This article is brought to you by ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)
One of the benefits of a good workout is that it builds physical toughness. The body becomes stronger and more resilient. It has improved stamina and endurance. Developing mental toughness is important too, especially for personal trainers.
What Is Mental Toughness?
Dr. Jonathan Fader defines mental toughness as “being able to push past failures by remaining positive and competitive.” Fader is a licensed performance and clinical psychologist and has helped elite athletes in a variety of sports, including those playing pro football and baseball.
Mental toughness is about more than having the grit to face our challenges. It involves facing them in a positive way. Someone with this mental skill looks at obstacles as opportunities. They use difficulties to become a better person versus letting those difficulties break them down.
Mentally tough people also have more brain-based resilience. They are willing to stay the course long after others have given up. They don’t quit just because things get hard. Instead, they are willing to keep going until their goal is achieved. They may get tired from time to time but they never give up.
Certainly, developing mental toughness is beneficial for everyone. But it can be an even more important skill for personal training professionals.
Why Mental Toughness is Important for Personal Trainers
Clients have numerous objections to physical training. They don’t have the time to exercise regularly. They’re too tired. They don’t see the value. The list goes on and on. Having mental strength helps you overcome client training objections without getting frustrated to the point where you want to quit.
Having good mental strength also helps you not take rejection personally. If someone decides to not work with you, it’s okay. Their decision isn’t reflective of your abilities as a fitness trainer. It simply says that they’re not ready.
Developing mental fortitude offers additional benefits that extend beyond your dealings with clients. During the pandemic, many gyms and fitness facilities were closed without notice. And, at least initially, it was unclear when they would reopen. This hit trainers financially, sometimes even costing them their job. It had mental health impacts as well.
Research shows that, during the pandemic, 4 in 10 adults had symptoms of anxiety and depression. Thirty-six percent had trouble sleeping. Thirty-two percent noticed negative impacts on their eating habits. Twelve percent drank more alcohol or used more of other substances in an effort to cope with the changing world.
Strengthening your mental muscle helps you handle situations such as this more healthily. You know that you will persevere despite the odds. So, you aren’t as overcome with worry or stress. You have a victor mentality versus feeling victim to your situation. You do what you can and let go of the rest.
Mental Toughness and Sports Psychology
Sport psychology is centered around developing mental toughness in athletes. Studies have found that this helps athletes achieve peak performance. It helps them excel in their sport of choice. Personal trainers can employ the same psychological skills to become a better coach and trainer.
In sports psychology programs, athletes learn how to:
- Stay optimistic in tough times
- Use positive self talk to boost motivation (and performance)
- Use visualization to promote success
- Not let their emotions get them down
- Control performance anxiety
Think about how each skill could benefit you as a personal trainer. Your mental game would make you unstoppable. The obstacles you face would be mere speed bumps and not stop signs.
Assessing Your Mental Toughness Skill Level
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your mental toughness? If you aren’t sure, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How do you react to change? Do you try to resist it or find ways to adapt? Someone who is mentally tough would do the latter. They recognize that change is part of life. The quicker they adapt to it, the better off they are.
- What do you do when faced with a challenge? Do you get mad and feel sorry for yourself? Or do you look at the challenge as an opportunity to grow? The first answer suggests that you could benefit from mental toughness training. The second is a sign of strength.
- What happens when you make a mistake? Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. How you respond determines your toughness level. If you learn from your mistake and move on, this is a sign of mental strength. If you make excuses or blame others, it’s a sign that you might need to work on this skill.
- How vocal are you about your training abilities? Being confident is important in personal training. But if you feel like you need to constantly vocalize your skills, your mental toughness might need a boost. Being mentally tough means that you don’t need recognition from others to feel confident in your abilities. You know how to get results with cardio and strength training. You don’t need others to tell you this.
- Would others describe you as a positive or negative person? Remember that the definition of mental toughness is staying positive amidst life’s ups and downs. Yes, you still want to be realistic. However, looking at the bright side is a sign of mental strenth. It helps you stay upbeat even when you have every reason to be down.
Mental Training to Increase Your Toughness
Just as you boost physical strength through training, you boost mental strength the same way. Mental training teaches your mind how to be stronger and more resilient. You learn the skills needed to deal with whatever comes your way.
This often entails employing the same strategies as a sport psychologist. Performance psychology works the same whether used for an elite athlete or a fitness coach. It includes, for instance, visualizing your success and training your mind to control your emotions.
Imagine that you want to start a personal training business. This idea might make you sweat. But visualize yourself calmly writing your business plan. Then picture yourself marketing the business confidently on social media and via other avenues. Notice how you feel when you imagine your gym’s doors opening for the first time. Or when delivering a client workout in your business’s branded attire.
Engaging in mental skills training can also prepare you for the challenges you’ll face. Plan in advance how you’ll respond to objections from prospective clients. Find ways to stay motivated no matter what.
Work on your mental fitness the same way you do your physical fitness. Set a goal, then plan steps to achieve it. Also work on personality traits that can add to your toughness. Optimism is one. Resilience is another.
Boosting Your Clients’ Mental Toughness Too
The great thing about mental toughness is that it is contagious. When your clients see your strength mentally, they’ll want the same. They may even start to model your attitudes and behaviors. This makes them want to continue to work with you.
You can also incorporate mental training in your workout programs. Make it a regular part of the training session. This will help your athletes boost their performance. Their mental ability starts to match their physical ability. It also provides value to non-athletes. They develop the resilience to make it through grueling CrossFit workouts. Or they build the perseverance to keep running long enough to finish that marathon.
The more clients you share this skill with, the greater your impact on the world. You can help people make it through difficult times, both inside and outside of the gym. Your strength becomes their strength. And they can pass their newfound strength on to others.
This makes you not just a coach who supplies a good workout. You become a coach who supplies toughness. A coach who boosts athletic performance on multiple levels. A coach who keeps clients coming back for more because they now have mental toughness too.
Learn more ways to help your clients succeed both mentally and physically as a Certified Fitness Coach. This course provides your personal trainer certification and another advanced specialization of your choosing. It’s time to become a coach who changes the world.