Competitive Advantage: Choose To Be Mentally Tough

As a coach of competitive athletes and fitness enthusiasts, both online and at my gym, I see a variety of characters. Those that hit their targets and achieve goals share a common trait: mental toughness.

Mental toughness is a key ingredient to achieving anything. It’s not a trait we are born with. It is a choice. Willingness to accept discomfort and forge ahead through challenges is a choice – keep going or quit.

Recently I have worked with a few people who have shared their frustration that they are failing to reach their potential and/or wish to expand what is possible, but they feel they lack the mental toughness to do so. It has been my experience that the following excuses quickly come up when we assess their training.

The athlete ‘needs’:

  • Better equipment, different music, workout buddies, cheerleaders, someone to count my reps, etc
  • The fan on, window open, towels, more chalk, tape, wraps, belts, etc
  • Pre-workout supplements, carbs at the perfect time, water bottle, intra workout fuel, etc.

“You want to be mentally tougher? Be tougher.” Jocko Willink

Mental toughness is a choice. Once we embrace the challenge of achieving a goal and commit to achieving it the only thing holding you back will be how much you’re willing to accept discomfort. To put it more simply, every day you’re going to be faced with a choice: do it or quit. Just do it. Don’t have your training buddies with you at the gym? Good, you don’t need them. Music not heavy enough for you? Good, you don’t need it. Just get after it.

Create the environment. Of course a positive team environment can be a booster. However it is the people in the environment that create the atmosphere so why don’t you BRING IT. Be the person you want to hang around. Create the atmosphere you want to train in by leading others. If you don’t have your team with you every session but you still turn up with the same positive attitude you will become less dependant on others for intensity.

Attack your weaknesses. Even some of the best athletes, those who you think are the mentally toughest, have fears. I recently asked a CrossFit Games athlete what would they least like to see in their next competition. The answer? Thrusters. A bread and butter exercise. The Thruster is probably the most quintessential CrossFit movement. To solve this hurdle the athlete is going to add an extra session containing Thrusters each week for the next 10 weeks. Over that time it is likely that 500-700 extra Thrusters will be completed and that fear will be eradicated. Highlighting pre-existing strengths does little to aid growth. On the other hand, addressing weaknesses is a powerful training method.

Discipline is necessary. You don’t need a new program with highly specific exercises. You don’t need the latest shoes or a new brand of supplements. Elite fitness can be achieved by doing the simple things. You just need to do them frequently and consistently. You need the right attitude. Attitude can be trained in most individuals. Consistently applying positive stress (training) and adapting will cause change. Developing a habit or breaking an old one may take time, but being disciplined in taking action with awareness will work.

Ultimately there are lots of ways to build your mental toughness but it all begins with grit and determination. If you’re struggling to get results and you know it’s not your programming, then reflect on the principles I’ve just given you. Think about the FIRST thing that popped into your head and be consistent with that for the next week. I’d love to hear your results.

Alternatively, if you find it hard to start, contact us and we’ll discuss how to take the first steps.

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