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Sports Psyche

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

As the 2023 Season progresses, I hope you’re doing the right things to strengthen, test, and use one of the most important assets you have in training and racing – your mind. The psychological advantages you can develop and use is your focus, attitude, and motivation to name a few. And the success you achieve physically is directly related to how you mentally handle training and competitive experiences. The mind IS a terrible thing to not use to it’s full potential and your advantage.

Sports psyche – This is a training “gray” area (like your brain) that’s difficult to exactly pin down quantitavely like a specific distance or speed. Nevertheless, it has an extremely significant impact on how you train, race, and feel about yourself. It’s your mind’s eye view of how you feel about a workout, a competition, your goals, your capabilities – it’s either a strength that will help you become stronger or faster or it’s a critical part of your training, race focus, and lifestyle that you haven’t fully developed as an asset. Every one of us has a coach: s/he lives inside each of us – it’s your brain and you need to develop it and exercise it just like any other muscle.

First, let me give you a “profile” of someone (I’m sure it's nobody we know…) that is setting themselves up for injury, burnout, and/or disappointment: L

~~ Chasing athletic goals for self-improvement but, when achieved that are rarely satisfying

~~ Strong internalized “should” and “ought” obligations in training, extending outside sports

~~Tunnel vision that prevents a varied lifestyle, outside interests, or firm sense of self

~~Dependency on training as the primary copying mechanism to deal with life’s stresses

The above (Type “A“ personality?) is setting themselves up for failure - - over-dependency on training effort to cope with life’s problems, begets injury or poor progress in speed or distance, begets performance disappointment and self-doubt and disillusionment, begets…’s a bad, destructive cycle.

There are thought-processes and things that you can do to put and keep yourself in the right frame of mine about your sports activities that I like to call “mental gymnastics.” As JoAnn Dahlkoetter, sports psychologist says, “If you possess a willingness to educate yourself and examine your less-than-productive patterns, then you’re well on you way to long-term success in sports and in life.” The following can help you avoid burnout and stay motivated: J

~~ Take a break. Change your schedule; do something different – it’s a psychological boost

~~ Create variety. Get out of the same old pace; train some place new

~~ Get on schedule. Eat regularly, consistent amount of sleep, allow time to relax and reflect

~~ Get a life. Have a balance, healthy lifestyle with a variety of interests; balance work and fun

~~ Listen to yourself. Become acutely aware of what you body and mind needs each day

~~ Get a social network. Develop friends in and out of sports; communicate, resolve conflicts

~~ Lighten up. Don’t force physical improvement; remove strict deadlines; go with your feelings

~~ Use set backs. Learn from the opportunity; draw out constructive lessons and move on

~~ Relax and enjoy. Continuously try to renew your enthusiasm and excitement in sports.

And injuries also take their toll on us mentally too. Injuries occur for a multitude of reasons: excessive effort, poor technique, insufficient rest, age, etc. If the previous nine suggestions don’t keep you from getting injured, the following 10 mental calisthenics can help you make a total and positive recovery:

~~ Tolerate your injury. Be as accepting as possible; outrage won’t help the healing; learn from it

~~ Deal with it. What’s the injury and how do I constructively deal with it?

~~ Set new goals. Reevaluate for future success; focus on new goals and forget the old ones

~~ Be patient. The older you are the longer the healing takes; don’t be impatient and rush things

~~ Be positive. Your attitude and mindset can speed the healing; avoid being negative

~~ Listen to the experts. Talk to qualified people; don’t push yourself thru recovery; be realistic

~~ Keep your perspective. If you push yourself, understand the down side; know action and result

~~ Be your own healer. Be conscientious about therapy; practice healing imagery - - it can’t hurt

~~ Adjust your training. Train around the injury if possible; train mentally by using imagery

~~ Be with friends. Resist the urge to isolate yourself; you need support and contact of others

Simply stated, sports require the proper use of muscle AND brain cells. To function at your best, you need to use all the muscles of the body, including your brain. You need to train it, rest it, and test it. A comment in Scientific American about training applies to sports psyche: “In a crisis, you don’t rise to the occasion. You sink to the level of your training.” How’s your “mental” training going…..? J


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