I think we’ve all been there. We’ve all had bad days that make us question why we work so hard to realize our
goals, only to come up short time and time again, when we swear we’re doing everything “right” and everything
that we “should” be or “could” be doing.
Sound familiar? Before we know it, we’re spiraling down into a vortex of doom, swearing off whatever our athletic pursuits are at the moment, and promising ourselves to simply “take some time off” for an indefinite period because who cares, right?
Working through mental roadblocks in training and in competition is really hard, but my goodness, it’s so
important. My examples and jabbering below are all couched in running parlance, since that’s the circle I know
the best, but figuring out how to both work on and enhance our mental fitness is transferable across all sport
and competition lines. It doesn’t matter if you’re lifting weights, ice-skating in circles, or flying across the air in a gymnastics meet: every sport out there, every physical endeavor that we choose to undertake, necessitates
having adept mental fitness and mental toughness.
Just as we pay so much attention to getting our bodies in sound cardiovascular and muscular shape, so, too, must we endeavor to make our mental conditioning bulletproof.
Things get tough when we’re constantly pushing ourselves to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be;
it’s just a fact of life. Below, I’ll describe some of my tips that I use to help break though mental barriers when
I’m competing in a race, running my heart out, or simply when I’m in a training session and am staring down a
really hard workout. Mental fortitude matters, and developing that adequately is a byproduct of endless mental
conditioning and enhancing our mental fitness to be the very best it can be.
Here’s how you can do it –
It sounds dumb, but really –
Believe in yourself.
Your mom was right: if you don’t believe in yourself, then who will? Tell yourself every day that you believe in yourself, in your ability to work hard to realize your dreams, and talk to yourself accordingly. So many of us are our own worst critics, which is acceptable to a degree, but ultimately no constructive growth can arise if we’re constantly berating ourselves for not being good enough, strong enough, fast enough, or whatever enough.
Think of it this way – talk to yourself how you’d talk to your very best friend. If you wouldn’t incessantly tear down your best friend, then don’t do it to yourself. Instead, replace that negative self-talk with encouragement, telling yourself that you are in fact capable, strong, and willing to work hard. Negative self-talk matters more than we think it does, so do everything in your power to avoid spiraling down into the dark and sinister places of your mind where you convince yourself that you’re inferior. You’re not. Words and mantras matter.
Closely related to my above point, the words we use really matter, so it behooves us to surround ourselves with words that empower us and lift us up. Many runners find solace and empowerment from mantras, short statements or keywords that are usually encouraging and uplifting, and they can be personalized to the umpteenth degree. Consider choosing a word or a short statement that you can repeat to yourself when the going gets rough in competition or training, and really – it can be anything.
My favorites? I can do hard things, forward is a pace, return on investment, roll with it, work hard.