Inside the Mind of an Athlete

Taking your hobby or passion to a professional level is not easy. Apart from the increased demands on your time, energy and money, there’s also increased pressure on your grey matter.

Doing a competition of any sort is stressful. Just the demands of training and meticulous nutrition planning are enough to bring a generally sane person to tears. Of course having a full-time job doesn’t make it any easier!

And that is why it is important to not only train your body but your mind as well. Being a mental ninja is essential for anyone considering to compete. There will be ups and downs. There will be obstacles and challenges. There will be struggle and days where you feel the whole world is against you. But you need to be able to face your fears and insecurities full on.

Many elite athletes are thought how to to build mental toughness because no matter how skilled and experienced you may be a speck of self-doubt can be the difference between winning and losing.

There are several elements to mental toughness – confidence, focus, composure/control and commitment are just a few. Your confidence levels should remain more or less consistent regardless of outside influences. You need to trust your skills and believe in your ability to perform well – this will help you build and keep your confidence (yup, time to have some internal conversations – convince yourself that you are capable of achieving your goal!)

Focus is necessary not only during your competition but also during training. Focus on your end goal, perform during practice as if you were to perform during your competition. And then, on the big day itself, focus in the moment to perform at your best and avoid distractions (whether from the audience, other competitors or that little voice in your head!).

A good way to help you focus during a competition is to remind yourself what your role (during the competition) is and to predict the possible distractions, then choose a refocusing statement to help you overcome these distractions. For instance, it could be a question such as “What should I be focusing on right now?” Or “What would the best athlete do in this situation?” It could also be a single word, such as “tough” or “confident”. Remember, no one is perfect when it comes to staying focused, yet everyone has the ability to refocus.

Staying composed in times of errors and adversities is also an important aspect for competitors. Everybody makes mistakes, but not everyone will notice your mistakes. Learn to anticipate challenges and think how you can cope with them. Prepare yourself for adversity – don’t plan out the competition to go according to your perfect scenario, but think of all the ways things could turn out. This will help you be mentally prepared to face unexpected challenges and to handle setbacks (believe me, there will be some… And then some more!). However, having some sort of a plan B will ease your mental stress and allow you to remain cool and in control.

Finally, as an athlete you need to be committed. You must refuse to give up. You must also know why you are competing – is your reason a strong enough motivating force to pull you through all the challenges ahead? Learn to see adversities as challenges rather that threats. Consistency is key – aim to maintain a consistent level of effort and remember your end goal is to win!

What does this all mean? To win any competition your mental game has to be strong. You have to have a lot of positive qualities (focus, persistence, self-belief) to your mindset. This will help you perform at your best, despite the high amount of internal & external stress.

As they say, the darkest hour is before dawn.
Good luck!



3 Tips to Help You Stay Consistent and Achieve Success

There are many ingredients in the recipe for success – drive, determination, opportunity, perseverance, creativity, courage, strength, passion and more. However, we often overlook one key characteristic – consistency. Without that no great success has been achieved.

Of course, there are the rare cases of overnight success, but even those stories have had some background work done.

Take for example artists. They are talented people, yet they still need to work on refining their skills. They also need to work on building their name or brand within their industry to achieve recognition and support (which are important parts of success).  Athletes are another example. To succeed in any sport or fitness endeavour you need to put in the necessary hours of hard work consistently. As they say – “practice makes perfect.”

So you may be passionate about what you do and determined to succeed but if you’re not consistent you will not go very far. But why wouldn’t you be consistent if you are passionate and determined? Well because life will be throwing challenges your way and there will be days when all the passion in the world won’t feel like it’s enough to get you out of bed.

Insta Capture

This is where consistency comes in. When you feel down, stuck in a rut or facing a particularly tricky obstacle your will and determination may falter. And that’s OK because everyone has a bad day (or days in some cases 🙂 ). The important thing is how to get through those tough moments.

From my experience, there are 3 things that you need to nail down to remain consistent:

  1. Find a meaningful reason to drive your success and repeat it to yourself often. Why do you want to succeed? What is it about achieving your goal that is important? What will you gain from the experience? These are some of the questions that can help your search for a meaningful reason to fuel or drive. Once you have found your cause, repeat it to yourself during those rough times – write it down, stick it near your bed or on your computer and read it back to yourself. Tip: make sure that reason is long term and is truly important to you.
  2. Make a plan and focus on one thing at a time. Successful people don’t multi-task. In fact, research has proven that multi-tasking slows you down and increases the chances of errors. Pick one goal at a time and figure out how you will achieve it. Break the bigger objective into smaller tasks and set yourself deadlines as to when each step should be completed.
  3. Don’t confuse consistency with burnout. You do need to have a plan and schedule as to how you will achieve your goal and that needs to be followed. But you also need to fit in time for rest and destress – be it within your schedule or on a more flexible basis. Of course, you need to push yourself but you need to know when to take a break as well – there is a difference between being lazy and being exhausted! To help you decide when you need to take a break it may be helpful to create a decision tree like the one below:

Good luck & stay focused!