You’ve probably heard this term thrown around multiple times before. In my opinion, it has become somewhat of a cliche these days. I have spoken to more than a few of you about this topic, and a lot of you believe that you simply don’t possess it. You believe that you are mentally weak when it comes to hard workouts, nutrition, or life in general. Let me explain to you what I think mental toughness really is, based on my experience, and after reading this, you may realize you do possess the mindset to conquer whatever life throws at you.
Mental toughness is not the absence of weak or self defeating thoughts. It is the ability to perform, despite these thoughts. The ability to stubbornly refuse to listen to your mind when it tells you to stop, to back off, or to quit. I have been working out for 5 years now, and every single workout that I do, at some point my mind tells me to quit. Every single time. I just don’t. Plain and simple.
When I was 17 I was doing some training during a really cold week in March, my first time away from home. I was about 130lbs and had a really low body fat percentage. For guys like me, the cold weather does not treat you well. It is very difficult to stay warm with barely any fat or even muscle mass on your body. Day one into a five day trip, I wanted to quit. Around day three, I wanted to cry. I was so worried that I was going to cry in front of everyone. (I found out later that some people did cry to themselves in private).
I realized that those who were training me did not care about my feelings. They did not care about how uncomfortable I was. They cared about what I did despite this discomfort.
So with all these negative thoughts in my head, I just stubbornly ignored them and did what I had to do. I took it one day at a time, and made it a goal everyday to make it to each meal. Get to breakfast, survive until lunch, hold on until dinner, and finally get some sleep (3 hours if I was lucky). Humour also goes a long way; in any situation, a little laughter always give you that extra morale boast that you needed.
In the end, before I got out, I completed the course. When my parents came to get me 5 days later, I got in the car, and finally let it out, I cried. It is still to this day, the coldest I have ever been in my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m glad I did it. Dramatic? maybe. But this is the truth, this is what happened.
What I am trying to say here is that the negative thoughts you have are normal. It is a primal human instinct to preserve you under stress. It never goes away. And if you never have these thoughts, I firmly believe that you are not pushing yourself to that breaking point, and you are therefore NOT mentally tough. There is no courage without fear. And the opposite of fear is love. The love of what you are doing, the people around you, the community as a whole, conquers fear.
You crazy people are mentally tough, I witness it daily. Don’t sell yourself short (you know who you are!)
So when the open comes around and you feel that throat burning sensation that we are all familiar with, when you start to think you can’t go any further and your mind tells you to quit…
Don’t listen. Simple as that.
I will speak on behalf of all the coaches when I say, we don’t care about your score on the leaderboard. We care most about your character, your effort, and your integrity.
Have an awesome day.