The improvement of oneself is the individualistic dogma of modern times. “Today, I need to be better than yesterday,” and to continue improving in the future is an expectancy of our authority figures which we internalize as individuals. In that way, by exercising mental training skills, we put pressure on ourselves to be better.
This tendency to be better is necessary to perceive ourselves as proactive to our own physical and mental health. We adopt this “need to excel” and use it as a sort of a Mantra, a sacred utterance, which echoes all around us from the foundation of society itself.
As it becomes this collective thought, there arises an overwhelming need for mentorship on achieving that which we most desire. Because there is a need, there is a market for it. Where a market exists, so do people who want to make a profit arise. We are witnessing the explosion of so many spiritual gurus promoting mental training skills, life coaches, new age movement entrepreneurs, as well as all these “successful” stories of people who found “The Secret” on how to be better and what it means to be “The Best.”
Whether they are stories of transcendence or gaining total control over a situation or oneself, we, as consumers, have a soft spot for their products. However, when there are so many “truths” for us to consume around us, time is more important to us than ever, and we don’t have much of it to spare, so the problem arises. That problem states, “What do I believe in, and what makes the most sense, so I can put my time into it to get the greatest benefit?”.
Time equals money, and no one wants to waste their time without getting something valuable in return. So the question, at this point, is, how to be better at my job? Essentially, what can I do to perform better? It all comes down to mental training skills to align the mind and body, and by improving their correlation, improve their performance. Sports and fitness performance are intertwined with our sense of achievement. If we have the skills necessary to perform tasks better, those tasks expand from ordinary housework to job performance and fitness and sports performance.
The Fundamentals of Sport Psychology
Science enters the room. Through scientific categorization and the scientific method, we have a way of generalizing what is suitable for most people and how we can benefit the general population in the quest to be better. Being better equates to how do I perform better at the tasks that I am given. So, we divide performance into mental and physical, and sports psychology addresses both.
“Sports Psychology addresses the interactions between psychology and sports performance, including the psychological aspects of optimal athletic performance, the psychological care and well-being of athletes, coaches, and sports organizations, and the connection between physical and psychological functioning.”
Sport psychology, as a science, branches into a bunch of scientific disciplines and draws knowledge from many related fields to study how psychological factors affect performance. Also, how participating in exercise can affect those mental and physical factors. Incorporating biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology, psychology, and more provide a scientific system for attaining knowledge on exceeding both physically and mentally.
Performance in its entirety is the object of its research. Sports psychology uses the collective practice of scientific explanations and facts to address the whole “being better” conversation. Those facts are directed primarily towards professional athletes, but the general population’s lives can also incorporate the advice. Thus, everyone can improve their performance in their desired area through mental training skills, therefore, benefits from sports psychology.
Sports psychology will help you improve your attitude, mental skills, and fitness performance through mental training skills, identifying limiting beliefs, and embracing a healthier philosophy.
The methods in sports psychology aim to improve focus and deal with distractions. A fundamental proposition in sports psychology is how to grow confidence in athletes who have doubts.
Also, how to develop appropriate coping skills to deal with setbacks and errors. Sports psychologists help instill a healthy belief system and identify irrational thoughts that can be a “brick wall” in attaining our desired performance. And finally, sport psychology addresses motivation, which is the driving force of our thoughts and actions and so much more.
Top Five Mental Training Skills In Sports Psychology
A substantial body of research indicates the efficacy of mental training methodologies and performance enhancement techniques used to enhance athletic performance, especially as it relates to elite (Olympic or professional) athletes.
As we go through this section, I will mention only a few. Still, in others, there is a general agreement on five major mental training skills that psychologists use to facilitate the creation of high-performance environments or individuals.
1. The Incorporation of Mental Imagery Into the Strategic Planning
Incorporating mental imagery into strategic planning refers to recreating the experience, the movement, and the exercise in one’s mind.
The psychologist will ask for the athlete to rehearse the act in his mind. The subject needs to envision themselves in the situation of acting.
Thus, the benefits of this technique are to reduce anxiety, improve self-confidence, and become aware of the surroundings.
2. Using Performance Routines for the Aim of Maintaining Consistency of Skilful Responding
Here are several examples regarding the second of the mental training skills:
- A footballer kissing the grass every time he enters the football field
- Playing the same song every single time before attempting to break the world weightlifting record
- Cracking your fingers every time before you make a speech
- Having a cup of coffee and a glass of water with lemon each morning before jogging
As you can see, it refers to a ceremonial practice, which allows the subject to enter into a “competitive state of mind.” To enter into predictability, consistency, and accountability. An individual can establish a firm foundation when they repeat the ritual daily, in the same way, and in the same sequence.
3. Using Positive Self-Talk in Order To Mediate the Execution of Challenging Tasks
Where the mind goes, the body will follow; that’s the philosophy of the third of the mental training skills. In other words, our cognition, the way we address ourselves, will determine our current emotional state.
Our confidence, anger, happiness, drive, and whatever we feed on while performing a challenging task is the emotion we aim to unlock during the self-talk session before the performance.
Still, the “You can do it” speech in front of a mirror is a vastly underestimated tool in our arsenal.
4. Activation Control Strategies for the Self-Regulation of an Optimal Energetic State
The fourth of the mental training skills refers to relaxation techniques and ‘hyping up’ strategies. Some athletes perform better when they are relaxed, while others need hyping to perform at their best. Essentially, the latter is sport-dependent, and less but also important is the individual preference of the athlete.
When an athlete is overhyped and anxious, deep breathing techniques can calibrate his optimal energetic state to perform at the highest level. Also, when we are “too calm for comfort,” we need to aggravate “the beast inside us” to excel.
5. Appropriate Techniques for Achieving a State Where You Have Sharpened Focus and Sustaining Attention and Concentration
Last but certainly not least, the fifth of the mental training skills refer to appropriate techniques for achieving a state where you have sharpened focus and sustaining attention and concentration. Here we can mention:
- Willpower Training
- Practicing Mindfulness Through The Day
- Physical Exercise
- Practice Memorizing
Final Thought – The Power Of Mental Training Skills
In conclusion, we can all be athletes in one way or another. The striving for greatness is a characteristic which we all have, and performing the best that we can is a must in the modern-day world. Sport Psychology has the answers to our calls, and the incorporation of these five mental training skills will help you not just on your fitness journey but also become your absolute best self.
As I continue to develop this series on Sports Psychology, I will introduce more and more psychotherapeutic techniques and mental training skills. These will show that the approach to sport psychology is an integrative one and that working with a professional in sports psychology, psychotherapy, and related fields is of great benefit. As we strive to become better and better, these scientific fields have produced incredible results in the modern age.
Although I advise having a professional in your arsenal, the utmost importance in achieving every “victory” is self-assertion in the action of bettering yourself. What I mean by that is that each one of us who wants to progress needs to apply ourselves to that task. That is why I will be sharing techniques, theories, methods, and general information attached to these fields of science.
So, you can try to apply them and get a sense of what works for you mainly, and by that, hopefully, we can continue the progressive path to reach our absolute best self in fitness and life.
If you are looking for more exciting information on the mind-body connection, make sure to check our Sports Psychology page.