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  • Writer's pictureCarlie Pipe

Mental Fortitude

We talk about the power of visualising success, and the difficulties with bringing 110% of yourself to training every day. That's the real mental challenge!


Carlie: (00:15) Welcome back to Running Bout. I'm your host, Carlie, just an Athlete, but I've got two people who actually know where they're talking about - Revolution Running certified trainer, Corey McClean, strength and conditioning coach, Tennyson Harrigan. And today we're going to be talking about mental toughness, mental acuity, mental fortitude, wherewithal, strongness, strongness of the mind. Um, something that may be difficult to train. If you think about it, you can hypertrophy the crap out of your muscles and get them strong and big. But how do you train your mind? That's kind of a, a whole topic we're going to dive into today. Um, what's the hardest thing you guys have ever done?

Corey: (01:03) Calrie is right out the gate with the difficult questions. Um, hardest thing I've ever done. I should probably say something related to becoming a father. Probably. Something in relation to that. I don't know. I honestly do not know what is the toughest... It's just been all hard. It's all hard.

Carlie: (01:33) Tennyson how about you?

Tennyson: (01:35) Well, if I limit it to athletic pursuits, I guess when I, when I used to go to UWI and we had to train for track, I think we were training for UWI Games. Um, so that was three times a week and then still go to gym after track, which was pretty rough. Um, when you run you get shin splints, right?

Carlie: (02:02) Not necessarily, some people. You.

Tennyson: (02:07) horrible Shin splints and I had to run every day despite the fact that may my legs felt like they were breaking. My coach recommended what I had to do to get them rehabilitated, which worked eventually, but as a point we should just have to keep training and push past. Well, that's what I was told. Yeah. No, as opposed to just stopping altogether. Wow. Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. I trained through Shin splints and track Training isn't easy, especially if you're doing 200 um, well 4 is the worst. Of the short sprints. Yeah. But two is pretty hard for me. I had to do like threes and threes fifties back-to-back-to-back and yeah, that was, that wasn't easy.

Carlie: (03:00) I find that 2s are hard because I feel like that's the point where I'm not super, super fast so my twos are always relatively slower or like I feel slower whereas my fours, I'm quite happy with them and I can do them pretty quick I think. But then when it comes, so like in other words, if I'm training with a group, I might be ahead on a 400 but constantly behind on a 200 yeah,

Tennyson: (03:23) Because two is, two is a lot of fast twitch muscles. So if you do have that kind of explosive capacity, then you're going to fall behind and the two. Four with goes into the anaerobic and lactic endurance, So you have less speed but more endurance is more of a 400m. The 400 is pretty speed intensive too, but less than a two. But I remember a time was after a couple of laps. I was on the grass looking into the sky. I could not breathe like literally my chest was on fire. It was gasping for air and I was just thinking about life and like your whole life passes before your eyes. it was extreme pain, but that was the hardest thing. I had to do

Carlie: (04:03) four hundreds, you know, I do those like every Monday

Tennyson: (04:07) I will come train with you when I'm trying to, you know, lose all of this fat. Yeah, I'll do that.

Carlie: (04:13) I think the hardest, the hardest event I've ever had to do, um, that I can remember in recent memory is the hill challenge this year. That was so hard for me. I, it's 13 miles. It's like almost all off road madness up uphill. It's all in the east coast, just like up all those hills. I don't even know the names of them. People know the names. I do not. That was, that was pretty awful. Yeah, no.

Carlie: (05:11) I got, I fell flat on my face on the hill. Only one person saw that. Okay. But I guess now everyone knows. Um, and nearly got chased by a cow. Um, and a dog, I nearly got chased by a dog I made, so I was like a little bit ahead of a group of some guys and I just see this angry dog come out. And I was like, not me today, Lord. So he turned around and I made, when you guys hold my hand I was like frightened as Hell, I'm not afraid. I'm not like ashamed to say that, but that, and you know, this brings us back I think to the mental aspect of things where if you have a fear in your mind it controls for you. You do not perform or if you have, let's say you've done poorly on a particular race and you go back to it again the next year, you always have that last race is in the back of your head. Like can I do it? Will I be able to do it?

