A great number of athletes, from several different sports, all over the world, state that 90% of their success is a result of their mental capability and training.
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According to them, in high-level professional sports, there are no big differences between athletes regarding talent (innate potential), professional dexterity (what the athlete has learn from training), or physical ability (height, strength, etc.).
The big difference between these athletes arises from their level of mental preparedness and psychological strength.
So, we have spoken to athletes and crossfitters, and we present you the keys so that you too may be able to reach your success.
Program some time in your training schedule for your mental training
Nowadays, nobody doubts that mental abilities have an enormous influence in sports’ performance.
But, how much time do we dedicate to training psychological abilities?
Athletes use the majority of their time to develop their individual dexterity and improving their physical fitness. And inversely, we dedicate very little time (or none at all) to improving our mental dexterity or to sports’ coaching.
Lack of knowledge, misunderstandings related to psychological abilities, or lack of time, are some of the reasons for this incongruence.
4 mental factors that have influence on our sports’ performance
Any athlete who wants to improve their performance should begin by acknowledging that there are mental factors which impact on their performance, such as motivation, self confidence, and focus.
Today we know that the muscles and the brain, the mind and the body, work integrated.
“As we think and we feel, we perform”
Motivation is the desire or need that makes someone act to achieve his or her objectives. To set good objectives is a characteristic of great athletes. The desire to fulfill one’s objectives drives us and keeps our motivation on adequate levels.
On the other hand, self-confidence, or the faith in our personal abilities to successfully perform a specific task or behavior, it’s a key condition to achieve victory.
Competition sometimes generates doubt, worry, and high levels of anxiety, and these factors may have a negative impact on reaction speed and on motor execution.
3) Emotional control
With no emotional control one will not become a high-level athlete. To develop mental training exercises for athletes to help them control their emotions or doubts, may be the difference between success or failure for an athlete.
On the other hand, athletes require a great deal of concentration. Every action, including the simplest or more intuitive ones, requires focus. Our attention should always be focused in the relevant tasks of that moment, in the actual situation at hand, avoiding focusing on what has passed or is still to come.
Everything is linked
These mental strength elements do not work separately. Quite the opposite, they are interdependent between themselves, and each one is the result of the other, which is itself simultaneously influenced by a third one.
When we lose the control of our emotions, our focus is immediately affected, and when we are not focused, we lose self-confidence. There is no self-confidence if there is no focus or emotional control. And there is no success without focus.
To be mentally strong means to know how to control our mind and what happens in it, hence being able to improve our skills. The most evident signs of mental strength are consistency and stable skills.
Those athletes who have a “lucky day” are not mentally strong, as opposed to those who give all they have in every competition.
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Mental strength can also be trained
From this perspective every athlete has two goals: to show his or her skills consistently, and to achieve the highest level in the development of his or her skills. Although not impossible to achieve, to reach these two goals is not an easy task.
Mental strength can be mastered.
This skill can be trained and improved. Only a few are born mentally strong, nonetheless, everyone can become much stronger in their mind.
In the same way physical training aims at focusing on the relevant variables for performance like endurance, flexibility, or speed, the psychological work studied by Sports’ Psychology focuses on the mental strength aspects that are essential for our success.
Just as we need to dedicate time for training so that athletes acquire and develop physical skills and techniques, we also need to allocate some measure of time for learning the psychological skills that may help us optimize our performance possibilities.
Psychological skills do not happen without effort
Studies in goal setting, imagination, attention focus, psychological activation and relaxation, cognitive control…may aid in improving our performance in training and in competition.
I believe that there are fewer and fewer individuals who think that the process of mentalization will occur with no intervention, automatically, as an inevitable outcome of hard work, sports’ maturity, and of the habit of competing.
I believe that there are more and more sports’ professionals who show interest in incorporating psychological techniques in their training programs. There are more and more athletes who believe that psychological training is paramount in optimizing sports’ performance; and CrossFit is no exception.
Athletes’ psychological needs are not a “creation” by psychologists, but rather an inherent reality to people who are meant to continuously fight against their own limits, and perform at the most of their capabilities in the stressful environment of a sports’ competition. It is time to take action, it is time to start training psychological skills to start performing at our best.
In future articles we will teach you how to train each one of these mental skills to enable you to achieve your sports’ goals and victories.
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