Mental Toughness Strategies From Ironman Chris "Macca" McCormack

August 29, 2011

Chris “Macca” McCormack is supremely dedicated to his triathlon training [learn more about it at Macca’s Iron-Willed Triathlon Training]. Ten to 12 weeks before every big race, he morphs his body into an endurance machine by performing 10 to 15 miles of swimming, 400 miles of riding and 60 miles of running each week.

Macca comments on how some of his peers are “physical beasts.” But for his becoming one of the most dominant triathletes in history, he credits his mental toughness. “It’s easy to be physically tough and it’s easy to get physically fit,” he says. “I think it all comes down to the head—a stubbornness and a desire to endure the suffering required to win an event.”

When your body starts giving out in a race or sporting event, your mind may focus on the pain and how you want the event to end. Not for Macca. He understands that he will face pain during a race, and he has developed strategies to battle through it. “When it’s getting tough, you know pain is coming,” he says. “When that moment comes, I try to embrace it to some degree. I knew you [pain] were coming, so let’s go.”

He suggests using a mental checklist as a way to fight through pain and keep your mind focused on winning the race. “Try and take yourself to places or sessions that are positive,” he says. “Tell yourself the things you know you can do, the things you’ve done in training.”

Macca fuels these positive thoughts with his training accomplishments. If he has six miles left, he remembers how easy it is to run six miles in training. He focuses his mind on the ease of the task rather than the pain and fatigue that are trying to shut down his body.

Although Macca's examples are for endurance athletes, his mental toughness advice can be applied to any sport. Next time your legs are burning in the fourth quarter or you're struggling to get back on defense, think of Macca’s strategies. Embrace the pain, go through your checklist and focus on positive thoughts. You might be able make a game-changing play that leads your team to victory.

Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
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