Are We Testing OR Training Mental Toughness?

Are We Testing OR Training Mental Toughness? 

testing or training mental toughness


On a run the other day, I passed two people and asked them for what race that they were training. She said a half-marathon, but hedged her statement with, “as soon as I can get through my speed work.”

I gave her unsolicited advice and told her she was ready and just to sign up that night instead.

I’m not sure she agreed. I felt like an idiot so I ran faster.

She was basically doing what we all do. She was testing herself for the race instead of training for the race. She was playing the if/then game. If her runs were good enough, then she would sign up.

Testing, testing, 1…2…3…

We test the microphone. Bands do a sound check. Plays and weddings have rehearsals. The difference is that they’ve committed to the event, they are preparing. Imagine instead if a band did a sound check weeks before the event and only if that went well, then they would do the gig. However, that’s often what we do.

Teachers in school don’t give a test and then prepare you later. That’s what life does, life gives you the test first and then the lesson comes after.

When we test ourselves, we are operating under the mentality of, “Am I good enough right now?” or “If today was the event, would I be ready?”

Testing ourselves is brutally flawed thinking and it adds undue stress. The flawed thinking is that the event isn’t here yet, so while it would it be nice if we were ready, we don’t have to be. When we are testing ourselves, we are also in constant comparing mode, comparing ourselves to our future and ideal self, the one that is near perfect. Comparing ourselves to our future self also means taking us out of the moment, which is dangerous.

There’s a difference between training ourselves as opposed to testing ourselves for an event. This small shift makes a huge impact on training mental toughness.

Instead, when we are training ourselves instead of testing ourselves, our mindset changes. When we train, we no longer evaluate if we are ready, but approach it more as if “what do I need to work on?” Yes, we will still think about the event and compare ourselves, but now there is a context and a backdrop. Instead of testing ourselves, we are now training mental toughness.

We operate in training mode by first recognizing when we actually need to be ready. A poor training session can then be learned from because the event isn’t here yet, so we are still preparing. We are training ourselves. We are also training mental toughness by staying in the moment and not thinking too far ahead, which again adds undue stress.

Someone asked the other day if I was ready for a talk I was to give in a few days. I said,”NO, I’ll be ready then.” I wasn’t speaking at that exact moment, so I didn’t need to be ready. No need to test myself, I was still training.

I went home and prepared some more.


Dr. Rob Bell

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Click Here to check out any of his books on Mental Toughness. 

Join me

Dr. Rob Bell

Ahoy! I'm Dr. Rob Bell. Your Mental Toughness coach. Be The BEST at Getting BETTER. Will your Hinge connect?
Join me

Latest posts by Dr. Rob Bell (see all)

Leave a Reply


Anti-Spam Quiz: