Unpacking Elements of Grit - How to Increase Your Mental Toughness

garage gym athlete, mental toughness, grit, toughness

Hey, Athletes! Unpacking Elements of Grit - How to Increase Your Mental Toughness  Episode of The Garage Gym Athlete Podcast is up!

Unpacking Elements of Grit - How to Increase Your Mental Toughness


  • Jerred discusses GRIT
  • Jerred goes through a study on grit
  • He gives his on take on grit and how it can help it all part of life
  • And A LOT MORE!!

Diving Deeper…

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To becoming better!

- Jerred

Podcast Transcript

Jerred: How do we build your grit so you can get more out of life that you want? 'cause that's what it takes. If you want more outta life, you need more grit, you need more mental toughness. So let's see what the science says in today's episode. This is the Garage Gym Athlete Podcast, and we're here to build autonomous athletes and put phenomenal programming into every garage basement and spare bedroom out there.

I'm Jared Moon and I'm with Joe Courtney. We are strength and conditioning coaches who have turned over 20,000 people into garage gym after. Over the last decade, and we're here to reduce the information overload that exists in the health and fitness industry today. We're gonna do that by covering relevant science and give actionable takeaways not only from the data, but from our years of experience.

So let's dive in.

Alright, before we dive in, I wanna say that science doesn't have all the answers, especially when it comes to the human mind. And when we're talking about something like grit and perseverance and mental toughness. But I did come across a pretty cool study that we're going to cover today that points us in some pretty interesting, some pretty cool directions.

So we will cover what it says, but just know my overall stance is there's still a lot of stuff that is unknown about the human psyche and what pushes one person to be great versus another. In fact, I was just recently wrapping up some playoff games. Uh, my kids are in football right now and they made it to the playoffs and they were talking to me about how hard it is.

Basically how hard it is to play under pressure and perform when it's the big game and the big game for them and I Took that opportunity to explain to them. Yeah playing under pressure is what actually makes a great athlete That's what makes a Tom Brady, a Patrick Mahomes in football. It's the ability to have all of those skills, all the skills that you need, whether that's being a certain size, running a certain speed, throwing the ball, being accurate, like, all of those things, but being able to perform when all eyes are on you, you're behind in the game, like, whatever, it's those pressure points that really make someone great, and that's what makes the great athletes.

the really great athletes. And in my book, Killing Comfort, I talk about Robert Falcon Scott. He was an explorer in the Antarctic, and he died on his journey to be the first to explore and get to the South Pole, but he ultimately ended up perishing in that journey. But he wrote in his journal before he died that he wanted his wife, like his dying wish for his son, was to make him like a strenuous man, a man who did not fall into comfort, a man who could push on, who had the perseverance, who had the grit.

That's all he wanted for his son, because he knew that if he had that one thing, he'd be a great man, and that he would be able to achieve his goals and do all these other things. Now in May 2016, Angela Duckworth wrote one of my favorite books. I call it my favorite parenting book. It's called Grit. The actual title of the book is Grit, the Power and Passion, the Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Highly recommend you read it. What it's given to me as a parent is, A big thing is I never praise outcomes for my children. I never tell them, Oh, you made 100 on the test, I'm so happy you made the 100. Or if they win a game, I'm never telling them, I'm so glad that you won the game. One thing I picked up from Grid is it's all about praising the effort.

Hey, you tried really hard in that game today. And the outcome was that you won. But I'll tell them the same thing if they lost. And this is not the idea that everyone gets a trophy. But if I see them running their ass off, trying as hard as they can in a game, or they studied for a test and they did not do well, the outcome wasn't what they wanted, okay, maybe we prepared incorrectly, but I still will praise the effort if I saw the effort.

And that's everything, right? The effort is everything. So Angela Duckworth comes out with this book and she has a definition of grit, so she defines grit as a combination of passion and perseverance for long term goals. So it's about having stamina and sticking with your future day in and day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and to make future, the future that you want, a reality.

And she also pointed out in a lot of her research, and this is one of the coolest things I think about her research, is that there is a predictive nature of grit. So studies conducted by Duckworth and her colleagues found that grit can predict success in various settings, including education, military training, and work.

