Long-distance training ‘improves mental toughness’

Research reveals longer training sessions enhance confidence and resilience


A groundbreaking UK research project has found that training for long-distance triathlons improves your mental toughness, including resilience and confidence in your own ability.


The year-long study was led by university lecturer Dr Justin Roberts and aimed to prepare nearly 80 “recreationally-active” people for the Challenge Barcelona triathlon this weekend (6 October), which involves a 3.8km swim followed by a 180km bike and a 42km run.

“We have found that mental toughness is starting to increase because of the longer [training] sessions,” he said, pointing to statistical analysis of participant questionnaires completed throughout the programme as supporting evidence.

“It seems to me that you have to go through a certain threshold before your average mental toughness or resilience can gain leverage.”

There are around 15 studies taking place simultaneously, including one looking into why many long-distance triathletes experience stomach-related discomfort after their race, and another on how the heart adapts to intensive training programmes.

While most of his findings are yet to be finalised, Dr Roberts told 220 that he has been highly impressed with how the participants have coped with their training, and how they have stuck with the programme he devised.

“In terms of whether they are all going to finish or not, you can’t predict what is going to happen on the day, but if you asked me based on their fitness and what I’ve seen of them so far, there’s not one person that I’m worried about.”


To read our recent interview with one of the study’s participants, and how the training programme has gone for him, click here