This article is for anyone wants to develop a couple of tools to enhance their mental toughness.
Whilst I don’t claim to be a psychologist, I have picked up a couple of useful nuggets in my career that can help you get on the right track mentally. Whether you are starting a new sport, joining a gym for the first time, getting a trainer even, or doing something new that is challenging for you.
In gyms all over the country, the best nutrition, cardio, and training protocols are hotly debated topics. Collectively, all of these make massive differences to the results you can achieve itself, but without mental toughness, your ability to utilize your physical prowess may fail miserably.
Tip One – Learn How To Interpret Your Nervousness
At school, you were probably told not to be nervous, unfortunately just being told not to be nervous doesn’t always help. Whenever something is really important to you, it is likely that nerves will accompany you. Many people misinterpret nervousness as a negative emotion. Really it’s there to help you. Listen to the feeling of ‘nerves’ in your body.
Notice how they make you feel electric and awake? I might sound a bit like a life coach here but hear me out. Think about being grateful for being nervousness. One thing that Nervous energy gives you is heightened awareness. This awareness can be used as a tool to help you focus and sharpen your mind and perform better. But when you feel it, you need to learn to not be scared of it. You can develop a relationship with the feeling of nerves that is positive and enabling, not disabling. It just takes time and practice and awareness of the feeling when its happening.
Seven times Mr. Olympia and arguably the greatest bodybuilder of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger is often quoted as saying ‘you have to walk into a gym like you own it, no matter if you’re the biggest guy or the smallest guy.’
When your goal is victory, practice feeling like you is a winner in everything you do. When we imagine ourselves as the winner, we reinforce the idea that we are in fact going to win in the competition. This can have a massive knock-on effect on improving our confidence going into the competition.
I always say that we work to our goals in accordance with our beliefs. If we believe we can win, no doubt we train 10 x harder than if we believe we can’t win. Just like Arnold said, practice cultivating the belief that you are already the winner.
Tip Three – Accept fear rather than attempting to suppress it.
It has been said that the brave man is not the one who feels an absence of fear before a battle, but feels the fear anyway and goes to battle in spite of it.
I believe the fiercest competitors the world has ever known, have not been fearless, not any more than you or I, but that they accepted fear as something that came with the territory of competing at the highest level and so was able to mitigate its effects more effectively.
They were able to act in spite of fear because they knew achieving their best meant putting themselves in a place where risk and failure were real possibilities.
So accept your fear as something that is part of the course. It allows you to have an increased perception of possible danger, which is key in competition.
Tip Four – Breathe Deeply
Yes, the old adage of breathing deeply can help to calm you down, but why?
Well firstly, more oxygen is circulated to the brain, allowing for more clear thinking.
Secondly, and most importantly in my reckoning, focusing on deep breathing allows you to become present to the present moment itself. This can help to disable yourself from thinking about negative future possibilities such as defeat, as you are focused on the present moment of breathing.
Competition happens in the present. not in the future where your mind may try to wonder. Use deep breathing to stay focused on right now.
Tip Five – Rehearse the scenarios of competition in your mind
Athletes often report going over and over again and again, all the possible scenarios that could take place in the competition.
In training this allows them to be mentally prepared for a whole host of scenarios that could potentially take place in the competition. In competition this allows them to be mentally prepared for a whole greater host of possible outcomes.
Mental scenario rehearsal is key to being able to positively interpret outcomes that occur in competition.
Tip Six – Welcome feelings of nervousness!
At school, you were probably told not to be nervous, unfortunately just been told not to be nervous doesn’t always help.
Whenever something is really important to you, it is likely that nerves will accompany you. Many people misinterpret nervousness as a negative emotion. Really it’s there to help you. Listen to the feeling of ‘nerves’ in your body.
Notice how they make you feel electric and awake? This might sound a bit like a life coach but, think about thanking your nervousness for heightened awareness in the moments of competition when you need them most. Been aware that you are nervous, recognizing it and then being thankful for the added awareness it gives you might work for you. Try it out next time you feel your adrenaline starting to shoot through the roof, it might help you become more in control of your feelings.
At its crux, nervousness is a state of heightened awareness that is there to help you, not derail you. It’s up to you to positively interpret it when it matters most.
You can develop a relationship with the feeling of nerves that is positive and enabling, not disabling. It just takes time and practice.
Tip Seven – Get Started.. If you’re like me, you are a master of procrastination and excuses. However, this doesn’t really take you closer to where you want to go. Ultimately, you will just have to bite the bullet and go for it. The more you place yourself in a state of uncomfortableness, the more comfortable it becomes, but the first step is always the hardest. But, once you made that first step, it should get easier
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