Another fantastic piece from writer Evelyn Robinson, who contacted me through my email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Few cinematic characters quite represent the essence of mental strength, as tough fighter, Rocky. Just the mention of the character conjures up images of the battled boxer climbing up the steps up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, knocking just about every obstacle that stands in his way. This character embodies many of the characteristics of ‘natural-born winners’: the ability to set a big goal, approach it in smaller steps, allow oneself to have setbacks yet continue forging ahead, and seeing victory not as a title, if not the journey itself.
Stallone decided to produce the TV show, Strong (whose finale aired on June 2, 2016- catch the episodes on NBC.Com) in order to inspire average, everyday people to be as big a victor as Rocky. As Stallone told People, "Strong is… in my estimation, a revolutionary show because it's (takes) 20 people, put them together, and their lives are going to be dramatically changed forever. Being strong can have a lot of interpretations nowadays. People say mentally strong, physically strong, spiritually strong, but this is everything."
Strong saw ordinary people with jobs, children and many conflicting demands for their time, partner with one trainer. The latter helped them lose weight and although the goals achieved were sometimes dramatic, the most valuable lessons audiences took home, was how to discover the kind of mental strength that enables one to lead a healthier, happier life in the long term. We saw contestants push their physical limits, as well as learn psychological skills that enabled them to withstand temptation and beat laziness.
Loyal audiences know that there was plenty to be gleaned for the show. One lesson was the importance of sticking to the goal, regardless of distractions. Thus, the most successful contestants made sure to stick to their workout routines, regardless of temptations from friends and families. The key, after all, lies in balance – enjoying quality time with loved ones, but also making time for oneself.
Trainers often spoke of negativity – often the biggest stumbling block towards success. Because weight loss can have ups and downs, and moments of relapse, it was important to keep working towards one’s goal. As recovery.org notes, “Mentally strong people refuse to ‘entertain’ negative thoughts. They do not let themselves dwell on criticisms, worries or negative internal dialogue. Instead, they act as their own “cheerleaders” and talk themselves into viewing things from a more positive perspective.”
Discomfort is another important topic that was tackled. Working out consistently, getting up early to go to the gym, sticking to a healthy diet in the face of so many temptations – produces discomfort and sometimes, even, pain. However, the trainers insisted that feeling discomfort yet continuing to pursue one’s goals, was a vital quality that all successful athletes have. In this sense, the ability to balance negative emotions (“Why am I bothering?” “I am losing weight too slowly”) should be balanced logical thoughts, (“It is normal to hit a plateau” “With this change in my routine, I can get over my stumbling blocks”). As best-selling author, Jillian Michaels states, “Having a stretch where your weight loss slows to nothing is a natural phenomenon. You’re consuming fewer calories than you used to, so your metabolism has slowed down to conserve them. Keep in mind that, as long as you stick with your workouts and healthy eating, you’ll typically start losing weight again after about three weeks.” The Mayo Clinic, meanwhile, explains the logic behind weight loss plateaus: “As you lose weight, you lose some muscle along with fat. Muscle helps keep the rate at which you burn calories (metabolism) up. So as you lose weight, your metabolism declines, causing you to burn fewer calories than you did at your heavier weight.”
Of course, Strong also inspired many viewers who did not necessarily wish to lose weight, but who had goals they had yet to achieve. As Stallone said, we often find ourselves at a point in life in which we feel we aren’t making progress. However, change is always possible, if we are willing to face the unknown, take the risk required to see true progress. The Hollywood star puts it rather poignantly: “People are at a crossroad, and they say, “Either I’m just going to go down the drain, I’m going to have life put its foot on my chest, or I’m not going to be broken any more. I’m going to try to become unbreakable. I’m going to build armor around myself, a body, a strength, mentally and physically.”