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Training to increase mental toughness

Last Modified: February 17, 2023

Sports & Exercise, Healthy Mind


This post was written by Lauren Tait, Peak Performance coach, Parkview Sports Medicine.

Mental toughness can be defined as a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education and the workplace. This could be staying calm and focused when a situation is starting to make you anxious, or remaining alert and fierce while everyone around you is lethargic and worn down, or simply pushing past what you thought possible when you are exhausted. This ability to remain mentally tough is a discipline, and while it may come easier to some than others, it’s a very important life skill that should be practiced in order to maintain and grow your own capacity.

Why mental toughness matters

Everyone has experienced a time or environment in which they needed to be mentally tough. Maybe you were on a soccer field in overtime, exhausted, with the game hinging on you.  Or perhaps a tough final exam meant staying up all night to study, when all you wanted was to sleep. It could even be an instance when you had to tune into a friend who was rambling about something you couldn’t relate to.

All of these things require mental toughness, and we are all equipped with some degree of it. Some people are able to channel their mental toughness with no outside influence, while others do better when they are forced by someone or some set of circumstances to push through, such as a coach barking at them, or a teacher rebuking them in class. However your mental toughness arises, the ability to push through adversity is a skill that will translate into every aspect of your life. Because of this, it’s important to train yourself and increase your mental toughness in different situations, so that you are equipped to overcome weariness with great confidence.

Training for mental toughness

When training to increase mental toughness, it’s important to have your confidence grounded in some sort of belief, whether that’s belief in yourself, a higher power or a greater purpose. Keeping that belief and confidence that you can overcome and proceed with courage is vital to being mentally strong.

The second key to cultivating mental toughness is to start doing things you don’t like to do, but that you know are good for you. Exercise when you don’t want to, type an extra sentence or two on your report when you feel like you’re finished. Push yourself in the little things each day and watch them compound into big changes.

Thirdly, surround yourself with people who are mentally tough. Ask them questions about how they live their lives. Understand that not all of their methods will work for you, but you can still pick up tips that could be helpful in your own journey. As you navigate the path toward a stronger mindset, remain confident. It will be easy to slip into disbelief as you grow, but always come back to your source of courage and never quit.

Finally, practice, practice, practice! If there is something that you struggle with and it requires your mental toughness, practice that thing and become better, so that when the time comes to perform, it is less of a struggle. Study for longer periods of time or take practice tests for exams. If you’re an athlete, run drills over and over again to master the skills. If you struggle socially, talk to people and really listen to what they have to say; exercise patience and try to actively engage when you feel like walking away.

To be mentally tough means to push through when you feel unable to do so. Don’t overdo it to the point of injury, but if you are close to giving up on something, go a little bit further. Go at your own pace and don’t stress yourself out. You will succeed if you keep pressing. Though the success might not look how you pictured it, the person you become from increasing your mental toughness will be one that is ready to take on any challenge when a true test arises. Have faith and have fun!

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