Mental Toughness: Push Yourself to Be Your Best

By Adela Garcia

Mental toughness is something learned through pushing yourself beyond what your mind thinks it can do.

Q: Athletes are always known for their mental toughness; do you feel that you were born with mental toughness, or was it something you learned? How do you think one can increase mental toughness?


Great question! I do feel that athletes possess a good amount of mental toughness to endure the stresses that they place on their bodies. The body, being an amazing organism, adapts fairly quickly to almost any circumstance we throw at it. Athletes train progressively harder each session, which places a great amount of stress on the body. This eventually leads to the mind being able to withstand a tremendous amount of pain and building mental toughness in the athlete. Constantly pushing yourself above your pain threshold will not only build your mental toughness but also the confidence in your ability to overcome obstacles.

I don’t feel that we are necessarily born with mental toughness, although some might be born with a higher threshold for pain. For the most part, mental toughness is something learned through pushing yourself beyond what your mind thinks it can do. Mental toughness is not always developed by training; it can also be developed through life experiences.

My mother is a perfect example of a woman who developed mental toughness through her life experiences. Knowing that she did not want my brothers and me to grow up in the Dominican Republic, she decided to leave us with our aunt, while she traveled to seek work in Puerto Rico. This took mountains of mental toughness!! She knew she wanted a better future for her children and for that to happen, she would have to get us out of the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic is a great place to live, but for many women you had only one route: get married and start a family. My mom knew that we were better than that, so she saw it as an opportunity and not a sacrifice. I owe her everything for what she did. She portrayed a lot of mental toughness when we were growing up and provided me with a better future.

Developing mental toughness is something that can be learned through different mechanisms. I believe you must first understand the best possible action or reaction for a circumstance that will require you to be mentally tough. Every opportunity that you miss to strengthen your mindset is a step backward. I am always on the lookout for ways that I am acting mentally weak throughout my day. Once you have found your weakness, work on those habits that are holding you back. Put in place a small goal or challenge for yourself in order for you to test your toughness.

We can do this every day that we work out, by just pushing ourselves to beat yesterday’s performance. Another way that we can test our toughness is to step out of our comfort zone and do something that scares us or intimidates us.

I am always on the lookout for ways to test my mental toughness. It could be attempting to learn a new strength move that seems impossible, or trying a new exercise that I was scared of trying. But once you conquer your sought-after event, you gain confidence and mental toughness, which is something no one can take away.

So, if you are looking to develop your mental toughness, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try something different! Go run that 10k. Sign up for that triathlon. Go compete in a physique competition. It will teach you a lot about yourself and you will gain a tremendous amount of mental toughness.

Best Cardio for Fat Loss

I choose high-intensity training for cardio for the greatest fat loss while preserving the most muscle.

Q: Adela, what do you feel is better for fat loss; slow, steady-state cardio or HIT Cardio?

Thank you for the question. This is a hot topic among many trainers and fitness enthusiasts. Some feel that slow, steady-state cardio is the best, while others swear only by high-intensity training. If I were to pick one type of training, I would go with high-intensity training, even though I do both, depending on what training phase I am currently in.

The type of cardio I do also has a lot to do with how my nutrition is set up. I just feel that doing high-intensity training or interval training goes along the same lines as my sport and helps me prepare for my fitness routine. I also love the way my body feels after pushing it to the limits, and it goes along with the last question about building mental toughness. When we push ourselves beyond our limits, we build confidence in ourselves and in the abilities we have to achieve our goals.

In my O.F.F. Challenge Xtreme Cardio e-book, I outline 20 different cardio programs that I use to get my body into contest shape. The cardio programs that are within the e-book are designed to increase athletic ability, increase cardiac output, burn fat, and increase muscle mass. All of them are comprised of high-intensity training or interval training workouts. I believe that this type of training mimics weight training with the way that it stresses the muscles and central nervous system.

It is well known that weight training increases metabolism for 24 to 48 hours after exercise, where slow, steady cardio only increases metabolism for 60 minutes after exercise. I definitely want to be on the side of burning calories for 24 to 48 hours, post exercise. I have also always trained myself as well as my clients in this fashion and it has yet to fail me.

So, to sum things up, I choose high-intensity training for cardio for the greatest fat loss while preserving the most muscle. The programs in my e-book offer a great challenge that will keep your cardio sessions fun and entertaining all while lighting the fire of that furnace. Get it right – get it tight!!

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