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3 Habits that Will Help Build Mental Strength

Mental strength is important for every aspect of our lives – but what exactly is it?

Mental strength can look like:

Getting up when life knocks you down.

Staying disciplined despite lacking motivation.

Competing against yourself instead of others.

Facing challenges head on.

Being mentally strong means that you can cope with negative emotions in a healthy way.

It means you can think realistically, acknowledge your feelings (positive and negative!) and act accordingly.

Here are three habits that will help build mental strength:

#1 Visualization

When we visualize a particular outcome, focusing on the specific images, associated feelings, and finer details, we show our brain the desired outcome. The more we visualize a particular situation, the better we can convince our brain to believe in it. Studies have shown that mentally imagining an outcome actually alters brainwave activity and biochemistry.

Let’s say that our goal is building mental strength. We could use visualization as a tool to achieve our goal by visualizing the steps that we need to take. We can write down a list of the habits we could implement, decide when to implement them during our day (visualization while making breakfast, for example), and create an action plan to ensure long-term commitment and results.

#2 Positive self talk

Self talk is that small voice in the background, the one that says, “Hey, it’s going to be okay, we’ve got this.”

Since self talk is our inner dialogue, we can change it. If we regularly talk to ourselves more positively, we convince ourselves that we can achieve our goals, face challenges, and conquer obstacles.

Research has shown that people who talk positively to themselves are able to think more critically and react better to social challenges.

#3 Mindfulness

In my opinion, no other habit is effective without mindfulness. To me, mindfulness means being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. If we are not aware of our thoughts or the way we speak to ourselves, how can we visualize our dreams or practice positive self-talk?

Every morning, I try to tune in to my mind and my body. I ask myself, “How am I today, really?”

Sometimes that’s easy – “Oh, I’m quite hungry, let me go grab something to eat.”

But then life gets in the way and it’s – “Woah, I have so much to do today. I almost forgot! I also need to…”

A good morning routine is so important for me because it helps set me up for the rest of the day. Part of that morning routine is the Rewire Readiness Assessment which considers emotional, cognitive, and physical elements as well as physiological data. All it takes is a few minutes and I am given a helpful readiness score that allows me to tune in to my mental and physical state. This way I am able to be more mindful and build mental strength.

Bonus #4 The Rewire App

Now, I don’t know about you, but trying to add all of these habits into what already feels like an over packed suitcase on a family vacation is just not feasible. That’s where Rewire comes in –

Rewire is an app designed for athletes (managing life and training is tough) and focuses on the training and recovery of both the body and the mind. All those habits I mentioned? Rewire takes them all into consideration and creates personalized Mindset Recovery sessions based on your data to help you make the most of your day and build mental resilience holistically.

Not yet convinced? Give Rewire a try and let the results speak for themselves.

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

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Sources

Ralph Roberts Personal Trainer | Amarillo, TX. (2017). What Does It Mean To Be Mentally Strong? [online] Available at: https://ralphrobertspersonaltrainer.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-mentally-strong.

Verywell Mind. (n.d.). The Difference Between Mental Strength and Mental Health. [online] Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/the-difference-between-mental-strength-and-mental-health-5078284.‌

OMAR ITANI. (n.d.). 12 Habits That Will Help You Build Real Grit and Mental Strength. [online] Available at: https://www.omaritani.com/blog/12-habits-mental-strength

Smith, D.B. (2018). Power of the Mind 1: The Science of Visualization. [online] Science Abbey. Available at: https://www.scienceabbey.com/2018/10/24/power-of-the-mind-the-science-of-visualization-1/.‌

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How to Become Mentally Strong

A successful athlete needs mental strength; the ability to overcome failure, navigate obstacles and perform well when faced with setbacks and injuries. The degree of mental toughness one has measures individual resilience and can predict success in sport. According to Solomon and Becker (2004), a resilient athlete can overcome setbacks, remain confident, and focus on the present. Meanwhile, athletes who lack mental strength are more likely to give up.

Although many athletes view mental resilience as an innate trait that one is born with, research has shown that mental toughness can be fostered, trained, and developed. Just like training a muscle, it is a habit that needs continuous training, focus, and effort. 

One way to improve mental strength is through Neuro Training.  

Numerous peer-reviewed studies have shown that brain endurance training improves athletic performance by targeting the areas of the brain responsible for fatigue management, decision making, and impulse suppression. In 2015, Staiano et al. conducted research demonstrating that brain endurance training improves endurance performance when combined with traditional physical training, thereby increasing athletes’ mental fitness and resilience.  

Rewire’s cognitive training protocols incorporate neuro training protocols to make mental strength training more accessible to those seeking to improve their mental resilience.

Serving as an investor and strategic advisor, NBA All-Star Kyle Korver says, “As a professional athlete, I’ve known firsthand the importance of training the mind and body to push the limits of performance. Rewire’s the latest platform makes mental strength training more accessible to athletes everywhere with easy-to-use tools to help them reach their goals.”

Ready to start training your mind and push your performance to the next level? 

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References:

Solomon, G., & Becker, A. (2004). Focused for fastpitch: 80 drills to play and stay sharp. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Staiano, Walter & Merlini, Michele & Marcora, Samuele. (2015). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Brain Endurance Training (BET) to Reduce Fatigue During Endurance Exercise. 

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The Top 5 Stoic Quotes You Need to Know to Build Mental Toughness

Stoicism is an ancient school of thought founded by Zeno of Citium. Stoic Philosophy teaches that the path to eudaimonia (or happiness) is found through controlling the controllable and accepting the uncontrollable as they happen; living with Areté (or excellence/moral virtue), and by taking responsibility. Try to use these stoic quotes as an anchor on your journey towards mental toughness.

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

Marcus Aurelius

How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?

Epictetus

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man [or woman] perfected without trials.

Seneca

Man [or woman] conquers the world by conquering themselves.

Zeno of Citium

Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.

Marcus Aurelius

Write down these stoic quotes somewhere that you can see and keep reminding yourself of them as you work on developing your mental toughness.

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Training For The Mind: Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

To the untrained eye, the reason that we exercise is to simply improve our fitness. We lift to improve our strength and build muscle and we go on long runs, swims or rides to develop our endurance. That is what, at the most basic level, training is all about – improving our athletic performance.

Sometimes I hear people disregard rest days and the importance of recovery. I usually laugh at this as the inner scientist in me cringes. At first glance, this attitude would seem to come from the false belief that improvements in our physiology occur in the gym and whilst exercising, rather than in our sleep and time spent recovering, and for the vast majority of people, it is likely to be true that they are incorrectly taking this ‘no rest’ approach with the aim of improving their fitness.

However, to some, there is more to training than simply improving fitness. To some, training is less about the body, than it is about the mind. Take David Goggins for example, he never has a rest day, and to many, this would seem crazy and futile. But, the most important thing to him when training is the development of his mental toughness. For some people, training is not about improving their body or fitness, these are just welcome bi-products. Instead, training is about the mind. Creating a high level of suffering to develop their mental toughness and themselves as a person.

‘Who on this f**king earth would be going right now? You are! I believed it enough to where my body said: “he’s not gonna stop”.’

David Goggins

I’m certainly not suggesting that you do go at 100% all the time, and you should give yourself time to rest and recover. But we can learn a lot from the mentality shown by Goggins: we should not be using science as an excuse for slacking. In that sense, you would only be cheating yourself. We should however use the science when it is correctly applied and take appropriate recovery for the our exercise. Indeed, by its very definition, you cannot recover without putting the work in first.

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

Marcus Aurelius

If we cave in to feelings of needing to stop we our losing an internal battle with our mind, and the mind is immensely powerful. Under conditions of mental fatigue our endurance performance is shown to decrease significantly (1,2). Yet, the science shows that using Neuro Training over a 12-week programme was shown to yield 3x the improvement in athletic performance in a time-to-exhaustion trial (3). By putting our mind under uncomfortable conditions and testing our mental capacities we can break the boundaries of what was previously possible. Learn how we help athletes and those looking to level up their human performance increase their mental resilience.

“That’s one of my big things too is, you know, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable”

Laura Kline – Rewire Athlete

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References

1.        Marcora SM, Staiano W, Manning V. Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009; 

2.        Lopes TR, Oliveira DM, Simurro PB, Akiba HT, Nakamura FY, Okano AH, et al. No Sex Difference in Mental Fatigue Effect on High-Level Runners’ Aerobic Performance. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2020;Volume Pub. 

3.        Marcora SM, Staiano W, Merlini M. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Brain Endurance Training (BET) to Reduce Fatigue During Endurance Exercise. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2015; 

Recommended Reading

Can’t Hurt Me
by David Goggins

Meditations
by Marcus Aurelius

The Obstacle is the Way
by Ryan Holiday

The Joe Rogan Experience #1212 – David Goggins

The Tim Ferriss Podcast: Ryan Holiday (#4)

INEOS 1:59 – A week on…

2019, so far, has been an incredible year of sport. The heroics of Ben Stokes in both the World Cup and Headingley Test. Huge comebacks in the Champions League knockout stages. Japan’s unexpected dominance in the pool stages of their home World Cup. And most recently, a weekend to remember in the marathon…Brigid Kosgei breaking the women’s record, taking a staggering 81 seconds off a 16 year record, and Eliud Kipchoge breaking the 2-hour marathon barrier.

