Mental toughness is frequently misunderstood. But if it doesn’t mean gritting your way through pain and suffering, then what is it and what’s a better way to develop this skill?
Like any other skill, developing mental toughness takes time and practice, and should be implemented well before race day. Often endurance athletes face two issues when trying to develop this essential skill: First, we frequently misinterpret the true meaning of this concept. And second, we struggle with how to make this a regular part of our daily training.
While mental toughness is often equated with perseverance, it also requires you to be in tune with your body. Pushing through illness or injury is not mental toughness. But challenging yourself in a workout, or not giving up on a tough long run, all walk the fine line of being able to dig deep while finding the internal resources to do difficult things.
Dr. Justin Ross on the skill of mental toughness
On the podcast this week we have Dr. Justin Ross, a clinical psychologist and the director of Workplace Wellbeing at the University of Colorado Health Hospital. He is also a competitive athlete, having qualified for the Boston Marathon 6 times. Dr. Ross has also competed in two Ironman 70.3 distance races, and recently completed the Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race.
Our discussion today focuses on the essential components of mental toughness, and is full of practical advice that you can use in your own training. Some of the topics we touch on include:
- The varying definitions of mental toughness
- What doesn’t work: classic mistakes athletes make when trying to become mentally tough
- Learning how to normalize the voice of doubt we all face
- What is attentional control and how can we use it for more focused workouts?
- How do our daily experiences contribute to mental toughness?
- Do non-sport specific activities (like ice baths) build mental toughness?
Mental training is such an important component of finding success as an endurance athlete. I hope our conversation can help you take your training to the next level!
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