Trainers talk ABOUT it, whereas the Renegade lives it. What most trainers call mental toughness is categorically not mental whatsoever, but rather physical toughness. Push an athlete farther than he thought he was capable; push him farther than he would push himself. I call this fair-weather toughness. It doesn't matter what you do when you have your coach push you, it matters what you can do when you don't. Can you face the challenge when the times get tough?
What Is Physical Toughness?
Physical toughness in A/P refers to tissue's resistance to failure-how much can it absorb before meeting ultimate failure point and tear. If you're deconditioned, your chances of choking, tanking and quitting increase. However, increased physical conditioning doesn't necessarily increase mental toughness. Otherwise, why is it that we see so many top physical specimens emotionally crumbling under pressure?
How often do we see these prima donnas crushed by the underdog who just wants it more than they do? The mental and emotional and spiritual will take you farther than your physical can endure.
Mental toughness in sports psychology refers to your ability to resist failure when faced with hopelessness, overwhelming odds, surprise, or shock. Mental toughness builds upon the physical, as Lombardi reminded us long ago: fatigue makes cowards of us all. Without the physical, it's like a warhorse charging across thin ice. However, mental toughness needs training just as the does the physical. Grant Hansen said to me, in his opinion the difference between physical and mental toughness is what separates champions from regular elite athletes:
"The top 10 pros in BMX racing are basically equal in speed, power and skill. Yet you see the same guys making main events and finishing top three. It's the mental factor that separates these winners from just the main event qualifiers. The ones who lose aren't focused when the gate drops, get nervous in turns, get freaked out if they lose balance for a second and then "blow up" as we like to say.
When I raced competitively, although my heart raced as I got into staging, once my front tire hit the gate I was calm and focused. Listened to the cadence and BAM! Now mind you, I didn't have the greatest speed and lacked some talent, but rarely did someone beat me out of the gate. I won those first 10 feet every time, even next to some pros. Against others your own skill/speed level the first 10 feet can determine the outcome of 99% of races."
Mental failure is the length of time which passes for you to recover from a perceived error, unexpected event or catastrophic thought. How long does it take you to get up after a hard fall, to re-orient after getting your chimes rung? The shorter that reactionary gap, the less your failure. The victor is often determined by the person who can face what appears to be defeat, regain focus and get juiced by the challenge and then pull off a never before attempted trick in spite of the temporary negative state! How often a match was lost when a player visualized his loss when he could have used those same mental tools to go higher than ever?
Most people don't realize the amazing mental tools they ALREADY have! If you can train yourself to live out your visualized catastrophes, you can, by very definition do the opposite. You can, and already have the faculty to visualize perfection and SURPASS your own visualized excellence!
The Steps To Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
The first step is in acknowledging that catastrophic thinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The second step is to recognize that you can interrupt these negative states and let it turn even in the moment.
The third step is to understand that a negative state serves a specific purpose: to tell you that some need remains unmet, whether physical such as dehydration, lack of effective nutrition, or overtraining; or psychological such as lack of self-esteem when facing a new challenge or confidence in your unique genius; or spiritual such as faith in a guiding hand supporting your risk-taking for a higher calling.
The final step is to prepare in advance. Bobby Knight said it best-victory doesn't go to those with the will to win, but to those with the will to prepare. Exercise the grey matter as much if not more than the pink.
Click here to read my article on how I shall compare and contrast physical and mental agility and what Coach Davies refers to as "Reactive ability."