For commentators and spectators like us watching a game, it’s normal to marvel at our favorite sports star’s physical attributes and talents. However, an overlooked aspect in an athlete’s repertoire is their mental strength. Delving deep inside to find the last bit of energy to perform often separates the greats from the ordinary.
What Is Mental Strength?
Mental strength allows one to give it their all, regardless of the circumstances and pressure put on their shoulders. When the going gets tough, it’s easy to throw in the towel and call it quits, but pushing forward requires enormous grit. While it isn’t tangible like muscle endurance or how weight you can lift, your inner fortitude can impact the real-life actions you take.
So is being strong mentally born into you? While it’s partly genetic, your environment and prior experiences can help a great deal. There are also several ways to improve mental strength through specific techniques and having a solid support structure. Just like running sprints to increase explosivity and lifting weights to build muscle, you must also train your mind. If you find yourself giving up far too soon, apply these methods to help you run that extra mile:
Focus on the Things You Can Control
In any sport or field of competition, getting carried away thinking about your competitors can only create mental fatigue and self-doubt. Instead of continually comparing yourself to others, concentrate on the things you can control. Performance elements you can improve upon include sleep quality, training intensity & frequency, and nutrition. By consistently getting better, you’ll grow in confidence and eventually surpass your competitors.
A drop in motivation from excessive stress and anxiety often negates peak performance on the field. Stress can be caused by self-doubt or failure to live up to their peers’ and family members’ expectations.
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Proper Goal Setting
For athletes trying to progress, setting performance targets allows you to measure improvements over time. Instead of listing abstract, grandiose goals, breaking them down into smaller, more manageable ones will help you get there. Even accomplishing minor performance targets can substantially boost self-belief as you’re following through with your strategic plan.
For example, if you need to lose 50lbs of body fat, start by incorporating daily walks into your routine. Other goals include replacing unhealthy foods from your diet with more nutritious choices.
If you’ve adopted a pessimistic view of yourself, it could potentially impact how you perform. Having a positive mindset may sound a bit cliche, but how you interpret each situation can dictate whether you quit or carry on. If you believe losing is inevitable or doubt a specific task is doable, chances are you won’t even try. Contrarily, when you’re optimistic and think you can win, you will most likely try until the very end.
So how do you instill positivity within yourself? It begins with self-talk. Self-talk isn’t a controllable process, as the thoughts flying inside of you are endless. For your mind to start occupying positivity, first identify the route of your negative emotions. Bad habits include focusing on the bad of a situation instead of the bad, and constantly blaming yourself once something happens. Self-doubt can also cause anxiety and stress, potentially causing you to choke during competition.
Throughout the day, take a moment to evaluate what you’re thinking. If your thoughts are negative and potentially self-destructive, convince yourself it isn’t so bad. By putting a positive spin, you can begin finding ways to solve the problem.
Having a Solid Team
Whether you’re signing up for your first gym membership or doing your weekly drills for the new football season, it helps to have a solid support structure. In team sports, regularly training with your teammates adds a competitive element to your workouts, speeding up personal progress. Since many love the limelight and want to be the best, it’s typical to see rivalries within camps.
Athletes receiving feedback on how they perform, whether from coaches or their peers, can help better develop their skill sets. Coaches providing positive reinforcement in a stress-free environment can help their players build self-belief and lower anxiety.
Distracting Yourself Before Competition
If you regularly suffer from pre-contest nerves, a nice distraction could help subside them. Distractions don’t have to be anything major, as reading a book or listening to music can help relieve stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed from an emotionally distressing situation, simply doing something else can temporarily spare you from those feelings.