3 Ways to Boost Mental Toughness in Fitness

By Lashawn Henighan

I used to wonder why I would have amazing practices but then my mind would sometimes lock up on competition day. I had my steps down; I had run down the runway so many times. I knew the rhythm (after all, a long jumper needs speed, technique and rhythm). I learned much later that I was doing the work to get my body right by practicing every day, but I wasn’t doing the mental work to prepare for competition.

It was frustrating — knowing that most things we do in life require us to be mentally prepared, and yet I wasn’t doing the work I needed holistically to be 100 percent ready for competition. I was a great athlete, but more importantly — I was so close to being an extraordinary athlete.

Mental toughness is necessary for you to succeed in your fitness journey, and maintaining that toughness highly depends on your “why” motivation.

Some things you can do to heighten your mental toughness are:

1. Once you begin to feel fatigued, do three more repetitions or hold your static position for five more seconds. This is a fundamental lesson in mental toughness. Do you ever get to the last set of an exercise, when you’re the most tired, and just wing those last couple of reps so you can say that you finished the exercise? Well, this is where you need to learn to push yourself to the max. Your body will give out well before your mind. So push yourself. Feel that burn, and finish those sets with finesse. Your body will thank you.

2. Use your “why” to override your distractions. If your why isn’t enough to get you out of the bed, off the couch, or to get you to your workout area, then it’s not big enough. This is another fundamental rule of mental toughness. You need a why in fitness, your career and in your life. Ask yourself: What makes me tick? What pushes you to be and do your absolute best so that you can reap the benefits in the future? Is it so you can be around for your children or other loved ones? Is it because you have a legacy you want to leave … A job you want to complete? Is it a life or death situation? Whatever it is, it should be more important than you flipping channels or looking for that next Netflix Original movie to binge watch. Fitness requires a mental toughness and willingness to stick to your why.

3. Focusing on the progress will push you farther than focusing on the result. Have you ever heard the phrase “Enjoy the journey”? It couldn’t be more fitting in this case. When you’re constantly obsessing over what you’re going to look like after this fitness journey is over, you make yourself miserable in the process because you’re focused on something that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, try focusing on being in the moment. When you experience each moment, you get to learn more and more about yourself — including what impedes you and what motivates you. When you’re enjoying the journey, you tend to reach your ultimate goals much faster, because you’re living in the now.

Letting go of hampering ideals about perfection is really the name of this game. Perfection simply doesn’t exist and fitness isn’t a one-way destination. It’s a lifestyle change and journey that you set out on for the rest of your life. The benefits — a healthy mind and body. You have to want it badly enough for yourself that you can kick those bad habits of starting and stopping for good. Push yourself; remember your WHY, and focus on the progress, not the result if you want a more fulfilled fitness journey. AT

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