The Athlete Mind: 5 Ways to Make Your Brain Work at Its Best
The mindset and mental toughness of an athlete matter, from developing healthy habits to overcoming distractions and performance concerns.
Any elite athlete will tell you that in order to perform at your absolute best, mental training is just as important as physical training. Your attitude, mental toughness, and way of life can all have a significant effect on how well you do. How we mentally set ourselves up for success can affect everything from poor coordination to delayed decision-making to decreased speed, stress hurting performance, and trouble cooperating with teammates.
And although many athletes, including Lebron James, Kerri Walsh, and Derek Jeter, have been outspoken advocates for mental training, many still leave it out of their daily routines.
To improve the mind-body link and be able to function at higher levels, mental training is very crucial. It facilitates the synchronization of the mind and body so that stress or other mental issues won’t affect performance. Instead, you can let everything go and trust your preparation when it’s game time.
The Interaction between Mental and Physical Performance
We have prioritized investigating physical potential throughout the course of scientific investigation. But in recent years, studies on the mind and how it affects physical performance have started to counterbalance this evidence.
Effects of mental exercise on physical performance
Whatever you may think, there is a significant difference between performing well in practice and when the pressure is on. How effectively we perform can be impacted by a wide range of variables, from current levels of stress and anxiety to successful lifestyle choices. Where mental training can help is in this situation.
What exactly is mental exercise?
Developing mental discipline in the following areas is referred to as mental training:
- Increasing attention
- Being able to manage distractions
- Lowering the level of stress and anxiety
- Boosting one’s self-assurance and belief
- Fostering the synergy and unity of mind and body
- Forming routines that enhance performance (such as getting enough sleep and eating healthily.)
Even when our bodies are at their physical best and we are asked to perform, an untrained mind might hinder us. Athletes must be able to rely on seamless coordination between mind and body in games where a split-second decision might mean the difference between winning and losing. If your mind can’t block off doubt, tension, anxiety, and distractions, it can be exceedingly difficult to perform to the best of your skills.
How exercise affects mental performance
Interestingly, there is more than one route that this connection might go. According to the analysis of hundreds of studies, physical activity has a considerable positive impact on clinical depression, both trait and state anxiety, and self-esteem. A different study discovered that engaging in moderate to intense physical activity helped people perform better on memory, processing speed, and executive function tests as well as academic exams.
Consider Kerri Walsh, a three-time gold medalist.
Elite athletes are aware of how improving one’s mental state can improve performance. Just ask volleyball player Kerri Walsh, who has won three gold medals at the Olympics.
Walsh is a fierce supporter of adopting a positive outlook and preparing for success.
Walsh has remarked, “I am a product of my habits, and so are you. Walsh attributes maintaining her mind and body in a balanced state that enables her to perform at her best to practices like meditation, eight hours of sleep every night, eating healthily, and working with a sports psychologist.
5 Ways to Begin Mental Performance Training
Knowing your goals is the first step in improving your mental performance. Do you wish to sharpen your focus? When game time arrives, do you want to manage your anxiety? Are you attempting to improve the link between your mind and body? Knowing your objectives might help you decide which approaches are ideal for you.
1. Gaining knowledge about flow states
For good reason, flow states have attracted a lot of interest recently. They make reference to a mental state linked to sharper focus and better performance. Being in a flow state is frequently referred to as “feeling in the zone.” Doing things you naturally enjoy but that also stretch and challenge you is the key to developing and learning to reach flow states.
2. Breathing techniques
Many professional sportsmen employ breathing exercises to concentrate and become present in the moment. Using breathing exercises can help you develop inner peace and a stronger sense of connection to your body. They can also help you ignore outside distractions and concentrate entirely on your performance.
The 4 – 7 – 8 breathing pattern is one that is frequently used.
First, take seven deep breaths while counting to seven. After holding for four seconds at the bottom of your breath, exhale for a count of eight seconds. Up till you feel grounded, repeat the cycle.
3. Body scan meditations
Body scan meditations are a terrific method to establish a strong connection with your body, relieve tension and anxiety, and sharpen your attention. Finding a calm area where you may relax, close your eyes, and tune into your body is all that is necessary to begin a body scan. You can either begin at the top and work your way down, or you can just let your body naturally bring your attention to various sensations.
Affirmations are a fantastic tool for boosting self-assurance and drive to complete tasks. Both Michael Jordan and Kerri Walsh have talked about the importance of “owning your thoughts” and the power of doing so. The WNBA’s Tiffany Bias has also discussed the value of affirmations in her mental health.
I am a great believer—in Bias’s words—”If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?”
Many great athletes are incorporating meditation into their daily routines, which makes sense given the growing body of evidence that supports meditation’s capacity to improve mental focus. According to research, meditation has many advantages, including the ability to reduce stress, boost well-being, improve focus, and cultivate calm states. As a result, it’s a great way to support peak performance.
In order to gradually increase your confidence and stamina if you are new to meditation, it is ideal, to begin with guided meditations that last five to ten minutes.
If you want to read more meditation information, the links below here belong to you:
Deeply Breathing: How it reduces your stress
Mindfulness Meditation: What you should know
Meditation For Kids: The best age to start meditating