We are all aware of the importance of mental toughness, or resilience, in coping with stressors in sport and driving optimum physical performance. But, what if it also works the other way round – can physiological factors drive our mental state, and can we use this to our benefit? Research suggests that physiological stressors can and do impact our state of mind. Perhaps a suitable training environment can build both a stronger body AND a stronger mind.
According to research by Marshall (Marshall et al, 2017), mental toughness improves post-race, after 6 months triathlon training. They suggest that coaches should structure training plans to progressively challenge their athletes whilst providing regular feedback on their successes. In their study, Mental Toughness did not differ between the faster and slower runners, and did not impact race times, but may assist in an athlete seeing challenges as opportunities.
Therefore appropriate physiological training leads to:
In his seminal paper ‘Arousal and physiological toughness: Implications for mental and physical health’, Dienstbier (1989) suggests that the
Some of these key points were subsequently picked up by Fletcher and Sarkar (2016). Their ‘Pressure Inurement Training’ suggests that the pressure on an individual, increased by manipulating the challenge and the environment, results in a stress-related response leading to positive adaptations. Their ‘training’ aims to maintain performance and functioning whilst increasing the pressure in an environment comparable to that in which peak performance is required.
Both challenge and environment can be manipulated through increasing the demand of the stressors including, type (e.g. competitive or non-competitive), property (e.g. degree of novelty), or other dimensions (e.g. frequency, duration etc). Appropriate support must also be