What does "working out" look like in mental performance training? We know what it looks like in the weight room but there is a lack of general understanding as to what you might do when we hear the concept "train your mind."
First off, a way to look at it:
Physical training = WORKING OUT
Mental training = WORKING IN
Much of the work in mental performance training involves looking inwards to explore and process your thoughts, feelings and experiences as they relate to your sport performance. By thinking about mental training as a chance to "work IN," you know you are providing yourself the opportunity to reflect on and improve yourself.
So how do we get this "work in" in? :)
Yes, we talk, but it is not talk therapy for athletes. Mental training is, in part, the work of repeated activities that help you improve a variety of areas pertinent to your mindset, including:
- arousal regulation
- goal setting
- team cohesion
- performing under pressure
- emotional regulation
Ok, coach. But how? What does a rep look like in this work? Reps:
1. noticing your mind is elsewhere and returning it to the task at hand
2. experiencing self-doubt, knowing it’s a normal part of being human, letting it go, reminding yourself you’re capable
3. feeling the pressure of a competitive situation, smiling, remembering you’re doing something you love
4. daydreaming about winning, coming back to a process focus: what’s the next action step?
5. hearing your negative self-talk, releasing it, remembering you are not your thoughts
There are many, many more! These are just a few ways you can train the mental skills listed above. One of the key means for doing so is regular mindfulness meditation practice.
Meditation can be directly linked to enhanced sport performance. The curriculum is simple, but not easy: notice your breath. Expect your mind to wander. When it does, return your focus back to awareness of your breath. How does this tie into your sport performance?
Well, our minds are constantly pulling us away from the most important play: the present one. We are upset, frustrated, overly excited, worried, or otherwise ruminating about the past or setting expectations for the future. By training your mind to focus on a particular anchor in the present - in meditation it is your breath, in performance it is the task at hand - you are improving your ability to release distractions and stay potent in the present. The ability to wield your focus according to your performance needs is perhaps the most valuable mental skills we have.
Thanks for reading, and good luck on your journey!