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4 Ways to Build Mental Toughness During Your Workouts

There are a lot of ways to train your mind, but in this post we will focus on one in particular. One of the most effective ways to build mental toughness is by exposing yourself to physical stress. The mind and body are closely connected, and when your body fatigues, your mind does the same. Think back to the last time you did a conditioning workout. Do you remember how foggy your brain felt after that final sprint?

When your body gets tired, your play gets sloppy, the quality of your decisions deteriorate, and you lose focus. Physical exhaustion causes athletes to become mentally weak. However, with proper training, you can turn that idea on its head.

Using Physical Stress to Build Mental Toughness

Leveraging the mind-body connection comes down to doing stuff you typically don’t want to do. However, by doing these things you can build your mental toughness.

Here are four ways to incorporate mental toughness training into your workouts:

1) Make a habit of finishing drills strong

Athletes tend to let up and lose focus when they feel most physically tired at the end of a drill or set. It’s natural to try and rationalize reasons why you can slow down and that it is okay. We give ourselves excuses, but it is important to make an effort to ignore them. Once you give in to one, you give into them all. Bad habits foster more and worse bad habits.

Having the discipline to resist excuses and the impulse to let up is how you build mental toughness. 

Committing to finish every drill strong is a rare trait. If you commit to doing it, your mental and physical gains will reflect it, and your coach will notice!

2) At the end of workouts, do a conditioning drill

Conditioning is one of those things that we know is important but dread doing. It’s not fun, especially when we’re already tired from a workout. That’s why including a conditioning drill at the end of your workout is a great way to build mental toughness.

You can force yourself to forget your exhaustion and push beyond the limits that your mind has set for your body. Everytime that you stretch that limit, your mind-body connection with strengthen, and the bounds of your training will grow.

When you want nothing more than to unlace your shoes and collapse onto the sideline, run another set of sprints. You’ll hate doing it. It will always hurt. But the act of dragging yourself onto the court and pushing yourself for 30-60 seconds more will pay dividends to your mental toughness. 

3) Hold yourself accountable to your workout plan

Your workout plan is only worthwhile if you follow it stringently, but it is tempting to make last minute changes when you’re tired. Especially when the next drill is one that you hate. For me, it was pure ball handling drills. As soon as I saw a ball handling drill on my workout plan I groaned. There were times when I fell prey to my excuses and switched my plan to a drill that was easier. A sign of pure mental weakness.

Your workout plan should be treated like a holy doctrine. Follow it religiously. There’s a reason why you chose that drill when you crafted your workout plan. Don’t let your mental weakness get in the way of doing what you need to do. 

4) Do drills with consequences

If you’re doing a shooting drill that has 10 reps in it, choose a target number of shots you have to make. One where you’ll reach the mark 50-80% of the time. If you fail to reach your goal, perform the consequence. One of the most effective uses of consequences is when you’re shooting free throws. After a drill when you’re tired, shoot 2 free throws as if your team was in the bonus and it was 1-and-1. If you don’t make both, perform the consequence. It should be chosen before you do the drill when you have a clear head. Some examples are: 

  • 5 burpees
  • 10 backboard/rim touches
  • 30-90 second plank
  • 8 laneline-to-laneline slides
  • 10 lunge jumps

Building mental toughness doesn’t have to be its own separate workout. By incorporating these four tactics into your training, you can build your mental game and your physical skills at the same time.


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