Tips On Building Mental Strength For Endurance Sports And Life In General


When the going gets tough, the tough get going Joseph P. Kennedy

That’s alright for them, but what do you do if you’re not tough?” FitOldDog

Hi folks,

I find Twitter to be a great source of information and ideas, much of which comes in the form of links to articles that I would never otherwise find. For instance, take this tweet:

Rebecca Joslin ‏ @MissTriathlon How can you build mental strength while training for a triathlon or running- here are some good tips” Take a look at the article, because it is pretty good.

This led me to think about the issue, and here are thoughts from someone who isn’t always tough. Sometimes you need your friends and inspiring people to pull you along, or your coach to tell you it is time to stiffen your spine a little. Here are my ‘words of wisdom’ based on not quite wimping out most of the time and things people have told me along the way:

  1. Swim start at the Lake Placid Ironman, for which you had better be ready mentally and physically.

    Swim start at the Lake Placid Ironman, for which you had better be ready mentally and physically.

    When you’re sitting on the side of the lake before the race starts and your mind says, “Am I crazy?” the correct answer is, “Yes! Isn’t it great.” IMPORTANT NOTE: make sure you go to the porta potty before you have this conversation.

  2. Make your training and racing play rather than work.
  3. Try to dance rather than slog.
  4. When your body and mind cannot, just cannot, stand anymore, and you really really want to stop, just smile and you’ll be surprised how it gets you going again – I said smile, not grimace.
  5. Learn to tell the difference between good pain, bad pain and psychological pain.
  6. Spend a few long days before your race, which means for the whole day (12 hours) don’t stop walking, cleaning, and doing physical stuff, tired or not.
  7. Try martial arts, it really works on mental endurance.
  8. Take up meditation, which is about ‘mind control,’ which really means not letting the mind take control, which is what you need when things get tough.
  9. Don’t listen to your legs when they say that they can’t keep going, because they can keep going, they’re just whining because they like to do that.
  10. Remember your best training workouts (usually the runs for triathlons) and run like that, not like you currently feel like running.
  11. Remember your heroes. Did they give up? From:

    Remember your heroes. Did they give up?

    Remember your heroes and imagine what would have happened if they had given up.

  12. Whatever the hell you do, don’t walk because it is the kiss of death in an Ironman.
  13. When life is difficult take the lessons you have learned from endurance training and apply them.
  14. Don’t let other athletes try to psyche you out, as they are only doing this because they actually see you as a potential challenger, otherwise they won’t give you the time of day, except in the case of the grownups (yes, you can be 65 and not grown up).
  15. Keep pushing gently throughout the race (or the day in life), and remember gentle pushing will get you a long way, whereas a burst of energy expenditure early in the day (race) will cost you later.
  16. Never doubt yourself, which I am afraid to say you will, in which case explain to yourself that you have faith in your mind and body to keep going, and you will.
  17. Encourage other people as you go along, but don’t let them slow you down.
  18. Or you can try my latest trick that seems to work, which consists of saying to myself, “I’ll be damned if I’ll walk after all that training.”

That’s it! Just believe in yourself and listen to your body, don’t be taken in by your body’s BS, but do listen for real cries of distress, and have fun.

-k @FitOldDog

Today’s workouts:

Gentle walks to recover from self-induced dehydration in the pool. Silly man!


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.