“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit” (Dr George Sheehan; physician and running advocate)
Our mind is an essential piece of the performance jigsaw. Our mind is as important as the physical, biomechanical, and nutritional side of sport when it comes to athletic success. All of these things work in tandem. Ignoring one of these areas will likely mean that we do not reach our full potential. However, collectively exploiting all of these avenues of sport science can make a big difference to our performance.
While many athletes and coaches are quick to acknowledge how important the mind is to athletic success, it is surprising how little time is given to mental preparation. More people choose to invest in their body over their mind, yet as any runner will know being physically prepared to train hard and to race even harder, is only half the battle. You need both body and mind working optimally if you want to get the best results.
I often hear people say that sport psychology is common sense. While there is some truth to this, it is also true that this common sense is not commonly applied. There is a difference between knowing what you should do and doing it. For an athlete to invest so much time and energy in not only their training but in the lifestyle that surrounds it, failing to train your mind while you train your body is a wasted opportunity.
In sport, nothing is given, only earned. Being mentally ready does not just happen by itself. You have to make it happen. Managing your mind in training and on the day of competition takes planning and you need to take time to do this.
If you find that you have become all too accepting of your psychological shortfalls as an athlete; for example, in training you have come to dread certain sessions as you have convinced yourself that you can’t hack them; or anxiety always gets the better of you on race day; or your form in training never translates over into competition; then you will be happy to know that you can do something about this.
Over the coming weeks, my goal is to get you to think about how you are thinking and to understand how you can make your mind work for you and not against you.
Think about it….
Does your mental preparation warrant more time than you currently give it?
Did you know?
Evaluating your own thoughts or thinking about how you are thinking is known as meta-cognition. Top level athletes have been found to evaluate their own thoughts to help them cope with the pressures of competition*. If they recognise a thought as unhelpful, they do something about it!
*Based on findings from Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2012). Psychological resilience in Olympic champions. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13, 669–678.
by Mary Margaret