3 Physical Exercises to Boost Your Mental Game

Sometimes, you reach that moment in a game where you just can’t push any further. You’ve left everything on the track. You’ve given it your all. And you want to quit.


That’s when your mental resiliency and focus is showing.

DISCLAIMER: Before we go on, I’m not saying that you should constantly push yourself beyond reason into bone-snapping, tendon-shredding danger. There’s a reason why our minds try to keep us safe from pushing ourselves to our physical limits. Because we DO have physical limits.


The first inclination you have to quit is usually inside your head.

Your legs are still pumping hard to hammer through that wall or you’re still racing to finish your laps in the allotted time, but there’s a nagging SOMETHING in the back of your brain telling you that you’re done. That you need to stop. Like, right now.

This is your mental bonk.

The wall you hit when your brain thinks you’re expending too much energy or putting yourself in too much danger to fend off hungry predators should they appear. Your brain wants to protect you and keep you alive.

And your brain is a conservative fucker. It will err on the side of caution 9 times out of 10. With the 10th time being the scenario where you’re stuck in the frozen wilderness with a broken leg and a punctured lung and manage to escape alive after chewing off your own arm.

There’s an edge you can skate between when your mind tells you that you JUST CAN’T ANYMORE and when your body actually needs to stop.

Athletes hone this edge. This edge is the difference between a gold medal and a bronze. Between a ticker tape parade and a tear-soaked drive home. Between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

You have to push the edge so that you can push the edge.


Just like most athletic skills, pushing past your mental bonk and squeezing just a little bit more performance out of your body takes practice. You have to exist on that edge so that you know that you can. So that your body isn’t quite as inclined to follow your brain when it wants to bonk.

That means putting yourself in a position physically to make your mental bonk occur and then pushing (safely) through it. Here are some of the best ways to get there:

1) The Ruck

Made famous by the armed forces (and military movies from the 70s) this is walking long distances with something heavy on your back. Think of a rucksack.

You can obviously just load a backpack up with rocks and go for a jog, but if you want a little bit of an extra challenge I recommend taking on an actual long-distance backpacking trip. You get to see some picturesque wilderness, eat weird freeze-dried shit to save weight in your pack, and walk long distances with something heavy on your back.

Plus, out in the wilderness no one can hear your mental bonk. Or something.

2) Farmer’s Carries

There are a lot of amazing athletic benefits to the farmer’s carry: leg strength, power, grip strength, full body training, cardio, etc., etc. And there’s also one important mental benefit, the heavier the load the faster your mind will bonk.

For most people, the grip is the first thing to go in a farmer’s carry and it takes a lot of mental fortitude to keep hanging on to something when your forearms are fatigued. This exercise will probably take you to the edge (and past it) pretty quickly.

You can use any sort of heavy weight you have, too — backpacks, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, children, dogs, whatever you got.

3) One Hard Thing Every Day

I don’t remember where this idea first caught my eye, but it will definitely build up your confidence in the space between your mental bonk and physical one. It’s also pretty good for developing your willingness to just DO a hard task rather than procrastinate it.

Basically, you just choose 1 hard thing that you’ll do every. single. day.

That’s it.

  • 100 exercises challenges (push-ups, burpees, squats, etc.)
  • 10 minutes of yoga or meditation
  • 1 interaction with a stranger out in public

The possibilities are endless. Just make sure you choose something that’s hard for you and the gets you to push your edge.

While some of these exercises may feel akin to torture, use them wisely (and often) to push back the appearance of your mental bonk. And, you know, get some physical benefits too.

Want more?

May is #MindsetMonth over at Iron Octopus Fitness because your brain is one of your most important pieces of gear. And sometimes it probably doesn’t behave the way you want it to.

  • Negative thoughts taking your focus off the game?
  • Pre-game (or mid-game!) jitters making it hard to perform?
  • Feeling like you just had the worst game of your life?

This month I’ll be putting together a 4-part video series that will give you the tools to get out of your own head and just play. If you want to join the course and get specially selected prompts to help your work through some of your mental barriers



About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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