Team GB Duathlete, Kathy Stringer, breaks down her Mental Toughness Assessment results and explains how it has helped her develop as a person and an athlete.
“Endurance sports are 70% mental, 30% physical.”
No matter how fit you are, your mind plays a huge part in your performance and can literally be the difference between you achieving, or not. Thoughts going through our minds during training and races can be destructive, empowering, demoralising and/or motivating, and depending on whether they’re positive or negative, will have a direct influence on our actions.
The Rokman Mental Toughness Assessment evaluates the four key elements of mental toughness. These are referred to as the 4Cs, Commitment, Control, Confidence and Challenge.
- Commitment – ie a refusal to give up easily;
- Control – the perceived ability of the individual to exert influence rather than experience helplessness;
- Confidence - a state of being clear-headed that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective.
- Challenge – involving a person’s ability to grow and develop rather than remain static, and to view change rather than stability as the norm.
Once you’ve completed the psychometric analysis questionnaire, you receive your own personal 9-page digital report with your scores, comments and development recommendations. Here are a few examples of the feedback that I received from the assessment and how learning these have helped me to break down some mental barriers:
Assessment comment: ‘You thrive off challenges and are deeply motivated when one presents itself.’
- This is a great thing to know when getting into sport and fitness. If you allow challenges to become threats, you then fear them and that’s when negative thoughts can override your ability to achieve. The fact that I am able to thrive off of them is a great base to work from and also allows me to understand how my mind thinks when developing a training plan. If I give myself more challenges and goals, the more motivated I am to go out and reach them.
- This is also a great statement in itself to think of whilst racing. If a competitor overtakes me during the final mile of a race, I can either think ‘it’s over’ and give up, or I can look at it as a challenge and tell myself to hold on and step up to the fight (not literally, but you know what I mean!)
Assessment comment: ‘You enjoy validation from others but do not necessarily need it to perform.'
- This came into play very strongly when I invested in a coach. Up until that point, it had only been me that knew where I was up to and what I was capable of with my training, but when my coach came on board, all of a sudden it wasn’t just myself analysing my own data. Before taking this assessment I found it daunting if I uploaded a session I’d done and received no feedback or praise - It was as if I was expecting a pat on the back for every run I went on, or bike ride I completed - and if I didn’t get that, I felt that I hadn’t done well enough and had disappointed him. After the assessment and reading these comments, I spoke to him about it and realised that this wasn’t the case at all.
- When measuring my progress, he can’t simply look at one individual training session - he has to look at the overall picture - and only when I’m racing or really testing myself (FTP test on a turbo) can he see whether my efforts are turning into results. On these days he always gives me feedback and lets me know where I’m up to and what I need to improve on. I'm now learning that the rest of the time I just need to impress myself and always give it 100% rather than needing that validation from him. Had I never of done this assessment, those conversations may never have been approached and I’d still be sat here wondering if I’m doing well enough?!
Development suggestion: ‘Try to accept that setbacks are normal occurrences.’
- I hate failure and feeling like I’ve been unable to achieve something. I also let my emotions get the better of me and will often either cry or get angry when it doesn’t go to plan. Part of the ‘control’ section of the assessment said that I need to ‘try to accept that setbacks are normal occurrences’, and although this seems obvious when it’s written down when you’re going through a setback (don’t get the 5k PB you’ve had your heart set on, rejected from a job interview etc) it’s much more difficult to cope with at that moment than you expect.
Since learning that this is a part of my character, I’ve been able to try and manage my emotions better and rather than thinking negatively when something goes wrong, I ask myself why it may have worked out that way, or what I can improve on in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
The assessment is (scarily) accurate and can highlight some issues that you may be aware of, but have never wanted to accept or confront. Not only is it a useful tool to reflect on the mental side of your training and fitness, but it also expands out into your work and social life, and can help you to understand and develop your character for the better.
The way the final data is presented is very insightful and allows you to process the feedback in your own time. The development suggestions for each topic also help you to plan how you’re going to tackle the points raised and I found this section particularly useful.
Give it a go and see if it can help you to understand and make a difference to the way you respond to certain elements of your training and/or life.