So she actually, she's done a ton of studies. You can go read all of them. We're not actually covering an Angela Duckworth study on grit today. But she goes over, you know, How she, there were all of these West Point cadets with higher grit score. So a grit score is just something like a questionnaire that you fill out that gives you a grit score.

And the people who had the higher grit scores were more likely to complete their first summer of training more so than intellect or physical fitness or anything else. It was how much grit that you had was actually the predictive nature of your success. So I want to start with all this because grit and mental toughness, it is a desirable trait.

It's something that you want, whether you think that you want it or not. It's something that you need. We all have it to some degree, it's just to what level do you actually have it? And how can you, how long can you stick with it? Your stick with it ness is grit, that's mental toughness. So the study that we're covering today, that unveils a little bit more, and we have to make some inferences here, but stick with me as we dive into the study.

The study was done in 2020. The title of the study is Pain Processing in Elite and High Level Athletes Compared to Non Athletes. So there were 71 healthy volunteers, 33 females, 38 males, it included soccer players, cross country skiers, long distance runners, and non athletes. Now before you run off with non athletes, I'm gonna, I'm gonna dive into what they were specifically.

The athletes were recruited from high level sports clubs in Norway, and the non athletes were recruited from a university in the same area. What they did is they did a lot of psychological measures, looking at the five big personality traits, so fear of pain, grit scores, like a lot of questionnaires, so a lot of questionnaires just to assess whether or not there was a correlation between more, a higher level of pain processing, a higher level of, if we could call that grit, mental endurance, mental, mental toughness, they want to assess, hey, if you had a high grit score, did you pass on this stuff?

And now the pain assessment that they actually did, They did a cold presser task and a heat simulation and it was used to measure their pain tolerance thresholds and the intensity. So if you've never, you know, been familiar with these things, the cold presser pain test is basically you're putting in like your arm or your forearm or a large portion of your arm into very cold waters, typically like one degree above freezing, just so it's not ice.

And then they see how long that you can keep your arm in the water. And it's similar with a pain test, but it's actually like sensors that go, or with a heat test, but it's like sensors that go on your arm. So anyway, they're just, uh, basically who can handle more pain. And these tests typically tap out at three minutes.

I don't know if they tell the participants that, but they don't want you to end up injuring yourself or damaging any tissue by staying in for too long. Cause some people were so mentally tough. They can actually hurt themselves. If you want to call that mental toughness, they can turn off their mind. So that's what they were doing.

That's what they were looking at. They wanted to see across all these athletes. We had Elite level endurance athletes, elite level soccer players, and the non athletes. So, let's get into that real quick. So, the non athlete group, these are the people they're not considering athletes, trained, exercised, on average, per week, 3.

92 hours. So, about four hours per week. I would assume a lot of people listening to this might be in the non athlete category, right? Training about four hours per week. Myself, I train on the low end, I'd say five to six hours a week. And on the high end, high end right now, even for me, with training for 50K.

I'm training maybe 10, 10, 11 hours. And to be honest, it's about all the time I can fit in a week with what I got going on. So I'm still like, not even, I'm just like a right above their non athlete group. Now, the people who included the elite athlete group, which included the endurance athletes, cross country skiers, long distance runners.

They spent an average of 16. 5 hours. These weren't the soccer players. These were like the elite level endurance athletes. They spent on average 16. 5 hours per week training. That's, that's a lot of training, but again, we're talking about very serious athletes. Now, what did they actually find it? If you look at the graph, which we won't be able to do on an audio podcast, but if you looked at the graph just for like the.

They call it the survival rate for time in seconds. Basically, how long could you do this? Like pain test the soccer players in the non athletes charted about the same. It was like significant drop off at let's call it 75 seconds. And these lines almost are like. right next to each other. So again, it's only goes out to about three minutes.

There's significant drop off 75 seconds and then massive drop off again. Like they, they all tap out towards the end. Let's see 180 seconds, let's call it. But the endurance athletes, their, their first drop off, which doesn't even come close to how big the drop off was for soccer players. Endurance athletes comes closer to a hundred seconds.

