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Turning Discomfort into Strength: 4 Strategies to Build Mental Resilience Through Challenging Workouts

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May 29, 2023


In our quest for a shredded six-pack or toned arms and legs, we often focus solely on the physical aspects of exercise. However, there is a profound connection between our physical and mental health, and harnessing this connection can lead to remarkable results.


Many people try to shy away from any discomfort of fitness and in this act, cripple any chance of growth by doing so. Challenging workouts push us outside our comfort zones, testing our physical limits and, more importantly, our mental resilience. Building mental resilience is crucial for overcoming obstacles not only in fitness but in various aspects of life.


In this article, we will explore four effective strategies supported by peer-reviewed evidence and nationally credited sources that can help you turn discomfort into strength and build mental resilience through challenging workouts. So, let’s dive in!


  1. Embrace the Power of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is often confused as this esoteric act that must be done on a mountain top in the butterfly position. It’s actually a thousand times much simpler. Applying mindfulness techniques to your challenging workouts can develop mental fortitude.


Research published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (2018) highlights that mindfulness interventions during exercise can enhance self-regulation skills, attention control, and emotional regulation, leading to improved mental toughness.


To incorporate mindfulness into your workouts, start by paying attention to the muscles that you are training in the midst of your reps. Focus on the present moment, not the discomfort of the workout or letting your mind wander. This practice helps you develop mental clarity and enhances your mind-muscle connectivity — allowing you to push through discomfort and stay focused on your goals.




  1. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals:

Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) goals is crucial for building mental resilience during challenging workouts. With the clients I’ve worked with, those who set S.M.A.R.T. goals usually experienced greater levels of motivation, perseverance, and resilience.


The more specific the goal an individual sets, the easier it is to stick to that goal. The goal itself may be challenging but the process to obtain that goal would be clearer than just moving on a whim.


Having realistic goals allows the brain to quantify the steps needed to obtain them. Now, I’m not saying don’t dream big, but when it comes to actually laying down the necessary steps to obtain that astronomical dream, one must be practical in the goals they set.


This clarity provides a sense of direction and purpose, helping you stay committed to your workout regimen and develop mental toughness along the way.


  1. Practice Positive Self-Talk:

The way we talk to ourselves can significantly impact our mental health. Positive self-talk involves using encouraging and affirming words to overcome obstacles and self-doubt.


During your workouts, consciously replace negative thoughts with positive and empowering statements. Encourage yourself to keep going and push through your discomfort, reminding yourself of your strength and capability.


By cultivating positive self-talk, you build mental resilience and develop a mindset that can conquer any physical challenge.


  1. Seek Social Support:

Building mental strength through discomfort is not always a solo journey. Surrounding yourself with a supportive community or workout partner can make a significant difference in your ability to overcome challenges during intense workouts.


Research concluded from the Journal of Sports Sciences (2017) found that individuals who engaged in group-based exercise experienced increased levels of mental resilience, motivation, and enjoyment.


Consider joining a fitness class or finding a workout buddy who shares similar goals and values. Encourage each other, celebrate milestones, and provide support during difficult times.


The collective energy and camaraderie will uplift your spirits and strengthen your mental strength, making challenging workouts more manageable and rewarding.





Challenging workouts have the power to transform both our physical and mental well-being. By implementing these evidence-based strategies—mindfulness, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, practicing positive self-talk, and seeking social support—you can build mental resilience and thrive in the face of discomfort.








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No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other licensed clinicians.

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