A Look at Men­tal Tough­ness

A Look at Men­tal Tough­ness

Mountain Bike for Her - - Front Page - Words by Ja­clyn Delacroix

It’s some­thing I’d never re­ally thought about per­son­ally un­til I was half­way up the fourth climb dur­ing Crankzilla (2014 Crankworx EWS stage). I was push­ing my­self so hard on this last climb I could taste the vomit in the back of my throat, and I knew that if I slowed down I wouldn’t reach my stage starts on time. So I did the only thing I know how to do: keep go­ing. The other op­tion avail­able to me, give up, just never re­ally en­tered my mind.

2014 was the year that half the am­a­teur women didn’t com­plete the race, and in all hon­esty, many of them at that point in time had way bet­ter fit­ness bases go­ing into the race than I had. Af­ter a year of in­juries lead­ing up to the race, my big­gest day of rid­ing had topped out at 26km, and that was two weeks prior. So why, at kilo­me­tre 40-some­thing was I still push­ing on, even though my whole body told me it was done around 10 kilo­me­tres be­fore­hand? Pure stub­born­ness or some­thing else?

I found out again that my body can go well be­yond my men­tal per­cep­tion of fa­tigue and tired­ness. This is ba­si­cally your brain telling you to stop so you don’t kill your­self, though phys­i­cally you are still ca­pa­ble of con­tin­u­ing on long af­ter that men­tal fa­tigue kicks in. You know that mo­ment I’m talk­ing about, it’s that mas­sive hill that feels like it’s never go­ing to end. It’s day 4 in a 7 day stage race, it’s turn­ing up to race day and it’s pour­ing rain and freez­ing out. It’s that mo­ment where you men­tally just give up.

So how do we build this men­tal tough­ness?

Stop pro­cras­ti­nat­ing. You don’t need to take a wa­ter break 20 min­utes into your gym work­out. You also don’t need to stop ev­ery other kilo­me­ter on a climb to “catch your breath”. Firstly, if you spend an hour at the gym you aren’t go­ing to de­hy­drate your­self in that time. Have your wa­ter be­fore and af­ter your work­out, I prom­ise you’ll sur­vive. As for the climb­ing, rather than stop­ping just slow down for a mo­ment if you

need to grab some air. You need to teach your body that it can go ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time with an el­e­vated heart rate.

Alone time

It’s great to have train­ing bud­dies for those long slow dis­tance rides, it’s nice to have some­one to chat to and suf­fer along­side you as you put in those bor­ing mo­not­o­nous kilo­me­ters. It also does noth­ing to help build that men­tal tough­ness. Try rid­ing alone on some of those rides, it bet­ter em­u­lates rac­ing than rid­ing and chat­ting with friends. While you are at it, ditch your mu­sic. All these dis­trac­tions do is just that, they slow you down and make you un­fo­cused, they take away from the “tough” as­pect of what you are ac­tu­ally do­ing.

Rep­e­ti­tion, rep­e­ti­tion, rep­e­ti­tion

I’m talk­ing long du­ra­tion ses­sions of a sin­gle ex­er­cise or sin­gle ex­er­cise sets. 3 sets of ten squats doesn’t sound too bad. Now imag­ine I told you we are about to spend the next hour do­ing squats, (yes I heard the groan). About 20 min­utes in you will be­gin to learn a valu­able les­son. Pain doesn’t mean you are in­jured. It’s all in your mind. 40 min­utes in you are go­ing to learn another valu­able les­son, you won’t die from the pain. As the hour comes to an end (and thank­fully also the whin­ing and moan­ing) you will have learnt on a small scale that your mind has a great abil­ity to cope un­der duress.

So how long will this take?

De­vel­op­ing the sort of men­tal tough­ness I’m talk­ing about doesn’t hap­pen overnight, it takes it’s own spe­cial sort of train­ing and it takes time. You don’t hop on a moun­tain bike for the first time ever and go hit a 40 foot gap jump, so don’t ex­pect this to be any dif­fer­ent. Think of Men­tal Tough­ness as just another as­pect of your train­ing sched­ule, just like gym ses­sions and in­ter­val train­ing.

For good mea­sure and when all else fails al­ways re­mem­ber rule num­ber 5.

Photo Credit: Ja­clyn Delacroix

Photo Credit: Ja­clyn Delacroix

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