Tennyson: (06:07) Oh yeah, that's for sure. Um, on that note, I always had an issue with starting when I used to do track. So I would all through practice have nice clean technical block starts whenever it was a race. I could, I couldn't let start to save my life. I would stumble or it was, it was crazy

Carlie: (06:30) Because you're mentally beaten already. Yeah. Yeah. Um, which kind of brings us to a few points that I made on, on why I think our tips and you guys can agree or disagree with me on building your mental toughness and one of them is, um, positive self talk. So telling yourself you belong here, you can do this. You know, um, a lot of athletes don't have that. Good athletes too, you know, feel negative about their races and their performance. And I think it's a really important to look at the, almost the psychological aspect of sport to kind of develop that as well.

Corey: (07:16) I think, I think what happens is that as whatever you're doing gets difficult, then you kind of, I don't, I don't know back track back pedal. You don't want to endure the suffering anymore. So your natural reaction is, no, I can't do this. So then the, the, the mental side is you telling yourself, yes, I actually can do this. Right. And there's a quote that I remember got me through a race years and years ago and it said, um, if you ask yourself, can you give more? The answer is usually yes. I think that was by Bernard Lagat kind of like that. I'm thinking, and it's true because you might be at a point where you feel your stomach in your neck and you feel like youre going to die, you're burning in your legs and ask yourself honestly and objectively, can I give more? More often than not, the answer is gonna be yes. Yes,

Carlie: (08:20) I totally agree with that. I think you can all, there's always more inside of you that you may not even necessarily think is there. And I think that that's one of the things that separates winners in a race and I guess not winners. Um, you know, but having the ability to suffer longer, um, as my coach has said before, to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Right. That makes all the difference. Because if you can sort of tell yourself this is not the end, I've got more to give. Um, and you have more of a push at the end of a race, when it counts, then you will go further. And for me, like during training, that's what makes a difference too. Because if when you are training, you're only giving that 90% of yourself and you don't want to push yourself into the region of being really uncomfortable... In a race, you're going to back off. The same way you do in training, you'll back off.

Corey: (09:24) ]You can't, you can't expect to perform at a level that you've not trained to perform

Tennyson: (09:31) You don't progress if you don't always push yourself to the hundred and 5% 110% a little further than you've been before. That's the only way you actually ever progress in anything. In terms of quotes, I don't think anybody said this, but my own new quote - was will it kill you? No. I think that's what I would tell myself when I got to get up and do that one more. One 50 or one with 200 is like, okay, am I going to die if I do this? If I actually put the effort in and actually run as hard as I can, no, probably not.

Carlie: (10:17) Yeah. Well another thing that works for me too, which is similar to that is like focusing on the kilometer or the rep that you're in. Right. And not how many you've got left. That's helped. That's, I started thinking about that and that has helped me through a few workouts where it's like if you have to do, you know, 16 four hundreds or 20 400s don't start counting one cause you've got a long way to go to get to 20 but instead focus on the one you're in and just get that one done and then a race focused on the kilometer that you're currently in and don't focus on the five you have left. And that really helps a lot.

Tennyson: (10:57) Another thing that I've read about or read on, I think I probably actually had a sport psychology course in UWI, but it's a different story, but visualizing yourself doing the activity, whether it be the weight lifting, where they'd be running, that actually according to scientific studies improves your performance by a great amounts for two reasons. There's actual physiological effects. I think your muscles actually fire neurologically when you actually thinking about what you're doing. So if they hook you up to EMG and you imagine that you're running, your quads, your hamstrings will actually be firing in the sequence that they would normally, if you actually running. And secondly, the psychological effects, if you keep imagining yourself doing something and doing it over and over and over again, when you actually get into the competition day you kind of switch over into that, what do you call the zone that would, you could just perform, without thinking consciously, you just go out there and, and do what you imagine yourself doing hundreds of times before [inaudible] that's how it's supposed to work. Um, but in the things that you could be overstimulated, you could be understimulated. There's a whole bunch of different things.

