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Growth Mindset: 3 Ways Running Provides Mental Toughness

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Do you ever wonder how the world’s elite athletes do it?

They make it look so easy. Tom Brady executes a perfectly thrown ball for a touchdown.  Usain Bolt outruns the field yet again.  Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch with pinpoint accuracy on the black for strike 3.  Phil Mickelson sinks an unlikely 30-foot putt.

What’s the secret? Well, if you ask Darren Hardy of Success Magazine, it’s about the grind:

It’s the hours in the gym that you don’t see.

It’s the thousands of balls they hit on the practice green that is not filmed.

It is the hundreds of gigs they perform in small seedy clubs for no pay.

It is the thousands of calls they make that DON’T result in a sale.

It’s the years of two-a-days in the hot sun and grinding it out in the minor leagues and doing meetings where no one shows up.

All those moments, despite the boredom and the mundaneness, they keep GRINDING!

Do yourself a favor and read the full article.  It’s worth it and incredibly motivating.

You need to consider this when you start running. It’s not about race day.  It’s about your growth as a runner.  That growth is key and it comes first with a mindset of growth.  You see, it wasn’t until I started training for my first half marathon that I began to harness the mental toughness to do another half marathon and even fathom I could finish a marathon.

In my experience, the mental toughness that produces a growth mindset is inevitably drawn from the 3 key areas I discuss below. These are important to remember as you embark on any worthwhile endeavor.  You should keep them in mind as you begin your training.

1. Laying a foundation of persistence

This is where it all begins. It’s not how well you start.  Don’t worry about how many times you had to stop and walk.  Forget about what people say, do, or think.  It’s simply about pushing forward.

The cold days will be freezing and the warm days will be sweltering. The point is (as Hardy talked about above) to keep grinding.  Persistence is the foundation of mental toughness.

Being a persistent person is simple. You just get up and do it.  I never said it was fun or you would always feel like doing it.  So, yes, being persistent may be a simple concept.  But, its implementation is difficult.  That is how you become mentally tough and foster the growth mindset.

2. Having the confidence for the task at hand and other areas of life

Doing anything in life requires a certain degree of confidence. Driving a car requires that you’re confident merging into traffic, that you can keep the wheel steady, and that you’re able to properly (and legally) pass another car.

The same is true with running. You will learn your body as you run just as you learn your car.  An experienced runner knows when they have pushed it too far.  They also know when they can push themselves harder or that they are holding something back.  The persistence and mental toughness acquired in the beginning breeds confidence in the middle stages of training.

Further, as you run more races and face competition, you will learn how you compete as a runner. It’s funny.  When I race, I become a real competitive person.  I’m not very competitive in everyday life for the most part.  On race day, I’m out to beat you.  No, I won’t be coming in first or even 20th.  But, if I have you in my sights, you will have to work pretty hard to come in ahead of me with 4/10’s of a mile to go!

3. Seeing how achievement in one area brings about achievement elsewhere

I can tell you that crossing the finish lines for one marathon and 5 half marathons is incredibly rewarding. Not only did it require persistence and give me much-needed confidence, but it fostered a sense of achievement in me.  It made me want to take that goal-setting mentality and drive to be more – and have it permeate throughout my entire life.

Since I have these difficult accomplishments under my belt, what can life throw at me that I can’t handle? If I can finish a marathon, I can find it in myself to be a better husband and father.  I can train for challenging races, so I can learn how to make money online.  If I can push through injuries and pains, I can better handle the demands at my job.

If you can finish the 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon you’re training for, what could you do? You can handle anything life throws at you.  That’s what!

Grind it out. Foster mental toughness.  Cultivate a growth mindset.

Stop thinking this will be a piece of cake. It won’t be.  Persistence takes time.  It requires a lot out of you because the confidence and achievement it brings adds much more to your life.  Embrace the toughness, the pain, and the difficulty.  You are becoming a better runner, a better relative, a better friend, and a better person for it.

Now get out there and grind!

How have running or other fitness goals changed your life? Are you sticking with it or finding the grind unbearable?  Tell us your thoughts and experiences below.

  • Love this post! I’m a runner, too, and I’m currently training for another marathon. My love of distance running has given me the stamina and persistence to keep moving forward towards my financial goals. It also helps me stay in great shape, which keeps me healthy. It’s a win-win!
    Willow @ Miter Saws and Mary Janes recently posted…How to Sell Stuff for Extra Money–Quickly and Easily!My Profile

    • Hey Willow, sorry I must have missed this comment. I apologize. How’s your training going? What marathon are you running?

      It’s amazing what we learn in one area of our lives can affect another area so immensely. It’s definitely a win-win for you! You get to be in shape financially and physically. Can’t put a price on that!
      David Domzalski recently posted…Best Half Marathon PlaylistMy Profile

  • I think the mental side is what really separates the pros from the wannabe pros. I struggle with being mentally tough at the gym all the time. I have to remind myself to constantly push myself where as I feel like a pro would say I’m going to beat you and work harder until after you quit. So I definitely need to turn on that competitive side again 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Are Collectibles A Wise Investment?My Profile

    • You’ll get there, Rob. It comes down to how bad you want it. I’ll say that maybe you don’t display the mental toughness as much in the gym as opposed to your finances. You say you’re close to FIRE. You can’t have a weak mind and be close to early retirement buddy. Nope. You have plenty of discipline! 🙂

  • I’ve always been a huge runner, every since I started running for my track and field team back in my school days.
    Like you said, running just has so many good qualities. It teaches you perseverance, the lonely life (success will be lonely), and the importance of focus (I usually run without music).
    On an unrelated sidenote, I just got the new Apple watch. It’s so awesome. Now I can just go outside for a run, keep going and know exactly how far I’ve run.

    • Perseverance is essential for anything you do in life. It’s great to have an outlet that can really kickstart that in your life. There’s something about sports that propels us forward, especially this day in age of the cubicle farm. Thanks for the comment! Enjoy the Apple watch 🙂

  • Jason B says:

    Confidence is the key in many aspects of life. In the past, my confidence wavered when it came to certain things such as jobs and money. I changed my way of thinking and realized that I am worthy. Since then, I’ve been able to start earning more.
    Jason B recently posted…March 2017 Debt UpdateMy Profile

    • That change in mindset is so crucial, Jason. There’s no reason any of us should think less of ourselves. The beautiful thing is that life experience and our own realizations can push us beyond anything we ever imagined for our lives. Thanks so much for the comment. I’ll be sure to check out your site!

  • “Grind it out. Foster mental toughness. Cultivate a growth mindset.” Love this! Thanks for the motivation, Dave. I enjoy running, but I am not a distance runner by any means. The most I have done is about 10 miles. I do, however, have a big fat marathon staring up at me from my bucket list.
    Cody @ Dollar Habits recently posted…My Story – Part II (The Long Version)My Profile

    • You know, for whatever reason, the marathon was always in the back of my mind. This is even before I started running again. It was something I saw as so far out there that it wasn’t possible. Even today, it’s like did I really run that? Did I really complete a full marathon and do all that training? It’s amazing what the mind can do in terms of achieving something greater than you ever thought possible. It’s a true blessing from God. To me, every mile is a prayer!

      And I challenge you. You’re a distance runner if you say you’re a distance runner. You ran 10 miles? You can run a half marathon – 13.1. You can run a half? You can run 13.1 more miles for the 26.2 miles in a full marathon. It’s a numbers game and your ability to withstand that mileage compounds (like interest) as you train. The more you train, the stronger you get. You become fitter physically and aerobically. Hey, you pick the race and I’ll run with you!

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