I was jogging early this morning with one of my running groups and no one was talking at all. That doesn’t normally happen. Most times we are gabbing the entire time and before you know it, 6-8 miles are gone. That’s the nice and fun way to do it.
What the dark and early morning run did today was make me listen to 11 runners’ feet hitting the pavement as well as listen to some people breathing incredibly hard (me). Listening to these pounding and panting in the cold dark air made me think about my mental toughness. For me, mental toughness is the difference between being the best I can be and giving up before my time.
Weakness loves to encroach on your inner well-being. All the time. Did you hear that? All the time!
And so you have to fight off that weakness or it will overpower your will. For example, have you said any of these excuses or heard them from your friends?
- Water is cold, I am going to stink!
- I am racing that guy? He is going to kill me!
- I have been hurting and going slow in practice, I am going to fail!
- My coach is mean! He said that practice was horrible.
- I have been swimming slowly lately.
- She is better than me now.
- Her stroke is not good, why is she better than me?
- I can’t make it past the 150 mark!
- My parents are going to kill me for going slow!
So just what is happening here? Think about it for a second…These people are saying negative things to themselves OR worse yet, they are saying them to others! A bad attitude is the biggest anchor a person can have. It’s the biggest weakness an athlete can have! Any person who allows negative thoughts is allowing the worst virus to exponentially grow inside them and possibly infect the rest of their exercise group or team.
How do you fix it?
Walter J. Johnson, an eHow Contributor, wrote “How to Build Mental Toughness in Your Athletes.” He had a few great tips and comments:
- Find heroes in sports for those who you are coaching. Role models who lived a life of firm self discipline are an excellent way to inspire athletes to continue to build these virtues. Heroes are role models, inspirations and models for imitation.
- Struggle is normal and natural, not a sign of weakness. Failure is a normal occurrence, not a sign of inferiority. Mental toughness begins with positive self identification.
- Build new friendships with those who are on the same path, or have already succeeded. Peer groups are central to the process of building mental toughness. The peers that your athletes should be part of should also be athletes, regularly working to achieve maximum fitness and professionalism in their work.
And here are tips from another article from Anthony Drago, from ezinearticles.com, talks about mental development:
- Mind food is the next essential element in developing mental toughness. What exactly does the term “mind food” mean? Your mind develops the same way your body develops. Based on what you eat and how you train, your body develops. Based on what you feed your mind and how often you train it, your mind develops. So you must feed your mind good food.
- It’s like the old computer adage, garbage in, garbage out. If you put positive thoughts and actions into your mind, positive thoughts and actions will come out. It works the same for the negative. So make sure you are the gatekeeper of your mind and only allow in the thoughts you know will help you.
This last piece is from Craig Townsend who wrote “Knowing How to Win” and it is an excellent explanation of mind strength. It actually reminded me of a little awkward World Record distance female swimmer, Janet Evans. Did she have the perfect stroke? NO! The biggest heart? Yep! By far! (Look her up!) Craig writes:
- The fact is, if a swimmer is not mentally tough, it wouldn’t matter if they had the perfect technique, a perfect body, perfect weight, plus all the know-how in the world – because it’s only through the mind that a swimmer is allowed to use all these great advantages. If their mind is not ‘programmed’ for success, then nerves, intimidation or fear may stop them from swimming anywhere near the times their potential would suggest. So don’t worry if you feel intimidated by other swimmers who may appear to have better strokes or physique, because as long as you are physically competitive, you can win the big meets anyway, through being mentally tougher than the opposition. Every day, swimmers are winning races when technically they are not as well-equipped as their competitors, and this is simply because they know how to win. This is proven in virtually every sport, it’s not just restricted to swimming.
- All it takes is a little belief in yourself that your goal is possible. You see, as soon as we decide something is impossible, it becomes impossible - because our mind then firmly programs our body not to achieve it. So think of your mental training as the ultimate secret weapon – an unfair advantage which many other swimmers do not have, and this will give you the edge.
- The mind is so incredibly powerful that it even possesses the capability to overcome physical problems and achieve things which we would not normally consider possible. Many swimmers I have worked with over the years have actually won races while still recovering from severe illness or injury, and this will be the subject of your next tip. The mind is the world’s most powerful computer system, which can help us to win swimming races and achieve our times very easily if we will just allow it.
So, swimmers, triathletes, coaches, all athletes, and parents: Train the mind. Throw away all the negatives. I always heard and felt mind strength was 65% percent of the performance puzzle. Maybe more!
Don’t be weak.
Weakness needs a new roommate.
Kick it out of the house.
100% body, 100% mind, 100% POWER! Bye, bye competitors!