This article is for anyone wants to optimise their mental strength for a competition. Be it sports, combat or even bodybuilding.
I give my six top tips to optimise mental performance in the heat of battle to turn you into a winner and help you perform to your best in a competitive environment.
Mental Strength Definition
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Tim Robinson Coaching defines ‘mental strength’ as the ability to hold yourself in the best frame of thinking and feeling, to perform optimally for any given task.
Mental Strength is an often ignored topic in the fitness world.
In gyms all over the country, the best nutrition, cardio and training protocols are hotly debated topics.
Collectively, all of these make massive differences to the results you can achieve in competition itself, but without genuine mental strength, your ability to utilize your physical prowess may fail miserably.
Now, get ready to learn a few tips that can rapidly take your mental game to the next level.
Tip 1: Train as if you’re the winner
Practice training as if you are the winner, long before the competition day itself.
Seven-time Mr Olympia and arguably the greatest bodybuilder of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger is often quoted for saying ‘You have to walk into a gym like you own it, no matter if you’re the biggest guy or the smallest guy.’
When your goal is victory, practice feeling like you’re a winner in everything you do.
When we imagine ourselves as the winner, we reinforce the idea that we are in fact going to win in competition.
This can have a massive knock on effect on improving our confidence going into competition.
Goals and belief
I always say that we work to our goals in accordance with our beliefs. If we believe we can win, no doubt we train ten times harder than if we believe we can’t win. Just like Arnold said, practice cultivating the belief that you are already the winner.
Accept that winning is a possibility for you, and then set your practice schedule in accordance with what you believe it will take to get the win.
Tip 2: Accept fear
Accept fear, rather than attempting to suppress it.
It has been said that the brave man is not the one who feels an absence of fear before battle, but feels the fear anyway, and goes to battle in spite of it.
I believe the truest leaders and competitors the world has ever known, have not been not fearless, not any more than you or I, but that they accepted fear as something that came with the territory of competing at the highest level.
They were able to act in spite of fear because they knew achieving their best meant putting themselves in a place where risk and failure were real possibilities.
So accept your fear as something that is part of the course. It allows you to have an increased perception of possible danger, which is key in competition.
Tip 3: Keep breathing
Breathe deeply. Yes, the old adage of breathing deeply can help to calm you down, but why?
Well firstly, more oxygen is circulated to the brain, allowing for clearer thinking.
But secondly, and most importantly by my reckoning, focusing on deep breathing allows you to become present to the present moment itself.
This can help to disable yourself from thinking about negative future possibilities such as defeat, as you are focused on the present moment of breathing.
Competition happens in the present, not in the future where your mind may try to wonder. Use deep breathing to stay focused on the ‘right now.’
Tip 4: Rehearse the competition
Rehearse the scenarios of competition in your mind.
Athletes often report going over and over again and again, all the possible scenarios that could take place in competition.
In training this allows them to be mentally prepared for a whole host of scenarios that could potentially take place in competition.
In competition this allows them to be mentally prepared for a whole greater host of possible outcomes.
Mental scenario rehearsal is key to being able to positively interpret outcomes that occur in competition.
Tip 5: Feel the nerves
Welcome feelings of nervousness.
At school, you were probably told not to be nervous. In my book, and the book of many top trainers and life coaches, that is bad advice.
Whenever something is important to you, it is likely that nerves will accompany you.
Many people misinterpret nervousness as a negative emotion. Really it’s there to help you.
Listen to the feeling of ‘nerves’ in your body. Notice how they make you feel electric? This is an excited energy, designed to help you focus and feel alive in the moment.
Nerves mean awareness
Think about thanking your nervousness for heightened awareness in the moments of competition when you need them most.
At its crux, nervousness is a state of heightened awareness that is there to help you, not derail you. It’s up to you to positively interpret it when it matters most.
You can develop a relationship with the feeling of nerves that is positive and enabling, not disabling. It just takes time and practice.
The first day of a new job is always the hardest, because you aren’t used to it yet.
The fresher you are to the experience of competition, the more foreign it will seem.
Competition itself will help you to become comfortable being uncomfortable in the art of competition.
Competition will always be less stressful when you are experienced in it.
The ultimate way to increase your mental strength in competition, is to get used to competing.
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