Many have heard the sayings “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”, “Toughest day was yesterday” , “No pain, no gain”. These quotes are mental reminders to help us get through a tough day or a tough workout. Many people don’t realize that the mental aspect of every workout is just as tough as the workout itself.
One sports psychologist put it, mental toughness is “the ability to consistently perform toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.” In other words, being mentally tough means that no matter how ruthless the situations. Having mental toughness will help you tolerate all the pain and suffering needed to perform to the full potential of your skills and abilities. This will take you to the highest state of readiness.
As psychologists debate the roles of genetics, environment, and learned skills in determining mental toughness, they do agree that high levels of mental toughness are associated with athletic prowess and success. In fact, mental toughness or “grit” may be the defining factor between finishing at the front of the pack and not finishing at all.
A good example of this is running a marathon. When running a marathon (26.2 miles) for the first time many find these aspects to be true. While training does make a major role, It is the mental toughness that will push you though to the finish. I found this to be true when I ran my first one. My muscles were done and shut down and I was ready to quit at the 20 mile mark but that’s when my mental toughness kicked in and would not let me quit and helped me push out that last 6 miles of the race. My mind had to take me to a different place so I could block out all the pain, cramps and exhaustion. Without that mental edge I would have just folded up and quit like some others that I saw.
What you’re physically capable of in an endurance environment is more determined by your mental strength than your physical capabilities… your body can go beyond what your physical perceptions of tiredness or fatigue are. Your brain will be telling you “You’re tired, Stop.” It’s trying to stop you from killing yourself. The mental limitations kick in before the physical limitations. Visualization is a piece of the training that is incredibly important. You don’t have to do anything physically—you can be meditating or walking, anything where you’re in your mind, playing it out in advance. You’re imagining the start, the route, the competition, those points that your body is saying, ”stop,” or that you’re suffering. You’re mentally training yourself to push through those barriers
To realize your full potential as an athlete or performer, you have to start training your mind as well as your body! Just as you develop physical skills and techniques, you must learn to develop these mental skills. What are these so-called mental skills?
•Staying relaxed under pressure, in what I call “good nervous.”
•Focusing on what’s important and letting go of everything else.
•Rebounding from mistakes, bad breaks and failures.
•Handling last minute self-doubts and negative thinking.
•Using mental rehearsal for upcoming performances.
•Motivating yourself by setting personally meaningful and compelling goals.
•Recognizing mental traps and avoiding them.
•Developing self-confidence and a positive, go-for-it attitude.