Stop the stress!
Contributed by Dr. Jacqui Lewis-Lyons. Clinical Psychologist and MIT'er
Being a successful athlete does not mean that you have to be a professional athlete. Most of MIT would be described as recreational athletes, despite how seriously we take our running/walking. “Success” reflects the commitment you have made to your chosen sport/activity and how you evaluate your progress over time. Your best may be a new PR, winning a spot on a team, or completing that first marathon. Part of measuring success is looking at the personal goals you have identified for your sport/activity. Clear goals reflect your commitment in light of the other important aspects of your life, such as job and family.
Dr. Jack Lesyk (clinical psychologist) has identified nine mental skills which contribute to success in sports:
- Choose and maintain a positive attitude
- Maintain a high level of self-motivation
- Set high but realistic goals
- Deal effectively with people
- Use positive self-talk
- Use positive mental imagery
- Manage anxiety effectively
- Manage emotions effectively
- Maintain concentration
These skills can be applied to all types of performance, not just sports-related situations.
For runners and walkers, these nine skills may look like:
1. Attitude: seeing the opportunity to compete against themselves and learn from the experiences, not just meeting a time goal.
2. Motivation: being able to keep on working through difficult times and tasks (like speedwork Wednesdays in the heat wave) because you see the reward in weekly improvements, not just the medal at the end.
3. Goals: being committed to your goals and following the training plan
4. People skills: team support counts when looking for partners at 6:15 am.
5. Self-talk: learning to manage your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about your performance without negativity.
6. Mental Imagery: Picturing yourself crossing the finish line with a big smile and fist pump. Also, it is helpful to picture yourself performing specific exercises when recuperating from an injury.
7. Deal with anxiety: Some anxiety is good for keeping you working hard. Too much can incapacitate you. Learning to self-evaluate and relax keeps you in control.
8. Emotions: Not letting frustrations from other areas of your life impact how you train. Overdoing something out of jealousy won’t help you progress.
9. Concentration: focus on the here & now, minimize distractions.
Well, that’s it for now. Keep up the good work out there!