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02
November
2020

Train to be Tough

Athletes find common ground within their own “division or status” because of available training time, technical equipment, training methods and even talent. But one aspect which is often overlooked and is a real game changer; mental toughness.

 

 

 

I needed to start a body weight circuit and my wife decided (and quite possibly correctly) that I was dragging my feet, delaying the inevitable. In her normal PC language she told me to get cracking and said: Procrastination is a sign of weakness. I was told to "toughen up and get on with it."

 

What is mental toughness?

We are not talking about sudden outbursts of “come on, you can do it” but having the ability to constantly deal with adversity, to turn this into a positive whilst staying calm and focused on your own output.

It is understanding that uncontrollable elements, like our current International Health situation, are the same for all your competitors but the winners will be able to disregard these uncontrollables and remain committed to their goal. 

Winners can be nice guys off the track, away from the field. But on it, they are a different person. Winners will always find a way to win. 

 

 

 

 

Work with adversity not against it

If the weather is bad you could start to feel sorry for yourself. You could let the wind and the rain destroy your will to go outside, let alone compete. But you can’t control the weather, you can control how you will tackle the conditions. 

An International coach once told me of the tests they set for “potential” high-performance athletes. After 4 days of exhausting challenges, the last test was a 3,000 metre running race around the track. These potential athletes were initially chosen for their size; they needed to be over a certain height and have the body frame to build muscle. To run a 3,000 metre race wasn’t easy. The coach explained to me that the chosen ones were sometimes the ones who hadn’t won because unlike the winners, the guys at the back had crossed the finish line blooded and bowed, on their hands and knees, completely exhausted. With the correct training they were the ones who became winners.

 

Outcomes of being Tough

Like all other aspects of your training, you can train to be tough. Every day you will have at least one difficult decision to make. By accepting the challenge, by embracing it and overcoming it, you have taken another step (no matter how small) towards becoming a harder competitor to beat. 

Being able to draw upon these experiences will help you prevail. When you push through existing boundaries you are resetting your beliefs and will become a tougher person to beat.  

I always looked forward to the first cycle day of winter with its driving rain or the first morning run in the snow when the slush would soak my trainers and my feet would be like blocks of ice.  

Once I'd cleared those hurdles I no longer had an excuse to miss a session because it was too cold, too wet, too damn hard. 

 

Toughen up

The starting point has to be asking the question; “what has to be done?” All other matters become irrelevant as you narrow your focus onto the main objective. All other thoughts need to be put into the mental waste bin, remember the routines you have developed in training, keep your eyes on the prize. 

During the heat of the battle you can afford a few moments to take some deep, deep breaths to slow things down, the regain your focus and to remain calm. 

If banishing negative thoughts is proving hard, start an open conversation within you own mind. Make it positive, make it assertive, allow it to build and carry you forward. 

There shouldn’t be any thoughts of how you got into a bad situation, or being blinkered as to an exit strategy. This just leads to the inevitable draw of the whirl-pool of negativity which wastes time and energy. 

The aim is to get through what ever is thrown at you, one small step at a time, so you can move on to the next step. Build enough steps and suddenly you have covered some distance. 

It is not easy to measure toughness, much harder than say measuring power output. But adding this extra skill set will give you an edge over your competitors who don’t train it.

 

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