Mental Toughness

The last 4 months (and counting) have tested everyone on many levels. The obvious is the physical toll. The slightly less obvious is the mental impact but it should not be overlooked. In this article we take a look at mental strength as it relates to fitness.

From physical → mental 

Outside of the physical aspect of fitness there is the huge, oftentimes overlooked piece of the mental game. When someone is involved with sport or fitness in general, there is more to consider than just the physical. The aggressive contact with another person, knees aching from miles of running on pavement or the sweat dripping down the forehead are just the pieces that a body can sense. The glue that connects these senses and drives one to push through that workout or fight someone for the goal is the brain, the focus of the mind. The mind is arguably the most powerful tool an athlete can harness to improve.

Attitude is everything

As a coach, I have come across so many humans with bad attitudes, fixed mindsets and constant complaints. I’m not saying I haven’t had my own struggles with attitude, because I have, and it’s okay. Realizing that this is a problem is the first step towards making a shift to better. A perpetual mindset that is stuck in the I’m not getting stronger or this is as fast as I will ever be can do some serious damage not just to your own confidence and physical output, but others around you as well! The problem with a lot of athletes (myself included) is that we get stuck inside our head, convincing ourselves we aren’t good enough, strong enough or capable of doing the task at hand. The solution is convincing yourself that you are enough. 

Mental toughness breeds confidence

You may recall a time in your life when you were asked by a coach, teammate or family member to try something new on the field, in the gym or on the court. It’s possible you even felt uncomfortable and declined trying for fear of failure. This scenario has likely happened more than once and hopefully your responses will have changed. We don’t want to live in fear (although fear is healthy, like anything else in excess can turn ugly). What we as coaches try to establish is something called mental toughness. When you’re in that moment lifting a weight you haven’t tried before or pushing yourself beyond your pain threshold and you hear your coach yelling at you to keep going – that is where we see your mind developing and your mental toughness building. When you go beyond what you thought capable, suddenly you’re on top of the world. Your oxytocin levels are skyrocketing and you want more! That’s the kind of grit that will take you to the next level, in and outside of the gym. 

Okay, and? 

The next time you want to complain that a workout is boring or isn’t what you “need” how about you accept what is given to you and do it anyway? Perhaps you aren’t sure what you need, and sometimes doing 100 burpees for time is what your body and mind need for that day. (Btw, 100 burpees for time is a great test of mental toughness!) Some of you are rolling your eyes, but your attitude will take your fitness far. The more you do workouts you don’t want to, and push through the hard parts, the more confidence and fierceness you will develop – I guarantee it. We live in a strange world right now, and I believe it could use less complaining, negativity and bad attitudes. Positive self-talk is what we need more of. Praise of your peers is what we need more of. You wouldn’t tell your friend they aren’t getting faster in their mile time, so why are you telling yourself these lies? Force yourself to do the things that make you uncomfortable and stretch your thinking to go beyond what you think you’re capable of. You will surprise yourself and come out better for it! 

For more information on the spiritual side of sports and fitness, check out The Mental Athlete by Kay Porter. This book is a mental training guide that teaches you how to maximize physical performance through mental & emotional toughness.

Written by Liz Moran, Coach, JCFit

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