Mental Toughness

#tiptuesday // Hi, I’m Lacey Liebert and I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

There are a lot of different ideas about Mental Toughness- what it is, how you get it, and what it gets you. For a deeper dive into this topic, check out this article written by Mariska van Sprundel for the MIT Press in April 2022:…/

Mental Toughness is Psychological Preparedness

Arthur Lydiard (a legendary running coach whose philosophy became the foundation for training as we know it) had this theory— the person who will win a race is not “the best” athlete, but the athlete who is “best prepared on that day.”

[see his book, pictured, available on Amazon]
Psychological preparedness is one way of thinking about mental toughness. I think of this as an acceptance of the difficulties ahead, combined with a “stick-with-it-ness.”

What this is NOT—

This is not throwing caution to the wind. Preparation is multi-faceted, and psychological preparation is just one piece of the puzzle. If you are not physically prepared to run a marathon, mental toughness may keep you going, but you could be on a crash course with an injury.

Lydiard has a catch phrase that I love—“Train, don’t strain.”

In other words, avoid that crash & burn! This applies to both the physical and psychological effort.

Maybe you’re born with it, maybe it’s… Building Mental Toughness

As a therapist who is psychodynamically oriented, I listen for a person’s early and formative experiences.

What happened when younger you ran into really difficult things? This could have been due to lack of skill, practice, or how it made you feel.

Did someone rescue you? Shame you? Encourage you?

How did important people in your life deal with things that were hard for them in some way?

Did you learn to stick with things?

If you did, you probably developed some skills to deal with what that felt like.

Some tips and tricks to stick-with-it-ness—

· Build the mental muscle by doing hard things.

· Identify the impasses. What comes up that might stop you?

· What’s your “hard thing” today? “Hard” is a perception, and it’s a moving target.

· Gradual exposure works & practice makes progress.

· Break it down to bite sized. If a 10-mile long run feels intimidating, try chunking it into smaller sections like a 4-mile loop to start, followed by a 3-mile section, with a final 3-mile stretch to the finish.

· Look at how far you’ve come. “Nice, I’ve done the first 2 chunks of my long run!”

· Just add ________. What’s something that helps you along? Some examples—music, podcasts, running buddies, snapping photos, or finding new places to explore.

· Keep your goals in mind.

· “Train, don’t strain” –Lydiard

What are some of your stick-with-it tips?

Disclaimer: The therapeutic relationship and process is unique and unable to be reproduced in a social media post. The advice here represents a generalization of material and ideas. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.





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