Your Inner Athlete: Truth About Mental Toughness & Peak Performance

Dr. Haley Perlus continues with her weekly tips to empower “Your Inner Athlete,” below:

Picture this, I’m 12 years old competing at the Whistler Cup (considered the junior, junior World Alpine Ski Racing Championship). Just before I make my way to the starting gate my coach pulls out a $100 bill and places it under my nose. He says he bet on me to win this race and he isn’t prepared to lose. He puts the money back in his pocket, gives me a smile, and sends me on my way.

Dr. Haley Perlus



In that moment, I had two choices: (1) lose control, get anxious, fearful, tense, and full of doubt or (2) find a way to maintain control, stay confident, and fight my hardest to win the race, not only for my coach, but also for myself. I chose the latter and won the gold!

A common saying in sport psychology is perception is reality. There is a negative and debilitating way to look at every situation. Conversely and more importantly, there is a positive, performance-enhancing spin.

When my coach bet on me to win, the negative thoughts that could have ruined my performance were: “What if I let him down?” What if he’s wrong about me?” 

The positive and helpful thought that enhanced my performance was: “Wow, if my coach, with his knowledge of this sport, my competitors, and me, believes in me, I have every reason to believe in myself.” 

Mental Toughness comes from perceiving events in a way that enhances your performance. If you feel pressure to succeed, can it be because you’re performing well and doing something right? If you feel discomfort while training, can it be because you’re pushing your limits and achieving new levels of performance? If you’re disappointed at yourself for a poor performance, can it be because you are confident and care enough about your sport to have high expectations? In fact, in my consulting practice, I’m more concerned when an athlete doesn’t get angry about a bad performance. Frustration because you didn’t do your best is a good thing and it will help fuel you for next time.

During your sport or fitness events, challenge yourself to perceive your experiences in the most positive and performance-enhancing way. Will it always lead to a gold medal like my story above? No. But it will give you the best shot at peak performance!

About Dr. Haley Perlus:

The event wears its name like glove: “WOW.” 

The acronym is a perfect fit for Becca Tudor’s awesome Weekend of Wellness, relatively new festival (the 3rd annual gathering took place in early June) that celebrates overall fitness, including ways grow a spine, man up –  yoga, kettle bell, Pilates, cycling, kids’ classes – and also get educated about health trends in general through lectures by doctors, nutritionists, and renowned experts in the field of sports psychology. 

Experts such as Dr. Haley Perlus, a stand-out on a long list of superstar women featured at Telluride WOW, already a no-miss event if you are on a path towards personal transformation.



I attended Haley’s lecture about the psychology behind good nutrition and overall health. The holistic contents turned out to be a back door to ways to live a healthy life in general.

We were all left wanting more from this buff, blonde brainiac, so Telluride Inside… and Out invited Haley to blog on our site.

And lucky for us all, Haley agreed. 


With a Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology, M.S. in Sport Pedagogy, and numerous fitness and coaching certifications, Dr. Perlus is an expert at empowering athletes of all types and health enthusiasts achieve peak results. An adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, international speaker, former Alpine ski racer, appointed Industry Leader for,, and author, including soon-to-be-released “The One Minute Diet and Guidebook to Gold.” Dr. Perlus helps people reach their highest standard of performance.

For further information and a free chapter of one of her books, visit



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