A Bit About Mental Toughness, Guest Post by Ryder Williams, CF-L2 and Army Medic
Mental toughness is a term that gets thrown around a lot in fitness circles. It seems like everyone from elite athletes, to fitness influencers, coaches and motivational speakers all agree that mental toughness is a good thing to have. And that it can have a huge influence on our mental health. But what even is it? And if we don’t have it, how do we get it?
Let’s start with what mental toughness is not. It is not pushing through pain. It is not grabbing the barbell even though your lungs are burning, and it is not sprinting the last two hundred meters of a 5k so you can PR. These are all great examples of physical toughness, or pain tolerance, but plenty of people can go hard in a workout and not have mental toughness.
One of my longtime boxing coaches said, “being tough means being able to take a punch. Being mentally tough means that you keep thinking you’re gonna win the fight no matter how many punches you take.” I would say that being mentally tough means staying positive in the face of obstacles or failures. It’s about keeping your cool and assessing your situation to determine the best possible actions you can make.
So if that’s our definition of mental toughness; how do we practice that? Here are some tips and takes on how to deal with stressful situations I’ve learned from my time as an army medic, coach, and general human being going through life:
Visualize the best and worst case scenario. Visualize yourself succeeding at whatever you’re trying to accomplish, but also have a game plan if things don’t go your way. Fail to plan, plan to fail type stuff.
If you miss an attempt – accept it, but keep moving toward the next one. Don’t waste energy thinking about why you failed that last squat snatch. Focus instead on all the things you know you can do to hit the next one.
Accept that some things are out of your control and focus your energy on the things that you can control. You can’t control what your coach programs in the workout, but you can control your attitude and effort in every workout that’s thrown your way.
Of course all these things don’t just apply to working out. Apply these concepts to feel more confident in every aspect of your life, from your job to relationships and everything between. “There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” – Miyamoto Musashi