How to Be a Mentally Tougher Athlete

Mental toughness is one of the defining aspects of what makes great athletes, well, great. It’s the resilience and poise under pressure, it’s the ability to will themselves through trying stretches of training, and it’s being willing to continually doubt what others believe is possible.

Here are some powerful and proven ways that athlete can become mentally tough. Here we go:

1. Be present in your workouts and competition. When we get fixated on the outcome or the results our thoughts tend to get away from us. Anxiety comes as a result of uncertainty of the eventual outcome, and this anxiety can end up limiting our performance, generate negative self-talk, and cause us doubt. Mental toughness is a natural byproduct of focusing on the things that we control, and staying focused in the present helps to stay dialed in on the things we can control. During your next workout routine stay in place mentally, choosing to focus on this set, and this rep and nothing else.

2. Be awesome at starting. Those who are mentally tough are able to start. They look at those super intimidating workouts and training sessions and take it piece meal. They know that once they get started, momentum and our brain’s natural tendency towards task completion will see us through the rest. When you master the habit of starting mental toughness swiftly follows.

3. Challenge yourself regularly. Mentally tough athletes aren’t afraid to leave their comfort zone. They know that in order to improve they need to regularly and repeatedly test their own self-imposed limits. There are a few benefits to doing this. First off, you will improve a whole lot faster. In itself this is an awesome benefit. The second is that you will challenge what you think is possible. And thirdly, the confidence from doing big, tough things is the best kind, the deep, white-hot variety that will keep you hurtling towards your goals. If it’s piping hot workout motivation that you want, consistently jabbing your limits is the way to go.

4. Conquer your self-talk. The dialogue and and narrative that we carry with ourselves has a very real effect on we end up performing in the gym, on the field, and in the weight room. If you are constantly griping and telling yourself that you cannot do something, what do you suppose are the odds that you are actually going to end up doing that thing? At the end of the day, the thing athletes need to remember most when it comes to trying to be mentally tougher is that our thoughts direct our actions. Read that again if you have to—our actions begin and are caused by our thoughts. Choose to be positive and open to challenge, and you will be well on your way to higher achievement and becoming more mentally tough.

5. Mental toughness is a decision. When I work with young athletes and coaches I frequently get asked, “What can I do to be more mentally tough?” And the answer always starts with—“Make the decision to be tough.” If you want the simplest, yet most powerful piece of advice for mental toughness its to make the decision. Decide to be tough. Make that decision in the middle of that hard workout. Or in the middle of a brutal match. While mental toughness is a skill that you can develop and hone, it all begins with a decision. Be that mentally tough athlete, and reap the benefits that come along with it.