Don’t you admire athletes who push themselves to victory despite injuries, sickness, and unfavorable odds? Do you wonder how they do it? Although each situation is unique, there’s at least one common denominator in the most inspiring victories: mental toughness.

If you can’t get your head in the game, it’s hard to accomplish anything – no matter how prepared you are. Your body may capable of pushing through a tough workout, but is your mindset helping or hurting you? Some people are born with more drive than others, but the good news is that, just like any muscle in your body, you can build mental strength and endurance to carry you through the toughest challenges. Here are some practical ways to improve your mental toughness for better results, both in and outside the fitness gym.

  1. Continuously set daily and long-term goals and make plans to accomplish them.

If you don’t know what you’re working toward, it’s hard to stay motivated. Our minds are geared to look forward to specific achievements, just as we might look forward to a vacation or pending promotion. Setting both short and long-term goals increases confidence in your ability to accomplish things on a daily and weekly basis, while keeping that farther-off goal in your line of sight.

Goals are a starting point, but if they remain in idea form, they don’t help increase your mental toughness. You need a plan to achieve them — one that’s catered to your current fitness level and lifestyle. This is where the expert advice of a fitness professional can help.

  1. Practice self-affirmation.

 Negative self-talk can defeat even the most promising athlete. Although we sometimes need to hear the harsh truth to spur us to change, we sabotage ourselves if we set unrealistic standards and constantly put ourselves down for not measuring up to them. Pay attention to your inner dialogue throughout the day, as well as what comes out of your mouth. Practice building yourself up, and you’ll have your own personal cheering squad when no one else is around!

  1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Mental toughness is most challenged when the body starts talking back in the form of fatigue, soreness, and overall discomfort. “Mind over matter” doesn’t magically make your workouts feel easy or fun. There will be days you won’t be feeling that endorphin high when you leave the fitness center; but the sooner you get used to it, the faster you’ll build both physical and mental toughness to accomplish your goals and tackle even greater challenges than you thought you could.

As a disclaimer, getting comfortable with discomfort doesn’t mean pushing through warning signs of an injury or medical problem.  Learn the difference between normal discomfort and when something feels “off” in your body.  If you start experiencing symptoms like pain, dizziness, or severe nausea, you should stop what you’re doing, cool down, and consider seeking medical treatment.

Just like physical fitness, mental toughness may not come naturally to all of us, but it can be built. By setting goals and making plans to accomplish them, staying positive, and getting used to discomfort, you can strengthen your mental muscles for better workouts and greater success in all areas of your life.