How to Build Mental Toughness by Training in the Cold

In the off season most athletes solely focus on becoming a better athlete by getting stronger, faster and bigger. One area most athletes neglect is becoming mentally tough. Building mental toughness isn’t an area you will read about in a textbook or in a training journal but instead it is the results of real world training and training in the trenches.

Training in an atmosphere that builds mental toughness, especially by training in the cold, will give you an edge over your competition. It is critical to your success as an athlete because mental toughness is a true measure of character.  A true measure of character is how you handle yourself when faced with adversity. How are you going to act when everything isn’t going your way? Are you going to bitch, make 1,943 excuses and complain about your situation or are you going to face adversity head on and conquer it? Your mental toughness is a quick indicator of what type of athlete you are. Athletes that are mentally tough will work their balls off to get to where they want to be. They aren’t thinking “what if I don’t make it”. Failure isn’t an option for them. They are so focused on the task at hand that they won’t let anyone stand in front of them. There is no “I can’t”. Through their hard effort, sacrifices and work ethic, they will face adversity head on and conquer it. Cold weather will not stop a mentally tough athlete from doing what is asked of them.

As an athlete there is no better feeling than knowing you are outworking your opponent. In a day and age of crybabies and winers, only the mentally strong will survive. Check out this video of Rocky training like a BEAST in Russia. Ask yourself are you mentally tough? Do you have what it takes to train in the cold?

The BEST way to test mental toughness this time of year is to have my athletes do conditioning in the cold. Sure it sucks, but anybody who plays college and even high school baseball up in the North knows that half your season is going be played in cold weather. Why not train in these conditions? Your body needs to adapt to these conditions eventually.

My philosophy is simple. If you can push the prowler, drag the sled or perform farmer walks in 30 degree weather you will have no problems throwing, catching and hitting in these conditioning. These cold conditions become familiar to you and they just aren’t a big deal when you compete in them. Your body has been through it all, training in heat, in the cold. It is ready for about any challenge you can throw at it.

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  • Joe,

    Great stuff! I whole heartedly believe in utilizing different environments to help toughen you up. Sometimes in the winter I would turn the heat way up in our teams weight room to make it very hot. The kids would ask why I did this and I would tell them to acclimatize them to the heat. In the summer I would make them turn the fan off. There is no fan on a football field in August when your wearing full pads and going through doubles…get used to it! Same can be said for training in the cold. Instead of bitching about it, EMBRACE IT! This will give you an edge over people training in comfort! As I discussed with you the other day I had a parting of ways with the gym I was using and am working out of my garage right now. You can bet it’s been really cold in there this week, but that did not stop anything…work still must get done and in the end all will be tougher for it!

  • Pat,

    Thanks for your comment. You make some great points. I especially like the one “there is no fan on a football field in august when your wearing full pads and going through doubles… get used to it! Thats dam right. You need to condition your bodies for these conditions!

    I remember the first time I ever lifted was in a old garage for baseball back when I was a freshman in high school. There was no heat, no air condition, no mirrors. It was AWESOME! Those days are the reason I love to lift.


    How is the garage gym coming along? Keep me posted!