What does it mean to be mentally tough? To push through when everything within you is telling you to stop, to give up, to find something else to be your thing? What do you do to push through? How do you remind yourself that this is what you love, even when it is challenging?
Mental toughness can be defined as a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education and the workplace.
So, how do we find the resilience and confidence to push forth when everything is going wrong?
I’ve been building and working on my mental game for about six months now. Some days I feel that I have it down, that I can conquer the world. Then there are the days when it takes every ounce of me to remember why I choose to run. This past weekend may be one of the best examples of how far my mental toughness has come.
On Saturday I had a 8 mile long run scheduled. After an exhausting week of work, life, and training, a 8 mile run was the very last thing I wanted to do on Saturday. The excuses started to roll through my mind the moment I woke up. “It’s already 8 am, you wont be done till noon at this point,” “Everything hurts. Why don’t you just take the day off,” “You could just move your run to tomorrow, even though tomorrow is a full day,” “How about a weekend off, you deserve it, your body needs it. What could it hurt?”.
I won’t lie to you, I started to believe these excuses. Training this time has been difficult, partly because I know what to expect, but also because I want to improve. And the way to improve is to do the more difficult workouts, like speed work. I have a coach for this round of training and she is amazing, but it doesn’t mean that it has been an easy road. I am working harder, moving faster, and putting my all into this training. So these excuses were valid but not something I thought I would battle this early in training.
As I started to listen to my excuses, I made the choice to not run in the morning. Instead, I spent some time with friends. But the entire time we were out doing things all I could think about was how I had not run and I really should get it done. My mind started to shift from the excuses I had built earlier in the day to seeing the need to get out and accomplish the goal set for me for the day. Around 3 pm I headed home and set out to get this run in.
I want to tell you that I went for a run and everything was great, but that would be a bold face lie. I started my run and it was terrible. Everything hurt, my mind was all over the place, and I wanted to quit less than a mile in. But I kept going. Around mile 2 I told myself that if I just get to 5 I can be done. And the battle kept on going. I continued to fight myself for 3 miles, being angry that everything hurt, that I wasn’t able to maintain my pace, that I should have just not run at all.
But then I started to think about the Women’s March that was happening around the world and the great privilege I have to be able to walk out my front door and run, to do the one thing that I love. I passed a group of young girls who were out walking to the park. As I approached them I realized that I get to inspire them to do the things they love by doing what I love. I get to be an example to them of what it looks like to be your own kind of strong and not fall for what the media and society are telling women to look like.
And that is where everything changed. I thought about how strong I had become over the last six months, how a year ago I would not even go out for a 5 mile run, let alone 8 miles. I thought about the women who have inspired me to keep going and about how one random choice to run a half marathon in early June 2016 has formed and changed my life in more ways then I ever thought possible. My confidence in what I was doing elevated, I started to push through the pain and discomfort, and I started to get excited about every mile I completed. By the end of my run, I was happy. My body was even more exhausted but I was on a high unlike any other. I found my mental toughness, I pushed through what felt impossible, and I made it happen.
I guess that is just the name of the game. If you truly love something, you will find a way to push through the crap and make it the best thing in your day. Keep searching till you find that thing you love, it’s the one thing that will make everything else fall into place.
-Be Fearless, Go Boldly