Mental Toughness: What is it and How Can You Apply it to Your Own Training?

A common definition of mental toughness:

‘a personal capacity to deliver high performance on a regular basis, despite varying degrees of situational demands’

We can all relate to this where we have had the initial motivation to perform a task when the thought arises in our head before certain circumstances arise (weather, work, traffic etc) limits our capacity to perform the task as we want to and therefore don’t attempt the task at all. Now obviously some circumstances are beyond our control and part of being mentally tough is accepting this, however what we must learn from this definition is that if we want to be mentally tough, we must focus on our behaviour and not our thoughts. You must behave in a mentally tough way and not just think about behaving in this way. Backing up day to day and week to week, regardless of the circumstances is the key to demonstrating mentally tough behaviours and will be the cornerstone to our success in our own goals for our running.

Dont think, do!

We can be in the best shape of our lives, but if we lack mental toughness when we toe the line, we may as well kiss our goal time goodbye.

When you set your goals and select your race whether it is a 5k or marathon or triathlon , you need to be diligent and committed to the cause.

  • Dive into it, live it, breathe it, trust your training.
  • You must be prepared to go to bed pretty tired and wake up tired regardless of your level of training.
  • Identify the barriers that may prevent you from achieving your goal and work out how to get around them (days and times and length of time you can train for), family and work commitments)
  • Plan your programme, be flexible with this.
  • Commit to the training required.

If you are serious about running a marathon or doing a triathlon, then you must be serious about making the commitment. Getting to the start line has nothing to do with chance and everything to do with preparation and work ethic.
You must give 100% of what you have, you must challenge your mind. Harness the power of your mind to help you to succeed. You must get to your place of struggle and push past it. Focus on the task at hand. You are building the character of the person that you want to be.

The hardest part of running, cycling or swimming is how we think about these disciplines. Your mental relationship with them defines your experiences. By focussing more on the mental side of things, you can boost your confidence before your key races and build intrinsic motivation so that you are training and racing for the right reasons.
A big avenue for improvement is mastering your mindset and improving your confidence, willingness to suffer sometimes and find the motivation to run consistently.
Resist the urge to quit, embrace difficulty, and respond positively to setbacks.

The 4 C’s of Mental Fitness-Commitment, Confidence, Control & Concentration

Commitment-ability to continue working toward your agreed goals. After you set your goal, relentlessly pursue, persist through obstacles and take pride in what you are doing along the way.

Confidence-belief in your abilities. It speaks volumes. A state of mind that comes from knowing you have the ability to meet the demands of situations you are likely to face. Knowing you are prepared physically and mentally. You can influence your own confidence, it can vary up and down so it takes constant nurturing. Your confidence and your trust in your training can 100% aid your performance in workouts and race day.

To build your confidence, you must reflect on past training and performances, remember the successful performances, visualize how it went and felt, all your hard work paying off, focus on the positives.

We need to exercise control over our self talk, the influence of our thoughts may be either positive and self enhancing or negative and self defeating.

Speak kindly to yourself 🙂

Control-ability to maintain emotional control regardless of distraction. Until you control yourself, you cannot control your performance.

Thoughts and feelings ⇒ Actions and behaviours. Don’t let the fear of failure control your emotions. Deal with performance anxiety long before race day. It really boils down to a single choice. We have a choice when the going gets tough to either listen to those thoughts or steer them in a positive direction that helps support our desires. It’s really just the art of paying attention and the privilege of shaping that choice to persevere and every choice either takes us closer to or further away from our goal. We must train with a positive attitude every day.

We train to build and race to test. If we remove performance anxiety from the daily training environment then we are starting to understand endurance disciplines.

Concentration-ability to maintain focus. Focus mental effort on the task at hand. Don’t ride the line of in-between, there are black and white decisions that we have to make in training workouts and race situations

mental toughness 2

Michelle Greaney (Personal Trainer and Level 2 National Athletics Ireland Endurance Coach)

MG Coaching-Maximising Your race Potential

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