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?
I am linking up with MCM Mama, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice for Tuesdays on the Run.
I was using that headspace app for a while, sadly I fell off of doing it daily but this is a good reminder to get back at it.
Jen recently posted…Weekend Recap – A Homebody’s Chronicles
Mental strength is perhaps more important than your physical strength, your VO2 Max, your swim bike run times at various distances, and all that other stuff us triathletes measure. It doesn’t matter how powerful your engine is, or what great milage it gets, if you can’t start it up and keep it in gear. At least some people drop out of the longer races because they didn’t develop the mental toughness or strength to keep it going. They got tired, or bored, and gave up mentally before their body did.
There are two big sources of mental strength. Some of it comes from completing successively tougher workouts, recovering, and tackling even harder workouts with enthusiasm. You know you’ve done everything possible to have a good workout, so you go get it done. It also comes from dealing with training days that go all pear shaped. It comes from days when you goof on your nutrition, or you try something new that didn’t work out, or the weather sucks, or your friends bail, or your electronics die, or your favorite pair of pants decide to chafe somewhere sensitive, and you carry on anyways. It comes from coping with failure, and it comes from the confidence of success.
The meditation is a great way to learn to clear your mind and deal with the negative chatter that can creep in. It takes practice, just like everything else we do.
keith recently posted…The opposite of stillness
Amazing post – so many great takeaways. THANK YOU!!!!
This is so great! I have never really thought of “turning off” the negative chatter. I can really get in my own head when things get tough and I need to be able to shut that off instead of letting it turn in to a downward spiral. Now I just wish I had more time to practice mediation before LA this weekend…
Marilyn recently posted…TAPER TO DO LIST
I have never heard of the headspace app. Will have to look that up. Your legs can on take you so far, then it becomes mental. I like to think I have mental toughness but there is always room for improvements
lacey recently posted…Cheating in February
I’m not one for meditating. I’ve tried repeatedly and I just can’t do it. Not that I can’t quiet my mind — I can definitely do that. But I just can’t get “into” the meditation part of it.
I’m so glad you’re able to quiet your mind, now. 160 days is a long streak! I hope it helps you with races!
Rachel recently posted…Bring Your Cadence to Tempo [Form February]
I think part of being a “child athlete” was an ability to kill the chatter and focus at an early age. I would love to learn more about the techniques of mental strength mainly because I’m a nerd and just love to learn.
Ange recently posted…Distance or Time? How to get the most out of your running
I started doing yoga and some meditation too. I never thought I could quiet my brain … it’s been very helpful as I just went through an unexpected break up and one hot mess 🙂 Thank you for the suggestions. I will listen to them. Medication is pretty cool. I am glad you found your way to it.
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