Carlie: (12:15) I'm just going to come to that because that's something I firmly believe in and practice a lot and that kind of brings us back to you having difficulty getting out of the blocks. Like do you think that if you practiced some a few minutes a day or whatever, visualizing yourself getting out of the blocks perfectly with no issues that would have helped you?

Tennyson: (12:34) I definitely think so and that's something I would have learned later on. The whole positive affirmation thing or thinking about yourself being successful, which does actually work even if it might sound like Mumbo-jumbo to some people, but then I think I was a lot more, serious rather was a lot more about, okay, let me fix my technique, let me fix my technique and that's what I was really focused on to the point where in a race I'm thinking about my technique when he not supposed to be really thinking in a race is supposed to just be executing. I mean I think that the best races I've had were the ones, I didn't care too much abouts. I remember how to take a super fast time is St Lucia and I just didn't care to be there. I was like, okay, this is a I don't really cared. Let me just go down a run. And when you look at the tip, I like soon other blocks, I was like 20 metres ahead of everybody. I when I realized that in the race back then, I was like, shit, what's happening? But as that's really how it is, it will start at that time at the end.

Carlie: (13:42) It's funny when you take the pressure off, you just perform. Yep. That's, that's funny. Corey, what do you think about visualization and like manifesting your own success or Mumbo jumbo or Nah,

Corey: (13:54) we're going to go there are, we honestly don't leave. I use that a lot, especially when I'm doing um, weight lifting stuff. So I remember coach saying once, well several times. Um, don't lift the bar until you've already lifted it in your head. Right? So however long it's gonna take you to lift the bar in your head, do that. And until you seen yourself lift the bar, get under it. I receive it. I started up successfully. Do not touch the actual bar. Right? And I mean some too many times you actually go to the bar and like, you know, nothing will happen. But it's the process of going through that that there's some days when the bar feels weightless that you don't let you talk about technique. You don't even have to think about what you did when you did. It just happened. Right? So yeah, I believe in, I believe visualizing the outcome that you want is valuable.

Tennyson: (15:00) But at the physical side of that, sorry to interrupt too, he is actually doing the thing. You have to actually practice the thing over and over and over again so that it becomes ingrained in your body because of what he could move without your thinking. So if you've practiced something long enough, you actually do need to think. You just go and you get body takes it from there.

Corey: (15:21) Yeah. You talk about greasing the groove, so you just just um, building that neuropathway for an over and over. Yeah. So like you don't actually have to allocate the, the thinking conscious conscious thought to actually doing it us. Like, like we were doing running drills like you, you will work a drill to get your body to do certain things. Not because when you go onto the road that you're going to say, okay, now lift my knee. This is that stuff. Right? So you're not thinking about that stuff when you're actually running. Well, what's actually happening is over the time you're actually building that in one piece out so they will come together on the actual road.

Tennyson: (16:03) Yeah. That brings me to the pots of mental toughness that I wanted to touch on the day to day showing up to train. That's a big part of being mentally tough, right? Yes. There's so many excuses you can find on any given day to not go out and train. And I mean that this is actually a very recent thing for me. It's like you have to decide, okay, do you want to perform at this level or not make a decision if you wants to perform at this level, if you're passionate about it, then this is the amount of work that needs to be done. You need to do it. It's as simple as that. If you don't show up to train for the two days a week vs 4 you not going to perform and that is the fact of the matter. You need to be tough everyday to actually see, okay, despite this I'm going to train and I'm going to give it my all in training.

Carlie: (17:00) Thats usually a very overlooked part of the whole idea of mental toughness. You know, you think about like race day, getting yourself through the miles, mental toughness, but you've got to put in a lot of miles before you get to race day. And like Cory said there's always excuses. But, um, if you can start making a habit out of it, you know, you get those first, the first whatever it is, 28 days or whatever it is to form a habit of you doing the four days a week, no excuses, you get it done, then it becomes more of a routine.

