The Mental Game
When I was 4 years old, I picked up the game of golf. For many years of my youth, it was the sport I played the most over the summer and it was a bonding activity for my family every weekend. And like the competitive person I am, I eventually started playing tournaments, then in the scholastic ranks through both middle school and high school. I learned many lessons growing up playing the game of golf, such as patience, sportsmanship, respect, and most importantly the importance of the mental game.
I haven't played golf in some time (unfortunately) but the importance of your mental approach has stuck with me. It has affected how I choose to view the world not just in sports but in life as well. As we grow older we face new challenges and, at times, heartbreaking defeats. It is in these moments that our mental toughness is called to task. Will we prepare ourselves for the adversity ahead? Or do we still need to work on our mental game before we try again?
Cycling and other endurance sports in general require a great deal of mental fortitude. As we push our bodies through a physical hell, we also undergo a great deal of mental stress as well. The question often becomes who can suffer the longest? Who is willing to push themselves that tiny bit farther to have a chance at winning? And if I lose, how will I handle that? I know this is something I still struggle with today and every time I pin a number.
After dealing with these types of questions, I started looking into articles on sports psychology (again, as I studied Psychology in college) and meditation. In doing so, I noticed that many of the top cyclists that I look up to have started working with a sports psychologist. It wasn't long after this discovery that I found my way to my friend Mario Arroyave's website, A Champion's Mind. After listening to his first podcast "What If?" I was hooked. In the subsequent episodes and in his blog, Mario has addressed many of the questions that I ask myself constantly...
What if I go for the win and come up short?
What if I put life on hold to chase my dreams?
What is I can't ever achieve the level that I want to achieve in sport and in life?!
But no matter how many times I question myself or reflect on a race and shake my head, Mario's work has serve to remind me that every experience gets me one step closer to my goals.
If you value the time and effort you put into your athletic training, your career, your life as a whole, then you owe it to yourself to practice the mental game. There are plenty of great sports psychologists and resources out there. For me, Utmost Performance has provided some great resources to get me started on the path to better performance and I'll highly recommend you to check Mario out as well!
- Utmost Performance looks to help athletes achieve their full potential through development and strengthening of mental processes and focus. Check 'em on Facebook & Twitter
- Dr. Kristin Keim is another top sports psychologist who works with some big names in sports. Her tweets offer great reminders and advice
- Headspace is an awesome app you can put on your phone to help you with your daily meditation practice. It's just 10 mins a day and a worthy investment of your time.
- 4 Reasons Every Athlete Should Meditate if you don't already, you should!