Mental Strength And Lessons From An Olympian



Oh boy. Let’s talk more about the Olympics.  Let’s specifically talk about the swimming and how USA has burned up the water in all events.

I dare say…. there isn’t an average, normal, swimmer who hasn’t watched and wondered what it would be like to swim like a human dolphin with that amazing speed, grace and agility.

It makes me painfully aware of my horribly inadequate water skills.

Those athletes didn’t develop that skill overnight. It has taken them years of practice, training, sacrifice, and self discipline to achieve the athletic level they are at today.

It’s also taken a high level of mental toughness and determination as well and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

I thought I was the only one who caught Michael Phelps sitting and mentally preparing before his swim the other night when that young athlete was shadow boxing in front of him, essentially seeking to break his focus and alter his mental game…. hoody on his head the look he delivered was priceless.

Michael Phelps laser
Ha this version made me laugh



Intentional or not, it was totally priceless.

Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who noticed as the internet blew up with it overnight and meme’s abound with this photo.

Can I just pause here…to publicly admit… he’s seriously my new super hero? Yeah.

Michael Phelps olympic
Do I need words???






His competitors should be afraid….


Ok… enough of that….

What about during the swim, the young athlete, Chad le Clos was focused on Michael by looking at him and not focused on his swim. I’m sure Mr. Phelps was 100% aware of him, but his focus was on the task at hand and what he had to accomplish, not who was next to him.

He had his eyes on the prize.

As an ordinary kind of athlete, I’ve watched with avid interest his preparation and focus before his events.

I study to learn. And this is my take away….

His intensity and focus could be felt.

He tuned out what was around him. Headphones on he was in his zone.

I’d bet you anything, he was already playing that race out in his head.

As we saw with the young competitor shadow boxing in front of him, he didn’t let that shake his focus or composure.

He was fixed on what he was about to do.

I  know how I feel before races and how I sort of “get into myself” and just zero in on what I’m about to do.  I remember my husband had snapped a pic of me at the start of my last marathon…. ha… I had THE most intense game face 😛

Certainly, the outcome of my race doesn’t involve a gold medal but I’ll tell you I want to do the absolute best I can just as much as that pro athlete wants to perform to the best of their abilities. I have high expectations for myself.

As an athlete mental toughness and strength, I believe, are crucial and almost as important if not more so than the physical aspect of it.

I’ve had to learn to almost get inside myself, my mind, and take myself to a place that envisions doing what I’m going to do.

It leaves zero room for self doubt. None.

I believe that mental toughness carries into all aspects of my life. Yeah, it’s honed through tough physical activities, but there are lots of other daily life events that aren’t easy and I find myself utilizing that mental strength.

So how do you develop this mental muscle?

Practice. Work it like any other muscle.

Have a laser focus on what you are going to do.

Block out distractions.

Believe in yourself. There is no room for doubting your abilities. None.

See the thing before you in your mind and see yourself being successful and accomplishing it.

Don’t talk yourself down…quitting isn’t an option… and success will taste much sweeter.

Determine you will give your all and your personal best.

Understand your mind is a powerful thing and learn to harness it. The more you practice it, the stronger it becomes.

I think after all the training for the marathons, a 50K, and now taking on hard terrain and huge hills cycling, I’d say I have a pretty strong mental focus…but it’s a constant practice and discipline one that I believe I’m always improving on.

The first time I saw this quote, I was a few miles out from finishing a half marathon. Those words gave me strength to push on and reminded me of the tremendous power of my mind…that mental muscle  took charge and helped me finish strong.





Tell me, do you have tricks or ways of building your mental muscle? Has it helped you?  Or… Is this idea foreign to you and something you need to work on?

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8 years ago I began what I now refer to as my "journey into lifestyle fitness". After a yearly check in with my Dr he said I looked "really good on paper, but I might consider losing a few pounds" I wasn't offended... I knew I needed to but it seemed like to much work at the time. In that year we had adopted 2 girls out of foster care, plus caring for my 3 sons & husband sort of left me on the back burner taking care of "me". I told him I "used to" walk & he encouraged me to at least get back to that. I left his office that day, started, & never quit. As time moved on my walks increased in length & speed. I started mingling some jogging into it...then after more time some short sprints. One day I realized I was doing more running than anything else. I learned to run longer and farther. I constantly challenged myself to do more. I realized I had turned into a runner & was loving it. I have since run 6 half marathons, 2 full marathons, and my first 50K scheduled for March 1,2015. Not bad for a girl who just started off walking not quite 2 miles! My body was now beginning to show the results of my work as weight & inches dropped off. I began to add in boxing & weights on days I wasn't running. Over time as the fat left, my new muscles were waiting underneath =) Obviously, I also made some food changes. Nothing drastic..just started eating less and trying to eat better.. I hated diets and how they made me feel....deprived & left out of all the adjusting & eating less of what I liked and moving more.. I found myself getting in decent physical shape. It began my thinking of lifestyle and not "dieting". As I got stronger,healthier & more fit it was an easier process to "let go" of some of the foods I had enjoyed. I had more energy, strength and confidence in what I could do. It was empowering. It made me realize that I probably wasn't the only one who wanted to lose weight, be healthy & strong but not always be on some sort of "diet". Maybe my journey & what I had learned & been doing might possibly help others to success in their lives... I consider myself to be rather normal and ordinary ( meaning I haven't always been into fitness and healthy eating) it has been a steady, daily, learned process with good days and bad days and my hope is that you too, will see the greatness in you, and that you have the ability and power to change and do anything you put your mind to. If you want change, you can make it happen. It's just one day at a time, making smart moves and better choices, and before you know it, things are happening. Get started on your journey, really, what do you have to lose ? And yet, so much to gain =)

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