Saturday, October 3, 2009

It is All in the Mind, Except When It Isn't

Ask an Israeli and they will tell you gibushim, and anything challenging in the army, is all in the mind. Run and work out as you want. But what matters, they keep telling me, is mental strength.


Sprinting up a sand-dune is not easy. But it is easier if you have trained on sandy hills. As much as you want it, no matter the level of motivation and focus, your mind is not the determining factor in how well you do at a gibush. Or at least a gibush like Yom Sayerot.

Anyone who knows me well, and I include myself in that elite group, would agree that my desire and focus to succeed tends to outpace my physical capabilities. That is, by nature I am someone who is going to lean more on the mental than physical in gibush like trials.

Perhaps that explains why I undervalue the role of mental strength in a gibush. I am not blind to the need to remain focused, to ready oneself to sprint back up a hill when the spirit is weak and the mind exhausted. To insist you come in first repeatedly.

But I remain convinced that were I in better shape, the two gibushim I have participated in--particularly Yom Sayerot--would have been all the easier, all the more successful. No doubt my perspective will change as I experience the longer and more intensive gibushim that are to come. In the interim, a recent news article on a Slovenian endurance athlete provides fascinating food for thought. Chew over this excerpt and then see here for the full article.

Fatigue, the researchers argue, is less an objective event than a subjective emotion — the brain’s clever, self-interested attempt to scare you into stopping. The way past fatigue, then, is to return the favor: to fool the brain by lying to it, distracting it or even provoking it. That said, mental gamesmanship can never overcome a basic lack of fitness. As Noakes says, the body always holds veto power.


  1. That article was great! I bet if every time you're in a rough workout, it'll seem like no biggie when you think of those week long ultratriathons. :)

  2. I hope this isn't in response to my comment because if it is you completely misunderstood me. I don't believe it is all in your mind, but I do believe that you push yourself to be the best... whatever that takes and whatever that means.

    Of course this may have nothing to do with me but I am a narcissist and I think that everything is about me. I know you understand.

    Its my life you just live in it.

  3. What more could I ask for, Ophra, than to have a share in your life? Sounds lucky to me!

    My comments, as it happens, are mostly in response to others so no worries!

  4. Mazol Tov on your successful completion of Yom Sayerot! As you go forward, I'd like to share a comment I made to my son before his Gibush Matkal. "There will be people stronger, bigger, and faster, but none will surpass your will." I have only been told he was one of 150 to successfully finish the Gibush. I do not know what unit he is in, I do know his commitment became 5 years. I wish you the best of luck, take with you an iron will, and hope to read more of your blog as time progresses.