Mental strategies for sport often revolve around what to do on race day before or during the event. Most athletes and coaches will focus on these critical moments to reach into their bag of mental strategies. These tools are good to have in your back pocket when the pressure is on but like anything, daily attention to your mental state is where you will make the greatest long-term gains.
- Mental Recovery. Create space daily to mentally recover. This can be as simple as five minutes of sensory deprivation. Find a quiet place, turn out the lights, put something over your eyes and lay completely flat. It’s not easy to create this kind of mental recovery because we are constantly bombarded with computer technology and external noises but it’s very important. The brain is like a muscle- it is constantly processing things inside and outside the body. Give it even five minutes of sensory deprivation and you will be amazed at the mental clarity and sense of well being that can follow.
- Awareness of thought. You may think you are in control of thought but often thought is in control of you. When it comes to performance and mental state, nothing is more powerful than the thoughts that are occupying your mind at that time. In pressure situations thoughts can cause anxiety, doubt and negative energy. The daily practice of observing your thoughts will create space and awareness around those thoughts and allow greater control over what you are telling yourself. There is great power in the ability to control thought and in many cases, eliminate thought when the pressure is on. The greatest athletes have an ability to create a very powerful state of mind through their own thought processes.
- Have fun. Sport should be fun. When you find activities fun it means you are doing them in a positive state of mind. This state of mind often leads to a more relaxed physical state where the body executes movements with greater ease and less tension. If training and racing are not fun for you at some level then you may want to revisit the activities you are choosing to take part in. Or maybe you need to revisit how you are approaching the training. Changing the training stimulus (type of workout), increasing the social component or changing the environment (going on a camp) are all ways you can inject some fun into your usual routine. Even something as simple as swimming in a different pool or going down the waterslide at the end of a practice are enough to inject some fun and maximize your mental state.