete 20 snatches per minute.

I could work with this.

Then Eric and I were up. We were the only two left. Butterflies started to churn in my stomach like they were flying away from flames in my stomach. I made sure my knuckles were taped and got in front of the USB.

My counter was ready, the timer was ready, and Coach Fury was ready to monitor the test.

For the first time all morning I was really fricken nervous about this test. Nervous because I knew it was going to suck, but I wasn’t sure how badly, and nervous because a large part of me wanted to succeed despite the fact that I had not prepared properly.

The countdown started…

5, 4…

As I heard the countdown I knew two things and those were that,

  1. I was going to get my mind right and put forth my best effort; and
  2. I was going to follow Coach Fury’s guidance about completing 10 clean and press per minute. I had a plan no matter how this was about to feel physically. (You can read more about how to nail the DVRT Clean and Press test in Coach Fury’s post Nailing The Clean and Press Test: The Complete Series! HERE.)

…3, 2, 1, GO!

I cleaned my first rep and it was crap but I followed through on the press.

The next 6 cleans were equally as crappy with the bag occasionally hitting me on the neck under my chin but I did not have a bloody chin yet and the test had just begun so I kept trying to make each rep better and I followed through on the presses.

I heard the time at 20 seconds left in the first minute and on my count I was on rep 7 but I was sure that many of my reps had been no counts so I asked my counter what number I was on as I kept at it and she told me 5.

Two no counts. This means that I would get no rest the first minute if I was going to complete the next 5 reps for a total of 10.

This would suck but I was going to do it.

Somehow I finished the first 10 reps with a few seconds to spare before the second minute in order to put the bag down.

I put the bag down, took a breath, reset my mind and my body, and then got after minute two and the next 10 reps.

The clean on the first rep of the second minute, rep 11, was the absolute best my cleans has been so far. I heard Fury say, “Nice job Artemis! That was so much better!” Then I started crushing reps.

I started to feel like my technique was improving despite the feeling of wanting to vomit up my heart.

I kept going and found my mental focus and a steady breathing pattern. I used a hardstyle power breath to complete the clean, complete the press, and then a kung fu “HA!” kind of like a “HIYA!” as I put the bag down.

It was loud but I had a great groove as my technique improved and the “HA!” at the end was a great tension release. Something I needed since I did not have time for fast and loose until I finished a set of 10 reps.

The last two minutes approached and there was no way that I was not going to complete this test. Up until that point I had been able to consistently complete 10 clean and press per minute.

As I worked through the last 10 reps during the last minute I had not felt this physically taxed since I had completed my very first hardstyle kettlebell instructor snatch test at my Level I RKC Certification in 2011.

My heart was hanging out somewhere in my throat and my chest burned.

I finished my last rep with about 10 seconds to spare and I passed!

I also managed to keep my fresh, new manicure intact and it was NOT a gel manicure. BONUS! All of you ladies who lift will understand this 😉

Depsite passing, I did not take this for granted and reflected upon what I learned from this experience.

  1. No matter what my fitness level, always train with a USB for a DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Clean and Press test.
  2. Mindset and mental toughness is much more than half the battle. If you can get your mind right then you can accomplish anything.
  3. The strength training and conditioning that I do with kettlebells and the martial arts training that I have done in the past directly transferred to the task at hand. As a result of this training not only did I have the mindset that I needed to complete the clean and press test, but I also had the ability to learn the DVRT clean and press skill fairly quickly, of course with much more work to do confirmed by my skinned knuckles. In addition, my current training allowed me to apply proper breathing techniques and provided me with the strength and conditioning that I needed in order to handle the physical capacity and intensity of the test.

Carryover in training is AMAZING.

The next time that you are faced with an insurmountable task, or an ultimate challenge in your training remember that mindset and mental toughness is much more than half the battle. If you can get your mind right then you can accomplish anything.



Lift_Power Of Mindset Special Event

If you would like to learn more about mindset and how to improve and strengthen your mindset in the training room and beyond then I hope that you will join me for my Power Of Mindset Special Event at I Am Not Afraid To Lift Boston on November 7, 2015 with Dr. Lisa Lewis. Read more HERE about this special event and complete 2015 workshop schedule listed below…

  • Dulles, Virginia on October 3, 2015 at Beyond Strength Performance Northern Virginia (BSPNOVA)
  • Needham, MA on November 7, 2015 at Iron Body Studios – Early bird ends on October 11, 2015.

Learn more about the workshop HERE.

Register HERE under the “Events” tab.


Also join me for my 1/2 day workshop Keep It Simple Nutrition and Conditioning.

Schedule and registration link is listed below.

  • Dulles, Virginia on October 4, 2015 at Beyond Strength Performance Northern Virginia (BSPNOVA)
  • Needham, MA on November 8, 2015 at Iron Body Studios

Learn more HERE.

Register under the “EVENTS” tab HERE.


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