Strong Is a State of Mind: The 4 Habits of the Mentally Tough
What separates athletes at the top of their game from the rest of the pack is the choices they make: To push through to the end of the interval instead of backing off when it starts to hurt. To believe that victory is inevitable instead of giving in to self doubt. To learn from mistakes instead of making excuses. To set the bar high instead of settling for "good enough". And while we may not all be born with superhuman strength, speed, or endurance, we are all born with the ability to choose which path we'll take.
Talk to any coach or elite athlete and they’ll tell you, the one who takes top honors isn’t necessarily the strongest physically, but the toughest mentally. It’s not the one who’s the most naturally gifted, but the one with the most heart. That ability to dig deeper, to push harder, to transcend the pain and fatigue doesn’t come from from the body, it comes from the mind. The mental component is so important that nearly all elite athletes incorporate some kind of structured mental training into their regimen. Just as they wouldn’t dare leave their physical conditioning to chance, they don’t neglect this critical piece of the performance puzzle.
In talking with the coaches who create our workouts and training plans, they kept stressing the importance of mental training to athletic performance. If it was so important, why weren’t more amateur athletes doing it? The simple answer: very few people know where to start. Combing through sports psychology journals and trying to piece together an effective mental training programme isn’t the most fun way to spend a Friday night. A straightforward, no-nonsense mental training programme designed for time-crunched endurance athletes just didn’t exist.
SO WE MADE ONE.
In creating The Sufferfest Mental Training Programme, available now as part of The Sufferfest App Subscription, we worked closely with sports psychologists, elite coaches and the world-class athletes they train to distill their knowledge and experience into a clear framework that could be utilized by anyone, regardless of their fitness level or athletic aspirations. What all of these professionals agreed upon was that there are four key habits common to successful athletes that they use to help systematically build mental toughness:
Just like physical conditioning, these aspects of mental fitness can be strengthened with practice and consistent training. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Goal setting is the foundation of mental toughness and having a clear plan of action is essential to any undertaking. Successful athletes know who they are, where they are now, and where they want to be. They use this information to map out a clear journey, identifying exactly what steps they need to take in order to get to their destination. These aren’t just vague ideas, like “I want to be faster.” They’re specific, concrete goals. Often they’ll identify one big, long-term goal that is supported by smaller, intermediate goals. Our programme will give you a clear direction, a solid sense of purpose and help you establish personal accountability.
Distraction is the enemy of action. Distraction quite literally means, “to pull in different directions.” Those at the top of their game know how to shut out distractions and maintain laser focus, even amid the pain of a difficult workout or the chaos and pressure of intense competition. They know that strong focus is a skill that can be learned and developed through practice. Like any task, the more you do it, the more it will become second nature. Our programme will help you improve your ability to focus, ensuring you perform to your best in training and events.
REVIEWING AND IMPROVING
For the best of the best, the work isn’t over when they cross the finish line. If anything, that’s when the real work begins. They see every performance as an opportunity to learn and grow, whether they came in first or one hundred and first. They critically assess specific aspects of their performance, writing down what worked, what didn’t, and what they could do better. And it’s not enough to limit these reviews to races. Almost all elite endurance athletes have some sort of training journal, a diary of sorts where they reflect upon their workouts. By continuing to refine the way they train, successful athletes ensure that they’re getting the most out of each and every session. The Mental Training Programme will help you review your training habits and performances, identifying areas where you can improve.
It seems cliché, but fostering a positive mindset is one of the most important things you can do if you want to be not only a successful athlete, but a successful person. People who focus on the negative are more prone to disease and have shorter lifespans. Athletes who put themselves down end up finishing down the results. But the truly badass know that believing you can achieve something is the first, necessary step to accomplishing it. They know that things don’t always go as planned. They know that obstacles are merely opportunities. They are their own best cheerleaders, their own greatest advocates, and their own biggest fans. This programme will give you tools and techniques to create a positive, exciting mindset.
These four key habits -- Goal Setting, Strong Focus, Reviewing & Improving, and Positive Thinking— form the pillars of a strong mental game. They are the foundation on which mental toughness is built. Those who dominate in their chosen fields cultivate these habits, training them with the same determination as they train their bodies. Their secret is out. Now it’s time for you to put it to work with The Sufferfest Mental Training Programme.