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What’s Your Mental Edge?

3
Sep

What’s Your Mental Edge?

Academic definition for mental toughness:

“Having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.”

-Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002, p. 209, “What Is This Thing Called Mental Toughness? An Investigation of Elite Sport Performers” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology

Do you buckle under pressure or do you thrive?

What is the 100% limit look like?

If we were to deal with actual percentages and not an estimated range of ‘feeling”. There would never be a way to give it 110%. In my opinion the only way to actually achieve the bodies limits , or over 100%, would result in an absolute shut down or death. For most top tear athletes their highest level of performance is within the range of 48-50%. But physical exertion, for them, is a fluid number 40% one month could be 30% next month due to adaptations in training.

In Jesse Itzler’s book “Living With A SEAL.” he talks about the 40% rule. In summary the 40% rule is simple: When your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further,  you’re only actually 40% done.

So, that suggests that a good portion of your strength and toughness is mental, not physical.

I’ve been coaching long enough to know when someone has neared their physical limits. Often people will express their discomfort well before their actual limit is reached. The typical tap out for an average gym goer is 20% or less of their true potential.

So how do you develop mental toughness?

It is simple…but it is not easy. To do anything in life it requires “reps”. Like a sales job, you have to fail at phone calls until you start to get good. Or being a new parent you have to fumble through changing diapers until you can do it a 3am practically still asleep. It’s like the old adage “you have to crawl before you can walk.” Getting those reps on paper is simple but to gain athletic toughness requires you to go past the point of no return. 

On paper: 

  1. Establish a true 30-40% mark
    1. A physically exhausting task that requires either
      1. Load 
      2. Time
  2. Once 40% is achieved Mentally push harder 2-3% more
    1. AKA “point of no return”
  3. Repeat
  4. Repeat
  5. Repeat

Point of no return…



Stop reading this if you are not serious about tapping into your potential. You know the part in the Neverending Story where Atreyu goes to the southern oracle. This is that moment for you, the sphinxes “can see straight into your heart,” so a hero must be confident. He must “feel his own worth.”

I’m not sure what that means, really. I guess it means that each successful hero was completely sure with their goals and themselves (aka 100% committed to building mental toughness). The tiniest seed of doubt will derail your attempt and or turn you into a crispy critter (watch the neverending story if you have not)  

The ultimate goal is to ignore your current mental state when something gets hard and push a little harder everyday. You can only go further physically once you have actually gone past the point of no return. Its like that in life, once you step out of your comfort zone, your “safe space” that’s when you gain a new perspective. If your remain comfortable you cease to grow and you remain the same. If you are consistent and push little by little everyday you will forge the toughness you seek. Simple just not easy.

-Coach