You may not be competing in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics but you may be getting ready for a triathlon, half or full marathon, a tennis match in your club, a swim meet or working towards a weight loss or some other personal fitness goal. You want to be successful, regardless of the event.
From coaching world-class athletes and every day “Janes and Joes,” I’ve learned that complete, authentic preparation includes keeping one’s mind strong and in control. I teach campers at the Premier Fitness Camp the tools of energizing, sharpening and shaping their mindset to insure sustained, transformational goal attainment when it comes to health and fitness. It works.
When your mind “gives in” to negative messages three-quarters through an endurance challenge or a plateau in your weight loss journey, you will slow down…and fail to achieve your goal.
Do you think Michael Phelps, Simone Biles or Kerri Walsh are multi-gold bearing olympians due to sheer physicality? Ask any athlete about their pre-competition preparation, and I’m sure mental preparation, either with a behavior, health or sports coach or through self talk and visualization is a major component of their prep, dedication and ultimately, their success.
“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, the 3rd US President offered this observation and it’s as relevant to mental preparation for a race as it is to any endeavor in life.
It takes a well-developed competitive pre-routine, focused desire, unfailing dedication and a large dose of self-discipline to be wholly mentally prepared for a sports event. Without being entirely convinced that you are as ready as you can possibly be for whatever comes up on race day or for a trip to the gym, or to stay on your lifestyle change program, your motivation, confidence, focus and physical abilities to handle the psychological demands of your challenge will let you down. Properly engaged mental focus will give you the added fuel of positive emotion, thoughts and winning drive.
Here are the top 4 mental tricks of Olympians that I’ve found will help you reach whatever your goal may be.
1. Internal and external motivation and commitment
Without the right motivation and commitment, you won’t develop and adhere to your physical and mental preparation plans.What’s the real reason you are in the event or working towards a goal? Is it to satisfy yourself or someone else? Are you trying to elevate your status, to increase your fame or wealth? Have you set SMART goals for yourself or are they someone else’s (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely)?
2. Boost Self-confidence with positive self talk
Are you convincing yourself that you “can’t win…finish…lose…do well”? Perhaps it’s more positive self-talk you need along with seeing your actual progress in your training, healthy support from others, avoiding “all or nothing” self-talk and thinking, and not confusing your past performances with self-ratings for future performances. Common phrases in your self talk along the way are often very motivating: “Good job…it’s not that much further…almost on the downhill side…not long before the stadium filled with my friends pops up”
3. Eliminate Distractions
Ever try to NOT think about the “Pink Elephant”? The reason you can’t is because first you have to think about it in order to NOT think about it. Distractions come almost entirely from irrational, ungrounded worry. You compare yourself to your competitors or others that are more fit than you, focus on irrelevant details that you are concerned about, anticipate conditions that may not be present on race day, and erroneously believe that if you think about them then you can control them. Run your own race.
Here’s where visualization, mental imagery, posted reminders in your gym bag, can all help. Mentally go through an entire race or gym session from waking up to the gym in the morning or on race day and see what you will eat, how you warm up, all the way to the finish line.
4. Proper Preparation
The wrong fitness coach for you, an undisciplined or unstructured training program, training for the wrong conditions, improper nutritive preparation all lead to being poorly prepared. A lack of mental preparation includes not figuring out in a very detailed way, your real desired goals. What mindset do you visualize for yourself throughout the road to your fitness or weight loss goals? Detailed goal setting, positive and rational self-talk, mental imagery, relaxation methods, and concentration will help you focus skills to avoid distractions.
How to Achieve the Optimal Mental Preparation
The “optimal zone mindset” is central to your success performance. It builds self-confidence, helps you control your mental energy throughout the journey, provides focus on the essential elements of your competition, and creates a sense of familiarity as you move through, in reality, what you’ve rehearsed so many times, in imagery.
Begin with the end in mind as you prepare yourself for a big goal. How will you need to think and feel to do your best? That’s the key—striving to do your best. What is the right “mindset” to achieve this goal? How do you see yourself feeling and thinking at the starting line? What are you focusing on that jettisons you towards doing your best?
Most importantly, remember, it’s your goal, your desire, your race. Winners focus on winning, while losers focus on winners.