Trainer’s Talk – Mental Toughness

What is mental toughness? Can it be built?


During every WOD there comes a point where there are two voices in your head. One voice is telling you, “com’on rest its ok”, “no one will care”, “that person always beats me anyway”, or my favorite “You can’t breathe”.  This is the voice that needs to be ignored. This voice will never be silenced; it will always be talking to you, trying to bring you down.


You may have also faintly heard the other voice, this one is nowhere near as strong, but it should say things like “keep going”, “you can catch them”, or “remember last time, don’t let that happen again”.


There are ways to influence what these voices say.


Always go in with a plan

If the workout calls for 100 of something and it seems impossible, try to set a minimum number of reps to do during the workout and of course make this number tough but achievable. I usually do a multiple of the number so if its 21 do a minimum of 7 reps. This should always be done prior to the start of the session otherwise you will inevitably get WOD drunk and forget everything.

Find what motivates you and use it

No matter what it is from looking sexy in that new red dress, to beating your arch nemesis in a WOD, everyone has something that motivates them no matter how small; it must be used to stay focused and get the work done. Focus on the end goal and this will mask the present pain.

If all fails just move

You may have heard me say while coaching in the box “Just Move!” this is what I think of when my plan fails and all goes to the wind. Just moving will still get work done. “One more rep” is another way of looking at it; the key to doing well is just to not stop. Obviously easier said than done but this strategy will help.


If you look at videos of great runners and watch their faces during the race they are very relaxed, of course they are not actually relaxed because they are pushing their bodies to the limit, so how do they look so relaxed? This is a practiced technique, relaxing the face will trick the brain into thinking you are on a beach sipping a Mai Tai. Ok maybe not, but close. A relaxed mind will allow you to push further into the pain zone, allowing you to get more comfortable with uncomfortable.


Sometimes you just need to suck it up buttercup and go to a place that sucks, but in the end you will be a better person and athlete for it.