There are certain strategies that top athletes all have in common –
- Firstly, they know what they want from their performances and have a definite strategy of getting there. They also commit to writing these down. For me, I had a poster I designed on the wall of my room when I was at university. It was something I woke up,to every morning. The goals need to be very specific – because vague goals bring vague results. These goals can be upgraded once achieved. No matter what level you are at now you will achieve these results if you commit to them and put the required amount of work in. The work doesn’t have to be hard, just consistent. People who don’t know what they really want will not reach a higher level than they are at now – and this concept works for anything in life. So you need a structure to your program and defined goals. The more detail you have the better but keep your mind open to changing things if you don’t see results. Please understand that the more structured your program the easier it is to change it.
- Secondly, everyone who reaches a top level of performance knows that they have to work on their ‘mental game’. This can start at the level of building confidence but to go higher there must be a far higher level than this. When I was competing in the 1970s we were just starting to understand the need to do visualization in the Western World but these ideas were prevalent a long time before this in the Soviet Block countries. They knew that it wasn’t enough to rely upon natural ability and consitent work. At that time meditation was just starting to come into the mainstream way of thinking as a vehicle to control thoughts but there is a difference in the way such a vehicle is used in attaining a better performance as compared with Its other uses. For physical performance once you have practiced the correct techniques for your sport you need to practice retreating from your mind somyour your body can take over. So having both physically and mentally practiced correct technique you need to attain a mental state where you don’t think, just do. Now, you may have read this last sentence quickly and not understood its significance – so READ IT AGAIN. To attain this state you need to be completely relaxed until just before you perform a physical act if your sport sport requires short bursts of energy – and this idea pertains to team sports as well as the Olympic-type sports. This practice of relaxation between intense bursts of performance means that you have more energy to put into movement when it is required. But what about the long distance sports? Again, learning the skill of relaxation and focus is just as important. Controlling total energy expenditure is still the goal so whether it is long distance running/biking/swimming/skiing/canoeing etc. you need to learn these mental skills if you want optimum performance.
Next Fitness Blog I will go over some specific meditation skills you can use in sports.