Going To Those Dark Places

Coach Kaz Adams

This topic is going to be expressed from a training perspective and the reason why is because most of my own personal experiences are with sport performance. Before we can create a strategy to improve our own mental resilience we must define what it is to ourselves.

The thing with mental resilience is that although it is a broad topic it can be specific to the areas you are involved in. Personally, mental resilience and developing my own mental fortitude has come from being in competitive environments where I wanted to succeed. These competitive environments involved two main things:

1) high pressure situations and

2) being comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I not only learned to physically prepare but mentally prepare myself, through practicing difficult things/situations that I wasn’t initially good at, to make the competitive stage easier to deal with. As mentioned above, this strategy allowed me to make the uncomfortable more comfortable to be in, until that new boundary became my comfort zone. Adapting mental strength was simply a by-product of that practice.

Mental resilience is the ability to pursue your desired outcome through uncertainty, discomfort and fear of failure.

When you do difficult physical training you are entering the dark place required to build your own mental resilience. It is referred to as a ‘dark place’ because:

· It is a place of uncertainty – can you continue to persevere through areas in which you have never been? Do you pace yourself or go faster until you collapse? Will your continued effort cause you to collapse?

· Because it is a place of discomfort – lots of people are afraid of the dark because they can’t see what dangers are ahead. The voice telling them they are in pain is often louder than the voice telling them to keep going. The emotions associated with being uncomfortable are usually negative.

The dark place can be a lot lighter if you approach this problem from an objective perspective. If uncertainty, fear of failure and discomfort are the main obstacles, we can confidently acknowledge that progress can be achieved if done at a steady rate. Just like your long walks turned into light jogs. With small runs you can objectively measure your progress in the gym and take away the first variable, uncertainty. For example, if you wanted to be able to run 1km and you know you can comfortably walk 1 kilometre we can progress this walk by adding in only 100m of jogging every time you go for that walk. If we add 100m jogging each week then in 10 weeks time you will now be jogging the entire 1km instead of walking it. This is called progressive improvement. Whereas, if I told the same person who was only comfortable with walking 1km that they needed to run 1km it would be a lot harder.

With progressive improvement we have taken away the fear of uncertainty and instead added small portions of discomfort. Simply by making a strategy around distance or time they will increase their runs/walks. We have started to affect two main areas of mental resilience and we’ve done it objectively (not how they feel they are doing but how we measure them doing).

So the best way to start improving your mental resilience is to figure out what you struggle with and start measuring. If it is running you struggle with, measure how far you’re running and how long it takes you. Set small goals you can achieve over a months time to help you with your running. If it is lifting weight, have your form analysed by a coach to give you feedback about the areas of your movement you could improve to make you stronger or move more efficiently.

It can be much simpler than just thinking you need to be tough. So, step away, make a plan and know when the RIGHT moment to be tough is.

Follow the steps: Identify; Strategise; Apply; Assess.

If you need help with your mental resilience, confidence or training, click here for a 7 Day Intro Trial at RAW -

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon