So you want to lose weight, become stronger, or win sporting competitions. We all have goals, but focusing on physical fitness alone won’t cut it – you also need to invest time in developing mental resilience to keep yourself on track.
If sport is played by the body and won by the mind, you’ll need to work on both to succeed. Here are eight tips to help you motivate yourself, stay focused and become more resilient.
1. Positive thinking
We all have negative thoughts at times, but you can train your brain to focus on the positive. First, identify what’s getting you down. Do you have a nagging doubt that you will never lose weight or that your team will never win?
Instead of focusing on the negatives, write down your positive fitness or sporting achievements at the end of each day. Try to spend time with positive people and take in and accept any positive feedback you are given. Look into visualisation and brain retraining techniques that can help you develop better resilience. If you have a particular block – perhaps something from your past that is preventing you from moving forward – a positive thinking book or training course or counselling sessions may help.
2. Find coping mechanisms for pressure
Do you feel like everyone is piling on the pressure – including yourself? If you want to achieve anything in life, you are bound to feel some pressure on the path to success, whether you are trying to get fit or about to face a penalty shoot out. You can’t make it go away but you can find techniques for dealing with pressure.
First, don’t beat yourself up each time you fail – and don’t use setbacks as an excuse to give up. Set manageable targets so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Work out what triggers you to feel under pressure, write it down on a piece of paper and then destroy it, or imagine it as a physical thing, then focus on it getting smaller and smaller until it disappears.
3. Harness visualisation techniques
Did you know that it’s possible to stimulate your brain by visualising success? Visualisation techniques are a key factor in sports psychology and many top athletes and sporting high achievers swear by this approach.
Picture the ball hitting the back of the net or imagine reaching the finishing tape ahead of your competitors. Drill down into the detail – what you are wearing, the sound of your racket hitting a winning shot, the smell of the pitch – use all your senses. The clearer the picture you paint, the more prepared your brain and your body will be to carry out the actions on the day.
4. Take time out for relaxation
All work and no play – you know the rest. Gym goers know that the body needs rest from training and the same goes for the mind. Taking time out to relax is essential. Socialise with family or friends, go for a walk, read a book, go to the cinema, do a gentle yoga class or a mindfulness session.
Don’t leave this to chance: schedule your relaxation day into your schedule in the same way you would plan your physical training regime.
5. Work with others
If you’re struggling with your motivation, book sessions with a personal trainer or go to a fitness class with a friend and make a vow not to let each other wriggle out of it if you’re not in the mood!
If you’re training for a competition, you may already be working with a professional trainer, but if not, find a training buddy who can help to motivate you and give you positive, constructive feedback on your performance.
6. Train harder
This may sound obvious, but if you’re working towards a goal and you train and mentally prepare yourself to achieve a level above what you need to succeed, then you’ll find it easier on the day.
For example, if you are training for a 10K, practice running 11K. You’ll find you have energy and motivation in store that will have you sprinting towards the finishing line on the day.
7. Set SMART goals
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely – and SMART goals can be used in fitness training as much as in business (see our blog on What Are SMART Goals?)
For example, you are more likely to achieve your goal of losing weight if you set yourself a specific target, which can be measured, is realistic to attain, relevant to you and has a fixed time period.
8. Will It Make the Boat Go Faster?
Ben Hunt-Davis’s book, Will It Make the Boat Go Faster?, explains how the GB Men’s Rowing Eight turned around a losing streak to win gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Alongside physical training, the team worked hard on their mental preparation and challenged themselves to only do things that would make the boat go faster.
Whether you are competing in a team or individual sport or working towards a specific fitness goal – applying this to your training will help you improve your focus and banish the distractions and obstacles that lie on the path to success.