The Heart Is the Strongest Muscle

Know Your Why and Take Your Mindset from Great to Unstoppable

About the Book

The legendary six-time CrossFit Games champion and Olympic athlete shares lessons from her inspiring story of leveling up her performance, embracing failure, and fiercely taking on impossible goals.
“Champions are built in the mind first, and Tia Toomey understands exactly how to do that.”—Andy Frisella, entrepreneur, creator of 75 Hard and Real AF podcast

Tia Toomey, the world’s fittest woman, has won the CrossFit Games an incredible six years in a row and is undeniably a true warrior. She has also trained for the Winter Olympics in bobsledding, competed in the Summer Olympics in weightlifting, and was a Commonwealth Games gold medalist. She is, in short, one of the most accomplished and dominant athletes in human history.

But for Tia physical fitness is only a small part of overall strength. More important is building mental toughness.

In The Heart Is the Strongest Muscle, Tia shows how she reached elite levels by focusing on her “why.” By always having a clear picture of her purpose—what drives her heart—she can push through even the toughest challenges. From the early days of her fitness journey to the peak performance that has put her atop the podium in the CrossFit Games, Tia also reveals the secrets, struggles, and successes that have made her a killer competitor.

Nothing comes easy, but in The Heart Is the Strongest Muscle, Tia hopes to show you how to build your own unstoppable mindset. Whether you are already a serious athlete or someone looking to conquer a new challenge, you’ll be able to use her methods to keep winning.
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Praise for The Heart Is the Strongest Muscle

“Tia Toomey is one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports. You don’t become that without a bulletproof mindset. Champions are built in the mind first, and Tia understands exactly how to do that.”—Andy Frisella, entrepreneur, creator of 75 Hard and Real AF podcast

“Tia Toomey knows that being a fierce competitor is about more than just the body. Her wisdom in this book will help keep your mind sharp and heart full.”—Michael Easter, author of The Comfort Crisis and Scarcity Brain

“I have been honored to closely follow the journey and success of Tia Toomey as a high-level CrossFit athlete. But more impressive has been following her development and journey as a person. This book gives a wonderful glimpse into all aspects of her amazing journey.”—Dave Castro, director and programmer of the CrossFit Games

“Learning to have grit and mental toughness is something all of us need to constantly be working on. Having the opportunity to train with Tia showed me her persistence and resilience to keep fighting and pushing back, even when she was being challenged mentally and physically. The fire she has to never quit is extremely rare. This is a must-read for every person who wants to learn from one of the best at being mentally prepared!”—Josh Bridges, US Navy Seal, multiple CrossFit Games athlete

“Through nothing but hard work Tia has shown what the human body is capable of time and time again. Inspiring millions to pick themselves up and keep moving forward is what this book is all about. It puts fire in my belly reading what I already knew. . . . Tia is the definition of hard work pays off.”—Eddie Hall, World’s Strongest Man 2017
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The Heart Is the Strongest Muscle

Chapter 1

Keep the Heart Beating

Finding Your Why and Keeping the Momentum

I grew up on a sugarcane farm near Dunethin Rock, which sits along the Maroochy River on the Sunshine Coast about 60 miles north of Brisbane, Australia. While my home was just a few miles outside of town, it might as well have been a thousand miles away. To get to school, I’d often canoe or boat off the beautiful lush riverbank in front of our property to a neighboring farm, where I could then catch the school bus. After school, the undeveloped bush that was my backyard would be my playground, where I’d ride my motorbike, play ball with my dogs, and swim in the rolling, saltwater river. From a young age, my parents encouraged me to expend that energy in many different avenues, from taking up music—I went from playing piano to the guitar to the drums—to all kinds of sports. At one point, I played a different sport every afternoon after school, but I took to running the most. It was the training runs that made me understand how important it was to have a strong foundation and work hard for something. I loved the simplicity of being so incredibly physical without any prop or equipment. It felt so freeing to just take off on my own. I also liked the individualism of it: that you are responsible for your success alone (even though it was as much a team effort with my mum and dad helping me along the way).

“I really want to see how far I can go with my running,” I blurted out to my parents one night at the dinner table. I was about 11 at the time. “I want to represent Queensland (our state) at Nationals.”

“Okay, Tia, we’re going to have to work hard and you’re the one who’s going to have to get up early in the morning, and you’re going to have to do training sessions in the afternoon . . .” my dad said. My mum added, “And when your friends ask you to go over for sleepovers, you’re going to have to say no, because you’re going to have to train on the weekends . . .”

