Mental strength and physical strength are worlds apart. People automatically assume physical strength turns into mental strength but unfortunately that’s not the case.
Every human needs some degree of mental toughness. But what is it?
It’s the ability to overcome extreme mental challenges that break most. I’m not saying you don’t feel any pain; however, your positive mental dialogue is stronger than the pain being experienced.
Many components go into a mentally strong individual, which I will discuss in a minute! The road to developing mental strength is often filled with pain, heartache, and loss. That’s why most people refuse to walk it. Instead, they take the easier path and wonder why they have zero control over their minds when the going gets tough.
So How Do You Know If You’re Mentally Strong?
1. Confidence: One of the most important parts of mental strength is confidence. Not only do you need confidence in yourself, but also in your abilities. And the only way to do that is by practicing your craft. The more experience you have, the better you will perform. And this applies to everything!
During my training, I get put through OCR Simulations once per week that mimics what I will experience and feel on race day. As you get better at it, your confidence will skyrocket.
2. Ability To Stay Calm: If there’s one thing that mentally tough people have in common, it’s the ability to stay calm in stressful situations. I think that’s why I have such good success in when I need to perform in weather that most would claim as “shitty conditions.” When everybody is panicking, you need to be as cool as a cucumber. Of course, this is much harder than it sounds. Staying calm in stressful situations requires training. And I won’t tell you to focus on your breath because that doesn’t work. You need to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. An example is I train in ALL weather conditions minus when lightning and snow storms are present. As a side note, I’m not saying you won’t feel any fear during difficult times. However, it’s the ability to remain unfazed.
Now, I want to tell you about one specific situation where I HAD to be mentally strong to finish my race.
It was my very first Spartan Ultra. I had been training for about 4 months. I did EVERY single workout and run to a “T” that my coach had given me. We got to the venue. I was so excited not even nervous. Did my warm up and then hit the start line with a stacked elite wave. They were all so welcoming and very encouraging!
5 minutes later they sent us on our way. My competitive side came out and instead of running my OWN race and my pace, I kept a few ladies in my eye sight. The first lap of the beast(21km), with the added ultra loop(8km) went very well! My energy levels were great at transition, I was happy and full of smiles. I was sitting in a comfortable 7th place. I refilled my gel stash, water bottles and electrolytes and went off for my 2nd and final lap of the beast, which at the end is the Ultra finish line.
During my 2nd lap and about 7km in, my energy just suddenly came to a complete halt. It did NOT want to run any further. I had no idea why…. My fueling and hydration was on point. At this point I still had 13km left, which is a pretty good chunk in the OCR world when there’s obstacles to be done as well. Every step was even more draining and painful once I hit that wall. I even had moments where I wanted to quit. I kept having to remind myself about my training. I’ve done this over a dozen times, I know it’s going to hurt. Just focus on the next 100m, then the next 100m and again. I came back and enjoyed it again. It still hurt but I didn’t want to quit. One quote that has really stuck with me is “Pain is only temporary.” I had to say this quote over and over again when the waves got rocky.
With the finish line only 100m away, I had the biggest smile on. I jumped over that iconic fire jump at the end and gave a massive hug to a friend of mine. I even cried.
Remember, train to be mentally tough, not just physically tough. In the end, it all comes down to who can take the pain more.
“Pain is only Temporary and it won’t stop until you cross that finish line”