It’s all in your head – Mental toughness

I learned this year that pushing forward when running is not just a physical endeavor, but also a mental one. Throughout my adult life I made several attempts at becoming a runner with no success until this year. Just like other goals achieved in the past (losing weight, completing my doctorate, retiring early), I really wanted it. I told myself I was going to succeed.

Today I reached my first goal – running five miles before year-end. I laid the physical foundation but as I ran that five miles today, I realized how much I really wanted it, pushing myself mentally. And it was worth it! Achieving the goal was the reward in itself, and I have already set new goals for next year.  I know I can do it.  This require will a level of ‘mental toughness’.

Maybe you have heard of the term ‘mental toughness’ before. This term can mean different things to different people. For me, it was pushing past the physical pain, the breathing hard, sweating, and previous failed attempts.

Mental toughness doesn’t just apply to running. Have you ever seen “Private Benjamin” or “G.I. Jane”? Yes, they are movies but they demonstrate the concept of mental toughness.

The following are principles of mental toughness.

  1. Learn from failure.
  2. Recognize negative thinking and replace with positive, realistic thinking.
  3. Concentrate on the task at hand.
  4. Concentrate on the now.
  5. Practice positive imagery, achieving the goal.
  6. Dedicate yourself to your goal.
  7. Work on developing mental toughness.

Mental toughness may come easier for some, just like the physical aspect is easier for some.  But just like the physical aspect, mental toughness needs to be developed. Professional athletes often hire sports psychologists to help them develop mental toughness. But just like being able to run a marathon or bench press 300 pounds, you can achieve it.

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