Mental toughness. Raise your hand if this is something that you would like more of?
I thought that mental toughness was something that you either had or didn’t have…somewhat like talent. I had friends that would talk about “going to the pain cave” on a race and I didn’t believe I had the ability to go there. I associated mental toughness with catchy phrases like “you are tougher than you think” and I felt like these didn’t have a huge impact for me on race day.
Last year my coach shared a really great podcast with me. On Triathlon Research Radio Mark Allen described the Mindset of Triathlon. A piece that I really took away from the podcast is that positive self talk in a race can only get you so far. If you aren’t able to listen to the entire podcast, this video below describes it quite succinctly.
At some point in your race it is going to hurt so badly that your brain will no longer believe all of the nice, fluffy positive things you are telling yourself. The best way to be able to move past that is to learn how to quiet your mind. Learn how to shut off the negative chatter within your brain. You can also read more within this Triathlete article, Train The Mark Allen Way.
My brain is often a whir of emotions and thoughts. Far too often I will wake up in the middle of the night with my mind racing and I’m unable to quiet the thoughts. So quieting the mind on race day sounds great…but how do you actually do it?
Back at the end of August Sonja Wieck from Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching held a free webinar on Willpower. My biggest take away from Sonja’s talk was that the number one thing you can do for yourself right now is to start a daily meditation practice.
Could meditation be my key to learning to quiet my mind?
After the webinar I made a commitment that I would meditate daily until at least Ironman Boulder on August 7th. I like tools and gadgets so I wanted something to help me with meditation. I downloaded the Headspace app and began using their free, 10 day introduction pack.
I liked that it helped to introduce me to meditation as a practice, with many different approaches. I’m now on a daily meditation streak of more than 160 days. Most days I will meditate for ten minutes, first thing in the morning. I’ll head downstairs with Peat, turn on the fire and Peat will snuggle in next to me. It has become a great way to start the day.
Here are my takeaways on my journey to develop mental strength so far:
- Mental strength takes time to build.
- You must seek opportunities to improve on a daily basis.
- Use the techniques you try in training all the time. If catchy words and slogans don’t work for you then continue to search for what does work for you.
Obviously there is way more to mental strength than what I can detail in a blog post. If you are looking for additional resources, I highly recommend listening to Carrie Cheadle’s webinar on Developing Mental Toughness from April 2015. Sonja also created a great webinar series called IronMind that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I am not sure if/when she is planning to offer it again. She hosted two webinars a month on topics such as confidence, motivation and goal setting. If this sounds interesting to you it may be worth reaching out to her.
What are some things that you do to build mental strength? What works for you when it becomes difficult to stay positive on a training run or in a race?
Do you use the Headspace app?