Mental Training Helps to Win Gold

There are many theories on how to train the body, so that athletes can push themselves harder and achieve their ultimate goals. Many athletes push themselves to the limit, increase their physical fitness and ability, eat healthily, and take all the necessary supplements, but don’t necessarily achieve their goals. The reason for this is that they have not trained their mind to operate in a peak-performance zone. When one isn’t 'in the zone', one can feel stressed, worried, fearful, and lack the confidence needed to win a race or an event.

Mental trainingis proving to be vital for an athlete and is the key difference between winningand coming second. The great news is that we can train our minds and brains toperform better!

Natalie Bergstrom and Nedene Cahill recently won gold at the 2013 Mountain Bike World Championships, in Pietermaritzburg, and explain how mental training programme helped them to win gold.

During the initial intake-sessions, they had toexplain exactly what their training and racing consisted of. For example, theyhad to describe their thoughts, feelings, sleep patterns, what the races werelike, what made them feel worried, and so forth. Negative thought patterns,behaviors, and beliefs were then eliminated in a guided visualisation session.During this session, the conscious mind relaxes and we are able to work withthe unconscious mind. The conscious is like the policing system of our mindthat helps us make conscious decisions. The unconscious mind, about 90% of ourmind’s capacity, is the part that stores our feelings, experiences, andautomatic behaviors and beliefs. When the mind is relaxed, we can work with theunconscious and help create positive thought patterns and feelings. We can alsohelp the mind visualise the perfect outcome of a race or an event, whichincreases confidence and strength. In this relaxed state, the mind cannot tellthe difference between reality and fiction, which means that the newly createdpositive outcomes are seen as our reality and we can then repeat them in reallife. The sessions are recorded on a CD and we can achieve permanent changes inbehavior and thought patterns by listening to the CD over a number of weeks.

"I was always very anxious, nervous, andworked up before my races, losing energy and the race before I even started.Even the slightest of hiccups would make me very negative and I saw everythingas a problem and not as a challenge. It was recommended that I try mentaltraining and it was the best thing I ever did," said Natalie when askedwhy she came to our practice for mental training sessions.

Nedene, on theother hand, said her coach told her to come and that the mental training helpedher to stay focused and positive. She had lost confidence in herself, as she'dhad a number of bad incidences during races. Even though she was strong andmade good progress in her training sessions, she was just not able to repeatwhat she was able to do in her training, in her races. Her performance dropped,she was falling ill more often, was worried about her nutrition, and felt shewasn’t as strong as she needed to be.

The mentaltraining helped both of them to believe in themselves, to be completelyfocused, positive, and determined.

On the day of the World Championship, Nedene was able to visualise the 'Perfect Race' and remain focused, no matter what happened. She arrived at the start line in a positive frame of mind and was determined to win; nothing was going to stop her.

Natalie reported that the mental training changedher way of thinking and approach to races. She was a lot more relaxed and notso stressed. At the start of the World Championship, she went in totallyfocused, confident, relaxed, ready, and determined to win it. On top of needingto be more confident and focused, she was battling with two severe injuries;one being a knee injury, which she was told would require surgery.

Natalie feels that if she hadn’t trained her mind,she wouldn’t have won gold at the World Champs. She mentioned that she mightnot even have started, due to her pain and doubts. The mental training helpedher to overcome her two injuries that were incurred leading up to WorldChampionships. Furthermore, it helped her to tackle the most technical sectionswithout any doubt or hesitation.

Both athletes agreethat they would most certainly encourage all top competitive athletes who needto stay focused and positive to go for mental training. "It shifts yourmind into a very strong, positive place, and makes you focus and approach yourevent in a calm, relaxed mode. It also makes you focus on yourself and yourrace, and not on your competition,"


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