I distinctly remember two years ago watching the Breaking2 attempt and being both amazed and upset about how close Kipchoge was to breaking 2 hours. It was incredible how much he actually knocked off the previous record, yet was only 1 second off the pace-per-mile to breaking 2 hours. However, this made the most recent attempt even more incredible. Kipchoge is relentless and with a goal in his sight he will never gave up. Almost uniquely, he is an athlete that is impossible not to like. A quiet man with a humble lifestyle and background, coupled with almost everything he says being a motivational quote makes him the ideal candidate for such a feat.

In life, the idea is to be happy. So, I believe in calm, simple, low-profile life. You live simple, you train hard and live an honest life. Then you are free.

Eliud Kipchoge

Following the record last weekend, a few things were thrown into controversy. The use of pacemakers, drafting and most notably: the shoes. Both Kipchoge and Kosgei were wearing models of Nike’s latest developments. Whilst Kosgei seemed to be wearing the commercially available Next% shoes (in accordance with IAAF rules), Kipchoge was wearing what Nike has called ‘A future version of Nike’s Next% marathon shoe’. The initial Vaporfly 4% were named due to the 4% improvement in running economy that they created on average. The Next% goes even further than this and Kipchoges mystery shoe, rumoured to be called alphaFLY, goes even further still. Some called the shoes a form of ‘Technical Doping’ giving athletes an unfair advantage due to the three individual carbon fibre plates and four individual cushioning pods to name just a few innovations each providing propulsion and economy to the runner’s stride.

Eliud Kipchoge (white vest) and his pacemaking team run through Vienna. The INEOS 1:59 Challenge, Vienna, Austria. 12 October 2019. Photo: Joe Toth for The INEOS 1:59 Challenge

For me, I have no problem with the development. In fact, I welcome it. Firstly as an unofficial record, the attempt is there to show that a sub-2-hour marathon is possible allowing other athletes to push to achieve and exceed this. Kipchoge said this himself: ‘I expect more people all over the world to run under two hours after today.’. Secondly, innovation in technology is a huge part of sport. Huge teams are behind every elite athlete. In 2018, the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team had around 950 employees working on the same goal of achieving the best car. Something they have just achieved for the sixth time on the trot, by winning their 6th Constructor’s title in a row after last weekend in Japan. Innovation allows this to be possible. Each of those employees is able to innovate and push technology further than ever – building on the idea of marginal gains. It allows creativity and competition between teams each pushing each other’s limits. This makes the races and season more interesting with teams like Mercedes being faster in the corners and teams like Ferrari being faster on the straights. Hopefully, companies like Adidas are able to catch up with Nike and start to compete with them. It would be great to see a ‘space race’ between companies like these to achieve new records. The technology used at an elite level also trickles down to the commercial consumer level improving lives for everyone.

The magnitude of this most recent record is huge. It sits alongside Roger Bannister’s 4 minute mile and the first sub-10 second 100m time recorded by Jim Hines with a time of 9.95 seconds. The interesting thing about both these records is that people once thought these barriers were unbreakable, and since then we’ve had Hicham El Guerrouj set a mile time of 3:43.13 and Bolt set a time of 9.58 seconds in the 100m – the barriers have been broken even further. Kipchoge’s record will be pushed further and hopefully in an official sense. I also hope Kipchoge takes the official record; he deserves it more than anyone right now, especially with his commitment and devotion to these unofficial records.

A lot has been said about the mindset of athletes like Kipchoge. Relentlessly devoted and focussed towards a goal. The mental aspect of performance is almost universally accepted as being a very important part, yet few people devote time to training their brain. Hopefully, as cognitive training comes more to the forefront of training, athletes will be able to reach higher heights than ever – pushing these records further than ever before. Evidence of the need for cognitive training in sports can be seen by the improvements in performance seen in studies where Brain Endurance Training is combined with regular training. Staiano et al., 2015 showed that those undergoing brain training at the same time as regular training had 3x the increase in performance in a time-to-exhaustion test over a 12-week period compared to a control group doing the same physical training without brain training. This shows that devotion to cognitive training is necessary if we want to push human performance to new levels and make the ‘impossible’ possible. 

Thank you, Eliud, for showing us that #NoHumanIsLimited

Eliud Kipchoge is lifted by his pacemaking team after becoming the first person to break the two hour barrier for the marathon distance. The INEOS 1:59 Challenge, Vienna, Austria. 12 October 2019. Photo: Bob Martin for The INEOS 1:59 Challenge

I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run under two hours and I can tell people that no human is limited.

Eliud Kipchoge

Study Covered in Article for Further Reading

A Randomized Controlled Trial of Brain Endurance Training (BET) to Reduce Fatigue During Endurance Exercise” 
by Walter Staiano, Michele Merlini, Samuele M Marcora
Conference: ACSM Annual Meeting, 2015

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