Do you wish you were a little more willing to take risks, whether that means skiing tougher runs, signing up for your first fitness competition or entering an obstacle race? Good news! You can get gutsier just by building your mental toughness, essentially boosting your confidence to conquer your biggest fitness fears.

While it might seem like guts are something you’re born with, that’s not entirely the case. In many ways, mental toughness is like physical strength. “Nobody’s born physically strong, but with a plan in place, you can build that strength,” says Jason Selk, LPC, NCC, director of sports psychology with Enhanced Performance in St. Louis and author of Executive Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2011) and 10-Minute Toughness (McGraw-Hill, 2008). The same applies to your mind.

That’s the thinking that helped catapult Kim Dolan Leto, Arizona-based director of family health and wellness for the International Sports Sciences Association, to the Ms. Fitness World stage. “Becoming an athlete starts in your mind,” she says. “You trade excuses for solutions and fight your way daily to eat clean, train mean and balance life.”