A violent shock ricochets throughout my entire body as I submerge myself in the dark water. Sharp pain shoots up my spine, piercing my brain like a fucking ice pick. The key at this stage is to focus all your energy into putting one arm in front of the other as you gasp for breath with each stroke. A previously automated task now impossible as your lungs have shrivelled to a fraction of their normal size. This is only the beginning of ocean swimming in the middle of winter.

In my experience, this is the closest replication of dying I have yet to encounter. There seems to be a brief period within the first 5 minute of entering the water where your body goes into hyper intense shock. A phase indistinguishable from a heart attack. Cold exposure is one thing, but to train for prolonged periods in these conditions is as intense as exercise gets.

For the average joe, physical exercise is a means to an end. Primarily, aesthetics and health are the desired outcome. While those factors alone are normally enough to get people to the gym a few times a week. Very few people seem to be able to train past a certain threshold of intensity. I believe this is because they lack a reason or purpose to do so. After all that type of training is no walk in the park.

Before i continue, I should briefly outline my definition of high intensity physical exercise. When I refer to high intensity training, I’m simply referring to any type of physical training that is mentally gruelling. This can be anything from a 1RM Squat to running at high altitudes. Basically, any type of training that is more mentally challenging than it is physically.

While aesthetics and health encourage a baseline consistency for the average gym bunny. The select few people who find themselves dabbling in high intensity training uncover a whole new purpose. One that sucks them deeper and deeper into the hells of physical activity. From the outside world, the people who fall down this rabbit hole often appear slightly psychotic.

So what is it that generates the immersion that is so commonly seen in these athletes?

When physical activity surpasses a certain threshold, health and aesthetics diminish to mere by-products. The primary tool that is being sharpened in these advanced circumstances is an iron mindset. The most addicting factor to high intensity physical activity is the way it develops your capacity to deal with adversity. At first glance this may seem like a dismal reason to undergo such stressors. However, if you take a step back and examine the recipe for achieving any goal. The most powerful skill anyone can utilise is the ability to deal with adversity.

With any goal, achievement or desire. The people who reach the highest levels of success are those who are most resilient. Once you have this realisation, high intensity training no longer signifies meaningless pain. But rather the most efficient tool for creating the iron mindset required to excel in all areas of life.

What exactly is an iron mindset?

An iron mindset contains…

  • A strong sense of self belief
  • High self esteem
  • Copious hunger, drive and motivation
  • Resilience
  • Willpower and grit
  • Courage

What people fail to realise is that the above traits are like muscles. The more you use them, the stronger they become and the bigger they grow. Intense Physical exercise not only trains the body, but even more so it trains the mind.

For everyone out there who wants to grow dramatically as a person and is willing to do whatever it takes. This is the place to start. Pick any form of high intensity physical exercise and begin the journey of testing your physical limits as a human being. It’s not the easiest path of personal development. It requires the least amount of thinking and the most amount of doing. However, I favour this method of growth for those who are struggling with stagnation in their current life circumstances as it brings on the most rapid change in character. Be warned this isn’t for the faint hearted.

That being said, i guarantee you you’re stronger than you will ever know.