The mental game of sport and competition is often even more important than the physical. For example, I know several Crossfit athletes that have tremendous numbers when they are in their own gym on their own time. Strong, conditioned, gymnasty. Then the open comes around and they fall apart. They do not perform well under pressure for many different reasons. The three most common reasons for this in my opinion are a lack of competitive experience, lack of “mental toughness,” or life factors outside of the gym.
Lack of competitive experience CAN BE a big obstacle for some competitors to overcome. The lack of experience in and of itself is not the problem. It is the lack of “mental toughness” that often accompanies lack of experience. What I mean by “lack of mental toughness” is the negative internal dialogue and inability to adapt to adversity. What to do about it?
- Compete more and with a purpose.
- Get outside of your comfort zone in terms of set and setting. So if you always train with Jake at 6am, occasionally train with Brennan at 6pm. There are endless ways to challenge your own comfort zone.
- Occasionally put yourself through some type of crucible. For some, a Crossfit workout alone is a crucible. For others, they may have to do a marathon to really push themselves. Others may need to do something like SEALFIT. Regardless of your level of fitness, a crucible need only be “a place or occasion of SEVERE test or trial.” The mental, and for some spiritual, benefits of these experiences are more than I can put in words. Try it for yourself.
Finally, as I discussed in my last post, life factors outside of the gym can and do negatively affect your performance. Minimize the negative effects caused by stress and you will see huge improvements in your performance.