Mental toughness sounds cool, even useful, but what exactly does it mean? A mentally strong athlete is dedicated, comfortable suffering and driven. When the going gets tough they hunker down, embrace the suck and remember what they’re working for. It’s someone who has the ability to cope with many demands in a consistently superior way to their opponents while remaining focused, confident and determined. That’s the kind of athlete East Coast Run Project builds.
An invaluable asset in competition, mental toughness is more than just being dedicated. Yes, believing in your goals is a huge part of succeeding but ‘mind over matter’ isn’t just something people say for the sake of saying something. It’s true. Your brain is programmed to sell you short. Ever feel like you can’t run one more step then accelerate when the finish line comes into view? A big fan of the status quo who’s adverse to pain and suffering your brain will shut things down long before your muscles. Here’s a study that explains it in detail. In short, your mental state does not always reflect your physical state. You are truly stronger than you think you are.
Part of mental toughness is about accessing everything you’ve got. Most importantly it’s finding the strength to use your brain to beat, well, your brain. After you’ve accepted that your body can do more than your mind wants to you can use it perform at a higher level. By misleading cyclists about a competitor’s speed this study discovered they magically had the ability to perform at a 2% (!!!) higher ‘maximum’ speed. They pedaled faster than their ‘100%’ because they thought they weren’t there yet. Their brains were tricked into thinking it was status quo when it wasn’t.
The fastest way to trick our brains? Positive self talk. Instead of muttering ‘this sucks’ or ‘is it over yet?’ in the middle of a muscle shredding workout, smile. Saying ‘I got this’ or ‘this workout feels good‘ can actually make it easier. It’s been shown that a repeated positive statement can give you the extra push you need to hit a new PR, finish within the time limit or conquer that fear. Step one in developing mental toughness is finding that phrase. Find the words that will keep you moving forward when things get hard and learn to use them.
Note: Telling yourself you’re fine when you aren’t isn’t always a good idea. Injury and over training happen when we ignore and push through pain signals from our bodies. Part of being a mentally tough athlete is listening to your body, knowing the difference between good pain and bad and knowing what’s on the line if you push past it.
Entry fees are paid, a hotel is selected and celebratory champagne brunch is booked! You are financially invested in and 100% dedicated to your athletic goal. Now you have to prepare to fight for it. You must become durable. The term durability refers to one’s ability to “resist wear, decay; [to be] lasting, enduring.” A durable athlete maintains a steadfast course towards their goals with a combination of physical toughness and mental toughness. Both are assets East Coast Run Project seeks to create while helping you become a better athlete.
Physical toughness is more than just fighting it out for a sixteen week training cycle while avoiding injuries and staying focused. Another term for mind over matter, physical toughness means bearing down and making your way through uncomfortable situations without any thought of quitting.
Physical toughness is not just strength. You can be plenty strong without having much toughness. The ability to overcome challenging situations and still perform well is the trademark of a physically tough athlete. They can adapt to difficult terrains, continue functioning after a misstep and recover quickly. This kind of grit, however, does not develop overnight.
You have to be disciplined and dedicated. You must acknowledge that you are capable of more than your mind leads you to believe. Push yourself each day to give your body a new challenge: shorter rest, a workout outside, a run through the deep sand. Each test will make your body physically tougher. Ultimately, the key to being a physically tough athlete is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. And that takes practice.
Finally, physical toughness is not blind. It has a soft side. A tough athlete knows how important it is to listen to and respect your body because the last thing they want is to push it beyond its limits into over training or injury. Challenge your body while being sure to give it the water, food and rest it needs.
East Coast Run Project is here to guide you on your journey to becoming a more dedicated, physically and mentally tougher athlete. We can’t wait to have you visit again!
Webster’s Dictionary defines dedication as “a feeling of very strong support for or loyalty to someone or something : the quality or state of being dedicated to a person, group, cause, etc.” Synonyms include allegiance, devotion and commitment. At East Coast Run Project, this is our first team requirement. You must have the dedication to your goals that reaching them requires.
Why? Because training is hard. There will be rainy days and cold days and hot days. You will be tired. Soreness will creep in. You will ask yourself ‘why?’
Know why you want to accomplish something. Exactly what it means to you. Be able to enjoy each step along the way even when it’s challenging is key to reaching your goals.
It’s easy to lose site of your goal and get off track with so many things trying to get in the way. Be 100% dedicated to accomplishing what you’ve set out to. Whether it’s a monthly objective, annual goal or long term destination, that dedication will ensure that you can make it through hard days.
Be 100% dedicated to your training, recovery and fueling every single day with your goal firmly locked into focus.