What is Mental Toughness?
Mental toughness means different things to different people.
For this discussion, I wish to focus on the specific type of mental toughness that means sticking with a extremely challenging task through completion even when there is extreme discomfort involved.
The kind of mental toughness I’m referring to…
…gets a Navy Seal through Hell Week in BUD/S.
…gets a Games athlete through 12+ grueling events in the CrossFit® Games.
…gets you through the unique challenges of your day-to-day training.
…get you through the death of a loved one.
Mental Toughness in Functional Fitness
Mental toughness is certainly a useful skill, especially to the Functional Fitness Competitor whose success depends on it. The ability to subject oneself to extreme discomfort, hurt, and pain is what makes many of the top competitors in the sport great.
The perennial powers (think Ben Smith and Annie Thorisdottir) have been amidst the best in the world for the better part of a decade largely due to their ability to withstand discomfort better than the field.
Commentators use the words “endurance” and “strength” to describe them. “Endurance” and “strength” are more often used to encapsulate cognitive qualities than physical ones.
A Fine Line: Tough or Stupid
We all want to be tough.
We try to emulate the qualities we see in the elite athletes. We grind under heavy loads, and push through intense metabolic fatigue. We ignore our bodies pleas to stop on the last rep of a set, or in the acidity finishing our conditioning work. It is what helped you get where you are today. You have become an expert at ignoring what’s going on within you.
So… What are you? Tough? Or Just Plain Stupid?
It all comes down to our relationship with pain.
Learning to Walk the Tightrope
Here’s the thing. You can’t always ignore yourself or you will break. If you haven’t yet, you will soon. However, if you don’t push right up against that breaking point, you won’t see progress.
This is the skill that the greats have. The ability to walk the tightrope between extreme discomfort and pain. They listen to their bodies and then make the correct decision to push through or to stop. This decision is not black and white. It is extremely challenging even for the very best.
How much joint pain means you should stop squatting? Enough to where you can’t train and stop making progress…yeah…but how can you know? You can’t for certain.
3 Things to help point you in the right direction to answer the question: Do I push through (or) stop and call it a day?
These three things can help you build mental toughness while at the same time listening to your body and continuing to build injury-free progress. There is no great athlete who is completely void these three areas.
Want to be mentally tough?
Find ways to get more of all three.
Competing is supposed to be exciting.
You see the joy it brings to other athletes.
Yet, you never enjoy it.
If you’re honest, you fear it.
The Anxious Athlete Solution is practical & most importantly, actionable.
Take the step to making your next competition anxiety-free today.
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