Its All in the Mind

By: Karen Lilleyman

In his book The New Toughness Training for Sports, Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute, defined mental toughness as “the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.”

Having taken part in the RTO this past weekend, this topic has been on my (not always robust) mind. Watching the determination of many participants translate into incredible performances in some pretty challenging circumstances – 100 degree heat, steep inclines, lack of any sleep other than a 20 minute nap in Raley’s parking lot, cramps, dehydration etc, etc left me very impressed and pondering a couple of questions: Are some of us just naturally mentally strong? Is this something we can learn?

Even cursory research into this topic reveals one thing – there are a lot of different opinions and anecdotal evidence, but few clear scientifically based conclusions can be drawn (to be expected in this subjective field). However the general consensus seems to be that mental toughness is an in-built attribute which cannot be engendered in someone who completely lacks it. It can, however, be nurtured and increased in someone who shows some innate psychological grit and tips abound for how best (and quickest) to do this. For example, making it a habit to do things which are out of your comfort zone (physically and emotionally); picking a single, difficult exercise and doing it daily; spending time alone with your thoughts and becoming more comfortable with them (either by working out without music or sitting in meditation regularly); visually running through in your mind 3 things you have done well in the last 24 hours and then visualising how you will respond well to any upcoming challenges; and many others.

Like most things in training and in life, what works best for you will be personal to you. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this subject, and any other suggestions you have for improving mindset, just in case I can be persuaded to run the Odyssey again in 2017….


Group Class Workout


Warm Up: 3 Rounds 30 sec Plank then 30 seconds Air Squats

1 Rd: 16 Goblet Squats (Heavy), 6 Burpees, 16 Lunges

Finish with: 1 min Goblet Squat Hold, 15 PVC PT, GM


Strength: Front Squat 5×4 (Rising)

Every 2 Minutes

Lean: No Strength





15 Min AMRAP

200m Run

12 Box Jumps 24/20

12 Toes to bar


Crossfit Lean

For Time:

1000m Row

50 Air squats

100/75 Cal bike

50 Air Squats

50/40 Cal ski

50 Air Squats