Breaking through mental blocks

July 17, 2013

Every athlete is familiar with a bad day. You may have this feeling of exhaustion that you can’t quite explain – you simply don’t feel confident in your ability to perform as you usually would, but it doesn’t feel like a mental block so much as a physical drain. Almost everyone knows the sensation, but many don’t know how to properly handle it. Here are some tips on how to address the fatigue and prevent it from coming back.

“I think every athlete has those moments of doubt,” 10,000m U.S. record-holder Shalane Flanagan tells RunnersWorld, “My doubts are usually along the lines of, ‘Maybe I’m not fit enough or strong enough to do this.'”

The problem has already gone too far when you allow these doubts to enter your head and stay there. Research shows that these detract from your performance, so the ability to identify them is important for keeping them at bay and getting yourself back on track. When you step on your home treadmill, you should never be questioning yourself – you should be ready to go the distance and willing to push yourself to get there.

In order to overcome negative thoughts, it’s best to replace them with positivity. Some of the most popular techniques recommended by sports psychologists are visualization exercises, wherein athletes imagines themselves succeeding in order to mentally reinforce the belief that they can achieve their goal. This works equally well for athletes of all shapes and sizes. A football player can get the same benefit from visualizing a fourth-quarter touchdown as runners would from picturing themselves crossing the finish line.

If you can mentally see yourself accomplishing a feat, you help give yourself a better chance at performing it in reality. For those who may not have the most vivid imaginations, even replaying past successes over again in your head can be a helpful technique. It allows your mind and body both to remember what you are capable of, and that alone can inspire you to aim and hit even higher.

Lastly, many experts suggest that ascribing long-term goals to your exercising is another way to amplify the significance of each individual workout. For instance, when you are struggling through a run, you may simply remind yourself that you are working toward something greater. This self-encouragement can push you through even the strongest of mental blocks, and with nothing else in your way, you’re free to succeed at your own pace. Hop back on your home exercise bike and get to work!