Mental Skills for Training

When embarking on any journey in life, whether it is an athletic journey, or simply your general journey of life, understanding our mental state and how it effects our lives and responses to life events is crucial for success.  

Success, whether in competition, training, or life in general is made up of two components:

  • 80% PSYCHOLOGY
  • 20% MECHANICS

 

THE 80 PERCENT

Have you ever noticed how some athletes, time and time again, continue to make big plays even during crucial moments?  When you watch athletes like Serena Williams, Missy Franklin, Alex Morgan, or Rose Namajunas compete, they are not perfect every time, but they are consistent in producing results, especially when it matters most.  A large part of their success comes from being able to control their mind and direct their focus even under very stressful situations.

The good news is that these are learned skills.

The process of becoming a successful athlete begins with your ability to control and direct your mind.  Good technique is essential and proper nutrition and rest must be present to support your body with the rigors of training.  The foundation for growth and success begins with mastering and directing your mind. With a directed focus, a clear purpose, and a strong desire to improve, you can reach levels you once thought were beyond you.

One of the greatest advantages we have is our brain.  Scientists are only now starting to learn that we are not at the mercy of our genes or our environment.  Even as adults, our brains are constantly ready and willing to change and learn.

Imagine your brain as a muscle that you can either strengthen or allow to become weak and out of shape.  Once you realize this and understand the process, you can train your brain to produce consistent results.

 


AWARENESS


 

TURN OFF THE “AUTO PILOT!” — AWARENESS, THE FIRST STEP TO SUCCESS

All too often, people make the same mistakes over and over again.  Their future becomes their past and they become frustrated, wondering why things aren’t improving.  Awareness involves turning in to your thoughts, decisions, and actions and becoming aware of their consequences.  As you gain awareness about yourself and others, you will become even more capable of changing the direction of your life.  This is a lifelong process.

With every second that passes, our bodies are constantly monitoring millions of bits of information.  For this reason, our brains naturally develop shortcuts since we don’t have the time, energy, or the ability to analyze every event, decision, and person we encounter.  (These shortcuts act like the autopilot technology on an airplane, it is a valuable technology but the pilot would never rely on it all the time.) If you were consciously aware of everything going on around you at all times, you would become overwhelmed and suffer a mental breakdown from information overload.  Therefore, we are designed to process and react to different events without conscious thought.

While this quick decision-making capability is valuable and necessary, it can get us into trouble.  When stress levels increase or when a certain trigger is set off, we often use past behaviors, language, and beliefs to subconsciously decide what something means and how to respond.  The problem is, if the strategies you used in the past haven’t been effective, chances are they won’t be in the future either.

Start paying attention to what thoughts dominate your mind.  Get curious about what drives your decisions and creates your emotions.  Commit to learning how to change them if they do not help you achieve your goals.

“Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all. ”


~ Hypatia
(Greek Mathematician, Astronomer, & Philosopher)

 


BELIEF SYSTEMS


 

Your beliefs are powerful forces that control and direct your life.  Unfortunately, most people aren’t even consciously aware of what many of their beliefs are.  Your belief in what’s possible, what you are capable of creating and achieving, and what success and failure means will have a dramatic effect on your overall happiness and successes.

If you “know’ that you can never become a great athlete because you haven’t been successful in the past or you are too old, too small, or don’t have good genetics, then you have already beat yourself.  It doesn’t matter what goals you set or how much natural ability you have, if you don’t eliminate these self-destructive beliefs, chances are you will fail. Our mind is an incredibly powerful tool, which when exercised properly, can lead you to extraordinary accomplishments.  On the other side, when left to languish, can become our most difficult hurdle to overcome. Just like our bodies, it is important to keep our mind in shape.

Take a moment to look back at your life and think about the decisions you have made.  Look at how those decisions changed the direction of your life and led you to where you are today.  Maybe you decided to eat healthy, train hard, study, and surround yourself with people who hold you to a higher standard.  Those decisions probably led to a certain amount of success. Maybe you eat fast food, play video games for too many hours per day, and train and study only when you feel like it.  As you know, these decisions create very different results.

Wherever you are right now, whether you like it or not, is because of the decisions you have made and your beliefs were a driving force behind those decisions.

HAVE YOU PRODUCED THE RESULTS YOU WANT?

There is a price to pay for deciding to continue to hold onto beliefs that don’t support you in where you want to go and what you want to achieve.  Many times, what you were absolutely certain was true, turned out to be false and vice versa. Certain beliefs will push you forward, others will hold you back.  Whether they are true or false has very little to do with it. Ultimately, you must ask yourself if your belief is rooted in rationalism, or irrationalism. This is the purest guide, ask yourself when making any decision, “Does this make rational sense?”.


