Building Mental Fitness
IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
– Napoleon Hill
Your mind is one of the most powerful tools you have. Just like any power tool, it can be incredibly effective if used properly, or outright dangerous if you aren’t careful. It can be your greatest ally or your worst enemy. At its best, it can help you overcome physical adversity, at it’s worse, it can derail even the most physically dominating athlete.
So how much time do you spend working on your mental muscles?
TRAIN THE BRAIN
Whether on the trail, the treadmill or in the weight room, rep after rep, we work hard to forge muscle and endurance. But how many of us regularly carve out 10 to 15 minutes to work on our minds? For most of us, 15 minutes of meditation is a near impossibility with our minds racing, phones buzzing and other demands begging for our attention.
The goal of training your mind is to prepare it for what’s to come. It’s about telling the mind where you want it to go, rather than letting it lead you in a multitude of directions. Rarely will the mind default to taking us on the focused path. Often, it leads us to worry about something totally unrelated to the present moment, when we should have a laser-like focus on our run, our race, or our workout.
Anxiety brought about by unexpected challenges (weather, injury, etc..) can take us off track. While visualization will not allow you to control the external world, it will help prepare your internal world for these challenges so you are ready when they occur. You need to spend some time rehearsing how to deal with contingencies effectively, without anxiety, so you can move smoothly through the adversity with as little impact to your result as possible. Whatever your biggest worry is, spend some time visualizing how you are going to get through it before it happens. Develop a strategy in advance for how you will combat negative thoughts.
STRONG MIND, STRONG FINISH
Controlling our thoughts is just as important as controlling our physical movements.
If you think strong, you are going to finish strong. When negative thoughts present themselves, don’t fight them – that only gives them power. Instead, acknowledge them, and replace them with affirmations like “I can do this.” “I am ready.” “I’ve got this.” It may take one hundred times before taking root, but you have the power to change your thoughts.
TESTING THE LIMITS
If you are pushing your limits, you will most likely come across some point of negative thinking. Its best to be prepared for that situation. I often write words on my wrist such as – STRENGTH, COURAGE, BRAVE. I’ve memorized scriptures to lift me up when I am down to regain composure. That is real and resonates deep within my soul. When you pick your motivational mantra, you must believe what you are saying to your core, otherwise it will fly away and have no power in the dark moments.
The mind is your most powerful tool, maybe even more so than your physical body. When trained together the two can work in harmony to achieve amazing things. Use the mind as the power tool it is – don’t neglect it – work to sharpen it, and it will take you much further than your legs alone can carry you.