THE BLOG

Strength of Mind Is What Makes the Difference

11/06/2013 10:14 BST | Updated 09/08/2013 10:12 BST

It's inside all of us; the strength to do whatever it takes to overcome even the most challenging mental and physical tests in order to achieve our goals. When the challenge is physical, you need to be fit - but your mind must be strong too. Whatever challenges we face, the best we can do is believe in ourselves. In life, you must first set yourself a target. Choose wisely, aim high, and then break your ambitious goal down into smaller achievements - these are the first steps to success.

Using my personal experience as an example, it's this ethos I'll be passing on to the brave band of participants who are signing up to take part in Survive The Yomp. As an Ambassador for the Commando Spirit Appeal, I will be helping to prepare men and women from all walks of life for a thirty mile hike through the rough terrain of 'Commando Country' in the Scottish Highlands this September.

As a former Royal Marine, it's really poignant for me to sign up to support the Commando Spirit Appeal. I know first-hand the importance of mind over matter and among the toughest challenges I faced as a Commando was The Yomp - an all-day final exercise of basic training. I was carrying over 8 and a half stone on my back, plus a machine gun and an anti-tank weapon in my bergan.The heat rose to over 30 degrees. Our troop was spread over a mile long patrol, like a snake. Led by our troop officer, we did not know how long we had to yomp for and where we were going. Most of us ran out of water. This was planned. I knew this was a make or break test, being so close to obtaining the coveted Green Beret. I had worked too hard to get here. More so, I had pride in myself and would not be beaten. Each step got me closer to the end of this challenge.I remember very clearly, what the Commando Training Centre (CTC) Commanding Officer said after completing our final commando test, this 30 miler with battle kit across Dartmoor."You have all set new standards. You will never forget the efforts that have been required to become part of the Royal Marine family. You now have set the bench mark for your own futures".

How do you know you can't achieve it, until you try? My life has been a series of challenges. I started on the road to stepping outside my comfort zone a long time ago. My love of fitness began by winning at school sports days. Despite being an overfed chubby kid, I had power in my legs.

After that first taste of success, my focus on fitness quickly became a way of life. I knew then that I'd been bitten by the bug and from then on just getting fitter and better was my goal. After leaving school, I joined the British Armed Forces and eventually joined the military's most elite force - the Royal Marines Commandos. I knew what I had to do in order to become who I wanted to be. The sooner you realise your goals, the sooner you can realise your potential. In the military I learned some of my biggest life lessons, particularly the importance of mental as well as physical fitness.I have always believed that when you're mentally and physically fit you can do anything. This continues to be one of my biggest life motivators.

Royal Marines are highly motivated, positive and fun people who bring out the best in each other - whenever you can in life, endeavour to surround yourself with positive people. After ten years of service, I felt ready for a dramatic life change. I was hungry to learn how much I could really achieve on my own. I wanted to make my mark. It was at this point my mum had a heart attack and I really woke up. I wanted to do something that I wasn't sure was possible and do something uplifting for my mum and for charity.

Within a week I started my solo 150 mile run, cross country, with all of my supplies on my back from a planned route coast to coast. This challenge really unlocked my potential. Soon I discovered all the Guinness world records I could smash whilst running with a 40lb pack on my back! My new hunger grew. I continue to step outside my comfort zone, from earning my green beret to taking on the world record attempts. Being diagnosed with epilepsy last year has added another obstacle for me to overcome but you just crack on.

I'm looking forward to supporting the participants as they prepare to Survive The Yomp. They'll be experiencing a little of what it is like to train as a Royal Marine and, for me, joining the Royal Marines was one of my best life decisions. It taught me a lot about myself, particularly my mental and physical limits. The more you understand about yourself, the more you can develop your mind and body and go further than you thought possible.

It is so important to visualise, your goal. Your mind is the key. Without the mind, there is nothing. The conditioning of the visualisation creates the 'will'.The will to win, the will to go beyond, when the body is hurting and wants to quit.

The mental aspect is more important than the physical. The will drives you every step closer to your goal - strength of mind is what makes the difference.

Lee Riley is one of the Ambassadors for the Commando Spirit Appeal, which aims to raise £1m for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund 2014. Lee will be supporting participants who are taking on this year's Commando Spirit Challenge, Survive The Yomp. Survive The Yomp will take place around the iconic settings of Achnacarry and Spean Bridge - known as 'Commando Country' from its days as the training ground of the elite Royal Marine Commandos during World War II. The area was the training ground for more than 25,000 allied commandos and its rugged, remote terrain will offer participants a true challenge of fitness, stamina and mental strength.Learn more and find out how to take at www.commandospirit.com