A major key to real fitness and to achieving your goals? Mental training. Regardless of your fitness level, being able to focus and to perform at your best under pressure is what makes you a real champion and will help you to achieve any goal. Here’s how.
What is mental training?
Mental training is a psychological method that enables you to improve your performance in various areas of your life. Used correctly, mental training helps you…
feel more comfortable.
become more confident.
empathize better with others (your partner will thank you for this one, too)
improve your athletic performance
keep a cool head in stressful situations
reach your goals faster, at the gym, at work, and in everyday life.
How does mental training for athletes work?
Mental training is an integral part of professional athletes’ preparation for competition. Concentrating on your cognition trains and improves your movements. Mental exercises make sure an athlete remains confident and powerful even when under pressure.
The pros’ techniques can help you, too!
Mental training skills aren’t just for professional athletes. Here are some of the benefits of mental training that anyone can reap! Try it out for yourself.
1. Your fitness improves
When you imagine yourself performing a certain movement, the same parts of your brain are activated that light up when you’re performing the movement itself. The more frequently you think about it and the more specific you get, the easier it will be for you to do.
Do you find going through new exercises in your head difficult? That’s quite normal. The more often you do this, though, the easier it’ll be for you to imagine the motions.
Of course, you don’t perfect an exercise just by imagining yourself doing it. Training regularly is the most important part. Thinking about your movements regularly, however, will help you get there faster.
2. You know what you can do and where you stand
Being self-aware and confident is important for doing your best at the gym or during the big game, but it’s also a critical mindset in your personal and professional life. It’s important to be able to realistically assess and evaluate your own performance.
Many people tend to underestimate their personal abilities and performance. For weight training, for example, you can learn the average someone of your weight can lift. For sports, there are averages for accomplishments in your age group. And you also have yourself and your personal progress to compare to. Whatever it is you do, think about where you started and how much you’ve already improved.
Mental training helps you stay aware of your own performance by realistically assessing your personal progress with a coach or with the help of a plan. In this way, you make yourself really aware of your own performance. This leads to more self-confidence and self-assurance.
3. Nothing can break your cool
Self-confidence is the first step towards resilience. But there are other ways to keep a cool head, especially in high-pressure situations. During a workout you need strength, physically and mentally, and that’s why mental resilience must also be trained and developed under pressure.
For example, you can keep yourself on your toes a little during your workout by playing upbeat music, keeping your exercises a little complicated, or adding time constraints. In this way you learn to stay focused even under psychological pressure and are better prepared for an emergency.
4. You know where you want to go
It’s not uncommon to set your mind to something, and then not too long later lose sight of your goal and slip back into old habits. The right mental training can help you break that pattern.
Professional athletes often visualize their goals by printing out pictures of their goal to help them keep their goals in mind every day. Even writing down your goals and hanging them up in a clearly visible place has a positive effect.
That way, you’re confronted with your goal every day, again and again. This can be a physical goal, like fitting into a certain size of clothing, or an achievement, like being able to run a certain distance.
Of course, it is important to have a suitable, realistic plan to reach your goals. For this you can use a personal trainer or a ready-made program that leads you step-by-step to the finish line.
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Mental training skills in your professional and private life
Of course you can also copy the above mentioned exercises at home or adapt them for yourself. The following examples are especially suitable for mental training in professional and private life.
1. Feel better
Stress, whether work-related or everyday, often has physical symptoms, such as headaches and backaches. Mental training doesn’t simply eliminate your stress altogether, but it can help you deal with it better and relax and recover more quickly.
2. Become more empathetic
Empathy refers to the ability to better perceive, interpret and act upon not only one’s own feelings, but also those of others. Developing these social skills is increasingly important in your personal and professional life, and is especially critical in team sports.
3. Putting it all together – mental strength
Your mental ‘strength’ is the result of mental training. If you occupy yourself with all the areas described above, you are bound to increase that mental strength and take a big step forward in your personal development.
Tips for better concentration during mental training
It can be very difficult to throw yourself into it, especially when you’re just starting out, so here are some helpful tips here to help you get started.
1. Stay focused
Distractions in any form are poison to your mental focus. Write a to-do list, make sure your environment is tidy, and turn off your smartphone. This way, you can avoid unwanted distractions by any calls or messages. And a tidy environment ensures that you can’t distract yourself with objects lying around, or that you can’t procrastinate and just do the dishes instead.
If you’re finding it difficult to switch off, focus on individual aspects or elements of the exercise. This can be, for example, focusing on the clean technical execution of a specific movement or on each inhalation and exhalation as you go.
2. Help your imagination take the leap
Mental training is primarily about programming your thoughts for success. Using your imagination helps you to improve your athletic performance. No matter if you are lifting weights or looking ahead to an important soccer match in your club, prepare yourself for the occasion.
Imagine beforehand in your mind’s eye how you’ll achieve your bench press personal best or how you’ll score the decisive goal to bring your team to victory. That’s how you’ll program your body for success and prepare it for what’s to come.
3. Practice makes perfect
In order for mental training to really affect your success, it’s crucial to make it a habit. Just like physical training, mental training needs practice. You’ll notice how much a difference every repetition will make.
Mental training trains movement too
It increases your self-perception and awareness, and thus self-confidence.
It programs your mind for long-term, achievable success.
Is most effective when combined with normal physical exercise
It will help you relax
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