Mental Toughness

Posted on in Health + Lifestyle, Kids + Family, Nature + Outdoors, Sports + Training by Cam Zink

Listening to a Aubrey Marcus podcast, I just heard the story of a soldier who was a prisoner of war. This individual used his mental toughness to stay sane by playing a round of his favorite golf course, every day, in his head, for seven years. It not only gave him hope, it gave him an escape, and exercised his mind. The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are vastly becoming mainstream and acceptable among all demographics. It isn’t easy to adhere to a proper schedule of meditating, but I am a huge fan of it and will continue to work on it for my whole life.

The amazing part of the story isn’t that the P.O.W kept his sanity and was able to push through the most horrible of circumstances, and focus for hours a day on something positive, for 7x365. It was because after he got out of the P.O.W camp, he was able to go home and play his favorite golf course. After 7 years without swinging a golf club, he shot par for the course.

cam2I am a fan of Mountain Biking, and the whole gamut of the sport. I take my influences from other sports and try to apply to all genres and possibilities pertinent to the Mountain Bicycle. I grew up racing and built a solid set of skills to work with for whatever direction I would choose to go throughout my life. I never strived to be the best at a specific event, or style of riding, I just wanted to be the best bike rider I could, across all facets and terrain. To build fundamentals and a solid skill base keeps many doors open, with opportunities that remain hidden to those more closely focused on specialized areas.

We have a limited time each and every day to practice, and practicing on specific areas may narrow ones vision. The winning touchdown play that ends up on SportsCenter was surely practiced, but the exact scenario is truly unique and was achieved by a lifetime of building the athlete to take on any variable of the situation.

The visualization of the quarterback while living in the present is a prime example of  mindfulness and visualization working in unison. The millisecond that a variable is introduced, the moment mindfulness kicks in and living in the present moment takes over previous visualization.

Just as being in a relaxed, state of intellect will enable one to formulate a sentence, spark a conversation, make a joke and go off the cuff in a live interview. The proverbial “zone” is the most enhanced state of mindfulness and living in the moment. Adrenaline providing an essential ingredient to this incredible state of mind, usually correlates it to sports, war, or other intense physical acts. The other term used for the same extreme of presence, is blacking out.


Photo By: Paris Gore

Practice makes perfect, but in my sport there are some things you can’t really practice. I have spent the best moments of my career riding out of jumps for the first time in front of the crowd, without practice. The feat of laying it on the line when it matters is the greatest of feelings, but it isn’t just for the roll of the dice; some stuff is just too dangerous to try numerous times, If you are going to do it, it might as well be in your run, in front of the crowd. I love to capitalize and do it when it counts.

You can train all you want, but at this point your body is just a tool that needs to be sufficient, but your mind is the true champion.

It comes down to the remaining calm in the mind and visualizing what you are trying to accomplish even if you only have a millisecond or 7 years to think about it.

Cam Zink

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