Not just Muscle…
Hints and tips to improve sporting performance
While we wonder at the amazing Olympic achievements, like the seemingly impossible gymnastics of Simone Biles or the grit and determination of the long distance cyclists it’s worth remembering that it is not just muscle that wins these competitions.
The difference between the good and the great depends not only on physique and physical training but also, and perhaps more so, on the mental processes which must be just as keenly honed as the body.
There are important inner ingredients which in my opinion are critical to sporting success, but which can be applied just as well to the Sunday golfer, amateur swimmer or occasional runner as to the top athlete. So if you want to improve in a sport here are some things to think about.
- Motivation. Clearly top athletes have an enormous drive to succeed. This helps to push them through the repetitive training and those times when the prospect of triumph seems so far away. So consider what you want to achieve and how much you want it. Then you will have more sense of direction and the will to get where you are going. If you are not that bothered then just casually enjoy the activity for its own sake or choose something else that really does fire you up.
- Modelling and remodelling. Choose someone who you admire in your chosen activity. Think about their internal processes which give them that edge and what it would feel like to meld those processes with your own.
- Rehearsing. Compliment your physical activity with mental rehearsal. Make yourself comfortable and see yourself stronger, better, faster. Go through the activity again and again in your mind. This will help embed what you want at the subconscious level.
- Focus, focus, focus. You will have seen the expressions of the athletes who are in the ‘zone’. Nothing else matters except their performance. They clear their minds of all distractions, whether people shouting in the stadium or worry about what might be going on at home.
- Clearing away self-talk. There is no room for this when you are performing at your best. If you start to question yourself, doubt yourself, feel self-conscious you will get in your own way. Have you ever consciously tried doing an activity that you have learned to do automatically, like driving or playing an instrument? Try it and you will see what I mean.
- Sorting out the tendency to repeat mistakes. The more you focus on some little detail that is going wrong, the more you will reinforce it. Try giving your attention to something beyond where the mistake is cropping up. It’s as if you have to trick your mind into bypassing it rather than paying it more attention. Not always easy (and something I can help with).
- If you lose your nerve. Maybe you have had a bad fall, or something has happened to spoil your confidence and enjoyment. Sometimes this will get in the way of making progress. It’s simply your mind trying to keep you safe from perceived danger but of course misguidedly. You can get past this on your own but if you are having difficulty get some help.
I have helped many clients overcome sporting problems, from those who want to learn to swim but have a phobia of water, to those who need to regain confidence after falling from their horse, or those who want to improve their golfing or tennis performance. I can’t possibly learn all the details of how every sport is conducted but the common factor for all these problems is the way the mind works, and that is something I do know about and practise day in, day out with my clients.