You Must ELIMINATE All Irrational Beliefs That Limit You in Any Way.



WHERE DO THESE IRRATIONAL BELIEFS COME FROM?

Most of our beliefs are actually just emotional generalizations about the meaning we have attached to events in our past.  Many begin with an idea that we pick up from family, friends, books, or TV. The more experiences or “proof” we have to back up that idea, the stronger that belief becomes until it is accepted unconditionally.  This is not a conscious thought process, it is happening all the time. The trick is becoming aware of these beliefs and analyzing them for irrationality and pure emotionalism and when traces of these are found, eradicating them immediately.

People who never experience great success in life never learn how to rationally think, which often leads to irrational beliefs.

CORE BELIEFS TO HELP CREATE SUCCESS IN ANY AREA OF YOUR LIFE:

  • I learn from each experience and find ways to use that rational knowledge for positive outcomes.
  • I have the ability to change the things I am not happy with.
  • I have everything I need to begin working toward my goals right now.
  • I can effectively handle any situation I will ever find myself in.

 

“When a truth is necessary, the reason for it can be found by analysis, that is, by resolving it into simpler ideas and truths until the primary ones are reached.”

~ Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz
(German Polymath & Philosopher)

 

SOME QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED:

Answering the following questions will help you shed some light on some of your beliefs.

(Try to come up with some of your own questions as well.)

Life is ________________________________________________.
I am capable of _________________________________________.
If I put all my effort into ______________ then _______________.
If I try a new approach _____________ then _________________.

 


THE FOUR-MINUTE MILE

It was once believed that it was impossible for a human to run a mile in under four minutes.  It had never been done. In 1954, Roger Bannister shattered everyone’s belief and set a new standard.  He practiced physically and mentally with such intensity that his nervous system had no choice but to find a way.  As a result of his beliefs and confidence in himself, he showed others what was possible and within the next 12 months, 37 other runners accomplished the same feat.  Never underestimate the power your rational beliefs have on your own life, as well as the lives of others.


 

“Promise me you’ll always remember:  You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

~ A.A. Milne (Author of Winnie-the-Pooh)

 


SELF TALK



Successful athletes learn to control their emotions and achieve a higher level of performance by using language to create specific results.  This is an incredibly powerful skill to have in your arsenal. Olympic figure skating champion Oksana Baiul said, before she skated for the gold medal, that she talked herself into her routine.

The words you use either out loud or in your head create a physical response in your body.  Language helps create the emotions you feel, the decisions you make, and affects how successful you will become.  Positive language generally creates a positive outcome. Choosing to use negative, disempowering words, whether out loud or in your head, will almost assure failure.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”  

~ Henry Ford (American Industrialist)


PEAK PERFORMANCE LANGUAGE

Along with visualization exercises, it is helpful to create specific words or phrases to use during practice or competition.  These words act as a trigger to help you stay focused in a peak performance state. Words like “breathe”, “kick”, or “focus” can serve as reminders and help create opportunities when the stress of competition rises.

It is equally important to practice and utilize positive self talk when describing your future performances, goals, and abilities.  Your brain only knows what you tell it and will accept whatever you say consistently and with determination, as the absolute truth. More importantly, it will do whatever’s necessary to find a way to make that your reality.


PEAK PERFORMANCE WORDS OR PHRASES

Take time to come up with key-words or phrases that will help you elevate your level of performance.  Create different words for different situations and practice them regularly. If you actively compete, let your teammates know what you need to hear.

Create your list of Peak Performance words or phrases; be sure to list when you will use them as well.

  1. ______________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________________

 

Tip:  Practice your own Peak Performance words during training as well as competition.  Pay close attention and become aware of the words you use daily to describe your life and how you are feeling.  Do you complain a lot or blame others for your failures? Are you positive in how you describe life in general? With practice, you will be able to change your emotional state and perform at a higher level simply by changing your language.

 


VISUALIZATION



Another powerful technique used by many Olympic and professional athletes is visualization.  By imagining scenarios over and over again, you create a state of expectancy and train your brain to find a way to make those scenarios a reality.  In doing this, new neurological connections are formed in your brain. Your thoughts are that powerful!

The key to making this technique even more effective is to fully immerse yourself in whatever you are visualizing.  Feel what you would feel if it were happening right now. See what you would look like. How would you move, react, and breathe?  Create it within every cell of your body.

Repetition is the key to making this work.  The more often you do it, the more powerful this exercise becomes.  It is similar to learning a new technique. If you practice it only a handful of times, it will never become something that you will do automatically.  With repetition, the new neurological pathway you have created in your brain becomes stronger and stronger. Eventually, whatever you are visualizing will start to happen automatically without conscious thought.

“We are what we repeatedly do,  Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”  

~ Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)


TECHNIQUE

Take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes and begin by sitting or lying in a comfortable quiet place.

For the first few minutes, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing.  Breathe deeply and slowly. When thoughts come into your mind, just watch those thoughts and see where they lead.  Don’t try to prevent them, just watch them progress. Often watching our thoughts allows you to organize them in a coherent format.  Once you have created a calmness within yourself, imagine you are watching yourself on a giant movie screen. See yourself in competition, practice, taking that upcoming test, or in any other scenario you wish.  How do you look and move? Are there sounds you would hear or make? How would it feel if you have mastered this right now? Imagine different scenarios and watch yourself successfully handling them. When it becomes real in your head and in your body, it will become reality.

Practice your visualization training in the morning as you wake, before you go to bed, before training, before competition, before class, etc.  Visualization training need not only be applied to athletics, this is an important skill for all learning.

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”  

~ Carl Jung (Swiss Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist)

 


CENTERING



Centering is a valuable and effective technique designed to help you regain composure and focus during stressful times.  This skill is essential to reaching peak performance in any athletic event.

World-class athletes have learned how to perform at their best under extremely stressful situations.  Often months or years of practice come down to one moment. How do they do it? These athletes have trained themselves to center all of their energy and focus on what they are doing in that moment.

You can learn and use this technique to be your best during crucial moments in your own life.  That may be anything from handling a stressful situation at school or in your personal relationships, motivating yourself to complete your workout, or regaining composure if you find yourself in a tough position in practice or a competition.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Centering involves using an anchor⎯ essentially, a stimulus that influences your state⎯ change your emotional and physical state.  Anchors happen all the time. The smell of cookies baking may remind you of a grandparent, or a song may remind you of a specific location.  Now you can use these types of triggers to control and direct your mind.

Anchors can be consciously developed by repeating a word or phrase and while doing a specific movement at the same time.  When done multiple times with emotional intensity, you will subconsciously link that emotion with the word and movement and anchor it into your nervous system.  In the future, any time you fire off that anchor, you will experience that specific emotion. By anchoring in positive emotions, you can fire them off to quickly free yourself from worry, negative thought, and distractions and create a state of peak performance.

WHEN TO USE THIS TECHNIQUE

An excellent time to put this technique to work during competition is when you have a break or pause in the action, or whenever you start to lose composure.

BENEFITS

Like every technique, you must commit to practicing it until it becomes automatic.  When used frequently throughout the day, in practice, and during competition, you will begin to notice a change in your ability to concentrate and focus on what you are doing.  You will be able to instantly access any emotional state you choose. With practice, you will be able to stay in the moment and focused under any circumstance.

TECHNIQUE

STEP 1

Start by remembering a time when you were incredibly confident, when you were strong and felt like nothing could stop you.  Remember what you did at that time. What did you say? How did you move? What did your body feel like? As you start to recall this moment, turn up the intensity of the feelings you were experiencing.  Now make them ten times stronger.

STEP 2

Mimic a movement or motion associated with your sport and say the word “focus” out loud.

Repeat this, getting even stronger and more focused each time.  After at least ten times, stop and relax. Breathe deeply and return to where you were before.  Note: You must do this technique with emotional intensity for it to work. In doing so, you are actually anchoring the emotions you’ve recalled into your nervous system and linking them up with the word “focus” and the action of mimicking the movement or motion.  In the future, whenever you do this, you will recreate this powerful emotional state.

STEP 3

Test it.  Shake your arms and legs and relax.  Now, mimic the movement and say the word “focus.”  You should feel those emotions come back instantly.  If not, start again from step one until it is locked in your body.

Test this throughout the following days and weeks, each time you use this centering technique, you should instantly feel focused and in control.  Your body will begin to feel different, and you will be free to make decisions that support you. The more you use this, the better you will become.  Don’t just wait for extremely stressful situations to come along in order to use this centering technique. Use it for the small stuff too; use it often.

Tip:  You can anchor any emotion you would like.  Chose a few that you would like to have access to and take the time to anchor them by following the guidelines above.

“It’s not the will to win that matters–everyone has that.  It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”  

~ Paul “Bear” Bryant (American College Football Coach)

 


   TEN TIPS FOR SUCCESS..


  1. Decide that you have the ability to create any results you desire.  Without this core belief, you will never achieve the level of success that you are truly capable of.
  2. Past failures are just that, PAST!  If you have tried and not succeeded in the past, great!  You now have more experience and are closer to your next victory.  Never forget that we learn the most from our failures.

