Why Every Athlete Should Use Mental Training

mental training for athletes

Are you a competitive athlete? Do you often find yourself performing well in training only to crumble under the pressure when it’s time to compete? If so, mental training could be the missing link in your training regime.

When we put together our own training programs, we tend to only think about the physical act of training. Meanwhile, the mental aspect is often neglected. If this is the case for you, it could be holding you back. A lack of mental training is what separates good athletes from great ones, but it’s not just for professionals. Fitness enthusiasts and and even casual gym goers can benefit from it, too. Read on to find out what it can do for you.

The Myth of Motivation

If you ask people why they don’t go to the gym, you’re likely to hear them cite a lack of motivation. Motivation is hailed as the key to getting things done, and people love to post inspirational gym quotes on social media. If only you were more motivated, you’d workout as much as you were supposed to, right? Wrong. There’s much more to it than that.

Motivation is temporary. There are going to be times when you struggle to muster up any at all. That doesn’t mean you should just take a break and simply wait for it to reappear. Instead, you need to build the discipline and mental fortitude to get up and go even when you don’t want to. That’s where mental training comes in. When you have that, you don’t need motivation.

Use Mental Training to Excel

It’s common to hit plateaus in your training. Whether you’re a CrossFit athlete, a bodybuilder, a football player or a yogi, there will be times when you can’t seem to make any progress. No matter how much or how often you train, it can seem as though you’re not getting anywhere. In order to break those plateaus, you need mental training to help you push through.

This is because mental training can give you the extra edge. It helps you to build the mental strength you need to get that last rep, hit that new PR, finish that last round or run that last lap, even when your body feels like giving up. This is what counts, and this is where you’ll make progress.

What Does Mental Training Involve?

So you know you need to work on your mental training, but what does that mean? While a sports psychologist can help you with this, you don’t need to pay huge fees to enjoy the benefits. Here are the main aspects that most mental training programs involve. You can start by trying some of these for yourself.

  • Visualization – When you’re not in the gym, start to use visualization techniques to imagine what you’ll do in your next training session or competition. Think about every last detail, including what you’ll do, how you’ll feel, and even the sights, sounds and smells that will surround you. Visualize exactly how you’d like to perform, and you’ll find it easier to put that into practice when it counts. Meditation is a great way to do this.
  • Journaling – Writing things down can help you to solidify your goals and ideas for your training. Make notes, not just about what you do in the gym, but how you feel. This will enable you to identify any areas you need to work on. For this, some mental training programs include workbooks with guided exercises for you to work through.
  • Positive Self-Talk – We can be our own worst critics, and while constantly striving for improvement is admirable, we can often beat ourselves up in the process. How do you talk about yourself and your training to other people? What thoughts go through your head? You can’t achieve greatness if you’re constantly telling yourself that you aren’t good enough. It’s important to acknowledge your strengths, your skills and your achievements. That’s why positive self-talk is a must. Try celebrating even small victories in your training and you’ll build a better self-image.

How Mental Training Will Help You

All of the above elements combined will build a better mindset and a more confident persona in an athlete. If you approach your training in this way, you’ll be reassured of your abilities. When you start see improvements in your performance as a result, your self-esteem will build even further. It’s a constant cycle.

When you build a strong foundation with mental training, you don’t have to worry about it being shaken by outside factors. Things and people around you are outside of your control won’t bother you the way they used to because you’re more confident and self-assured.

How to Get Started with Mental Training

There are lots of different mental training programs out there. Everyone is different, so experiment with various types to find out what works best for you. If you don’t want to commit to a formal program, you can simply implement some of the individual principles into your training regime. Start by keeping a training journal or simply adjusting your self-talk.

Mental training can produce immediate results, but it’s not a quick fix. After working on it for the first time, you may start to see improvements in your performance right away. However, it won’t always be that way. As with any type of skill, you’ll have to keep practicing in order to continue reaping the benefits. Work your brain the way you work your muscles, and you’ll be unstoppable.

Emma Thomas

Written by Emma Thomas

Emma Thomas is a Muay Thai fighter based in Bangkok. Occasionally, she runs half marathons and she’s recently taken up powerlifting, too. No matter what type of training she’s doing, she’s dedicated to making constant improvements and sharing her stories through writing.  You can read more about her training on her personal blog, Under the Ropes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *