Mental Toughness: How Do You Measure Up?

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mental toughness
Mental toughness is a key ingredient for sporting success. For endurance runners, the ability to call on positive psychology to push through boundaries and pain barriers is essential for improving performance. So how mentally tough are you? Here’s your chance to get involved in some research into this area, and to understand your own mental toughness better…

New Research into Mental Toughness in Endurance Sport

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University are investigating the role of mental toughness and self-perception in endurance performance. Psychologist Dr Jennifer Meggs and Sport & Exercise Scientist David Harrison are collaborating on a research project which will explore perceived success and failure, and self-perception, among athletes in running, as well as cycling, swimming, triathlon and other endurance sports.

David explains:

“The research aims to understand how endurance athletes cope with success and failure in sport, and how this relates to mental toughness levels.

“Mental toughness is the ability to keep going when everything gets difficult, to ride out pain and persevere in the face of adversity. It’s about the ability to take the knocks and come back from them. It’s also about learning from setbacks.”

David is also interested in how experience shapes athletes’ ability to recognise cues in their environment and respond accordingly, such as the ability to tell the difference between pain that you can push through, versus pain that indicates a problem.

David says mental toughness is a characteristic that is trainable:

“Some people seem to have more mental toughness built into their personality than others, but mental toughness is trainable too. If you get used to pushing beyond your comfort zone, you can get much better at persisting and pushing on when things get tough in a race.”

How to Get Involved, & Find Out How You Score!

The team are looking for runners as well as other endurance athletes to get involved with the research. The request is simple: choose two races a few weeks apart before the end of August 2016, and you will be sent a questionnaire to complete after each race (the same day), which takes around 15-20 minutes to fill in.

There is a sign up page here.

Participants will get access to their results once the research is compiled, along with a summary sheet with the outcomes of the study. They will also be provided with individual strategies to develop based on their own results (a nice bit of free coaching advice!).

All participants will also be given an individual score for mental toughness, based on the MTQ48 measure, which is used across academia and elite sport.

David has worked as a performance psychologist for 12 years for elite athletes and teams, including professional football, cricket, volleyball, basketball, tennis, athletics and triathlon. He runs a performance consultancy called Pinnacle Performance. His book on performance psychology, The Journey: The Elements for Success, Winning and Increased Performance, is available from The Flying Runner bookshop.

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