Ways Athletes Can Up Their Mental Game
An overlooked yet crucial attribute to an athlete’s success is their enormous mental strength. Exerting your last reservoir of strength while feeling exhausted is a product of great mental strength. It’s when athletes go further and beyond that legendary sporting moments are born!
What Is Mental Strength?
Mental strength is having the inner fortitude to effectively deal with pressure and stress when faced with a big task. Participating is a great start, but the ability to perform at your best in all aspects of life requires grit. Although mental toughness is a non-tangible quality, its existence can dramatically affect your real-life actions.
While mental strength is required to reach your athletic potential, many question whether it’s innate or acquired through hard times. The good news is that toughness isn’t just born in you. There are specific things you can focus on overtime internally and externally to increase your mental strength. Just like going to the running track to train sprints or lifting weights to build muscle, one must also train their mind.
Below are seven ways to help push you run that extra mile:
A Positive Mindset
Although ‘thinking positive’ has been negatively associated with being just another cliche, it’s key to optimal mental health. In competition or even in training, occasionally, you’ll feel like you’re swimming against the tide. Perhaps you’re not performing to your coach’s standards, or the opposing team is thrashing you in a game. It’s at this point where positive and negative thoughts have an enormous impact, subsequently affecting your physical capabilities.
Negative thoughts cause stress and anxiety, leaving many to resign instead of push further. A positive mindset can therefore aid you in performing at maximal capacity. Sure, you may not win the game, but at least you gave yourself a fighting chance!
Concentrate on the Things You Can Control
In many sports, it’s essential to focus on what you bring to the table instead of worrying about others. Performance components like your nutrition, training schedule, training intensity, and sleep quality are all within your control. Rather than fixating on your competition and getting upset, focus on areas you can improve.
Performance targets are the small goals you should strive for on a weekly-monthly basis. Targets could include incrementally adding weight to the bar at every gym session or beating specific run times set prior. Smaller goals are also more manageable than larger, more abstract goals, causing a great sense of accomplishment when you hit them. These accomplishments, while often minor, are necessary to reach your ultimate goal and boost confidence.
Athletes performing at the highest level all have one thing in common – they see themselves as winners. Before any demanding endeavor, whether it’d be winning a boxing match or getting a beach body, visualizing yourself accomplishing your goal is crucial.
Imagery of success can increase focus throughout, as your body will naturally follow suit to what your mind believes. When feeling competition stress, take a few moments to relax and visualize the situation positively. Visualization also helps a person’s attention span when learning new skills. Students, for example, show greater comprehension skills when they’ve visualized their lesson content before starting.
Being Part of A Strong Team
Whether you compete individually or within a team, it’s essential to have a good support structure. For team sports, training with your squad breeds a competitive edge for teammates involved. Although everyone works towards a common goal, trying to outdo each other maximizes physical performance. For individual sports, having positive reinforcement from your team not only lessens stress but creates an environment of learning and joy.
Your teammates don’t have to necessarily be human, either! Pets make exceptional companions at home, where daily interactions can significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate. If your pet is a proven stress-reliever you rely on, maintaining their health is paramount. For animals prone to accidents or illness, getting pet insurance can provide peace of mind, knowing your insurer will cover treatment costs.
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Sportspeople who aren’t fulfilling their athletic potential could be due to a lack of self-belief. A negative perception of oneself can lead to the feeling of resignation, increasing tension, and anxiety. It’s tough to perform at your best when you believe you’re fighting for 2nd place.
Recognizing these negative thoughts can help an athlete associate them with positive outcomes. Deep breathing exercises are also advisable for athletes, increasing oxygen to assist blood flow in muscles.
A good distraction (just not during the competition!) is an effective way to relieve pre-competition nerves. Listening to your favorite song, watching a movie, or chatting with your teammates can keep your mind at ease. If you’ve developed a habit of thinking negative thoughts, a good distraction could subside them.
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