How to stay mentally strong (even if you want to give up!)

We've all been to struggle street. We all understand, it's really freaking hard! But how can you push past this and tell your brain that it's ok and you aren't actually going to die - you're just going uphill! We turned to our amazing team and asked them how they win the mental battle and keeping going, even when all they want to do is quit and eat a tub of ice cream in front of the TV instead!

I try focusing on everything but the struggle. I try to sap energy from the trees, mountains and people (often teammates) around me. When things are particularly hard, I put a fake smile on and try and trick myself into thinking that I am having a good time. It mostly works as well!  

- Holly Weston

Building mental strength through training consistency, time on feet or in the saddle. I try and reset by setting little goals within the remainder of a race. I’ve also called a mentor/friend on the phone during a big ultra to get me through a rough patch. 

- Jacob Lamont

A lot of this is made up in the training, when you go out for a run and it doesn't go great or the weather sucks, but you push through. Each time you do that, it grows your resilience for race day! And having a good reason you are doing something also helps, so keep that in mind when it gets tough. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, you'll come through the bad patch and back into your groove!

- Jen Haliday

After lots of going hard until I hit the wall, I started adopting the principles of Training for the New Alpinism - essentially 'go slow to go fast'. Coming back from a trip while recovering from covid was really hard - not helped by ski touring a long route and descending way too far (but it was so good!) with a good friend. Slowing way down and just thinking about maintaining a pace that I could keep at forever, really helped. Must admit to carrying a Nanopresso to make cafe style espresso too :P

- Bob Miller

If you want to push your limit a bit further you should be aware that you’re gonna have a lot of mentally and physically hard days, that’s part of the business, you need to accept it before you even start your training program. Probably my past (Olympian rower for Italy!) has helped me out a bit in these situations. That’s the fun part! 

- Dane Danesin

Ya got no other choice. I'd rather spend 6 hours climbing a big mountain in a good mood than a bad one. I choose to be there; I have the skills and if s*** hits the fan I can deal with it. If that means walking off a mountain in pitch black after a short day turned into a very long day singing 'staying alive' to myself on repeat so, be it. I start singing my own party music. This helps me heaps if I'm getting a bit scared and I need to focus on something technical without shaking or having that fear nag at me. For example, skiing to our invisible tent site (snowed over and also a white out) in the middle of a blizzard whilst being pelted with rain and ice. And then digging it out... getting in and spending the night watching the lightning and wondering if the wind would explode our tent. What would your song be for that?

(Totally worth it for the next couple of beautiful powder days)

- Lana Hodgkinson

Repeat in my head "You've F'in got this!" and you have made it this far and you can only go forward now! If I want to give up - I slow down or stop and breathe and remind myself that this is nothing in the scale of things. The Oxford Odyssey was a mental game for me. I got half way up the big climb and was ready to quit several times over but had to keep reminding myself I have been through a heap and right now I only have to climb a hill, and I set myself wee distance goals - get to the next wee goal and you will get a boost for achieving.

-Erin Morresey

If I haven't hit something before, like the 10k run I did at 4Paws in October, I will always set a goal that seems achievable (as long as I put in effort! It's not a goal that allows me to slack off) and see if I can beat that time/distance I've set for myself. When I'm knackered, I can be really unmotivated and often getting out and even starting a run or walk or bike ride can be a challenge. Our tutor at Arā, Jean, always reminds us that if we get up and move then we get that endorphin hit which feels good. My brain thrives on that science-y knowledge so remembering that is key to getting me out and moving. Once I'm out, it's harder to say no to going back home early especially if I've set up a route to ride or run. Especially once I'm over halfway! 
- Chelle Thomson
hiking woman taking a photograph of a mountain  view


I reflect on the many people I have met on my travels in Nepal whose lives are a battle every single day. On a 42-day trek in Eastern Nepal I was sent ahead to set up camp when one of my fellow trekkers was quite sick. No trail, over 5000m, super remote location, no trails and no English-speaking staff. I tough talked myself into figuring it all out and discovered strength and resourcefulness I never knew I had. This was a huge growth moment for me!

-Wanda Vivequin 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.