Mental Toughness: A How To Guide

Today we bring you a great article from one of our awesome past sponsored athletes: Patricia Walsh

Over the years in various fitness magazines I’ve read coach after coach state that they felt mental toughness was a tribute you are born with, and that this x—factor determines your ability to be successful.  Most recently I saw the quote “Mental toughness is usually something you’re born with or develop very early in life due to your surroundings,” says Jason Perugia, a performance-enhancement in Men’s Fitness magazine (I read it for the articles I sware).  It is in these moments I wish I had dedicated my life to sports psychology.  I don’t have *real* research on the topic, but can I just say that the idea you have an x-factor quality you are born with doesn’t seem right to me?  Or the statement that you develop mental toughness in your youth….

I believe we can start healthy patterns and healthy behaviors at any time.  It is never too late to change.   I do not believe there is a moment in time where the ship has sailed and you cannot longer improve.  If it is true that it is never too late to improve then it follows that it is never late to learn mental toughness. I believe if you are an athlete who wants to improve your performance this year you should try improving your own mental toughness by starting to practice the following behaviors.  Remember that all bad habits start somewhere which means all good habits start somewhere as well.

  1. Determine a personal mission statement:  Take a few minutes to define in 10 words or less ‘why?’ are you training?  Why are you racing?  Have a mission statement to fall back on to motivate you through the thick and thin of any end ever.
  2. Positive self-talk: possibly the corniest advice ever given and still I’ll stand by it.  Motivation usually comes in 2 forms; either motivation for achievements or motivation not to fail.  There is research to show that success motivation is more effective.  If it were as simple as turning one on and turning the other off we’d all be gold medalists.  Truth is all change takes small routine behaviors and consistency over time.  If you start a workout saying “I may not finish this for reason x, y, and z” you are pretty certain not to finish that workout.  If you start a workout saying “I will finish this workout in spite of x, y, and z” you are assured to finish.  The negative self-talk, of which we are all guilty of from time to time, gets the idea in your head.  You can use the powerful of tool of you mindset to propel you forward.
  3. Visualize the result:  If you mentally practice how it will look to succeed, how it will feel to succeed, how you will react when you succeed you are training your mind to accept nothing less.  You will be able to pull through anything and everything if you practice the muscle memory of seeing yourself successful.  Professional athletes who are in the zone have brain waves that are similar to the brain waves of a meditative state.  Training your mind to see yourself successful will help you to cultivate this same sense of being “In the zone”.

With the tools of mental toughness in hand, and all that success under your belt you’re likely to need a little help recovering. 

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