Mental strength is having the will, the guts, and the determination to persist toward achieving your goals despite obstacles. Whether it’s with your fitness goals or any other goal in life, having mental strength can often mean the ultimate difference between success and failure.
It’s what helps a triathlete survive the last mile of an Ironman contest. It can help you push beyond what you perceive to be your limit of fatigue. Quite often, our brain tells us to stop when, physically, we can keep going. Mental strength is about not quitting until you reach your goal.
So how does one achieve greater mental strength? Just as you can train to be stronger physically, you can train the mind to be stronger, too. If, for instance, you don’t train a muscle, it will become flabby. In just the same way, the mind will weaken if it is not trained.
Many sports psychologists agree that mental grit is a key factor in athletic success. Research shows that athletes who receive mental training perform significantly better than those that do not.
So if you want to start building your mental strength try these tips:
1) Stay positive. To train the mind for greater mental strength, you have to start from a fundamental belief that you won’t let anything keep you down or prevent you from achieving your goals. Everything stems from what we think and having positive self-talk is what will lead to greater confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. Our thoughts have a powerful impact in determining the degree of mental strength we achieve. The beliefs that we hold in our minds really do determine our actions and outcomes, so believe that you can and you will. Paying attention to the thoughts that feel good and those that are in alignment with your goals can be powerful. Be your own cheerleader! Tell yourself things like “You’ve got this” or “You can do it.”
2) Be present and mindful. You don’t have to be all “new agey” with this, but having some type of meditation practice can help you stay positive, present, and focused. You can practice traditional meditation or simply focus on your breathing for a few moments each day. This is where the power is. Doing this can greatly improve your mental clarity, which in turn can help you catch those thoughts which might be fear-based versus those that are positive, leading to greater mental strength.
3) Practice mental imagery. Imagery can give you the mental edge to outperform your competitor and to stay on task. Some athletes vividly imagine success in their mind, step by step as they train to achieve their goals. Because the achievement of your goal is already a reality in your mind, you significantly increase your chances of success, and you will be less likely to quit when the going gets tough. Seeing yourself as already having lost 20 pounds or reaching the finish line will allow you to succeed toward achieving your goal more naturally.
4) Get regular exercise. This is paramount in increasing mental strength. Research after research indicates that exercise not only benefits your physical health but also mental health. Being consistent with an exercise routine can greatly improve your mental focus.
5) Set goals. It helps to set goals monthly and then daily to stay focused. Setting goals can provide structure and can be a great motivator when you’re starting to feel discouraged.
6) Remember the basics. By training your brain through eating a nutritious diet and getting adequate sleep you can prevent mental fatigue. We all know how we feel when we are hungry or don’t get enough sleep, so work at keeping these basics in check.
Achieving mental strength takes practice. Staying the course, having a strong will, and using the strategies above can help you succeed in life and with your fitness goals. The concentration and composure that comes with training for mental strength can ultimately help you feel fabulous!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Vince Lombardi. It has always helped me stay the course. “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of will.”