Using Sports Psychology to Improve Your Fitness
Fitness has a mental side to it, in addition to physical challenges. Even if you're
in great shape, you can come across intellectual obstacles that can reduce your motivation
and stifle your performance.
When professional athletes start experiencing these obstacles, they usually seek help
from sports psychologists to get a mental edge. However, it does not matter what your
skill level may be. Everyone can benefit from mental health training. Here are ways
to increase your fitness motivation and improve your overall athletic performance.
(If you have any health concerns or conditions, be sure to check with your health
care provider before beginning or changing an exercise program.)
To become a good athlete or improve at your favorite sport, you have to be able to
put up with failure and accept it as part of the process of succeeding. Without failure,
you don't learn. And without learning, you don't get better.
Dig for motivation
You must have an emotionally compelling reason to stick with an exercise program.
For serious athletes who train for 4 years to 8 years at a time, the motivation might
be an Olympic gold medal. They connect their daily practice sessions to this ultimate
prize. But for others, a compelling reason for working out could be to get into top
shape, lose weight, or feel better.
Here’s a trick to try. On the days you don't feel like working out, sit down and think
about how good you'll feel when you're done.
Compete against yourself
Another important part of motivation is not comparing yourself with others. If you
work out regularly at a gym, channel your competitiveness into the progress you're
making, not against the highly fit person working out next to you.
The same is true when competing. Tune out the runners around you when running a race.
Hold mental rehearsals
If you're trying to master a particular physical feat, like diving off the high board
or perfecting your tennis serve, imagine yourself doing it. Make your image vivid
enough that you can see, feel, and hear it.
Stay in the present
In the middle of an activity, it's easy to fall into the trap of concentrating on
things you can’t control. These could include the weather, your opponent, your opponent's
record, or how you've performed in the past. Instead, stay in the present.
While you're running a marathon, for instance, concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing
or your arm swing. Don’t focus on the length of the race or the other runners.
Push through a plateau
Plateauing, or reaching a level of fitness or performance where you are not moving
forward, is a natural part of training. But it can reduce your enthusiasm and motivation.
Talking to other people who have achieved your goal will help you improve your exercise
performance when you've reached a plateau.
To help yourself stay positive, create a daily victory log. This is a record of what
you've done right while training or working out. Your victory log might read, "I ran
5 miles today, and at the 4-mile mark, I pushed myself when I wanted to stop."