And then there's not really a drop off after that. Most of them just reached the end of the test. And so again, if you saw this chart, like the endurance athletes so far outperformed the non athletes and the soccer players, it's crazy. So endurance athletes way outperformed non athletes and soccer players.

And soccer players outperformed non athletes. But just by a little bit. That's pretty crazy. What do we, what do we pull from that? Okay, so what they're saying is that regular endurance training is associated with an increased ability to tolerate pain. Specifically, the study found that endurance athletes had increased tolerance for cold pain by measured as the cold presser test compared to both soccer players and non athletes.

Additionally, endurance athletes reported lower pain intensity to thermal stimulation and higher heat pain thresholds compared to non athletes. What we're seeing here is that endurance athletes, by a large margin, outperform the non athlete and the soccer player. Which is still an athlete, they're just a different type of athlete.

So, we're saying, or they're saying, my inference here is, endurance training leads to more mental toughness, more grit. Now is pain tolerance a for sure sign of... Mental toughness and grit, that's the only argument. Maybe not. But I also think that there is something to that when you know the goal, the long term goal.

You know what you have to do. Endurance athletes don't just sit there and know how to experience cold exposure. Like that, that, why would running miles and miles, being a marathon runner, why would that lead to... You being able to have a higher pain threshold for cold, right? Like, they're not related. But is it related to being an endurance athlete and know how long it takes to achieve goals?

That's where I think this really comes in. Because that's what really what grit is and that's how Angela Duckworth defined it. Duckworth, again, Duckworth defines grit as a combination of passion and perseverance for long term goals. I think endurance athletes know that better than anyone else as someone who's training for an endurance goal right now And really I'm not something that's big in my athletic history It takes so much time like the actual amount of time That you need to put in training is more than normal for any other goal and the actual time it takes to Run these races.

Like a lot of them are just very long and you have to, you can't run a race. Like zone two, zone two training is not like building your mental toughness. I think it will initially. And I'll get into that as my takeaway, but running an endurance race, that's a whole different thing. Like you have to be in pain for significant, very long time, more than any other sport.

That's why they call them endurance sports. So what do we do with this information? If we want to be more mentally tough, we want to build our grit. How do, how do we do that? What do we unpack from here? What do we take away? Yeah. To be honest, this study just confirms what I've seen throughout my life. No offense to strength athletes, like, I would consider myself a strength athlete most of my life.

Power athlete, that kind of athlete. But, I've never thought that there was a ton of mental toughness there. If you want to consider training through pain, mental toughness, sure, that is to some degree. But if we're talking about the actual training itself, when you're not injured, like a really hard strength training set, it's gonna last a couple of seconds, maybe a minute.

If you're doing like some crazy 20 rep max, whatever. And that's brutal, but it's over in a short amount of time. That's not how endurance training works. Like, you could do 800 meter repeats at the low end of endurance training, and what, you still have a lot of time you're putting in there, right? You're doing, some endurance athletes are doing 1600 meter repeats fast, like, just crazy stuff.

So I think it's just the time under tension, if you will, the time under pressure, is building that. And that's what I've seen. The people I've known to be the most mentally tough that I've met in athletic settings, And just in my life, typically have some sort of endurance background. So, the simple takeaway here is, add some form of endurance training to your life.

We throw it in at Garage Gym Athlete. But if you don't have it yet, you know, you do, or if you skip it, you don't want to do these things. Like, one of the workouts we have for Meet Yourself Saturday, which are typically just really hard workouts, one of them is just 60 minutes, 60 minute run for time.

Because we know not a lot of people have ever ran for an hour straight. Like, most people haven't. If you are an endurance athlete, you absolutely have, but if you're not, I think it's a phenomenal mental toughness test to run 60 minutes without stopping. You have to run the entire time. So if we were to lay this out like as a mental toughness training protocol, just start adding some endurance training to your life, maybe once a week, and it can start with zone 2.

So I said a second ago, like, it's not just zone 2 training, but I'm talking for more experienced Uh, endurance athletes, zone 2 training is just easy. They're happy to do that because they don't have to push themselves that day, whatever. But when you're starting, all endurance just sucks. So just doing zone 2 training for 45 minutes, running for 45 minutes in zone 2 or an hour, that starts, that's the start of building your mental toughness.