Tennyson: (17:34) It does, it does, it becomes less negotiable in your mind if it's part of your routine after it, after the 20 days, like you said. Yeah.

Corey: (17:42) So like, so there is that part, the, you know, the building, the training, the doing it into your, your routine. But on the other side of that too is getting into the habit of doing difficult stuff. Like, Oh yeah. Anything difficult. Like, um, I, I I remember early this year a lot of people got on this cold shower band wagon and they were like, you know, take cold shower and start the day for cold shower. Yeah. So there were all, there were the, you know, like for 30 days in, I think it was January, 30 days in January, take cold showers. I was like, I'm not taking cold shower for 30 days.

Corey: (18:28) So the idea is that if you can every day put yourself in a position where you do something that sucks, that you do not want to do, then you build a hobby of, of pushing through a discomfort. So when you come to training or work or racing or whatever, you already have that as part of your life late. You know what? This is another difficult thing.

Carlie: (19:21) Let's just do it. That's actually a point I was gonna make as well. I'm glad you reminded me, is the whole idea of remaining hungry, right? If you win constantly, let's be frank, you are not hungry. Yeah. To me it is better to be coming second constantly because it gives you more drive or rather not coming second constantly. But throughout your journey of training and preparing and whatnot, it's important to lose some things. Sometimes it's important to lose some fights along the way, I guess so because they keep you driven.

Corey: (20:05) so see, so the thing is, so t taking out that that theory, if you never do difficult things, life will be hard because life is hard. So if you're doing difficult things, you're going to, you're going to actually make life easy. Um, by not doing difficult things, you're actually making life harder than it needs to be. So taking your, your, your analogy or your scenario, if you only win, like you've never not gotten an a, you've never not come first in class. When you're actually faced with a, an adversity, you don't know how to handle it. You don't know what it's like to have lost. You don't know what it's like to not be the first in class. And it is a valuable life skills out.

Carlie: (20:59) So if you're someone who has not won often look at you, you, you are in a better place. Youre a champ in reality. You're right though I love taking on challenges and I love doing things that are difficult because I feel like it builds your character. Yeah, right.

Tennyson: (21:17) It does. I would agree with this. I mean, but this some people that actually seem to be winning all the time but then they put in lots of work and efforts and these, I wouldn't be able to do it but they have the ability to stay driven and hungry despite the fact that the, they keep winning. I mean I have a friend like that and he amazes me is he succeeded but yet still he's just as hungry as if he hasn't or never had and that's a unique trait that I don't see many people.

Carlie: (21:50) That's probably also some positive self talk as well. I guess pumping herself up verbally in a way maybe. Maybe. I don't know.

Tennyson: (22:00) that there's something, there's something too is that I have yet to figure out, like if I, if I am successful in something and I'm like, ah, all right.

Corey: (22:06) So it's like is like this, well more analogies. More Wu stuff. It's like the lion and the gazelle, right. So gazelles wake up and they know that if they don't all run the fastest lion they're going to be eaten. Lions. Wake up knowing that if they don't outrun the slowest gazelle, they're going to starve. But the gazelle, if it's not being chased, will not run. Yeah. It doesn't have a reason. But lions like to hunt. Lions will get up and go hunt. Right. Whether or not they catch or something,

Carlie: (22:50) I'm sorry. You mean lionesses

Corey: (22:52) Hold on there sister. when I'm saying lions, I mean lion kind. Lions hunt thats what they do. But gazelles they eat grass and if somebody's chasing and then they're running, but they're not older driven to achieve something to get something.

Carlie: (23:29) So if you're going to be one or the other, be a lion slash lioness be a member of the lion kind of community. So talking about losers. Corey, you didn't talk to me about the bar race because when asked what was the most difficult thing you ever did, you didn't say the BAR race, so was it easy?