    “Ever tried.  Ever failed. No matter.  Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
    ~ Samuel Beckett ( Irish Novelist, Playwright, & Poet)


  3. Get clear on what you want and focus on your vision.  Write this down and read it out loud daily.  We all need reminder when life gets a little crazy.
  4. Design a plan to achieve your goals.  We use road maps to get us from point A to point B.  The same applies to our goals. Sit down and decide what you need to do to create the results you want and follow through.
  5. Take action.  Your goals and dreams are worthless until you do something to make them a reality.  Do something to move you toward your goals right now!
  6. Persistence is the key.  Commit yourself to following through.  Persistence is easy with a burning desire and a clear purpose.


    “Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.”
     ~ Matt Biondi (11-time swimming Olympic medalist)


  7. Remain flexible.  Literally and figuratively.  If your approach is not working, change it.  Experiment, try something new, and discover what does work for you by discovering the teacher within.


    “Don’t fight forces, use them.”
    ~ R. Buckminster Fuller (American Architect, Author, & Inventor)


  8. Reward yourself frequently.  Don’t wait until you have won a gold medal, or mastered a technique.  Celebrating the small victories along the way often lead to the larger victories.
  9. Take responsibility.  Your thoughts, decisions, and actions have created the life you live today.  If you are not happy with where you are, only you can decide to change it.
  10. Remember that life is supposed to be fun!  Enjoy the process of testing yourself and learning in practice and competition, of taking care of yourself and others, and making the most of life.


    “Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting.”
    ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German Writer & Philosopher)


     


STRESS



Stress is a fact of life.  You can decide to transform it into an asset or allow it to become a tremendous liability.  The choice is up to you. If stress didn’t exist, there would be no way to test yourself and grow.  But, stress, even in small amounts, can be very damaging if it is not channeled effectively. Unchecked, it can cause you to become overwhelmed, full of fear and un-resourceful.  Ultimately, your performance will suffer.

WHERE DOES STRESS COME FROM?

Emotional stress is largely based on our perceptions and the meaning we give to the events and experiences in our lives.  How we reflect on those events and what we choose to focus on contributes greatly to the intensity of that stress. Just as you train your body to deal with the physical stress of training and competition, you can train your mind to deal with life’s challenges.  The good news is that you have the ability to control your perception and response to stress.

Stress is a natural process.  Sweaty palms, butterflies, extra energy before competition happens to everyone.  If you decide that those responses are negative and mean that you are nervous and not prepared, you will not achieve peak performance.  If you decide that those feelings mean you are excited and physically prepared, chances are you will perform at a higher level.

Identifying what events or situations trigger an unhealthy, destructive response is the first step to controlling stress.

Many times, we allow the uncertainty of a competition or practice to cause an unhealthy stress response.  Placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves can have the same effect. It is vital to have strategies in place that you can use at any time to turn that stress into energy that elevates, instead of deteriorates, your performance.

KEY POINTS

  • Remember that you are creating the stress so you can control it.
  • Step back and identify specifically what you are “stressing over”
  • Immediately find a solution to the situation and a way to benefit from it–ask yourself “How can I benefit from all of this extra energy?”
  • Take the stress as a cue to focus yourself using self talk, questions, centering or any other techniques you have available to you. 

 


Don’t let the pressure of competition become greater than the pleasure of competition.


STRESS-MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUE

Here are three simple steps that you can use to transform a stressful event into something more positive.

STEP 1

Change your physical state.

Changing the way you are using your body directly affects your emotional state.

  • Power breathing–use deep abdominal breaths.
  • Strong posture–keep your shoulders back, your chest out, and your head up.

STEP 2

Change your focus:

Think of a time when you handled a similar situation.  If this is a completely new experience, remember a time when you successfully handled a totally new challenge.

  • How did it feel?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you say to yourself?
  • How did you act?


Remember, you have a lot more experience than you did previously.

STEP 3

Ask empowering questions:

  1. What, specifically, are you doing right now that’s excellent?  If there is nothing, what could you be doing right now that would make you proud?
  2. What do you need to do immediately to step up and take care of this situation in a healthy, empowering, and effective way?
  3. What do you need to stop doing immediately to express the real you and break this destructive pattern you were in a moment ago?

 

“You can’t put a limit on anything.  The more you dream, the farther you get.”  

~ Michael Phelps
(Competitive swimmer and most decorated Olympian of all time)

 


TOUGHNESS


 

“If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.”  

~ Herschel Walker (Multi-Sport Professional Athlete)

Toughness is the ability to perform at your ideal competitive state under any circumstance.  Your ideal competitive state is your personal mental and physical state of being where you feel energized, confident, and strong and compete at your greatest potential.  In this state, you are generating positive emotions that help you to be alert, instinctive, responsive, creative, and enjoy the competition. Toughness is being able to create this ideal competitive state on command, thus enabling you to bring all your talent and skills to life at any moment.

