Mental Toughness

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been mulling over what causes mental toughness. Does it just come naturally? Are some people just more gifted with mental toughness than others? Is it learned? Can you improve your mental toughness?

I’ve been wondering these questions because a few months ago my friend Kelly who I run with has also started biking with me. She only bikes once a week (I do 3-4 days a week), and she’s never really done much biking before. HOWEVER, she is already so much more tough at biking than I am! She has been doing my workouts with me with ease! Her and I were talking last Friday as we finished out workout. I told her that I typically barely struggle through a workout, but it seemed like they were a walk in the park for her! She commented that she felt a lot more mentally tough and confident on the bike. I however, frequently freak out on the bike! At least 50% of my workouts are mental struggles. My legs feel tired, and thus my mind tells me it is “too hard”. It’s the same with me for racing too. When competing in running races/events, I can push so much harder than I can when I’m doing biking races/events.

This seems so odd to me though, because Kelly and I are exactly flipped when we switch to running! She has been running at least twice as long as I have, yet I rarely struggle mentally in a run, but she’s mentions several times of feeling mentally weak when running.

Why is this? I am more “experienced” with biking, yet I find it harder mentally. But she is more “experienced” running, but struggles mentally much more than I do.

I know it’s not from body type, fitness, or experience. We are of very similar body type except she is more muscular than I am. We are of similar fitness as well. We both had our VO2 max tested, and came out with superior scores for our ages.

Based on just comparing the two of us, I’m inclined to think it’s just natural. I think you can train mental toughness to a point, but in the end, you might just be naturally more mentally tough in some areas rather than others.

So any thoughts from you readers? I’d be interested to read what you think about this topic. Do you find yourself more mentally tough in some sports/events than others? Do you have a friend who is less experienced/talented than you but appears stronger mentally? Maybe this should be my next research topic :)

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