Mental Toughness for Athletes

Mental Toughness for Athletes

📅September 21st, 2016, 16:00

How do you get the most out of yourself when training or competing? Our professional runner/Recharge co-owner Renee Metivier shares her thoughts and some personal experience as we ponder…

Renee Running 3What helps you dig deep when you feel like you have nothing more to give? What can enable you to transcend expectations from both yourself and peers? How do you get the most out of yourself, when you don’t even know what that is?

I’m talking about that extra ounce of energy, that last surge of speed, when your body is screaming at you to slow down and give up. When your mind starts throwing doubts your way and you feel like giving in, but you yell at yourself, “No! I am not done!”

People always talk about the mental aspect of sports. That training is as much mental as it is physical. There’s no argument about the physical side of athletics, but how do you quantify the mental training for athletes?

I believe that you can be your worst competitor in a race or workout. I believe that you (your mind) can get in your own way when trying to get everything out of yourself. Is your mind everything? No. You have to be healthy, train extremely smart & hard, and want it very badly as well. But giving every bit you have is directly related to how well your mind can push you to your max.

When adversity strikes, which it will, more doubts and limitations will arise in your mind that will create a downward spiral effect in your performance. I have been there myself. I ran my second marathon this past December in California where expectations were high, but I struggled with my fueling and ended up with a cramp in my left calf at mile 10. I still had sixteen miles to go! But I was happy and celebrating at the end of that race, because I dug deep and finished what is strengthgiving it everything I had even though I wanted to quit (Disclaimer: I am not saying you should run through cramps!). I bet most of you can think of a time where you can relate in your own training or personal life…since they are connected. This is when you can define “success as the direct result of how well your mind channels your physical talents.” It is easy to do well when everything is going great, but how do you respond when the going gets tough? When obstacles or doubts hit you over and over again?

There are a few strategies and tips that I have learned that help you stay focused and fighting:

  • Mantras are powerful. I write on my hand (where I can see it) what I need to focus on, whether that is relaxing the first half of the race or thinking like a tiger during the second half. Write what helps motivate you. Eminem lyrics are one of my go-to’s…who cares as long as it works for you!
  • Focus on the moment…and only that moment. Only focus on what you need to do right then right that second or minute, not the next mile, repetition, or how far you have left. I will say to myself, “You can do anything for another minute.” Then I will repeat that as often as needed….even for 16 miles!
  • Keep a confidence training journal and make notes what went well in your key workouts, strength training, and even recovery days. Read over it the night before to gain confidence on all the training and preparation you have been putting in!
  • Think about your form. When you get tired, your form tends to break down which leads to inefficiency and higher injury risk. Try focusing on pumping your arms when your legs get tired while running. Make sure your jaw and shoulders are relaxed. My sports psychologist calls it going through your dashboard – it is a helpful tool that helps you stay in the moment!

In essence, we don’t really know what our limits are. When I am out racing, I see that challenge as the ultimate test of my physical prowess as well as my mental toughness. And like your physical training, your mind needs constant training and fine-tuning. Don’t dwell on mistakes or setbacks – we all tend to be too hard on ourselves! The key is to learn, readjust, and move forward to become the best versions of ourselves.

Because if you truly give everything you have, you will never disappointed.

Related Articles:

Overcoming Training Fatigue and Burnout

Perfecting the Taper for Better Athletic Performance

Better Running Form: Injury Prevention And Performance

Work Smarter, Not Harder