Emotion is very important in competitive sports.  Positive emotions like alertness, excitement, creativity, and courage empower you to take great action with a positive attitude.  Negative emotions such as fear, confusion, doubt, and helplessness can disempower you and block your potential. Every athlete experiences negative emotions from time to time.  A champion refuses to indulge in them and takes immediate action to replace them.

“A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.”  

~ Jack Dempsey (Multiple World Champion Boxer)

Toughness involves continuing to operate in your ideal competitive state even in negative conditions.  When you make that big mistake, you are able to refocus and get right back on track. A bad call from the referee does not affect your performance.  Problems you are facing outside do not make it to practice or competition. When you show up for competition/practice, you are a warrior ready to do battle.

Toughness is a learned skill that involves three key areas:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Emotional

 

Just like any technique or skill, they must be developed, practiced, and honed to perfection.

So, how tough are you?  Before you can improve your level of toughness, you must be willing to accurately assess where you are now.  If you are unsatisfied with what you see, you must be willing to take full responsibility to change it.

“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed.  It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.”  

~ C. G. Jung (Swiss Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist)


EXERCISE

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best, rate yourself on the following issues:

  • Resilient              __________
  • Disciplined         __________
  • Self-reliant          __________
  • Responsible        __________
  • Committed          __________
  • Coachable           __________
  • Confident            __________
  • Focused               __________
  • Patient                 __________
  • Motivated           __________
  • Relaxed               __________
  • Physically fit      __________


Be honest with yourself in regard to how you rate in the above areas.  Remember, in the heat of competition, people often tend to break at their weakest points.

To improve your toughness, you should focus your training on your weakest areas.  This is why it is important to be honest with yourself when assessing where you are now.  Getting feedback from your coaches is vital. You need to be very open-minded about what your coaches see.  This will help you get to the real you.

“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.”  

~ Mark Spitz (9-time Olympic Swimming Champion)


ADDRESSING YOUR NEEDS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Take two areas in which you performed lower than average.  Now, create a toughness-training plan to improve your performance.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. State the areas in which you need improvement by writing them in a positive way.  For example, if you need to improve in the area of discipline, write “I have tremendous discipline.”  If it is in the area of resilience, write “Even if I’m losing the competition, I will find a way to win.”
  2. For the next thirty days, make these positive statements a priority.
  3. Post these positive statements, in your locker, near your bed, or on your bathroom mirror.
  4. Write a few paragraphs on how you will improve each of these issues.
  5. Just before you go to sleep and when you first wake up, take thirty seconds to visualize yourself improving in these areas.  Take the time to really feel it.
  6. For the next thirty days, track your progress in these areas.  Note in your training journal the days you feel you improved and the days when you did not.
  7. At the end of thirty days, take two new areas in which you feel you need improvement and repeat this process. 

 

Remember, you must take control of yourself and commit to making changes.  The sooner you take full responsibility for your actions, and hold yourself accountable, the better.  No matter how old or young, weak or strong, you can get tougher. Your future is much more dependent on the decisions you make and what you do with them then what you are genetically.  The level of toughness that you acquire through your focused training efforts will be the most powerful force in competition and in your life.

“To uncover your true potential you must first find your own limits and then you have to have the courage to blow past them.”

~  Picabo Street (Alpine Skiing Olympic Medalist)

 


PRACTICE AND REPETITION



Your brain contains 90 billion nerve cells called neurons.  Each of these neurons is capable of communicating with 100,000 other nerve cells at the same time.  This forms a web of 100 trillion constant connections. Just imagine there are more possible ways to connect your brain’s neurons than there are atoms in the universe.

Without proper stimulation, a brain cell (neuron) will die.  Nerve cells communicate with each other by rapidly firing across a synapse⎯the spaces between each neuron.  The more those nerve cells fire away, the stronger the pathway becomes, and the more a belief, thought pattern, or technique becomes second nature.

Take a moment and recall two skills that once seemed beyond your ability⎯learning to walk and tying your shoe.  Now, these skills are second nature requiring almost no conscious thought. This is why, as an athlete, student, musician, artist, etc. you must practice a technique over and over and over again.  Whether it is a mental or physical skill, repetition is the key.

What we do moment to moment greatly influences how our brains behave, what emotions we feel, and who we will ultimately become.  The thoughts that dominate your mind, your beliefs, the goals you focus on, and the mental skills you use, all work together to create your reality.  With practice, you can harness incredible power and energy to pull you toward success. With practice, you can change your life.

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Willing is not enough; we must do.”  

