Be a Mental Athlete Harness Your Brain Power to Improve Your Body’s Performace


Sports psychologist

Mental toughness: you may know it as willpower, resilience, determination — or even just guts. Whatever you call it, your mental toughness can make or break your physical performance.

The majority of elite athletes say that at least half of superior athletic performance stems from mental or psychological elements. It may be all in your head, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. And 83% of coaches classify mental toughness as the most critical psychological characteristic when it comes to effect on competitive success.

You can use mental skills training to develop your mental resilience and take greater control over your athletic outcomes: studies have shown that among the various influencing factors like fitness, weather, and nutrition, mental toughness is responsible for about 14% of your competitive results.

Clearly, the importance of mental training for athletes cannot be underestimated. Check out these tips for strengthening your willpower and maximizing your physical potential.

  1. Get motivated. There are two main types of motivation: intrinsic and achievement. Intrinsic motivation stems from within, and represents a desire to be self-determining. People who are intrinsically motivated are self starters, and don’t need much encouragement to give it their best.

    Achievement motivation can be further broken down into two camps. Those with achievement motivation may be driven by big opportunities to succeed, like a big game or high-profile competition. On the other hand, achievement motivation could also mean responding to challenges and potential failures — for these people, confidence may be overflowing for an easy task, but fly out the window when an obstacle appears.

    If you can figure out what motivates you, you can more effectively train yourself to be tougher and handle more. Try focusing on smaller, achievable tasks like maintaining form, or eliminating potential stressors to allow you to direct all your attention to the main challenge in front of you.
  2. Get in your zone. World class athletes deal with the stress of a race by calming their minds: their brain wave activity resembles that of meditation. Conversely, the average person would respond to race-induced stress with brain wave activity levels near to those of panic.

    If you can get yourself into that cool headed, laser focused state, you’ll set yourself up for physical success. But achieving and maintaining a meditative state in spite of pressure, distractions, and pain requires training your brain, just as you train your body. Here are some key ways to get your mind ready for your body’s success.

    • Stay Positive. Focus your internal dialogue on positive thoughts and encouragement. Things that make you feel better about yourself have the power to make you perform better, too. If you think you can’t do something, you can’t.

      If staying positive sounds impossible to you, consider creating a mission statement for yourself. Something that gets you pumped up and ready to work and achieve can do wonders. Think about why you want to run a marathon, gain muscle, or compete in a certain contest. Make the “why” your mission statement, and repeat it to yourself every time you train, and whenever you find yourself dragging your feet.
    • Talk to yourself. Along those same lines, you need to get comfortable talking yourself up. Use second person: “You can do this. You are going to do your absolute best today.” Be your own coach, and use the kind of encouragement that works best for the kind of motivation you respond well to. The more you practice positive self-talk, the easier it will be for you to talk yourself into a rally in the big moment.
    • Visualize your success. Picture every step you need to take to achieve your goal of the moment, whether it’s a completed set or a completed marathon. Use your mind as a rehearsal space to prepare your body for the show.
    • Avoid routines. If you get too comfortable in a routine, you’ll never make any progress. Choose a few times a month to push yourself to your limit, and try new things regularly. Get used to facing unexpected challenges to prepare yourself to handle them well.

Developing mental toughness can be a long, often grueling process, but in the long run, it can only help your physical performance.

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