Mental toughness

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by coach Amy Anderson

Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “Running is 90 percent mental, and the rest is all in your head”.  The best athletes don’t only train hard physically, they also work on the psychological aspects of their sport. Here is Part 3 in a series of traits and characteristics of successful marathoners.

MENTAL TOUGHNESS.  Mental toughness won’t guarantee your success any more than confidence or composure will.  But it does create an environment that fosters your success.  What is mental toughness?  Here are a few things to think about:

1.     Having long term goals takes mental toughness.  When did you decide to run a fall marathon?  Last year?  You started this program in the spring?  Realigning the priorities of your life, getting out the door, and training seriously for 5-6 months takes mental toughness.  This process didn’t happen overnight and some people would (and did) throw in the towel.

2.     Failure takes mental toughness.  When you take a workout to “failure” (can’t get up that hill or can’t run the last repeat at the same pace), you send clear signals to your body that it needs to grow stronger. Your body responds. The same thing happens in your head.  Which is why some of the workouts we do are really hard.  Maybe momentarily impossibly hard?  Think, The Run From Hell.  Or, 2k repeats in 100 degree heat. Perhaps even your LAB.  Remember that a workout done to “failure” wasn’t a failure in the traditional sense of the word.   Rather, it sent a signal to both your body and your mind to grow stronger and get tougher. Make a list of workouts you’ve done this summer and reflect on them as you work on your mental game.

3.     Being adaptable takes mental toughness (whoops! I failed that one last Thursday).  Adaptability lets you deal effectively with unexpected situations before and during your race.  Anticipate and prepare for how you’ll handle a last minute change to the course, a delayed start, the shoe lace that comes untied, dropping your electrolytes, chafing.  What about nasty weather? (Hello Boston 2012!) Approach your race having already thought through “if this happens, then I will…”  That way you can see those situations not as excuses to fail but as opportunities for your mental toughness to prevail.

4.     Not letting your head quit before your body does takes mental toughness.  The late miles of the marathon are hard.  I don’t have to tell you that. It’s easy to talk yourself out of a pace or effort level that your body is tired of.  “Ask yourself, ‘Can I give more?’ The answer is usually ‘Yes’.” So said Paul Tergat, a professional marathoner from Kenya.  And he was right.  Remind yourself that you’re tougher than you think you are.

So.  Are you mentally tough? What can Rogue do to help?

Amy coaches marathoners at Rogue Downtown. You can join her this fall in preparation for the 2013 Austin Marathon.

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5 thoughts on “Mental toughness

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