Corey: (23:54) It was definitely not easy. No, no, no, no. I'll tell, um, so BAR, the Barbados adventure Race this last weekend I put my name in a hat. Uh, I went for it. My team name was espresso petroleum because, hey, coffee. Right. But, um, we, so we, we went in with, with, with a bit of a handicap. what happened was one of our team members got injured the week leading up to the race. and we had to replace her literally at the 11th hour. So we went in with, I would like to lovingly see a willing fool because she had no idea what she was getting herself into. And we kinda didn't tell her really. Right. So she kinda just, you know, say, you know what guys, y'all need a fourth, I will be your fourth. As she came, uh, she put her all into it. I left it all on the line, but she's not super athletic. She's not, you know, a gym rat. So she did not have that skill level to draw on, even though she did give everything that she did have.

Carlie: (25:16) So then I think y'all placed well, considering that she hadn't prepared for that or she did.

Corey: (25:22) So she did not train for at all. Um, however, considering the fact that we almost didn't get to participate, I think, not, not, not, that's a win, I think. I think finishing it should be, was the win. Even though what really, really hurt is that we placed 26th and 25 teams went forward to the finals

Carlie: (25:48) first losers. that's the hardest, hardest position to be in is the first one, not to qualify.

Corey: (25:55) I had to rationalize that even if we did qualify, we, that we would have killed that poor girl. She would have died. So we would've gone into the final and she would no longer exists.

Corey: (32:21) So, so one of the things that they're like, let y'all in to my, my, my, my journaling. So one of the things I had to rationalize was what is the, what is the reason I do this? Like, is this the, I'm I doing this only to win? Like, if I'm not winning, am I going to stop doing this on the outside any days? No. so I train, I do this stuff because I want to make me Corey a better person on the any day. So winning or losing, having gone through that training, I'm putting myself should, our challenge is what I'm, is my ultimate goal. So having done that, I'm putting on adding that note to, to my list of, of difficult things that I've done. By definition I want.

Carlie: (33:21) Okay. Yeah. So, yeah. So I mean, fair enough. Very true. I philosophical and emotional and I like it now. I mean, I'm teasing you and calling you a loser, but I'll give you a recap on my race in St Lucia. Technically it wasn't a winner anyway. I mean, I came third. That's not the winner, the second loser. I'm the second loser. Exactly. But Hey, I made it on the podium, but it felt like a good win for me, um, because I went out there and I said, I have to make it on the podium. Right. So that was my goal and that's what happened. And I was really close off the second place, which I guess at the time was like, yeah, nice, great. I was so close to second place. But then in retrospect it's like, then why didn't you pass her, you know, if you were so close, why didn't you just push a little harder and you know, make it to second place and not just settle for, oh, I'm on the podium. so I've got what I've came out for, which I think in retrospect I probably was in that state of mind. Yeah. Oh, um, I got what I wanted, but, oh no, you should've just gotten more, get it off a little bit more. But, um, it was a really, it was a really good race,

Corey: (34:37) I find. I find that you can always ask yourself like, you know, maybe I lost time here. Maybe I didn't, whatever. And you always do that when you look at the results and you, you see, well you are, I was 10 seconds off of whatever.

Tennyson: (35:03) I guess that's, that's a lesson that you should just give your best because at the end, whatever you get you know Yeah. You actually give it my all.

Carlie: (35:41) Well I think we've covered a good hunk chunk of topics surrounding mental toughness, strongness wherewithal, you said fortitude, right? Um, everything you need to bring to, to, to get that personal win, cause even if it's not a win-win, it's still a personal win. So guys, stay hungry and keep listening. This is Runnin Bout, we'll be back next week again. Make sure you listen up by the website. You can also find us on iTunes, podcasts and follow all of us on Instagram. Corey is @that_mcclean_guy, Tennyson it @master_harrigan I am @carlierunsbarbados. Thanks a lot.

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