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German Writer & Philosopher)  

 


BREATHING



Breathing has long been described as a bridge between the mind and the body.  Numerous different disciplines, from yoga to various martial arts to natural childbirth, all recognize the importance and life-giving properties of breath.

Although breathing is something we all take for granted, most of us have actually forgotten how to breathe properly.  Learning to control and master your breath will increase your level of performance tenfold and will give you an edge over your competition.

Almost every time you are stressed, fatigued, or angry, your breathing becomes shallow, rapid, and irregular.  If, during practice and especially competition, you forget to control your breath, fatigue will set in quicker, your performance will suffer, and your mind will not have the clarity to react and respond to what your competition is doing.

As you practice simple breathing techniques to regulate and control your breath, you will have an incredibly powerful tool to reduce stress, promote relaxation and clarity, and supply every cell in your body with the oxygen it needs to achieve maximum results.

IMPROPER BREATHING

Most people don’t utilize their full lung capacity when they breathe.  The shallow upper chest breathing results in less oxygen being delivered to the body’s cells.  Without enough oxygen, cells can become damaged. This can have dramatic effects on your overall health as well as your performance.

EXERCISE

Put the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout each cycle.

  1. Sit with your back straight in a comfortable position.  
  2. Inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four.  
    • As you inhale, imagine the air traveling down your spine all the way down to your tailbone before filling your lungs from the bottom up.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of eight.
  4. Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.


Repeat that cycle five times.  Do it three times a day and any time you are feeling anxious or stressed.

ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING

Sit, stand, or lie in a comfortable position.  With your left thumb, close off your left nostril, and follow the directions below.

  1. Breathe in and out through your right nostril three times then switch sides.
  2. Inhale once through your left nostril, close it off with your thumb, and exhale through your right nostril.
  3. Then, inhale through your right nostril, close it off, and exhale through your left nostril.


Continue this for three to five minutes.

Keep your breath relaxed and even throughout the exercise.  This is a powerful way to relax and calm down. You may find it useful throughout the day or before going to sleep.

 


GOAL SETTING



Many people live a life of confusion, not entirely sure what they want and why they are doing what they are doing.  In order to achieve anything in life, you must be clear about what it is you want. Setting goals gives us something to shoot for.  Clearly written goals can give us purpose and direction; they serve as a roadmap, keeping us focused on our destination.

Your goals should inspire and excite you to such a degree that you will do whatever it takes to make them your reality.  Goals that lack inspiration will never motivate you to generate the energy and determination necessary for reaching them.

A FEW GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW WHEN SETTING GOALS:

Write them down.  By writing down your goals and looking at them daily, they serve as a reminder and keep you focused.

Let them be specific and measurable.  Decide exactly what you want.  “I want to get better” is not specific enough.  “I will attend five practice sessions per week and give my all so that my skills increase to a level where I can compete with anybody” will give your brain something to work for.

Make them challenging yet realistic.  Choose challenging goals that inspire you to improve your life.  The flip-side is not to make them so unrealistic that you become discouraged and quit.  By setting achievable goals, you will build momentum as you reach them, helping you set and reach even bigger goals.

Set deadlines.  Give yourself a timeframe to work in, and remember to celebrate your success along the way.

Let them be for the greater good.  Set goals that benefit you and those around you–goals that, when you reach them, make this world a better place.

State them in positive terms.  Always state your goals in positive terms.  Don’t say “I want to stop being lazy.” Instead try, “I will push myself by going an extra five minutes when I feel like quitting.”

An easy way to remember how to realistically set goals, is to use the acronym SMART.

SMART Goals


  • (S) Specific


Who, What, Where, When, Why, Which

  • Define the goal as much as possible with no ambiguous language

    • WHO is involved?
    • WHAT do I want to accomplish?
    • WHERE will it be done?
    • WHY am I doing this (reasons, purpose)?
    • WHICH constraints/requirements do I have?

  • (M) Measurable


From and To

  • Can you track the progress and measure the outcome?
  • How much, how many, how will I know when my goal is accomplished?

 


  • (A) Attainable


How

  • Is the goal reasonable enough to be accomplished?  How so?
  • Make sure the goal is not out of reach or below standard performance.

 


  • (R) Realistic


Worthwhile

  • Is the goal worthwhile and will it meet your needs?
  • Is each goal consistent with other goals you have established fits with your immediate and long term plans?

 


  • (T) Timely


When

  • Your objective should include a time limit.  “I will complete this step by month/day/year.”
  • It will establish a sense of urgency and prompt you to have better time management.

 


IMPORTANT: REWARD YOURSELF

It’s essential to take time out along the way to acknowledge the work you have done and to reward yourself.  Often, during the process of change, we don’t see the progress we have made. Celebrating the small victories as well as the big ones builds confidence and momentum.

