The Missing Link Between Performance and Wellbeing

The Importance of Mental Fitness Training for an Athletes’ Performance and Sustained Wellbeing

As the Olympics approach, we are reminded of the significance of mental fitness in sports and of athletes not only performing to the best of their abilities but also enjoying themselves during the process. During the Tokyo Olympics, we saw great athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka prioritizing their mental health over yet another medal. While athletes meticulously train their bodies, many overlook the crucial element of training their brains and minds.

As a mental fitness coach, I see firsthand the impact of neglecting this aspect. Elite athletes often struggle with anxiety and negative self-talk, lose the joy in their sport, suffer from a lack of confidence or motivation, and become distressed when things don’t go as planned. They are unable to see their own greatness and potential. This blog article aims to illuminate what mental fitness is, dispel common misconceptions, and provide practical steps for athletes to enhance their mental game.

What is Mental Fitness?
Mental fitness, as defined by Positive Intelligence, is our ability to respond to life’s challenges with a positive rather than a negative mindset. It’s about cultivating a mindset that enables resilience, focus, and emotional control, allowing athletes to perform at their peak even under pressure. There are many misconceptions about mental fitness, so I’d like to start with what mental fitness is not.

What Mental Fitness is Not

1. It Does Not Mean You Will Be Happy Every Second of the Day
Mental fitness doesn’t guarantee perpetual happiness. We are human and will experience negative emotions. However, with mental fitness training, we can deal with these emotions more effectively and recover faster.

2. It’s Not a Quick Fix
Mental fitness is not a magic solution that will instantly transform your performance. It requires consistent practice and dedication, much like physical training. The challenge of staying consistent in our practice is that we often practice a lot when we feel bad and stop practicing when we feel great because we think we don’t need it anymore.

3. It’s Not Necessarily a Feel-Good Thing
Mental fitness often involves tough self-reflection and vulnerability. Daring to look at oneself honestly can be challenging and uncomfortable, but it is essential for growth.

4. It’s Not Only Trained in a Gym or at Specific Times
Mental fitness is something we can train every second of our day if we pay attention to it. We don’t need a quiet room, a forest, or equipment. If it’s practical, simple, and attainable, and can be seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, there is a higher chance that we will keep going.

How Mental Fitness Can Help Athletes
You may ask yourself how mental fitness can help you, and first and foremost, your performance will come to mind. How can I run, swim, or perform better? Let’s start at the foundation and look at the things that you need in order to improve your performance.

1. Strong Mental Foundation
Mental fitness techniques can enhance concentration, reduce anxiety, and boost confidence, leading to better performance during training and competitions.

2. Greater Resilience
Developing a positive mindset helps athletes bounce back from setbacks more quickly and maintain motivation.

3. Enhanced Well-being
A strong mental game contributes to overall well-being, reducing stress and preventing burnout.

Managing Expectations
Before introducing a few practical steps on how you can start with your mental fitness training, let’s talk about expectations. It’s important to manage expectations when embarking on a mental fitness journey. Results won’t come overnight. It’s like going to the weight room. You don’t expect a six-pack by going to the gym for a week. It’s crucial to stay committed and open-minded. Mental fitness is a long-term investment that pays off with persistent effort.

 The Athlete’s Role: Be a COP

1. Commit
Dedicate time and effort to your mental fitness just as you do with physical training. You get out what you put in.

2. Be Open-Minded
Be open to new techniques and approaches. Mental fitness requires a willingness to explore and adapt to find the best way for you.

3. Persevere
Continue to try, in good and in bad times. When progress seems slow, persevere through the challenges, and the benefits will follow. When progress is amazing and you feel you don`t need it anymore, persevere. There is always more to grow and learn.

Practical Steps to Enhance Mental Fitness

Now, here are some steps you can take to enhance your mental fitness.

1. Start Small and Be Consistent
Incorporate daily mental fitness exercises into your routine, such as positive affirmations/incantations, mindfulness exercises and time for reflection and introspection. Consistency is key.

2. Set Realistic Goals
Break down your mental fitness goals into manageable steps and celebrate small victories along the way.

3. Seek Support
Don’t hesitate to seek guidance. Remember, asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

You expected something crazy and unheard of? The tricky part is to find out which tools speak the best to me and in which situations? How can I incorporate these exercises best into my life? Which goals do I want to set for myself and which are the smaller milestones? How and when do I celebrate victories if they are just small ones?

Breaking the Stigma: The Importance of Vulnerability
Many athletes fear that showing vulnerability might crack their perfect, strong facade and make them weak. However, embracing truth and vulnerability is crucial for growth. Acknowledging that you don’t have it all together all the time allows you to identify spots that need improvement and plan the actions needed to overcome your obstacles that are in your way to achieving what you want.

Personal Stories: Learning from the Best
You are not alone. You never have been. Take inspiration from athletes like Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Naomi Osaka, Simon Biles  and many more who are very open about their struggles with mental health despite being very accomplished athletes. Their stories underscore the importance of mental fitness and the power of seeking help.

Conclusion: Include Mental Fitness in Your Routine for Lasting Success
Mental fitness is an essential component of elite performance. If you solely focus on your body, you compromise. By understanding what it is, what it isn’t, and how it can help, athletes can begin to integrate mental fitness into their training regimen. Stay committed, be open-minded, and don’t be afraid to seek support. The journey to mental fitness may be challenging at first, but it’s incredibly rewarding. Embrace it, enjoy the journey, and unlock your full potential without compromising. It is the key to achieving and sustaining peak performance as well as mental and overall wellbeing. Follow along for more insights and tips on mastering your inside game.

Love & Light,

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14 Days Mental Fitness

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14 Days Self-Awareness

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