Because you're just out there doing something that's relatively boring. You're also battling your heart rate if you're not very, if you haven't done this a lot, like You're having to stay within a certain zone. It's just very frustrating. There's a lot of mental toughness practice and even doing zone two training for a lot of other reasons that aren't pushing yourself hard And you're just doing the same thing for long repeated bouts Which in all honesty is getting lost in today's world because we all have tiktok and instagram where things are delivered in microseconds And we're on to the next thing.

It's harder for our brains to focus on something for long periods of time. So start there. Start with Zone 2 training. Start with adding some basic endurance. Just keeping your mind on task for long durations. Start with Zone 2. But then once you go up from there, you start some threshold training where like you have to be in Zone 4 for a long duration.

In and out of intervals, all these things. That's where real pain starts to creep in. And that's where you have to push yourself. But is pushing yourself just for the sake of enduring pain what's going to get you there? I don't think so. I think there has to be a goal on the other end. I think that you have to either set some sort of personal goal that, hey, I want to run a 5k in this amount of time, a 10k, a marathon, half marathon, whatever it is.

I have this goal, and that's why I'm pushing through that pain today. That's the true connect I think that you need to make. Add endurance training and have a goal with that endurance training. I think that'll go such a long way in actually building grit and mental toughness. Because if you're just out there running and it sucks and you don't want to do it, sure, push yourself to do it.

But that's not practicing this long term perseverance for outcomes that are in the future. And that's what Angela Duckworth says truly is grit. So set that date, sign up for that Spartan race, whether it's a short one or a long one, the, the beast or the sprint. Sign up for a 5k in, in November, December, do these things, sign up for that race and then train for it.

And when you're going through that pain, hey, I'm doing this for what's coming later. That's the skill that we have to build. That's how we become more mentally tough. That's how we build grit. And I think endurance training does that better than any well, anything else, because there is no cheating it.

There's no not like you could, you could show up for that race. The race doesn't care if you practice, didn't practice. If you're prepared, not prepared, it's just going to happen. And when it happens, it's either going to suck because you didn't train, or you're going to run your race and do the best that you possibly can shoot for a personal record because you are prepared.

You showed up to run, to do that thing that day. And I'm not even a proponent of endurance training, like, I'm training for this endurance thing right now, but I would never consider myself, or I don't currently consider myself an endurance athlete. But, as you know, if you've been following for long periods of time, anytime I've wanted to push myself, even as a strength athlete, I would sign up for an endurance event.

I wouldn't sign up for a powerlifting meet. Because I just knew pushing myself, like being on a bike for six hours, that was just gonna suck so much, right? There, but I knew I would have to train for that or not train for that and I'd have to show up and I'd have to do the thing. That is what builds your mental toughness, your grit, your willpower, and that's how you get more out of life.

That's how you get more out of life. If you can persevere, you can just not stop. You can keep going. So it gives us everything that we want athletically. It gives us everything that we want to see results aesthetically. And it can give you everything you want in life, financially and beyond, in your relationships, everything.

If you can just persevere and keep going. But that's all I have for this one today. Add a little endurance training, set a race, have something on the calendar. And it will go a really long way. Alright, for all of our athletes who have been around, who are doing these things. Thank you so much for being a part of Garage Gym Athlete.

Really appreciate each and every single one of you. If you want to join training, where we have the Zone 2 every fourth week, that's gonna push you a little bit mentally. We have the Meet Yourself Saturday workouts that are gonna push you mentally. If you want to start doing some of the training that can prepare you for some of these races and other things that you're, you might be interested in, things that you can put on the calendar, definitely go check out Garage Gym Athlete.

Go to garagegymathlete. com. Sign up for a free trial. And we got you. We got the training, we got all the science. We know what we're doing there. But it's on you to persevere, to sign up for the race, and to do the training each and every single day. 'cause remember, if you don't kill comfort, we'll kill you.

Thanks for listening to the Garage Gym Athlete podcast. We wanna find out more, check out our training, or just know more about us at the garage gym athlete com.

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