Mind Blowing Performance…

I had an athlete recently contact me stating that he had just lost the intensity of training, wasn’t that into WOD’s and seemed to be off mentally. The first thing that came to my mind is, we all have a bad day. But the athlete observed that this was a trend and not just 1-2 workouts. He wanted to know what to do to back on top of his game mentally.

I gave him 3 general recommendations; make sure you’re not overtraining, make sure your supporting your training with proper rest, recovery, nutrition, and third, evaluate his mental state.

First of all, we all get “tired” of training. Maybe we have an off day, need to try something fresh and new, or just have stressors in our lives that make it difficult to devote the physical and mental energy to give it our all. I have observed over the years how athletes, including myself, approach CF when they are stressed. Some can disarticulate themselves from the stress of the day and leave it behind and use training as an outlet to leave for a while and even though it’s painful, go to a “happy” place. Others, can’t cope with both. They are so overwhelmed and distracted by their current situation, they can’t devote the focus they need to develop the intensity for training. Like it or not, the mind and more specifically, the mental state, can significantly enhance or impair performance. The ability to recruit motor neurons/units and learned movement patterns is controlled by the central nervous system. One’s emotional state and sense of wellness can affect the general attitude and environment of training. Whether you have a sense of readiness or a sense of “why am I here,” getting the mind right is key to performance. The following mental skill list and overview is excerpted from the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology.

A Brief List of the Nine Mental Skills

Successful Athletes:

Choose and maintain a positive attitude.
Maintain a high level of self-motivation.
Set high, realistic goals.
Deal effectively with people.
Use positive self-talk.
Use positive mental imagery.
Manage anxiety effectively.
Manage their emotions effectively.
Maintain concentration.
Mental Skills Training

“These nine mental skills are necessary for performing well in sport as well as in non-sport performance situations.”

Although each of the nine skills is important, its primary importance will occur during one of three phases: long-term development, immediate preparation for performance, and during performance itself.

Level I – These mental skills constitute a broad base for attaining long-term goals, learning, and sustaining daily practice. They are needed on a day-by-day basis for long periods of time, often months and years.

Level II – These skills are used immediately before performance to prepare for performance. They maybe used just before competition begins, or immediately before a specific performance action, such as a golf shot or a free throw in basketball.

Level III – These skills are used during actual performance behavior.

The pyramid below represents the relationship of the nine skills to one another. Each of the higher levels incorporates and is based upon the skills of the preceding levels.

Detailed Descriptions of the Nine Mental Skills

1. Attitude
Successful athletes:

Realize that attitude is a choice.
Choose an attitude that is predominately positive.
View their sport as an opportunity to compete against themselves and learn from their successes and failures.
Pursue excellence, not perfection, and realize that they, as well as their coaches, teammates, officials, and others are not perfect.
Maintain balance and perspective between their sport and the rest of their lives.
Respect their sport, other participants, coaches, officials, and themselves.

2. Motivation
Successful athletes:

Are aware of the rewards and benefits that they expect to experience through their sports participation.
Are able to persist through difficult tasks and difficult times, even when these rewards and benefits are not immediately forthcoming.
Realize that many of the benefits come from their participation, not the outcome.

3. Goals and Commitment
Successful athletes:

Set long-term and short-term goals that are realistic, measurable, and time-oriented.
Are aware of their current performance levels and are able to develop specific, detailed plans for attaining their goals.
Are highly committed to their goals and to carrying out the daily demands of their training programs.

4. People Skills
Successful athletes:

Realize that they are part of a larger system that includes their families, friends, teammates, coaches, and others.
When appropriate, communicate their thoughts, feelings, and needs to these people and listen to them as well.
Have learned effective skills for dealing with conflict, difficult opponents, and other people when they are negative or oppositional.

5. Self-Talk
Successful athletes:

Maintain their self-confidence during difficult times with realistic, positive self-talk.
Talk to themselves the way they would talk to their own best friend
Use self-talk to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors during competition.

6. Mental Imagery
Successful athletes:

Prepare themselves for competition by imagining themselves performing well in competition.
Create and use mental images that are detailed, specific, and realistic.
Use imagery during competition to prepare for action and recover from errors and poor performances.

7. Dealing Effectively with Anxiety
Successful athletes:

Accept anxiety as part of sport.
Realize that some degree of anxiety can help them perform well.
Know how to reduce anxiety when it becomes too strong, without losing their intensity.

8. Dealing Effectively with Emotions
Successful athletes:

Accept strong emotions such as excitement, anger, and disappointment as part of the sport experience.
Are able to use these emotions to improve, rather than interfere with high level performance

9. Concentration
Successful athletes:

Know what they must pay attention to during each game or sport situation.
Have learned how to maintain focus and resist distractions, whether they come from the environment or from within themselves.
Are able to regain their focus when concentration is lost during competition.
Have learned how to play in the “here-and-now”, without regard to either past or anticipated future events.

Application of the Nine Mental Skills to Non-sport Performance Situations

The nine mental skills associated with athletic success are the same mental skills associated with performance in a wide variety of non-sport, performance situations. Let’s take a look at some of these.

Characteristics of A Performance Situation:
The situation is often scheduled or anticipated in advance.
The situation usually has a defined beginning and an end.
The circumstances are known in advance.
The rules and constraints are known in advance.
The results are evaluated by standards (or natural consequences) that are usually known in advance.
The results are uncertain and may involve psychological risk and/or danger.
The results are important to the performer.
The performer’s behavior is goal-oriented.
The results are influenced by the performer’s skillful behavior
Copyright © 1998 Ohio Center for Sport Psychology

Ask yourself, am I training my mind and emotional state just as I am my physical body? Practice adopting these skills into your training routine. Spend time prior to training and use the techniques during training to improve performance and focus.



  1. Steve Graff October 7, 2014 at 7:27 am - Reply

    Great stuff, as usual.

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