Tip: Shark Habits and Pirate Maps

Use these two tools to increase discipline, boost mental toughness, and get more done.

Clear Your Head

You can't have an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters in your head. To engage in something difficult, like training, you need to sweep the brain clear of all the traffic, the noise, and the accumulated crap. I suggest two things: shark habits and pirate maps.

The name "shark habits" comes from Robb Wolf. When it comes to getting stuff done, this means "one bite and it's gone."

Anything that's binary in my life (off/on or yes/no) I take the advice of the legendary coach Lou Holtz and "Do it now." Call it DIN.

This and the idea of shark bites have been lifesavers for me. I have a shopping list, a menu, and a weekly chores list that frees my brain up from the day to day clutter. I own 16 shirts in the same color and style, as well as six pairs of the exact same jeans and shoes.

Call me, I answer the phone. If I open my emails, I answer them. Invite me to a wedding and I RSVP. One bite.

So when I walk into the gym and it's a high-rep day of some kind, my brain doesn't start typing with the monkeys. I don't "suddenly remember" anything. I don't need to turn to my phone to deal with something. If my head is clear, I can focus on the task.

"Pirate maps" are Pat Flynn's idea of the daily habits that make you great. A pirate map is simple: go to St. John's island, find the white coconut tree, step six feet to the west, and dig down. There's the treasure. The map to fitness, health, longevity, and performance is stacking up enough "good days" to find that treasure.

For mental toughness, you need to link nights of great sleep back to back. You need to drink water and eat your protein. You need to have your shoes on, your socks pulled up, appropriate clothes and all the simple things taken care of before you can challenge yourself.

Here's my pirate map. Notice a good day begins the night before:

  1. Pre-sleep ritual: Make coffee for the morning. Take supplements. Make tomorrow's to-do list.
  2. Wake up and be grateful.
  3. One-minute meditation (app on iPhone).
  4. Daily workout: Original Strength and Easy Strength (Tim Anderson); ruck once a week (Mike Provost); hypertrophy and 30/30 as often as appropriate.
  5. Eat eight different veggies a day.

Trainers know that if every client slept nine hours every night, ate protein and veggies at every meal, drank lots of water every day, walked daily and trained appropriately three times a week, then everyone's fitness dreams would come true.

I also remind myself of losing by one point, fouling on my best throw, or missing that key lift in a meet. I let the pain pour over me and remind myself that I will NEVER feel like that again. Then I step up to the equipment and work as hard as I can to never feel like that again.

Dan John is an elite-level strength and weightlifting coach. He is also an All-American discus thrower, holds the American record in the Weight Pentathlon, and has competed at the highest levels of Olympic lifting and Highland Games. Follow Dan John on Facebook