3 Mental Strength Training Tips for Athletes
You have spent years training your physical body. You understand the need to strengthen it, and train it for what you need for your sport. Your mind is a muscle just like any other muscle in your body, and so it is important to also focus on mental strength training as well. This allows for all the hard work you have put into your physical strength and technique to be put on full display. Without training your mind you leave part of your potential on the table when you walk out into your practices and competitions.
Mental Strength training is similar to your physical training, in that it relies on repetition, isolation and overload. You need to practice and repeat the exercises or practices associated with strengthening your mind. It is not enough to just do it here and there, to only focus on it when you have time. It requires changing your attitude to make the time. Here we are going to go over 3 ways you can strengthen your mind as an athlete.
Tip #1 - Train in Adverse Conditions
I mentioned this in a post not too long ago related to developing prime confidence. When we look at people who are mentally strong or mentally tough in adverse conditions under pressure, they are able to do so because they have trained themselves to be able to handle the pressure and adversity. They don't step into a competition and hope they have the mental strength to deal with the adversity they will face, they have prepared themselves for it, and thus enter into the competition with more confidence.
Very rarely do things in competition go ideally. There is usually going to be some form of adversity you will face, and part of your ability to deal with it is through proper preparation. Part of proper preparation is to set up adversity within your training. To purposely create distractions or challenging circumstances. For example, if you are a basketball player practicing your free throws, have someone create some form of distraction whether it be visual or auditory. Another example would be to run or bike against the wind when doing cardio. If all you ever do is train in ideal conditions, you don't train yourself to deal with the adversity when it comes.
Tip #2 - Learn to Drop the Story
One of the most important attentional skills to develop and hardest, is to become aware of the stories you are telling yourself and drop it. Too often we see something and a thought enters our mind judging what just happened, and from there we elaborate on it, creating a story. For example you make a mistake, you judge it as bad and from there you may start to think about how you could have done it better or how it might impact your playing time or the result of the game. The mistake itself is not good or bad, but creating a story around it can now monopolize your attention, which you need to recover from the mistake and continue to stay focused on the most important information in front of you for your performance.
Something you can do to help you is ask yourself "what story am I telling myself?" or say "the story I am telling myself is..." The idea is to bring awareness to what you are saying within your mind, and how it is shaping your view of things or taking you away from the present moment. By asking the question above or making the statement, you are creating some space between you and the story, which puts you in a better position to then make a choice, to focus on something that will help your performance.
"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."
- Thomas Jefferson
Tip #3 - Recovery
Your mind like everything else, needs rest. Recovery as an athlete is not just for your physical body. You also need the mental rest to bring your best when you need to. In order to have the mental strength you need to succeed, you need the mental energy to dig in. Without it, you have a harder time directing your attention, controlling your emotions, and finding the mental and emotional balance needed to thrive.
Ways you can mentally recover, is finding ways to not continue to think about a performance once it is done and have completed your purposeful reflection of it. Taking time away from screens, especially social media. Giving yourself a break from the demands of training by taking a day off or a couple days off, and go and focus on other things.
Mental Strength Training Helps you Perform
Doing "pushups" for your mind is just as important as the weight training for your body. Don't leave it up to chance, front load the strength you need to succeed. If you are interested in diving in further and getting help from a coach, please reach out to find out how we can help.
To your success,
Kate Allgood, Owner.
About: Kate Allgood is trained in the field of applied sport psychology. She holds two graduate degrees in psychology where she graduated with distinction. She has spent the past 12+ years working one on one with high school, college, Olympic, and professional athletes to help them with their mindset, mental performance and mental skills training. Kate has also been a consultant for professional teams, including the Anaheim Ducks primary minor league affiliate the San Diego Gulls, to help the team and players develop their mental game.