Set checkpoints along the way.  They allow you to measure your progress, keep focused, and give you an opportunity to pat yourself on the back.

Tip:  Keep a journal and write down the victories you achieve each day.  No matter how small or insignificant they seem, write them down.

EXERCISE


Step 1

Pull out a piece of paper and for the next five minutes, list everything that you desire.  Do not let the pen stop moving, list everything. The only limitations are the ones that you put on yourself.  When you are finished, write a completion date for each goal (e.g., one week, a month, a year, five years).


Step 2

 Choose your top three goals for the year from your list.

  1. ______________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________

 


Step 3

Now that you know what it is you want, it’s time to create a plan to make it your reality.  It is often more manageable and less overwhelming to break things down into easy steps. If your goal is to drop time off your main competitive event, what do you need to do each week to make this happen?  What changes in your diet do you need to make? Do you need to seek help in certain areas? What weaknesses do you need to turn into strengths?

For each of your top three goals, list steps you can take to make them a reality.

Goal 1:___________________________________________________

  1. ______________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________

 

Goal 2:___________________________________________________

  1. ______________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________

 

Goal 3:___________________________________________________

  1. ______________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________

 

Thinking about your top three goals, use the following questions to help you determine what you need to do to start working towards the completion of these goals:

  1. What resources do you have available to you right now?
  2. What resources or help do you need to get?
  3. When and where are you going to find them?

 


Step 4

Never set a goal without taking immediate action toward that goal.  To continue the momentum you have already created, do at least one thing today that will push you toward your goal.  Don’t delay!

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”  

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German Writer & Philosopher)

 


INJURY PREVENTION



With any sport or physical activity injuries will occasionally happen.  You can minimize the risk by taking care of your body, eating well, getting enough rest and training properly.  Take the time to stretch every day and do your best to stay in shape year round. Massages can help keep your body tuned up.  It is the simple things you do every day that will make a big difference in the long run.

Frequently you will experience some sore and tight muscles.  Mild soreness is your body’s natural response to working out.  During training, especially resistance training, small micro tears in your muscles occur.  As the muscle repairs itself, additional muscle fibers are laid down, preventing the muscle loss that occurs as we age.

Excessive soreness or pain in your joints is a sign that something is wrong.  You may have pushed yourself too far or over stressed a joint. Stop your workout immediately and consult a doctor if the pain does not go away.  Use common sense and listen to your body. Honestly learn the difference between discomfort due to regular use of your body, and actual injury. If you are unsure, make sure to ask your coach or a health care professional.

If you do injure yourself while training, remember the following acronym:  RICE

  • R-rest
    • Rest is crucially important for a body when it is repairing damage.  If you do not allow your body to rest when injured, you risk making the injury worse, and possibly creating lifelong chronic injuries/pain.
    • It is recommended to rest a minimum of 24 – 48 hours immediately following your injury, after which modified activities may be started.
    • In general, it is recommended to rest for a period of time that allows you to use the injured area with the majority of the function returned and with little to no pain.
  • I-ice
    • Ice will help you to reduce the inflammatory response and pain associated with injuries.
    • It is recommended to apply ice to the injured area for 20 minutes of each hour, or another option is to alternate ice and no ice 15 – 20 minutes for a 48 hour period.
    • Be careful to take precautions against frostbite by using a towel or insulating material around the ice before placing it against your skin.
    • Leaving ice on for too long may also cause the injury to take longer to heal, so be sure to follow the recommendations above when applying ice to an injury.
  • C-compression
    • Compression can help reduce the fluid build-up which occurs with the inflammatory process.  While swelling is a natural part of an injury, excessive swelling can lead to a significant loss of function, hightened pain, and reduced blood flow to the injured area.  It is important to reduce swelling to ensure proper healing of the area effected. 
    • An elastic bandage is recommended as opposed to a firm plasic bandage like athletic tapes.  These tapes can lead to loss of blood flow to the injured area, reducing the effectiveness of the healing process.  Make sure the elastic bandage is tight enough to restrict movement of the effected area, but not so tight as to reduce or prevent regular blood flow to the injury.
  • E-elevation
    • Elevating your injury is used to reduce swelling by increasing venous return of blood to your system circulation.


TIP
:  Icing frequently makes a world of difference especially in the first 24 hours.

