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Long Term Survival of the Most Mentally Fit – Part Two

Train Your Brain

Alright, let’s get down to work! In my last post, we put ourselves through a mental scorecard to identify our weaknesses that would inhibit us from having a CHAMPION mindset in order to conquer our fitness goals. Because, come on – we all deserve to feel like champions regardless of age or ability!

Take a few moments to remember the areas you scored below a 7 and be sure to have some paper to take notes (because remember, CHAMPIONS are perfectionists…and perfectionists take notes!).

Goal Setting

This is a tough one, because setting goals can be daunting and make us feel overwhelmed and because then we have to formulate a plan to get there and, well, that’s easier said than done! But goal setting is UBER important because it gives you long-term vision, short-term motivation, and brings true meaning to our lives.

The key here is to be specific and have focus:

  • Create a big picture of the BIG fitness goals you want to accomplish. For example, maybe you want to run a triathlon.
  • Break this big, hairy, audacious goal into smaller process goals that you must hit to reach your ultimate goal. This is the most important step where we usually surrender. So with the triathlon, a couple of smaller goals would be:
    • learning the freestyle stroke
    • biking 15 miles
    • running 1 mile in your anticipated race time

Accomplishing these process goals will leave you with a sense of accomplishment and improve your CONFIDENCE (Imagine That! Some of these mental traits correlate with others).

Get to work! Once your plan is in place, your desire to reach your goal must be stronger than your desire to stay the same. Will it be scary? Of course! The ‘fear of the unknown’ factor is in there, which leads me to the next mental trait that will help with these worrisome thoughts…

Visual Mental Imagery

Many times before we attempt something for the first time, we tend to think of the absolute worst things that could happen, which then leads us to feeling anxious. Athletes get this same feeling before games and big competitions. So how do they perform so effortlessly with such a calm demeanor? Well, for one, they are experienced, but they also practice an exercise called visual mental imagery.

Train Your BrainVisual Mental Imagery is where you visualize yourself performing well before you make the attempt. For example, if I wanted to run a triathlon and I was just learning how to do the freestyle stroke, then as I got into the pool, I would close my eyes, picture myself in the actual race – hearing the starting sound – and I would then picture myself ahead of the pack with each arm stroke and leg kick nice and big, my upper body working in sync with my lower body. Get the picture? Let’s do a practice run!

First, identify a fitness goal/activity that you really want to accomplish but may feel a little apprehensive about it. Then, close your eyes and picture the following:

  • In the activity, you are using perfect form and technique. What are these cues specifically?
  • If there is a number/time tied to the activity, what does it look like to effortlessly perform to this numerical goal?
  • Dominating the equipment you are using. How does it feel to have the strength and endurance to move this equipment with force and power?

Now how do you feel? You should be chomping at the bit to get started!

Confidence

We talked about how accomplishing process goals can boost your self-confidence, but we need a level of it even before that point.

The key here is to overcome that fear of failure, whether it be a new aerobics class, an new type of exercise, or a 5k race.

Here are a few tips to improve that ‘can do’ attitude:

  • Catch yourself when you start to think a negative thought and ‘squash it’. Pretend that negative thought is an actual insect and mentally picture stomping on it and looking out for more. Kill it dead. Then replace it with a positive one, such as ‘I can do this, one more mile left!’
  • Get to know yourself by starting to listen to your thoughts – when those thoughts happen, and in what specific situations. Use a journal if you have to analyze WHY you have these negative thoughts. Weed out the REAL limitations vs. the ones you have artificially placed there.

Self-Talk

This one is pretty self-explanatory: The toughest part is actually GETTING ourselves to do it. Just like you train your body to move a certain way in exercise, you have to train your mind to work certain ways as well. Before you attempt your new exercise, program etc, I DARE you to say some encouraging words to yourself OUT LOUD (or, if we need baby steps here, then say them to yourself in your head). Just TRY IT. And then see how you feel after. Positive thinking is a key part of stress management as well, and it starts with self-talk.

Don’t believe me? Researchers continue to explore the effects on positive thinking and self-talk, and the benefits provided include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Greater resistance to common cold
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Enough Said!

Hopefully I haven’t overwhelmed you with these tips, so sleep on the information I provided on visual mental imagery, increase your confidence, and use self-talk (and if I have overwhelmed you, re-read visual mental imagery to help you).

STAY TUNED for my tips on Mental Focus, Fitness Enjoyment, and Body Language…because we work on progress over perfection!!!

And DON’T FORGET to share this with your fitness buddies and post on my FACEBOOK PAGE with #MentallyFit with your progress and comments!

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Anna Long-Stokes August 14, 2014, 2:41 pm

    What a great roundup of ideas that can be applied to everything in life that we are working towards!

    • Amanda August 14, 2014, 2:46 pm

      Thanks Anna. I thought so too. I like posting about things that can not only be applied to fitness, but also to every day life 🙂

  • Kimberly Crossland August 14, 2014, 4:12 pm

    Great post! Mental fitness is something everyone needs. It’s not always easy but this post helps. I especially love the goal section. When I get down, I often find it valuable and mentally refreshing to take a step back and review my goals. That’s usually the kick in the brain I need to refocus and power forward.

  • Amanda August 14, 2014, 4:32 pm

    Thanks Kimberly. I think the goal part is the hardest as well, first word that comes to mind is ‘daunting’ that’s why I think it imperative to break down the goal into steps and process goals 🙂

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