“Yup, got it!” I answered enthusiastically and looked back at them with steel-eyed determination. From that day on, I had support from my parents—never too much, never too little—which gave me an amazing space in which to develop and grow. I woke up at 5 a.m. to hit the pool every single morning (my dad was big on cross-training) and trained when I got home from school. Every. Single. Day. I am sure a lot of people thought, Whoa, why are her parents grinding her when she’s so young? But it was all me. I was the one getting my dad up and bugging him that we had to go. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely mornings where I would whine groggily at my dad, “Just a few more minutes of sleep . . .”

“Well, if you want to make it to Nationals, this is what it takes, Tia.”

I knew he was right.

I had my first major cross-country competition at age 11, and I was so incredibly nervous. At that age, it seemed that the other runners had so much more experience than me and here I was just making my debut. But I placed third on that first meet, and I asked my dad incredulously, “Dad, I think I could actually win at this stuff!”

My motivation went into overdrive after placing third, as I continued competing. My dad was my first coach. He had been an athlete himself—he had competed regionally in swimming and football (soccer to you Americans)—so he knew how to pump me up before a meet. He would shout encouragement from the sidelines, such as, “Come on, Tia. Show me how big your heart is!” My mum was always there, too, standing next to him, cheering me on. This helped me get to the finish line, proud and clean, knowing that I had given it my absolute all. From an early age, I knew my heart was the strongest muscle; I knew that my success relied not just on physical ability and grit, but passion. Passion is what keeps me going—I didn’t need any fancy facility or the best running shoes to give me power. That was already deep down inside me.

And, back then, as today, I wear my heart on my sleeve. When I cross the finish line, I instinctively let out an emotional roar and raise my fists in the air, letting it all out. All this passion and drive always, always, always goes back to the “why.”

Know Your Why

Everyone needs a why in his or her life—a mission statement, a purpose, a deep motivation that fuels you. The why feeds into everything you do. Ask yourself: Why do you want to run a marathon, play soccer, or, like me, win CrossFit Games over and over again? Is it to be at the top of your game in your profession? Is it to be the best person you can be? Is it to leave a legacy for your kids? Or is it to achieve financial security? Once you understand what your why is, then everything falls into place. In fact, absolutely every other key concept in this book is secondary and won’t work unless you understand this. Shane—as my husband and coach you’ll be reading a lot about him in these pages!—likes to visualize two concentric circles: The inner circle is your why and everything that is outside the circle represents all decisions based on that why. For instance, will going out for drinks on the weekend get me closer to my goal of making the CrossFit Games? Probably not. Or if I go for a swim with my friends on the weekend, will that get me in fighting form? Well, it is better than going out drinking, but it’s still probably not the best use of my time. I am sure there are a lot of places in your life where you could cut out the fat once you pose the why question. When it comes to those hard obstacles and facing adversity on a daily basis, your commitment to your why will always determine your actions; it will determine whether or not you’re going to take the easy or the hard option.

When I first started in earnest with CrossFit, Shane and I had been together for a number of years and had been having conversations on when we were going to start our family. We both felt very strongly about wanting kids one day. So my why was this: I want to be a parent who has stories to tell her kids, stories that show if they want to go out and achieve something, they can do anything they put their mind to. I wanted to create my own story first, one that could, in turn, provide hope and inspiration for my future family, so that they could grow up and absolutely crush whatever it is that they wanted to accomplish, whether it was in sports, arts, business, or marine biology.

Why am I telling you all this? To show that while everyone can have motivation, finding your why is much more important for long-lasting results. Everyone can have motivation for five minutes, but that can run low pretty quickly. Motivation is temporary. But knowing your why will give you momentum, which is much more long-lasting. Shane defines momentum as a series of habits that help you build consistency in your training. I think that people are always just looking for the quick gratification and hoping motivation gets them across that line. It may give you enough zing to make a 30-second workout reel on Instagram, but it’s not going to get you up at 5 a.m. to run in the rain for hours.

And this is where it’s important to understand the difference between motivation and momentum. Motivation is the desire to achieve a goal or a result; you need momentum to keep motivation up. Think of motivation as that boost to get you on the bike and start peddling, but it is your momentum that keeps you peddling. Motivation gets you going, but momentum is what you keeps you going.

About the Author

Tia Toomey
Tia Toomey, named one of the world’s fittest women by Sports Illustrated, is a six-time CrossFit Games champion, Olympic weightlifter, and Commonwealth Games gold medalist. She is the only CrossFit athlete to have competed in the CrossFit Games and the Olympics in the same year. With her sixth title, she solidified her record-breaking streak as the most successful CrossFit athlete the sport has ever seen. More by Tia Toomey
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