“Pain is temporary.  It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place.  If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”  

~ Lance Armstrong (Road Racing Cyclist)

 


SAMPLE TRAINING JOURNAL


“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”  

~ Derek Jeter (Former Professional Baseball Player)

A training journal is an excellent way to track your progress and keep you focused on areas that need improvement.  The following is an example of questions you may utilize for your training journal:

  1. WHAT CAN I IMPROVE ON TODAY?
    • Technique
    • Conditioning
    • Strength
    • Mental skills
       
  2. What went well during my last practice?
     
  3. What are my goals for this workout?
     
  4. What is the purpose for today’s training session?

 

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”  

~ Muhammad Ali (One of the greatest Heavyweight Boxers)

 


PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER



By now, you should have identified your goals and become aware of some different skills and strategies you can use to improve yourself.  Next, you will need to come up with a plan to make them a reality. If your goal is to be in the Olympics, or if your intent is to improve your fitness, you will need to take certain steps to reach your goal(s).  Remember, all of this information is worthless until you do something with it.

TIME MANAGEMENT

We are going to assume that most of you have lives outside practice and probably have at least several other obligations that demand your attention.  If you do not learn to manage your time, most of the techniques and tools you have learned will fall to the wayside.

Effective time management is a skill that must be learned and applied for you to create the results you have committed yourself to.  We all have the same number of hours each day, but those who can plan and manage their time will find, at least, an “extra” hour a day to spend as they wish.  Think of what you could get done with an additional hour a day, 7 hours a week, 30 hours a month, or 2 weeks per year!

USE THE FOLLOWING STEPS TO CREATE A DAILY PLAN:

  • Identify long-term goals.
  • Create an action plan that outlines the steps you ned to achieve your goals.
  • Relate the day’s activities to those goals.
  • Prioritize all of the day’s tasks according to their contribution to your goals.
  • Schedule tasks with the top priorities to be completed first.
  • Follow your plan.  Use a daily plan to increase your effectiveness and guide you through interruptions and unexpected events.

 

Pay attention to the cycles you go through during the day.  When are you most effective physically and mentally? What do you need to do to fit your workouts in?  Do not make the mistake of underestimating the importance of managing your time.

 


DETERMINE YOUR LEVEL OF COMMITMENT



Commitment and determination are essential virtues for success in any area of life.  You must make a commitment to your new goals. In the beginning, building momentum is the single most important step.  The easiest way to start building momentum is to make it easy for you to succeed.

Make nutritional changes that you can easily incorporate into your diet.  Set up a new cross-training plan, and schedule your training sessions in a way that fits your lifestyle.  The more you do it, the more determined you are, the easier it becomes.

Are you someone who needs to go slowly, a little bit at a time, or do you jump in with both feet?  Whichever way you need to go is fine. The most important thing is to follow through with the changes you make.  This approach is powerful in its simplicity. As your momentum builds, so will your success.

Feeling overwhelmed by trying to be perfect early on is a great way to guarantee failure.  Challenge yourself, but make it easy to succeed. Remember that Rome was not built in a day.  This will take some time, but you will get results. Most importantly, have fun!

 

“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back…play for her.”

~ Mia Hamm (Retired Professional American Soccer Player)

 


GETTING STARTED



Now that you have learned the fundamental principles, it is time to get started.  Here is a plan for the first week to help get you going:

DAY ONE

  • Examine your beliefs and complete a goal-setting exercise.
  • Start to alkalize your system–add more vegetables to your diet today.  Use visualization training with the skills you have already learned to start to anchor them in.

 

DAY TWO

  • Start breathing exercises–practice everyday.
  • Start to incorporate Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen into your diet.
  • Analyze the food in your refrigerator and pantry–throw out or don’t eat any food that won’t help you fulfill your goals.  Review the goals you set yesterday.

 

DAY THREE

  • Attempt some of your new skills in practice.  Stick with the plan you set.
  • Review centering and start applying it in training.
  • Evaluate your water consumption–are you drinking enough? (Coffee and alcohol don’t count.)
  • Complete a cross-training program

 

DAY FOUR

  • Drill new techniques.
  • Continue breathing exercises daily.
  • Incorporate fresh veggies with every meal.
  • Review your goals.

 

DAY FIVE

  • Complete centering exercise and practice at least five times today.
  • Start to use your journal if you haven’t done so.
  • Continue to incorporate the Daily Dozen into your diet.
  • Review technique notes.

 

DAY SIX

  • Practice your mental skills, visualization, and centering.
  • Teach someone you care about, about the basics of nutrition.
  • Begin today with fresh veggies.
  • Review mental skills.

 

DAY SEVEN

  • Complete body weight-training workout.
  • Continue with your breathing exercises.
  • Eliminate all dairy and meat for the next seven days.
  • Eat at least two alkalizing meals.
  • Review your goals.

 

“Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend.  To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond.”  

~ Hypatia (Greek Mathematician, Astronomer, & Philosopher)

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