Mental Toughness Takes Many Forms
by Ron Tribendis, D.C.
Mental toughness comes in many forms. Often, mental toughness is defined as the ability to suffer more than the competition during a race.
Years of training, racing and coaching have expanded my perspective of mental toughness. It definitely pays to be mentally tough when you’re 20 miles into the ironman marathon and you feel like you can’t possibly take another step. But mental toughness is needed long before the 20-mile mark, or even the starting line. It is mental toughness that helps to build real, race day fitness.
It starts around 15 weeks or more prior to the ironman as an inner drive that convinces you to re-prioritize everything, so that you can balance only the essentials of family, work and training. It is the voice in your head that gets you out of bed each morning to do what most people aren’t willing to do, day in and day out. It’s enjoying and embracing the feeling of being “nuked” when others can’t understand why you would choose to do that to yourself.
Mental toughness also comes in the form of patience. I have had athletes come to me with the objective to get to Kona. After some discussion and a few weeks of training, it becomes easy for me to determine if they have what it takes mentally. Often times, they just can’t wrap their heads around slow progress and they struggle to really enjoy the training that results in improvement over time. The first sign of injury often causes these people to throw in the towel. It takes mental toughness to allow your body to push, break down and rebuild repeatedly in order to experience new levels of fitness.
As a coach, I am thrilled when I have the opportunity to work with mentally tough athletes. A few weeks ago one of my clients had a long Saturday ride on his training plan. He called me that morning and said, “We’re getting some snow here, but no worries -- I’ll do the entire St. George course on the trainer.” That is mentally tough.
So yes, race day requires some fortitude, but my recommendation is to put the mental toughness into the prep. Train more efficiently than all your mates. Be humble. Organize your family and work to prepare them for your heavy training period.
With hard work and a little luck, you will execute a perfect plan on race day and mental toughness will already be baked in the cake!
Ron Tribendis, D.C., is a member of the Endurance Corner coaching network. He has been competing in triathlons for 10 years, qualifying for Kona and the 70.3 World Championships. He has also coached multiple athletes to Kona and Clearwater. He currently lives in Frisco, TX, where he operates a sports medicine chiropractic clinic, North Texas Performance Chiropractic. He is a USAT Level 1 coach and active release (ART) full body certified.