Strength is More Than Lifting Weights
We all have challenges in life, whether we seek them out or whether they are bestowed upon us. Either way, how we successfully navigate through them is largely based on our mental toughness. My father always told me “You can do anything that you set your mind to!” This phrase was woven through my childhood and young adulthood and really made me into the person that I am today.
My father grew up in Hungary at a time when the Soviet Union invaded the country, causing him and many others to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. He came to the United States for a new life but faced many challenges. He succeeded through hard work and sheer determination. Just as he told me, he put his mind to it and he did whatever he set out to do!
I have found that with mental toughness, I have been able to conquer just about any goal that I have set for myself.
The same is true for most things in life. I have found that with mental toughness, I have been able to conquer just about any goal that I have set for myself. A positive mindset helps me to barrel through the toughest obstacles with tenacity and achieve goals that I set for myself, whether it is getting good grades in school, achieving my career aspirations, overcoming illness/injury or achieving athletic goals.
In sports, some people think that achieving certain finish times or setting new personal records is all about fitness, training programs and nutrition. Yes, all of these things are necessary to be successful. However, I believe that “mental fitness” is equally important. Think of it as burpees for the brain! We don’t like burpees, but we know that they do us a lot of good!
Age is just a number!
Mental strength can be achieved when you remove the self imposed limitations. For example, you might say to yourself “I can’t make it up this hill” or “Why am I doing this at my age?” Once you realize and acknowledge the barrier, you can remove it and go past it! As I found out this past year…”Age is just a number!” By believing in myself and removing self imposed limitations, I met the Boston Marathon qualifying time for the youngest and fittest runners (yeah…that’s right! The 18 year olds! Without giving away my age, they are SIGNIFICANTLY younger than I am.)
Another key to being mentally tough is to be able to respond to adversity or obstacles when they get in your way. Prepare for the difficult times instead of walking into a situation thinking that it will be easy. When racing a course, instead of wishing that it was easier…focus on your strength, be confident, and know that you can overcome it. Embrace it knowing that it will be tough!
Tell yourself that “I am strong”… “I can do this” or “Hills are my friend”
Positive self talk is also really important. The words that are going through your head need to be motivating and strong. You can even overcome physical pain with the right internal messages. Instead of saying to yourself “I should have started earlier or trained harder”… Tell yourself that “I am strong”… “I can do this” or “Hills are my friend”, or do what I do…Think about puppies!!
Also focus on the times that you were able to overcome something really difficult and use that strength to do it again! Think back to a difficult time in your life or a difficult race and bring it with you. Think of someone who is struggling more than you are at this moment…whether it be to get out of a chair or to get up a flight of stairs…and do it for them! Because you can! You may also inspire them to succeed.
So how do I develop mental toughness in racing? These are the four things that I believe are really important:
- Set a goal – If you are racing, try to set a goal for yourself for a certain time or to place in a certain percentage of your peers. Set the bar high and dare yourself to go over it!
- Put in the work to be in good shape both physically and mentally. Figure out what you want to achieve and go after it! Keep your thoughts positive! Honor the commitment, respect the training and cherish the reward.
- Be mentally prepared – Have a plan or a race strategy. Know the course ahead of you and plan for the challenges it presents.
Practice Mental Imagery – Visualize success! Imagine completing the course and finishing strong!
This year I had the honor of racing as a member of Team Phenomenal Hope. I recognize that everyone may not have the same level of fitness that I do, but I hope that I can inspire others to keep fighting those barriers that are adversely affecting their lives. Endurance racing is part of my life. I have found personal success and much satisfaction in my endeavors. The values that my father instilled in me provided me with a foundation to push through the tough times, whether it is on the job, on the bike, or on the run. (I’m still working on my swim!)
– by Monica Reisz