Chrissie Wellington Writes About Mental Toughness

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  • Published May 16, 2012
Photo: Nils Nilsen

Four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington writes about the mental toughness required to be successful in sport.

Training for a race is like riding a roller coaster — you experience highs and lows, ups and downs, and more peaks and troughs than the New York Stock Exchange.

Two weeks before I raced at the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii, last year, I had a bad bike crash. I won the race, not on physical prowess, but on grit, willpower, determination and mental strength.

I hope I showed, through my performance there, that sporting success rests, in part, with having the mental fortitude necessary to overcome our fears, pain and discomfort.

But how does one develop that strength? Is it innate, or can it be learned?

I believe it is the latter. We can all train our brains to be as strong as our bodies.

It sounds simple, but it’s so easy to forget. If we let our head drop, our heart drops with it. Keep your head up, and your body is capable of amazing feats. To plunder the words of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “Don’t ever forget that you play with your soul as well as your body.”

The message is this: All the physical strength in the world won’t help you if your mind is not prepared. This is part of training for a race — the part that people don’t put in their logbooks, the part that all the monitors, gizmos and gadgets in the world can’t influence.

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