Author:
Markus Unckricht

Why Mental Training Helps Athletes to Perform at their Best

Mental Training: How Simple Techniques Improve Performance

If the body does not perform in competition and the performance fails, working with a mental trainer like Wolfgang Seidl can help. At ISPO.com he explains how mental training not only helps in sports to fully exploit one's full potential.

As a climber, trust in one's own abilities is elementary.
As a climber, trust in one's own abilities is elementary.

Many endurance athletes have come to realize that working with a mental trainer can help them reach their peak performance. Paula Radcliffe, who held the marathon world record for years with a time of 2:15:25 hours, commented on the subject: "Improving your mental strength will pay off - not just in running, but in life itself."

Biathlon legends such as Ole Einar Björndalen and Emil Hegle Svendsen were also firmly convinced of the effectiveness of mental training during their great careers.

Even though this awareness is often already present among hobby athletes, in most cases the approach for concrete implementation is missing.

Mental Techniques also Help in Everyday Life

Of course, hobby athletes do not make a living with their sport. Nevertheless, they invest a lot of time in endurance training and money in their passion. If, despite all their efforts, they are not able to recall their performance in the competition, it is frustrating: "Negative thoughts, doubts or nervousness put a spoke in their wheel", knows mental coach Wolfgang Seidl. Advisors like Seidl offer the right mental techniques for precisely these pressure situations.

"Every athlete who decides to start mental training starts an inner process," says Seidl. "It is also necessary to face your weaknesses, leave your comfort zone and allow changes." This is not always easy.
One benefits not only from the acquired knowledge in sporting competition, but also in everyday life, whether private or professional. And exactly when it really counts, when the fear of failure is at its greatest.

Even the best condition is not enough if it is not mentally right.
Even the best condition is not enough if it is not mentally right.

Nervousness Has a Paralyzing Effect

Nervousness is literally paralyzing. As banal as it may sound, the mindset is much more often responsible for weaker performance than a lack of musculature or technique. The inner self-doubt, the uncontrolled fear of failure and the self-made pressure weigh at least as heavily as inadequate preparation.

"Here many make the mistake that they do not deal with the cause and strengthen their mental skills, but want to bring about success with even more effort and training," Seidl knows. The expansion of the effort is often even counterproductive, because the maxim prevails: I have invested so much, now it MUST pay off.

Self-Confidence Is the Key

An overarching goal of the mental training approach is to encourage the athlete to reach the state of ideal performance. This is exactly the point at which the athlete (still) feels his actions with pleasant ease.

Elementary for this process is self-confidence, which is neither mere predisposition nor arbitrary coincidence of fate.

Only if a trail runner, marathon runner or freeclimber has confidence in his abilities can he achieve his personal goals. Seidl is convinced through his experience that the self-confidence of an athlete can be increased through mental training.

In mental training, the athlete learns to consciously train his concentration. The competitors "will experience how much more energy they suddenly have at their disposal when they bundle their focus here and now and steer it in the right direction," Seidl knows from his many years of work.

The Power of Thought in Sport

This is biologically determined because every thought triggers electrochemical processes in the brain and therefore has a decisive influence on performance. Everyone who has had psychosomatic complaints knows how powerful the unity "body and mind" is.

Mental training always deals with a concrete objective in all work phases. This must be developed explicitly. Only those who know their goals can achieve them. Defining the right goals is much more difficult than it seems at first glance. This is because it is by no means just a question of performance targets, but also, in a first step, performance and action targets.

In addition, mental training helps in the recovery and regeneration process, finding the balance between tension and relaxation. Especially in today's fast-moving and complex everyday world, where people are constantly exposed to the flood of stimuli, it is all the more important to switch off and body, mind and soul to grant rest breaks.

Mental training also plays an important role in phases in which, as a result of Vlastand or Klissombright physical training is not possible. A mental trainer helps maintain focus. Mental work often has an accelerating effect on the healing process.

Strength Can be Learned

"Everyone can develop and expand their mental skills. But it takes time, work and courage to break new ground," Seidl explains. The former Russian chess world champion Garry Kasparov once said: "We can only find new ways of solving problems by searching for new ways and having the courage to tread them. Of course, they do not all lead to the goal, but the more we experiment, the more successful the experiments will be. Let's break our habits! Even those with whom we actually feel comfortable, in order to search for new and better methods."

Words that are valid for Seidl everywhere - whether for sporting, private or professional challenges.

Mental Training: Let's get started

  1. Regularly take care of your breathing. At rest, concentrate on deep and slow abdominal breathing and observe what changes take place in your body.
  2. Make yourself aware of your self-talks and mental issues during training and ask yourself questions: What thoughts are going through my head right now and are they helpful or disturbing? Which thoughts would be more helpful and would support me better?
  3. Concentrate on the process before training or competition instead of the result!
Author:
Markus Unckricht
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